Speak the Craft Beer Language

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When first exploring the world of craft beer, there seem to be an endless number of new words to wrap your head around. Here are some of the key craft beer terms that you’re bound to come across as you begin your discovery...

Key Types of Craft Beers
Firstly, it is important to get to know the different types of craft beers that you will come across. This is by no means a definitive list, however it does outline some of the key craft beer types.

Abbey Beer:
These craft beers have a link to a monastery. Historically these beers would have been brewed by the monks themselves, however they are now produced by a trusted commercial brewer.

Trappist Beer:
A Trappist beer is a beer brewed by or under control of Trappist monks. The sales of these beers go towards supporting the monks or to help the local community. There are currently only seven authorised Trappist beers in the world, six of which are made in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.

Bottom Fermentation Beers (Lagers):
The two basic fermenting methods of beer are characterised by the yeast’s tendency to either rise to the top or sink to the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Low or bottom fermentation occurs when fermentation takes place at a low temperature at the bottom of the tank or vessel. Known as lager beer, this is the most common and commercially available type of beer. These beers are most often associated with crisp, clean flavours and are traditionally served at colder temperatures.

Top Fermentation Beers (Ales):
Known as ales, these beers are made with ‘top fermenting yeast’ with fermentation taking place at high temperatures as the yeast develops at the top of the tank. Ales are typically served at warmer temperatures than other beers and also have a slightly bitter taste. Trappist and abbey beers, which also undergo a secondary fermentation after bottling, belong to this style.

Spontaneous (Wild) Fermentation Beers:
This type of beer does not require yeast for fermentation to occur. The wort is exposed in open tanks where it catches indigenous yeasts present in the air. The beer is then left to ferment in wooden casks for several months. 

Specialty Beers:
‘Speciality beer’ is a catch-all term for a beer that doesn’t fit within the recognised styles. These are usually seasonal or experimental and include fruit, herb, spice and smoked beers.

Key Belgian Beer Types:
It can be argued that Belgium is the original home of craft beer. Beer brewing is firmly ingrained in the country’s history and culture, resulting in Belgium having hundreds of beers to discover. As a starting point, get to know some of the key styles of Belgian beer.

A pale ale is a beer that uses warm fermentation and pale malts. Blonde beers are a type of pale ale and can vary depending on the malt and hops used, with Belgian blonde beers often using pilsner malt. St. Stefanus blonde is brewed with three different yeasts and matured in the bottle so that the consumer can ultimately decide how they would like their beer to taste.

Dubbel (Double):
Dubbels are a mid-strength style of Belgian beer that are dark in colour and have a long-lasting head. As on one of the classic Abbey and Trappist beer types, a dubbel is fairly strong and will have gone through at least two fermentations.

Tripel (Triple):
Tripel beers are particularly strong pale ales that are gold to yellow in colour and can be almost champagne-like in their carbonation. These beers are complex in flavour and have been through three phases of fermentation.

White (Wheat) Beers:
Known as witbier in Dutch and bière blanche in French, these beers are made with a mixture of wheat and barley. These beers also feature a mix of flavours, traditionally including coriander and bitter orange peel.

These wheat beers are made in the Senne Valley in Belgium. Each beer is brewed using spontaneous fermentation and following a process that is strictly regulated.  The result is an earthy, sour flavour with virtually no carbonation. Fruit Lambics are created by adding real fruit after the fermentation process. The common fruit varieties include Framboise (raspberry), Kriek (cherry), and Cassis (blackcurrant).

More commonly known as a farmhouse ale, these beers have a heavy, spiced taste. They were originally brewed for Belgian farm workers during the harvest season – in fact the word saison means ‘season’ in French. Modern-day saisons are usually bottle conditioned (meaning that they continue to mature as they age) and are now made throughout the world. 

Are you starting your journey into the world of craft beer? Let us know what you have discovered so far…

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