Beer dates back to 10,000 BC - older than most religions. It is said to have originated in the ancient Iraq, Egypt and Mesopotamia. About 5000 years ago in ancient Egypt, workers building the Great Pyramids of Giza were paid with beer as a part of their daily wages. From around 3000 BC, Celtic and Germanic tribes were responsible for spreading the drink across Europe.
Standardizing the taste
Most beer consumed back then and in centuries to follow since, had a variety of ingredients and would probably not taste like the beer we have today. It was in the year 1516, that William IV, Duke of Bavaria, passed the German beer purity law - Reinheitsgebot.
According to this law, water, hops and malted barley were the only allowed ingredients to make beer. This pretty much standardized the way beer would taste. So much so, that these three ingredients are still standard in addition with yeast (which wasn't yet discovered back then).
Beer was mostly produced domestically until the industrial revolution started to change things. Towards the mid of 20th century, brands like Miller, Budweiser, etc. had started to dominate the commercial beer industry.
Next up - How Beer is Made ->
The four key ingredients
Brewing beer may sound like a standard process but even a subtle difference in quality or quantity of the ingredients can produce beers that are worlds apart.
Beer has four main ingredients -
Water : The quality of water plays a key role. For example, Berlin's hard water has resulted in the famous 'Stout' while the 'English Pale Ale'comes from Burton, England, where the water contains gypsum.
A Source of starch : Mostly, it's barley grains but some brewers use wheat, rice, rye, etc. The grains used herein are malted. It's a process where they soak the grains in water, allow it to partially germinate and then dry it in a kiln. Post this, the grains may be roasted and the level to which this is done creates a great difference in color.
Hops : Hops are flowers (from the hop plant) that are responsible for adding bitterness to the beer - especially to balance out the sweetness left over post malting. They also act as a preservative.
Yeast : While it's not hard to guess that yeast is responsible for fermentation of beer (cool chemistry coming ahead), it greatly affects the flavour. So much so, that different kinds of yeast responsible for 'ales' (ale yeast) and 'lagers' (lager yeast) - two different types of beers.
Next up - How Brewing Beer Works ->
How brewing beer works
We now know that Barley (or other starch sources) are malted before they could be used. At this point, the grains are simply called 'malt'. Here's how things go down in the brew house fro here on -
Step 1 : Milling
During this step, the malt kernels are broken down and seeds separated from the husk. This exposes the carbohydrates and sugars which will be later extracted. The milled malt is now called grist.
Step 2 : Mashing
The grist obtained in the previous step is now mixed with hot water in what's called a mash tun. Here's what it looks like -
Mashing allows the natural enzymes present in grist (our milled malt) to break down the starch into simple sugars. These sugar molecules on release, mix with the water and this sweet liquid is called wort.
Step 3 : Lautering
This step involves separating the soaked grist (called mash) from the wort. It's done by passing the mash-wort mixture into another vessel which has holes at the bottom (called a lautering tun). This helps in straining the wort out into another vessel for further processing.
Step 4 : Boiling
Once the wort is strained out, it is gathered in a copper vessel to be boiled with hops. During the boil -
The wort gets sterilized to remove unwanted bacteria.
Hop releases it's bitter flavour which gets mixed with and removes the sweetness of the wort.
Wort becomes more concentrated and aromatic.
Step 5 : Wort Separation via Whirlpool and cooling
After the boil, the mixture of hops and wort is transferred to a vessel called a whirlpool. This allows the hop and remaining grist or malt particles to settle down separating the wort.
After separation, the wort is run through heat exchange channels which cool it down to a temperature (20-26 degree celsius), apt for addition of yeast and fermentation.
Step 6 : Fermentation
After cooling, the wort is passed into a fermentation tank where yeast is added. Yeast turns the sugar present in the wort into alcohol, carbon dioxide (responsible for the sparkle) and other components. This is when the wort starts to become beer. There are two major ways this is done and both produce majorly different results -
Warm fermentation - This is done at around 15-20 degree celsius. Ales are usually fermented this way and are ready to consume within three weeks of fermenting.
Cool fermentation - This is done at about 10 degrees celsius, post which the beer is stored for 6 months at a near freezing point (a process called lagering) allowing . Lagers are prepared this way. The yeast used for this kind of fermentation is different from the ones used for warm fermentation.
Step 7 : Ageing or maturing
Once fermented, the beer is moved to a cleaner container, away from the dead yeast and other debris. Aging the beer could take from several weeks to months to even years, depending on the desired outcome.
Next up - Cool resources ->
More resources for you
Since you made it till this page, you must be a beer fanatic! Here are some cool resources for you -