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FAQ about Beer, Brewing and other stuff


This FAQ is divided into sections which loosely encompass the variety of Frequently Asked Questions that appear concerning beer. These are preceded by a quick index section to aid in finding answers to specific questions.

The Quick Index section

A listing of the most frequently asked questions.

Section 1 - Definitions of common terms regarding beer itself

Some popular items are beer definition, styles, and marketing terms...

Section 2 - Definitions of common terms for the brewing industry

Topics such as alcohol strength, Reinheitsgebot, and CAMRA...

Section 3 - Beer handling and sensory issues

Typical answers cover proper storage, serving temperatures, tasting methods, off flavors...

Section 4 - Miscellaneous topics

Includes homebrewing and specific brand issues...

Section 5 - Beer resources

Where to find good beer,  and pointers to other Net resources...

 

 

FINDING INFORMATION
*******************

You can search for information in a number of different ways:

First, read the whole thing. You may find this entertaining, but it's certainly not the fastest way to get an answer to a question.

Second, you can use the "Search" or "Find" function of your newsreader, browser, or editor to locate a specific topic. This can be very useful since the questions cover fairly broad topics and your specific answer may be buried inside a broader response. For example, if you wanted to know about serving temperatures, you wouldn't find that topic specifically addressed in the questions. However, upon searching for "temp" you would find several such references.

Third, there is the quick index to the questions which you can use to jump directly to a specific question/answer, again, using your search function to find the text. See the Quick Index for an example.

And last, if your viewing the HTML version on The Web, you'll find useful pointers imbedded throughout the document.


QUICK INDEX TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


This is a list of Frequently Asked Questions appearing in r.f.d.b. Each question is keyed using a simple code. The answer to question Y in FAQ Section X is labeled X-Y and so on. To find an answer to any question quickly, use your "search" or "find" function to find X-Y.

For example:
     To find the answer to question 2-7 "What is CAMRA?", search for 2-7 and you
     will be positioned at the answer. To return to this index, search backwards
     for 0-0.

If you're viewing the HTML version of this document on The Web, just follow the links from question to answer and back.

0-0. Top of List

FAQ Section 1 - Definitions of common terms regarding beer itself

1-1. What is beer?

1-2. What are ales?

1-3. What are lagers?

1-4. How are they different?

1-5. What are lambics?

1-6. What is "bock" beer?

1-7. What is "porter"?

1-8. What are "dry" beers?

1-9. What are "ice" beers?

1-10. What are "cold-filtered", and "heat pasteurized" beers?

1-11. What is "draught" (draft) beer?

1-12. How is specific gravity related to beer?

1-13. What does "Dubbel" mean on a beer label?

FAQ Section 2 - Definitions of common terms in the brewing industry

2-1. How is alcohol strength measured?

2-2. Why is beer stronger in Canada than the U.S.?

2-3. How are "ale", "malt liquor", and "barleywine" related to strength?

2-4. What is the Reinheitsgebot?

2-5. What about the new "Draught-flow" (tm) system (AKA the "widget" or "smoothifier")?

2-6. What is "Real Ale"?

2-7. What is CAMRA?

2-8. What are the categories of brewers/breweries?

2-9. What is a brewpub?

FAQ Section 3 - Beer handling and sensory issues

3-1. How do I judge a beer?

3-2. What is good/bad/skunked/spoiled beer?

3-3. How should I store beer?

3-4. How long does beer keep?

3-5. Is beer considered a vegetarian/kosher/organic product?

FAQ Section 4 - Miscellaneous topics

4-1. What is Zima and/or clear beer?

4-2. What do the different Chimay packages/colors mean?

4-3. What does the "33" mean on the bottles of Rolling Rock?

4-4. Does Coors support Nazi organizations?

4-5. Can I make my own beer....is it legal?

4-6. How do I make it?

4-7. WIMLIACLDAB? BTABFCTW!.....What was that?

4-8. Is Guinness good for you?

4-9. Where are Sam Adams beers made?

4-10. Why does American beer suck?

FAQ Section 5 - Beer resources

5-1. Where can I get more beer info and tasting tips?

5-2. Where can I get good beer?

5-3. I'm going to "some city", what brewpubs/bars are good?

5-4. Can I get beer in the mail?

5-5. Where can I get details on making my own?

5-6. Where can I get recipes?

5-7. What is r.f.d.b. about?

5-8. Where are the archives?

5-9. What is in the archives?


DEFINITIONS OF COMMON TERMS REGARDING BEER ITSELF


Subject: 1-1. What is beer?

