The Four Ingredients That Make Up a Good Beer

Beer can be a complex beverage, with hundreds of styles and many variables. But at its core, a great beer is about balance: a dance of bitter and sweet that’s refreshing and enjoyable, whether sipped from a can or bottle.

Brewing is a natural process, and most beer is made from the same four ingredients: grain (barley or wheat), hops, water and yeast. Yeast consumes sugar in the fermenting liquid, turning it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Water is added to dissolve the sugar and add volume, while hops provide aroma and flavor. Then the mix is boiled and cooled, to bring out the flavors and make it palatable.

In order to get the most out of these ingredients, a brewer has to understand their role. They must use the right amount of water to keep the liquid from becoming too dry. They also must balance the sweetness of the malt with the bitterness of the hops. Finally, they have to know how to add the yeast at just the right moment.

The result is a drink that has been around for thousands of years. The Sumerians brewed it as early as 3500 BC, and it became a national drink in ancient Egypt. By the 1500s, the Reinheitsgebot had established that only water, barley and hops could be used to make beer. Today, there are countless types of beers available worldwide, but the fundamental ingredients remain the same. In 2017, the world’s top-selling beer was Snow, a lager sold in China that has a respectable but not excessive ABV of 8.2% and combines a hoppy punch with notes of mango, lime, papaya and tangerine.