So, you want to know more about beer…
What is beer anyway?
Quite simply, beer is a beverage made with malted cereal grains (which could include barley, wheat, rye, corn or rice), hops and water that is fermented by adding yeast. Alcohol is created by yeast which consumes oxygen and sugar and produces alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. Alcohol levels can range from 2% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) to a whopping 15% ABV for Barley Wines. Of course, this description really doesn’t do beer justice, does it? Beer is actually quite a complex drink that can take on thousands of interpretations. And for most of us, trying to categorize beer can sometimes be difficult.
But, we’ve given it our best shot…
FIVE POINTS BOTTLE SHOP sells the largest selection of brands in Athens, GA from more than 90 breweries around the world. If you want to discover a wide variety of beer styles, be sure to visit us.
Generally robust and complex with a variety of fruit and malt aromas, ales come in many varieties. They could include Bitters, Milds, Abbey Ales, Pale Ales, Nut Browns, etc.
Crisp and refreshing with a smooth finish from longer aging, lagers are the world’s most popular beer (this includes pilseners).
Deep, dark and flavorful with intense malt and caramel flavors – ranging from sweet to dry and distinctively bitter. Stout beer is a unique complement to shellfish, hearty stews and wild game.
Extremely light in color and mild in flavor. Light beer has fewer calories and/or lower alcohol content.
Light and easy to drink with very little aftertaste. Wheat provides a soft character to beer and is sometimes hazy or cloudy with a touch of spice notes.
A very versatile beer, Amber beers are full bodied malt aromas with hints of caramel, these beers could be either lager or ale.
Specialty beers include a wide variety of styles such as strong beers, fruit beers, honey beers, bock beers. These beers range in alcohol content from 5.0% – 9%.
The Brewing Process
Pure water is essential to good beer – and brewers pay scrupulous attention to the source and purification of their brewing water. The water used in brewing is purified to rigidly set standards. If it doesn’t have the proper calcium or acidic content for maximum activity of the enzymes in the mash, it must be brought up to that standard.
Barley is used to make brewers’ malt. To make malt, grain is first allowed to germinate. It’s then dried in a kiln or often roasted. This germination process creates enzymes that convert the grain’s starch into sugar. Depending on how long the roasting process takes, the malt will darken in color. This is what influences the color and flavor of the beer.
Now malt is added to heated, purified water and, through a carefully controlled time and temperature process, the malt enzymes break down the starch to sugar, and the complex proteins of the malt break down to simpler nitrogen compounds. The mashing takes place in a large round tank called a “mash tun”, and requires careful temperature control. Depending on the type of beer desired, the malt is then supplemented by starch from other cereals such as corn, wheat or rice.
The mash is transferred to a straining or “lautering” vessel, usually cylindrical, with a slotted false bottom two to five cm above the true bottom. The liquid extract drains through the false bottom and is run off to the brew kettle. This extract, a sugar solution called “wort”, is not yet beer. Water is “sparged” or sprayed through the grains to wash out as much of the extract as possible. The “spent grains” are removed and sold for cattle feed.
Boiling & Hopping
Boiling takes place in a huge cauldron-like brew kettle that holds up to 1,000 hectoliters under carefully controlled conditions. The process to obtain the desired extract from the hops usually takes about two hours. The hop resins contribute flavor, aroma and bitterness to the brew. Once the hops have flavored the brew, they are removed. Sometimes, highly fermentable syrup may be added to the kettle. Undesirable protein substances which have survived the journey from the mash mixer are coagulated, leaving the wort clear.
Hop Separation & Cooling
After the beer has taken on the flavor of the hops, the wort then goes to the hot wort tank. It’s then cooled, usually in an apparatus called a plate cooler. As the wort and a coolant flow past each other on opposite sides of stainless steel plates, the temperature of the wort drops from boiling to about 50°F to 60°F (a drop of more than 150°F) in a few seconds.
This is where all the magic happens – where the yeast (those living, single-cell fungi) break down the sugar in the wort to carbon dioxide and alcohol. It’s also where a lot of the vital flavor occurs. In all modern breweries, elaborate precautions are taken to ensure that the yeast remains pure and unchanged. Through the use of pure yeast culture plants, a particular beer flavor can be maintained year after year.
During fermentation, which lasts about seven to 10 days, the yeast multiplies until a creamy, frothy head appears on top of the brew. When the fermentation is over, the yeast is removed. At last, we have beer!
For one to three weeks, the beer is stored cold and then filtered once or twice before it’s ready for bottling or “racking” into kegs.
Every beer lover knows that the right glass can actually enhance the tasting experience. There are almost as many different types of glassware as there are types of beer (okay, not quite, but it seems like it). You can check some of the more popular styles here.
