Beer comes in all different types, and we don't usually stop to pay much attention to what goes into the making of the drink. However, we can definitely tell when we like one beer over another, and that's the point we might want to know what goes into our beer. So let's have a look at the main ingredients.
There are four main ingredients that go into making a standard glass of beer. First, you need grain, which is very often malted barley but isn't always. It could be wheat, oats, or rye. It could also be spelt, corn or even rice. Next comes the hops. Hops could be bitter, aroma, or dual-purpose, and this acts to bring the additional flavour.
Third, there's yeast, which is essential in the beer brewing process and lends itself to different styles of fermenting for different types of beer, for example, whether you're making a Pilsner, Stout, Flemish Brown, or Blond. The two main types of yeast for beer-making are ale and lager yeasts, which ferment at the top and bottom respectively. And finally, of course, you need lots and lots and lots of water! In fact, only about 5-10% of beer is anything other than water, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.
All kinds of additional ingredients can go into beer, but it's the way those ingredients are handled and combined that brings the flavour. Take the grain for example. Heat it in water, and you create a substance called Wort that is packed with sugar. Boil the water to kill any harmful bacteria and add the yeast. When that combines with the sugar, you get the alcohol. Use more grains, and you'll get more sugar, and hence a higher alcohol percentage.
Other ingredients could be fruit, honey, spices, chocolate – all kinds of things that people have tried and tested to gain numerous beer flavours and styles. But even, say, something as ordinary as the water source will play a big part in the flavour of the beer because the minerals in locally sourced springs will cause different chemical reactions.
The different ingredients used in different types of beer making produce different colours of beer such as brown, amber and red, as well as different flavours, aromas, stability and shelf life. The foam in beer depends on the proteins you get in the grain used, some of which is better than others at creating a decent head on the surface. That's more important in some beers than others, which is why certain grains are used for one beer rather than another. The characteristic bitterness you find in certain beers will come from the hops, which also determines the aromas and complexities. You'll get a longer-lasting shelf life with the right hops.
So if you fancy having a go at beer making, there's a bit of a foundation in understanding what goes into making the drink. On the other hand, of course, you could just sample a few from us and see if you acquire a new taste for a beer you hadn't tried before.