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from malted grains, hops, yeast, and water. The grain is usually barley or wheat, but sometimes corn and rice are used as well. Fruit, herbs, and spices may also be used for special styles. In the distant past, the terms "beer" and "ale" meant different things. "Ale" was originally made without using hops, while "beer" did use hops. Since virtually all commercial products now use hops, the term "beer" now encompasses two broad categories: ales and lagers.

Subject: 1-2. What are ales?

Ales are brewed with "top-fermenting" yeasts at close to room temperatures, 50-70F (10-21C). Ales encompass the broadest range of beer styles including bitters, pale ales, porters, stouts, barley wines, trappist, lambic, and alt. The British Isles are famous for their ales and it is a popular style with homebrewers and micro-breweries.

Subject: 1-3. What are lagers?

Lagers are brewed with "bottom-fermenting" yeasts at much colder temperatures, 35-50F (2-10C) over long periods of time (months). This is called "lagering". Lagers include bocks, doppelbocks, Munich- and Vienna-style, Märzen/Oktoberfest, and the famous pilsners. Pilsner beer originated in the town of Pilsen, now in the Czech Republic and was the first non-cloudy beer. Most popular beers produced by the large North American breweries were originally of the pilsner style. These have diverged a great deal from the original style and succeed now by the force of the mass-marketing prowess of the brewers rather than any remarkable qualities of the beers themselves.

Subject: 1-4. How are they different?

The differences tend to be based on tradition more than anything inherent to either style. The major traditional differences are a result of the varying lengths of fermentation and temperature used for the two beer types. They can also vary in style and degree of hopping and in the types of malt used, but these differences are very arbitrary and exceptions abound.

Ales generally undergo short, warm fermentations and are intended to be consumed soon after completion. The result of relatively warm fermentation is that a lot of by-products of yeast metabolism besides alcohol and CO2 get left in the beer. These usually manifest themselves as "fruity" or "buttery" flavors which vary in degree and flavor with the strain of yeast used and the temperature and duration of fermentation. Accordingly, ales exhibit their most complex flavors when served at warm temperatures, around 50-60F (10-15C).

The trick with lager yeast is that they can survive, metabolize, and reproduce at lower temperatures. Lager yeast can assimilate compounds which ale yeast cannot, fewer by-products are made, and the stuff that does get made drops out during lagering. The result is a very clean, sparkling beer. Lagers are best served at slightly cooler temperatures than ales, 40-50F (5-10C).

Of course there are notable exceptions:

California Common

The best known example is "Steam Beer" which is a trademark of the Anchor Brewing Co. It employs lager yeast fermented at ale temperatures which gives it some fruitiness usually associated with ales.

Kölsch and Alt

Ales that undergo a cold secondary fermentation and storage period resulting in only a hint of ale-like fruityness. Kölsch is usually associated with the city of Cologne, Germany while Alt is indigenous to Düsseldorf.

Cream Ale

Alternately, an ale fermented at lager temps or vice-versa. It has also been made by blending a conventional ale with a conventional lager after fermentation. Most examples are only slightly more interesting than mega-brews; a touch more body, a touch more fermentation flavor.

Subject: 1-5. What are lambics?

Lambics are a type of ale brewed in parts of Belgium by exposing hot wort (unfermented beer) to the outside air. Indigenous, wild yeasts and other microorganisms settle on the exposed surface of the wort as it cools and begin spontaneous fermentation. They are often sweetened with fruit flavorings and generally prized the world over.

Subject: 1-6. What is "bock" beer?

Bock is a style of lager beer which originated in Germany. It was traditionally brewed in the fall, at the end of the growing season, when barley and hops were at their peak. It was "lagered" all winter and enjoyed in the spring at the beginning of the new brewing season. Bocks can be pale (helles) or dark (dunkles) and there are double(doppel) bocks which are extra strong.

Bocks are usually strong beers made with lots of malt yielding a very full-bodied, alcoholic beer. A persistent myth has been that bock beers are made from the dregs at the bottom of a barrel when they are cleaned in the spring. This probably seemed logical because of the heavier body and higher strength of bocks. From a brewing standpoint, this is clearly impossible for two reasons: 1) The "dregs" left after fermentation are unfermentable, which is exactly why they are left over. They cannot be fermented again to make more beer. 2) Any attempt to re-use the "dregs" would probably result in serious bacterial contamination and a product which does not resemble beer as we know it.

Subject: 1-7. What is "porter"?

From: The Guinness Drinking Companion by Leslie Dunkling (1992) Guinness Publishing; ISBN 0-85112-988-9 "In the London Ale-Houses and taverns of the early 18th Century it was common to call for a pint of "Three threads", meaning a third of a pint each of ale, beer, and twopenny (the strongest beer, costing twopence a quart). A brewer called Harwood had the idea of brewing a beer that united the flavours of all three. He called this beer "Entire". This was about 1720.

