If you have a beer brewing kit, then it’s probably not new to you that this wonderful beverage is in most cases made using only four ingredients: water, hops, malted barley and yeast. Of course as you can tell from trying two different brews, beer is definitely more than the sum of its parts; but you already knew that. What you probably are wondering is how these four simple ingredients work together to create the literally thousands of different beers on the shelves and on tap around the world, not to mention the one of a kind creations which you can make at home with your own beer brewing kit. Keep reading to learn a little more about each of the four ingredients which go into one of the world’s favorite tipples and what each one of them brings to the finished product.
Without water, you just can’t have beer. This makes up the largest part of the finished product by volume and the kind of water you use makes a very real difference to the character and the quality of your beer. Tap water is usually not ideal for home brewing. Even though some cities have excellent municipal water supplies in terms of drinking water, that doesn’t mean that it’s what you want to use to make your beer (although many home brewers certainly do and if you’re dead set on this idea, don’t let us stop you). Purified water or better yet, spring water which doesn’t contain high levels of sulfur or other minerals which can impart an off taste to your beer are both good choices.
These flowers (and the vine on which they grow) is often planted as an ornamental and there are quite a few different types which are used in brewing. Depending on the type of beer which you’re making with your beer brewing kit, you may need to get your hands on specific varieties of hops in order to ensure the right flavor and body for your brew. Entire books have been written on hops; as a home brewer, you may want to do a little research on this plant to learn more about the different types and the role it plays in giving beer it’s characteristic bitterness.
Yeast is the microorganism which makes it all happen. It is yeast which converts the sugars in the malted barley into alcohol and turns your wort into beer. Like hops, there are different types of yeast used in brewing, with some being more suitable for different styles of beer.
Barley is the grain which is most commonly used to brew beer, though you’ll also see wheat, rye and even some more exotic grains like quinoa in some beers. For the most part though, you’ll probably be using a pre-made malt extract with your beer brewing kit (they’re a lot easier to work with). Characteristics like sugar content and how dark (or if) the barley has been roasted will affect the flavor, color and body of the finished beer.