The Constant Evolution of Beer

by | Jul 3, 2014 | Article

You think you know what beer is don’t you?

It’s either out of a bottle, fizzy and cold, out of a line on the bar , fizzy and cold or off a hand pump, usually a bit flat and not too cold. But it all tastes pretty much the same right? Well, for the majority of beer brewed that is probably true, but for the beers which are getting everyone excited about the drink again this is certainly not true. Beer has an advantage over most other alcoholic drinks because of its versatility and ability to constantly evolve.

How can beer have this advantage? Most beer has four ingredients water, barley malt, hops and yeast. Even if you stick to brewing with just these ingredients you can make almost an infinite variety of flavours.

Water can be, and often is, treated with minerals to suit what beer is being brewed – before brewers could do this scientifically they would brew beer to suit the nearest water type, so in London dark beers suited the hard water, in Burton pale ales were famous because of the soft water.

Malt can be roasted to whatever degree of darkness is required – think pale pilsner graduating to imperial porter, and also the brewer can use many different malts within one brew. Malt can also be smoked to give a beer an extra dimension.

There is an ever increasing amount of varieties of hops, and hops can be used at different times in the brewing process giving levels of aroma and bitterness as well as balancing flavour. Then the magic of yeast, little talked about by some other alcohol producers but essential to consistency, aroma, flavour and balance of a beer. Sometimes you won’t notice the yeast – think of a light pilsner, but then shift to a Belgian blonde or triple and you will have layers of yeast flavour which will develop over time.

So beer has a big advantage over other drinks with more limited ingredients. Brewers are spoilt for choice with new varieties of hops being developed constantly and new yeast strains. Add to this the fact that many brewers embrace fruit, other forms of sugar, honey, herbs, etc and the possibilities are mind boggling.

It has become increasing popular to age beer in casks, the flavour of the wood, the liquid that was in it before and any yeast forms also add to the base beer flavour. So it is not unusual to come across a beer that has five malts in it, several varieties of hops, has been aged in a whisky cask and has two or three fermentation stages. The complexity of beer can be astounding and many brewers are pushing the boundaries all the time – a bit different from that fizzy cold stuff you were drinking in the Dog and Duck last night?

For more information and to get in touch with BBB – for all your beer needs

 

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