philosophy, media, libations
Intro to Beer
Intro to Beer
My name is Dan. I like beer. I like to read about beer. I like to learn about beer. I like to talk about beer. I like to go to liquor stores and look at beer. I like to give beer away. But most of all, I like to drink beer. Especially with friends. I have tried many different kinds of beer from many different breweries. I don’t know everything and I haven’t tried everything. Compared to some people I don’t know and haven’t tried much. But I know some and I want to help you find out if you like beer and what beer you like.
Beer is simple. It’s made out of water, yeast, hops, and malted barley.
Beer is also really complex. There are infinite combinations and varieties of those ingredients. These are the basic functions and features of these four components
Water makes a difference. The unique chemical content of any location can make the water ideal for certain styles of beer, and not for other styles of beer. Historically, this is a major reason why beer varied by country, or even within countries. Some cities had access to water with different qualities and were able to produce a wide range of beers. Today, brewers can treat their water, effectively bringing it back to zero, and then make additions to suit it for whatever style they would like to brew.
Yeast was not originally named in Reinheitsgebot, the so-called “German purity law” of 1516, yet it is essential for fermentation to occur. Yeast is responsible for both the alcohol and the carbon dioxide—and thus carbonation—in beer, although some is carbonated by alternate means. Before modern advances in microbiology, beer was fermented with whatever yeast was present in the surrounding environment. This often leads to somewhat inconsistent and unpredictable results. Most beer today is carefully insulated from any contamination by naturally occurring yeast. Breweries either maintain their own strains of yeast, or use yeast from outside sources. In addition to alcohol and carbonation, each strain of yeast gives varying degrees of flavors. While some yeast adds very little taste, Belgian style beer, in particular, is well-known for deriving much of its characteristic flavors from the types of yeast used.
Hops have come a long way in recent years. As hoppy beers have become more and more in demand, hop growers have responded by breeding and developing myriad strains of hops with equally diverse flavors. The oily resin in the hop buds is what brewers are after and use many different techniques to extract it from the plant and add it to their brew. Hops are responsible for most of the bitterness in beer and some beer uses hops solely for this purpose. Other beer features the fruity or resiny or floral characters from hops. Though hops is a natural preservative, the flavor from hops fade sooner than most other flavors leaving behind nothing but bitterness. This is deliberate in some types of beer but quite undesirable in others.
Malt serves several major purposes. First, it imparts flavor and aroma. Barley is harvested, cleaned, and then cooked to varying degrees to produce flavors ranging from lightly toasty to strongly roasty. It also is the source of most of the color in beer. As you might expect, barley that is cooked for long periods of time at high temperatures produces dark malt that imparts dark colors to beer. Conversely, pale colored beer uses lightly colored malt, from barley cooked to lesser degrees. Finally, malted barley contains sugars that feed the yeast to drive fermentation and alcohol production.
And there are lots of other ingredients that some brewers add, like wheat, rye, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, fruit, honey, spices.
Some beers are refreshing, some beers are filling, some beers are sweet, some beers are bitter. I believe that there is a beer out there for everyone.