How beer is brewed
Beer, no matter what form, uses four main ingredients: Grain, hops, yeast and water. Each component affects the beer’s flavor profile in their own ways
Grains used in making beer are pretty much the same grains used in breakfast cereals, which is why some people refer to beer as “liquid bread”. The grain used may need to undergo a malting process before they can be used to make beer, like barley and wheat. This process stimulates grain germination which processes the natural grain sugars known as maltose which yeasts eat during fermentation. In the process of malting, the seeds are soaked in water until plant starts to grow but just before it emerges from the seed, it is put in a kiln and dried. How they are dried causes the differences in colors and flavors of malt.
Grain gives three important qualities to the beer: malt flavor and aroma, color and the fermentable material.
- Malt flavor and aroma- this can range from soft corn-like to mocha-like flavors.
- Color- this is highly determined by the malt used. Most beers are made from light-colored malts because they have the special enzymes that convert malt starch into sugar
- Fermentable Material- this is what the yeast eats. Sugars from the malt provide the food the yeast will consume and covert to alcohol.
Hops provide the beer with their sharp aroma, a selection of flavors and the intensity of bitterness that balances with the sweetness of the malt. Hops are the flowers of a perennial vine that looks like pine cones if pine cones were soft and green. They contain lupulin, a yellow powder that is basically a purified concentration of all the resin compounds and essential oils that will create the earthy flavors and scent in beer. The hop resin called alpha acid will give the beer its bitterness and depending on their oil, it will give certain beer styles their signature scent. When hops are boiled, the acid undergoes through a process that causes it to make the beer bitter. The bitterness of the beer is determined by how long the hops are boiled.
As the third major ingredient in beer, it is the ingredient most people know together with grains. Yeast eats the sugars from malted grain during fermentation. It is also during this process that the yeast excretes the alcohol and carbon dioxide.
There are two major categories of brewing yeast: ale yeast and lager yeast. There are hundreds of varieties within these categories and specific strains are suited to making specific beer styles. For some brewers, the yeast is the most important element in deciding the character of the beer.
Most yeasts used tend to be neutral compared to Bavarian-styled wheat beers. This allows the malt and hop character of the beer to dominate the flavor profile.
Often overlooked, water is actually extremely important in brewing beer since beer is made up of mostly water with some beer consisting of 95% water. Water quality is essential as it can have different levels of mineral content which can have a substantial effect on the flavor of the beer.
Past brewers were not able to alter the mineral content of their water which caused the beer profile to differ from region to region, depending on the quality of the region’s water.
In fact, in the past, stouts were associated with Ireland because their untreated water was the only one suitable for dark beer production while English-style pale ales owe their bite to the high sulfate content of their water.
Despite having only four main ingredients, brewers have found ways to change them up in so many ways that we now have several hundred kinds of beers.
Beer comes in different types, either Lagers or Ale and there are different subtypes. The difference between them is the type of yeast used during the fermentation process. Lagers use bottom-fermenting yeast that needs to be fermented in colder temperatures. Lagers have a crispier taste and have a drier taste than the Ale. There are different types of Lagers: Pale lager- it has a refreshingly light and slightly hoppy taste. The Pilsner – is light colored and crisp, a little hoppy and has a nice pale gold color. Amber & Red lager – has a darker color because it uses malted barley. It tastes light and crispy and contains side notes of toffee, caramel and toast aromas. Dark Lager- are light bodied and has a rich aroma and side notes of coffee, chocolate and molasses.
IPAs are different and are under the Ales category. Ales are made from a different type of yeast strain, and they need to be fermented in warmer environments. Top fermenting yeast are used here because the yeast will typically float on the surface. Ales have a more wide array of flavors and there are a lot of options as well. But most ales have a more Fruity and Earthy taste.
The different types of Ale are: Cream Ale- they have a pale color, it is light and refreshing and it doesn’t taste too bitter. Pale Ale- tastes malty and earthy and there are different styles: American style which is more hoppy and citrusy, and Belgian-style which is sweeter and less hoppy. Amber and Red Ale -has side notes of caramel, fruit or coffee. They are slightly darker in color and richly flavoured. Dark Ale- also has English style and Belgian Style with hints of caramel, spice and fruity aromas. Brown ale- is also known as brown or nut brown ale. They have a sweet and nutty taste. Wheat Beer- is more foamy, sweet and has a silky texture because of the added wheat. It has a sweeter aroma of banana or bubble gum. Belgian Style Ale- are special styles of beer from Belgium.
IPA or Indian Pale Ale – are different from the other beers because they are more “hoppy” or bitter. Beer gets its bitterness from the Hops. IPA was invented in the 19th Century by the British. British sailors wanted to bring barrels of beer to India, and they added more Hops as a preservative to make it last longer. The British IPA have a maltier and bitter taste which gives it a distinct taste. There are different styles of IPA: British IPA- is maltier and bitter; New England IPA- is more fruity and less bitter; and the West Coast IPA- has a more balanced taste of fruity and bitterness.