Want to learn the basics about beer?

History Classification Brewing Serving Glassware

About Beer

Beer is an alcoholic drink made by fermenting sugars, converted from the natural starches in grains. Beer has 4 main ingredients and 2 minor ones. The main ingredients are water, cereal grains, hops, and yeast. The minor ones are additives and adjunct flavors.

Water is the foundation of beer. In chemistry terms, beer is a solution. Water is the solvent, and it dissolves the rest of the beer ingredients, which are solutes.

The cereal grains used in brewing beer include barley, wheat, oats, rye, rice, corn, and sorghum. The part of grain used is the seeds or hulls. The seeds naturally have starches in them. The seeds must be malted: partially heating and watering them in a dark bin, so they think they're in the ground. Malting makes them start to grow, so they convert their starches to sugars. Of all the cereal grains, barley converts the most starches into sugars during malting, which is why malted barley is the principal grain used in brewing beer. The malted grain in a recipe gives beer its color, both the body and the head of froth. The longer a grain has been malted, the darker it will make a beer.

The malted grain in a recipe is what gives beer its color...

The hops used in brewing beer are both a preservative and a fragrance. The part of hops used is the flower cone. The cones naturally have alpha-acids and essential oils in them. Alpha-acids are converted into iso-alpha-acids during the brewing process. These add the bitter taste and are a natural preservative. The essential oils are aromatic. These add the fresh aroma to beer.

Yeast is used in brewing beer for fermentation. Yeast process the sugars, provided by the malted grain, and convert them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The strain of yeast used determines whether a beer is an ale, or a lager, or a special style. In general, ales are more complex, while lagers are more smooth and blended. This is because the cellaring stage of brewing ales is shorter and at higher temperatures, while the cellaring stage for lagers is longer and at cooler temperatures.

Finished beer is mostly water. With that, it contains minerals that are naturally present in drinking water, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and iron. Average beer has about 4% alcohol by mass (5% by volume); most styles range from 4-12% ABV, but specialties can be up in the 20s. Finished beer contains complex sugars, about 3.5% by mass. The yeast process most of the simple sugars during fermentation. Finished beer also contains proteins, only about 0.5%. The sugars and proteins are plant based, acquired from the malted grains in the beer recipe.

A nominal serving of beer is 12 fluid ounces (355 mL). Many beers are also served as pints. One American pint is 16 fl oz (473 mL). One English pint is 19.2 fl oz (568 mL).


English - beer
Spanish - la cerveza
Italian - la birra
French - la biére
German - das bier
Latin - cerevisia

Ales and Lagers

Two of the main styles of beer are ales and lagers. The difference is simply the species of yeast used in brewing. Ales are (typically) more complex, bold, and heavy in body. Lagers are (typically) more smooth and light in body.

There's acually a third style of beer called a lambic, that uses wild yeast and bacteria in brewing. As a result, lambics are sour and have the aroma of fruit.

Light and Dark Beer

The difference between light and dark beer is the type and quantity of cereal grain used. Light beers (typically) have less malt. This results in a lower residual sugar, lower alcohol strength, more delicate flavor and aroma, and lower viscosity. Dark beers (typically) have more malt. This results in a higher residual sugar, higher alcohol strength, more bold flavor and aroma, and higher viscosity.

Dark beers preserve longer in storage than light beers.

All Content is Copyright © 2015, Brew Muse, LLC. All Rights are Reserved.