Many people are confused with the plethora of beer brands, styles and types of beers that exist today. Is there really a difference between a pilsner and a larger? Or perhaps a porter and a stout? In this blog we try to take the mystery out of beer and to qualify it a little.
The Big Difference
The main difference between different beers is the type of yeast used that ferments it. A beer could be an ale or a lager depending on the way how it is made and in particular the fermentation process. Ales have a process called top fermentation where the yeast ferments in a warm temperature at the top of the brew. Lager the processed is reversed, and the yeast settles to the bottom of the beer and fermentation takes place at cooler temperatures, as a general rule ale can have a much higher alcohol content than lagers. All beers start as an ale or a lager, then their individual styles and flavors are developed from this platform.
Ales & Lagers
Beers can be categorized as an ale or a lager, and there are numerous styles of ales from porters, stouts, IPA’s, wheat and Belgian-style. Lagers can include pilsners, dark American and German helles.
Many people start the beer drinking pleasure with lager, as this type of beer can taste light and a tad malty. Classic American lagers include Budweiser, Miller High Life, Coors and Yuengling. A favorite for younger beer drinkers as they always taste the same and are not challenging on the palette.
Indian Pale Ale was a style developed by the British to enable the beer to last longer in transit around the Empire. IPA’s a typically contain high alcohol levels and vary in taste from bitter to pure citrus. Popular styles are: British IPA, West Coast IPA and New England IPA. The New England IPA’s are fruity, whilst British IPA tend to be malty and bitter. IPA’s can often be the beers that introduce lager drinks into the world of ale.
Slightly less alcohol than IPA’s, pale ales are usually hoppy and can include blonde ale, amber ale and English pale ale. These beers are medium bodied and malty, and very easy to quaff as they do not contain complex tastes.
Pilsners that hail from the Czech Republic are essentially darker lagers, whilst German pilsners are a pale gold color and finish with a crisp flavor.
Stouts are dark beers and their flavor very much depends on where they come from, the sweeter stouts come from England and Ireland and are not particularly bitter. Guinness is probably the most famous stout beer in the world. The definition of stouts according to BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) is sweet, full-bodied, slightly roast ale that can suggest coffee-and-cream, or sweetened espresso. The really dark color of stout gives an impression that the beer is difficult to drink and would be very bitter but this is not so, there is a natural sweetness to stout because of the unfermented sugars.
Part two of this blog looks at more different styles of beers that exist including, porter, Belgium beer, and wheat beer.