There are so many kinds of beer in the world. Can we really understand their categories and styles? This is in fact not difficult as we only need to know that there are two basic methods of beer brewing...
First of all, it should be understood that the most basic classification of
beer is conducted based on the brewing process. There are two kinds of
fermentation methods, namely top fermenting and bottom fermenting.
Therefore, beer can basically be divided into three types: beer brewed with
top fermenting yeast (ale), beer brewed with bottom fermenting yeast
(lager), and hybrid beer (which combines two fermentation methods). Most
of the beer are ale and lager.
(1) What is top fermenting and bottom fermenting?
History: Originating from the ancient British Isles, ale brewed with top -fermenting yeasts has existed for thousands of years, while lager brewed with bottom-fermenting yeasts, created after Columbus had discovered the New World of the Americas, has only a few hundred years of history.
Fermentation temperature and time: Top fermenting requires a higher temperature at about 10-20 ℃ but a shorter time, while bottom fermenting requires a lower temperature at below 10℃ but a longer time. Yeast type: Top-fermenting yeasts are used for top fermenting, where yeasts float on the top of the wort. Bottom-fermenting yeasts are used for bottom fermenting, where yeasts sink to the bottom of the wort.
Style: Ale is generally fuller with obvious fruit or spicy flavour, and has a strong and complex taste. Its aftertaste has a very pleasant hop aroma. Many craft beer are brewed with top-fermenting yeasts. Lager is lighter and refreshing and emphasizes the aroma of malt. The industrial beer that we often drink is brewed with bottomfermenting yeasts.
(2) How does hybrid beer come into being?
Hybrid beer is brewed by combining top fermenting and bottom fermenting. The fermentation is done at a low temperature while using top-fermenting yeasts, and at a high temperature while using bottom-fermentation yeasts. It is difficult to define the style of this beer, but generally some other additional flavors, such as Porter and Weizenbier, are added based on classic beer styles, or it is brewed with other unconventional ingredients like vegetables and fruits.
What are the common styles of ale?
(1) Pale ale
It's called pale ale because a higher proportion of light baked malts is used. The name "pale ale" began to appear around 1703 and was considered synonymous with bitter by the 1930s. It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that bitter and pale ale were differentiated, but some winemakers in the UK still label bitter as pale ale. In a typical pale ale, malts and hops are well-balanced, i.e., the sweetness of malt is balanced out by the bitterness of hops. The bitterness together with a subtle fruitiness and sweetness makes people feel mild and very balanced.
(2) Brown Ale
Brown ale is usually dark amber or brown, with evident chocolate and caramel flavors. True brown ale appeared in England in the 18th century and was made with 100% brown malt. However, this kind of beer did not have any advantage at that time, because many breweries tended to use cheaper light malt to brew beer. Nowadays, some regions, especially the UK, Belgium and North America, are considered to be representative producing areas of sweet beer. There are various styles of brown ale, including lowalcohol light brown ale, medium-alcohol bitter brown ale, and heavy taste brown ale.
The name Porter comes from the English word "porter". In the 18th-century British docks, workers loved to mix Light Ale, Brown Ale and aged sour-smelled Brown Ale. Inspired by this, a British brewer brewed this taste of beer, which was popular with market porters. That's how the beer got the name "potter". Porter is black in color and has a very smooth taste. The sweetness and bitterness of caramel balance well, with a taste of chocolate.
Stout and Porter are in fact of the same origin. After Porter was introduced to Ireland, the locals improved it and added roasted black malt to its raw materials. Stout has very deep color and a dry and rich taste, like chocolate, toffee and even coffee. The aftertaste is sweet. Being so similar, what's the difference between Stout and Porter? In fact, compared with Stout, Potter tastes more like pure malt, with much lighter taste of caramel. If we compare Stout to sweet chocolate, then Potter is bitter chocolate.
(5) Wheat Beer
Most beer are brewed with 100% of barley malt, while wheat beer is brewed with 40-60% of wheat malt. Wheat malt produces a brighter and fresher taste. And its high content of malt protein gives beer a taste of banana and a whiter color, so wheat beer is also called white beer. On the whole, wheat beer has a smooth, medium sweet taste, with notes of clove, banana, toast and yeast.
(6) Belgian Ale
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Pilsner has become the world's most popular beer for various reasons. In order to resist this trend, Belgian beer brewers started to brew all kinds of ale. Belgians like to add a variety of sugars and spices to beer, thus creating beer with a wide variety of styles and tastes, ranging from sour, sweet, bitter, to spicy.
(7) Sour Ale
Sour ale, an ale with a sour taste, originates from Belgium. The traditional brewing method is to put ale into a large cask for ripening. The lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, wild brewer's yeast and other bacteria brought by the cask produce a variety of sourness. The result of the final ripening is a deep red wine with a rich sour-sweet fruit flavour, a hint of malt sweetness, a distinctive sourness, faint woody notes and a complex fruitiness.
Lambic, also from Belgium, is a more special beer. In fact, in a strict sense, it is neither ale nor lager, but naturally fermented beer—in a ventilated room fermented with natural wild yeasts in the air (which is quite demanding on the environment). In addition, Lambic is usually aged with barrel and produced by blending different vintages, showing a rich flavor and deep taste.
What are the common styles of lager?
(1) Pale Lager
Pale Lager is the most widely produced and sold beer in the world. Rice or corn may be added to the raw materials. Usually the beer is in light golden yellow. It is lean, light in taste and has a slight malt aroma. The most representative of this style is Pilsner, which originated in the 19th century Pilsner Region of the Czech Republic and is now the most popular beer in the world, accounting for 2/3 of the world's beer production. Pilsner has a refreshing light taste, and a very strong wheat aroma.
(2) Dark Lager
Dark lager has a wide range of colors, ranging from amber to a very deep reddish brown. Its alcohol content is usually 4.5-6%, with baking, cacao beans, caramel, and other flavors. Being medium-bodied, it tastes soft and full. The dark lager that people are familiar with is generally German dark lager. If we see "Dunkel" ("dark") or "Schwarz" ("black") on the label, the beer is what we call Germany dark lager.
Bock first appeared in northern Germany in the 13th century. It was at first a dark ale with a distinctive malt flavour, but was transformed into a lager by Munich's winemakers in the 17th century. It has a rich flavour, a heavy body, and a deep dark color. Bock also comes in a variety of categories. Traditional bock has a noticeable malt flavour. Doppelbock is an enhanced version of traditional bock and a stronger flavour. Mailbock is light in color and has intense hop flavour. Eisbock is frozen while being brewed and ice residues are removed later to enrich the flavour and reach the designated alcohol content.
What are the styles of hybrid beer?
(1) Fruit Beer
This is easy to understood. Fruit beer is produced by adding juice to beer or directly mixing it in malt for fermentation. It has both beer foams and the fragrance and sweetness of fruit, and is more popular with girls.
(2) Vegetable/ Spice/ Herb Beer
The raw materials for this type of beer are varied, like vegetables, spices, herbs, etc. Th varieties include cocoa beer, parsley beer, pepper beer, pumpkin beer, bitter gourd beer, cucumber beer and so on.
(3) Smoke Beer
Smoke beer refers to a beer brewed with smoked malt. With a heavy peat smell, it is favored by heavy taste enthusiasts.