By Mike Besa
Reprinted from Issue 86 of the Metro Tagaytay Times
Beer is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC and recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. If you love beer, consider yourself lucky to be alive. At no other time in memory has so much choice been so readily available. Every conceivable style of beer, from every corner of the planet seems to be readily available today. Pale ales, IPAs, stouts, porters, saisons, pilseners… It’s enough to make your head spin.
When evaluating beer, there are three metrics considered: color, bitterness and alcohol. The Standard Reference Method (SRM) refers to the color of the beer; a low SRM number indicates a light colored beer and a high number, a dark colored beer. International Bitterness Units (IBU) is a measure of hops’ contribution to a beer’s bitterness. It can range from zero to over a hundred. Beer bitterness is subject to perception; what is aggressively bitter to some is mildly bitter to others. Also, bitterness can seem lower in the presence of residual sugar, carbonation and cooler temperatures. The measure of alcohol in beer is called Alcohol by Volume or ABV. ABV in craft beer varies by style from around 3% to more than 20%. Alcohol flavor may be perceived, and is sometimes desirable, in craft beers with higher ABV numbers.
As noted earlier, there are a great many styles of beer. We in the Philippines have grown up with pilseners and lagers and really not much else. There are hundreds of styles of beer from all over the world today, including the beers spawned by the craft beer movement on the market today. This has led to an explosion of adventurous and innovative microbrewers whose brews are pushing the boundaries of beer. Let’s examine some of the more popular styles.
One of the most approachable styles, a golden or blonde ale is an easy- drinking beer that is visually appealing and has no particularly dominating malt or hop characteristics. Rounded and smooth, it is an American classic known for its simplicity. Sometimes referred to as “golden ale.” These beers can have honey, spices and fruit added, and may be fermented with lager or ale yeast.
The American version is characterized by floral, fruity, citrus- like, piney, resinous, or sulfur-like American-variety hop character, producing medium to medium-high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. American-style pale ales have medium body and low to medium maltiness that may include low caramel malt character. The English style is known for its balance and the interplay between malt and hop bitterness. English pale ales display earthy, herbal English-variety hop character. Medium to high hop bitterness, flavor and aroma should strains be evident. The yeast used in these beers lend a fruitiness to their aromatics and flavor, referred to as esters. The residual malt and defining sweetness of this richly flavored, full-bodied bitter is medium to medium-high.
India Pale Ale or IPA
Easily the most popular beer of the new craft beer movement. Steeped in lore (and extra hops), the IPA is a stronger version of a pale ale. Characterized by stiff English-style hop character (earthy, floral) and increased alcohol content. English yeast lends a fruity flavor and aroma. Different from its American counterpart, this style strikes a balance between malt and hops for a more rounded flavor. There is also a lot of mythology surrounding the creation of this style, which is still debated today.
The American style IPA is characterized by floral, fruity, citrus-like, piney or resinous American- variety hop character, this style is all about hop flavor, aroma and bitterness. This has been the most-entered category at the Great American Beer Festival for more than a decade, and is the top-selling craft beer style in supermarkets and liquor stores across the U.S.
German-style hefeweizens are straw to amber in color and made with at least 50 percent malted wheat. The aroma and flavor of a weissbier comes largely from the yeast and is decidedly fruity (banana) and phenolic (clove). “Weizen” means “wheat” and “hefe” means “yeast.” There are multiple variations to this style. Filtered versions are known as “Kristal Weizen” and darker versions are referred to as “Dunkels,” with a stronger, bock-like version called “Weizenbock.” This is commonly a very highly carbonated style with a long-lasting collar of foam.
Traditional bocks are all-malt brews and are high in malt sweetness. Malt character should be a balance of sweetness and toasted or nut-like malt. “Bock” translates as “goat.”
Bohemian-style pilseners have a slightly sweet and evident malt character and a toasted, biscuit- like, bready malt character. Hop bitterness is perceived as medium with a low to medium- low level of noble-type hop aroma and flavor. This style originated in 1842, with “pilsener” originally indicating an appellation in the Czech Republic. Classic examples of this style used to be conditioned in wooden tanks and had a less sharp hop bitterness despite the similar IBU ranges to German-style pilsener. Low-level diacetyl is acceptable. Bohemian-style pilseners are darker in color and bigger in final gravity than their German counterparts.
American Imperial Porter
Definitively American, these porters should have no roasted barley flavors or strong burnt/black malt character. Medium caramel and cocoa-like sweetness is present, with complementing hop character and malt-derived sweetness.
Beers in this category are gold to light amber in color. Often bottle-conditioned, with some yeast character and high carbonation. Belgian-style saison may have Brettanomyces or lactic character, and fruity, horsey, goaty and/or leather-like aromas and flavors. Specialty ingredients, including spices, may contribute a unique and signature character. Commonly called “farmhouse ales” and originating as summertime beers in Belgium, these are not just warm- weather treats. U.S. craft brewers brew them year-round and have taken to adding a variety of additional ingredients.
Do check out our next issue when we’ll review some of the more interesting beers available in and around the Metro Tagaytay area.