This proto-typical beer glass is wonderful for lighter tasting beers. It has a narrow mouth to concentrate the aromas at the top of the glass and a handle to avoid warming the beer up.
Lagers, typically, have fewer aromas than ales and should be consumed at a colder temperature. This stemmed glass offers benefits to the drinker – tall and narrow to focus the great aromas at the top and a stem to keep your hand away from the beer.
Who says snifters are only for brandy? They’re also great for specialty beers. The short stem invites the drinker to envelop the glass, bringing up the temperature in the beer, creating a fuller taste and allowing the body of the beer to be appreciated. A sloped lip on the top of the glass keeps the foam in tact and focuses the aromas.
A pub glass is great for a variety of ales. Ales, like red wines, need a glass with a wide open mouth. The abundance of aromas can rise to the top to greet the drinker while the narrow bottom allows the glass to warm up slightly. Pub style glasses are an excellent partner to a stout.
An hourglass is a multi-dimensional glass. Tall and narrow, it also has a mouth that presents a variety of flavors and aromatics. Fill it with an amber lager or amber ale such as a honey brown and truly savour the great beer.
This is a great glass for a typical Canadian ale. These ales have the fruity, floral aromas of an ale but are refreshing and smooth like a lager. The aromas are not overly abundant and this glass narrows the focus for the drinker.
Pilseners are lagers with slightly more bitterness and aromas and therefore need a glass that embodies the style. This tall glass with the flared opening help concentrate the aromas of the beer on the top of the glass.
Full bodied ales are a good choice for this glass. The handle is large enough to get your hand around the glass if you want to warm it up. Like it a little colder? Use the handle! A nice wide mouth will bring all those great flavours to your tastebuds very easily.
Another great glass for a great ale – whether it’s a dark, amber, brown or even a stout, this glass truly showcases the terrific attributes of the beer.
This glass is designed to accentuate the aromas and flavours found in most wheat beers (especially German Weiss Biers). Naturally more effervescent, this tall glass requires a slow gentle pour at the beginning and when the beer is 3/4 full, a more direct pour to create a thick, creamy foam. The wide open mouth of the glass showcases the variety of aromas to the drinker.
Strong beers (Trappist styles or bocks) are well presented in the tulip glass. The open mouth brings the nose of the beer to life while the round body allows you to warm it up, intensifying those wonderful flavours. A tulip-shaped glass is also a good fit for fruit beers.
If you want your beer to maintain its pure taste and texture, then you’ll need to ensure you give it the same care you’d give to any other perishable food. Here are a few tips on keeping your beer fresh and tasty.
Storing your Beer
Shelf life is about three months. Quality is affected by both temperature and light.
Store beer away from light. Choose a dim or dark location for beer storage, as ultra-violet light soon spoils beer, causing it to be “light struck” and to go “skunked”. (Green and brown bottles help beer from becoming light struck, which risks giving the brew a skunky taste.)
Store beer in a cool place with a temperature of approximately 13°C.
Keep draught beer refrigerated at all times to maintain freshness. Finish within two to three weeks with a home draught set up.
Ideal serving temperature is between 4° and 5°C.
It’s tempting to lay bottled beer on its side to efficiently utilize space, but when the bottles are stored horizontally, it can create a yeast ring inside the bottle that will not settle. Store your beer upright – the yeast will settle to the bottom and allow for a clean, yeast-free pour.
Drink opened beer and don’t even try storing it. The carbonation will evaporate and you’ll have flat beer even if it’s only the next day. If you can’t drink it, use it in the kitchen or elsewhere.
From the Bottle to the Glass
Beer tastes best in glasses made for beer alone. That’s because milk, tea, coffee, and even the soap used to clean the glasses, leaves a residue that diminishes a beer’s head.
CLEANING TIP #1: Dip beer glass in clear water, then turn upside-down to drain. If the glass has traces of lipstick, soap, grease or oil, the film of water will break up into streaks or drops. If the glass is clean, you’ll see a perfect film of clear water cover the entire surface.
CLEANING TIP #2: Serve beer in a wet glass that’s been washed in a mild, soap-free detergent and rinsed several times in warm water. To prime your glass for a rich head, rinse it in pure, cold water just before you pour.
The Fine Art of Pouring
The perfect glass of beer boasts a rich head of foam. Not only does it look great, and provide a natural cap for the beer’s carbonation, you get a smoother, cleaner taste.
When you pour the beer, put the neck of the bottle over the edge of the cool, wet glass, tilting the bottle to a high angle. Pour the beer into the glass until you’ve created a fine, dense-textured head.
At that point, lower the bottom of the bottle to reduce the flow until foam nears the top of the glass. Leave just enough space for the foam to rise to the lip of the glass.