Durban - Was it love at first sip, that frothy kiss of your first-ever brewski? Then you probably know a thing or two about beer. But did you know that there are hundreds of different styles of beer? Or that there are more than 20 000 brands of beer in the world today?
Suddenly feel like a beer in the headlights? Relax! We’ve pulled out all the hops to bring you everything you didn’t know about beer.
You’re so my type: At their heart, all beers are one of three types, which are based on how the beer was produced. That is, using bottom-fermenting yeast; using top-fermenting yeast; or using natural or wild yeast.
Lagers are produced using a bottom-fermenting process at cooler temperatures. Fancy a cold one? Lagers are your guys. These beers are crisp, refreshing, fizzier than ales and usually served ice cold. Czech-style pilsners, German Dortmunders and Märzens, bocks and American malt liquors are all examples of lagers.
Ales are produced in warmer environments, using a top-fermenting process, and are usually sweeter than lagers with a full-bodied, aromatic flavour. If you like your brew all (h)ale and hearty, then English porters and stouts, wheat beers and all variants of ale – from pale ales to browns – are your best brews.
Sour beers are produced via spontaneous fermentation after exposure to wild yeasts and bacteria that naturally occur in the air. These beers are sour, non-filtered and typically include Belgian lambic beers and Flanders red ales.
Defined by character: A beer’s character is most often used to determine its style within these three categories. There are dozens of different styles of beer defined according to the region in which they’re produced, the distinguishing ingredients that are used and their differing visual
appearances. The latter is the most common, giving rise to beer styles such as amber, blonde, brown, cream, dark, fruit, golden, honey, light, lime, red, strong and wheat. Typically, the lighter the colour, the milder the flavour.
Whatever your heart desires: Thanks to the prolific rise of craft beers, there is literally a beer for every palate these days. Think peanut butter, chocolate and even bacon because yes, even beer tastes better when it tastes like bacon.
But what is craft beer and is it really that much different to regular beer? Generally, craft beers are produced by small, independent or traditional brewers outside of major commercial breweries. These outfits usually adopt more traditional brewing methods and ingredients, shying away from the additives (including rice and corn) and preservatives sometimes used in commercial beers.
Because of their size, the volume of beer produced by craft brewers is less than their commercial counterparts, paving the way for brewers to tweak their flavours, play around with formulas and generally be a little more flexible in introducing new variants.
By comparison, big-brand brewers focus on stringent quality control and delivering a consistent drinking experience each time.
Craft beers tend to come in one strength – full throttle – while commercial breweries offer both reduced-alcohol light beers and regular beers, many of which are available as draught beers, which simply means on tap, as opposed to in a bottle.
Explore crafts and draughts, and everything in between at the TOPS at SPAR Bierfest presented by The Independent on Saturday, on September 29 and 30, at the Sibaya Sun Park in Durban.