It hasn’t been long since the law on labelling beer changed. Beer with a reduced alcohol content became low-alcohol beer, and now we don’t have to write topfermenting lager, which was complete nonsense. The label lager can still be used for bottom-fermenting beer, and for the top variants we have the label full beer. So here we are, still not there yet. Foto/photo: Pocket media
The tumultuous development of hop breeding, the connected world, and efforts to captivate and be as distinguished from the competition as possible form the ideal growth medium for brewing various insanities, connecting two or more styles into one and flavouring beer. Recently, popular pastimes have included brewing sours, ageing beer in wooden barrels, and using fresh, unprepared hops.
Barrel-aged vs. wood-aged
Previously, it was, for understandable reasons, completely normal to ferment beer and then leave it in wooden barrels. Today, stainless steel is the standard, but if you want to advance the flavour of your beer to another dimension, you can go back to wood. But a little differently and modernly. Barrel-aged beer ages in wooden barrels usually left over from wine, rum, whisky, or another spirit. You can also find the term barrique, which comes from winemaking and means ageing in wine barrels. Ageing in wooden barrels instead of stainless steel containers adds a new layer of flavour to the overall profile. Moreover, wood is porous, which means that the beer ages with some air and develops differently than beer in stainless steel. Wood-aged beer ages in classic tanks to which wood blocks or chips have been added. The wood can be one of various species and soaked in a spirit or wine. This process simulates ageing in wooden barrels but is cheaper and easier. However, the result isn’t exactly the same as with barrel ageing because it doesn’t include natural oxidation. Wood-aged beers are often specified more exactly, such as oak-aged and beechwood-aged beer.
Fresh-hop vs. wet-hop
At the start of autumn you can find beer made from fresh hop cones. Such beer is called fresh-hop, wet-hop, green-hop, or harvest beer. But there’s a little twist as fresh and completely unprepared hops can be vacuum sealed, chilled, and used at any time. These beers can then be called wet-hop because the hops aren’t fresh and so it can’t be fresh-hop.
Sour ale vs. Gose vs. Berliner Weisse
In the past three to four years, these sours have become very popular. They are often relatively weak and not very hoppy and so not very bitter, but sour and frequently fruit flavoured. These modern incarnations would ideally be called sour ales or sour beer. But sometimes you’ll see them called Berliner Weisse or Gose. Both are old German styles with histories stretching back several centuries. Over such a long time, these styles have of course developed and changed. At the start of the 20th century, Gose production simplified with the use of kettle souring. That method is used even for contemporary sours. What separates Gose from other styles is the use of salt and coriander as flavouring. Berliner Weisse basically vanished at the end of the past century (not counting the ruined Kindl), but a couple of years ago some small breweries in Berlin decided to renew its fame. They began to make Berliner Weisse using traditional methods, which give it a different flavour than modern sours. So if you find a Berliner Weisse in the Czech Republic, know that it’s very likely that it isn’t a Berliner Weisse.