The Pitfalls of Beer Styles
Left puckering after ordering a lambiek by mistake? We’ve all been there; staring wide mouth at the beer menu in bewilderment at all the styles, jargons and terminology.
Theres a paradigm shift in beverage menus in restaurants, with a growing interest in craft beer, we’re all struggling to curate a balanced beer list and to present it coherently. The issue is beers styles are as elusive than wines (if not more). Would you prefer a Pouilly-Fumé? or sauvignon blanc is fine too? Kettle soured or barrel fermented? Aren’t they both sour? They’re totally different worlds (ffs!).
At Blue Supreme we show that beers are not just watery lagers by Carlsberg nor IPAs too hoppy it leaves you gasping for air; we’re here to present a balanced yet in depth selection we love to proudly drink ourselves. And for our friends to fully appreciate it, we categorise our menus by flavour, because after all, we’re all born with tastebuds.
Hoppy and Bitter
”One for the hop heads'“
These beers are flavoured by hops; cone-shaped flowers growing vines that happens to share same family as marijuana. They are also the reason why beer is palatable, hops departs bitterness into beer to balance sweeter notes of malt (Such as biscuits, caramel and coffee etc.)
Secondly, there are aromatic oils inside hop cones, these expressive flavours vary from strain to strain. You’ll may find fruity and citrusy notes (pear, mango, pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) or other greener aromas like leafy, grassy, resinous, floral, piney. Take for example XX bitter by Brasserie De Ranke and Big Wave Bay IPA by Hong Kong Beer Co. XX Bitter exhibits subtle grassy notes as oppose to an IPA’s bold piney citrus notes; this is due to the European hop and American hop strains respectively.
Lastly, hops have antibacterial properties and was particularly important before invention of refrigeration. The India pale ale (IPA) was coined when beers were sent to colonial India; and for the beers to survive the journey, they were aggressively hopped (for antibacterial properties, if you’re so scatterbrained). Nowadays, brewers borrowed the name for liberally hopped beers for both aroma and bitterness.
”Its also what gives beer its color.”
Malts are sprouted grains; grains that are wetted to start sprouting/germination, a process in which starch in grains is converted to fermentable sugars. To stop the sprouting process, heat is applied. Malts of a pilsner, for instance, are heated til golden like toast; where as a stout, burnt till black. Like roasting coffee beans or toasting bread, flavours come plentiful with caramelisation. And the degree of “toastiness” of malts are apparent in the brew; ranging from bread crusts to cereal to dark chocolate.
It's fair to say all the beers in this section exhibits the usual suspect of flavors, caramel, coffee and chocolate; but its the body that sets them apart; Some stouts are a meal in a glass, its dark, liquorice and viscous; while some dark beers are lighter, dry and sessionable. For instance, Sans Pardon by De Dochter and Brusselier by Brasserie de la Senne respectively.
Fruity, earthy and spiced
”Not all strains are made the same.”
Yeast is most commonly credited for alcohol and carbonation, both byproduct of gluttoning on grain sugars, but what is often missed is how it discernibly flavours the beer. During fermentation, these microorganisms produces aroma compounds such as esters and phenols.
Each strain of this enigmatic ingredient will leave a different footprint. Ranging from fruity aromas to balance hoppy and sours beers; spiced aromas to counter maltiness; and earthiness that adds another dimension. Some beers are extra expressive as its fermented with a mixed culture of yeast strains, creating nuanced flavours.
Sour and funky
”… and the aroma of goat foot.”
Beers that fall into this category at Blue Supreme as exclusively naturally fermented; and coincidentally, the reason why its sour and funky.
These puckering and funky brews are often met with a shocked, love-or-hate reaction, and those with the former can't seem to get enough. What sets this category of beer apart is the naturally occurring living creatures: wild yeast and bacteria strains, a cocktail of fermenting organism imparting complexity to beer.
Family of wild yeast are culpable of earthy notes that inspired tasting notes such as fresh cut grass, wet hay, horse blanket; “funky” aromas that fill your nostril when at a barnyard.
On the other hand, bacteria consumes the grain sugars and produces acid, giving piquancy and balance into the brew(counter the maltiness). Strains used in yoghurt and vinegar production such as such as lactobacillus and acetic respectively are found commonly in sour beers.
Natural fermented beers at Blue Supreme are either barrel fermented or spontaneously fermented. Barrel fermenting beers rely on cultivating culture with the barrel, and once the barrels are filled the grain sugars awaken the dormant culture, providing fuel for fermentation that gives brews its unique funkiness and acidity.
Spontaneous fermentation involves open air tanks, allowing bacteria and wild yeast to drift in naturally from the environment. Afterwards, the beer is transferred to barrels to continue fermentation. Both types of fermentation gives a sense of place, as the wild yeast and bacteria strains are indigenous.
A sour and funky beer is very distant to what we have grown to know as beer and it’s probably closer to what we imagine in a wine. Sour and funky beers are balanced by acidity, like wine, as oppose to bitterness, like Carlsberg.