There is such a wide range of beer available these days that it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the choices on offer.
How do you find your way through this when you’re out drinking, dining or shopping? Here are some basic principles, which link to the sensory characteristics of beer, to help you on your way and guide you through the vast beer landscape:
– Like wine beer can be placed in 5 Colour or Beer Groups which bring beers of similar colour together in ranges of Blond, White, Amber, Dark or Flavoured beers. Granted the last group could be any colour including the main 4 others but it is determined by the added natural flavouring from fruit, vegetables, herbs & spices, chocolate .. In general the colour of a beer is determined by the roasting of the malt or the level of filtration and so is a directly linked with how the beer tastes (and not strength as many believe).
2. Beer Type
– Within each of the colour or beer groups there are 5 different types of beer determined by the way they have been fermented, which is reflected in the sensory characteristics of the beer especially the mouth feel of the beer. Cold/Bottom fermented Lager beers, Warm/Top fermented Ale beers, Spontaneous/Open fermented Wild beers or Mixed fermentation Hybrid beers and then Blended beers which are blended after the fermentation so actually more a cocktail of different beers
3. Beer Style
– The different beer types can be sub-divided into Beer Styles which group beers with similar fermentation together and then use the different sensory characteristics derived from the use and application of different brewing ingredients and/or different brewing methods to identify them, so we get classic styles such as
Pilsner Lager beers, Pale Ale beers, Stout Ale beers, White Wheat Ale beers…
4. Beer Style Variety
– Based on their regional origin there will be varieties within a Beer Style because of the slight differences, often in terms of the intensity of the sensory characteristics, that reflect local climate, ingredients and tastes
Bohemian/Czech or German Pilsner Lager beers, English Pale Ale or American India Pale Ale beers, Irish Dry Stout or English Oatmeal Stout Ale beers, Belgian Witbier or German Hefe-Weiss Wheat Ale beers…
So when you are looking for a beer ask yourself the following questions: What colour of beer; What type of beer; What style of beer; do I feel like? and this should lead you to your beer of choice.