Learn How to Brew Beer
by staff writer
Before mega-breweries began plastering their logos at every sporting event, beer
was handcrafted in small batches. Today's ales, stouts, and lagers all have
roots in regional specialty beers that have evolved over the centuries. Forget
the commercial, watered-down beer you're accustomed to and discover what has
been lost by brewing your own beer at home.
All beer begins with malted grain -- typically barley. Grain is malted by
allowing seed to germinate and then drying it in a kiln to create enzymes. These
enzymes convert starches stored in the grain into sugars that are necessary for
later fermentation. Malted grains may be roasted to alter the resulting beer's
color and flavor. The malted grains and other whole grains are then milled or
crushed to create grist.
Mashing is the process of combining grist with hot water to induce chemical
changes. This often involves several stages in which different temperatures
activate individual enzymes. Although the temperature differences appear
minimal, characteristics such as cloudiness, head retention, and potential
alcohol are all directly influenced by the mashing. Once mashing is complete,
lautering and sparging can begin.
In lautering, the wort is drained from the mash tun and is recirculated through
the grain bed until the flow becomes clearer and contains little or no debris.
The grain bed acts as a filter, and the circulation helps to dissolve and
collect the fermentable sugars. Additional hot water is then run through the
grain bed in a process called sparging to extract any remaining sugars. Sparging
is complete when the draining wort is clear and no detectable sugar remains.
The collected wort is boiled for approximately an hour to sterilize the
container and pasteurize the wort. Different types of hops are added at various
intervals during the boil; this varies with the recipe. The hops are a bittering
agent that enhances the flavor of the beer and also serves as a natural
preservative. After the boil, the wort is cooled and transferred to the
fermentation chamber, which can be a steel cylinder, plastic bucket, glass
carboy, or wooden cask.
Yeast is then added to the wort and fermentation begins. Fermentation may take
as little as a week or as long as a few months depending on the strain of yeast
used, the temperature, and the amount of fermentable sugars in the wort. The
beer may be transferred into a secondary fermentation chamber to separate it
from the sediment that develops, or it may be bottled / kegged immediately. Most
beer benefits from aging, which can take from four to eight weeks depending on
tastes and the style of beer.
The process of combining malted grain, hops, yeast, and water to brew beer is
easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. This article is by no means a
step-by-step tutorial on how to brew beer, but it should serve as a good
overview of the brewing process.
If you are interested in learning more about brewing beer, visit the
where a beer mechanic is always on duty.