That Can't Be Beer
submitted by Gretta Glovwell
What is beer? It has to be fermented from grain—and not distilled—but once you get past
that, you get more like...guidelines. Beer does not have to have hops, despite some laws
to the contrary. (For one, gruit uses a blend of other botanicals, and it’s definitely beer.)
Beer doesn’t have to be carbonated, it doesn’t have to be boiled, it doesn’t have to be
filtered, or chilled, or aged, or bottled.
Stripped down to the very basics, a bowl of thin gruel that fermented would be beer.
Building up from there, you can really add almost anything to the mix and use a range of
production methods. The beers we’re used to drinking—like pilsner and other light lager,
stout, IPA and pale ale—have occupied a fairly narrow range over the past 50 years, one
that has only recently begun to broaden significantly.
So let’s have a look at what beer is, and can be.
We all know the familiar beers: central European lagers, British ales, Irish stouts, Belgian
ales of various types, and, yes, American light beers and the denigrated and debased
malt liquor. You may know some of the traditional beers on the fringes of what’s “normal,”
like the spontaneously fermented lambics of Belgium, those gruits I mentioned earlier,
various fruit beers and sour beers.
But it goes a long, long way further out than that if you explore the most remote extremes
of what’s called “beer Start with something familiar: IPA. A new sub-category pops up
every eight months or so. Sour IPAs and IPAs with a rainbow of added fruit have joined
the standard IPA, double IPA, and session IPA. Is IPA too bitter for you? Try the New
England IPA, which is hazy, aromatic, and full of hop flavor but without the bitterness, or a
brut IPA, bracingly dry from a full fermentation. There are even “Zero-IBU” IPAs, brewed
so that they come in at zero when measured for International Bittering Units, despite
having pounds and pounds of hops in every barrel. If IPA is too menacing, why not try a
milkshake IPA with added lactose, or a pie IPA with yummy fruit?
But that’s just getting started! There are pastry stouts, with flavors like coconut,
chocolate, oatmeal, figs, and caramel. There is a full range of coffee beers, from eye-
opener espressos to sweet-and-spiced Vietnamese coffee brews. I had a horchata beer
that sure did remind me of almonds and sweet rice, with cinnamon.
There are revivals of largely extinct beer types, twists on classics, and juxtapositions of
unlikely ingredients. There are beers made with donuts, or Peeps. There’s a whole sub-
category of beers made with additions of breakfast cereals, like Lucky Charms and Fruity
Pebbles. And then there’s glitter beer brewed with a big dose of food grade glitter, so it
looks like a unicorn’s delight.
There’s also a range of gose beers, and gose is weird enough on its own. Gose is a relic
from Leipzig, Germany, a tart wheat beer made with coriander (or cilantro) and salt. Gose
almost died out in 1945, was revived and then almost died out again in 1966, but
apparently someone forgot to put the stake back in its heart, and it revived.
So you can now find gose with the following added flavorings: cherry, cucumber, melon,
blood orange (there are a lot of blood orange beers out there right now), hibiscus, key
lime, mango, guava, passionfruit, peach, blackberry, raspberry, cranberry, spruce,
agave, pineapple, plum...There are more, a lot more. You get the idea.
Want a cocktail? Why not have a beer that tastes like one instead?
t seems like every generation faces a beer that some say “isn’t beer.” The first batch of
Guinness Stout made with raw roasted barley seems likely to have faced resistance.
Japanese brewers met a stiff increase in malt taxes by brewing low-malt beers, happoshu
(“sparkling wine”). When the government responded by taxing happoshu, the brewers
made daisan no biru (“the third beer”), with little or no malt at all.
There were a whole set of über-beers, starting with the well-established German EKU 28
and the Swiss Samichlaus, both lagers that pushed north of 12 percent alcohol by
volume. Samuel Adams laid a path upwards with Triple Bock, Millennium, and then
Utopias, topping out around 28 percent. BrewDog responded with Tokyo* (18 percent),
Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32 percent) and Sink the Bismarck! (41 percent), the last two
done with the assistance of freezing to concentrate the alcohol.
If it’s fermented from grain, it’s more than likely beer. Anything else you do to it, with the
exception of distillation, isn’t going to change that. If it’s good, people will drink it. If it’s
good enough, they’ll drink it more than once.
The bottom line is you don’t have to like it for it to be beer;
source: Lou Brysoni on dailybeast.com
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