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. Water contains minerals that are naturally present in drinking water, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and iron. Water with a high amount of minerals is considered hard water, while more pure water with a low amount of minerals is considered soft water.
Grain is added during the brew house process to provide body for the beer, maltiness, and sugar for fermentation. Beer is primarily brewed using malted barley. Other malted or unmalted grains such as wheat, rye, oats, corn, rice, and sorgham can accompany barley. If a recipe does not include some type of malted grain, it is not considered beer.
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.
Beer recipes have various seasonings, which include hops, other flowers, herbs, and spices.
Hops are herbal flowers that grow on vines. They are beer brewing ingredients used to balance the grain flavor/aroma and to act as a natural preservative. They are typically added during the brew house stage of the brewing process, but can also be added during the cellaring stage.
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.
Although hops have become the standard for brewing most beer styles, many alternative herbs and spices can be used. Gruits, various mixtures of herbs, were the most popular up until 1000 AD. They were slowly phased out by hops over the next 500 years, though.
Yeast are added to ferment the beer during the cellaring stage. They take the grain sugars from the brew house stage and turn them into alcohol, CO2, and a few other minor byproducts.
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. Learn More
Different compounds may be added to beer to improve their quality. Many times these disqualify the beer from being organic.
Many flavors and aromas are added to beer recipes. They are not essential, but do add complexity and character.
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