What is Top Fermented Beer?

by Kaia

Top fermented beer, a category cherished by many beer enthusiasts, has a rich history and distinctive brewing process that sets it apart from other types of beer. This article delves into the intricacies of top fermented beer, exploring its origins, brewing methods, types, and the unique characteristics that make it a favorite among beer lovers.


The History of Top Fermented Beer

Top fermented beer has ancient roots, tracing back thousands of years. Historically, beer fermentation occurred naturally due to the presence of wild yeast in the environment. Over time, brewers learned to cultivate specific strains of yeast that thrived at warmer temperatures, leading to the development of top fermented beer. This method became prevalent in regions where cooler fermentation was not feasible, such as in warmer climates.


Understanding the Fermentation Process

Top Fermentation Explained

Top fermented beer is produced using a type of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast strain ferments at warmer temperatures, typically between 60-70°F (15-24°C), and rises to the top of the fermentation vessel during the brewing process. The warm fermentation process allows for the production of a wide range of flavors and aromas, contributing to the complexity of top fermented beer.


The Role of Yeast

In top fermented beer, yeast plays a crucial role in developing the beer’s flavor profile. The yeast ferments the sugars in the malt, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide, along with various esters and phenols that impart fruity, spicy, and floral notes. The choice of yeast strain and fermentation temperature significantly influence the final taste and aroma of the beer.


Types of Top Fermented Beer

Top fermented beer encompasses a diverse array of styles, each with unique characteristics. Some of the most well-known types include:


Ale is one of the most popular types of top fermented beer. It is known for its robust flavors, which can range from fruity and floral to malty and bitter. Ales are often darker in color and have a higher alcohol content compared to lagers.


Stout is a dark, rich top fermented beer that originated in England. It is characterized by its roasted malt flavors, which can include notes of coffee, chocolate, and caramel. Stouts are often full-bodied and have a creamy texture.


Porter, like stout, is a dark beer with roasted malt flavors. It is slightly lighter in body and alcohol content compared to stout. Porters can have a range of flavors, from sweet and malty to dry and bitter.

Wheat Beer

Wheat beer is a refreshing and light top fermented beer made with a significant proportion of wheat malt. It is often unfiltered, giving it a cloudy appearance. Wheat beers are known for their fruity and spicy flavors, with notes of banana and clove being common.

Belgian Beer

Belgian top fermented beer is renowned for its complexity and variety. Belgian ales, such as Trappist and Abbey ales, are often brewed with unique yeast strains that produce distinctive flavors and aromas. These beers can range from light and fruity to dark and strong.

The Brewing Process of Top Fermented Beer


The brewing process for top fermented beer begins with mashing, where malted grains are mixed with hot water to extract fermentable sugars. This creates a sugary liquid called wort.


The wort is then boiled, and hops are added to provide bitterness and aroma. The boiling process sterilizes the wort and extracts flavors from the hops.


After boiling, the wort is cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel. Here, the top fermenting yeast is added, and fermentation begins. The yeast ferments the sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. The warm fermentation temperature allows the yeast to produce a wide range of flavors and aromas.


Once fermentation is complete, the beer is conditioned or matured. This process can take several weeks to months, allowing the flavors to develop and mellow. The beer is then filtered, carbonated, and packaged.

Characteristics of Top Fermented Beer

Top fermented beer is known for its diverse and complex flavor profiles. The warmer fermentation temperatures and unique yeast strains contribute to a wide range of characteristics, including:

Flavor and Aroma

Top fermented beer often has a more pronounced and complex flavor compared to lagers. The yeast can produce fruity, spicy, and floral notes, along with a rich maltiness. The use of different malts and hops further enhances the flavor and aroma.

Body and Mouthfeel

The body of top fermented beer can vary from light and refreshing to full and creamy, depending on the style. The mouthfeel can range from smooth and silky to crisp and dry.


Top fermented beer can have a wide range of appearances, from pale and clear to dark and opaque. Many styles, such as wheat beer, are unfiltered and have a cloudy appearance.

Popular Examples of Top Fermented Beer

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a classic American pale ale known for its hoppy flavor and aroma. It has a balanced malt backbone and a crisp, refreshing finish.

Guinness Draught Stout

Guinness Draught Stout is one of the most famous stouts in the world. It has a creamy texture, with roasted malt flavors and a hint of bitterness.

Hoegaarden White

Hoegaarden White is a Belgian-style wheat beer with a cloudy appearance and a refreshing, citrusy flavor. It has notes of coriander and orange peel, making it a perfect summer beer.

Chimay Blue

Chimay Blue is a Belgian Trappist ale with a rich, complex flavor. It has notes of dark fruit, caramel, and spice, with a smooth, warming finish.

Pairing Top Fermented Beer with Food

Top fermented beer pairs well with a variety of foods, thanks to its diverse flavor profiles. Some pairing suggestions include:


Ales pair well with hearty dishes such as roasted meats, stews, and burgers. The robust flavors of the beer complement the rich, savory flavors of the food.


Stouts are a great match for desserts, especially those with chocolate or coffee flavors. They also pair well with grilled meats and strong cheeses.

Wheat Beer

Wheat beers are light and refreshing, making them a great choice for pairing with seafood, salads, and light appetizers. The fruity and spicy notes of the beer complement the fresh flavors of the food.

Belgian Beer

Belgian beers are versatile and can be paired with a wide range of dishes. They work well with rich, flavorful foods such as game, roasted vegetables, and spicy dishes.

The Future of Top Fermented Beer

The craft beer movement has led to a resurgence in the popularity of top fermented beer. Brewers are experimenting with new yeast strains, ingredients, and techniques to create innovative and unique beers. The growing interest in traditional brewing methods and the emphasis on quality and flavor ensure that top fermented beer will continue to be a favorite among beer enthusiasts for years to come.


Top fermented beer, with its rich history and diverse range of styles, offers something for every beer lover. The unique fermentation process, driven by the use of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, results in complex flavors and aromas that set it apart from other types of beer. Whether you prefer a robust ale, a creamy stout, or a refreshing wheat beer, top fermented beer provides a delightful and varied drinking experience. As the craft beer industry continues to evolve, top fermented beer remains a testament to the artistry and creativity of brewers around the world.



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