Beer – it’s one of the world’s favorite drinks. Beer has existed in one form or another for thousands of years.
With different civilizations across the world throughout history all making their own version of the drink.
But while there is almost no end to the variations of beer around the world, all beers are made with just a few ingredients. So what exactly is in beer?
If you’ve ever wondered what beer is made out of, then you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll take you through what ingredients beer is made of, as well as how it’s actually made.
What Ingredients Are In Beer?
While there are plenty of variations of beer with different ingredients, all beers share the same four base ingredients.
These can vary in terms of their proportions, but without these primary ingredients, it wouldn’t be beer. These ingredients are water, grains, hops, and yeast.
When combined in a certain way, these ingredients can be turned into the drink we all know.
Each ingredient serves a different purpose in the production of beer, helping to give it its iconic taste, smell, and color. In this section, we’ll cover what each ingredient is used for.
Like most drinks, beer is predominantly made up of water. It is the main ingredient used when making beer, and forms the base for the other ingredients to turn into beer.
In fact, up to 95% of beer is made up of water.
But while water might seem like the most simple ingredient that doesn’t have much bearing on the beer apart from giving the other ingredients something to mix with.
The water used in beer can have a big impact on the overall taste and quality of the beer. It needs high-quality water without any contaminants or high levels of minerals.
Distilled water is the most commonly used, although water with low mineral content can be used to influence the flavor profile of the beer.
This change can be dramatic, with different mineral contents changing things like the beer’s flavor to its color (for instance, some water is only suitable for dark stouts while others produce pale ales).
Grains are another important ingredient in beer, and there are many different grains that are used for different beers. The most commonly-used grains include barley, wheat, and rye.
Grain is important as it is a key part of the ‘malting’ process; this is where the grain is germinated, soaked, and dried in order to prepare it for use in beer-making.
The grains used and the amount of malt produced can make a big difference to the beer in several ways.
This includes not only its flavor, but also its color and alcohol content. More fermentable material (which is eaten by the yeast to produce alcohol) will lead to a stronger beer.
So beers with a higher alcohol content will typically contain more grain and, as a result, more malt.
This is what makes beer, well, beer. Hops are a type of flower that are used in beer production to help give the beer its aroma.
A more well-rounded flavor profile, and the slight bitterness that beer is known for.
When the hops are boiled, they release something called ‘alpha acid’ which produces the bitter taste along with its citrusy, floral flavors.
Different varieties of hops produce different flavors. This is part of the reason why beers from different locations can vary dramatically in flavor.
Species of hops from one area can make a beer with a completely different taste to hops on the other side of the world.
Yeast is the final ingredient in the mix. As mentioned before, yeast is what produces the alcohol in beer as it feeds on the sugars produced during the malting process.
This occurs during fermentation – the long process in which the beer mix is heated.
As the beer is fermenting, the malted grain will produce sugars. The yeast then feeds on the sugars, causing it to release carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.
The carbon dioxide will dissipate, but the alcohol produced by the yeast will be used to make the beer alcoholic.
Like hops, there are hundreds of varieties of yeast, and these can have a big impact on the taste of the beer.
Most beers will use one of two categories of yeast: ale yeast and lager yeast. These can impact the flavor profile, aroma, and even the alcohol content of the beer.
So How Is Beer Made?
Now that we’ve covered what beer is made out of, let’s take a look at how it’s made.
Beer production follows a specific step-by-step process that needs to be done correctly in order for the beer to turn out well. Here’s how beer is made.
Step 1 – Malting
The first step in making beer is the malting process. This is how the grains will be prepared to use in the beer.
First, the grain is milled. It is then steeped in water, and allowed to aerate – this is what germinates the grains. After that, the grains are left to dry before being killed (which involves roasting them in a large kiln or oven).
Step 2 – Making The Mash
The mash is one of the most important aspects of making beer. The malted grains are mixed with hot water and left to steep again.
This produces a sugary liquid known as ‘wort’, which is what the yeast will feed on later to produce the alcohol. The water is then drained, leaving behind a sticky mush.
Step 3 – Boiling And Adding Hops
Now it’s time to add the hops. The wort is put into a large copper vessel, often called a ‘copper’ or ‘kettle’.
Water is added, and then the wort is boiled. Hops are added at the start of this process, and their bitterness helps to offset the sweetness of the wort.
The mix is left to boil for around an hour in the kettle, after which more hops are added. This will help it to release the alpha acids inside to give the beer its signature taste.
Step 4 – Fermentation
After the mixture has been left to boil for an hour, it is moved to a fermentation vessel. This is where the yeast is added.
This is the most important stage in the brewing process, as well as the most delicate.
There isn’t a specific time that the mix is left to ferment, and it depends on what variety of yeast is being used as well as the amount of beer being made.
It’s important to maintain the right temperature so the yeast doesn’t die during this step. The yeast will then start to feed on the sugars in the wort, producing alcohol as a result.
Step 5 – Filtering And Processing
The beer is almost done – however, there are a lot of solid pieces still left in the mix that need to be removed.
To get rid of the leftover hops, grains, and yeast, the beer is thoroughly filtered.
This can affect the taste of the beer and leave it tasting less full-bodied, but the floating particles need to be removed.
After that, the beer is stored. This could either be in large kegs (particularly if the beer is going to be used in a bar or restaurant).
Or it could be bottled straight away and sent off to be sold. And there you have it – that’s how beer is made!
Now you know a bit more about the ingredients in beer, and how they are combined to make the nation’s favorite drink.
Beer is popular for a reason, and it’s amazing how this great drink is the product of just a few ingredients and the knowledge of how to combine them.
So next time you’re cracking open a cold one or enjoying a night out at the bar at the end of a long week, you’ll know exactly what went into your refreshing glass of beer. Cheers!