Harwood's Entire was highly hopped, strong, and dark. It was brewed with soft rather than hard water. Within a few years Entire was also being referred to as "Porter" (short for porter's ale) because the porters of the London street markets were especially fond of it. Porter that was extra strong was known as "Stout Porter", and eventually "Stout"."

Subject: 1-8. What are "dry" beers?

"Dry" beer was developed in Japan. Using more adjuncts (like corn and rice) and genetically altered yeasts, these beers ferment more completely and have less residual sweetness, and hence less aftertaste.

Subject: 1-9. What are "ice" beers?

The making of "ice" beers, in general, involves lowering the temperature of the finished product until the water in it begins to freeze and then filtering out the ice crystals that form. Since water will freeze before alcohol, the result is higher alcohol content. The ice forms around yeast cells, protein particles, etc. so these get removed as well; leaving fewer components to provide taste and character.

This process is not new to brewing, having been developed in Germany to produce "eisbocks". Apparently they were produced by accident during the traditional spring celebration with bock beers. Spring, being the capricious season that it is, probably sent a late cold snap around one year causing some of the spring bocks to partially freeze. People drank it anyway and liked the change in flavor.

In its current incarnation, the process is an offshoot of the concentrated fruit juice industry. It was developed by orange growers to reduce the costs of storage and shipping by concentrating the fruit juice through freezing and removal of some water. Labatt Breweries claims to have pioneered this process for brewing and most of the large North American brewers quickly followed suit in the usual marketing frenzy.

The main difference between these "ice" beers and true eisbocks is taste and character. Any beer brewed using this method will only be as good as the brew with which you start. In other words, if you start with a bland, flavor-impaired, adjunct-laden beer and remove some of the water, you end up with a bland, flavor-impaired, adjunct-laden beer with more alcohol. OTOH, if you take a rich, malty, traditionally brewed bock and remove some of the water, you end up with an eisbock.

Subject: 1-10. What are "cold-filtered", and "heat pasteurized" beers?

Cold-filtering is a way of clarifying beer with a shortened lagering time. Beer (lager particularly) becomes clearer with extended storage which allows proteins and other particles to coagulate and settle out of suspension. The beer can then be drawn off and bottled. One way to reduce the time required is to chill the beer causing these molecules to "clump" and be easily filtered out. The up-side is that the time from brewing to finished product is shortened, thereby boosting productivity. The down-side is that cold-filtering also removes many components which contribute flavor and body to beer.

Heat Pasteurized is a redundant phrase since pasteurization means heating to kill microbes.

Some beers are bottle or cask conditioned, meaning that live yeast are still in the beer in its container. Most mainstream beers are either filtered, to remove all yeast and bacteria, or pasteurized to kill all yeast and bacteria. This makes for a more stable product with a longer shelf-life.

Pasteurization is more expensive and tends to alter the flavor. Filtration is cheaper, leaves a clearer beer, and has less effect on flavor.

The "ice" beer process (see above) enhances filtration schemes because more stuff can be filtered out more quickly using less filtration material which shows up directly on the old bottom line.

Subject: 1-11. What is "draught" (draft) beer?

Technically speaking, draught beer is beer served from the cask in which it has been conditioned. It has been applied, loosely, to any beer served from a large container. More recently, it has been used as a promotional term for canned or bottled beer to try to convince us that the beer inside tastes like it came from a cask. See also "Real Ale".

Subject: 1-12. How is specific gravity related to beer?

Specific gravity is a measure of the density of a liquid. Distilled water has a specific gravity of 1.000 at 60F(15C) and is used as a baseline. The specific gravity of beer measured before fermentation is called its Original Gravity or OG and sometimes its Starting Gravity (SG). This gives an idea of how much sugar is dissolved in the wort (unfermented beer) on which the yeast can work. The range of values goes from approximately 1.020 to 1.160 meaning the wort can be from 1.02 to 1.16 times as dense as water (in British brewing the decimal point is usually omitted). When measured after fermentation it is called the Final Gravity (FG) or Terminal Gravity (TG). The difference between these two values is a good gauge of the amount of alcohol produced during fermentation.

The OG will always be higher than the FG for two reasons. First, the yeast will have processed much of the sugar that was present, thus, reducing the gravity. And, second, the alcohol produced by fermentation is less dense than water, further reducing the gravity. The OG has a significant effect on the taste of the final product and not just from an alcoholic standpoint. A high OG usually results in beer with more body and sweetness than a lower OG. This is because some of the sugars measured in the OG are not fermentable by the yeast and will remain after fermentation.

