Beer Here

Beer comes in many types and flavors. If you are a beer drinker, you will want to sample them all.

By Karen Berman


There are times when only a frosty beer will do. Crack one open after a tough day, on a sweltering midsummer afternoon at the beach, or when curled up on the couch watching football. Beer is the just-right beverage for all kinds of occasions.

Apparently, the ancient Egyptians thought so too; the first quaff of brewed, fermented grain originated there some 3,000 years before the birth of Christ. Early travelers and traders carried beer far and wide; in Europe it became a popular monastery product until the Middle Ages, when commercial brewing began.

How It's Made

Beer is most often made with malted (that is, germinated) barley, which is brewed with hops and sometimes corn mash, and then fermented with yeast. How each ingredient is handled affects the outcome; there are many varieties of hops and each affects the beer’s bitterness and aroma in a different way. Specialty beers are made with other grains, such as wheat and/or additional flavorings, such as fruit, vegetables, and spices.

Beer was once produced locally throughout the U.S.; all over the country, even mid-sized cities had their own breweries. Prohibition and changing times ended this tradition and once alcoholic beverages were permitted again, beer was a mass-produced item until late in the 20th century. During the final decades of the last century, small craft breweries emerged on the scene, bringing a wealth of styles and flavors to the beer market.

In recent years, studies have suggested that beer can help reduce the incidence of illnesses such as heart disease, a finding that has doubtless cheered many beer drinkers.

Here’s a brief guide to some of the varieties of beer that are available today:

Lager is light in both color and flavor. It originated in Germany, and before the advent of craft beers, it was pretty much the only kind of beer you could find in the U.S. It’s still the most popular beer in America.

Pilsner is a kind of lager developed in Plzn, Czechoslovakia. It’s a golden, well carbonated beer.

Ale originated in Britain and comes in many varieties, but in the States, the term generally refers to a rich, amber-colored brew that has a fruity, yeasty flavor. Other ales include light ale, bitter ale, brown ale and I.P.A., for India Pale Ale.

Porter is made with roasted malt barley, which creates its distinctive dark color and flavor. It originated in Britain; it was named after the porters who hauled goods to market.

Stout is another beer made with roasted barley, which gives it a dark brown or black color and flavor notes of coffee or chocolate. Stout originated in Ireland.

No matter how you look at it, just about anyone can find a beer that suits his or her taste. While there's no need to drink beer, there are times when nothing else will do. Think of a baseball game on a summer afternoon, a sultry evening on the deck, or a friendly gathering of friends at the local pub. Beer here!


Karen Berman's most recent book is Friday Night Bites.