Beer Demystified

Along with wine, beer is probably one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man and the most popular one at that. All over the world, with the possible exception of France, Italy and Portugal, people guzzle beer in copious quantities.

Even in India, beer is one of the fastest growing segments within the liquor industry. But it is in England and Germany where beer drinking takes on an entirely new meaning. It is, in fact, almost a religion. Consider the numerous English pubs with their individualistic styles of beers; the stein wielding barmaids at a German beer garden. It is a way of life rather than the road to destruction. You could go on a `beer trail’ and drink zillion different kinds of `tap’ in one evening, then wonder how the simple beer could reach heights thought unattainable. Read on to figure out the basics about beer, how it’s made, what the different types of beer are, what’s the best way to drink it, so on and so forth.

[toggle title=”How Is it Made” state=”close” ]It is unjust that the hauteur which rightly attends wine should so often be permitted to overshadow beer. The two ought to be companions of honour as the principal types of fermented drink:made in the first case from the grape (or other fruits) and in the second from grain (mostly barley). Both are capable of great delicacy, and it is to the drinker’s disadvantage that beer is not always explored in its great and exotic variety. Of the two drinks, beer is the more complicated to make, since the barley has first to be malted and mashed, the enigmatic hop added as an agent of flavouring and preservation, and the whole brewed before it can be fermented. That brewing is a great art has generally been appreciated in Czechoslovakia, Germany (itself a great wine-producing nation) and in Belgium. It was in danger of being forgotten elsewhere until the renaissance of interest in beer in the late 1970s. This renaissance was evident in several countries, including The Netherlands and Denmark, but was most dramatic in Britain, where the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) brought about drastic changes in the policies of large, powerful brewery companies. In the United States, imported beers introduced drinkers to less bland tastes, and encouraged a number of American brewers to revive characterful styles from the past. After decades of often damaging neglect, a new appreciation was accorded in several countries to the craftsman brewer. He benefited from the growing awareness throughout the Western world that a heritage is worthy of conservation; from the reawakening of a taste for pure and natural products; and in many instances from the `small is beautiful’ philosophy propounded in the celebrated contemporary work of that name by E. F. Schumacher. Just as wines may be categorized as red, rose and white; dry and sweet; sparkling and still; and then according to region; so beers divide into definite styles. The most important distinction is based on the method of fermentation, during which some species of yeast rise to the top of the brew and others sink to the bottom. Like red wines, beers made by top fermentation are very full in flavour, and their palates are in many cases best expressed at room or cellar temperature; like white wines, beers made by bottom fermentation often have a lighter and more refreshing character, and are usually served chilled, though excessive refrigeration destroys their flavour. An extract from `The Indispensable Drinks Book’ – John Doxat with Michael Jackson, Jancis Robinson, Richard Clark, Leonard Kirschen by MacDonald & Co (Publishers) Ltd.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Types” state=”close” ]Technically speaking, there are two basic styles of beer – lagers and ales – different in the type of yeast used to brew it. This is what gives ales (top fermenting yeast) its characteristic hoppy (bitter) tastes, thicker texture and darker colour. Lagers (bottom fermenting yeast) are lighter and they are what we get in India. What then is a Pilsner? A lager made in the style of that brewed in the Czechoslovakian town of Pilsen. A simple breakdown might make this easier. Lagers (3.2 – 4.5% alcohol) light-coloured lager dark lager Pilsner light/diet beer malt liquor (strong beer over 5% alcohol) Bock beer (sweet, heavy lager with a max of 3.5%alcohol) Ales (4.4 – 6% alcohol) Pale ale Brown ale Porter Stout Draught is unpasteurised beer, fresh though faintly yeasty and keeps for about a week. Ice Beer is a new addition with a curious process – the brew is brought down to freezing temperature which concentrates it, increases the alcoholic content and imparts a crisp, clean flavour to the beer. Unlike wines, most beers do not keep and are best consumed within six months (bottles). Some big international names in beers are Budweiser, Heineken, Fosters, Coors, Carlsberg, Michelob, Amstel, Guiness, Oranjeboom, San Miguel, Stella Artois, Kirin, Tiger, and Anchor amongst a host of brands. After the commercial beer boom of recent years, there has been a decided shift in the focus to small `microbreweries’ both in the US as well as Europe. These small units are committed to reviving the old, individual style of beers, which have greater depth and character than the mass-produced `lights’. Rather than just purely refresh, these micro beers are appreciated for their finesse and `breeding’. A concept not likely to arrive in India in the near future.