Here are some rough guidelines:

Some Bitters, Milds, Wheat beers, and most "Lite" beers have an OG ranging from 1020-1040. The majority of beers fall in the 1040-1050 range including most Lagers, Stout, Porter, Pale Ale, most Bitters, and Wheat beers. From 1050-1060 you'll find, Oktoberfest, India Pale Ale, ESB (Extra Special Bitter). In the 1060-1075 range will be Bock, strong ales, Belgian doubles. Above 1075 are the really strong beers like Dopplebocks, Barleywines, Imperial Stouts, and Belgian trippels and strong ales.

Subject: 1-13. What does "Dubbel" mean on a beer label?

Belgian ales often carry additional wording on their labels indicating their strength. This applies to their original malt strength not their alcoholic strength. Variations may appear as follows:

Single:

Dutch/Flemish - enkel (pron. 'ankle')

French/Walloon - ?

Double:

Dutch/Flemish - dubbel (pron. 'double')

French/Walloon - double (pron. 'doobluh')

Triple:

Dutch/Flemish - tripel (pron. 'treepel' or 'trippel')

French/Walloon - triple (pron. 'treepluh')

Quadruple:

Dutch/Flemish - quadrupel (pron. 'quadruple')

French/Walloon - quadruple (pron. 'quadrupluh')

Also on the Trappist Ale "La Trappe" you will see the Latin versions: Angulus, Duplus, Triplus, and Quadruplus.


DEFINITIONS OF COMMON TERMS REGARDING THE BREWING INDUSTRY


Subject: 2-1. How is alcohol strength measured?

Most of the world measures alcohol as a percent of volume (abv). In the U.S., alcohol in beer is measured by weight (abw). Since alcohol weighs roughly 20% less than water, abw measures appear 20% less than abv measures for the same amount of alcohol. In Europe, beer strength tends to be measured on the basis of the fermentables in the wort.

Until recently, Britain used OG (original gravity), which is 1000 times the ratio of the wort gravity to that of water. Thus a beer with an OG of 1040 was 4% more dense than water, the density coming from dissolved sugars. You can generally take one tenth of the last two digits to estimate the percentage alcohol by volume once the dissolved sugars are fermented. In the example used, the abv would be approximately 4% (40/10 = 4%) Currently, British beer is being taxed on its actual %ABV rather that the older OG so you'll often find both displayed.

Continental Europe tends to uses degrees Plato. In general, the degrees Plato are about one quarter the last two digits of the OG figure. Hence, in our example above, the beer would be 10 degrees Plato. To get the expected alcohol by volume, divide the degrees Plato by 2.5.

Subject: 2-2. Why is beer stronger in Canada than the U.S.?

This is just folklore that results from the way alcoholic strength is measured. The alcohol content of mainstream U.S. beers is measured as a percent of weight (abw). Canadian beers (and most other countries) measure percent alcohol by volume (abv). A typical Canadian beer of 5% (abv) will be about the same strength as a typical U.S. beer at 4% (abw).

Subject: 2-3. How are "ale", "malt liquor", and "barleywine" related to strength?

The U.S. regulations about the labelling of beer products were antiquated, but they are changing rapidly. When Prohibition ended, a statute was enacted that prohibited the alcohol content from appearing on beer labels unless required by state law. Nor could they use words like "strong", "full strength", or "high proof". Coors recently challenged this law in court and has won their lower court battles. It is now pending a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, some states have regulations that require certain beers to be labelled using other terms that are supposed denote strength without violating the above statute. Consequently some beers are labeled ales, even if they are lagers, due simply to their strength. Texas is one example of this usage. Similarly, "malt liquor" is the appellation attached to strong beers in other states, such as Georgia. Barley wines are strong beers, typically at strengths comparable to wines (8% alcohol by volume and over). However, this is not just an arbitrary term for strength but the actual name of the beer style as well.

In April 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Coors' favor regarding the placement of alcohol percentages on beer labels. Some of Coors' beer labels now include this figure and other brewers are following suit.

Subject: 2-4. What is the Reinheitsgebot?

This is the German (originally, Bavarian) purity law that restricts the ingredients that can be used to make beer to being water, barley malt, hops, and yeast. In the 1516 version of the law, only water, malt and hops were mentioned, because yeast was not isolated until the 19th century by Louis Pasteur. The Reinheitsgebot is actually part of a larger document called the "Biersteuergesetz" or "Beer Tax Law" which defined what beer was and how it should be taxed according to strength.

"Rein" means clean or pure; "-heit" means "-ness"; so "Reinheit" means "cleanliness" or "purity".

In 1987, the Reinheitsgebot was repealed by the EC as part of the opening up of the European market. Many German breweries elected to uphold the Reinheitsgebot in their brewing anyway out of respect for their craft and heritage.


