The first two large families of beers have yeast as a differentiating ingredient.
They are beers that use lager yeast that acts in the lower part of the fermenter. They generally require low fermentation temperatures and long times. It is common for a lager beer to ferment at less than 10 degrees, many times even below 5 degrees, and to do so for one to three months. The low fermentation temperatures mean that these beers can only be brewed in winter or in a cold room or refrigerator.
Lagers are beers usually made with little hops, light in color and with a relatively low alcohol content (between 3.5 and 5%). Most of the beers we drink in Spain, whether they are drafts, small bottles, cans, are lagers because of how good the lager is if it is served very cold. Without a doubt, we are a country that likes beer to be served very cold. It is also the preferred type of beer in most countries of continental Europe.
There is no rule that dictates what type of malt a lager contains, although it is common for there to be a high percentage of light malt and little or no roasted and caramelized malt. Many recipes also use a little wheat malt. Among the best known lagers are the Pilsner, the Spezial, the Dortmunster, the Schwarzbier, the Vienna and most of the Bocks, which is itself a family of beers that we will see later.
Ale, unlike lagers, are top fermented, meaning that fermentation occurs on the surface of the fermenter. It is usually fermented at temperatures around 19 degrees for short periods ranging from 5 to 7 days (often followed by a second fermentation that aims to reduce the cloudiness of the beer). These are usually beers made with a fair amount of hops and a high alcohol content. I insist, these are general features since, as we have already explained, an ale is simply a beer fermented with ale yeast and can be made more or less strong depending on the amount of hops and malt added.
This type of beer has many followers in the United Kingdom, in the USA, Australia and in general in the old British hills. It is not usually served ice cold as we do with the lager and sometimes it is taken “of the time”.
They are a whole category in themselves, and they are especially important in Germany. They are made totally or partially with wheat malt, they are clear in color and low in alcohol. They are fermented with ale yeast. The best known, the white beer, the weisse beer, which delights the Oktober Fest in Munich and which has an equally wonderful variant in Berlin.
They are lager-type beers that are very rich in roasted malts, which gives them a very dark color. They make a beautiful white foam that contrasts with the brown color of the beer and will stick to your mustache mercilessly. You have to drink them carefully because they usually have more than 7% alcohol content and some Bocks, such as Eisbock, are partially frozen as a technique to remove the ice parts (which do not contain alcohol) and thereby increase the total graduation. Contrary to other dark beers that we will see later, bocks are not too “hoppy” and always have a malt flavor and some sweetness.
A whole family of light colored ale beers, made with small proportions of roasted malt. But don’t let the color fool you: they are usually beers with a lot of hops and therefore with a lot of flavor, some of them even quite bitter. The IPA (Indian Pale Ale) stands out in this category, a very alcoholic beer rich in hops designed to withstand long journeys to India. The English Bitter is a classic of UK Pubs and some American Ales made with USA hops are magnificent.
If “pale ale” means “pale ale”, then there had to be dark ales, that is, dark ales. These are the Stouts and the Porters that we describe below.
Sometimes called black beer in Spain. It is a very dark beer, made with a good proportion of roasted and caramelized malts as well as a good dose of hops. They are beers with a thick and creamy texture with a strong aroma of malt and a sweet aftertaste. They are ales. The most famous, because without a doubt the Irish Guinness. Within the Stout there are several subcategories, highlighting the Imperial Stout that has a very high concentration of malt which gives it a high alcohol content once fermented. Other types are marked by the type of malt that predominates, such as Chocolate, Coffee or Milk Stout that is sweetened with lactose.
Are for many a type of Stout, but somewhat less dark and powerful. They are also ale beers with a beautiful color and also very rich in hops.
Between the pale and the dark, there is a whole category that comes from Belgium with all of the monasteries. These are beers with an intense flavor, with a good dose of hops but with a sweet background provided by the amber and crystal malts. The color is usually marked by reddish tones, although there are Belgian ales that are completely blonde. The Abadía, Trappist, Ámbar and Flamenca beers stand out in this section. All of them are quite alcoholic, many of them exceeding 6 and 7% alcohol content.
It takes the alcoholic record. Made with huge amounts of malt, the immediate result is a full-bodied beer with alcohol content that often exceeds 10%. To drink in a small glass as if it were wine, and hence its name.
These are just some of the varieties of styles available in the market, in later articles we will tell you about each particular style and add new ones to this list.