Hot Summer, Cold Beer

Updated: May 28 2004, 05:30am hrs
Along with wine, beer is probably one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known to man. The world over, with the possible exception of France, Italy and Portugal, people guzzle beer in copious quantities. Even in India, beers one of the fastest growing segments within the liquor industry. But in England and Germany beer drinking is almost a religion. Consider the numerous English pubs with their individualistic styles of beers; the stein wielding barmaids at a German beer garden. It is a way of life rather than the road to destruction. You could go on a beer trail and drink zillion different kinds of tap in one evening, then wonder how the simple beer could reach heights thought unattainable. So, heres to figuring out beer basics.

There are two basic styles of beer lagers and ales based on the type of yeast used for brewing. Top fermenting yeast gives ales the characteristic hoppy (bitter) tastes, thicker texture and darker colour. Lagers (bottom fermenting yeast) are lighter and they are what we get in India. What then is a Pilsner A lager made in the style of that brewed in the Czechoslovakian town of Pilsen.

Beer breakdown
Lagers (3.2 - 4.5% alcohol)
* Light-coloured lager
* Dark lager
* Pilsner
* Light/diet beer
* Malt liquor (strong beer over 5% alcohol)
* Bock beer (sweet, heavy lager with a max of 3.5% alcohol)Ales (4.4 - 6% alcohol)
* Pale ale
* Brown ale
* Porter Stout

Draught is unpasteurised beer, fresh though faintly yeasty and keeps for about three days without refrigeration, a month if refrigerated. Ice beer is a beer with a curious process the brew is brought down to freezing temperature, the frozen water separated from the alcohol and a part of it removed, which concentrates it, increases the alcoholic content (same alcohol content in lesser total volume of liquid) and imparts a crisp, clean flavour to the beer. Stranger brew like wheat beer and fruit beer are quite popular too.

Most beers do not keep and are best consumed within six months (bottles). The big international names are Budweiser, Heineken, Corona, Fosters, Coors, Carlsberg, Michelob, Amstel, Guiness, Becks, San Miguel, Stella Artois, Kirin, Tiger, and Anchor. Big local names are Kingfisher, Royal Challenge premium lager, Kalyani black label, Cobra, Arlem, Khajuraho, Ambero, London Pilsner, UB Ice, Haywards 2000 and 5000, Kingfisher strong, Knockout and a plethora of regional brands.

Best drunk in and with
Some beer drinkers love the copper/brass steins; others prefer a clear pilsner, collins or the beer goblet; still others like the squat beer mugs. I think its nice to be able to see the rich golden colour and the rising effervescence as one drinks. For a thick, foamy head (German style), pour the beer straight down the middle of the glass from about one inch above the rim. Otherwise, tilt the glass and pour down the side, then straighten as it fills.

A chilled glass of beer on a hot summer day is a great refresher and the perfect accompaniment to almost any kind of food. There are some who think its bitter taste is foul and drown it with lemonade. And voila, a shandy is born. Shandy apart, there are other combos as well. Highly recommended come beer and gingerale; beer and tonic; even beer and cola. A beer chaser with a shot of whisky or Southern Comfort is terrific if lethal. And if that wasnt enough, theres Skip and go Naked a combination of 60ml vodka, some sugar syrup, juice of a lemon over 3-4 ice cubes in a collins glass topped with chilled beer. Add a shot of gin to that and youve got Hop, skip and go Naked! Howzzatt!!