Monday, February 06, 2006
To most people the word, "beer", describes a yellow, fizzy, soda that has very little flavor and a little alcohol in it. All the major American beer brands brag about how mush taste their beer has as compared to the other yellow, fizzy sodas. What most people don't realize is that beer is so much more.
American beer is a type of beer. It is a variety of beer called Standard American Lager. The light versions of these beers is called Lite American Lager. They are both contained in a larger category of beer called, Light Lager. There is very little difference between all the beers in this larger category. The idea that Miller Light has more taste than Bud Light, is kinda like the conversation at the furniture store where your wife and the salesperson argue over whether the couch she's looking at is "cream" or "wheat" in color.
The standard reference for beer styles can be found at this site. The Beer Judge Certification Program is dedicated to the appreciation of beer. It has codified the different beer styles, taught hundreds of beer judges (certified them, too!) and made it a much more objective and quantifiable process to judge beers.
One look at the site linked to above will give you an idea of the abundance of the rich environment that is beer in the world today. The site lists 23 different styles of beer but that is misleading because there really are many more. Inside each of the twenty-three style categories is a group of styles that may or may not be terribly similar to others in the same category. For instance there is a great deal of difference between all three of the sub-categories of American Ales. The last four beer categories are vaguely defined categories that can include beers that have very little in common. This is said to demonstrate that the true number of different types of beer greatly exceeds the listed twenty-three.
The world of beer is truly grand! It is a shame that most people only think of one style of beer when the word is uttered. The Standard American Lager is a fine, easy-drinking, thirst-quenching beverage. For what it's worth, it is a difficult beer to produce, consistently. I drink this type of beer about half the time and I know about the other types of beer available. It's cheap, easy to find and easy to drink.
Put simply, I love good Mexican food but I'd hate to eat only Mexican food every day. It would become boring and detract from the fine ethnic cuisine that I love. I switch it up by enjoying foods from all countries and cultures because they all have something special to bring to the table (if you'll pardon the pun).
It's the same with beer. Many people enjoy a fine Scotch Ale as an aperitif, a light, thirst-quenching Berliner Weiss on a hot afternoon, a joltingly hoppy IPA after a hard day's work or a smooth, delicious Irish Stout for a hearty accompaniment to a plate of bangers and mash. Beer: it's not just for breakfast anymore.