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Draught Beer” state=”close” ]WHATZIT?? Beer served straight from the keg by means of a spigot or a valve. Unlike the bottled or canned varieties, draft beer hasn’t been subjected to the Pasteurization process. DRAUGHT OR DRAFT?? Draft and Draught beers are the same.In olden times the English used to pronounce it as Draft, which was later Americanized to draught. They can be either of the Ale or the Lager typeLager beers are those where the fermentation is from the bottom of the tank because of the type of the yeast, which is used.On the contrary Ale beers are those in which the fermentation happens from the top of the tank. As such there are distinct differences in their taste and appearances.Lager Drafts are lighter and smoother than their ale counterparts. In India, Lager is the most popular; ales are rare and costly to be guzzledI thought draught meant a breath of fresh air!The term draught beer is used because, originally, beer was pulled from casks with a hand pump. The word draught literally means “to pull”. This is still widespread for real ale. In modern commercial beer dispense, the metal keg barrel is pressurized with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. Pressure in the keg drives the beer to the dispense faucet. HISTORY ANYONE?? ZZZZZZ…. In 1874, draught beer was brewed in Germany. In the annals of history, it was supposed to have been discovered around 6000 years ago. So we can actually boast of a rich legacy of beer guzzlers.The people that time offered it to the gods as sacrifice, and also to their kings, for his longevity. DRINK IT UP FAST Draught beer is usually unpasteurised and therefore suffers no loss of taste due to heating of pasteurization. It should be consumed quickly after being “tapped”, and is generally truer to the flavors of the ingredients as pasteurization exposes the beer to heat and changes the flavor profile. Draught beer should be kept refrigerated between 2°C (35°F) and 4°C (40°F). Above 6°C (44°F), a beer may become wild, turn sour and cloudy in a day or two. Below 6°C (44°F), a keg of draft beer should last 20-30 days before it loses its fresh brewery taste and aroma. DRINKING TIPS Ideally the draught beers should be drunk straight from the pitchers, as the Germans do, as it tends to lose its crispiness inside the glass. Inside the glass it tends to taste more malty. So let yourself loose, and gulp down pitchers next time instead of the more feminine beer glasses.In a place where you are drinking, it is easier to check the cleanliness of the glasses by this simple exercise. When the draught beer is poured, if the froth remains for a long period of time, it means that the glass is clean. Draught beers should be gulped and not sipped, as the body tends to take in more calories quite faster by the slow and insane sipping.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”How To Drink It / Food to Go With / Good Cocktails” state=”close” ]After an exhaustive round of statistics and conjecture, let’s get to the pleasurable side of drinking this great brew. Beer drinkers are often quite definite about the glass from which they will drink. Some love the copper/brass steins; others prefer a clear pilsner, collins or the beer goblet; still others like the squat beer mugs. I think it’s nice to be able to see the rich golden colour and the rising effervescence as one drinks. For a thick, foamy head (German style), pour the beer straight down the middle of the glass from about one inch above the rim. Otherwise, tilt the glass and pour down the side, then straighten as it fills. A chilled glass of beer on a hot summer day is about the best thing that can happen to anybody. It is a great refresher and the perfect accompaniment to almost any kind of food. There are some who think its bitter taste is foul and drown it with lemonade. And voila, a `shandy’ is born. Apart from shandy there are some interesting combinations with beer and some strange ones. Highly recommended come beer and gingerale; beer and tonic; even beer and cola. A beer chaser with a shot of whisky or Southern Comfort is terrific if lethal. