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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 24, November 2004   
BeerBeer AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 23, October 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 25, December 2004


Among the most common beverages of the world, the history of beer is as ancient as the history of humanity and today it is widely appreciated and consumed in every country

 The tradition of making beer is found in almost every country in which grains are being cultivated. This beverage is widely common and appreciated in many areas of the world as well as by many social classes.



 The origin of beer is, just like most of traditional beverages, uncertain, however known historical sources proved its first production in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Malta. The practice of fermentation was accidentally discovered at the same time in many areas of the world. Human beings, at the beginning of their history, survived thanks to the fruits of land and hunting, in later times they developed the ability of agriculture and in particular the cultivation of grains. The first documents about beer are from Sumerian people and are dated back five thousands years ago.

 A very ancient tablet - whose origins are from the Assyrian area, in the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers - in which are written information about the brewer's job. At those times the beer was not consumed for pleasure only and it was probably considered as a ritual beverage, in fact it was drunk in occasion of religious events as well as being part of the funerary ceremony and offered to gods by Assyrian-Babylonians. In the land of pharaohs “henquet”, that is beer, was so common that Egyptians were used to drink even during childhood, aromatized with lupines, and considered both as a food and as a remedy.

 It seems Egyptians consumed beer since their childhood and the beverage was diluted with water and honey and given to babies for it was considered as a supportive food to motherly milk. Celts, in the Britannic islands, in particular in the Irish area, played an important role in the tradition of brewing. The legend about the origins of Irish people is strongly connected to the “secret” of brewing. Even in Greece beer was very appreciated: during the period of celebrations dedicated to Demeter goddess, beer “flowed like rivers”. In Italy were Etruscans to introduce the tradition of brewing and they subsequently influenced Romans.

 In the Middle Age the technique of brewing was developed and passed to monasteries where monks tried to refine and improve the production technique. Until then beer was aromatized with herbs and spices and monks were successful in dramatically improving the production technique by introducing hop. From hop it is being obtained a yellowish liquid having antiseptic, aromatic and preservative qualities which makes beer more aromatic and limpid.

Beer is among the most ancient and common
alcoholic beverages in the world
Beer is among the most ancient and common alcoholic beverages in the world

 In England beer became more and more popular and it was then considered as the national beverage, it was brewed both in monasteries and by housewives in occasion of religious events. Popular wisdom taught the use of boiled water for the preparation of the beverage therefore making beer hygienically safe because water was not always drinkable. In 1516, in Bavaria, were promulgated the first laws about beer: in Reinheitsgebot was promulgated the so called “edict about purity”. From that moment on beer began to be produced according to specific laws: it could only be made of barley malt, hop and water, nothing else.

 In subsequent years the evolution of the art of brewing continued its slow but inexorable evolution by developing new fermentation techniques and the choice of the more appropriate yeasts. Today beer is mainly produced by industries, however there are also many small and traditional breweries involved in researching ancient and traditional recipes in order to offer their customers flavors and traditions of ancient times.


The Many Styles of Beer

 Despite the main ingredients are water, yeast, barley and hop, tradition, taste, culture, availability and quality of raw matters as well as production techniques, gave origin to countless styles of beer. This beverage can be produced with wheat, rye, corn, rice and other grains, however barley is the most common cereal. For master brewers not all the barley is good for the making of beer and particular attention is paid during its choice. The other important ingredient is water which is carefully chosen and prepared as mineral salts, alkalinity, microorganisms and bacteria, influence all the production phases. Some producers prefer to demineralize water and to add specific mineral salts that, according to their opinion, are best suited for the production of beer.

 Hop is responsible for the aromatization of beer, therefore it must be chosen with particular care by expert personnel. Tannins, oils and bitter acids are evaluated in order to give aromas and foam to the finished product. The most famous areas for the production of quality hop are Czechoslovakia (Saanz), Belgium (Poporinge), England (Kent) and Germany (Hallertau and Tettnang). Even yeast plays a fundamental role as it is responsible for the conversion of sugar into alcohol. The main species of yeast currently used for the production of beer are “Saccharomyces Cerevisiae” and “Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis”. The former is used for high fermentation beers whereas the latter for low fermentation beers. According to a primary classification, beer is divided into:


  • Nonalcoholic beer - it is a beverage from 3 to 8 saccharometric degrees (from 1 to 2,6% alcohol)
  • Light beer - from 5 to 15 saccharometric degrees (from 3,6 to 4,3% alchool)
  • Normal beer - from 11 to 13 saccharometric degrees (from 3,6 to 4,3% alcohol)
  • Special beer - from 13 to 15 saccharometric degrees (from 4,3 to 5% alcohol)
  • Double malt beer - more than 15 saccharometric degrees (more than 5% alcohol)

