Chris’s Tour of the World’s Beers
Bob Klein, author of "The Beer Lover's Rating Guide" (Workman Publishing) has laid out much of the important terms for the new beer afficianado to understand. I've selected some of the most commonly used and defined them here, so you will enjoy the ratings page all the more.
This is a fruity beer made in many varieties. Some might call this "tasty" or "complex" in approach. Ales almost always have some "fruity" overtones. Ales are becoming more popular both at home and abroad. The color varies from very pale to a amber hue, sometimes rather deep in color. The aroma is important to the enjoyment of this drink and it is best to take a whiff of the fragrance as you drink. Balance and complexity of flavor are important.
Some of the worlds most complex and highly rated beers are Ales. The famous Chimay "Peres Trappist" Ales from Belgium come to mind immediately. Ales range from moderate alcohol to moderately high. The typical container for an Ale reflects the "aromatic" nature and is therefore a "tulip" shaped glass, to hold in the aromatic vapors rising off the brew.
Suitable for Intermediate Drinkers willing to "stretch" themselves
A milder, generally effervescent and slightly bitter drink. The name is believed to originally stem from German brewing practice of top-fermenting beer during storage (Lagern is a German work for 'storing'). Typically fermented using yeast on the top of the vat only (called top-fermenting). This results in modest levels of alcohol. Lagers are particularly popular in the United States where the typical beer lover is a drinker of Lager.
Lagers are generally served quite cold and do well in a glass where the bubbles can rise but which does not transmit heat to the drink. A typical beer mug is quite appropriate glassware for a Lager. A good idea to chill the mug before serving.
Suitable for Beginner
This is a fruit-enhanced beer. Typical creations have had added during the manufacture raspberries or apricot or peach fruit material creating a truly unusual brew. These are usually quite sweet for beer (NOT for wine, though, a wine lover might be disappointed!) and often quite effervescent. Worth drinking to find out about a truly unusual drink. Common in France and Belgium. Usually malty in undertones.
Intermediate Drinker looking for something far, far different
Perhaps the best known brew in the original thirteen colonies, this would have been the drink of the real Samuel Smith. Quite a strong bite can be had from some porters and very good manufacture is often the mark of a drink like this. The color ranges from deep amber to quite dark. The hue will probably be lighter than a Stout.
The taste is similar to a Stout, reflecting the origin of the Stout (once Porters and Stouts were part of a broad class of drink popular in Britain). Once out of favor in England, now some excellent Porters may be had from regional breweries and from England. Drink it in a heavy glass container with an open top.
For Intermediate Drinkers to Move toward newer adventures
Quite a high impact "character" can usually be found in this highly roasted drink. Malt is burnt during the production of beer (much like coffee beans are roasted). The amount of browning done to the malt is and important part of the process.The rise of the Stout comes with machine development to allow for heavy,yet even roasting of the malt. The browning also brings out much of the sugars in the grain. This means that the darker brews are generally also the more strong in alcohol level.
Many Stouts are quite well made and the best ingredients frequently are used. Two broad kinds may be identified: Sweet Stouts such as Milk Stout or Oatmeal Stout and the Irish Dry Stout typified by Guiness Stouts. A good stout will provide some wallop in terms of the tartness, more in the Dry and less in the Sweet. Some start out bitter and wind up much sweeter in "aftertaste". The Sweet Stouts often were marketed as a "tonic" or as having "health" value.
Stouts are quite fascinating, rich in taste and often appeal to a beer connoisseur.
Intermediate to Advanced Drinker-The appropriate drink to develop a "taste" for the more bitter drinks
An example of a brew originating in the heart of Europe. A paler colored brew, this has much effervescence and needs serving cold. The typical glassware is cone shaped to allow the bubbles to rise up for visual effect and to release the fragrance of the brew. A balanced mix of hop bitter notes and malt are usually a part of the approach here. Can be quite a sophisticated drink when made by a master brewer
An example of the regulations causing a new category. This is simply an instance of the alcohol level exceeding that of the regulated varieties of beers such as Ale or Lager or Porter. The malts have been prepared so that the maximum fermentation occurred causing the alcohol level to be at least that of an English Stout, often somewhat more. This is still often a very accessible drink if a well made brew. The result varies considerably from make to make. Some very good drinks are considered Malt Liquors (Kirin Ichiban and Old English 800 are examples)
Varies generally accessible enough for an intermediate beer drinker