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s `Skip and go Naked’ a combination of 60ml vodka, some sugar syrup, juice of a lemon over 3-4 ice cubes in a collins glass topped with chilled beer. Add a shot of gin to that and you’ve got `Hop, skip and go Naked’! Howzzatt?!! Check out some more cocktails in our recipes section – Beer coff, .. , …[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Festivals / Trails / Famous Regions” state=”close” ]Several beer festivals happen all over the world, from the famed Oktoberfest in Munich to the Great British beer festival and closer home, the Arlem beer festival in Goa. Below are details of a few of the important festivals. Write in, if you want to add your comments. Octoberfest in Munich Did you know that the Munich beer festival, popularly called the Oktoberfest is the world’s largest public festival (or so at least the organisers claim) and that it began as the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in October, 1810. Nowadays the Octoberfestival is often begun in September, due to inclement weather later on. Earlier on, no beer was allowed to be sold during the festival days and it was only later that beer was allowed to be sold. The festival is officially started with the mayor broaching the first barrel of beer and the first mug is passed to the Bavarian prime minister. A great procession of people in traditional Bavarian costumes also takes place. Closer home in India, we have the Arlem beer festival sponsored by Arlem breweries. The festival is held over a period of 5 days in large grounds and beer drinking is accompanied by music and ofcourse Goan food. Great British Beer festival This is the biggest festival in the UK and claims to have more beers on sale here than in the Munich beer festival. The festival begain in North London, from where it moved to Leeds and then on to Brighton and then back to London. The festival is organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) whose commitment to ensuring the preservation of British ale is legendary.[/toggle]

[toggle title=”Indian Scene” state=”close” ]Not that we haven’t had our share of innovation. Years ago, in the early eighties, Associated Breweries (of London Pilsner fame) launched London Stout into a market not quite ready for such adventure. It was soon shelved. They were also the first to introduce the concept of `diet’ beer. This time they were just about there and the consumers were more accepting, albeit slowly. Soon after came the first cans in Seagull (Doburg Breweries) and Jubilee (UB) to a still adolescent market. Both crashed. Breweries already operate on much smaller margins than the IMFL market. Setting up a beer plant is very expensive and at this rate, the industry is likely to show no appreciable growth. It is already exaggerated at 10%. Maharashtra is the highest consumer of beer and has registered a rise from 100-lakh cases in ’91 to 120 lakh cases in ’96, an average growth of 3%. Draught beer is around 10% of the beer market here with all three major players enjoying a similar share. Nationally, the draught beer and canned beer shares are under 5%. The only beers that consistently fared well were the strong or fermented beers, which gave rise to the spurt in the category. Khajuraho, Haywards 2000 and 5000, and others of this ilk flourished and continue to do so. In fact, the strong beer segment is growing at a much faster rate than the mild. From a market share of 28% in 1991, it has cornered between 35 – 40% by the end of ’97. In the mild beer segment, the UB group is the market leader once more with a strength of 12 breweries nationally and a market share of over 40% of the approximately 55 million case beer industry. Their two biggest brands are Kingfisher and Kalyani Black labels. Mohan Meakins with its flagship Golden Eagle and others attracts an 18 – 20% market share followed by Shaw Wallace with Haywards and Royal Challenge premium lager at around 15%. Then comes Associated Breweries with London Pilsner at 6%. Mysore Breweries with Knockout, Cobra and Pal’s is a serious contender as are Arlem, Mount Shivalik and a plethora of regional brands. Sandpiper from Inertia Industries, a beer that stormed the Indian market with its aggressive marketing, was thrown by the imposition of prohibition in Haryana where its lone brewery was located. With Haryana’s return to the real world, this young brand has its second lease to make it big. Our first taste of an international beer came in a can. Stroh’s, the great American beer, stormed the market and within a short period has established itself as a force to reckon with. Hakke Beck in collaboration with Him Neel Breweries has yet to make a dent while San Miguel, the Fillipino giant working with Associated Breweries, is seriously making its presence felt. Its advertising campaign though raises an eyebrow or two! Foster’s, Australia’s mega brand, has also thrown its hat into the ring and its logos alone have given it great visibility. The ad campaign reinforces the distinct Australian identity of the brand.[/toggle]