what is beer...
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented barley (or any other cereal grain), flavoured with hops.
How to make beer
The main ingredients needed to make beer are water, malt, hops and yeast.
Stage 1: Malting
Barley is soaked in water until it starts to germinate (it sprouts roots). Enzymes convert starch into sugar during this process. The barley is then dried in a kiln to form malt. The malt barley is then ground up into coarse flour called ‘grist’.
Stage 2: Mashing
The grist is then ‘mashed’ or mixed with hot ‘liquor’ or water in a vessel called a ‘mash tun’.
If your own tap water doesn’t taste very pleasant due to high levels of chlorine or fluoride, then this will have a detrimental effect on the taste of your beer. This being the case you might consider using filtered water.
The sugar from the malt dissolves in the liquor to form a sugar solution known as ‘wort’
Stage 3: Boiling
The wort is filtered to remove the spent grains. The wort is then run into coppers. Hops are added to the wort and the mixture is then boiled. This allows the hops to release their distinctive flavours. The hops bitter taste offers a perfect balance to the sweetness of the wort and provide each brew with a unique aroma.
Stage 4: Fermentation
The hopped wort is then filtered and cooled. The wort is then pumped into fermenting vessels. Yeast is then added to the wort. The yeast rapidly multiplies as it feeds on the sugar, converting it into alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide. This is what gives beer its fizz. This process is known as ‘fermentation’.
Glucose -> ethanol = carbon dioxide
It’s during this process the beer you make can either be classified as ‘ale’ or a ‘lager’ depending on which type of yeast you use and the temperature at which fermentation operates.
Lager fermentation takes up to 2 weeks using a yeast strain called Saccharomyces carlsbergensis at controlled temperatures of between 8-12°C.
Ale fermentation takes between 4-6 days using a yeast strain called Saccharomyces cerevisiae at controlled temperatures of between 12-21°C.
Stage 5: Secondary Fermentation
The liquid produced in the fermenting vessel is beer. In order for it to transform into ‘real ale’ it should be run directly into casks. This process is referred to as racking. Once in the casks more sugar may be added to the beer if necessary. Yeast will still be present in the beer, which will activate the ‘secondary fermentation’ process.
Finings are then finally added to the cask to settle the yeast and clear the beer. Once this has taken place the beer is ready for drinking.