Although microbreweries are cropping up all over the country, London is still the hub of the craft beer revolution and when it comes to finding a good place to go to expand your knowledge of craft beers, their taste and how they are made then look no further. But before you go, it is important that you know the basics.
When it comes to all beers, they are each classed in a different way. They may be a lager, a stout, a porter or an ale and these differences will all begin during the brewing process. Each microbrewery will not necessarily create one type of beer, however some to specialise in a specific brewing process.
The main difference between beers lies in the lagers and the ales. This definition is made in the type of yeast that is used in the brewing process and the temperature at which it ferments.
The word ‘lager’ means to put aside or to store. Lagers are always brewed using bottom fermenting yeast (so-called due to the fact that it collects together at the bottom of the vat it is brewed in). This fermentation process is slower and is done at a colder temperature to ales, creating a different flavour.
The cold fermentation allows the hops and malt flavours to become stronger within the lager giving it a drier flavour. Lager also tends to be paler and less alcoholic than ales.
Ales are brewed at warmer temperatures using top-fermenting yeast (so-called due to the fact that it collects together at the top of the vat that it is brewed in). This allows for rapid fermentation allowing for a deeper and more robust flavour and complexity than lagers. Ales are also often higher in alcohol content.
The ales family contains a variety of different beers including porters and stouts.
Porters are brewed in the same way as ales but small differences in the process reflect within the brain. Porters have a distinct bitterness to them that many ales do not. They are also a much deeper colour and can range from anything from reddish-brown to a deep dark brown. Again, a porter has a higher alcohol content than a lager so tends to be less of the session drink.
Stouts are also brewed in the same way as ales and Porters but has a much deeper, richer flavour than both. Darker in body than both porters and ales, the stouts also have much more of a malty taste and can be very smooth.
So now that you know a little more about the differences between lager, ale, porter and stout it is time to go out and choose your favourite by heading down to your local microbrewery and tasting some of the wonderful beers they have to offer. If you are in the area then the Brixton Brewery has a variety of different brews for you to try, or alternatively if you are not local to the area you can now purchase them and many others online and invite your friends round for a beer tasting session.