Green beer and Irish Car Bombs will run rampant this St. Paddy’s day, with people packing their closest Irish pub to the brim. But if you want a truly delicious beer, you need to know what you’re drinking.
Here is a quick guide to know what type of beer you’re drinking, how it’s made and the way it tastes.
Each beer has a basic list of ingredients: hops, barley, malt and yeast.
The first thing to understand about beer is that there are two basic types – ales and lagers. An ale is top fermented while a lager is bottom fermented, according to beeradvocate.com. However, it goes much further than just how a beer is fermented.
Ales and lagers both use yeast. To top ferment means the yeast is at the top, and to bottom ferment means the yeast is at the bottom. Another part of the brew process which differentiates the two is the fact that ale is brewed warmer than lager.
What does that all mean? An ale brews faster (usually around room temperature or 75 degrees) while a lager brews much colder (around 39 degrees, according to Beer Advocate.)
Lagers give a nice crisp taste because of the combination of cold brewing and ingredients. Ales, on the other hand, often contain a higher amount of hops, malt and roasted malt, so they usually have a malty bitter taste, states beertutor.com.
Let’s review: ales usually bitter, lagers usually crisp.
Now that we know these two basic concepts about beer, we can dive deeper into the different styles.
There are numerous beer styles, and the list keeps on growing. A beer style is a label that describes its overall character and its origin, BeerAdvocate states. The world of beer is constantly evolving, but there are a few styles that have stood the test of time:
- Amber Ale
The India Pale Ale, first brewed in England in the late 1700’s, was made differently in order to withstand long journeys to India. The beer would usually be tweaked with more malt and higher alcohol content giving it a bitter taste.
A few local south Florida Brewery IPA’s are Funky Buddha Hop Gun (7.0 ABV) and Saltwater Screemin’ Reel’s IPA (7.5 ABV).
ABV is the alcohol abbreviation or how much alcohol is in the beer. Compare this to a Bud Light or Budweiser weighing in at about 5 percent.
Pilsner is a style of lager beer originating from Bohemia in the Czech Republic. It usually has high carbonation and a lighter color, according to All About Beer Magazine.
Pilsners are usually a good transition from macro beers like Bud Light, Miller Light and Coors Light.
A stout is usually a dark beer made with roasted malt or roasted barley. They often tend to taste like coffee and can range from anywhere between 4 and 5 percent ABV, beertutor.com said. The Guinness Stout is one of the more famous stouts.
Porters are commonly mistaken for stouts but there are many differences. Brewed in England, this type of beer was popular with English porters. They usually have a bitter chocolate, and their color ranges from brown to ruby red. The common ABV for this type of beer is around 7 percent, Beer Tutor states.
The amber ale or American red is pretty much a catch-all for any non-dark beer, BeerAdvocate states. A normal ABV for these types of beer ranges from about 4 to 7 percent.
Blue Moon wasn’t the first Hefeweizen and certainly won’t be the last. The hefeweizen or southern German Wheat beer or weissbier is light in color with a 50:50 split of wheat and yeast. The beer’s ABV can range from about 4 to 7 percent.
These are just a few styles you may encounter when ordering a beer at the bar but for a more comprehensive list check out BeerAdvocate’s style section.