09 Jul Summer Brews
Today’s feature: Hoegaarden White Ale (Witbier) from Belgium
Thanks to Steve Rouse and the WBAL morning team for another great segment. Listen Here: WBAL-SummerBrews
We all start looking forward to backyard barbeques, baseball games and beer as we enter the summer season. Nothing can quench one’s thirst on a hot summer day like an icy cold brew. The summer is a perfect time to explore lighter styles of beer and summer brews made special for the season.
The Basics of Beer
Beer has four main ingredients: malted grain (usually barley), hops, water and yeast. Barley is malted to make it water soluble. The malting process is simple. First, barley is soaked in water, allowed to sprout and then dried in a kiln. Malted barley, which is higher in starch content, is crushed and added to hot water in a mash mixer where starches are converted to sugar. Solids are separated and removed and the remaining sweet water is called “wort.” The wort is then boiled; hops are added to shape the flavor and style desired by the brew master. Hops are flowers that can be used at various times in the process to add either bitterness or floral aspects to the beers. I was given a handful of hops on a brewery tour, which was wonderfully fragrant. The final stages are fermentation, bottling and labeling.
Styles of Beer
Most beers fall into one of two popular categories depending on the type of yeast used in the fermentation process—ales or lagers. Ales are made using yeast strains that ferment at higher temperatures typically 59°F to 77°F. Ales are often fuller bodied, fruitier and more aromatic than lagers because esters formed during fermentation produce more complex aromas. The wonderful smells of your favorite wines are also due to alcohol esters formed during fermentation.
In contrast, lagers are made using yeast strains that ferment at lower temperatures than ales. Lagers are crisp, refreshing and lighter bodied than ales—perfect for the summer months. Esters are not formed during the fermentation process so lagers lack some of the more complex fruit flavors found in fine ales.
There are a few special types of beers that are great during the warmer months. One in particular is Pilsner or Pils. This light golden lager is dry with a malty flavor typically accented with the floral flavors of hops. It is one of the most popular styles of beer in the world. Another great beer, sometimes called Weiss or Hefeweizen, uses malted wheat instead of barley for the main ingredient. This beer is cloudy with a yeasty quality accented by a tart finish. These wheat beers are sometimes served with either a lemon or an orange slice although it is not traditional or necessary to do so.