Officially the UK’s most popular alcoholic beverage, beer is the people’s drink, as well as being one of the world’s oldest and most iconic. After all, what beats a nice cold brew on a hot summer’s day? Still, despite there being so much to learn about it, it’s incredibly easy to become well-versed in beer, as this guide will demonstrate. And if learning about beer works up a thirst, explore our range today and get it delivered to your doorstep right away.
Read on to become a beer aficionado in no time.
Despite the plethora of beer types, its basic components are always the same: beer is the fermented, alcoholic product of water, grains (typically barley), yeast and hops. While the latter ingredient wasn’t always included in the mix, this small green fruit has become a staple over the last thousand years or so, adding bitterness to the drink, while also acting as a natural preservative.
As far as the modern beer industry is concerned, the quartet of water, grains, hops and yeast will always be the basis of the drink, even with the addition of rice and corn, or more experimental concoctions with ingredients like apricots or coffee.
Beer is one of oldest human-made drinks, with the first chemically confirmed barley beer dating back to at least 5000 BCE. That said, ancient artefacts suggest it was made in China as far back as 7000 BCE, using a mixture of grapes, honey, hawthorns, and rice. The invention of beer and bread is believed by many to be the reason why humans were able to settle down and build civilisations around agriculture, and was critical to the grain-growing societies of Eurasian and North African antiquity.
What you can distinguish lager from is ale, another type of beer. Both are made from different kinds of yeast, with ales brewed using top-fermenting strains in warm conditions, and lagers brewed using bottom-fermenting strains at colder temperatures, for a longer period of time. The quicker fermentation period used to make ale leaves more ester compounds (and therefore more flavours) than lagers, while the yeast used for ale is more tolerant of alcohol, making it a darker and stronger drink than lager.
The first stage of beer making involves harvesting the grains by heating, drying and cracking them — a process known as malting. This separates out the enzymes required for brewing. Next, the grains undergo ‘mashing’, where they are left in hot water for an hour or so to activate the enzymes in the grain which cause it to break down and release sugars. At this point, brewers will then drain the water from the sugary mash, creating a sticky liquid called wort.
The third stage of beer making involves boiling the wort for around an hour, adding flavouring agents like hops and other spices to balance out the sugar. After boiling, the wort is cooled, strained and filtered, before being placed in a fermenting vessel, with yeast mixed in to start fermentation. At this point, the beer is stored for a few weeks at room temperature if it’s an ale, or for numerous weeks at cold temperatures if it’s a lager. The yeast then ferments the sugar into CO2 and alcohol, creating beer as we know it. However, since the drink is still flat, it either needs to be artificially carbonated like a fizzy drink, or ‘bottle conditioned’, where it’s left to naturally carbonate through the CO2 produced by the yeast. Once it’s aged well enough to have that distinctive beer fizz, it’s all ready to go.
Alcohol free or non alcoholic beer — typically any beer at or under 0.5% ABV — is made in several different ways. One method is dealcoholisation, where the alcohol is removed after the brewing process through methods like steam distillation. Another way to make alcohol-free beer is via limited fermentation, where — as the name suggests — the fermentation process is restricted to achieve a brew with less than 0.5% alcohol. This can be done either by reducing the amount of fermentable sugar in the wort, using special yeast strains that produce alcohol in small amounts or not at all, or interrupting fermentation by disrupting the optimal environment needed for the process. Alcohol-free beer can also be made by diluting it with water, or avoiding fermentation altogether to make a product that looks and tastes like beer.
According to Drink Aware, the average pint of beer contains 182 calories.
IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a well-hopped, high-gravity beer style within the wider category of pale ale. These beers are made from pale malts, giving them a lighter colour. IPA was first produced in England in around 1840, and is renowned for its fruity, hoppy taste, most commonly marked by citrusy and tropical fruit flavours. It takes its name from the fact that, during the height of the British Empire, India’s climate was too hot to brew beers. Pale ale was shipped there because the extra hops and higher alcohol levels helped to preserve it during voyage, eventually becoming known as India Pale Ale.
With its deep colour and caramelised flavour stemming from using barley that is roasted but not malted, Guinnessis a traditional Irish stout beer. Its thick, creamy head is achieved by mixing the beer with both CO2 and nitrogen.
While many of the strongest beers on the market are darker, a beer’s colour doesn’t necessarily indicate its strength. For instance, the Belgian golden pale ale Duvel has an ABV of 8.5%, while Guinness clocks in at just 4%.
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