The A-Z of beer

Welcome to the new Tipsy-Turvy! Well, sort of. The column has been moved from Sundays to every first and third Saturday of the month, and I figured this would be a good time to go back to basics. For the next couple of months, the second Tipsy-Turvy of the month will feature a handy A-Z guide of the beverages I've been covering here.

Since the whole column started out four years ago with a story on beers, I figured that would be a good way to start!

A is for Ale

Stouts, porters, IPAs, barleywines, pale ales, IPA, steam ales... these different beer styles are actually all ales, which are beers brewed with top-fermenting yeast, as opposed to bottom-fermenting yeast used to make lagers. The brewing is done at room temperature (10-21˚C) and the result can differ in the end, depending on what kind of beer the brewer wants to make.

B is for Brewing

Brewing is the process of making beer. Beer is essentially made with four main ingredients - grains (usually barley, though wheat and other grains are used as well), hops, yeast and water.

First, the grain is malted by heating and then drying it. It is then milled to isolate the enzymes needed for mashing, which is the process of steeping the malted grains in hot water to activate the enzymes. This will cause the grains to break down into sugar. The liquid obtained is called the wort, which is then boiled together with hops (or other herbs and spices, depending on the brewer's recipe), after which it is cooled and filtered, then put into a fermenting vat together with the final ingredient - yeast.

The yeast then eats the sugar and releases two waste products - carbon dioxide and alcohol. Once fermentation is done, the beer is filtered, matured/conditioned, and is ready for bottling.

C is for Craft

Craft beer is the term given to beer made by small, independent microbreweries. The American Brewers Association defines an American craft brewer as: small (annual production of six million barrels of beer or less), independent (75 per cent owned by the brewer), and traditional.

Whether in terms of flavours, styles, or ingredients, craft brewers all over the world have been pushing the limits of what beer is by producing so many different styles of beer that it is almost impossible to keep track of every single one of them without the help of a smartphone app (for me, at least - see the letter U).

D is for Draught

Draught beer is the term for beer that is served from casks or pressurised kegs, through a beer tap. Sometimes, a beer served on draught may taste slightly different from a bottled or canned one, because kegged beer is usually filtered and/or pasteurised, thus rendering the yeast inactive.

E is for Eisbock

According to online portal German Beer Institute (, eisbock is a stronger version of the already powerful bockbier (a malty German strong ale) that is made by freezing the beer towards the end of the maturation period. Since the freezing point for water is lower than alcohol, it forms ice crystals that are then removed, leaving a much more concentrated version of the original beer that naturally contains a higher alcohol volume as well.

F is for Foam

Also known as the "head", that layer of foam on top of your beer is formed by bubbles of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the beer rising to the surface, and the foam acts like a lid that protects the beer from oxidisation and prevent it from going flat.

Some brands, such as Heineken and Guinness, consider the head to be so important that they even have specific serving methods for their beer to ensure that there is a perfect head of form in every glass of beer that is serve.

G is for Glassware

The glassware you use to drink your beer can make a huge difference in how your beer tastes. German wheat beers, for instance, are usually served in tall, classy-looking weizen glasses, which help to preserve the head and the aromas of the beer. Stouts and ales on the other hand, are commonly served in a pint glass, many of which have a slight ridge at the top, which apparently helps with the grip, as well as make it easier to stack.

In Belgium, they take their glasses seriously - almost every single beer brand is served in its own distinctive glass (case in point, Hoegaarden's pot-like glass).

H is for Hops

Hops are the female flowers of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus), and is the ingredient that gives beer its distinctive bitter flavour. Besides giving the beer flavour, hops are also used in brewing for their antibacterial effect, and in the past, beers made with hops tended to last a lot longer. The "hoppiness" of a beer refers to the level of bitterness from the hops in the beer.

I is for IPA

Usually hoppier than most other beers, IPA stands for India Pale Ale, but the beer is not from India, and neither was it created there. The term refers to the well-hopped pale ales that used to be exported by British brewers to India, which became known as "pale ales for India", and eventually "India pale ale".

J is for Japanese

Japanese beers tend to be mainly lagers such as Asahi and Kirin Ichiban, but there is one beer style that is very common in Japan - happoshu (literally "sparkling spirits") which are beer-like drinks made from less than 67 per cent malted barley. There is also a growing craft beer industry in Japan, spearheaded by brands such as Hitachino Nest, which is well known for its impressive range of beer styles.

K is for Keg

Kegs are one of the methods in which beer is stored and served, and are usually dispensed using beer taps.

L is for Lagers and pilsners

Possibly the most common beer style in the world, pilsners originated from the Czech town of Pilsen, and were allegedly the first beer in the world that was not cloudy. In a process called "lagering" (hence the name 'lager'), the beers are brewed at lower temperatures than ale (usually about 2-10˚C), and using bottom-fermenting yeast. Characteristics of the beer include a clear, crisp straw-gold appearance (though some craft lagers can have different colours), a good head of foam and strong carbonation, and a clean, crisp refreshing flavour.

M is for Maturation

After primary fermentation, most beers then go through a period of maturation under a lower temperature. During this time, the yeast continues to work, assimilating an off-flavours component called diacetyl. The maturation also allows the beer to settle and stabilise before being bottled or kegged.

N is for New beers

For years, Malaysians have had very limited choices when it comes to beer. Not anymore though, thanks to the commercial brewers like GAB and Calsberg expanding their portfolio, and craft beer outlets like Taps Beer Bar and Ales & Lagers bringing in an increasing number of imported craft beers.

What does this mean? It means that if you love beer, you've got a lot more new beers to try! So go ahead and explore - if you've always drunk lager, why not try a pale ale? If you like stouts, why not try a coffee stout? There's a world of beers out there, so go on, try a new one today!

O is for Oktoberfest

One of the best-known beer-related events in the world, Oktoberfest in Munich usually starts in the middle of September, and continues until the last Sunday of October.

For an event known as the "biggest beer festival in the world", however, the variety of beers at Oktoberfest can be strangely limited. This is because only the six breweries that brew in Munich are allowed to take part in Oktoberfest.

P is for Porters and stouts

Porter is a style of strong ale made with roasted malts. The name was coined in 1721, when it was used to describe a hoppy brown ale that used to be popular with street and river "porters" of London.

The strongest of these porters were called stouts, though thanks to the popularity of Guinness, the definition of stout has changed from being just a "very strong porter" to "a dark beer made from roasted malt".

The rest of the list will be available in the next Tipsy Turvy on The Star Online.