By Debbie Tierney
(Originally written on December 30, 2015)
I was once a Budweiser girl. I would order a glass of “bud light”, and when a waitperson would bring it to me, I would pour salt into the glass for added flavor. That is until we started home brewing. I came to realize there was this incredible craft beer world, with all these different beer styles and flavors.
I remember thinking “with all of these different styles and flavors, the brewing process and ingredient lists must be incredibly complex”. But, actually it is quite the opposite. In fact the ingredient list is pretty simple. The Beer Purity Law of 1516 states that only 3 ingredients, water, malted barley and hops can only be used in the making of beer. Yeast was not included back then, because a wild yeast strain was used during that time. The great thing about making your own beer is that while malted barley, water, yeast and hops make outstanding beer. With a little bit of imagination there is an unlimited supply of other ingredients you can use for additional flavor. I have had beer flavored with fruit, dandelions and even jalapenos.
So what does it take to make a batch of beer?
All beers are brewed using a process based on this simple formula:
- Malted barley is soaked in hot water to release the malt sugars
- The malt sugar solution is boiled with Hops for flavoring, and, to offset the sweetness of the malt
- The solution is cooled and yeast is added to begin fermentation
- The yeast ferments the sugars, releasing CO2 and ethyl alcohol
- When the fermentation process if complete, the beer is racked into bottles or kegs depending on your particular setup
Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? It is, but as you research the process you begin the realize there is an incredible amount of information beyond those five steps. So much information in fact that there are a number of books about the subject, some colleges even offer beer certificate programs, or you can learn the old fashioned way, trial and error.
There are several ways to begin brewing beer, each with its own level of complexity. Although there are endless techniques and processes available, most methods fit into one of four categories.
- Beer kit brewing
- Extract brewing
- All grain brewing
- Brew in a bag
If you are just starting out you may find the options bewildering. And that’s ok. because I can promise you this, brewing is an art as well as a science, a hobby, an obsession, a way of life.
If you can make mac and cheese in a box without help, you can brew beer.