Friends of Gambrinus, I ask you a point-blank question: how many of you when ordering a beer ask the waiter for a blonde or a red? SACRILEGE!!! Okay, since you have not yet addressed this issue, as an apostle, I intercede for you before Gambrinus!
Joking aside, it is a mistake to think that beer is divided into blonde, red, amber and dark: an error however which has been rooted in many people and therefore you often hear a beer being ordered in these terms. Beer can be classified in various ways, but an initial division can be made based on the fermentation: spontaneous, bottom and top. Each of these brewing types embodies additional classifications that maybe we will face in the future: for now, let’s focus on this one.
Spontaneous fermentation was typical of the ancient beers, more than anything else it was the only one possible because it was based on the action of wild yeasts in the air. Today this method is used in many Third World countries, while in the Western world the only area where you can still produce spontaneously fermented beers is located in Belgium, not far from Brussels, specifically in the west of the city. The production of spontaneously fermented beers is extremely delicate because it takes just a significant variation in the temperature or humidity of the place where the nectar of Gambrinus ferments to derail production. A typical characteristic of this type of beer is its acidity, bordering certain times on sour. Typical examples are the Lambic, Gueuze and Kriek.
The bottom-fermented beers account for about nine-tenths of modern brewing products: despite the recent use of this technique (two hundred years), despite its vast production, there are only a small number of beer styles. But we love them! Probably because it’s easy to drink (“it goes down a treat!”) and a rather limited sum of olfactory and gustatory tastes. Bottom fermentation is often associated with classical foamy beer, clear, drinkable, with light tones of malt and a pleasant bitter taste (the “ice cold Peroni family” of Fantozzi!). In fact, the history of bottom fermentation is very curious, this technique seems to have been discovered and unplanned! The merit seems to go to the Bavarian monks living in monasteries located on hills or high ground a few centuries ago, who, both in order to preserve it, and to avoid that the product became infected, placed the beer in tunnels dug into the mountains: these cold caves, which were in fact cellars, were filled with ice (in summer it was forbidden to produce beer, even in Germany there was a law that prevented the brewing process from April 23rd to September 29th!). They noted how these beers slowly fermented and how the foam (containing yeast) sank down and sedimented at the bottom of the barrels. But only thanks to Pasteur’s studies in France and Hansen in Denmark in the nineteenth century was the bacteria for bottom fermentation isolated.
Top-fermented beers are characterized in terms of the fermentation process by the use of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, cerevisiae race. A feature of this yeast is the extraordinary complexity of aromas and flavours, mainly due to rather warm temperatures (15° to 25° degrees C) with which they become operational. These beers are generally called Ales. In past times, all beers were top-fermented (there was no opportunity to have fermentation at low temperatures). In the past the production of these beers was made possible thanks to brewers who used the foam produced during mashing, and began to isolate and domesticate yeasts. There are many types of top fermentation beers and some types will be described in the next articles! A common feature of all top-fermenting beers is the olfactory and taste complexity far superior to those of low fermentation.
I hope that now you won’t dash to the pub anymore to ask for a simple blonde beer!!!
Peace and Beer!