An Infinite Variety of Styles

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

An Infinite Variety of StylesImage by: Brewer Public

Beer is the third most popular drink in the world after water and tea, and the one that offers by far the greatest variety of tastes and styles. Somewhere in the world there’s bound to be a beer that will tickle your taste buds… So, to help you in your quest for the perfect beer, here are some of the approximately 180 styles available worldwide.

All beers fall into one of two categories: ales or lagers. Ales have been around for thousands of years and were enjoyed by civilisations as far back as the Sumerians and Egyptians, while lagers have only been around since the mid-nineteenth century.

But you’ll find the main difference between ales and lagers is the type of yeast used in the brewing process.

Ales are fermented warm and made with top-fermenting yeast that rises to the top of the brew during fermentation. This creates a situation where a batch can ferment in as little a seven days.

Lagers are made with a bottom, or cold-fermenting, yeast that sinks to the bottom of the brew during fermentation. Most lagers take about three weeks to brew – even the word “lager” derives from the German word “lagern”, which means “to store”.

Because our hot climate favours cold drinks, most beers drunk in South Africa are lagers.

Stout and porter: a tale of two beers

It’s practically impossible to tell a stout and a porter apart just by looking at them. So what exactly is the difference between these two dark and delicious beers?

Conventional wisdom has it that the porter came first. In the pubs of eighteenth century London, the blending of younger, pale ales and older, darker ales resulted in a full-flavoured and hearty beer favoured by the city’s porters.

Later on, London’s breweries began producing a beer in varying strengths that was intended to mimic this popular pub creation. The stronger, fuller-bodied porters were labelled “stout porter”. After a while the word “porter” was dropped and “stout” was born.

Some people believe that the major difference between stout and porter is in the malt, although this is not always true. Porters are mostly made with brown malts, but with improved brewing techniques it later became possible to roast black malt in specialised rotating drums, and this allowed brewers to make stronger beers like stouts.

The colour range for stouts is generally darker on account of the black malt used, whereas porters have a dark brown colour and are commonly perceived as sweeter on the nose and palate with a hoppy flavour.

Pilsner

In 1836 something happened in the town of Plzen, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) that would cause a revolution in beer brewing: 36 barrels of their dark, unfiltered and murky ale had become undrinkable and had to be poured into the nearby Radbuza River.

The breweries of Plzen decided that they had to take drastic measures to ensure that this would not happen again. So they hired Josef Groll, a Bavarian brewer, to come to Plzen and teach them the German lagering method of brewing.

Groll’s amazing brewing skills combined perfectly with Czech ingredients (Plzen’s soft water and the famous Saaz hop as used in Hansa and Peroni and very pale malt). The result was Pilsner Urquell: a clear, golden and strongly-hopped beer that’s remained the blueprint and gold standard for every other pilsner since then.

Wheat beer

Wheat beer is also known as Weizzen or Weissbier, and is a cloudy, golden beer originating from Bavaria.Typically wheat beers contain 30-70% wheat malt and the remainder is regular barley malt, usually a pale variety like Pilsner.

Wheat beers have a full, white and long-lasting head, with a distinctly silky mouth feel. Most are light in flavour, making them great summer beers that are excellent with braaied meats, but good with most foods.

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