Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Are you making a list of activities for you to do when COVID-19 is behind us? If you love drinking beer or are interested in the brewing process, a trip to a local brew house to make your own batch should be on your “must do” list. Whether it is the Flying Barrel in Frederick, Md or Saugatuck Brewing Company in Kalamazoo, MI, you will be sure to have a great day fine tuning just the right flavors for your enjoyment. A gift card to a brew house is a great idea for your husband or a newly minted 21 year old. Go with your girlfriends and give your beer a SASSY name that represents the vibe of your group.
If you prefer the brewery tour experience, visit the Baltimore, MD Guinness Brewery which is the first Guinness brewery outside of Ireland. You will learn all about the brewing history from the initial development in Ireland through its worldwide expansion. The tour will surely interest any beer aficionado or anyone with a curiosity about the history of beer. You won’t want to leave without visiting the bar or one of the restaurants and finding out which Guinness is your favorite.
If you always wanted to differentiate the different kinds or styles of beer, we are here to demystify it for you. Let's flow into the different types of beer that you should know about.
BUT FIRST, LET'S SORT OUT THE BASICS:
'Beer' is a generic word that refers to all the styles of fermented malt beverages. The list includes lagers, ales, and many individual and hybrid styles. When it comes to main beer categories, you can come across many special brews, including wood-aged and barrel-aged beer, real ale, organic beers, extreme beer, kosher beer, and gluten-free beer. These beers don't necessarily stand for new beer styles, but more so, they are about different ways of brewing and serving beer.
BREAKING DOWN THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF BEER
The Two Major Categories
Ales and lagers are the two main categories of beers. Here's a quick comparison of the two:
Ancient varieties of beer that date back to antiquity
Fermented at warmer temperatures for shorter durations
Fermented with top-fermenting yeasts
Major beer categories include Brown Ales and Pales Ales
Only a few hundred years old, so relatively new
Cold fermented for longer durations
Fermented with bottom-fermented yeasts
Major beer style categories: Dark Lagers and Pilsners
The Ten Most Popular Beers
There are more varieties of beers in the world than you can think of. Here are some of the best ones that you won't regret being familiar with.
This is perhaps the most popular type of beer out there. Originally, it was used to describe beers that were brewed without hops (the flowers of Humulus Lupulus, the hop plant.) However, today, most ales do use hops as an essential ingredient. The bittering agent in ales is gruits, a mixture of herbs and spices. Ales can range from pale ales to dark brown ones.
This beer was the classic English pub drink at one point and intensely poplar until it was overshadowed by the Stouts. However, it is slowly reviving in the craft beer circle. Porter is thought to have been developed in London, where it was loved by street and river porters.
Generally dark, Stouts are crafted with roasted barley or roasted malt, yeast, water, and hops. They started off as a variety of Porter beers but soon gained more popularity than the strongest porters.
Named after Plzeň, a Bohemian town, this light golden-colored beer has a crisp body and is a summer favorite for many.
5. India Pale Ale
This beer is one of the most popular beers in the craft beer circuit. It originated in England in about 1840. Extra hops were added to the beer so when it was shipped to India, so it could be preserved to survive through the long journey by ship.
Lager beers get their name from the German term for 'storeroom'. They typically refer to beers that are conditioned or stored at low temperatures. Lagers are more effervescent and have lighter flavors and colors. They are also characterized by the use of specific yeasts.
7. American Lager
This is the most famous commercial beer in the United States. Legend says that pale lager was taken from Germany to the United States in the 19th century by immigrants. Grains like maize or rice were used in pale lager to give it a nice, light texture without adding complex flavors.
This one is the most famous German beer that is brewed in the traditional Bavarian style and is also known as Hefeweizen or Weizenbier. Instead of barley, it has a strong presence of malted wheat, and it can be both strong and sweet.
This beer was historically used in religious festivals. During times of fasting, Bavarian monks consumed bock beer to get nutrition. The beer is thought to have originated in Einbeck, a German town, but it gained popularity in Munich. Originally, this beer was much more dark and malty, but the modern versions are lighter.
Lambic is different from other beers because its fermentation involves exposure to wild bacteria and yeasts that are native to the Zenne valley, instead of exposure to meticulously cultivated strains of brewer's yeast. This unique process gives Lambic its characteristic flavor which is vinous, dry, and cidery, often accompanied by a tart aftertaste.
If you are anything like me, I am not a huge beer lover but I love taking beer tours. There really is so much history behind the origins of it so it is so interesting to think about people thousands of years ago enjoying a beer like people do today.
When I have cold brew, it will most likely be flavored. Cucumber is a great, refreshing summer time treat and the more potent cucumber flavor, the better. In the fall, I will dive deep into a pumpkin beer - and most memorable was a pumpkin flavor in Denver that was made with 10 pounds of pumpkin included in the brewing process so be sure to ask how much pumpkin is added! Think about your beer destination now and plan on having a good ol' glass of beer with your favorite people - what a great way to relax and refresh.
Which beer do you like the most? How have your preferences changed over the decades?