Today is International Beer Day. The holiday does not celebrate a specific style, nationality, or festival just beer and its international appeal. I want to take this broad scope to talk about why I enjoy writing about beer. The varieties of style, manufacturing process, history, vessels and cultural events tied to beer make this a fascinating subject for me.
With a history that can be traced back to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) beer has been present in several historical significant events since that time. Different historians have argued that it was beer that drove the hunter gather population to move towards civilization. In different periods of time historical events have driven the ingredients used or methods used for fermenting.
Beer can be split into two broad categories. These are lager and ale. While both are made with primarily malted barley the lager is fermented using sacromyces pastorianus which ferments at the top of the wort or liquid drawn from soaking malted barley. The second type is ale which is fermented with sacromyces ciravesaise. This yeast ferments at the bottom of the wort. Many other factors go into defining specific style of beer, but generally the lager is cleaner with few to no aftertaste where as the ales have a fruitier more full bodied flavor to them.
The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) has outlined 34 specific styles of beer with several sub styles under each of them. These styles are important for the consumer to inform them what type of beer they will be getting before ordering. These styles have been influenced by a variety of factors throughout history. These can be how raw ingredients were taxed, availability of fermentable where the beer is brewed, and most important preferences of the beer drinker.
Just as regionality has driven characteristics of beer there are also specific vessels that were used to consume the beer. When beer was originally brewed the liquid was dark and often opaque. This left little to visually admire when drinking a beer. Glass was also costly to produce and generally reserved for the wealthy or those in power. Beers became lighter in color and more transparent with the development of pale malt. This lightening of the beer coincided with glass being more common to be used as a drinking vessel. This has led to a variety of cup shapes that according to some breweries is the only way to drink their beverage. The best way I can think of how this works is to think about a Coca-Cola. Think of a Coca- Cola and you will probably imagine the contour bottle shape. Likewise if you saw an empty bottle or even a fragment you could still probably think of the brand Coca-Cola. While not as common with American Breweries several European breweries have the same connection to their serving glass. Guinness comes to mind. While I will admit that some characteristics such as a narrow opening will lead to a concentration of aromas for the most part I feel that this is marketing entering the brewing process.
What ever style of beer you decide to drink today and what ever cup you feel like enjoying your beer from enjoy this international day of beer. Thanks for reading as I explore beer and other fermented beverages.
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