What does it all mean?

by jessicastobie


(My friend and I, Melissa Wabby, enjoying a big beer, at San Francisco Biergarten)

So the brewbie in me wants to know more about beer.  I want to know what it actually is that I’m drinking when I am drinking it.  I set out to do some research and try and figure it all out.  What I found is there is a ton of information out there on beer and I almost didn’t know where to begin with it all, a recurring theme that seems to be popping up on my beer journey.  I am going to start by trying to break it (beer) down in the simplest of terms possible.  Wish me luck!

 So it turns out beer is first broken down into two main categories: an Ale and a Lager.

 An Ale beer uses yeast that ferments at the top of the fermentation vessel, and usually at a higher temperature than lager yeast (60-75 degrees F), which equals a quicker fermentation period of about 8 days or less.  Ale yeasts are known to produce by-products called esters, which are “flowerly” and “fruity” aromas ranging, but not limited to, apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, plum, and prune.

 A Lager is brewed with bottom fermenting yeast that work slowly at around 34 degrees F, and are often further stored at cool temperatures to mature.  Lager yeast produces fewer by-products than ale yeast which allows for other flavors to pull through, such as hops.  The word Lager comes from the German word lagern which means, “to store”.  How fitting!

 So basically, the two main types of beers are broken down by the way they are created.  Ale’s are created quicker and fermented at a higher temperature while Lager’s take longer, are fermented at a lower temperature, and require cool storage.  Within these two categories there are hundreds of different types of beers and variations, but we’ll save that for another day.

Happy Drinking!