When it comes to beer there is a basic combination of ingredients that include: water, hops, malts and yeast. These basic ingredients come together to create one of the most beautiful things in the world, beer. Alcohol levels in beer can range anywhere from 2% alcohol by volume (ABV) to 15% ABV, oh my! Of course these are just some of the primary ingredients in beer but beer can take on thousands of interpretations. So what are the different types of beer? Here are some of the most common types of beer.
Ales and Lagers are the two primary types of beer. So what is the difference between an ale and a lager? When it comes to the difference between the two main types of beer, ale beers use a “top fermenting” yeast which is a yeast that ferments at the top of the fermentation vessel, while a lager uses the opposite and uses a “bottom-fermenting yeast”.
Even though one of the main differences between ales and lagers is the yeast that is used, this beer often features sweet and fruity flavours. Without getting too technical, ales are brewed through a process called warm fermentation. Through this process, the yeast is gathered on top of the fermentation tank during the brewing process, and is stored at a temperature of 60 to 75 degrees fahrenheit. This process allows the beer to gain a more full-bodied and fruity taste. The most common styles of beer that are made during this process are: pale ales, india pale ales, amber ales, porter and stouts.
Pale ale refers to a term originally used to describe beer that was lighter in colour. This was from back in the day when bars would typically only have a maximum of 3 beers on tap. These pale ales are brewed with more lightly roasted “pale” malts and have an equal balance of malt to hops. When it comes to actually tasting the beer, brewers wanted to make sure the hops that went into the beer were one of the first things you notice, as well as the malt that went into making it. So when tasting a pale ale you will normally taste a beer with some bitterness to it and features a moderate hoppiness.
These beers were originally brewed as an extra hoppy beer, that showcase the flavour and the bitterness of the hops. Here’s a little tidbit you can bring up the next time you are out drinking with some friends, the addition of the hops was one of best ways to help preserve the properties of the beer during long sea voyages. By adding the extra hops to the beer this made sure the beer held up for long voyages from England to India (incase you were wondering why it is called india pale ale). These ales tend to have a more bitter, earthy, woodsy and spicy flavour to them.
Lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast, this yeast works best at cooler temperatures. Therefore during fermentation, the beer is stored in a room that is between 35 and 55 degrees fahrenheit. The fermentation process is a lot slower than that of ales and because of this it can be stored for longer (lagered… get it?!). When it comes to the finished product, the yeast flavour is not as noticeable, and this makes for a cleaner and crisper taste. There is however an emphasis on the malt and hops flavour in the beer.
A Pilsner is a type of lager that originates to the Czech Republic, circa 1842, back when it was still part of the Austrian empire. The pilsner really helped transform the brewing world. Pilsners helped to add the seductive look of beer by adding a very golden look to the beer, as well as refreshing taste. Pilsners tend to be light in colour and feature some strong flavours that include: hops, crisp and sometimes spicy. Since most of these beers go down with a crisp refreshing flavour, it has helped make it one of the most popular types of beer in the world. Some of the most iconic pilsners include: Budweiser, Beck’s and Pilsner Urquell.
The first beer known as a porter appeared in London back in the 18th century and was one of the common drinks of choice amongst most London workers. They were designed and ready to be drank upon delivery. Most beers needed to be barrelled and aged before they were ready to drink. Porters are dark in colour like stouts, this is partly due to the fact that both feature common ingredients like chocolate or dark roasted malts. When it comes to stouts to put it simply,they feature a taste that is similar to coffee or dark chocolate. When trying to determine the difference between the two, porters tend to be lighter in colour and in alcohol content, yet stouts can contain a wide range of flavours that include: chocolate, coffee and caramel flavours. Lastly stouts will contain roasted barley (unmalted).
When it comes down to it there are a variety of different types of beer, but really beer is all about personal preference and what you are craving at that specific time. However when it comes to narrowing down the difference between an ale and a lager, can make a whole lot of difference when it comes to selecting your next beer when you are looking through the beer menu. Now that you know a bit more about the types of beer out there you are hopefully inspired to add a unique beer to your list of personal favourites. While there isn’t one beer that is almighty and rules them all, there are thousands of interpretations out there