History of Beer

Beer History & Styles

What is a Brewpub, compared to a Microbrewery?
A brewpub is a type of microbrewery. Both brew very small quantities of beer. A brewpub sells their beer on-site, as well as food. Microbreweries do not sell their beer on-site. They sell it in kegs or bottles to distributors or retail outlets.

What is Ale, compared to Beer?
Beers are fermented beverages made from grain. Wine is made from fermented fruit, especially grapes. Hard liquors are distilled fermented beverages made from grain or fruit. Scotch whiskey is basically distilled beer! (Fermentation creates alcohol.) Since we make a beverage from barley grain, we are making beer. There are two main types of beer, called Ales and Lagers. They are differentiated by yeast type and fermentation temperatures used.

Lagers are fermented cold with a bottom fermenting yeast, and are aged cold for a long time. Lagers are smooth, and delicate in flavor. They can be gold (pilseners), or dark brown (bocks.) All of the major brand beers in this country like Coors, Miller, and Budweiser are lagers.

Ales are fermented warm with a top fermenting yeast, and are aged warm for a short time. Ales are robust and strong in flavor. (Stronger flavor does not necessarily mean more alcohol.) They are fruitier and more complex in flavor and aroma, and can be brewed sweet or dry. Because of the short, warm aging period, they are not as smooth as lagers and are generally brewed fuller-bodied. They can be gold (pale and cream ales), or black (stouts.) Most of the microbrewed beers available in the United States are ales.

History of Ale

There are many classic ale styles available throughout the world. Most of them developed in one location because of the water, and the local varieties of barley and hops available. At one time (up until the early 1800’s) there was only dark ale. Then the Germans developed the yeast and technology to brew the smoother, delicate lagers, and the Czechs developed new varieties of barley and hops to brew pale beers. Suddenly a pale lager explosion swept the world. Only the British Isles kept ale as the national beer. There were still pockets of ale brewing throughout the world, including Germany, where the word for ale, Alt, means Old. But ale brewing had basically died in the USA. And by 1980, American-made full-flavored lagers were not to be found here.

We’re Making History

Since the mid-1980’s, ale has been making a comeback in the United States through the microbreweries and brewpubs springing up, mainly on the west coast. Steelhead Brewing Company has been a part of this exciting revolution since 1991!