is a label given to a beer that decribes its overall
character and often times its origin. It's a name
badge that has been achieved over many
centuries of brewing, trial and error, marketing,
and consumer acceptance.
WHAT'S AN ALE? This category of beer uses yeast that ferments at the "top" of the fermentation vessel, and typically at higher temperatures than lager yeast (60- 75 degrees), which, as a result, makes for a quicker fermentation period (7- 8 days, or even less). Ale yeast are known to produce by-products called esters, which are "flowery" and "fruity" aromas ranging, but not limited to apple, pear, pineapple, grass, hay, plum, and prune.
WHAT'S A LAGER? The word lager comes from the German word lagem which means, "to store". A perfect description as lagers are brewed with bottom fermenting yeast that work slowly at around 34 degrees, and are often further stored at a cool temperature to mature. Lager yeast produce fewer by-product characters than ale yeast which allows for other flavors to pull through.
HOPS (Humulus Lupulus) are the flowering cone of a perennial vining plant and a cousin of the cannabis variety (sorry no THC in this stuff) that typically thrives in climates similar to the ones that grapes do. Hop plants are dioecious, meaning the males and females flower on seperate plants -- and the female cones are used in the brewing process. Hops are the age old seasoning of the beer, the liquid gargoyles who ward off spoilage from wild bacteria and bringers of balance to sweet malts. They also lend a hand in head retention, help to clear beer (acting as a natural filter) and please the palate by imparting their unique characters and flavours. Basically, hops put the "bitter" in beer.
MALTS (and adjuncts) provide the fermentable sugars that are required to make beer (and to make beer "sweet"). The process of malting converts insoluble starch to soluble starch, reduces complex proteins, generates nutrients for yeast development, and develops enzymes.