What is beer? (Other than “delicious”.) A simple enough question, and one that we decided to break down to a simple answer for those of you looking to learn what beer is made of. This introduction to beer is part one of our new blog series, Beer 101.
What is Beer?
Beer is made up of four main components; put these things all together, and you have the nectar of the gods…
Malt is a grain, that is taken partially through the germination process in order to convert its starches into sugars, which is then ready to be fermented and turned into alcohol. Different soaking and roasting times will create different colors of malt, and be used for different colors and styles of beer. Also, the malt can create body, and flavors such as bready, caramely, roasty, chocolatey…. all of those are characteristics that malt can add to a beer. (sidenote: most beers primarily use barley malt, although wheat, rice, oat, and rye can be used too.)
Hops are not just for bittering and making IPAs as crazy as you can make them. They also add aromatics and other floral and herbal flavor components to the beer, and balance out some of the sweet flavors of the malt.
Arguably, the most important aspect of the beer. It creates the alcohol by a process called fermentation, essentially metabolizing the sugars from the malt, and also creating some CO2 in the process.
Depending on where a beer is brewed, and how the beer is made, the water can add body and subtle flavor itself with its trace minerals. Breweries who have more than one base can search for years, or employ teams of water technicians in order to try and maintain consistency with the water used at their original location, and in their original beer recipes.
From here, brewers may or may not add further ingredients in order to produce certain flavors, but ALL brews will have these four components in some ration, in order to become a beer.
Check back soon for part two of our Beer School where we will take you through the brewing process.