In the brewing process there are important steps, but what stands out most is the choice of the type of fermentation through which the beverage passes. Starting from this assumption, from the fermentation it is possible to obtain different types of beers. Currently, they are divided into three large families and family is very important, even when it comes to beer.

There is no definitive classification for the various styles of beers existing, depending on the legislation of each country and its traditions related to the consumption of the drink. The first publicly recognized classification was made in 1977 by the English journalist Michael Jackson in The World Guide to Beer, becoming a major reference on the subject.

The Jackson classification, accepted by several experts and reference groups, divides beer into three large families according to their type of fermentation: high fermentation (Ale), low fermentation (Lager) and spontaneous fermentation ( Lambic). Each of these families can be divided into numerous styles and sub-styles.

Ale, also called top-fermented or high-fermenting, is generally produced by yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which act on the top of the brewing wort, and act at a temperature generally between 15 and 22 degrees Celsius. They are called so because during the fermentation stage the yeast rises to the surface of the mixture that will give rise to the beer, being also correct the term – fermentation in the stop. The process of fermentation in this family may vary according to the intentions of the brewer, but lasts for about three to five days, a procedure much older than the low fermentation.

Although there is great variability in this family, as a rule, the Ales highlight the more complex, fruity and hopping flavors of beers, possessing more intense and varied aromas in relation to the Lager. Ales’ most well-known styles are wheat beers, Stouts, Porters, Belgian Ales, Pale Ales, Weissbier and Irish Ales.

The Lager family, as seen, derives from the practice of 16th century Bavaria (present-day Germany) by storing the beer for maturation in low-temperature cellars for long periods when refrigeration systems had not yet consolidated. Especially in Brazil, the Lagers correspond almost entirely to the consumption of beer, several times mistakenly mistaken for the Pilsen style beer, which is actually a Lager beer style.

Lagers are beers produced by background yeasts, which sink into the must during fermentation. Also known as the bottom-fermented English language, whose strains of yeast work at temperatures ranging from 5 to 12 degrees Celsius and can be matured for months at temperatures close to zero degree Celsius. Generally beers of this family are more refreshing, light and of smooth aromas.

Its development gained momentum between the years 1820 to 1840, when Gabriel Sedlmayr II, a traditional brewer family, developed a method of drying the malt that kept it clear, thus producing a lighter beer. Lager’s best-known styles are Pilsen (or Pilsener), Dunkel, Bock, Helles, Rauchbier, Märzen and Standart American Lager.

The third family deals with beers of spontaneous fermentation, called Lambic or Geuze (depending on the country). Historically speaking, beer was first produced in this way, since several stages of production as we know it today have not yet been discovered or were not fully understood, and as already mentioned, the fact that the drink was first known, by accident, that is: the fermentation could only have occurred spontaneously when the discovery of the drink occurred.

Few breweries in the world produce beers according to this procedure, among which we can highlight those of the Seine River Valley, near Brussels, Belgium.

The essential difference of this family is that the drinks are prepared in open tanks, for the cooling of the liquid through the exposure to the air. It is in this moment that the natural participation of microorganisms occurs, without the controlled addition of yeasts. After this step, the beverage will be stored in wooden barrels for up to three years, time necessary for maturation.

Figure 20: Open tanks in the process of fermentation for production of beers of the Lambic family

Other peculiarities of this family are the fact that it is common the addition of fruit juice to balance the acidic character and the sour taste provoked by the uncontrolled fermentation, like raspberry, apple and peach. Some of the best-known beers in this group are La Gueuze, La Kriek, Faro, Framboise.

Figure 21: Examples of Lambic beers

In the case of Brazil, according to SINDCERV and Federal Law No. 8.918 / 94 and Decree 2.314 / 978, beers are classified according to five items:

  1. Fermentation, which may be high or low;
  2. The color, which may be light or dark, being below 20 EBC in the light (European Brewery Convention, a unit specially created to measure the color of beer) and above 20 EBC in the dark;
  3. By alcoholic content, with non-alcoholic beverages having a content below 0,5% and alcoholic beverages with a content above 0,5%;
  4. For the proportion of barley malt in its composition, beer being simply those whose proportion of barley malt is greater than or equal to 50% as a source of sugar; pure malt beers having 100% barley malt; and beers from other vegetables, which have barley malt content between 20% and 49%.
  5. They can also be classified according to the content of Primitive Extract, which is the original density of the must, before being fermented, being divided into the categories: light, common, extra and strong.

Apart from this classification, more importantly, there is also non-alcoholic beer. Although this is a beer with physical-chemical and sensory properties different from traditional ones, the technological processes used in the manufacture are basically the same as the common beer.

The main step to be controlled is the fermentation to avoid ethanol production above 0.5%, and the main care in the sensory part is the bitterness (due to the alpha-hydroxyacids) that must be more pronounced in beer without alcohol, which is obtained with the dosage of hops during the manufacture. The wort can sometimes be membrane filtered (reverse osmosis), distilled or the fermentation can be stopped when the limit alcohol content is reached. Some non-alcoholic beers on the Brazilian market are: Nova Schin, Liber, Bavaria, among others.

The softer the palate of beer, the more complex the technological process employed in manufacturing. Most companies use interrupted fermentation technology because of the practicality and low cost of this process.

It is estimated that there are currently more than 20 thousand types of beers in the world. Small changes in the manufacturing process, such as different times and temperatures of malting, fermentation and maturation, and the use of other ingredients, besides the four basic ones – water, hops, barley and malt – are responsible for a great variety of types of beer.

As we have seen throughout this text series, several factors have decisively influenced the development of today’s beer styles. Cultural and climatic aspects, raw materials, technological advances, flavor, odor, coloration, chemical reactions and unit operations, have traced the way of beer to this day and have built the current richness of their styles. We believe that, after all this context, you will appreciate and / or see the “icy blonde” in a different way.


A química da Cerveja. Química e Sociedade. Química Nova Escola. – São Paulo-SP, 2015.

Cerveja sem álcool?

DELIBERALLI, Camilo Camargo. Cervejas artesanais no Brasil: análise da comunicação integrada de marketing da cervejaria bodebrown. Curitiba, 2015.

Lambic, Wild ou Sour? Afinal é tudo azedo… 

Tudo sobre a cerveja

MEGA, Jéssica Francieli; NEVES, Etney; ANDRADE, Cristiano José de.  A produção da cerveja no Brasil. Revista CITINO, 2011.

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