When today’s beer lovers enthusiastically embrace the diverse colors, aromas and flavors that embody a wide variety of beer styles, they pay homage to thousands of years of brewing. Traceable as far back as ancient Egypt, writings indicate these early brewers named and crafted distinctly different beers for different occasions, from festivals to funerals. Egyptian beer, however, was likely a far cry from the tastes and styles known today, which originated in Europe.
In 1977, late British beer writer and historian (not the singer) Michael Jackson originated the modern concept of beer style organization in his book “The World Guide to Beer.” His classifications helped chart the evolution and history of beer, tying the various styles categorically to their origination through history and regions of the world. Today that list includes more than 100 defined and named beer styles.
As an ever-growing collection of New World brewers continue to craft their own interpretations of these styles and take the art in new and authentic directions, industry organizations provide ever-increasing resources for brewers large and small. The Brewers Association and the Beer Judge Certification Program publish style guidelines for beer judging. And beer enthusiast Websites, such as BeerAdvocate.com, CraftBeer.com and RateBeer.com, provide user-friendly beer information including beer styles and consumer ratings.
These resources support new and diverse beer styles that constantly add color and flavor to an ever-growing palette that encompasses beer making today.
Beer styles generally fall into one of two overarching categories: ale or lager (pronounced “logger,” meaning “to store” in German). The primary difference between the two categories is in the yeast used to brew the beer.
Ale yeast strains tend to ferment at warmer temperatures (59°- 69°F), resulting in a shorter fermentation and aging process than that of lager. Ale yeasts also can produce esters—aroma and flavor compounds—during fermentation, which often impart the fruity and sometimes spicy characteristics for which ales are generally known.
Lager yeast strains, on the other hand, ferment at cooler temperatures (45° - 60°F) for a longer fermentation and aging process. Cooler temperatures stifle ester production and thus impart lager’s cleaner, smoother characteristics.
From here, however, the world of beer expands from academics to adventure and becomes a journey representing an encyclopedia of aromas, flavors, textures and complexity similar to that of wine or spirits.
Ranging from the most popular beer styles to esoteric and emerging creations within the lager and ale categories, the variety of styles put beer lovers on an exciting journey. Whether it’s light lager, Irish Stout, wheat beers, such as Blue Moon or Shock Top, or that go-to favorite in the back of the fridge, this is the starting point for discovery of tastes and experiences that gives an entirely new meaning to “I’ll have a cold one.”
Answer: False! Pale colored beers run the flavor gamut, from crisp to fruity to malty to hoppy to complex. They span the range of recommended serving temperatures and pair well with much more than pizza and wings.
Answer: False! Dark colored beers range from light- to full-bodied and come in flavor profiles ranging from sweet malts to roasted malts to hop spicing, can also be balanced and even quite complex, and can make fantastic dessert pairings.