A variety of different yeasts are used in making beer, most of which are strains of either top-fermenting yeast or bottom-fermenting yeast. Different strains impart different flavor and aroma characteristics, and may vary in which complex sugars they can ferment and how high their alcohol tolerance is, both of which are factors in attenuation. Some beers use other microbe types in addition to one of these, such as Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces. For example, the distinctive flavor and aroma of Belgian Abbey ales largely result from the yeast strains used to ferment the beer. There are a few modern styles, notably lambics, where spontaneous fermentation is used- that is, unfermented wort is allowed to be colonized by microorganisms loose in the environment, rather than inoculated in a controlled fashion with a known organism.
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Lagers are the most commonly consumed type of beer in the world. Lagers are of Central European origin, taking their name from the German lagern "to store." Lager yeast is a bottom-fermenting yeast, and typically begins fermentation at 7-12 C (45-55 F) the "fermentation phase." and then stored at 0-4 C (30-40 F) the "lagering phase." During the secondary stage, the lager clears and mellows. The cooler conditions also inhibit the natural production of esters and other byproducts, resulting in a "crisper" tasting beer. With modern improved fermentation control, most lager breweries use only short periods of cold storage, typically 1-3 weeks. The modern Pilsner lager is light in color and high in carbonation, with a strong hop flavour and an alcohol content of 3-6% by volume. Principal styles of lager include American-style lager, Bock, Dunkel, Helles, Marzen, Oktoberfest, Pilsner, Schwarzbier and Vienna lager.
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Water is the main ingredient in beer, and though water itself is flavorless, the chemical composition can have an influence on the finished taste; indeed, some brewers regard it as "the most important ingredient in beer." In particular, two styles of beer are especially noted for their water chemistry: pale ale, for which the process of Burtonisation is widespread, and Pilsner. Most beers use barley malt as their primary source of fermentable sugars, and some beer styles mandate it to be used exclusively, such as those German styles developed under Reinheitsgebot. Some beer styles can be considered varietals, in the same sense as wine, based on their malt bill. Kilned pale malts form the basis of most beer styles now in production with styles using other grains as a base is for example bock, which uses Munich malt as a base, distinguished by that. The Rauchbier and Alaskan smoked porter styles are distinguished by the use of smoked malt. Some styles use one or more other grains as a key ingredient in the style, such as wheat beer, rye beer, or oatmeal stout. Other grains such as corn and rice make less of a flavor contribution and are used primarily as an added source of fermentable sugars. Hops contribute bitterness, flavor, and aroma to a beer in different ways depending on when they are added during the brewing process. How much hop bitterness and aroma is appropriate varies considerably between different beer styles. There are many varieties of hops, some of which are associated with beers from specific regions. For example, Saaz hops are associated with Czech Pilsners, Hallertau and Tettnanger are two of the "noble" hop varieties one expects to find in German beers, and Kent Goldings are in English variety.
Beers can be broken down into two groups.
Ale is beer that is brewed using only top-fermenting yeasts, and is typically fermented at higher temperatures than lager beer (15-23 C, 60-75 F). At these temperatures, ale yeasts produce significant amounts of esters and other secondary flavors and aromas, often resembling those of apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, banana, plum or prune. Principal styles of ale include Barley Wine, Belgian Trippel, Belgian Dubbel, Altbier, Bitter, Amber Ale, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Kolsch, Porter, Stout, and Wheat beer.
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