A Cook's Diary

Oktoberfest is coming: let’s talk beer

Oktoberfest is coming: let’s talk beer | casaveneracion.com

Since that afternoon with Rogue Chipotle Ale and Arrogant Bastard Ale, we’ve been buying and sampling beers, Speedy and I. Our latest favorites are fruit-flavored beers. San Miguel’s apple and lemon beer which appears on the background of the photo in the mozzarella-topped French fries recipe. Then, there are the fruit-flavored ales from the Australian company Bundaberg. We’ve tried the Apple Ale and Lemon Ale. Last night, it was the Peachee.

What’s the difference between beer, stout, ale, pilsner, lager…? Of course, it’s a trick question. There is no difference between beer and stout, beer and ale, beer and porter, or beer and lager. Stout, ale, porter and lager are simply types of beer.

In fact, if we were to be more precise, beer is either a lager or an ale based on two factors: yeast and temperature. Yeast? Yes, yeast. Those little things that come alive when dispersed in liquid. The very same things that make bread dough rise. Yeast. Beer begins with yeast. Ale is made at a higher temperature with top-fermenting yeast (i.e., the yeast ferments at the top of the fermentation tank. Lager is made at a colder temperature with bottom-fermenting yeast. A third factor, the use of hops (a flower) confuses the issue as most ales use hop while some don’t.

Porter and stout are “sub-types” (for lack of a better term) of ale. Ale is generally more alcoholic than lager.

The rest of the “beer types” denote difference in color, flavor, strength, ingredients or regional origin.

If, however, you want to dig a little deeper into “beer facts”, you might want to read about the hunt for the original source of the yeast that led to the brewing of the first lager in Europe. It’s been all over the news lately.

Lager may have its roots in Bavaria, but a key ingredient arrived from halfway around the world. Scientists have discovered that the yeast used to brew this light-colored beer may hail from Argentina. Apparently, yeast cells growing in Patagonian trees made their way to Europe and into the barrels of brewers.

And just how did the yeast travel from Argentina to Europe?

“We all know that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” [Gavin Sherlock, a geneticist at Stanford University] said. “Lager was invented in the 1400s. It’s not really clear how that progenitor would have gotten from South America to Europe.”

Interesting, isn’t it? Even more interesting that the news broke out a mere few weeks before the start of Oktoberfest.

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