What is Beer?
Beer is a delicious alcoholic drink that is made by yeast, fermenting a malt sugar & water mixture that is typically flavored with hops. Beer has been brewed since the dawn of civilization, in fact, it’s been credited for saving the world by some scientists and historians. The earliest evidence of beer production dates back to about 3500 BC. However, there is speculation that it was being produced as far back as 10,000 BC when humans first started farming malts. The ancient Sumerian text "The Hymn to Ninkasi" is a prayer but could also be considered the earliest written beer recipe. For thousands of years fermented malt beverages were being consumed by numerous civilizations, but none of them really resembled what we know as Beer today. It wasn’t until 1516 AD in Bavaria when the Reinheitsgebot (Beer purity law) was adopted that Beer started to look, smell and taste like the alcoholic drink we all know and love today. The Reinheitsgebot is actually credited as the oldest food-quality regulation in history and is still in use to this day. It states that the only allowed ingredients in Beer are water, hops and malted barley. Today, Beer is the third most popular drink in the world with only water and tea in front of it. Cheers to a long history, a bright future and another round of our favorite drink, BEER!
Types of Beer
One of the reasons Beer is so popular is that there is literally something for everyone. Beer styles can range from sweet to bitter or even sour and everything in between. Beer is commonly categorized into two varieties: Ales and Lagers. An Ale is a beer produced with a top fermenting yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This strain of yeast typically clumps together and rises towards the top of the fermenter. The recommended fermentation temperature range for ale yeast is between 15–25°C (59–77°F). Ale yeast is known for its higher ester production that is commonly described as “Fruity” and comes across as apple, pear, pineapple, etc. A Lager is a cool fermented beer produced with a bottom fermenting yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus. This strain is typically fermented around 7–12°C (45–54°F) and then aged at even cooler temps for several weeks or up to several months. The original German word lager means “storehouse” representing this cold storage step, but now the term is synonymous with a beer style and not the literal interpretation. Less popular than the two previous styles of beer, but none less delicious, is the Lambic styles of Belgium, also called “Wild” or “Mixed Fermentation” in regions outside of Belgium. These styles of beers are fermented with a Saccharomyces strain of yeast as well as Bretttanomyces and Lactobacillus bacteria. This use of bacteria gives them a sour or “funky” taste. These three high level types of beer are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beer styles. In fact, there is an organization called the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) that was founded in 1985 to encourage the knowledge and understanding of the world’s diverse beer styles. As of their last published style guidelines, there are 34 top level styles with over 100 substyles categorized. And with how popular craft beer has become lately, this list of recognized styles will only continue to grow.
Making your own Beer
If you found this page and read your way down to this section you obviously love and enjoy beer. In our experience one of the most enjoyable beers you will ever have is the one you made yourself. Not only is it very rewarding and enjoyable it’s super easy to get started making your own beer at home. You can start with just a few pieces of equipment and make amazing beer. Just as types of beer can be boiled down (pun intended) to two high level classifications, so can brewing beer. These types are called Extract Brewing and All Grain Brewing. Extract brewing is what most home brewers start with due to it requiring less equipment and fewer process steps overall. With extract brewing you primarily just need a boil kettle and a fermenter. A majority of the malt sugars you will be fermenting come from an “Extract”, LME (Liquid Malt Extract) or DME (Dried Malt Extract) hence the name. With all grain brewing you need a few more pieces of equipment as you will be creating your own malt sugars from scratch using crushed malted grains. In most traditional all grain brewing systems you have three vessels, a HLT (Hot Liquor Tank), MT (Mash Tun), BK (Boil Kettle) and a Fermenter. There is also a hybrid approach called BIAB (Brew In A Bag) that allows you to perform an all-grain brew in a single vessel. With extract brewing, a typical brew day takes about 2-3 hours from start to finish, whereas all grain brewing typically takes about 4-6 hours. Both types of brewing can create amazing results and have different advantages to them. To learn more about brewing in general keep an eye out for our upcoming page on brewing!