Subject: 2-5. What about the new "Draught-flow" (tm) system (AKA the "widget" or "smoothifier")?

This device has recently appeared in canned beers in an attempt to mimic the taste and appearance of a true draught beer. It employs a small plastic bladder filled with a mix of nitrogen and beer at the bottom of the can. When the can is opened, the mixture is forced out through small holes in the bladder causing considerable turbulence at the bottom of the can. This results in a thick, foaming head of creamy bubbles. While not real ale (see next), this process does mimic the serving of beer through "swan necks" or "sparklers" and is the subject of much debate.

Subject: 2-6. What is "Real Ale"?

"Real Ale is a name for draught (or bottled) beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide"....from CAMRA's handbook.

Subject: 2-7. What is CAMRA?

CAMRA is the CAMpaign for Real Ale. It was founded in the early 1970s in Great Britain to preserve Britain's beer traditions. It is used in marketing courses as one of the most successful consumer movements of all time. It is now concerning itself with the preservation of beer, the British pub, and brewing traditions worldwide.

Anyone can join CAMRA by writing to:

Campaign for Real Ale

230 Hatfield Rd., St Albans

Herts AL1 4LW, UK.

Or, you can use Visa/MC and join by phone: 44-1727-867201

Check out the CAMRA

Subject: 2-8. What are the categories of brewers/breweries?

According to the Institute of Brewing there are four categories as follows:

Large Brewers - Production in excess of 500,000 barrels/year

Regional Brewers - Production between 15,000 and 500,000 bbl/yr

Microbrewers - Production less than 15,000 bbl/yr

Brewpubs - Production for onsite consumption only

In addition you may see/hear the term pico-brewer which is used to describe brewers so small that distribution is limited to pubs and bars in their immediate area. To complicate matters their are contract brewers. These companies develop a recipe and then "buy" excess capacity at a large brewery to have their beer made for them. They, then, market and distribute the finished product. Some of these can be quite large.

Subject: 2-9. What is a brewpub?

A brewpub is, generally, a combination brewery/restaurant. The beer is made on-premises for consumption by the restaurant patrons. Various regulations govern the ratio of beer/food sales to prevent breweries from serving token food items while selling mostly beer. Very common in Europe and the source of a growing industry in the North America.


BEER HANDLING AND SENSORY ISSUES


Subject: 3-1. How do I judge a beer?

Much has been written about wine tasting, and that technique and vocabulary apply quite nicely to beer, as well. Of course, beer is a more complex beverage and its evaluation covers some additional ground, but the concepts are the same. The biggest change most drinkers must undergo is warming up their beer. Ice cold beer numbs the taste buds and doesn't allow the beer to develop its full flavor potential. In general, pale beer is best served at cooler temperatures than dark beer, and lagers cooler than ales. Start with 40-50F (5-10C) for the cooler beers and 50-60F (10-15C) for the warmer ones.

Beer should be evaluated using four senses: sight, smell, taste, feel. Always drink beer from a clear glass to fully appreciate it. Look at it and note the color and clarity. Hold it up to a light if necessary. Take a good sniff from the glass to get the aroma or bouquet. Taste it, swishing it around in your mouth, and notice its body and flavors. After swallowing, notice any aftertaste or finish.

You should be noticing things like:

Was it golden, amber, black?

Clear or cloudy?

Did it smell sweet, malty, flowery, alcoholic?

Did it taste bitter, sweet, tart, smooth, roasty?

Did it feel "thick" or "thin" as you swished it around?

Did it leave a buttery taste, nutty, fruity?

With additional experience and some reading you will begin to develop not only a sense of what you enjoy, but what marks a truly good beer from a bland or mediocre one.

Also, it is usually a good idea to try a beer more than once. Get it from different sources, try it when your in a different mood or setting, wait for a full moon, whatever. Many factors will affect your overall perception, so be flexible. Be aware, as well, that tasting many beers at once is not a good idea. The taste buds begin to tire and send confusing impressions.

Subject: 3-2. What is good/bad/skunked/spoiled beer?

In the most ideal sense, there are no good or bad beers. The enjoyment of beer is a highly subjective and personal experience. However, in this very real and flawed world, various camps develop and embrace their favorites while denouncing all others. This is illustrated by "The best/worst beer in the world is...." posts.

The best approach is to appreciate what beer is about and how to recognize the outstanding qualities of a fine beer (see previous question).

