The majority of Australian mainstream beers are brewed to be fairly uniform – pale yellow, filtered to be clear, alcohol volume about 5%, the right amount of fizz and barley malt and simple hop flavours. This is what many drinkers want; a lager-style beer that looks and tastes like the Aussie icon that it is.
Craft beers, on the other hand, are known for their diversity of styles and flavours. They can use a number of different types of hops, different malts (pale, dark, wheat-based etc.), and they can be cloudy (unfiltered) and even have extra flavours from the addition of herbs, spices and fruits.
The styles can be anything from Lager and Pilsener through Pale Ale and India Pale Ale to dark beers, like Porter and Stout. There are many more varieties as well.
Australian craft beers can have a different taste to beers from the USA and Europe.
European hops, like Fuggles have earthy, grassy flavours. American hops like Cascade, taste of resin and citrus fruits. Hops developed in Australia and New Zealand (Galaxy, Motueka) tend to have the taste of tropical fruits, grapes and berries.
“But I want to drink a beer that tastes like a …beer. I don’t want to drink a flamin’ fruit salad.”
OK. OK. I’m just saying that there’s more to beer than meets the eye…or tongue.
A beer will also contain converted malt, which is the source of the sugars and ultimately, the part that becomes the alcohol. Generally, malt comes from germinating barley grains, although many craft beers will also use wheat, rye or even oats to produce different styles and flavours.
Pale malts and brown malts are dried at low temperatures, and give the beer a yellow or amber colour. Along with this, these malts give the beer toffee and caramel flavours.
If the malt is dried in a kiln at higher temperatures, it will become dark, often almost black. This is used to make dark beers such as Porter and Stout. Really good dark beers will have definite chocolate and mocha flavours in the background – derived from the dark malt.
Yeast is added to the brew (there are many types of yeast as well), and some of the malty sugars convert to alcohol. The strength of the beer depends on how much of the sugars convert to alcohol and this can range from a few percent to a whopping 67.5% in the world’s strongest beer. This is the ABV or alcohol by volume.
With a large range of hop, yeast and malt flavours available, an almost infinite range of beers can be brewed. That’s why it’s really worth getting involved in the craft beer experience.