A low-alcohol (usually a maximum of 5 percent alcohol by weight) beverage brewed from MALTED barley and other cereals (such as corn or rye) mixed with cultured YEAST for FERMENTATION and flavored with HOPS. Since about nine-tenths of beer's volume is water, the quality of the water is of utmost importance. Beers from different regions of America and other countries take their character from the water used in the brewing. There are many varieties of beer including ALE, STOUT, PORTER, MALT LIQUOR, BOCK BEER and America's favorite, LAGER. In the United States, the term "light beer" refers to a brew with reduced calories and, usually, less alcohol. In Europe, this term distinguishes between pale and dark lagers. Unlike wine, beer's best consumed as fresh as possible — it shouldn't be aged. Beer adds character and flavor to many foods from breads to stews.

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