 The main types of beer are:


  • Abbey - produced with the high fermentation method, full bodied and pretty alcoholic, with a variable color from golden to amber. The name reminds of the beers produced in monasteries
  • Ale - it is the name with which Englishmen defines traditional beer. It is a beer with low alcohol percentage but high fermentation. This type of beer groups other styles, such as Bitter Ale, Mild Ale, Old Ale, Brown Ale and Pale Ale
  • Altbier - it is the beer from Düsseldorf, with a copper color, light and digestive
  • Biere blanche / witbier - typical beer from Belgium made of wheat, with a slightly acid taste, very pale yellow color and pretty milky. During the preparation it is added coriander and curaçao
  • Fruit Beer - it is a beer to which it is added fruit in order to characterize taste and aroma. The original aroma of beer is usually attenuated and in the label must be written both the type of the beer used and the type of fruit
  • Herb beer - it is called this way every beer produced by using herbs or spices in order to modify color or aroma. The added herbs should always be in harmony with the taste of beer and sometimes the aroma can be perceived without being completely covered
  • Bock - traditional German beer, thick and full bodied with a pale color. Members of this family are also Dopplbloc, stronger and with a darker color
  • Dortmunder - the origin of the name is the city of Dortmund in Rheingau, one of the first exporting regions. Low fermentation beers, with little of alcohol and a typical taste of malt
  • Guenze - traditional Belgian beer of spontaneous fermentation. It is often aromatized with many types of fruits
  • Kölsch - typical of Köln, in Germany, it is a high fermentation beer, with delicate aromas and very dry taste. It is hard to find
  • Lager - Lager is also the name with which it is generically called a low fermentation beer. Sometimes this term is improperly used for identifying a “common” beer. The origin of the name is German and means warehouse, the cellars in which the beer is being aged. It has a golden straw yellow color and a slightly bitter taste
  • Lambic - spontaneous fermentation beer with wheat malt. This fermentation technique produces a beer which is always different, therefore in order to obtain a constant quality it is necessary blending many types of Lambics. The result is Guenze beer
  • Malt liquor - Term used in the United States of America to call double malt beers with a pretty high percentage of alcohol
  • Märzen - it is the typical beer consumed during Oktoberfest, the beer festival held in Munich (Bavaria) in Autumn. It is being produced during March in order to be ready in October. It is drunk in traditional one liter tankards (mass)
  • Münchner - generic name identifying low fermentation beers and produced in the area of Munich (Bavaria). They show a dark color and have a strong taste of malt
  • Pils - the origin of this name is from the Czech city of Pilsen (Plzen), capital of western Bohemia, where it is being produced the famous Pilsener Urquell. This production method is also common in many countries where they continue to make local beers identified as “Pils” or “Pilsener”. They are low fermentation beers, very foamy, with a pale golden color, dry taste, slightly bitter because of the abundant hop. Make exception to this the Bavarian Pilseners which are usually less bitter
  • Porter - dark Ale beer produced with toasted malts, the taste has a strong flavors of malt and strong hints of hop
  • Rauchbier - typical beer from the city of Bamberg (Germany) produced with malt whose germination was stopped by means of smoking by using beech wood. The characteristic aroma of smoke is passed from malt to beer
  • Saison - typical production style of Belgium. It is a fresh beer with alcohol by volume of 7-8%, refermented in bottle
  • Scotch Ale - Ale beer typical of Scotland, with an intense amber color and nuances of mahogany, it has a taste with strong flavors of malt. The alcohol by volume is extremely variable from 3 to 10%. This is the typical beer to be drunk after meals
  • Stout - it is the famous national beer of Ireland. It shows a very dark color, impenetrable, an intense foam with hazelnut color, a typical bitter taste. This style of production is very appreciated in other regions as well. In England it is being produced Stout as well, but with a sweeter taste, for this reason it is called Sweet Stout, Milk Stout or Cream Stout. Even in Russia is produced a very strong Stout
  • Strong Ale - beer produced in Scotland, England and Belgium, high fermentation, with amber color and pretty aromatic. It usually has more than 6% of alcohol
  • Trappist - these beers are called Trappists because are being produced by Trappist monks in six abbeys located in Belgium and Netherlands. This style of production makes use of refermentation in bottle and are very appreciated. They show a rich foam and a variable color from gold to amber, the alcohol is variable from 6 to 9%. It is suggested to drink these beers in a balloon glass in order to better appreciate their characteristic aromas
  • Weizen (Weisse) - the term identifies German wheat beers characterized by the yeast which remains in suspension and giving beer an opaque aspect and sour taste. They can be recognized for the abundant foam, they are very quenching and refreshing


