Beer is just water with a few magical ingredients. That’s right 90% of that brew is water with a little barley, hops and the ever exciting and misunderstood yeast. These four plain if not entirely simple components work together to bring life one of its simplest pleasures. Barley may be substituted or joined by other grains, but it by far is the king of all the grains to choose from.
Water an essential in life and beer as well. Pure water free of harmful contaminants is of course the best water to drink and the best for beer making. Waters from different areas may range from soft to hard depending on their mineral content. Softer water, which includes most municipal water, lends itself to milder beers. Harder water leans to stronger flavors. The mineral make up of water may be adjusted by adding or reducing minerals such as salt or calcium. Makes sense that cleaner water makes better beer so just another reason to be nice to the planet
Barley a grain that is edible but much more suited to the making of beer than bread. There are three basic types of barley and then of course many variations of each of those three. Just like rice or potatoes, just when you think you’ve tried them all one more variety pops up. Barley comes in two row, four row or six row types. This refers to how the grain is attached to the central stalk. The two row barley is best suited for most beer making as it is higher in starch and lends itself naturally to the malting process. Six row barley is much more efficient to grow and despite its lower starch content it is blessed with a higher concentration of the enzymes needed to turn starch into sugar.
Hops are the flowers from the vines of the hop plant. It serves beer in a number of ways. Once again there are many different varieties of hops. Each variety has a slightly different effect on the beer and how it ultimately tastes. Hops are part preservative, part flavor enhancer and part aroma. When the proper blend of these dried flowers is added to the mixture they balance the sweetness of the malted grain.
Yeast is the most studied and the least understood of all the components of beer making. Yeast used in beer making come in two basic types. One is used primarily for top fermented ales the other for bottom fermented lagers. Yeast is common just in the air, but for beer making strains specific to a certain beer have been cultivated over time. Guinness keeps a bit of their 150 year old yeast family locked up in a safe at the brewery. Belgian Lambics still use the old wild yeast from the air technique. Yeast is what takes the sprouted (malted) grain and essentially eats the sugar and as a by product produces carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol. The carbon dioxide gives beer the fizzy and the ethyl alcohol act as the punch and preservative.
These four simple items, water, barley, hops and yeast work together and become beer. Barley is the primary grain, but rice, wheat, corn or any grain may be used. Yeast may be used in its wild state or even ordered freeze dried. Hops are usually dried and sometimes aged up to three years. Water whether from those disappearing glaciers or shrinking underground aquifers is key and irreplaceable. Save the Planet Save the Beer.
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2. 4 Essential Components of a Beer Brewing Ingredient Kit