Bare-Bones Basics #1: How is beer made?

Beer has been made for over 10,000 years, but how? What’s happening in those big vats in the brewery downtown? How is it possible to produce beer in your kitchen? Don’t you need specialized equipment?

Well, first off, the reason beer has been made for 10,000 years is because it’s an incredibly simple process:

  1. The starches in grains (generally barley, but there are many different options that will produce various beers) are ‘mashed’ to turn into a mixture of water and sugars called a ‘wort’.
  2. Usually (but not always), small green flowers called hops are added, adding flavor and aroma. Hops also act as an antibiotic to help in the next phase.
  3. Yeast is added to the wort. Yeast is a fungus that eats sugars, and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste products.
  4. After all the yeast has died, the beer is ready to drink.

Now, obviously you can’t throw a handful of wheat into a vat with yeast and say “beer!,” but that’s the nuts and bolts: Make wort, add yeast, wait.

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