A Few Beer Basics

This section of the site has some basic information on beers.  The first post in this series are random facts that may come in handy for building your basic knowledge. 

1. What are the basic ingredients in beer?  Malted grain (usually Barley), Hops, Water and Yeast.

2. What is the difference between a lager and an ale?  Lagers and ales are fermented with different yeasts.  Lagers are fermented at cooler temperatures (34-50 F) over longer periods, using a yeast strain that ferments at the bottom of the fermentation vessel.  Lager yeast produces fewer byproducts than ale yeast, which tends to lead to a cleaner, crisper taste.  The Germans and Czech’s are best known for their lagers.  Ales are fermented at higher temperatures (60-75 F), over a shorter period of time (about a week), with a yeast strain that ferments at the top of the fermentation vessel.  Ale yeasts tend to produce more esters (think fruity flavors) and leave behind more residual sugar.  English style and Belgian style beers are almost exclusively ales.

3. Are darker beers always stronger and/or more bitter than lighter colored beers?  No, there is no correlation between the color of a beer and its strength.  For example it may surprise you to find out that Guinness is only 4.2% abv and thus has less alcohol than a Budweiser (5.0% abv).

4. What is a session beer?  This term refers to a beer with a low alchohol content, typically less than 4%, so that you can consume many over a long session and still be able to walk. 

5. Malts are my favorite ingredient in beer, what styles are likely to taste good to me?  I’d recommend Bocks, Maibocks, Doppelbocks, Scotch Ales, Porters, Stouts, Brown Ales, …

6. Hops are my favorite ingredient in beer, what styles are likely to taste good to me?  Pale Ales, India Pale Ales (IPAs), Pilsners.

7. The fruity and sometimes funky esters that come from yeasts are my favorite ingredients in beer, what styles are likely to taste good to me?  German Hefeweizens, Belgian beers in general.

8. What is the Reinheitsgebot?  Sometimes called the German Purity Law, this is a law dating back 500 years restricting the ingredients that could be used in beer to water, barley and hops.  At that time they didn’t know about yeast.  It has since been replaced by the Provisional German Beer Law that allows addition of yeast, wheat malt and cane sugar.  So next time your sitting on the porch sipping your pumpkin ale or blueberry stout know that you are in violation of German law. 

8. Is an Extra Special Bitter (ESB) more bitter than English Bitter? Yes. 

9. Is an ESB more bitter than an American IPA?  No. 

10. What is America’s least bitter beer?  Keystone light, according to the commericals from the 1990s. 

11. What is America’s most bitter beer?  Hard to say, but I’d vote for Headhunter IPA or Ruination IPA.

2 thoughts on “A Few Beer Basics

Add yours

  1. Really nice post, especially for the beginner beer drinkers who want to know more facts about beers. I will share it definitely 🙂
    Your blog has good overview about everything what can hope to see from a GOOD beer blogger.
    Keep up the great work!

    – The Thirsty Dozen

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