October 2007

Beer Talk: Which Brew is for You?

Author: Krissy Cantelupe

This month, in recognition of Oktoberfest, Wine Talk will be replaced by Beer Talk. According to the latest statistics posted by the Gallop Poll, beer is the number one alcoholic beverage consumed in the United States.

Beer is almost as old as human civilization. Through carbon dating, the earliest recipe can be traced back to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria) in 5000 B.C. Since that time, nearly every culture around the world has invented its own local brew.

Most early beers were made from whatever grains were at hand, including one Egyptian concoction made from bread left out in the rain and allowed to ferment. Modern beers are flavored with hops, a flower which also acts as a preservative.

There are two major types of beer, Ales and Lagers. Ales are beers fermented with top-fermenting yeast at room temperature. Examples of ales include porters, stouts, and wheat beers, such as Bass Ale, Guinness, Sam Adams, and Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. Most originated in England and Ireland where the warmer climates are ideal for top-fermenting yeasts.

Lagers are made with bottom-fermenting yeast, requiring lower temperatures. Most American and Canadian beers are Lagers, including LaBatt’s, Budweiser, Molson’s, Miller, etc. Microbrews are made by smaller breweries in the United States, using lager yeasts (usually needing refrigeration). The first microbrewery was started in 1965 by Anchor Brewing Company. Since then, hundreds of microbreweries have popped up throughout the United States.

I asked Dan Ward (a connoisseur of beer) from the Mellow Mushroom to choose three of his favorites. Here are his recommendations:
1) Chimay Grande Reserve, a Belgium beer brewed by Trappist monks. “It is unfiltered and unpasteurized, leaving a rich and complex mouth feel and a smooth aftertaste. The best part is it has nine percent alcohol and can really knock you off your barstool.”
2) Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, a creamy and smooth stout from London, England. “It looks and tastes as smooth as a Guinness with a hint of chocolate flavor—a must-have at any pub.”
3) Highland St. Terese’s Pale Ale—a favorite American microbrew, from Asheville, North Carolina. “This brew uses the right amount of malt and hops to give a slightly fruity aftertaste to enjoy again and again.”

I thank Dan for his beer wisdom and hope it will encourage you to try new types. Be on the lookout for pumpkin ales. ’Tis the season.

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