Barley, hops, water, and yeast are the main ingredients in beer. Change the process a bit, and the results are different types of beer: ales, stouts, lagers, or porters. Some enterprising beer makers have added a few extra ingredients, including apples and berries, ginger and other roots, and nuts to spice up their brews.
The Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware has created a sweet ale made with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Many other breweries add their own signature flavors to create highly unusual beers. These additions are not anything new, however. During Colonial days, when adequate barley supplies were often lacking, people added all sorts of fermentable foods, from pumpkins to parsnips, to their brewing beer.
liquid by soaking it in water. This led to the development of a fermentation process.
At first, women were the primary brewers of beer, because they were also in charge of making bread and other foods for their families to eat. Until the Middle Ages (c. 500-c. 1500), beer was mainly brewed in homes. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, monasteries (religious communities in which monks live) and pubs began brewing beer as well. The monasteries improved upon the brewing process. They added hops for flavor and as a preservative, an ingredient added to keep food and beverages from spoiling.
The invention of steam power and cooling processes during the Industrial Revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries further improved beer-making. Artificial cooling allowed beer-makers to brew even in the warm summer months. Bottled beer was introduced in 1875 and canned beer first appeared in 1935.
The process of making beer has changed little in thousands of years. In addition to the four basic ingredients used to make beer, water, malted grain (usually barley), hops, and yeast, other ingredients can be added to give the beer a specific flavor.
The brewing process starts by malting the barley. The barley is soaked in water, drained, and left to sit at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celcius) for a few days. This causes the husk to open. The barley at this stage is called green malt. During the malting process, enzymes in the barley convert starches, complex sugars, into simple sugars to feed the growing plant. The green malt is warmed to dry it.
Anaerobic: Describes biological processes that take place in the absence of oxygen.
Carbonation: Bubbling in a liquid caused by carbon dioxide.
Carbon dioxide: A heavy, colorless gas that dissolves in water.
Ethyl alcohol: A drinkable alcohol, also called ethanol, which is produced by the fermentation of sugar.
Fermentation: The process of breaking down sugar without oxygen into simpler substances, commonly alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Monastery: A religious community in which monks live.
Preservative: A compound added to food products to ensure they do not spoil.
Wort: The sugar-water solution made when malted barley is steeped in water and its complex sugars break down into simple sugars.
Yeast: A microorganism of the fungus family that promotes alcoholic fermentation, and is also used as a leavening (an agent that makes dough rise) in baking.
Next the malted barley goes through the mash process. First, the barley is crushed between rollers into a coarse powder. The crushed barley moves to a machine where it is steeped in hot water. The hot water activates enzymes in the malted barley. These enzymes break down the starch in the grain by cutting the long chains of the starch molecules to produce simple sugar molecules with shorter chains. During the fermentation phase the yeast is able to digest, or break down, these simple sugar molecules. The liquid drained out at the end of the mash process is thick and sweet because it contains a lot of sugar.
The liquid from the mash is put into a big machine called a brew kettle. It is brought to a boil, and then hops are added. The hops contain acids that add bitterness to the beer. This mixture is called wort. It continues to boil to remove some of the bitterness of the hops. Then, the grains are filtered out of the mixture.
Next is the fermentation process. The wort is allowed to cool and is moved to a fermenting tank. The yeast is added. The yeast converts the simple sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide gives beer its carbonation. There are two types of yeast: top-fermenting yeast and bottom-fermenting yeast. Top-fermenting yeast rises to the surface of the tank during fermentation, and bottom-fermenting yeast stays on the tank's bottom and ferments more slowly. After fermentation, the beer may be filtered again to remove any yeast that remains. Then the beer may be put into another tank to age. Finally, it is bottled.
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