Bad beer can be easily identified, however, when it has been damaged or spoiled. The two most common occurences are:

"skunking"

When beer has been exposed to strong light, either natural or artificial, certain components in hops alter and produce acrid flavors, AKA being "lightstruck". This is why beer should be bottled in brown bottles. Clear bottles offer no light protection and green is only slightly better. Technically, light of wavelengths from 550 nm and below can cause photochemical reactions in hop resins, resulting in a sulfury mercaptan which has a pronounced skunky character. 550 nm is roughly blue-green. Bottled beer can become lightstruck in less than one minute in bright sun, after a few hours in diffuse daylight, and in a few days under normal flourescent lighting.

"spoiled"

Also referred to as going "off". This is a more vague term and often refers to beer that has not been properly stored or handled allowing oxidation (a cardboard taste) or other off-flavors resulting from contamination, overheating, etc. As with any fermented beverage, alcohol can also turn to vinegar, imparting a sour taste to beer.

Subject: 3-3. How should I store beer?

I general, beer should be stored in a cool place. In warmer climates this often means refrigeration and you get used to letting your beer warm a little before you drink it. Cooler climates often use cellars to store beer which works quite well. As long as temperatures are kept between 35F(2C) and 60F(15C) you're probably OK. Keep in mind that storing at the warmer end of this scale will increase any aging effects since any yeast remaining in the beer will be more active. This is a Good Thing if you're aging a barleywine but will cause lower gravity beers to go "stale" sooner.

Subject: 3-4. How long does beer keep?

To quote Michael Jackson: "If you see a beer, do it a favour, and drink it. Beer was not meant to age." Generally, that is true. However, some beers that are strong and/or highly hopped must age to reach their full flavor potential.

How a beer is conditioned and handled has a great affect on its shelf-life. Beer conditioned in the bottle or cask still contains live, active yeast and should be drunk as soon as possible. Most larger scale, commercial beers have been filtered or pasteurized to remove/kill the yeast and stabilize the product for the longer storage times encountered in the retail world. In any case, stored beer should never be exposed to heat or strong light.

Subject: 3-5. Is beer considered a vegetarian/kosher/organic product?

It depends on how you define each of those terms and what your particular values are. Rather than try to make a broad generalization, I'll describe the products and practices that are usually called into question regarding these topics. You are then free to apply these facts to your own system of beliefs and make an informed judgement. Also, I have ignored the fact that beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by the metabolism of yeast. This should be taken for granted. Read labels carefully and call the brewer if you need specific information about ingredients or processing since labeling laws allow the brewer to omit a great deal.

Finings

Finings are substances sometimes added to beer during fermentation to help settle out particles and yeast, leaving the beer clear. It is important to note that finings are not present in the finished beer in any significant quantity. Their purpose is to settle out of the beer, not stay in suspension. OTOH, if a careful chemical analysis were to be performed, there would probably be a few molecules of a fining agent still to be found. Also, many brewers do not use finings at all, but filter their beer to clarify it. That said, these are the common fining agents:

Isinglass

Made from the dried swim bladders of sturgeons. Used a great deal in British brewing.

Irish Moss

Also known as carragheen, a type of dried seaweed.

Gelatin

The same stuff used to make Jello (tm). Made from animal (mostly cow) hooves, skin and connective tissues.

Polyclar

A brand name for PVP (polyvinylpyrdlidone), a man-made, plastic substance.

Sparkalloid

More commonly known as diatemaceous earth.

FYI, beer brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot (see related Q&A) is not prohibited from using finings since it was generally assumed that finings were not present in the finished product.

Adjuncts

These are products used to alter the flavor, color, or body of beer. They are used in addition to the "Basic 4": malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. They do not settle out and can be present in beer in significant quantities.

Corn

Used a great deal by the mega-brewers as a cheap way to make huge quantities of beer since corn is cheaper than malted barley.

Rice

Same as corn.

Wheat

Used in some beer styles to produce a lighter-bodied beer with a tangy flavor.

Honey

Used as another fermentable sugar in addition to malted barley to impart different flavors.

Lactose

Also known as milk sugar because of its dairy origin. Used to increase sweetness and body of certain beer styles such as cream stouts.

Molasses

Another form of sugar used to flavor some dark ales.

Heading agents

Various products added to a beer to increase its ability to form and hold a head. Used most often in beers made with large quantities of corn and/or rice. Pepsin is a common heading agent and is often derived from pork. Beers using only malted barley or wheat don't need heading agents.

Organic ingredients

To be truly organic, a beer would have to be made from barley and hops cultivated using accepted organic practices. Most brewers do not make this claim, but a few are appearing. Those that do clearly label their products as organic. It is also my understanding that organic does not mean no animal products.

Other ingredients

Many other ingredients are used in brewing beer to give it unusual character or marketing appeal. As such, these items are often clearly indicated on the label. Some of the more common examples are:

Oatmeal, Pumpkin, Potatoes, and all sorts of fruit

Also spices such as: Ginger, Licorice, Coriander, Cinnamon, and Spruce


MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS


Subject: 4-1. What is Zima and/or clear beer?

