What Goes Into Making Beer?

The beer you drink — whether it’s a light lager from your local macro brewery or a barrel-aged stout from a small, independent producer — is a complex chemical mix that has been fermented for hours, days, and sometimes weeks. There’s a lot that goes into the making of beer, and while every recipe is different, the basic ingredients remain the same: water, barley, hops, and yeast.

To make a beer, you start with malted barley, a grain that has been kiln-dried to convert its starches into sugars for fermentation. You then combine that with water, along with any other grain used in the brewing process (such as wheat, rye, or corn), and add hops to help balance the bitterness of the wort. The wort is then boiled, and the sugars are converted to alcohol by yeast. Then, the brewed alcohol is cooled and served as beer.

In the United States, each state has its own regulations on labeling, hours of sale, sanitation, and more – but the federal Alcoholic Beverage Control Board sets specific requirements that all craft breweries must meet. As a result, not all breweries will fit the definition of “craft,” which is generally agreed upon by most people in the industry to include any brewery that makes beer that is smaller than a “macro” brewer (a company with an annual production of more than six million barrels).

While many people who are fans of microbrews consider themselves to be “beer snobs,” those are largely people with very specific tastes and a desire to support small, independent businesses. And that’s not a bad thing! But beer snobs also tend to have palates that are sensitive to the quality of a beer and can pick up on breweries cutting corners with cost-cutting additives.