Beer is the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage. The drink is brewed from four ingredients: malt, water, hops and yeast. While many people believe that beer is bitter and not palatable, the truth is that most drinkers grow to love the taste of a well-crafted beverage over time. Beer is also an incredible ingredient for cooking and is used to add depth, complexity and unique flavor profiles to a variety of dishes.
There are three main ways to brew: extract brewing, partial mash and all-grain brewing. However, these processes are all similar in that they start by soaking and germinating barley in a kiln to activate the grain’s natural enzymes. Then the malt is mixed with hot water in a process called mashing, which is when the enzymes begin to turn the starches into sugar. The resulting sweet liquid is called wort, which is then boiled with hops to add flavour and bitterness and remove oxygen before the wort is cooled and yeast is added.
The yeast eats the sugar, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide as a by-product. Once the fermentation is complete, the beer can be kegged or bottle-conditioned for a period of two weeks to allow it to carbonate naturally. Once the beer has matured, it is labelled and sold.
As with wine, a good beer is all about the ingredients. There are a wide variety of styles and flavours to choose from, but it’s important to try different beers before you can begin to understand the nuances of each.