The word lager is derived from the German verb “lagern”, which means: to store. During the late middle ages, before the days of refrigeration, fermentation was a hit-or-miss affair, especially during the hot summer months. To ensure a supply of beer for the summer, brewers in the Bavarian Alps stored kegs of spring brew in icy mountain caves. As the beer slowly aged, the yeast settled, creating a drink that was dark but clear and sparkling with a crisper, more delicate flavour. In 1842, lager acquired its familiar golden colour when a brewery in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia perfected a pale, bottom-fermented version of the beer. Lagers typically take more time to brew and are aged longer than ales. Lagers are best enjoyed at cooler-than-room temperature.
The other bottom-fermented beer is bock, named for the famous medieval German brewing town of Einbeck. Heavier than lager and darkened by high-coloured malts, bock is traditionally brewed in the winter for drinking during the spring.
Although the term covers a fascinating variety of styles, all ales share certain characteristics. Top-fermentation and the inclusion of more hops in the wort gives these beers a distinctive fruitiness, acidity and a pleasantly-bitter seasoning. All ales typically take less time to brew and age then lagers and have a more assertive, individual personality, though their alcoholic strength may be the same. Ales are best enjoyed at room temperature or slightly warmer.
Porter and Stout
Whether dry or sweet, flavoured with roasted malt barley, oats or certain sugars, stouts and porters are characterized by darkness and depth. Both types of beer are delicious with hearty meat stews and surprisingly good with shellfish. The pairing of oysters and stout has long been acknowledged as one of the world’s great gastronomic marriages.
“Dry” refers to the amount of residual sugar left in a beer following fermentation. This type of beer is fermented for longer than normal brews so that practically all of the residual sugar is converted into alcohol. The result is a beer which consumers describe as having a crisp flavour, clean finish and very little aftertaste.