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Beer 101: Local Influences

We owe great thanks to those barley-cultivating cultures that first developed beer and brewing. Over the millennia, certain countries stick out for their contributions to our collective beer consciousness, such as Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Australia, and the United States. Newer contributions are being added in countries like China and Japan.

The local conditions in the traditional beer-drinking countries helped make their imprint on our style library. Before refrigeration was invented, the brewer was subject to the whim of the local climate. The brewing season was typically in cooler weather, and in Bavaria storing beer in caves during the summer months lead to the lager style (lager is German for "store", by the way). Distinctive local waters also left their imprint on style, with two examples being the water of Pilsen in the Czech Republic (looks like pilsener, doesn’t it) and Burton-on-Trent in England (think Bass Ale). Transporting pale ale over long distances to India led to high levels of hopping to preserve the beer, thus India Pale Ale.

Cultural influences in these regions have also left their mark on beer. Certain styles, like stout, evolved with a unique grain bill designed to avoid taxes on malts yet still provide a hearty beverage. Heavy, high gravity lagers such as doppelbock were developed to help monks and nuns through their Lenten fast. The need to look good in a bathing suit while recovering from college party excess has led to the low calorie light beers of today. So, after centuries of devout brewers trying to get more calories into beer, recent generations have asked that they be taken out, too!

Beer 101: Local Influences