If today’s beer world were to be re-imagined as a human (stay with me), it might well be donning a black turtleneck, smart chinos and a pair of round, thick-rimmed glasses. For beer has emerged in the last year as something altogether wiser, more confident and sophisticated. No longer limited to a niche market of aficionados, the pioneering brewers of Britain’s beer revolution have come of age and turned their energy to creating brews of quality, consistency and balance. And hundreds of smaller, experimental breweries are flourishing in their wake, giving the mega-breweries a run for their money.
But the people really defining this new era are we, the beer drinkers. While our fervour for big, hoppy brews shows no sign of waning, we’re now also exploring everything from Scottish barrel-aged ales to citrussy Japanese wheat beers, as well as rediscovering the wonders of speciality Belgian ales and European lagers. What clothes will the world of beer be wearing next year? That one’s up to you…
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With more brews available than ever before, choosing an ale to suit you can be more daunting than first expected. Don't know where to start? Then go where your mood takes you...
Hoppy ales & lagers
While most beer is made with just 4 key ingredients (hops, water, malt and yeast), nothing has come to define the recent beer revolution more than the humble hop. In fact, it's hard to imagine any other ingredient beer-heads discuss with such relentless enthusiasm. Why? Because it is hops that imbue beer with everything from its exquisite bitterness to its weird and wonderful flavours – just one of the reasons it's often said that hops are to brewers what grapes are to winemakers. And, like grapes, hops are a true reflection of their surroundings.
With their cloudy appearance and exotic flavours, wheat beers can be a little intimidating if you are more used to a hearty pint of British ale. But don't be put off. Wheat beers are simply beers made with a significant quantity of wheat. They generally (but not always) share several characteristics, including a silky mouth- feel, a hazy, pale appearance and lively carbonation. Their most notable trait, however, is the light, spicy, citrus-like flavour that makes them such a great drink on a summer's day.
Few countries pack more of a punch than Belgium when it comes to beer. Belgium is most famous for its Trappist beers, brewed within the confines of a monastery. But there are far more styles to sample than those brewed by monks, most notably strong blondes, juicy fruit beers and Trappist-like abbey beers – many of which are produced using Europe's finest hops and malt. But if Belgian beer was to be fêted for one ingredient above all else, it would be the country's distinctive strains of yeast, which result in some of the spiciest, fruitiest and most complex beers on Earth.
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