Beer is not only one of the most popular drinks on earth, but it’s probably the oldest alcoholic beverage. The ancient Egyptians began brewing beer at least 6000 years ago. There were societies, including Colonial America, where it was consumed more than water, which could be contaminated. Since beer is brewed all over the world, there are probably thousands of different types with distinctive colors, flavors and bouquets that make them nearly as diverse as wine. The question is, what are the main types of beer?
Lager beer is the most popular type of beer consumed in the United States. It is a light brew that’s famous for its foaming head. The name lager is derived from the German word for “to store,” or lagern. When this beer was first brewed in the 600s, monks found out that it kept better and tasted better if it was stored in mountain caves, which were cool. Lager is also a type of fermentation where the yeast ferments on the bottom of the beer.
Types of pale lager include American, which is usually made in large quantities, German Helles, German pilsner and straw colored Czech pilsner. Czech pilsner is refreshingly bitter but has a flowery aroma. Dark lagers are Amber American lager, Oktoberfest beer, and German Schwarzbier. As its name suggests, this is a very dark beer but has a light, even sweet taste.
Ale is a strong beer that was originally popular in the United Kingdom. Like lager, ale describes a style of fermentation. In lagers, the yeast is fermented on the top of the beer. Because of the way they’re fermented, porters and stouts are types of ales, while bock beer is a lager.
Brown ales include American and English brown, which share a dark caramel color. Pale ales include American pale ale, blonde ale and English bitter, which is named for its taste. Bitternessj is imparted by the cone-like fruit of a vine called the hops plant.
Another class of ale is India pale ales. They have a bitter taste from the amount of hops but smell of flowers and pine trees. These ales, also called I.P.As, have a high alcohol content. Types are American I.P.A., Imperial or double I.P.A. and English I.P.A.
Porter is a dark beer famous for its foamy head. Like ale, it was first popular in the U.K. The tastes of porters remind people of coffee or chocolate, though these are not traditional ingredients in true porters. Types of porters are American imperial, robust and English brown.
Stouts resemble porters but have a more roasted taste. Types of stout are American, American imperial, oatmeal and milk, which gets its name from the milk sugar, or lactose. This sugar gives milk stout a chocolatey taste. There’s Irish dry stout, which has a black color and gets its taste from roasted barley.
Belgian beers are known for their sweet and fruity taste. There’s Belgian pale ale as well as dubbel, tripel and quadrupel ales. There’s Belgian strong dark ale and Belgian saison, which is also called farmhouse ale.
This is a dark beer that was first brewed in Germany. Bock beer is brewed during the winter and stored until spring. Bocks have a sweet, nutty, malty flavor and are low in alcohol. Traditional bock is a dark copper color and has a toasty flavor, while doppelbocks are strong and have more alcohol. Weizenbocks are made from wheat, and maibocks are pale and taste of hops.
Pilsners are pale lagers. They originated in the city of Pilsen in what is now the Czech Republic. There’s German-style pilsner, which has a earthy, rich taste, golden Czech pilsner and somewhat sweet European-style pilsner. Pilsners are also the most popular types of beer produced in Japan.
The Japanese began to brew beer in the 17th century, having learned the skill from Dutch traders posted at Nagasaki. Some Japanese beers are seasonal. There is autumn beer and winter beer.
Marzen beer is copper-colored, toasty and full-bodied, and has a high level of alcohol. It originated in the Bavarian area of Germany in the 16th century. Its name translates into "March beer" because at the time there was an edict that forbade beer from being brewed between September 29 and April 23. So, the beer was made in March with secret ingredients that allowed it to last during the forbidden period.
Some beers are created through spontaneous fermentation. This means they are merely exposed to the yeast and bacteria that’s in the air. Though it’s possible that this is how the ancients discovered beer in the first place, spontaneous fermentation is credited to the Belgians. It is now a worldwide practice.
These types of beers are made with a variety of ingredients, some of which are unexpected. They include chocolate, honey, coffee, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Some of these beers are gluten free while others are aged in barrels that formerly held whiskey, wine or bourbon.