Beer is one of the most popular drinks in the world after tea and water. Beer is easy to make from just four ingredients: water, barley, yeast and hops. All beers are made with the same ingredients, the variation comes from the amount of each ingredient used plus the differing brewing technique for each type of beer. For example, ale us fermented for twenty-one days while lager is fermented for thirty-five days.
This is the how beer is made:
The brewing process starts with grains, usually barley, although sometimes cheaper starch sources like wheat or rye. The grains are harvested and go through a process of heating, drying out and cracking. The main aim of malting is to isolate the enzymes needed for brewing in preparation for the next step.
The malted barley then goes through a process called mashing. The barley is steeped in hot, but not boiling, water for about an hour. This ‘mashing’ activates enzymes in the grains that cause it to break down and release its sugars and can take one or two hours. Once time is up, the water, which is now full of sugar from the grains, is drained from the mash. This sticky, sweet liquid is called wort.
The grains are then washed in a process known as “sparging” which allows the brewer to gather as much of the fermented liquid from the grains as possible. Each run produces a weaker wort and thus a weaker beer. However, most modern breweries collect the original wort and the sparge water together.
The wort collected from sparging is boiled for about an hour. Boiling evaporates the water in the wort, leaving the sugars and other components of the wort. Boiling also destroys any remaining enzymes left over from the mashing stage. During the boiling hops and other spices are added several times. Hops provide bitterness, flavour and aroma. The longer the hops are boiled, the more bitterness they add, but the more flavour and aroma remains in the beer.
After boiling, the wort is cooled, strained and filtered. It’s then put in a fermenting vessel and yeast is added. The beer is stored for a couple of weeks at room temperature (in the case of ales) or many many weeks at cold temperatures (in the case of lagers) while the yeast begins the fermentation process, using all the sugar in the wort to create carbon dioxide and ethanol (alcohol) as waste products. At this stage fine particles in the wort settles as does the yeast once fermentation is complete. this leaves the beer clear.
In some breweries, the hopped wort passes through a hopback, a small hop-filled vat, to add aroma and flavor and to act as a filter.
Fermentation is sometimes carried out in two stages, primary and secondary. Once most of the alcohol has been produced during primary fermentation, the beer is transferred to a new vessel and allowed a period of secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is used when the beer requires long storage before packaging or greater clarity.
5. Bottling and Ageing
After fermentation is complete, the result is alcoholic beer. However it is still flat and non-carbonated. The flat beer is put into casks, kegs or bottled, at which time it is either artificially carbonated like a soda, or if it’s going to be ‘bottle conditioned’ it’s allowed to naturally carbonate via the carbon dioxide the yeast produces. After allowing it to age for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, the beer is ready to drink.