Beer is Nature’s Gift: Beer is an alcoholic drink brewed mainly from malted barley, hops, yeast and water although other sources of ferment-able carbohydrate (example: maize, wheat, rice) and other natural ingredients may be added to make different styles and flavors.
Barley: The main element in beer; as grapes are to wine, barley is to beer. Barley grains are low in fat and protein but rich in starch. Starch is the grain’s food reserve that is made up of chains of sugar molecules. In nature this would feed the growing barley plant but in brewing we hijack the starch to make beer! Malting starts the process of releasing the sugar and making it obtainable for brewing. Brewers use specially preferred varieties of barley that are particularly suited to being malted and making high quality beer. The nautical climate in the United Kingdom is particularly good for growing malting barley making British malt amongst the best in the world.
Hops:A climbing plant that can grow to a height of over 20 feet, the hop’s closest botanical virtual is Cannabis! Hop cones contain a wealth of resins and essential oils which give the beer its distinct animosity and hop flavor. Contrary to public perception, beer is not “made from hops”. Typically a barrel of beer is made from 20kg of malt and 150g of hops. Hops are used rather like a spice. Hops are picked in the late summer and dried in Oast Houses. Traditionally they are packed into tall sacks called pockets. Nowadays they tend to be compacted into pellets and vacuum packed in foil, like coffee, to preserve their freshness.
Water:A high quality is essential to the brewing process with four to six pints needed to produce every pint of beer. The exacting salts naturally dissolved in local water supplies explain why some quite small towns such as Burton on Trent, Alton and Tad caster could become home to several large breweries. The dissolved gypsum gave Burton beer keeping qualities which allowed them to be sold as far away as India.
Yeast:A microscopic member of the fungus family. The Latin name for brewing yeast is Saccharomyces cerevisiae – literally “beer sugar yeast”! Yeast grows on sugar producing alcohol and carbon dioxide in a method called fermentation. Yeast also produces a vast array of flavor compounds and much of the subtlety of beer flavor comes from the yeast strain and the fermentation conditions. Brewers use their own specially selected and enviously guarded yeast strains to produce the distinctive flavors’ of their own particular beers.