Crafty Beer Time: The Brewing Process
Step 1 Selecting Your Ingredients
Beer is generally made of a few simple ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast. However, by adding additional elements into the mix, brewers have the ability to create an unlimited number of tastes. The first thing your typical beer is going to contain:
Grains are the backbone of any beer. They give the beer color, flavor, aroma and mouth-feel. It would be impossible to make alcohol without grains, period. Grains can typically include: barley, wheat, oats, rye, rice and corn.
The most important grain is barley, known to brewers as malt. Dried or toasted in a variety of ways, malt is what gives beer its distinct color. The darker the malt used – the darker the brew. And depending how much you use, will determine your beer’s alcohol content. More malt, means more alcohol.
Put simply, hops are cone-like flowers. They grow off female climbing plants closely related to cannabis. The natural acids and oils found in hops are perfect for beer. These elements give beer flavor, aroma and most importantly – its bitterness.
If you were to only brew your beer with malt, the result would be undrinkable. Essentially what you would have is a very sweet beer. To counter this, hops are used to add bitterness to the beer’s flavor. This provides balance and makes for a much more palatable brew.
When your beer is finished brewing, what remains is roughly 95 percent water. Controlling what’s in water is absolutely essential for brewers. The presence or lack of minerals found in water can have a huge impact on a beer’s overall taste. Things like sulfate, carbonate, calcium and sodium all react differently when combined with other ingredients found in beer.
Yeast is primarily responsible for converting sugar from the malt into alcohol. A byproduct of this process is carbonation (CO2). Without yeast, beer would be impossible to make.
Before you can begin the brewing process, you must first crush your grain. Crushing your grain exposes the starches inside allowing them to be later converted into sugar.
Step 3 Mashing
Much like making tea, the mash is simply adding your crushed grains into hot water to allow them to steep (90 minutes). During the steeping process, enzymes found in the barley are activated. Once activated, these enzymes convert starches found in the grain into sugars which will later be converted into alcohol.
Step 4 Sparge
Think of sparging as the final washing of your grain. In order to extract as many possible sugars from the grains, brewers will run fresh, hot water through the grain to extract the last remaining sugars. Once this has been completed, the liquid byproduct from the Maash and the Sparge is now removed and becomes what brewers call – Wo
Step 5 The Boil
Perhaps the most exciting part of the brewing process, this is where hops get added into the boiling wort. Usually lasting an hour, different hops are added in at different intervals to create the beers bitterness, aroma and flavor.
Step 6 Chilling
After the boil, the wort needs to be cooled as quickly as possible to save it from contamination. Using ice water pumped through copper coils, brewers lower the temperature of the beer.
Step 7 Fermentation
After the wort has been chilled to the ideal temperature, yeast is then added to officially make beer! In a closed vessel where contaminants can’t get in, the yeast begins to eat the sugars and convert them into alcohol.
Read the crafty beer cover story here.