What Is Beer and How Is It Made?
A brew of barley, water, hops and yeast is an amazing drink with a long history. Its ingredients are simple, but brewing is a complex process that can vary depending on the recipe and where it was made (local water content, indigenous yeast strains, ambient fruit or hop flavors).
Brewing has evolved from simple, home-based brews to industrial scale. But even in the best breweries, every beer is brewed with four basic ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Water helps create the liquid base for all beers while hops add bitterness to offset the sweetness from the malt and yeast causes fermentation that produces alcohol, giving beer its flavour and a light natural carbonation.
The first step in the brewing process is called mashing. This is where the grain is mixed with hot water to activate its natural enzymes and convert its starches into sugar, which yeast will turn into alcoholic alcohol and carbon dioxide when fermented. The resulting mixture is then boiled, which removes any remaining enzymes and oxygen and stabilises the wort ready for adding hops and yeast.
The next step is adding the hops, which are added at different points in the brewing process to produce the wide variety of flavours found in today’s beers. Hops are flowers from the Humulus Lupulus plant and they act as a natural preservative to keep the wort from spoiling while adding a distinct flavour of their own. Once the hops are added, the wort is quickly cooled and the yeast is added to start the fermentation process. Lagers use a specific type of yeast, which ferments at cooler temperatures and results in a clearer, lighter beer while ales make use of a wider variety of yeast which ferments at warmer temperatures to give beers their full, rich character.