beer: the basics.

posted on: Wednesday, 9 January 2013

i thought i would start the series with a little information about what beer is because before i decided to start this journey, i didn't even know the definition of beer (so if you're reading this to learn about beer as a beginner, we're doing this together ;). every week (or so) i will blog about a beer i have tried that week, telling you about it and sharing my thoughts, i am going to let this develop on it's own, see where it takes me; it may fizzle out, or it may become a never ending series.

reading the wikipedia page for beer completely boggled my mind and i felt like i was back in science class. it took me a while to get my head around all the scientific words, but basically, this is the gist of it; beer is made up of water, cereal grains - mainly malted barley and wheat - the sugar that is left over from the fermentation, hops and a clarifying agent (to make the beer appear clear rather than cloudy).
read more about beer after the jump.

if the brewery is being cheap, they might use unmalted maize and rice which results in a lighter taste. beer is normally flavoured with hops - which are the female flowers of the common hop and they add a bitter and tangy taste to the beer. so, the more hops used, the more bitter the beer will taste - but it can also be flavoured with herbs and fruit. hops are also used to preserve the beer. 

beer is probably so well known because it is the third most popular drink in the world; the first being water, the second tea, and it's the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage; which sort of explains events such as beer festivals, pub crawls etc. it is also the oldest prepared beverage, dating back to around 9500bc but not as the type of beer that you'd see today. 

the process of making beer is called brewing and this can be done in a brewery or in the home, although it was illegal in many countries until the late 20th century; 1963 in the uk, 1972 in australia and 1978 in the usa. 
brewing converts the starch into a sugary liquid called wort and then to make it into beer, it has to be fermented with yeast. (this is a very simplified explanation, i just couldn't get my head around the whole process). 

the usa is the biggest importer of beer, whereas mexio is the biggest exporter of beer. 

before hops were introduced into england, they produced unhopped fermented beverages known as 'ale' and when hops were introduced from the netherlands in the 15th century, the name 'beer' was also slowly introduced. 

there are six different types of beers; pale ale, stout, mild, wheat, larger and lambic.

pale ale: uses top fermenting yeast and predominantly pale malt. the world's most popular beer styles.

stout & porter: dark beer made using roasted malt or barley. brewed with slow fermenting yeast. the name 'porter' was first used in the 16th century to describe a dark brown beer popular in the street and river ports of london. this beer later became known as stout. the development of the two became intertwined and are pretty much the same. 

mild: very malty palate and normally dark coloured. 

wheat: brewed with high amounts of wheat and often contains a significant amount of malted barley. they are normally top fermented (they have to be in germany) and have a hugely varying taste. 

larger: the english name for cool fermenting beers of central european origin. comes from the german word "lagern" meaning "to store" because brewers in bavaria stored beer in cool cellars and caves during the summer months and noticed that they continued to ferment. larger is fermented in two stages; the first, it is fermented at 7-12C then fermented at 0-4C when the larger clears and mellows. the cooler conditions inhibit the production of natural esters (acids) resulting in a cleaner tasting beer. 

lambic: a beer of belguim, naturally fermented using wild yeast. many have differences in aroma and sourness because of the natural yeasts used. 

the colour of beer is dependent on the volume of malt used and vary in strength between <3% and 14%. 

beer can be served warm or cold; warmer beer reveals more flavours and cooler beers are more refreshing. 

356ml of beer contains 153 calories. 

i hope you found this post informative and not too boring; i tried to condense everything i've read into something more manageable (for me at least) and left out all of the stuff i didn't really think was important unless you really want to know a detailed history of beer. 



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