What is Beer?


Beer has a history that ps millennia, and probably has its origins in a happy accident that occurred in ancient Sumeria. Evidence suggests that the ancient Sumerians first ‘discovered’ it over 4000 years ago – a little older than the pyramids of Giza. They even worshiped a deity called Ninkasi – who was the patron goddess of the drink. Today, the consumption of beer is only surpassed by that of tea and water. Yes, you read that right – beer is the third most popular drinkable substance in the world.

The first ingredient that needs to be prepared to produce beer is malted barley. Malting is a process in which seeds are made to germinate by soaking them in water – and halting the germination by drying it in hot air. This is done to maximize the amount of starch in the barley. More starch means more fermentable sugar – and more sugar begets more alcohol! You can read more about the varieties of malts used for beer here.

This ‘malted’ barley is mixed with hot water in a process called ‘mashing’. Mashing turns the starches in the barley into a sugar rich liquid called ‘wort’. The wort is drained from the mash, and is then boiled. This rids the wort of enzymes left over from the mashing stage and removes some of the water content (making the usage of starch more efficient). Hops, which are the flowers of a plant in the marijuana family, are then added. They impart the tangy bitterness and aroma beer is usually known for, and help in preservation. The cooled wort is now ready for yeast, the next major ingredient. The fermentation process begins which can take weeks or even months, and the sugar in the wort is turned into ethanol (the alcohol content) and carbon dioxide (bubbly fizz!). The wort is now beer!

Nutrition Facts
Beer really is quite healthy, despite the common misconception that it causes a ‘beer belly’ (which is actually caused by the eating customs around beer drinking, such as fatty beer snacks). Beer itself has no fat, and is often rich in minerals. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and sodium can be found in your favorite beer. Beer can provide Vitamins! These include Vitamin A, E, K, B6, and B12. It’s also a source of carbohydrates and folate. Folate helps reduce the risk of heart disease (when beer is consumed in moderation).

Types of Beer
Beers are widely divided into Ales and Lagers.

Ales, are fermented at a higher temperature and the yeast used ferments at the top before settling at the bottom of the tank. Some of the popular ales are:

Pale ale: more hops are used in pale ales and are less malty than amber ales. A notable example is India Pale Ale. Designed for export to India in the 1700’s, it needed to withstand long storage periods and still avoid souring. The result was a beer high on hops as well as alcohol content, medium maltiness, and a golden to copper color.

Bitter: The hops used in these give them a distinctively pleasant aroma. A wide variety of beers come under the bitter style, from light to quite strong, and colors ranging from gold to dark amber.

Brown ale: This dark colored beer was originally made purely with brown malt. Today, it is a sweet, full bodied beer that can have a fruity or even nutty character, and minimal hop aroma and bitterness.

Porter: This beer is said to be developed in the 1720s and its origins are subject to some debate. What we do know is that it was popular among the working class in London, especially among porters, which explains the name. Today, there are many kinds of porter beers, including honey, plum, bourbon, and chocolate.

Stout: Stouts are strong and dark variants of porter beer, which caused a sharp decline in porter popularity (before porters were revived in the 70's). Stouts are technically the strongest porters, made with roasted malts, making it quite unlike porters.

Mild: Mild ales are ‘mildly’ hopped, with a sweet, malty flavor. They are dark and aren’t very strong (3-6% ABV). It used to be very popular in British pubs as an alternative to darker ales and stouts, but are now relatively hard to find.

Lagers, are fermented at a lower temperature and use yeasts that settle without reaching the surface. Most lagers are light in color, have between 3% and 6% ABV, and are highly carbonated. Major lager styles include:

Bock: Bock originated in a 14th century hanseatic town called Einbeck. When brewers in Munich adopted the style, their accent twisted the pronunciation of Einbeck to ‘Einboch’, which in German sounds like ‘ein bock’ or ‘a goat’. The beer has nothing to do with the animal, but brewers often use a goat when labeling it. It is a relatively dark lager because of the high-colored malts used in its production.

Pilsner: In the 1840s, Bavarian brewers began using new, paler malts, and soft water from Pilsen (a city in the Czech Republic). The result was a crisp, light both in alcohol content and color and a distinct hop flavor, which is now hugely popular in Germany, and around the world.

Craft beer: Craft beers are like those local genius musicians who don't have to bow to mainstream demands. They're the pure, fresh talent coming to you directly from the source. Small microbreweries are mushrooming all over the world, bringing beer drinkers a variety that they'd never be able to see from the famous manufacturers. The styles you'll find at these 'microbreweries' are truly special, and the world has started to wake up to the phenomenon. One of the factors that makes craft beer special is that you get it straight on tap

We at AllAboutDaru could write about craft beers, but we recommend you find your local microbreweries and find out about them for yourselves. It's an experience in itself to just find out what brews you like, that have come straight from your own community.

Preferred brands of beer in India

India loves its lagers, and they're what you'll find most easily. Two main strengths are common – mild and strong, having around 5% and 8% ABV respectively.

Kingfisher: beer is the best known, Indian beer, coming in varieties called Strong (8% ABV), Premium (4.8% ABV and a lighter taste), Blue (8% but with a light, watery taste), and Ultra (full bodied and made from imported ingredients).

Haywards: which is a lighter beer in terms of flavor. Haywards introduced India's first stout beer, Haywards Black which is 8% ABV. Other types include Haywards 2000, 5000, and the elusive 10000, which are light, quite strong, and very strong beers respectively.

Kings: beer, famous for being a part of the experience of Goa, is a light (4.5%) and pale pilsner. It is available throughout Goa and is inexpensive.

Royal Challenge: is the next Indian contender, which is a deliciously light beer with an ABV of 5%.

Kalyani Black Label: popular in Kolkata, Delhi, and eastern cities is quite strong (7.5% ABV), with a considerable bite. Its flavor is rather sweet as well!



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