Wednesday, 7 February 2007

The Brewing of Beer

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This wonderful libation has been quenching the masses for centuries and yet most of us admit to knowing very little about the brewing process. Well if a visit to a brewery is not in your near future this article will at least get your on your way to knowing more about one of the worlds favorite alcoholic beverages.




There are two main families of Beer: Ales and Lagers.

Ales are top fermented and require much less conditioning time than lager. Ales are generally brewed at higher temperatures (between 15 - 24C or 60 - 75F) at these temperatures the yeast will produce a significant amount of esters and aromatic flavors in the ale. This will tend to give Ales "fruity" or floral compounds. Ales tend to be slightly sweeter than Lagers. Some Styles of Ales include but are not limited to, Stout, Barley Wine, Best Bitter and Albier.

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Lagers are Bottom fermented and require much more conditioning time than Ales. Lagers are the most commonly consumed of the two families. Lager undergoes a primary fermentation at 7 - 12C or 45 - 55F then it will undergo a secondary phase or the "lagering" phase at 0 - 4 C or 30 - 40 F. This secondary fermentation will clarify and mellow the brew. The cooler temperatures will inhibit some the byproducts associated with brewing to give lagers a crisper taste than Ales. Some familiar styles of Lager are Pilsners and Bock.

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Of course to start the brewing process we need to have a few vital ingredients:

Hops

Hops are derived from the cone of the Humulus Lupulus plant. Hops were originally added to beer as a preservative. It is now mainly used for its bitterness and aroma. The bitterness of the hops will generally balance the sweetness of the malt. The bitterness of commercially brewed hops is measured on the international bitterness unit scale and other than beer production, there is very little in the way of commercial uses for Hops themselves.

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Barley

Barley is a cultivated cereal and is major food and animal feed crop. It is heartier than wheat and will thrive in cold temperatures. It was used by the ancient Egyptians for bread and of course beer. The Barley that is used for today's beer production is malted barley. A process where the cereal grains are forced to germinate and are then quickly dried before the plant develops. This malting process allows the enzymes to convert the cereal grains starches to sugars, most notably of course in Barley.

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Water

Water is the primary ingredient to beer and when heated becomes known as the brewing liquid. Different water from different regions will affect the beers taste due to mineralization. Hard water is generally used for production of darker beers such as Stouts and Ales while soft water is better suited for Light beer production such as pilsners or lagers.

Yeast

Yeast is a microorganism responsible for fermentation. It interacts with the Starches and sugars of Malt barley to create alcohol and carbon dioxide. Before 1876 and Louis Pasteur's discovery of the single yeast cell, the fermentation process with yeast was a natural occurrence, hence the localized flavors of different regions being affected by the different naturally born yeasts. Now that Science has controlled the formation of yeast it can be broken into 2 main strains. Ale yeast (top Fermenting) or Lager Yeast (bottom Fermenting)

Brewing 101

Brewing beer has become a scientific process of late with several variations, filtering characteristics and flavorings but the process itself is a simple five step constant of Mashing, Sparging, Boiling, Fermentation and Packaging.

Mashing is the first process in brewing. The barley grains are crushed and soaked in warm water creating a malt extract. This extract is kept at a constant temperature to allow the enzymes to convert the starches of the grain into sugars.

Sparging is where water is filtered through the mash to dissolve the sugars inside. The result is a dark, sugar heavy liquid called Wort.

During the boiling process, the wort is boiled along with other ingredients, excluding yeast, to kill any microorganisms and release excess water from the brew. Hops are added at some point in this process.

Fermentation then takes place. The Yeast, either Ale or Lager yeast is added to the mix and the beer is then allowed to settle. This is called the primary fermentation process. There can be a second fermentation process but many breweries may simply filter off the yeast at this point.

Packaging the beer is the next step. Beer at this point will have alcohol but very little in the way of Carbon Dioxide. Many large scale breweries will infuse CO2 into the beer through the keg or bottling process. Smaller breweries or craft breweries may add residual sugars or small amounts of yeast to the bottles or kegs to produce a natural carbonization process. This is called Cask or Bottle fermented beer. No matter what process the brewery takes, all beer eventually ends up in steel kegs, bottles, cans and sometimes casks.

Although you now know the beer brewing process inside-out, the proper packaging of this libation has created much debate over whether beer is fresher when bottled or left in a keg.

The answer: A KEG.

The keg captures beer directly from the brewery and is kept refrigerated during transportation to your local pub!

Bottles on the other hand are transported by unrefrigerated trucks and left on shelves where the beer is exposed to enough light that will inevitably have an affect on taste!

Michael Kyle has been an event coordinator and hospitality expert for 18 years. His passion for event planning and guest services helped lead to the successful launch of http://www.thesexykitchen.com; a web-site dedicated to kitchen design, renovation, party planning, hospitality, and more. Perhaps you have a passion or hobby you'd like to write about. Discover how to turn your passion into a successful website, visit http://www.succeed-from-your-passion.com to learn how.

3 comments:

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