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Ale is a popular type of beer made from barley malt and is generally fermented quicker giving it a sweeter, fuller body.  Hops are usually added that give it a bitter, herbal flavor which complements the sweetness contributed by the malt.  Prior to the 1500’s, hops were not used in the beer brewing process in England and other parts of Europe.  The term “ale” was specifically applied to unhopped fermented beverages.  At this time, ale was clearly distinguished from “beer” which was associated with brewing using hops.  This distinction no longer applies today.
Most beers can be categorized as either a type of ale or lager.  Ale is distinguished from lager primarily by a difference in fermentation.  Ale is fermented at higher temperatures (usually between 60 and 70° F) causing it to ferment quicker than lagers and use top-fermenting yeasts.  The higher temperatures help produce greater amounts of aromatics creating a beer with a sweeter flavor resembling various fruits.  There are many different types of ales, many of which are detailed on this page.
Lager differs from ale in that it is brewed slower at cooler temperatures with bottom-fermenting yeast and then stored in cool conditions so certain flavored compounds are cleared away producing a cleaner taste.

Lager originated in the 19th century in Bavaria where brewers stored beer in cool places.  The word lager comes from the German word “lagern”, which means “to store”.  The biggest difference between ales and lagers is that lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast and stored at cooler temperatures. A brewer named Gabriel Sedlmayr II the Younger first experimented with new brewing techniques in the early 1800’s and developed the Bavarian lager.  The result was a very dark lager due to the harshness of Munich water. The popularity of this new recipe spread throughout Europe during the 19th century.  Variations of the original lager were brewed mainly due to the type of malts and water found in the local region from which they were brewed.   Josef Groll used the new lager recipe and experimented with different malts and local water which produced a beer with a bright golden color and commonly became known as Pilsner. 

Pilsner is a pale lager developed in the city of Plzen by Bavarian brewer Josef Groll.  The unique flavor and color was created using a paler malt and softer water producing a clear, golden beer.  The modern pilsner has a light, clear color ranging from pale to golden yellow.  Pilsners are medium-bodied beers with malty residuals of sweetness in the aroma and flavor.  German pilsners tend to have a dense and rich head with a higher hop bitterness than other types of pilsners.  Czech pilsners are generally light and crisp in taste.
Stouts are dark beers made with roasted malts or barley. The beer was named stout due to its boldness and strength originating in the British Isles. Irish or dry stout has a hoppier character, is less malty, and has a very dark color. Guiness is the most famous of the dry stouts. The English sweet stout is less bitter and generally has a lower alcohol content. Milk stout is a common sweet stout containing a lactic flavor. The lactose adds sweetness, body, and calories to the beer. Oatmeal stout uses oats in the brewing process giving it a smooth feel and even sweeter taste than the milk stout. Imperial stout is a very strong-flavored, dark brew with a high alcohol content. It was originally brewed in England and exported to the Czar of Russia in the 19th century.
Porters are similar to stouts and are known for their dark color. It originated in England in the early 18th century as a more-aged brown beer that was commonly brewed in London at the time. Porters were aged at the brewery and one of the first to be mass-produced. The beer was originally produced with a very high alcohol content. Over time, different styles of porters were produced over a wide variety of strengths. Some of these styles were, in order of strength, Single Stout Porter, Double Stout Porter, Triple Stout Porter, and Imperial Stout Porter.
Pale ales and lagers remained more popular for a period from the mid-1800's to mid 1900's, until porters began regaining its popularity in the later part of the 20th century. Today porters are often brewed using pale malt with added ingredients of black malt, crystal, chocolate, or smoked brown malt. Hop bitterness is moderate and colors range from brown to black.
Wheat Beer
Wheat beer is usually brewed with a significant amount of malted wheat and sometimes containing malted barley. The wheat helps to produce a beer with a light flavor and pale color and is distinguished by its creamy body and sweet flavor. It is customarily top fermented with ale yeast.

Two popular varieties of wheat beer are most common:  Belgian witbier and German Weizenbier.  Belgian witbier has a fruity flavor and whitish color.  It is often brewed using raw unmalted wheat as opposed to malted wheat used in most other varieties.  German Weizenbier is named from the region in which it originates in southwest Germany.  Twice as much wheat as barley is used in the brew resulting in a smooth, light taste. 
Other varieties such as Kristallweizen filters the remaining yeast out of the brew to produce a very clear wheat beer, but also carries an untraditional beer taste. Dunkelweizen leaves plenty of yeast in the bottle and is very dark. The Hefeweizen style is a common wheat beer that has a cloudy look and yeasty taste.

Bock is a strong lager from Munich, Germany.  It originated in northern Germany in a town called Einbeck, from which Bock is named.  Bock also means “goat” in German and is often directly associated with the beer.  It is high in food energy and nutrients and generally contains a high alcohol content.  During the winter is the ideal brewing period for drinking during the spring.  Bocks are generally strong beers made with lots of malt producing a full-bodied beer.

There are several common varieties of bock beer.  Helles is a pale version and the lightest of all bock varieties.  Lighter malts are used producing a deep gold to light amber color.  Eisbock is a strong beer made by freezing the water portion where the beer is deeply concentrated after the removal of the ice.  Doppelbocks are also very strong and generally dark in color from dark amber to dark brown.  While the name means “double bock”, it is not twice the strength of traditional bocks.  There is virtually no hop flavor and aroma with only a slight hop bitterness.  It is bottom-fermented and the lagering period can last up to several months.
Cider is made from crushed and fermented apples.  It generally has a stronger alcohol content than beer and maintains a golden yellow or cloudy color.  Cider is made by grating or mashing apples before being pressed and then fermented using natural or added yeasts.  Cider is also very popular in the US as a non-alcoholic beverage.

There are wide varieties of cider which is generally dependent on the amount of apple material that is removed during the pressing and fermentation process.  Heavily processed ciders resemble sparkling wine in appearance, while more traditional brands tend to be darker and cloudier where less of the apple is filtered out.  White cider is a colorless variety that is processed after the brewing process has been completed.
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