Information and Misinformation About Beer
When I first got into the beverage business I was told there were two kinds of beer; Lagers and Ales. I was told that the only difference between the two was the temperature at which the fermentation process took place. Ales were Top Fermented (at higher temperatures) and Lagers were Bottom Fermented (at lower temperatures) …and that was it. I took that information and I ran with it.
Now, this information isn’t necessarily incorrect, …more like incomplete. Like most people (see just about ANYTHING on Facebook for details), I fell victim to the old adage, “a little information can be a dangerous thing”. When I discovered just how deficient my knowledge on this subject was, I began to digest, both physically and figuratively, anything I could find on the subject. I discovered that it was in fact the type of yeast used (lager yeast or ale yeast) that determines the type of beer being made, and something deeper still; there was a third type of beer. Sour, or Wild beers that are made using indigenous yeast and spontaneous fermentation.
To those “in the know”, this information might seem very easy to gain access to, but it isn’t always so. For instance, doing a recent Google search for “types of beer”, I found four websites, on the first search page alone in which information on wild/sour beers is partial, non-existent or wildly inaccurate. Thebrewbros.com mentions a, “third rather obscure type of beer, called a Lambic, which is made only in Belgium”. While Lambics do come from Belgium, they are only one of many wild/sour beers that are brewed all over the world. Bendbrewfest.com lists Pilsners (a type of Lager) as the third type of beer, while listing Lambics and Gueuze (a blend of Lambics) as types of Ale. Differenttypesofbeer.com makes a minor mention of Lambics as being, “far less popular than Ales or Lagers”, and good ol’ Wikipedia makes no mention of them at all.
So, what’s my point? If you’re interested in learning about beer (or wine or spirits for that matter), or just looking to pick up a six pack for “the game”, it’s important to find good sources of information to help you make better and more informed choices. The number of choices available to us seems to grow more every day. My advice? Find a knowledgeable, experienced beer guy (even if it’s not one of ours) that is passionate about his craft. I’ve learned in almost 20 years in the business, that it’s passion that instills us with a hunger to experience and learn as much as we possibly can; and then share. Real beer guys like to share; both information and beer.
We are very fortunate to have a great beer guy in each of our stores; Tony in Acton and Jeff in Marlboro. From personal experience I can tell you that both are passionate, and both LOVE to share.
– Roger Waxman