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Beer beloved the whole world over

September 30, 2012
The Leader Herald

"He was a wise man who invented beer."



Beer. Ah, beer. The color of gold - no, it's more the color of marigolds. No - wheat fields in July. When coating the throat, it feels crisp, not quite but kinda bubbly, like an Adirondack fishing creek on a June afternoon. It tastes kinda bitter but softer, not really salty but good with salty food, not sweet but kinda fruity.

Tough to describe, easy to love, beer is in its own category.

I remember skipping school to "tour" the Utica Club brewery to get the two free pints at the end. Beer is everywhere. It is the oldest drink in the world next to water, and along with tea and coffee, it is the most popular.

Beer is an alcoholic beverage fermented with water, malted barley, hops and yeast. Great-tasting water can produce great-tasting beer. Soft water, even mineral water, can be used. Grain - barley or sometimes wheat or rice or others - is the heart of the beer. It is malted, steeped in water to induce fermentation then dried.

Sometimes the grain is roasted to effect different flavors or colors. Hops are usually added. The spice of beer, contributing to its bitterness, hops are grown on "bines" that can climb to 25 feet. At one time, all the hops grown in the United States came from Cooperstown, Otsego County. Today, we get hops from the cooler regions of Germany and Washington state. Hops also work as a preservative.

Yeast is that necessary product that converts fermentable sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Yeast is the soul of a beer, as it dramatically shapes the finished product, depending on variety, timing and methods of production.

For example, top-fermenting yeast is used for the popular pale ale. If you visit Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, you can see the top fermentation process.

Stout and porters are dark beers popularized in England. Darkened with roasted barley, they are brewed with slow-fermenting yeast. Lager is the English name for beer that is cool-fermented. The most popular beer in the world, the word lager comes from the German "to store," as the Bavarians stored beer in cool cellars. Wheat beer is just that - beer fermented with wheat along with barley, etc.

Most beer is from 4 percent to 6 percent alcohol, but varieties can range from so-called non-alcoholic beers such as O'Doul's, which is about 0.4 percent alcohol to alcohol-heavy brews such as Sam Adams' Triple Bock, which is 17 percent alcohol.

Imported and homebrewed beers don't necessarily have more alcohol. Genesee, Heineken and Labatt's all weigh in at 5.4 percent alcohol. Most light beer has less alcohol. Bud Light has 4.2 percent, Amstel Light has 3.9 percent. To check the alcohol content of your favorite brew, just read the label or see

Should beer be imbibed only cold? If that's the way you like it, then drink it cold. In the hot summer, and to cut down on calories, I sometimes drink mine over ice. Beer aficionados consider this bad form, but it is my beer.

Actually, beer is most flavorful if served a bit cooler than room temperature. Americans like colder beer and even refrigerate their mugs, and commercial beers are made to be served on the cooler side. Cool - not cold. The higher the alcohol content or darker the beer, the warmer the beer should be, but it should never be warm. It should be refreshing.

If you take a Bud out of the cooler and it is too cold to touch, it will taste better if allowed to warm just a bit. If you are thirsty and it feels really good cold, maybe you should grab water first.

Beer should be served in glass, and the glass should be clean. Good beer restaurants do not mix the beer glasses with other beverage glasses - a good idea at home.

Beer should be poured in to the glass to create an inch or two of foam. Aroma is part of the enjoyment of beer, so give it a good pour right down the center and adjust the pour to create the desired head. Bartenders should pour draft beer with a one-inch head, starting in the center and turning the glass to pour down the side. This releases the taste and aroma and gives the customer his or her money's worth. When pouring from a can or bottle, give a center pour, then leave the bottle for the customer.

By state, New Hampshire rates first in per-capita beer consumption (it has no beer sales tax). Montana is second, with North and South Dakota next.

The United States is the biggest importer of beer, and Mexico is the biggest exporter of beer, closely followed by the Netherlands.

The best selling beer worldwide is Snow beer from China, which recently overtook Bud Light's top position and now sells twice as much. Oh, Busboy, Snow is sold only in China. Other top sellers are Budweiser, Miller Lite and Coors Light. We will miss the beer bellies.

According to the Beer Institute, the people of the Czech Republic are the No. 1 global beer consumers in the world, drinking an average of 39.9 gallons per person per year.

By comparison, the average American of drinking age only consumes 20 gallons - or 220 12-ounce cans - per year (thank you for doing your part).

"Give me a woman who truly loves beer and I will conquer the world,"?said Kaiser Wilhelm.

I'm with you there, Wilhelm.

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