2 October 2014 - Best Beer HQ
Beer brewing basics: the ingredients
Beer-making 101: the ingredients are…
Beer experts and experienced home brewers might like to stop reading this now. If the title didn’t give it away, this article is all about the basic ingredients in brewing beer. But if you’re wondering what your beer is made of, you’re in the right place.
The basic ingredients in a glass, bottle or keg of beer are…
You can’t make beer without water. Seems pretty obvious, right? What makes beer a liquid is the fact that it’s mostly made up of water. What you mightn’t know, however, is that water around the world has different mineral components – and therefore causes beer to taste different.
For example, the soft water in parts of the Czech Republic is well suited for making pilsner. Meanwhile, the hard water in Dublin is better for making a stout like Guinness.
Now you need something to give the beer some of its all-important flavour and its colouring. Malted barley is most commonly used to make beer, but other malted and unmalted grains include wheat, oats, rye and even rice. Interestingly, special proteins in the grain are what help to give beer its foamy white head.
Yeast might be the most important ingredient in beer making. It’s what puts the bubbles and alcohol in the beer you drink by metabolising the sugar extracted from the grain you use. Basically, yeast is a fungus that lives off the ingredients in beer.
Brewers typically choose a strain of yeast based on what style of beer they’d like to make; the two main classifications of beer yeast are either ale yeast, which is top-fermenting, or lager yeast, which is bottom-fermenting.
Love the bitterness in beer? You can thank the hops (pictured above) for that – and for adding much of the flavour and aroma to beer. Hops, which are flowers, contribute bitterness to beer, but they also balance the sweetness of the malt. Different kinds of beer hops make different kinds of beer.
Meanwhile, hops also help make the beer last longer because they starve off bacteria contamination.
To clarify (sorry about that), a clarifying agent is a chemical substance that some brewers use to make a beer look bright and clean, rather than cloudy in appearance. Typically, brewers are not required to list clarifying agents as an ingredient in the beer that they sell, but you can expect that it’s been used in any beer made by large commercial breweries.