If you love a cold glass of beer on a warm summer’s day, you are not alone. In fact, in 2021, 123.89 billion barrels of domestic beer were sold in the U.S. alone. But when enjoying a cold, crisp beer, have you ever wondered how it was made? What does it contain, and how do some brewers get theirs to taste different to others?
What Ingredients are in Beer?
Most beers contain the same basic four ingredients: water, hops, barley, and yeast. Most brewers will add flavors to their beer to create a distinct taste. The way in which beer is processed by the brewer, as well as their own personal touches and additions, help to create their own brand.
The hops are used to give the beer its distinctive flavor and add a bitterness to it. The more hops that are added, the stronger the taste of the beer. Hops come from the Humulus lupulus plant, and as well as adding flavor to the beer, it also helps to keep it fresher for longer.
Barley or malted barley is the most common grain used for beer brewing. Malted barley is barley that has been soaked in warm water, which makes it easier for the starches and proteins to be transformed into fermentable sugars. When mixed with yeast, these sugars will turn into alcohol. The malted barley also gives beer its color and sweet flavor and is considered a fundamental ingredient in the beer making process. Other grains are often added in the beer making process by brewers looking to create new flavors, so you might find that some beers contain ingredients like rye, oats, or wheat. They are not designed to replace the malted barley, however; they are used to enhance the flavor of it.
Yeast is the essential ingredient in beer responsible for the fermentation process. The yeast eats the sugars, leaving behind by-products, including alcohol and carbon dioxide. Brewers use either lager or ale yeast depending on the beer being brewed, as these affect the color and flavor of the beer.
The Basics of Making Beer
In simple terms, beer is made by extracting sugar from the grain and then mixing those sugars with yeast, where it is turned into carbonated alcohol. But as you might imagine, there is a little bit more to it than that.
Larger breweries have their own methods for brewing and all use different types of equipment. For example, some might use stainless steel brewing. The advantage of this, say the experts at CedarStone Industry, makers of brewing equipment, is that the stainless steel does not affect the taste of the beer. Moreover, because it is a corrosive resistant metal, it is not affected by the acidity of the beer.
Whatever method is used to brew beer though, it will involve heating water with the chosen grain to extract the starches from the grain. The grain is usually pre-crushed and when it is mixed with hot water creates a thick substance known as mash. The starches are converted to sugars.
Once this process is complete. The wort (liquid in the mash) is drained into a brewing kettle. More hot water is run through the mash to get as much wort as needed. The wort is then boiled in the kettle to sterilize it before hops are added. At which point hops are added will depend on whether the goal is for a bitterness or more aroma and flavor.
The fermentation process is next and at this point the mixture is transferred to a fermentation vessel, where yeast is added. During fermentation, the sugars in the wort are turned into alcohol and CO2.