Beer 101: We are Beginning to Look at Beer Styles—But First…

08-20-2016, The BeerVibe Crew


Beer 101: We are Beginning to Look at Beer Styles—But First…

A zythologist is a true beer connoisseur who can share many interesting facts about an immensely complex and sophisticated beverage, its ingredients, and the roles they play in the brewing process,” according to Anheuser-Busch.

Zythology, as defined by the Macmillan Dictionary is the study of beer and beer-making, including the role particular ingredients play in the brewing process. A zythologist is a student and connoisseur of beer who possesses knowledge of ingredients, pouring techniques, and beer pairings.

In the Washington Post issue of January 18, 2016; according to cited data from the Brewers Association, there were 4,144 breweries operating in the United States at time of print. Again, the Brewers Association reports that in 2015 there were 178 regional craft breweries; 2,397 microbreweries; and 1,650 brewpubs. At the same time there were 30 large non-craft and 14 other non-craft breweries.

If you are a sincere and dedicated zythologist and you’ve made it a personal goal to taste every beer brewed in the United States or (why stop there?) every beer in the world, you have chosen a daunting task. We wish you success. On the other hand, don’t be surprised or discouraged if someone you know and love thinks you’re taking your beer just a little too seriously. Do you now begin to appreciate what the dedicated beer tasters at BeerVibe.com have taken upon themselves for you, dear reader?

Why have we begun a series of articles on beer styles with these facts? It is because with the four basic ingredients in today’s beer; water, barley, hops, and yeast; along with a few other optional ingredients, plus current brewing methods, we have a very impressive number of beer styles to explore. In the 2016 edition of the Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines, there are listed nine American Origin Lager Styles. If you wish to include World Beer Styles; there are 153, including one Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage. For ales there are listed British, Irish, North American, German, Belgian, and Other Origin Style ales. Lagers have European-Germanic, North American, and other origin styles. Then of course, we have hybrid/mixed lagers or ales.

Understand that these are just the recognized styles of beer. Within each style there is room for much variability; the individual brewer puts his own interpretation into his product. This does not include traditional beers brewed by the indigenous peoples in places like South America, Asia, and Africa. The beers out there begging for your attention are seemingly endless.

The qualities we look for in beer styles are:

  • Color: from pale to dark (SRM, the Standard Reference Method)
  • Bitterness: from low to high (in IBU, International Bitterness Units)
  • Flavors: sour, tart, and funky; crisp and clean; dark and roasted; malt and sweet; hoppy and bitter; fruity and spicy
  • Alcohol content: from Low to High, in ABV (Alcohol by Volume)

For this series of articles we will look at a handful of American style ales and lagers and peer just a little into the science and history thereof.

NEXT: WE WILL LOOK AT STOUT, AND MAYBE SOME PORTER.

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