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Alcoholic Beverage

An alcoholic beverage is a drink containing ethanol, commonly known as alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are divided into three general classes: beers, wines, and spirits. They are legally consumed in most countries, and over 100 countries have laws regulating their production, sale, and consumption. In particular, such laws specify the minimum age at which a person may legally buy or drink them. This minimum age varies between 16 and 25 years, depending upon the country and the type of drink. Most nations set it at 18 years of age.

The interior of a store in the United States that sells alcoholic beverages.The production and consumption of alcohol occurs in most cultures of the world, from hunter-gatherer peoples to nation-states. Alcoholic beverages are often an important part of social events in these cultures. In many cultures, drinking plays a significant role in social interaction — mainly because of alcohol’s neurological effects.

Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that has a depressant effect. A high blood alcohol content is usually considered to be legal drunkenness because it reduces attention and slows reaction speed. Alcohol can be addictive, and the state of addiction to alcohol is known as alcoholism.

Types

See also: List of alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic beverages that have a lower alcohol content (beer and wine) are produced by fermentation of sugar- or starch-containing plant material. Beverages of higher alcohol content (spirits) are produced by fermentation followed by distillation.

Beer

Main articles: Beer, Brewery, Brewing, and Mashing
Beer is the world's oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of starches which are mainly derived from cereal grains — most commonly malted barley although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are also used. Alcoholic beverages which are distilled after fermentation, fermented from non-cereal sources such as grapes or honey, or fermented from un-malted cereal grain, are not classified as beer.
The two main types of beer are lager and ale. Ale is further classified into varieties such as pale ale, stout, and brown ale.

Most beer is flavored with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative. Other flavorings, such as fruits or herbs, may also be used. The alcoholic strength of beer is usually 4% to 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), but it may be less than 1% or more than 20%, and at least as high as 55%.

Beer is part of the drinking culture of various nations and has acquired social traditions such as beer festivals, cantus, pub culture, pub games, and pub crawling.
The basics of brewing beer are shared across national and cultural boundaries. The beer-brewing industry is global in scope, consisting of several dominant multinational companies and thousands of smaller producers, which range from regional breweries to microbreweries .

Wine

Main articles: Aging of wine, Grape, Must, Oenology, Wine, and Winemaking
Wine is produced from grapes, and fruit wine is produced from fruits such as plums, cherries, or apples. Wine involves a longer (complete) fermentation process and a long aging process (months or years) that results in an alcohol content of 9%–16% ABV. Sparkling wine can be made by adding a small amount of sugar before bottling, which causes a secondary fermentation to occur in the bottle.

Spirits

Main articles: Distillation, Distilled beverage, Ethanol, and Liqueur
Unsweetened, distilled, alcoholic beverages that have an alcohol content of at least 20% ABV are called spirits. Spirits are produced by the distillation of a fermented base product. Distilling concentrates the alcohol and eliminates some of the congeners.
Spirits can be added to wines to create fortified wines, such as port and sherry.

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