Clear beers are malt-based beverages that have had all their character removed completely leaving one to wonder "What's the point?" Clear beverages like Zima are not beers. 

Subject: 4-2. What do the different Chimay packages/colors mean?

Chimay is the best known of the famous Trappist ales from Belgium and the Netherlands. Two package types are used: a 33cl(11oz) bottle with the standard metal crown and a 75cl(26oz) "Bordeaux" bottle which is corked. Three beers are produced by Chimay which differ in character and alcoholic strength. They have different names, but are often referred to by the color coding of the crown, cork seal, and labeling as follows:

Chimay Red, Rouge, Premiere - 7% abv

Chimay White, Blanche, Cinq Cents - 8% abv

Chimay Blue, Bleue - 9% abv (33cl bottle only)

Chimay Gold, Grande Reserve - This is a vintage bottling of Chimay Blue in a 75cl bottle

Subject: 4-3. What does the "33" mean on the bottles of Rolling Rock?

There several versions:

The first is that it is the number of words on the label which a Rolling Rock employee wrote down before sending it to the artist/printer and it stuck. This is the most popular one.

The second is that "33" is the year prohibition was lifted.

A third, more colorful one, is that the brewery was started with money won at the track betting on #33 "Old Latrobe", hence the 33 and horse.

Subject: 4-4. Does Coors support Nazi organizations?

The Adolph Coors Co., as a publicly held US corporation, does not. Nor is it likely they could do so and succeed in the US market. The Coors family supports the Coors Foundation which donates funds to many political, social, and educational organizations. Whether these organizations can be considered Nazi, right-wing, or even conservative is not an appropriate topic for this newsgroup since it doesn't affect the brewing, distribution, or marketing of Coors beer.

Subject: 4-5. Can I make my own beer....is it legal?

U.S. regulations state that an individual can brew up to 100 gals/yr for personal consumption or up to 200 gals/yr per family without being subject to taxes. Other countries will certainly have different regulations. State laws often override the Federal tax law with more stringent regulations or ban any homebrewing, so check locally. In any case, you cannot sell your homebrew. Also, be aware that the presence of homebrew supply stores does not imply that homebrewing is legal in your state. More often, in a strange quirk of law-making, it is legal to sell the supplies, but illegal to make beer with them!?

Subject: 4-6. How do I make it?

Making your own can range from quite easy to very complicated depending on how much of the science you want to absorb. At its most basic, you can make beer following these steps:

  1. Mix together malted barley extract, hops, and water and boil to produce what is called the wort.

  2. The wort is cooled, placed in a fermenter and yeast is added. Fermentation will take place converting the sugars in the wort to carbon dioxide (which is vented out) and alcohol.

  3. When fermentation is complete, the new beer is mixed with a small amount of primer (made from malt extract or corn sugar) and placed in sealed bottles or kegs. The primer will provide just enough additional fermentation to carbonate the beer.

  4. Wait until the beer has properly aged and drink! The aging time depends on beer style and can range anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 year.

Subject: 4-7. WIMLIACLDAB? BTABFCTW! What was that?

This is a very old, very tired beer joke attributed to Monty Python. I'll spell it out for you:

Q: Why is making love in a canoe like drinking American beer?

A: Because they are both fucking close to water!

But don't ever repeat this on the Net or the following will occur:

  1. You will be scorched to a crunchy black by some excruciatingly creative individuals.

  2. You will receive a number of "corrective" e-mails.

  3. Your family/relatives will be visited by "Guido", a large, ill-tempered man with hairy knuckles.

...in that order!

Subject: 4-8. Is Guinness good for you?

Answers to this, and many other Guinness questions, may be found in Alan Marshall's "Guinness FAQt and Folklore".

Subject: 4-9. Where is Sam Adams beer made?

As the largest contract brewer in the U.S., Boston Brewing Co. uses several breweries around the country to make the various Sam Adams beers. This info is accurate as of JAN-95.

Boston, MA

AKA Jamaica Plain. Former Haffenreffer brewery, a company-owned facility brewing the Boston Ale and doing R&D work on other recipes.

Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh Brewing Co. brews the largest portion (by volume) of Sam Adams beers, mostly lagers for eastern distribution.

Lehigh Valley, PA

Stroh Brewery Co. brews the ales for eastern distribution.

Portland, OR

Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co. (owned by G. Heileman). Most Sam Adams brews for western distribution.

Nagold, Germany

A Gambrinus brewery brews the Boston Lager for the European market.

