The difference between Beer and Whisky is a concept so often misunderstood, not only by recreational drinkers but by connoisseurs of either drink too! Most people only believe in the premise that a Beer Vs Whisky comparison is limited to one being a ‘casual drink’ to be enjoyed on the beach, or while watching a football game, while the other, is a ‘sophisticated’ or a ‘hard drink’ that is not for everybody.
While the aforementioned observations are certainly valid up to a certain extent, there are more similarities and even subtler distinctions between Beer and Whisky that not many are aware of.
Beer or whisky, whatever your drink of choice, knowing the many different aspects of two of mankind’s greatest inventions will never be considered a waste of time. So Whisky or Beer, whatever is the drink of your choice, knowing the difference between the two can earn you the deserved accolades at the next night out with the boys or girls.
Producing both Beer and Whisky (Single Malt Scotch) involves malted barley, although their preparations and other supporting ingredients bring the distinction between the two.
Whisky, including Single Malt, Blended Malt, Bourbon Whiskey and Irish Whiskey contains malted barley, corn, rye, wheat and many different ingredients depending on the type of whisky or whiskey being created. Single Malt Scotch whisky must contain malted barley, whereas Bourbon Whiskey is created using 51% corn and other grains. Places where Whisky/Whiskey is produced are known as distilleries.
Beer on the other hand uses malted barley differently. The process of brewing a beer involves milling, mashing, lautering and boiling the grain and the subsequently resulting grain mash. Fermentation and maturation are few of the final steps involved in brewing a beer before it can be dispatched from the brewery.
Depending on the barrels that are used to age the whisky, and the duration for which it was matured, the tasting notes of a whisky/whisky could range from fruity, smoky, vanilla, citrusy, sweet, oaky or wooden finish.
As Whisky/Whiskey is traditionally matured in charred Oak barrels (in case of Bourbon), and used Bourbon barrels and/or used Wine barrels in case of Scotch whisky, they also lend their characteristics to the final product.
Another example of a redundant observation in the Beer Vs Whisky debate is how both drinks are considered bitter by recreational drinkers, or people who tried them but never developed a liking towards them.
Bitterness is in fact a legitimate characteristic of beer and how its taste is described due to the addition of hops when brewing it. Like Whisky, Beer too, carries a certain amount of subtle flavoring depending on the brand or breweries preparation of it. These flavors could range from citrusy to buttery to sweet depending on the brand or brew you opt for.
The one truly most polar distinction between Beer and Whisky is their vastly different alcohol content. While beer makers in India adhere to a strict limit of mild beers not exceeding 5% of ABV, whereas strong beer must not exceed an ABV limit of 8%.
Some beer brands around the world do make an exemption by brewing beverages that blur the lines between Beer and Whisky. Some examples of such beers with an astonishingly high alcohol content are, Brewmeister Snake Venom – 67.5% ABV, Brewmeister Armageddon – 65% ABV and the Schorschbrau Schorschbock – 57% ABV.
The standard rate of alcohol volume in many countries is set at 40% ABV, and in India, many alcoholic beverages maintain an ABV rate of 42.8% including Whisky. There are of course many popular brands and standalone whiskies that offer whiskies with a significantly higher alcohol content. Brands such as Bruichladdich X4 Quadrupled Whisky with a 92% ABV, Old Grand Dad 114 with 57% ABV and the Stagg Jr. Barrel Proof with 67.5% ABV.
This is another factor that renders the Beer Vs Whisky debate moot. The aging of Whisky differs from brand to brand although single malt Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey are legally required to be aged for at least 3 years but are usually aged for much longer.
Other types of whisky such as Blended malt whisky, Bourbon whiskey and others are not required to adhere to any such minimum aging requirements.
Beer or Whisky, are both aged and although it is a necessary aspect of Whisky making to age a distilled product for some amount of time, Beer usually does not follow this trajectory.
Given, some brewers prefer to age their brews for varying periods of time and in vastly different ways as compared to whisky. Lagering, second fermentation, bottle fermentation and even Kräusening.