You don’t have to be a science buff to enjoy beer or even to make your own, but as it happens, there actually are a lot of fascinating things happening during the brewing process. Whether or not you make your own beer, it’s just plain fun to know just how it all works – and you’ll feel like the smartest beer lover in the room when you’re able to tell your friends if they should happen to ask about brewing.
In this article, we’ll cover how hops, barley, yeast and water become the magical substance that is beer.
The Beer Brewing Process
For the most part, those are the only four ingredients in beer: water, malted barley, yeast and hops. And from these four things an incredible variety of flavors, colors, aromas and even textures can be created.
Some beers use other grains in the place of barley (wheat being the most common substitution, such as in the case of weissbier), but the vast majority of beers are brewed using just these four very basic ingredients.
While the ingredients may be simple, the process by which they become beer is anything but. Like other alcoholic beverages, yeast is the prime mover, converting the sugars in the malted grain into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation gives beer both its alcohol content and its natural carbonation.
If you’ve made your own beer, it is this process that you see going on early in the brewing process when you spot foam and bubbles in the fermentation vat.
While the fermentation process may be basically the same as that seen in the production of other alcoholic beverages, the alcohol content of the finished product is significantly lower in beer than in wine and spirits.
The reason for this is that malted barley contains much less sugar than do grapes, meaning that the yeast doesn’t have as large of a food supply to work from.
The lower sugar content of the ingredients is the reason why beer doesn’t require a very long second fermentation process. It’s also why you may note more of a yeasty flavor in some beers than you will in any wines or distilled spirits.
Most beer lovers would agree that the shorter fermentation time is a good thing. After all, it means that there’s less time to wait between the beginning of the beer brewing process and opening that first bottle of your own home brew.