Beer in the World

 Beer is among the most common beverages and it is practically found in every country of the world. Among the many countries, each one having its brewing traditions, are mentioned the following:


  • Australia - this country is historically connected to the United Kingdom and from it has inherited the tradition of beer becoming one of the first five countries in term of consumption. The most common beer is Lager
  • Austria - the brewing tradition in Austria is dated back to the fourteenth century, with high fermentation beers. Today the most consumed beers are low fermentation ones. The per capita consumption of the country is more than 120 liters
  • Belgium - historical country for the production of beer and famous both for the variety and for quality. In Belgium are present both brewing industries and small artisan producers who continuously study new methods while refining the production technique
  • Canada - in this country beer has begun its adventure in 1668 with the first European settlers. Some laws of the prohibition times are still in force and today there are laws which forbid the selling of beer on Sunday, or there are bars reserved to men only. In Canada the law forbids the production of beer with an alcohol by volume higher than 5.5%
  • Czechoslovakia - it is the land of Plzen, the land of Saaz hop, a historical and important country for the development of brewing traditions. Bohemian brewing masters are capable of giving beers unique and particular aromas
  • Denmark - despite in this country the advertising of alcoholic products is forbidden, in Denmark there are many brewing companies among the most important in the world. Traditionally rich in many styles of beer, Denmark is also the homeland of Jacob Carl Jacobsen, researcher of yeast chemistry and to whom has been dedicated the name of the yeast for low fermentation (Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis)
  • France - homeland of Gaul warriors, of Celts and Druids, great consumers of beer. The France is located near Bavaria and Belgium, countries with strong brewing traditions. Interesting are the traditional “Bières de Garde” produced by small breweries to the north of the country by following ancient rules. They are sold in bottles with a mushroom cork, just like the one used for Champagne
  • Germany - country with a strong tradition and remarkable consumption. Here are located a great number of breweries of which 600 in Bavaria. Many breweries are a managed in a home business style which follow their ancient and precious tradition
  • Japan - it is one of the most important producers of the world even though domestic consumption is pretty modest. Japanese beers are mainly exported in the United States of America
  • Great Britain - historical country with strong traditions and consumption. Here are found the renowned “pubs” (public houses), places in which Englishmen get together, socialize and talk, in a word a sort of second house where a glass of beer is always a good companion
  • Ireland - strong beer consumers, homeland of the renowned Guinness which covers 85% of Irish needs. Land rich in pubs where beer is drunk, traditional songs are sung and music from jazz to rock is being played
  • China - last year China has been the first beer producer in the world with 25 billions liters, 17.1% of worldwide production, therefore every five bottles produced in the world one is Chinese
  • Korea - the production of beer in Korea began in 1933. In 1982 started a collaboration with the neighboring Japan and in 1985 this collaboration was extended with Europe as well, precisely with Denmark. Even in Korea the consumption of beer is continuously increasing


Tasting Beer


 Just like wine, beer has its rules in order to be tasted to its best. The glass must be clean and with no smells, it is good to avoid perfumed soaps, in this case it is recommended to carefully rinse the glass. One of the purpose of the glass is to protect beer from the contact with air, to emphasize color, perlage and foam. There are many types of beer glasses each one having its characteristics and suited for a specific type - such as the beer glass and balloon - or glasses associated to tradition, such as stiefel. When the beer is being poured it is advised to use a wet glass held in an oblique position. Low fermentation beer - characterized by a more delicate aroma - are served cool in a tall and narrow glass. High fermentation beers require a glass having the upper border slightly flared. A balloon will be good for full bodied meditation beers, whereas a glass with a narrowing opening will be appropriate for a Lager or Pilsener. An aromatic beer will prefer a tulip glass, whereas a conic column glass will enhance the aromas of Danish beers.

 Pint is the ideal glass for Stout, whereas mass and tankard are considered as universal glasses. Before pouring the beer it is advised to make sure the glass is properly cooled down in order to avoid beer a thermal shock. As for keeping, beer likes dim lights, a constant temperature from 18 and 20° C (64-68° F) and a dry room. Another characteristic to be considered is that beer is a beverage to be consumed fresh - with the exception of some styles which can be aged - therefore it is suggested to carefully read the label. Enjoy your beer!


