||The Basics of Beer Brewing
Beer has a very long history, going back
around 5,000 years to ancient
and Egypt. The basic recipe is:
- Steep malted grain in hot (but not boiling)
water to release its sugars.
- Boil this sweet "soup," adding
- Cool it and add yeast.
- Let it ferment.
In malting, grain is steeped in water for
a few days, to encourage germination. This
makes the profile of sugars in the grain
optimal for brewing. The grain is then dried,
to prevent further growth and sprouting.
Barley is the principal malted grain used.
Many classic beers, mainly from Germany and
Belgium, also use wheat. Oats and rye are
used much less commonly. Some mass-market
American brews also toss in corn or rice,
neither of which is malted, but are cooked
Both the types of grain used
and the manner
in which they have been dried
taste of the final product. For
the roasted, coffee-ish flavor
and stouts comes from grains
that have been
toasted, not just dried.
Hops serve several purposes. They offer bitterness,
offering the taste buds a contrast to the
sweetness of the sugars from the grains.
They act as a preservative, give aroma, and
add oils that help retain the head. Numerous
varieties of hops have been cultivated, each
with a distinctive aroma and flavor.
Yeast also has a critical impact
on the taste
of beer. Many different strains
isolated for use in brewing.
There are 2
- Ale yeasts. These are active at "room
temperature" (normally from 59 to 77
degrees F) and concentrate at the top of
the fermenting vessel while they work. The
resulting beer (technically called an "ale")
tends to have a fruitier flavor than a lager
(see below). Some ales are ready to drink
with minimal aging, sometimes within only
a week or two from the start of the brewing
process. Other ales benefit greatly from
months of aging.
- Lager yeasts. These are active at cooler
temperatures, normally in the range of 41
to 48 degrees F, and concentrate at the bottom
of the fermenting vessel while they work.
Fermentation proceeds more slowly than with
ale yeasts. Lagers also require weeks or
months of maturation at temperatures close
to 32 degrees F. Lager comes from the German
word for storage. These beers are drier (less
sweet), smoother and less fruity than most
ales. They also tend to be golden and clear,
while many ales are cloudy or opaque. Most
mass-market beers worldwide are lagers.