A SHORT BEER DISCUSSION

Below is presented a very general discussion of beers and the nature of their brewing. Some of the main differences between beer types is also presented.

ALL YOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT BEER ?
It is certainly not to be found here. But, below are some of the things that most beer drinkers know, or should know, about the beer they are drinking. After all, an individual’s beer selection is a totally subjective choice. If all beers tasted the same, with the same aromas, we would most probably lose at least half of the beer drinkers of today.

Beers that are truly of a “NATURAL” brew, are basically divided into one of two very specific categories. They are either an “Ale” or a “Lager.” Which category they fall into depends on the type of beer yeast that is introduced into the actual brewing process. There are two basic types of beer brewing yeasts: (1) The top fermenting yeast and: (2) The bottom fermenting yeast. The “Ales” are brewed using a top fermenting yeast, and the “Lagers” are brewed using a bottom fermenting yeast.

And now, many will ask, what is the major difference between these two yeasts? Well, during the brewing process, the sediments will settle down to the bottom of the container. These sediments are made up of dead yeast cells and unwanted debris from the hops and malt. A top fermenting yeast will tend to rise to the top of the brew where it will attack the carbohydrates and turn them into alcohol. The bottom fermenting yeast will tend to settle to the bottom, with the sediments, where it will attack the carbohydrates and turn them into alcohol.

Quite obviously, these two different processes will brew two totally different tastes and aromas. The top brewing being a much lighter flavored beer while the bottom brewing will produce a much heavier flavored beer.

But, we also have, within these two categories, many different types and flavors for the beers. Why is this so? Well, the final brew will also be dependent upon the amounts of hops, malt, water, temperature, length of time before bottling, etc.

Why did we address a “natural” brew at the opening of this category. That is because there are many “beers” that are not what you should call a natural brew. This could very well be debated but, not here. Suffice it to say that there are breweries that will stop the fermentation process short, then add alcohol and carbon dioxide as it is in the bottling process. They do this in order to have more control over the brewing process, which results in an almost zero loss of production. But, it also results in a beer that lacks the aroma, taste and body that it should have. This same situation is also true for the fortified wines. Most American wines are also fortified.

Most naturally brewed beers are in the 4.5 to 5.5 percent alcohol content range. However, there is one beer that falls into the natural brew category, and is in the approximately 14 percent alcohol content range. It was once available in the United States, but it may have been excluded by now. This is the famous EKU 28 beer. It is NOT a fortified beer. The method of obtaining this high level of alcohol content is not by adding alcohol, but by removing water. After a long brewing process, the result is frozen to just below 32 degrees. The water will freeze, but the alcohol will not. The result will be poured off, leaving the water behind. A rather unique method of creating a high alcohol content, but remaining in the category of a natural brew.

As any true beer drinker can tell you, and probably will, a beer’s flavor is a very personalized choice. One person may rave about how good Budweiser is and not be able to drink a glass of Coors. A beer flavor is quite different between the various breweries.

When traveling to foreign countries you may be in for quite a surprise when selecting a beer that you think you are familiar with. One of the reasons for this is that many of the “imported” beers are actually brewed here in the United States. There are usually differences even when the brewery is supposed to be following the same recipe for the brewing process.

However, we do have many imported beers that are brewed and bottled in the country of origin. But, here again, we run into another difference. You may be used to drinking the German beer Löwenbräu here and like it very much while not particularly caring for the German beer Becks. Now, you visit Germany and find out that the Becks isn’t such a bad beer after all. But, you don’t like the Löwenbräu. What has happened? They were brewed and bottled in the same breweries as the ones that were shipped to this country. The same can happen for our locally brewed beers. You may be a Coors drinker and find out that in Germany you prefer the Budweiser.

What has occurred here is that when the beer is shipped between countries, it is required that it be pasteurized to a specific set of requirements. It appears that this regulation is a method of ensuring that the possibility of disease producing bacteria are killed and that the brewing process has been absolutely halted. This heating process definitely changes the flavor and is the main reason for the beers, both domestic and imported, tasting so differently here as opposed to Austria or Germany.

A misconception is widespread concerning the beer serving temperature in foreign countries. When you order beer in either Austria or Germany, it will be served cold. You would be insulting the waitperson if you requested that the beer be cold. They may not even know what you are talking about.

If you purchase your beer in a grocery store, in either Austria or Germany, you will certainly have to select a specific brand. And, the flavors will vary considerably, just as they do here in the United States. If you are ordering beer in a restaurant, you should normally just specify the size, small or large. I have traveled both Austria and Germany with other beer drinkers. I always tell them to just order the beer the restaurant has on tap. Nobody has ever complained about the beer flavor. Try it. You’ll like it. Just ask for:

“Ein kleines Bier”, a small beer.

“Ein großes Bier, a big beer.