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Types of Beer

Updated on May 29, 2010

In the United States the name "beer" is generally given to a bright, pale golden, light-flavored, light-bodied, crisply fresh beverage that is drunk chilled, somewhere between 44° and 48° F (6.6° and 9° C).

Bock beer is a special, full-bodied brew, somewhat darker and sweeter than regular beer. It is brewed in winter for use in the spring. Bock Beer Day, the day on which it is first sold, is planned to herald the arrival of spring. The bock beer season lasts about six weeks.

Malt liquor is a special kind of beer that varies considerably among brands. Some malt liquors are quite pale; others are rather dark. Some are quite hoppy; others are only mildly so. Their essential characteristic is a higher alcoholic content than in other beers.

Lager is generally understood to be a light, bright, sparkling beer, but today all malt beverages in the United States are lagered.

Pilsner is a term often seen on beer labels around the world. The original and true Pilsner beer is the Pilsner Urquell, which has been brewed at PIzen in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia, for some 800 years, and has never been equaled.

Ale is an aromatic, golden, fuller-bodied, and bitterer malt beverage with a slightly higher alcoholic content than beer. All ales are top-fermentation brews.

Stout is a darker ale with a maltier flavor. It is sweeter than ale and has a strong hop character.

Porter is a still darker, fuller-bodied ale yielding a rich, creamy foam. Strongly roasted malt is used to give a richer body. It is sweeter and less hoppy than regular ale.

Sake, a Japanese brew made from rice, is given a high alcoholic content by refermentation.

The difference between light- and dark-colored beers stems from the amount of kilning or roasting of the barley malt. The more it is roasted, the darker it becomes and the greater is the caramelization of its sugars. Thus, the darker the brew, the sweeter it will be.

The basic difference between draft beer and beer packaged in a bottle or can has been that draft beer is not pasteurized. Packaged beer is usually pasteurized to prevent refermentation in the container. However, the use of microporous materials that filter out all the yeast cells now permits unpasteurized beer to be bottled and canned. The filtered beer is safe to store and retains its fresh-brewed character and flavor.

Virtually all types of beers and ales are brewed in the United States. The bulk of consumption is, and no doubt will continue to be, of the light-colored, light-bodied style. The outstanding characteristic of United States beer is its lightness, a quality Americans favor.


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