How Beer Is Made

Beer is a simple, natural drink with a global reach that most beverages can’t match. It’s made from just four ingredients: barley, water, yeast and hops. Yet brewers are able to make a vast array of styles by changing the way those ingredients are prepared and using different processes. This flexibility is what makes beer so special—and so popular.

Most beers start life as malted grain, which is ground or crushed and then soaked in warm water to extract the sugars it contains. Once enough sugar is extracted, the liquid, called wort, is boiled to get rid of any remaining enzymes. This process, called lautering, helps the wort become a more fertile environment for the yeast to do its work.

After boiling, the wort is rapidly cooled to make it more appealing for the single-celled organisms that will convert the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide in the fermentation process. This is when the flavors of a beer are determined, with the addition of hops playing a key role. Hops, which come from the Humulus lupulus plant, provide a balance of bitterness to the sweet wort and contribute floral and fruity flavors.

Once the yeast do their work, the wort is transferred to a conditioning tank where it sits for a few weeks (or longer for some beers) to let the flavor mature and mellow. Then the beer can be canned, kegged or bottled and ready to be enjoyed!