Beer has been a staple of civilization for thousands of years. Without it, it’s questionable whether people would have given up their nomadic lifestyle and embraced agriculture. Here is the simplified version of how a few pieces of grain become the beer that we all love so much.
STEP 1 – Malting
Barley, the most common grain used in beer, must undergo changes to be suited for brewing. The grain is allowed to sprout, but at a certain point the germination is stopped by heating and drying the grain. This releases enzymes which will be used to convert starches in the grain into sugars.
STEP 2 – Mashing
Mashing grain is the process of converting starches to sugar, and extracting them from the malted grain. First the grain will be crushed, exposing the innards. It is then soaked in hot water for a period of time. The hot water allows the enzymes (created during the malting stage) to break down the starches into sugars. The water, now containing sugars from the grain, is drained. This sugary mixture is called wort, or unfermented beer.
STEP 3 – Boiling
While boiled, hops are added to the wort. Hops that are boiled for a long period of time add bitterness to the beer, while hops that are boiled for a short period of time (or not at all) add flavor and aroma to the beer. The boil will also sanitize the wort, killing any bacteria that may be present.
STEP 4 – Fermentation
Yeast are added to the wort where they eat sugars and create both alcohol and CO2. This is the process where the wort finally becomes beer. Fun fact: Yeast were not known to have caused fermentation until 1857. That means that beer was fermented by accident for thousands of years. Oh, and it’s a very ugly process.
STEP 5 – Drinking
This is a very important step, obviously.