What’s In My Beer?A class in basic beer ingredients.

Here it is! The class you always wished you had, but didn’t. The one for which you’d have perfect attendance, perfect scores and would be present at all the practical classes, field trips and group study sessions. Welcome, to your very first Beer 101.

Ingredient number one: Water

water

You’ve always heard people griping about how things were so much better in the ‘good old days’, but as it turns out, they might actually be onto something.
They’d be right about beer for starters. Back in the days when ‘once upon a time’ was present day, beer was actually the preferred beverage, trumping even water in terms of preference and value.

That’s mainly because the brewing process involved in making beer ended up making it a lot safer than regular water to consume. Also, beer contains a whopping 95% of water, which we think probably makes it the logical next best option to water itself.

Plus, who’re we kidding!? Who ever needed justifications for choosing beer over water?

Additionally, the minerals found in water add to the flavour of the beer.

Additionally, the minerals found in water add to the flavour of the beer. That’s why the local beer you’d taste in Scotland will probably differ in taste if brewing was attempted say, in America. Take the example of Dublin, which is home to some mineral-rich hard water, making it perfectly suited for making Stouts. And that’s why we have a hugely popular stout like Guinness coming out from there.

However, if you’re ever likely to try your hand at brewing, just remember that anything apart from distilled water will do. The thing with distilled water is that it takes away a lot of the naturally occurring minerals from the water, and this is ideally not what you want happening. Filtered should do just fine.

Better still, you could just come on down and taste one of our many brews. No pain, full gain!

Ingredient number two: Yeast

yeast

Admit it! The last time you ever cared to know anything about Yeast was probably during school when you studied the ‘Pasteur effect’ or some such thing and had to sketch a cell-diagram of it to submit a completed lab record, so that your merciless Biology ¬†teacher would give you a passing grade in that damn Bio exam. For all those times you questioned why the blasted microorganism ever existed in the first place, you will now finally receive a satisfactory answer.

Considered possibly one of the first domesticated organisms, Yeast has been in use since the Ancient Egyptians, to bake bread and consequently, ferment alcohol. Yeast is the sole ingredient that makes the fermentation process possible. These guys consume the sugar created by the malts (coming up shortly) and produce alcohol and carbon-dioxide, which is essentially the process of fermentation.

But even this process requires a specific type of yeast, depending on the kind of brew you’re aiming to create. Broadly, you have three types.

But even this process requires a specific type of yeast, depending on the kind of brew you’re aiming to create. Broadly, you have three types.

Top-Fermenting yeast, a term commonly used to refer to the yeast strains used for brewing ales specifically, are called so because during the process of fermentation they rise to the surface, and the result is a very thick, rich yeast head. This kind of yeast is also used for brewing stouts, porters and wheat beers, among others.

The second type would be the Bottom-Fermenting Yeast, and these refer to Lager yeast strains. Again, the names come from the fermentation process, wherein these guys, due to less surface foam, tend to settle at the bottom of the fermenter. The Pilsner is one of the examples of this kind of fermenting style.

And the third kind, the Spontaneous Fermentation, where the beer is left open for the wild yeast or naturally occurring yeast to work on it. Usually, you would not want these to get involved in your fermentation process, unless you were looking to create a Lambic style brew.

Your bio teacher is about to become just a little happier, because from this moment forth, whether you like it or not, knowing that yeast is an absolutely integral ingredient for making your precious brew, is going to make you look at yeast in a different way. And without a microscope too!

Ingredient number three: Malts

malts

If the shake was the first image that formed in your mind, stop reading. You might just be a bit too young for beer ed. If you’re of legal age, then it’s time for some education.

Where beer is concerned, Malt is the product that is acquired by soaking grain in water just up until it begins to sprout. When the sprouting begins to happen, the grain draws on the starch reserves it possesses and converts them into sugar. After this, the grain is dried and cured, providing the Yeast with a delicious meal of sugar and soluble starch, thus setting the wheels of the fermentation process in motion.

The grain used is largely dependent on the brewer’s personal choice, but barley is the traditional favourite.

The grain used is largely dependent on the brewer’s personal choice, but barley is the traditional favourite. Rice, corn, wheat, oats, etc., are among the other forms of grains that are also used, and sometimes are the preferred choice for a particular kind of beer style. Sometimes though, these alternate grains are used to cut costs in the brewing process and this becomes apparent in the resulting beer quality. Moral of the story: if you want good beer, use good quality grain. Pure and simple!

Ingredient number four: Hops

hops

They’re not related to the hippity-hop although we kind of wish they were. Something about giant, bright coloured bouncy things seems to go so well with beer. But we’ve seen reactions similar to the ones people have on hippity-hops after they’ve tried some of our brews. And I think for the moment, we’re content with that.

Hops are distant cousins of the famed bad ass, cannabis.

Hops are distant cousins of the famed bad ass, cannabis. They’re the country cousins. The more tame, docile ones, but who can occasionally stun you with their wild sides.¬†Think of beer then, as the wild side of these cone-like flowers, that come from the vining plant.

Hops are the ingredients that give beer its signature bitterness. But that’s not their only role. They also enhance the flavour of the brew, as well as the smell, resulting in what you finally consume in a beer glass. The sweetness that the sugars from the malt produce is also balanced out by the hops.

Apart from all that, hops are natural clarifying agents for the drink.

What’s that you say? You prefer practicals over theory? Well, sure. Come on by for a field visit, and we guarantee you’ll feel a lot smarter for it. Class dismissed!