All About Beer
Minors, most females and a small percentage of males can skip this non-fiction piece.
It's all about beer and it would probably bore non-drinkers.
I'm an expert in the art and science of making beer. I've been a homebrewer off and on since I was 18 and I can say with complete modesty that I could work as a competent brewmaster at any beer company in the U.S.
The oldest alcoholic beverage behind honey wine, beer dates back to the earliest beginnings of civilization. It was invented in Mesopotamia 8,000 years ago when humans gave up a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle, built the first cities and started cultivating grains instead of harvesting wild grass seeds. The ability to grow and store grain as a long-lasting staple food was a crucial factor in the gradual shift to much larger populations and the development of armies to expand kingdoms.
Converting grain into beer was one way of "storing" the excess of abundant harvests -- and making a kingdom's inhabitants happy and loyal. Cheecha, a type of beer made from corn, was used to pay the workers who built the road network in the Inca Empire.
Malted or partially sprouted barley is the main ingredient of what we now call beer. (In my thinking barley is nature's way of saying beer.) Real beer is made only with two-row barley malt, hops, water and yeast. American beer uses inferior four-row barley and substitutes adjuncts for part of the malt -- rice, corn and sugar. Those differences account for its mediocre quality compared to European beers.
Coors is the best commercial American beer because it's flavor is the least compromised by adjuncts. The number of micro-breweries in the U.S. has exploded in the past few decades, and some are definitely on the right track to making great beer, but I don't think any of them has quite succeeded yet.
Beer is an acquired taste. When I was a kid, my old man occasionally gave me a sip of his beer and I thought it tasted awful. I had my first full beer when I was 16, but I still wasn't crazy about the flavor. Two years later I started homebrewing my own beer because I had developed a taste for it by then.
Over the years as a hombrewer, I experimented with hundreds of beer recipes and developed my own favorites. I learned how to brew beer from as close to scratch as you can get without growing your own barley and hops. Some decent beers I made cost one-tenth the price of commercial American beers -- literally pennies per bottle. I discovered the secret ingredient to brew the best-tasting lager: lightly toasted malt to add the sweetness of a rich malty flavor. My favorite homebrewed ale was a dark porter using a small percentage of wheat for extra sweetness and a thick head.
(If there are any budding homebrewers in the forum, PM me and I will send you the best of my recipes.)
In addition to being an experienced homebrewer, I'm also a connissieur of the great commercial beers of the world. Although Budweiser is the best-selling beer, it ranks far behind true world-class beers IMO. Guinness stout, an Irish black brew made with roasted or burned malt, is widely considered the best ale in the world (I prefer sweet or cream stout over the dry Guinness.) Stout has a flavor and aroma similar to a combination of licorice and coffee. In fact, a decent-tasting black ale can be made with ground coffee instead of roasted malt.
Pilsner Urquell from what used to be Czechoslovokia was the first cold-brewed beer of amber color and it's still considered the best lager in the world. I think Lowenbrau lager from Germany is just as good.
In Germany beer is so important it is legally classified as food and called "liquid bread." The highest brewing standards are set by law and homebrewing is illegal.
Beer is the alcoholic drink of moderation. It contains only 3% to 5% alcohol compared to the 10% to 50% alcohol in wine and hard liquor. Aside from the sedative effects of alcohol, the hops in beer are a soporific or sleep-inducing substance, which explains why some people become sleepy when they drink beer but not when they consume other alcoholic beverages.
Lately, I've been drinking some non-alcoholic beer. At my age it's a good idea to give your liver a bit of a rest.
O'Doulls is by far the best-tasting American non-alcoholic beer. Made by Anheuser Busch, it has a rich flavor, ironically with no trace of rice. (If only Anheuser Busch would stop using 22% rice to make Budweiser!)
Predictably, the federal government has thrown a monkey wrench in the non-alcoholic beer market. It has ordained that any drink containing more than .01% alcohol must be treated the same as alcoholic beverages: age-restricted to over 21 and subject to state "blue laws" regarding hours of sale.
This despite the fact that non-alcoholic beer contains a negligible amount of alcohol (less than .5%); non-alcoholic beer can't be brewed with less than .01% alcohol to meet the federal limit; orange juice contains more alcohol than non-alcoholic beer, yet it's exempt from age and sales hour restrictions.
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Last edited by starrwriter; 02-13-2007 at 08:48 AM..