Drinkers today can choose from over 100 different styles of beer covering every imaginable flavour.
This dazzling array includes pilsners, pale ales, porters, stouts, barley wines and bocks to name but few.
The world's most popular beer style varies from the pale gold of a classic Czech Pilsener, through every shade of yellow to the deep golden colour of the strong German 'doppelbocks'. Lagers are fermented cold so in comparison with ales, more of the delicate flavours from the malt and hops come through into the glass. Lagers are normally light in colour and they vary widely in flavour and strength. From standard products (4% ABV) through premium beers (5% ABV) up to Austria's Samichlaus, at a very robust 14% ABV. US lagers tend to be low in bitterness and delicately flavoured. Lagers popular in Britain such as Carling and Fosters have a fuller flavour, followed by robust continentals like Belgium's Stella Artois, Denmark's Carlsberg, Grolsch and Heineken from Holland, Becks and Holsten from Germany or Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic.
Ales are generally fruitier and fuller flavoured than lagers due to a higher fermentation temperature and vary from straw-coloured (Boddingtons and Oakham JHB) to the jet black of Guinness. Historically, until the arrival of lightly kilned malts in the early 1800s, all ales would have been brownish and rather smoky from the wood fired kilns.
This 'catch-all' term covers a huge collection of beers with fascinating flavours. There is an exciting array ranging from the wheat beers of Germany, through the fruit beers of Belgium, to the exotic smoked beers from Bamberg and Alaska. Wheat beers are a fairly recent phenomenon on British shelves, their naturally cloudy nature being formerly viewed with suspicion by those used to a haze-free British pint. Germany's Weiss beers, have yeasty aromas of clove and banana and are brewed with a mixture of barley and wheat malts, The Wit (white) beers of Belgium and Holland may also be brewed with wheat but are flavoured with coriander and orange peel - Gulpener and Hoegaarden being leading examples. Still in Belgium, fruit beers are a big part of their brewing tradition, made by steeping beer with fruit such cherries (kriek) and raspberries (framboise). These beers can act either as aperitifs, if tart, or as dessert beers if they are higher in alcohol and sweeter. In the last twenty years, British brewers have started to create exotic speciality beers flavoured with summer fruits, heather flowers, ginger, sweet gale, elderflower, coriander, honey and chocolate. Most of these 'flavourings' hark back to what might have been used by Britain's brewers before the arrival of hops. One of the great things about beer - and speciality beers - is their infinite variety: Variety of colours, aromas, textures, flavours and alcoholic strengths - from 2.5% to the Guinness Book of Records strongest beer - Sam Adams Utopias at an astonishing 27% ABV. There is a beer for every food and every occasion - celebratory, gustatory and placatory. As your taste buds are aroused, you will soon find that to have your own ten to twenty bottle 'beer cellar' is a must and with an array of exotic glasses to match.