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The basics of beer

Bewildered by the array of beers? Whether you're faced with 100 beer choices at one of the upcoming beer fests or just perusing the taps at a local tavern, here's a clip-and-save cheat sheet. Despite the myriad styles, all beers fall into two basic categories: ales and lagers. The difference is primarily in the yeast and the temperature at which the beer is fermented and conditioned. But varieties abound.

Justin Grant, Times correspondent

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ALES:

PALE ALE

Medium-bodied and hoppier (or more bitter) than most, made primarily with pale malt.

Varieties: Bitters, extra special bitter (ESB), amber ale, red ale, American pale ale and India pale ale.

STOUT & PORTER

Very dark with subtle flavors like chocolate and coffee. Stouts use roasted barley, porters a darker malt.

Varieties: Dry, sweet, milk, imperial stout and Baltic porter.

WHEAT

A high percentage of wheat in addition to malt with a fruity aroma and flavor.

Varieties: Weissbier, hefeweizen and witbier are common varieties.

BELGIAN ALES

Maltier than most with a higher alcohol content.

Varieties: Trappist and Abbey (brewed by monasteries), golden, Saison, Oud Bruin and lambic.

BARLEYWINE

Extremely malty with an alcohol content closer to wine. Sometimes seasonally brewed, usually in winter.

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LAGERS:

PILSNER

The style that influenced major U.S. brews like Budweiser, Miller and Coors. The more authentic version originates in the Czech city of Pilsen. Light in body and clean in taste.

GERMAN LAGERS

Most are malty with a well-balanced, dry finish.

Varieties: Oktoberfest lager (Marzen), bock and doppelbock and dunkel.

CALIFORNIA COMMON

Commonly referred to as "steam beer," which refers to fermentation at higher temperatures. Toasty, malty flavor.

The basics of beer 07/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 1:07pm]

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