Most of us know that beer is made with four basic ingredients: malt, hops, water, and yeast. Some beers have other ingredients or adjuncts, such as sugar, corn, or rice. It's one thing know what's in your beer. It's an entirely different thing to see what's in your beer. Unless you're a homebrewer, you probably don't see the raw ingredients needed to make beer very often, like grain or hops.
Being able to visualize what kinds of ingredients are in my beer adds to my enjoyment of it. It's sort of like when you see the music video for a song you like in that the next time you hear that song, you'll have an image of the song being performed.
With this in mind, I set about the other morning to make visual representations of three different types of beer. The ingredients in the pictures below are representations and aren't meant to reflect the exact grain bills for the beers, but rather to give us an idea of the types of ingredients and their proportions in certain styles of beer.
American Light Lagers such as Coors Light have adjuncts added to them to lighten the body of the beer as well as lower the cost. American Light Lagers are designed to be as appealing as possible to the largest audience, hence the reason they are nearly tasteless. Their ingredients consist of about 60% six-row barley malt (which gives beer a thinner body as well as a grainier flavor), 20% corn, and 20% rice. Most American Light Lagers use either rice or corn, but Coors Light uses both.
American IPAs are all about the hops, which make the beer hop-forward in flavor and aroma as well as make the beer bitter. While there are several styles of IPAs now due to their popularity, most of them have the same basic grain profile and are differentiated by the types and amounts of hops used. Pale ale malt or 2-row malt comprises the majority of the grain bill with some caramel/crystal malt added to impart a sweetness to the finished beer as well as add body and head retention. Of course, hops are a necessary addition to any IPA and are usually added in pellet form rather than whole cones.
Oatmeal Stouts are dark and full-bodied, with the oats added to enhance the fullness of the body and add complexity of flavor. Like an American IPA, the grain bill is typically mostly pale ale malt with some crystal/caramel malts, chocolate malt (named so because of its color, not because it contains any chocolate), and roasted barley malts. Oatmeal or malted oats make up around 10% of the grain bill. The caramel/crystal malt adds a caramel sweetness to the beer as well as add body and head retention. The chocolate malt adds darker color and a caramel-cocoa flavor. The roasted barley adds a dark roasted flavor to the beer.
As you can see, not only do the above three beer styles taste and look very different as finished beers, they also look very different in their raw ingredient form. If I may editorialize a bit about the above picture (and I can, because it is my blog after all), seeing the ingredients for each of the three beer styles makes me appreciate even more the types of beer I drink. The light lager glass on the left just looks so drab and boring. Everything is basically the same color and looks bland. The other two glasses look so much more visually appealing. I'm excited by looking at those ingredients and want to know more about those beers.
If ever you're around someone who proclaims "all beer tastes the same," please pull out this picture to show them how very wrong they are.