A generic name for a low-alcohol beverage brewed from a mash of malted barley and other cereals, such as corn, rye or wheat, and flavored with hops and fermeted with yeast. Ale is the name for the category of beers (including porter, stout and wheat beer) which ferment with the yeast at the top, while lagers are bottom-fermented at colder temperatures (including the familiar pilsner and malt liquor). Ninety percent of beer is water, thus the quality and composition of the water from different beer-making regions can greatly affect the finished product. The malt of grains used and how they are roasted contribute flavor and sweetness, which is balanced by the bitterness provided by hops. Light beer refers to a brew with fewer calories and usually less alcohol. Beers in the United States have between 3 and 8 percent alcohol while in Europe beer can have as high as 13 percent.
Season: available year-round
How to store: Beer should not be aged like other liquors, but consumed fresh. Lagers should be served at 45 degrees F; ales at 55 degrees F -- colder temperatures cloud beer and diminish its flavor.