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Types of Beer

Updated on November 30, 2016

Types of Beer

Different types of beer are made by varying the brewing temperatures and the ingredients, particularly the kinds of grain and yeast. Dark beers contain dark-colored malts, and sweet beers often have sugar or syrup added before mashing. The most popular kinds of beer in the United States include lager, ale, porter, stout, and bock beer.

Lager. About 90 percent of the beer produced in the United States is lager beer. Lager beer is fermented at about 50° to 60° F. (10° to 15.5° C.) by a kind of yeast that settles to the bottom of the vat after fermentation. This fermenting process, although it,occurs throughout the vat, is commonly called bottom fermentation.

Ale. Ale is usually fermented at 68° to 70° F. (20° to 22° C.) by a process commonly called top fermentation. In this process the yeast used rises to the top of the brew after fermentation. Ale is heavier in consistency than lager. It is also brewed with more hops than is lager.

Porter and Stout. Porter and stout are kinds of ale. Porter is sweeter than ordinary ale and is brewed with less hops than ale. It has a richer and heavier foam. Stout has a strong malt flavor and is even sweeter than porter. It is darker and heavier than porter.

Bock Beer. Bock beer is a heavy beer that is darker and sweeter than regular beer. It is traditionally prepared in winter and consumed early in spring. Some Germanic countries have bock beer festivals to celebrate spring. The goat, a symbol of spring, is frequently pictured on the label of bock beer containers.

Making Beer

Beer is made from malted grains by a process called brewing. The steps in brewing include mashing, conversion, lautering and sparging, boiling and hopping, fermenting, and aging and carbonation.

Malting. Barley grains are prepared for brewing by malting companies. The grains are cleaned, steeped in water for two or three days, allowed to germinate for four to six days, and dried at about 180° F. (82° C.). Germination develops enzymes, particularly diastase, that convert starches into sugars.

Mashing. At the brewery, barley malt is thoroughly ground and put with water into a closed vessel, called a mash tun. The malt and water are agitated at a temperature of about 100° F. (38° C.) to break down the malt proteins so that they dissolve in the water. The resulting water and malt liquid is called malt mash. Usually about 550 pounds (250 kg) of malt are used to make 500 gallons (1,893 liters) of beer.

Conversion. While the malt mash is being prepared, corn or rice is placed with hot water in a vat, called a cooker, and boiled. The corn or rice and water are agitated until the starch of the grains becomes gelatinous. The gelatinous liquid is then added to the malt mash. The mixture temperature, which averages about 154° F. (68° C.), is called the conversion temperature. At this temperature the malt enzymes convert the starch in both malt and grain into fermentable sugar.

Lautering and Sparging. The converted mash is transferred to a filtering tank, called the lauter tun. The wort, or liquid portion, of the mash is filtered out and collected. The mash is then sparged, or washed, to remove the last of the wort. The separated mash, which is very nutritious, is used as a stock feed.

Boiling and Hopping. The wort flows into a large copper brew kettle, and to it are added hops, which are the dried cones of the hop vine. The wort and hops mixture is boiled to sterilize and concentrate the wort and to release the flavor of the hops.

Fermenting. The flavored, or hopped, wort is strained and cooled to about 50° F. (10° C.) and put into a tank with cultured yeast, which converts the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The carbon dioxide may be collected and used later to carbonate the finshed beer. When fermentation is under way, the wort and yeast mixture is placed in fermenting tanks. Fermentation takes about seven days.

Aging and Carbonation. After fermentation most of the yeast is removed from the beer, and the beer is pumped into aging tanks. As it ages, some of the remaining yeast settles to the bottom, and the flavor and aroma improve. Aging takes many weeks.

Beer is usually carbonated, or made effervescent, by either of two methods. The carbon dioxide gas collected from the brew during fermentation may be added after the aging process, or the beer may be carbonated naturally by adding small amounts of young, fermenting beer to the finished beer that is aging in the tank. The most common method is the addition of carbon dioxide gas after aging.

After having been carbonated, the beer undergoes a final filtration and is put in barrels or is bottled or canned and then pasteurized.

The History of Beer

Brewing beer is probably a skill as ancient as the cultivation of grain. An ancient Mesopotamian clay seal about 6,000 years old shows two brewers working at a vat. Some of the oldest records from Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome also refer to brewing beer. In the Middle Ages, beer was usually made in monasteries and sold as a source of revenue. When laymen began to make beer, craft guilds were created, and brewing became a profitable trade. The first commercial brewery in North America was built by two Dutch colonists on Manhattan Island early in the 17th century.

Over the years, beer has been brewed and flavored with many different ingredients. In some countries such bitters as the leaves and barks of oak and ash trees and such spices as cinnamon were used. Hops were first used in Germany, and their popularity has spread throughout the world.

As long ago as the 8th century A.D., beer was stored, or lagered in barrels, in cool caves or cellars to age and to prevent spoilage during warm weather. A German method of lagering bottom-fermented and effervescent beer was introduced to the United States in about 1840. This kind of beer, usually called lager beer, quickly became the most popular beer in the United States. The development of artificial refrigeration in the 1860's and 1870's made it possible to preserve beer regardless of weather, and scientific methods of fermentation, pasteurization, and sanitation have improved many other stages of brewing. The development of bottling methods in the 1890's permitted widespread distribution of beer that could be stored for long periods without refrigeration.

From 1920 to 1933 the manufacture and sale of all alcoholic beverages in the United States were forbidden by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1933, this amendment was repealed, and today the United States leads in beer production with more than one-fourth of the worlds total output.


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