Beer Making Basics

Introduction

Making beer is, in reality, a very complicated thing. Breweries use different systems and processes, and every single ingredient or production choice will affect the final drink.

Water

Don’t underestimate the importance of water: it is the main constituent of beer, and you need good water to make good beer. Because water provides the base for the beer, it has to be of great quality. Small differences in water composition can result in big differences in flavor. Soft water, for example, gives beer a soft, clean body and is especially good in lighter beer styles, such as Helles and Pilsner, while hard water gives a dryness that emphasizes hop and malt bitterness, so is good for IPAs and Stouts.

Great brewing towns (such as Pilsen, in the Czech Republic, with its soft water; Burton-on-Trent, in England, with its hard water; and Bend, in Oregon, with its fresh mountain water) have grown-and continue to grow-around the best water sources.
All breweries treat their water in some way. Some breweries have a treatment plant to control the water, while others simply add different salts and minerals to the brew. This is to balance the water composition to suit the beers they make and to ensure that the brewing water (known as liquor) is always consistent.

Grain

The combination of water and grain rough outline of the beer before the define the details are provided by the hops and de but it is not the only cereal used: wheaty grain yeast or barley can be used: wheat, oats, and add texture and flavor to beer, while rye and maize tend to lighten flavor (and are only used in macrobrewing).

Grain provides the sugars needed to make alcohol, so if you want a lot of alcohol, then you need a lot of grain. It also provides body and color, and the brewer produces the foundation for the beer by combining different types of grain.

For example, pale malt, Munich malt, crystal malt, and chocolate malt might give you a good Brown Ale base: replace the Munich malt with roasted barley, and you get a Stout; lose all the dark malt and increase the pale, and you’ve got an IPA.

Before it can be used in a brew, the barley has to be malted. There’s a little pearl of sweetness inside each grain that holds the starches, which are converted into sugars (these are later turned into alcohol by the yeast). As barley has a har outer husk, it needs to germinate first, meaning it’s soaked in water so that the rootlets can crack through the shell. At this point, the germination process is stopped, the grains are dried and then roasted to different levels-the long er they are roasted, the darker they’ll be come.

Think of it like toast: it starts sweet and bready, ets caramelized and sweeter in the middle, and then, if you leave the bread in the toaster for too long, it becomes black, brittle, and bitter with no remaining sweetness.

Different malts undergo different processes to change their starch and sugar content. Crystal malt, for example, is germinated, then immediately heated to convert the starch to sugar, emulating the mashing process, and then roasted, with the end result being crystallized sugars that are unfermentable, giving a caramel- like sweetness and depth to the beer it goes into. Some barley is just roasted (not malted) and this will be black and bitter. As well as malted barley, other grains produce different beer qualities: oats give a smooth richness to the body; wheat helps head-retention and gives texture; and rye adds a nutty, spicy depth of flavor.

The grains are milled or crushed and then go into the mash tun where the process of mashing with hot water (the saccharification sweet spot is around 67°C or 153 ° F, though different enzymatic activity happens at different temperatures)
converts the starches in the malt into fermentable sugars.

The mash is like a big, malty porridge as the color and sweetness is sucked out of the grain and taken up by the water, making it taste like a delicious sweet tea now called wort (rhymes with pert). From the mash tun, it’s all transferred to the lauter tun where the wort is separated from the grain and sparged (or sprayed) with hot water to get as much goodness from the grain as possible. Then it’s into the kettle-not all breweries have a lauter tun, in which case the separation happens in the mash tun as the wort transfers to the next tank.