Beer is a wonderful thing. You can have a casual relationship with it, or a
full-fledged love affair. You can stay true to your high school sweetheart, or you
can have a string of torrid, meaningless short-term affairs that rival the
appetites of James Bond or Don Juan. However, we are living in an informed
age and if you are going to drink beer, you should obtain a basic knowledge of
your choices and the differences between them.
All beer can be broken down into two different categories, lager and ale.
Because breweries make beer in two ways. The yeast, which beer
needs to produce alcohol, ferments either on the top (for ale) or on bottom (for
lager) of a large metal tank called a "mash tun." The two methods create two
very different results.
Another main difference in producing beer is in the temperature during
fermentation. Most ales ferment at around seventy degrees Fahrenheit, lagers
ferment about fifteen degrees lower.
The differences in temperature cause the
yeast to either rise or fall.
The yeast and fermentation temperatures play an important role in the
flavor of the beer. Ale and lager share the same benefits of a rich variety of
flavors and aromas due to the yeast used. However, ales tend to be more robust
and fuller flavored because of the warmer fermentation. Colder fermentation
tends to rob the lager of flavor because colder temperatures subdue
fermentation activity. This is why lager beers take longer to ferment.
Lager, in one form or another, is what most people in the United States
prefer. From the humble Budweiser to the sophisticated Marzen or Bock, most
breweries in America make lagers and this is why lager beer is the most
accessible in our country. The positive characteristics of lager are that it is...