The above words were spoken by the famous American statesman and founding father, Benjamin Franklin. Aside from being the face on the U.S. one hundred dollar bill, Ben was one of the great thinkers of his day. His is probably most famous for his research into electricity, but he was also a noted writer and diplomat, without his efforts in Paris the French may never have entered the revolution. I would say that makes his above statement true, who am I to argue with such an experienced and knowledgeable man?
I love beer, its a big part of the reason I have a bit of a belly. I love to brew, because what better to do than spend time with friends while making, talking about and drinking beer? Beer can be daunting to the uninitiated, and understandably so. When you walk into a real, well stocked, beer aisle how do you know what to choose? What is the difference between a pilsner, a hefeweizen, a porter, a stout and a pale ale? Is there any difference? In this article I will seek to clear up some of the mysteries of the wonderful world of beer.
Now, why don't we discuss a few varietals of each, so that you'll have an idea what you're looking at next time you go to your local purveyor of brewed goods. Personally I like almost all varieties of ale, it's just my preference, but I'll focus on two: Pale Ale and Porter. As far as lagers go we'll cover pilsner, my personal favorite lager.
Porters and stouts are heavy, dark ales, black in color and rich in flavor. While porters use hops, they are less hoppy than a pale and the flavor profile tends towards the rich, malty flavor from the dark grains used to brew. Often you will get a very oaky flavor from a porter, as often they are aged in oak casks. Porter takes its name from being served often in pubs down by the waterfront, where the local dock workers, or porters, would come in and order the dark concoction at the end of a long day of work. These pubs were sometimes knows as porter houses, yes that's where the steak got its name from. I like Porter when its cold out and I have a big cut of meat, or a nice piece of dark chocolate, something heavy to go with its weighty character.
I hope you have found this post educational and enlightening. Next time you go to the store walk by all the major label American beers, which you should have been doing already, and go to the more exotic micro-brews and imports. I implore you, you will not regret the expansion of your beer drinking palate and your tongue will say thank you when it realizes you are not putting Budweiser on it!