Brewing beer is a natural process, and indeed its basic ingredients haven’t changed for thousands of years. The process itself developed over the years from the aspects of the equipment, raw material quality, and accuracy of the recipes.
You make quality beer from only four ingredients: water, malt, hops, and yeast.
From each of the ingredients (including water) there is a wide variety of types. What determines the beer’s style, taste, and smell are the type of each of the ingredients, their quantity, and the different process used.
The Four Ingredients
Water is the base. There are many kinds of water. They differ by the type of minerals and their concentration. Over the years, people all over the world developed different types of beer, according to the type of local water. For example, the Pilsner was born and developed in the Czech Republic based on very soft water and almost lacking in minerals. In comparison, the British Pale Ale developed in the Burton upon Trent in Britain, where the water is abundant in minerals and rich in sulfur.
The type of minerals and their concentration in water influences the beer’s final taste.
Hops are the female flower clusters (commonly called cones), of a vine. That grows in the cold areas of Europe and North America. Hops are used in brewing for many years balancing the sweetness of the malt with bitterness, contributing a variety of desirable flavors and aromas, and having an antibiotic effect that favors the activity of brewer’s yeast over less desirable microorganisms
The hops variety, stage in which they’re added, and quantity – influence the beer’s bitterness, taste, and aroma.
Malt for beer is like grapes for wine. Malt is the source of the sugar that ferments and turns into alcohol. Malt is actually different cereal seeds (mainly barley and wheat) that went through partial germination (seeds that were wetted, sprouted, and dried midway through the drying process). The partial sprouting creates natural enzymes that break the starch into sugars that is ready to ferment. Most of the world’s malt is barley, but there are beers that use other cereals like wheat. There are other sources of sugar in the world like rice and corn.
The type of malt and level of roasting influences both the taste and color of the beer.
Yeast is a single-cell micro-organism whose existence was discovered only 150 years ago by Louis Pasteur. The yeast converts fermentable sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a series of flavors and aromas. There are many types of yeast. Man has been using yeast for thousands of years for baking and brewing. In beer we use brewing yeast. The two important yeast families are the Ale and the Lager. The Ale family ferments at a warmer temperature, and produce beer with more flavors and aromas. The Lager family ferments at a colder temperature and make more subtle types of beer.
Different types of yeast produce completely different types of beer from the same raw materials.
The Production Process
Mashing is the process of combining a mix of milled grain (typically malted barley or wheat), known as the “grain bill”, and water, known as “liquor”, and heating this mixture. Mashing allows the enzymes in the malt to break down the starch in the grain into sugars in a natural process to create a malty liquid called wort. By controlling the process – temperature, timing, and PH, you can control the type of sugars created, the alcohol level, residual sweetness level, and how much body the beer will have.
We Transfer the sweet mixture called wort into a tank called a Lauter Tun. This is actually a giant sieve in which the separation of the extracted wort occurs. In most breweries, the malt mixture goes through a process of spraying with hot water to bring out as much of the sugars and flavors as possible. The outputs from this process are the clear Wort, and spent grains that are removed for use by cattle farms as food.
The Wort is transferred into a boiling tank called the Kettle. You add the hops to the liquid in this stage. The boiling removes impurities, conceals unnecessary tastes, and brings out the hops. The boiling length and timing of adding the hops greatly influence the outcome. After boiling, you again separate the solids from the liquids (now, they are mainly hops) and quickly cool the liquid to the fermenting temperature.
After boiling, you place the chilled Wort with the yeast into the fermenting tanks. Here, the yeast starts its work and performs its wonders – transforming the sugars into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a host of flavours and aromas. The process differs in its length and temperature in which it occurs, according to the type of yeast you use. Ale yeast prefers temperatures of 16-25 degrees Celsius. Lager yeast prefers temperatures of 8-14 degrees Celsius.
5. Maturing, Lagering
After primary fermentation, the beer goes through a maturation period at a low temperature. At this stage, the beer stabilizes, balances, and becomes rounded. The maturation takes place in chilled tanks. It lasts several weeks, according to the type of beer you’re making.
The final step in preparing beer is the packaging. You need to package the beer in such a way that gets it to the consumer fresh and tasty – the same way it leaves the maturation tank. This is a big challenge, and one of the differences between quality beer and mass-produced beer. You can package in bottles, cans, and barrels. For all types of packages, it’s important to make sure the container is absolutely clean, and without oxygen that can damage the beer.
7. Preserving and Carbonation Process
Mass-produced beers are intended for a long shelf life, and at changing temperatures. Therefore, most go through preserving and stabilization processes. The preservation is divided between pasteurization and special filtering. Also, most go through a carbonization process to protect the bottle’s carbonization.