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Types of Beer and Definitions
I assembled the following from the web site of my friends at OklahomaBeer.org with a few notes from my own experience.
My friends at OklahomaBeer.org have a great two pages on the differences between types of beer. I think this can help you in choosing what to cook with and what to drink. I have tried to assemble the information below but if you would rather read everything they wrote (a good idea) then just click HERE and go at it. Do yourself a favor when you are at the page and click on the Beer Types and Styles Guide in the first paragraph.
Ale – This is usually brewed with barley and has a slightly fruity taste. It comes in several colors and alcoholic strengths.
Barley Wine is actually an English term for an extra-strong ale that is as potent as wine.
Brown Ale is a darker, cola, color and has a nutty flavor with a hint of chocolate. The English and American versions are quite different with the American version more alcoholic and bitter due to the added malt and hops. The English version is often referred to as a “thirst quencher”.
India Pale Ale is copper colored with a big-bodied and strongly bitter flavor. Normally referred to as an “IPA” it is from the English Pale Ale family but Pale Ale could not last through the long voyage from England to India in the 1700’s so they added hops to the already fermented beer as a preserving agent (dry hopping). I don’t know what the American Navy did back then but now they give you flavored water and a 12 hour pass. Today the hops are added either to the fermented beer or boiled in the wort.
Pale Ale is the classic English ale. It is only slightly bitter with a malty finish and copper color. It has a fruity or flowery scent. It is brewed from pale malts (lightly kilned) giving an often honey-like or caramel sweetness. Some English brewers use the term “Pale Ale” to describe their premium bitters.
Bitter – A well hopped beer that is similar to a Pale Ale. Pale Ales are normally bottled though and Bitters are usually only draught.
Cask-Conditioned – This is a draught beer that isn’t filtered or pasteurized. It has a secondary fermentation and natural clarification in the cellar of the pub. Don’t serve it real cold, just chilled so you can get all the flavors.
Hops – You have heard the word related to beer and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the reaction you get from drinking vast quantities. Hops are actually a climbing plant much like a grape vine. It contains oils and resins that provide beer with a bittering balance in both taste and aroma to the sweetness of the malt.
Bock is a german word for “strong beer”. It is one of the dark lagers and is made from barley malt. It normally has a malty sweetness, limited hop bitterness, and relatively high alcoholic content. Bocks are normally not Summer beers, expected around Oktoberfest, but very good in Spring, Fall, and Winter.
Doublebock is an extra strong (alcohol content) bock beer that is usually tawny or dark brown in color.
Pilsner has a very light, clear color from pale to golden yellow with a distinctive hop aroma and flavor. It does vary based on the country of origin though with a Czech Pilsner having a light flavor and a German Pilsner being more bitter. It is not a Pale Lager though because of the hop characteristics. The term Pilsner is also used primarily in North America to indicate a premium beer regardless of the hop character.
Light Beer is actually just an American term for a Pilsner style beer that is relatively low in calories and alcohol content. In short you get less calories, less alcohol, and less taste in a drink you don’t want more of.
Lambic – While this is a wheat beer I chose to give it a separate paragraph. I found it to be a fantastic dissert beer that tastes quite a bit like a very fruity wine. Technically it is a spontaneously fermented style of beer brewed from malted barley and unmalted wheat. The good stuff is unique to a certain area of Belgium.
Malt – This term refers to grains that have been soaked in water until they are partially germinated (malted) and then kilned. This process releases starches which are turned into fermentable sugar. When yeast is added these fermentable sugars become alcohol and carbon dioxide. Malt gives beer its sweet flavor.
Porter – This is a London style of beer that is lighter than a Stout. Porters are roasted-tasting dark brews that are bottom fermented and have a stronger alcoholic content. Legend has it that the name comes from the fact that it was a favorite drink of the porters at Victoria Station in London.
Stout was originally called Stout Porter because it is stronger and darker, almost black, due to the use of highly roasted malts. It can be sweet or dry and have a coffee like flavor.
Weisse/Weissbier – This is a beer made from malted wheat and gets the name from the German for white beer (pronounced Vice Beer. It is also called Weizenbier for Wheat Beer, Kristallweizen for Crystal Wheat or Hefeweizen in North America for Yeast Wheat. There are also darker wheat beers and these are called Dunkelweizen for Dark Wheat. According to German law Weissbier must have at least 50% malted wheat while Bavarian contains 60% to 70%. The flavor varies and is described as clove like, banana like, phenolic, sour, spicy or even bubble gum.
– Any beer fermented at low temperatures using bottom fermenting yeast and then stored (lagered) in cool conditions in order to clear away imperfections and ensure a clean taste. It is usually golden in color but can be dark. Lagers make up about 90% of the beer sold in the world.