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“You gave me a lot of head,” the customer said to my friend after she served him a beer. She had recently started a new job at a restaurant and was serving a customer a beer from the tap for the first time. She was a little shocked, understandably, and wondered if serving beer might not be for her. She just didn't know much about beer.
Many of us don't even know the difference between ale's and lagers. And when I say “light beer,” am I talking about the calories or the alcohol content? Well here's more than you probably wanted to know about beer.
There are two very broad types of beer, ale's and lagers. A beer falls into one of these types based on the type of yeast that is used in the brewing. As one would suspect, ale yeast produces ale and lager yeast produces lager. Go figure. Ale's generally are associated with flowery and fruity flavors and aromas while lagers are known for their crisp taste. A lot of the popular beer in the US; Bud, Coors, Miller and Corona, are categorized as American-style lagers.
Beers are also, and much less commonly, made with spontaneously fermenting yeast, the best known of these being lambic beers.
Besides yeast, beer is made with a starch source, flavoring and of course water. Interestingly, the type of water used can affect a beer quite a lot. The minerals in the water influence the personality of the beer made from it.
As a starch source, most beer is made with malted grain. Variations on the grain malting process affect the color of the malt. Darker beers are produced from darker malts.
Sometimes additional starches are added or substituted with grain to differentiate the beer being made. Wheat is used to give beer a bitter flavor, oats give beer silky mouthfeel, which is a term used to describe the way that the beer interacts with and feels in the mouth, and rye gives a spicy taste.
The flavor that is used in most beer today is hops. This refers to the flower of the hop vine. Hops add bitterness to cancel out some of the sweetness from the malt and also supplies other rich flavors and scents. India Pale Ale is one example of a very hoppy beer.
Other flavors are sometimes added as well. For example, sugars like syrup, honey or molasses can be used to add sweet flavor. There are also seasonal beers like summer ale which usually has a light orange flavor, pumpkin beer, and winter beer flavored with nutmeg and cinnamon. Less commonly there are beers flavored with things like chocolate, coffee and peppers.
The term light beer generally implies that the beer has less calories and slightly less alcohol content. This is not to be mistaken with dark and light beer color. The color of the beer has no correlation with the amount of calories or alcohol. Most of the time ‘”ice beer” has more calories and alcohol content.
Oh, and by the way, if you're still wondering about the head comment from the beginning of the article, the term ‘head' refers to the foam that forms at the top of the glass when you pour beer from a tap. Interesting tip: take your finger and wipe it down the bridge of your nose to get some nose grease on it, then swirl it in an unwanted head to make it settle faster.
As always, safety is important when alcohol is involved. While beer has lower alcohol content than liquor and wine, it can still cause alcohol poisoning. You know the drill, please drink responsibly and don't drink and drive.