What is a good beer?
In the 19th century, the face of European beer changed in barely 100 years. At the dawn of this century, who asks for a beer in an estaminet or a lounge drinks this:
- a beer served at room temperature.
- of rather dark colors : black, brown, amber.
- the color is guessed because one drinks beer in an opaque mug. Only the rich and aristocratic people drink in glassware.
- little or no foam, depending on whether the cask has just been pierced or not.
- a more or less pronounced acidity, which makes beer very refreshing.
- thick and a little sticky in the mouth, depending on how the brewer clarifies his beer. A nourishing beer.
- variable alcohol strength, depending on the maturity of the beer. The clarification does not remove all yeast: Beer is living.
- The presence of yeasts imparts bitterness and slight astringency.
- The scent of yeast is sniffed: slight effluvium of bread, biscuit, or rotted if the beer is very old.
- Dominant flavors of grain or good baked bread, reflecting the diversity of grain used by the brewer, depending on the season, region and crops.
- Other flavors mingle if the brewer has flavored his beer with plants, bark, berries or fruits. The greatest diversity exists in this domain, depending on the season, the farming region, the traditions of the country, and the price.
- This beer weighs on the stomach, and is a bit heavy to digest.
- Enriched with vitamins and nutrients, because not filtered; beer is nutritious and easily satisfies one who is hungry for an evening meal.
- Little or no gas, it does not cause the burps familar to modern times.
- Little gaseous, the alcohol in beer does not rush into the bloodstream.
- Drunkenness is slow to come, even non-existent, except after a liter or two.
- Intoxicating, the beer send anyone for a time in the land of oblivion.
A century later, the beer served on the countertop of a pub, a cafe-bistrot or a brauhaus looks like :
- a cold beer (8° C - 10° C)
- a clear, golden, amber beverage, the emblematic colors of the beer.
- a beer playing with light when served in a glass. We admire its beautiful transparencies that become a codification : blonde, red and brown.
- a sparkling and foaming drink in a clean glass: the foam hates fats.
- It is bubbly and refreshing :
- CO2 gas cylinder behind the bar.
- Beer should not be stale: shelf life and quality.
- Beer is clarified. One drinks to quench its thirst, not for eating !
- Its flavor is round and soft :
- Flood of lager beers brewed with bottom fermentation yeasts.
- Delicate bitterness. Aromatic hops are favored.
- Its alcohol content is under control :
- Mastery of the wort density, and control of the alcoholic fermentation
- Taxation adapted to the alcohol content.
- Kinds of beer classified by alcoholic strength: single (table beer), double (luxury), triple (high content), barley wine (extra strong).
- The beer is free of microorganisms :
- Filtration and pasteurisation.
- The supply chain is preventing every contaminations.
- The acidity is gradually banned (e.g. Berliner Weisse, Belgian lambic, Russian kvas). Lactic beers are marginalized.
The beer manufacturers not only changed their techniques, participated in the scientific discoveries of their time, transformed the production methods and created gigantic temples of beer. They have also transformed the image of beer, invented brands, sold their beers all over the world, even in the most unexpected places, in China, India or Africa. They have relegated everything that existed before them to an obscure corner of human memory solely explored by adventurous historians or ethnologists. Before the industrial beer that we love to drink, we are all convinced that there was only some kinds of fermented juices to drink, which hardly deserved the name beer.
The 20th century will complete this true technological feat, accelerating its movement. But its main characteristics were already designed during the industrial revolution.