Beer: How it’s Made

How Beer is Made 101

Can you guess how long we humans have been enjoying beer? Oh, about 7000 years. That’s right. 7000 years! That in itself is testament to what  great bevvie it is!

I’m in the very early  stages of wanting to learn everything I can about beer, so here is the first in the series about how beer is made. The process is the same whether you’re a home brewer or a large commercial operation, obviously just on much different levels of production.

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Photo courtesy of Grufnik.

So, step by step (in layman’s terms) HERE is how beer is made.

1. First you’ve got to MASH the grain.

In the case of beer it’s most often malted barley. It’s placed in a “mash tun” and soaked in hot water for an hour. WHY do this? The soaking releases the sugars in the grain, and the sugars that are released are what the yeast consumes (gobble gobble gobble) to start the fermentation process that is what produces the alcohol.

So, sugar+fermentation=alcohol. The malt gives the beer a certain sweetness as well.

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Malt barley. Photo courtesy of Yelp.com

2. Next up – SPARGING. Um, excuse me? Just what is sparging?

This is where the grains are rinsed in hot water to release the last of the sugars and then the grains are removed from the liquid. This process is called lautering and the whole shebang takes place in a “lauter tun.” The sugary liquid is called WORT. Sounds gross I know, but it’s actually pronounced “wert” which sounds not quite as yucky.

3. Now we BOIL THE WORT.

Sounds like a “double, double, toil and trouble” kind of thing, non? The liquid is transferred to another tank called a BOIL KETTLE and it boils for a while to remove any nasties that might be present in the liquid. This takes about an hour.

The hops are added at some point during the boil. The brewmaster decides the right time to add them because if you add them at the very beginning of the boil the beer would have different characteristics than if you added them at the very end.

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Hops. Photo courtesy of Bittermelon.

4. COOL THE WORT.

The wort needs to be cooled fairly quickly so that the yeast can be added. If you were to add the yeast when it was hot then “poof” the yeast would die. Too much heat kills the yeast. At 80 degrees the yeast can be added (it’s also known as “pitched.”) This is the last step before the fermentation process begins.

5. Let the FERMENTATION begin!

The process takes 1-2 weeks and what is taking place during this process is that the yeast is consuming the sugars and converting it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The CO2 is released into the air and the alcohol stays in the beer where it belongs. I think fermentation is my favourite stage.

6. Flat beer=gross beer. We need bubbles which we get through CARBONATION!

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Carbon Dioxide is injected directly into the beer to give it the small bubbles, the large bubbles and the frothy head that we’ve come to expect in a good beer.

That’s it! I think I’ll enjoy my next beer a lot more knowing the love and attention that goes into making it!

Cheers!

2 Responses to Beer: How it’s Made

  1. Sojourner June 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Great read! My friend’s husband is a serious home brewer. The process is so fascinating. While I am a die-hard wino, I am learning to appreciate a good brew 🙂 I’m hoping to cultivate a true taste for it by TBEX Dublin-lol

  2. Andrea June 27, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    YES! You must drink beer in Dublin, if no where else! Ha! I’m still hoping to go to TBEX Dublin myself, but haven’t finalized any plans yet. Fingers crossed!

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