Different regions of the world are famous for producing different styles of beer. Here are a few that we find most interesting:
The Reinheitsgebot, a German purity law, required that the only three ingredients could be used in beer-making: water, malt, and hops. Duke Wilhelm IV proclaimed that wheat would make an impure beer and it was outlawed in 1566. The thought was that wheat beer was a useless drink that neither nourished nor provided strength. After a feud between royalties that lasted until 1602, breweries were able to brew wheat beer only if provisions of the Reinheitsgebot were granted to them—along with a heavy tax. Weissbier is hazy from the protein of the wheat and is commonly unfiltered. The yeast lends banana and clove-like notes while leaving it crisp and refreshing.
The IPA was not considered a new style in the 1970s; the English had been brewing the style with European noble hops for more than century, leaving a more powerful version of the pale ale originally developed for the Indian export market. But in the 1970s, an American named Fritz Maytag (the former owner of Anchor Brewing Company) wanted to make his own elevated version of the English IPA. He partnered with a hops-farmer and used a newly developed hop from Oregon called Cascade. Adding a copious amount of the Cascade hops late into the boil and also dry-hopping the beer resulted in a much more grassy, citrusy, and pine-like aroma. With the further development of new hop varieties with higher bittering compounds and aromas, many breweries adopted the same technique. Higher alcohol content, bitterness, and aroma continue to dominant the craft beer market today. IPAs have a wide range of colours, flavours, and aromas, including lemon, grapefruit, pepper, and tropical fruits.
Stout originally referred to any beer of fortitude brewed at multiple strengths and colours. London and Dublin were the dominant brewing cities for stouts and porters. Arthur Guinness founded the Guinness Brewery in 1759 at St. James Gate in Dublin. At the time, the brewery produced many ales and porters. In 1819, a revolutionary black patent malt was made available that gave off a distinctive roasted and drier character when added to the mash. It led to the creation of the high-quality stouts and porters that became the popular beer of the 19th century.
Historically, the English pale ale was draught ale served fresh. Also known as “real ale,” the fruity brew was served at cellar temperature, under no pressure, using gravity or a hand pump. The English pale ale is commonly referred to as a “bitter,” contrary to the balance between caramel sweetness and light bitterness. Customers at the pub would ask for the “bitter one” because at the time that was the bitterest beer available.
Before Louis Pasteur discovered how to isolate a single culture of pure yeast, and before technological advances in the 19th century, all beer was naturally fermented. The Lambic has been brewed for thousands of years. It is typical of Brussels and the surrounding areas along the Senne River. After the wort has been boiled, it is moved to a shallow vessel with a large surface area called a cool-ship. Naturally occurring bacteria and wild yeasts — researchers have detected over 150 different strains — inoculate the wort while it cools overnight. The wort is then moved into oak barrels where spontaneous fermentation occurs. The beer stays in the barrels for a number of years as the microorganisms slowly consume the sugars present. Each batch of Lambic will have a different profile and can be blended to a desired product, much like a wine. Lambic is a very dry style of beer with flavours ranging from barnyard and musty to stone fruit and sour.
The 18th century brought new light to the progress of brewing in Bohemia. The Czechs were the first to utilize certain techniques and tools in the brewery. Although they were still using a top-fermented yeast, they took advantage of new malting technology that led to softer, more mellow malt that was lighter in colour. The brewery now known as Pilsner Urquell hired a Bavarian brewer to produce a beer similar to a German Lager. Using yeast smuggled from Bavaria, the first Pilsner was brewed and introduced in 1842. Pilsners are a great example of highlighting each ingredient in the brewing process. Soft water imparts a mellow characteristic while Bohemian-grown barley and hops lend a fragrant and complex profile.
Only in the last 150 years have brewers been inoculating their wort with pure cultures of brewer’s yeast. Before then, all beer was brewed with mixed house cultures that had been cropped from previous batches. Most beers would begin to sour in days. European brewers adapted their methods by allowing beers to “stale” in oak barrels, where the inevitable microbes would develop tart and unique flavours. With the discovery of pure-cultured yeasts, mixed-fermentation brews took a back seat. Few places in the world continued to brew sour beers and many died out. In the 1990s, beer drinkers became aware of the traditional sour ales and the few regions where they had survived. The sour beer styles began to see a revival within the craft beer industry as American breweries began to experiment with wild yeasts and bacteria. By the end of the 1990s, a few breweries began to produce world-class sour beers. In 2002, The Great American Beer Festival introduced its first sour beer category. Since then the bar has been raised. Breweries across America have been producing sour ales using traditional techniques while developing their own style by using different types of wood barrels for aging; dry-hopping with American hops; and incorporating more assertive malt bills, local fruits and spices, and some pure wild yeast cultures. American brewers are also capturing and growing their own wild yeasts indigenous to their own terroirs, akin to Belgian brewers in Brussels. Similar to the flavours of Lambic, sour ale can be a complex, tart, fruit-forward, and funky experience.