Why I Choose Beer

Why beer?

Why has beer become the thing I want to learn and write about?

What is it about this ancient liquid that so completely fascinates me?

I have been asking myself this question for about a year now.  Here is what I’ve come up with so far:  Beer’s complexity rivals that of humans.

This complexity is achieved with everyone using the same basic ingredients and the same basic recipes and techniques.  Beer is made up of four ingredients:  water, malt, hops, and yeast.  Occasionally, a brewer will use some type of adjunct for taste or head retention, but these four ingredients are usually all that are used.  Yet, no two beers taste alike.  They are all different.

They are all different because, each beer you drink is as individual as the brewer who created it.  Beer is different than wine in this respect.  With beer, while the ingredients used are at least partially based on geographic location and what is most readily available, the terroir is not as important to the final product as it is in wine.  With wine, while the vintners and their vision helps craft the final product of the wine, he/she is handcuffed by the soil and the climate as to what grapes to grow and cultivate.

In my view, beer is more a brewer’s art then wine is a vintner’s art.  For me each beer is an expression of the brewer’s intent and a chance for me as a drinker to decipher the puzzle of the specific ingredients used.

Some hops are better at adding bittering flavors to the beer and some adding aroma to the beer.  Some hops are citrusy, some are piney, and some are earthy.  Malts can impart a sweet caramel taste, a more baked biscuit taste, or a roasted coffee taste.  Yeasts can be used to add a sour touch to a beer or provide a banana aroma.  Was the beer filtered or bottle conditioned?  Was it aged in a barrel?  If it was, what kind of barrel?  All these decisions affect the taste of the beer.

The style of the beer dictates a little as to what malts and hops and yeast to use, but a good and creative brewer can figure out a way to use different combinations to create something unique.

You can taste six different IPAs (or brown ales or porters or hefeweizens) from six different brewers and you all of them will taste distinctly different.  They will have the same core characteristics, but depending on what ingredients and in what ratios the brewer used them, each will give you something different to think about.

I am interested in puzzles, but not necessarily in order to solve them.  I am interested in the patterns and the way things are combined to create a whole other thing.  I am interested in the reasoning behind using different combinations.  Why did you put this malt, with these hops, and this yeast then age it in a barrel for six months?  Thinking about what a brewer was hoping to achieve with each of these decision and then thinking about whether those hopes were realized is what fascinates me about beer and keeps me coming back.

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