 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 24, November 2004   
BeerBeer AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 23, October 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 25, December 2004


Review of Grappa, Distillates and Brandy


Distillates are rated according to DiWineTaste's evaluation method. Please see score legend in the "Wines of the Month" section.

Grappa di Amarone della Valpolicella, Sartori (Italy)
Grappa di Amarone della Valpolicella
Sartori (Italy)
(Distiller: Distilleria Scaramellini)
Raw matter: Pomace of Molinara, Corvina, Rondinella
Price: € 23,00 - 500ml Score:
The aspect of this grappa is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose denotes intense, clean and pleasing aromas of plum, blackberry, dried violet, licorice and walnut with almost imperceptible alcohol pungency. The taste is intense, pretty good roundness and very balanced sweetness, the alcohol, non aggressive which rapidly dissolves. The finish is intense and persistent with pleasing sweet hint and good flavors of plum and licorice. This grappa is made with the discontinuous method with submerged pomace in copper still alembics. Alcohol 40%.

Grappa di Teroldego, Bertagnolli (Italy)
Grappa di Teroldego
Bertagnolli (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Teroldego
Price: € 14,00 - 70cl Score:
This grappa in colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose is intense with pleasing and refined aromas of violet, pear, raspberry, cherry, plum and blackberry and imperceptible alcohol pungency, very pleasing. The taste is intense and smooth with very balanced sweetness, the alcohol is perceptible and however not aggressive and dissolves rapidly, agreeable. The finish is intense and persistent with pleasing sweet hint and good flavors of plum, cherry and raspberry. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous method in steam operated alembic stills. Alcohol 42%.

Grappa Koralis, Bertagnolli (Italy)
Grappa Koralis
Bertagnolli (Italy)
Raw matter: Pomace of Teroldego, Chardonnay, Traminer
Price: € 12,50 - 70cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This grappa shows a brilliant amber yellow color, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and refined aromas of vanilla, dried plum, licorice, hazelnut, raspberry and ripe banana with imperceptible alcohol pungency, elegant. The taste is intense and smooth, very agreeable with very balanced sweetness, the alcohol is perceptible although not aggressive which rapidly dissolves. The finish is intense and persistent with pleasing sweet and round hint and good flavors of vanilla, dried plum and licorice. A well made grappa produced with discontinuous method in steam operated alembic stills and aged in Limousine, Tronçais e Allier barriques for at least 9 months. Alcohol 42%.

Gioiello Nonino Distillato di Miele di Castagno, Nonino (Italy)
Gioiello Nonino Distillato di Miele di Castagno
Nonino (Italy)
Raw matter: Chestnut honey
Price: € 25,00 - 350ml Score:
This distillate is colorless, limpid and crystalline. The nose reveals personality with intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas of chestnut honey, honeybee and white rose with imperceptible alcohol pungency. A wonderful bouquet of extraordinary, refined and elegant femininity. The taste is intense, smooth, very agreeable, very balanced sweetness, with very low alcohol pungency which dissolves rapidly, very elegant. The finish is very persistent with a rich and pleasing flavor of chestnut honey and elegant sweet hint. A wonderful distillate produced with the discontinuous method in steam operated alembic stills. Alcohol 37%.

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  Not Just Wine Issue 24, November 2004   
BeerBeer AquavitaeAquavitae Wine ParadeWine Parade  Contents 
Issue 23, October 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 25, December 2004

Wine Parade


The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.

Rank Wine, Producer
1 Turriga 1998, Argiolas (Italy)
2 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Capitel Monte Olmi 1999, Tedeschi (Italy)
3 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Villa Gemma 1999, Masciarelli (Italy)
4 Brunello di Montalcino Prime Donne 1998, Donatella Cinelli Colombini (Italy)
5 Barolo Cicala 1999, Poderi Aldo Conterno (Italy)
6 Harmonium 2001, Firriato (Italy)
7 Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 1999, Maison Trimbach (France)
8 Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2000, Cantine del Notaio (Italy)
9 Pinot Noir Napa 2002, Clos du Val (USA)
10 Rioja Reserva Era Costana 1999, Bodegas Ondarre (Spain)
11 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2002, Domaine Billaud-Simon (France)
12 Uncut Shiraz 2002, Gemtree Vineyards (Australia)
13 Jerez Fino Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass (Spain)
14 Moscato d'Asti 2003, Vignaioli di S. Stefano (Italy)
15 Château Roquebrun St-Chinian 2002, Cave de Roquebrun (France)

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