Beer Glorious Beer

Beer Glorious Beer

The thing about beer is that most people tend to either love it or hate it. To those who love it beer can be the nectar of the Gods but to those who hate it the taste can be just about as palatable as wet cardboard. Beer though is a very general term for something that in reality is very complex.

Mankind has been drinking beer in some shape or form for over two thousand years and the demand for beer shows no sign of slowing down – despite the boom in fine wines and the so called ‘Alcopops’!

Good news for beer lovers

The good news for beer lovers is that today there has never been a better choice of ‘quality’ beers available and that the quest for new types of beers and new flavours can be a joyous voyage of discovery. Go back to the fifties and sixties and choice was very limited. If your favourite tipple is Pale or Brown Ale, Stout or perhaps Mild then you were likely weaned on them between 1945 -1965 when these were the prime choices (not forgetting of course the enduring popularity of Guinness) The ubiquitous ‘Bitter’ has been around a long time too in various guises and often mixed with other drinks to create more subtle flavours (remember the fad for ‘Mild and Bitter’?) It wasn’t until relatively later that the ice cold continental lagers became fashionable as more and more holidaymakers discovered the pleasures of cold beer. Teenagers in particular tended to shun the heavier warm bitters for the trendy bottled lagers that could be swigged whilst walking along the street leading to the media fuelled icon of the ‘lager lout’.

What is beer?

But what is beer exactly? How is it made and how can so many different flavours be created from what is essentially a single process?

The answer is that making beer is in many ways as simple as making wine. In essence wine is made from crushed and fermented grapes and beer is made from partially germinated grain boiled in water, seasoned and then fermented. The final product, though, needs to be of a certain quality if people are going to pay good money for it and producing quality is the real challenge for brewers.

The process of beer making

A good beer is created by the brewer paying close attention to each stage of the process and using experience often gained over many years. Ingredients like malted barley need to be carefully selected and even the water it is soaked in must be thoroughly tested in terms of its mineral content and alkalinity. Quantities need be just right and boiling times and temperatures carefully monitored. As the barley malt is heated the starches within the grains are converted into sugars which combine with the water to form a substance known as ‘Wort’. Hops are then added to the Wort which act both as a preservative and as a flavour enhancer.

Varieties of hops

There are thousands of varieties of hops grown all over the world and each strain contains a unique set of flavours which can be used in different combinations to determine the colours and tastes of the beer that is finally produced. Hops added at the start of the boiling process for example produce a more bitter flavour whereas hops added late produce more aromatics. Over centuries of experimentation the beers we enjoy today all stem from the same basic process.

Types of beer

Today beer choice has never been better. Beer connoisseurs can sample white beers, golden beers, wheat beers, fruit beers, trappist ales (made by monks in Belgian monasteries), spiced beers, festival beers, seasonal beers and many more besides. Even more amazing is the growing acceptability of selecting beers to accompany specific restaurant dishes in the same way that wine buffs have been doing so for years. The good news is that there is no ‘beer snobbery’ necessary – good quality beers can be a great accompaniment to all different types of food and there are no rules other than – if it tastes good then ‘go for it’.


About Rory Gear

I’m Rory Gear, also known by my writing pseudonym – Joe St Clair. I’m a full time professional writer and blog writer, I write pretty much about anything and everything that interests me. Connect with me on Google+

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