Fill with mingled cream and amber, I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber through the chamber of my brain --
Quaintest thoughts -- queerest fancies come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances: I am drinking ale today.
-- Edgar Allan Poe
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God's ways to man.
-- A.E. Houseman "A Shropshire Lad"
I've been a homebrewer for about five years, and have made some damn good beers over the past several years. My favorites are hearty ales, the stronger the better. For my daughter Savannah's school auction, we brewed an amazing Belgian "tripel,'' flavored in the classic abbey style with coriander and orange peel. (I say "we brewed" because she added the hops to the kettle, her favorite part or the process next to dipping her pinkie into the foam of the finished product.)
High on my list is a French "biere de garde,'' a rustic ale from the farm districts near Belgium. "Biere de garde'' means a beer to put away, and the name holds true. This variety is made each spring and stored in cool cellars until the fall. By then, the extra fermentation time has rendered it strong, effervescent and dry.
The product definitely got better when I switched from extract brewing (using sweet, gooey malt extract as a base) to all-grain brewing, which takes the essence from malt and uses yeast to transform it into beer. Of course, this is an all-too-rudimentary explanation of the brewer's art; for more detailed info, check out anyone of these beer links: