Beer in 9 questions

news-20130208To those crucial questions that have been niggling at the back of your mind and that you never dared to ask… We have the answers!

Why is Guinness black?

In fact, it isn’t black. It’s more of a dark ruby red because of the ingredients used to make it, and also because of the way the barley is roasted. In general terms, the difference in colour between blond and dark beers is due to the fact that dark beers are made using cereals that are roasted more during the malting stage.

Why does beer make people want to urinate?

Beer is a diurectic. The resins in the hops and the phenolic compounds stimulate kidney function, which leads to excess fluid and toxins being excreted from the body. Hippocrates himself recommended beer as a remedy to stimulate urinary excretion.

How is alcohol-free beer made?

"Alcohol-free” beers in fact contain a very small quantity of alcohol (up to 1.2%). This quantity is limited by the fact that the fermentation temperature is different: it is set at around 0° so that the transformation into alcohol does not occur. These beers are still not recommended for people who cannot consume alcohol for medical or religious reasons. Breastfeeding women can drink it, however, as beer has lactogenic properties.

Does beer make you gain weight?

No… as long as it is consumed in moderation. According to certain recent studies, moderate consumers are often thought to be slimmer than people who drink heavily or even people who never drink. Why is this? The energy contained in the beer is partly "burned" by the body. Beer is also thought to suppress appetite, which is thought to reduce snacking outside mealtimes. Paradoxically, though, some beers are sometimes served with pieces of cheese of charcuterie…

Is beer good for you?

It is when it is consumed in limited quantities. According to certain studies, the action of humulone (in the hops) counters the reduction of bone density (osteoporosis). Furthermore, the ethanol contained in the beer contributes to increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels and improves blood fluidity. Beer also contains polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties and proven beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system. Beer also contains vitamins B. Finally, beer yeast helps to regenerate the gut flora.

Can beer be drunk at all ages?

This is an awkward one… It all depends on alcohol content and on tradition. Family beer, that anyone can drink with a good meal, is called table beer. Older people in Belgium will remember Piedboeuf (blond, dark or triple). It is very low in alcohol (between 1 and 2° maximum), but it is very sweet, and it can also be used to cook dishes like stoofvlees (carbonnades). Until the seventies, this type of beer was served in school canteens. They have since then been replaced by fizzy drinks. Is this an improvement?

Does beer go with all dishes?

More and more gastronomes and starred chefs think so. Even though some more obvious marriages between beer and food spring to mind, like rabbit with Gueuze or Timmermans Kriek, stoofvlees (carbonnades), mussels, sole or even venison, it is also possible to drink beer at any stage of the meal, from the starter to the dessert. It’s usually a good idea, however, to taste special beers to make sure their aromas go well with the dishes. Brewer John Martin, together with Corné Port-Royal, has even launched a box of chocolates flavoured with special beers like Bourgogne des Flandres, Kriek and Timmermans Blanche Lambicus or Martin’s Pale Ale… And the cherry (beer) on the cake is that your bill will go down better than if you’d ordered wine!

Where is beer drunk most?

No, it’s not in Belgium. Quality production, at which we are champions, and variety are not to be confused with consumption. Belgians are even quite reasonable compared with some other countries. They drink about 90 to 100 litres of beer per year on average. These tend to be special beers, including Gordon Finest Gold, Diabolici, Guinness export, or traditional fruity brews like Kriek and Oude Gueuze, or unusual products like Pumpkin Lambicus or Strawberry Timmermans. The greatest consumers are the Czechs (over 150 l./year/inhabitant), followed by Ireland, Germany, Australia, Austria, the United Kingdom, Slovenia and, finally, Belgium.

Do competitions, labels and rewards matter?

They do, but mostly for export purposes. A prize can help to launch a beer or develop its sales on certain foreign markets. A quality label can strengthen the curiosity effect. Martin’s Indian Pale Ale, for example, was awarded the ‘showstopper’ prize by the Sparflex Awards’ jury in 2012, and the Dominus Double a three-star Superior Taste Award at the Superior Taste & Quality Institute in 2008. But by and large, Belgian consumers don’t pay much attention to these labels and prizes.