The relationship with F.X. Matt of Utica, NY has ended and Sam Adams beers are no longer made there. There is also a Sam Adams brewpub in Philadelphia, PA which brews ales from malt extract recipes. Also, FYI, the Sam Adams Triple Bock was brewed at the Jamaica Plain facility and then shipped to Bronco Winery in Ceres, CA for aging in their vats.

Subject: 4-10. Why does American beer suck?

You might as well ask In fact, any country in the world with a sufficiently large brewer is guilty of brewing beer that is (ahem) less than it could be. In an effort to boost profit margins and still be acceptable to the broadest possible market, the mega-brewers have resorted to using cheaper adjuncts, like corn and rice, instead of all barley malt. The resulting less-sweet beer doesn't need as much balancing bitterness, so they cut back on hops to save money and to make the end-product innocuous to the casual drinker. The change has been a gradual one, taking place in small increments over many years, so that most consumers would not notice the difference. These practices are followed up by huge, multi-media, marketing campaigns that attempt to sell brand image rather than beer flavor.

American brewers take the biggest hit because they're the best at this game. In addition, most people outside the U.S. only see the brews exported by the mega-brewers and judge the entire market by these examples. But such blatant generalities as the opening question always fall short of the truth. The truth is that excellent beer is also being brewed in America and Germany/England/Canada/Mexico/Japan/Holland, etc. and the way to enjoy good beer from any country (or avoid bland beer) is to patronize the brewers that provide it and avoid the ones that don't.


BEER RESOURCES


Subject: 5-1. Were can I get more beer info and tasting tips?

On the World-Wide Web, point your browser at:

 
The Real Beer Page ™

Spencer Thomas' Beer Page

Michael Jackson (not the pop star) is an acknowledged authority on beer world-wide and has written several books:

    The New World Guide to Beer

    The Beer Companion

    Simon & Schuster's Pocket Guide to Beer

Also look for:

    The Beer Enthusiast by Gregg Smith

    Evaluating Beer from Brewers Publications

    The Essentials of Beer Style by Fred Eckhardt

    Beer Cuisine by Jay Harlow

Magazines:

    All About Beer - 800-977-BEER(2337)

    Modern Brewery Age

    The Malt Advocate - 800-610-MALT

    What's Brewing - comes with CAMRA membership (see above) (U.K.)

    Beer Periodicals List,

On video tape:

    The Beer Hunter with Michael Jackson

    Call 800-262-4800 - $34.95 + t/s/h.

    Beer and Ale: A Video Guide

    Call 800-546-5034 - $24.95 + t/s/h.

Subject: 5-2. Where can I get good beer?

In most parts of the world, just go to any place that serves beer and ask for it. In North America, micro-breweries and brewpubs are the best places to get freshly brewed, finely crafted beer. But they aren't everywhere, yet.

Many bars and restaurants are beginning to offer high quality beers on tap and in bottles. Don't fall into the trap of asking for an "import" when you want a good beer! The market today is such that you could easily end up with a very disappointing import while missing a truly wonderful domestic. Always, always, always ask to see a beer list. Servers are not always educated in beer lore and may misinterpret what you are looking for in a good beer.

Most liquor stores carry a good selection of bottled beers. Many major grocery chains are also beginning to carry remarkable selections.

Subject: 5-3. I'm going to "some city", what brewpubs/bars are good?

A comprehensive list of brewpubs and good bars is available via anonymous ftp to ftp.stanford.edu in /pub/clubs/homebrew/beer/docs. The file is publist.Z. Caution: I don't think this is being updated.

 On WWW, check out the Real Beer Page's Brew Tour. Also see the Regional Guides section of the WWW Virtual Library's Beer & Brewing Index.

Subject: 5-4. Can I get beer in the mail?

Yup, monthly subscriptions just like a magazine. These services send a selection of beers each month until you tell them to stop. 

Subject: 5-5. Where can I get details on making my own?

Brewing discussions are held in the rec.crafts.brewing newsgroup.

On the World-Wide Web, point your browser at:

WWW Virtual Library Beer & Brewing Index

Spencer Thomas' Beer Page

Eric Wooten's Beer & Homebrewing Page

 

Read the Homebrew Digest

 

Good books to read are:

    The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian

    The Complete Handbook of Brewing by Dave Miller

    Brewing Quality Beers by Byron Burch

Magazines:

    Zymurgy - comes with membership in American Homebrewers Association (AHA): 303-546-6514

    Get beer-mags.Z from the archives or see the Beer Periodical List

Video tape:

    Home Brew with Charlie Papazian - Call 303-546-6514 - $29.95 + t/s/h

Subject: 5-6. Where can I get recipes?

On the World-Wide Web you'll find over 1,000 recipes indexed by style in Cats Meow III





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