It was at Huyghe brewery that I received my first crash course on beer bartending or how to pour a glass of beer with two fingers of foam. Huyghe’s famous brewery is located near Ghent, a charming Belgium city with imposing architecture and winding waterways. During this ‘crash course’ I also learned that every single beer in Belgium is served in its very own individual glass. On last count, there were over 1500 types of beer glasses in Belgium. That’s just one country.
Huyghe operates Delirium Café in Brussels, that occupies pride of place in the Guinness Book of World Records. With over 2,400 beers from across the world, Delirium’s menu is ridiculously exhaustive and a haven for beer nerds. There are clearly more beers in the world that you can imagine; our list might be a good starting point:
1. Lambic: Yeast might be an integral part of the beer making process but was an unknown entity for beer manufacturers in the early 18th century. I first sampled Lambic beer at Timmermans (just outside Brussels) acclaimed to be the world’s oldest Lambic brewery. Timmermans used spontaneous fermentation (without yeast) to craft their Lambic beers, a tradition that continues till today. Dry, sometimes sour with a relatively low ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of 3 – 5% and almost reminiscent of a cider.
2. Ale: Probably the most popular type of beer that was originally used to describe beers that were brewed without hops. Most varieties of beers fall under Ales or Lagers. Ales used gruits (a mixture of herbs and spices) as the bittering agent, now most ales use hops (the flowers of the hop plant Humulus lupulus and an essential ingredient in most beers). Ales can swing from dark brown to Pale ales (Like the Indian Pale Ale).
3. Stout: These beers are generally dark and crafted with roasted malt (or roasted barley), hops, water and yeast. Stouts began as a variety of Porter beers – a term originally used to describe the strongest porters, but have outgrown porters by a distance.
4. Porter: Once the classic English pub drink. Legend has it that this beer (developed in London) was popular with river and street porters. It was immensely popular till the Stouts eclipsed it, this darkest of dark ales is seeing a mini revival in the craft beer circuit. Beer nerds often compare a porter to drinking a loaf of bread.
5. Pilsner: The inventors of the Pilsner (or just Pils), this beer takes its name from the Bohemian town – Plzeň. The beer’s rising popularity coincided with the advent of glass bottles around the 1850s that showcased its light golden colour. These beers are defined by their crisp body – perfect for a hot summer’s day.
6. Indian Pale Ale: Among the most popular beers in the craft beer circuit including craft brewers in Bengaluru. This beer has its origins in the 19th century when English beer was shipped to India with extra hops to help preserve the beer and last the long journey by ship.
7. Lager: Takes its name from German word for store room and usually refers to a beer that is stored or conditioned at low temperatures. The beer is also defined by the use of specific yeasts. They tend to be light in terms of colour and flavour and more effervescent.
8. American Lager: The most popular form of commercial beer (not microbreweries in the US though) in America. Immigrants from Germany are believed to have taken the pale lager to the US in the 19th century. Pale lager used additional grains like rice or maize that result in a light refreshing texture sans complex flavours.
9. Weissbier: The most popular German beer brewed in the traditional Bavarian style with a strong presence of malted wheat (instead of barley). Also, commonly referred to as Weizenbier or Hefeweizen. Some of these beers can be both sweet and strong.
10. Bock: Historically associated with religious festivals and Bavarian monks who used to consume this as a source of nutrition during times of fasting. The beer has its origins in the German town of Einbeck but became quite popular in Munich. The original Bock was quite dark and malty but modern interpretations across the world are lighter.