Beer is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages. It’s a complex, carbonated beverage brewed from malted barley, hops, and yeast. Depending on the production methods and ingredients used, an astonishing variety of beers can be made.
The main characteristics of a beer are color, aroma, taste and finish. The flavor of beer is determined by the type of grain and hops used and the ratio of those elements. Malted grains are usually barley but can also be wheat or oats. Hops add bitterness and flavor as well as act as a preservative. Yeast, in addition to turning sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, contributes fruity and floral aromas as well as other flavors.
All of these factors come together in that first sip. Whether the beer is sweet, bitter or balanced depends on how much malt sweetness is used to balance the hops’ bitterness. Water is an essential ingredient for brewing, and the type of water can also add to the flavor.
The legal (or fiscal) definitions of beer, set by national administrations and traditions, are based on the brewing technology as it existed at a particular time. Those definitions, however, have no scientific basis and are based only on the ingredients that were available. It is important to change the way you look at beer. If you think all beers are the same, you’ll never enjoy any of them. Instead, try to soften your prejudices and appreciate each unique form of beer on its own merits.