Did you know that after water and tea, Beer is the third most popular drink? In fact, it’s the world’s most widely consumed and likely the oldest alcoholic beverage, dating back to the early Neolithic or 9500 BC, when cereal was first farmed.
So what’s so special about beer?
The production of beer is called brewing, which involves the fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grains—most commonly malted barley, although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are widely used. Most beer is flavoured with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative, though other flavourings such as herbs or fruit may occasionally be included. The fermentation process causes a natural carbonation effect giving the beverage it’s alcoholic content and effervescence.
Ingredients required to make beer
The basic ingredients of beer are water; a starch source, such as malted barley, able to be saccharified (converted to sugars) then fermented (converted into ethanol and carbon dioxide); and a flavouring such as hops.
Traditional brewing method
The purpose of brewing is to convert the starch source into a sugary liquid called wort and to convert the wort into the alcoholic beverage known as beer in a fermentation process effected by yeast.
The first step, where the wort is prepared by mixing the starch source (normally malted barley) with hot water, is known as “mashing”. Hot water (known as “liquor” in brewing terms) is mixed with crushed malt or malts (known as “grist”) in a mash tun. The mashing process takes around 1 to 2 hours, during which the starches are converted to sugars, and then the sweet wort is drained off the grains. The grains are now washed in a process known as “sparging”. This washing allows the brewer to gather as much of the fermentable liquid from the grains as possible. The process of filtering the spent grain from the wort and sparge water is called wort separation. The traditional process for wort separation is lautering, in which the grain bed itself serves as the filter medium. Some modern breweries prefer the use of filter frames which allow a more finely ground grist.
There are three factors with which Beer is measured and assessed by:
Bitterness – measured by the International Bitterness Units scale (IBU), defined in co-operation between the American Society of Brewing Chemists and the European Brewery Convention.
Strength – The alcohol in beer comes primarily from the metabolism of sugars that are produced during fermentation. Alcohol is a by-product of yeast metabolism. Low temperatures and too little fermentation time decreases the effectiveness of yeasts and consequently decreases the alcohol content.
Beer ranges from less than 3% alcohol by volume (abv) to around 14% abv, though this strength can be increased to around 20% by re-pitching with champagne yeast, and to 55% abv by the freeze-distilling process. The alcohol content of beer varies by local practice or beer style. The pale lagers that most consumers are familiar with fall in the range of 4–6%, with a typical abv of 5%.
Colour – determined by the malt. The most common colour is a pale amber produced from using pale malts. Pale lager and pale ale are terms used for beers made from malt dried with fuel (called Coke.
Which brewers can be trusted to use best quality ingredients and traditional techniques without cutting corners?
7th April 2016: After Battle Pale Ale (Ekim Brewing Co)