All beer is made with the same 4 basic ingredients: barley, yeast, hops & water. Each ingredient will influence the character and quality of the beer.



Barley provides the sugar from which the alcohol is produced. Malting the barley is critical as this changes the starch in the barley into digestible sugars, which allows the yeast to work. The yeast converts the sugars to alcohol. Barley also contributes flavour, sweetness, character and colour. Darker beers are produced when a darker malt is used, and pale beers from lighter malts. The darkness of a malt depends on how heavily the malt has been roasted.


Barley taken directly from the field will not work for brewing beer. Malting the barley is critical.







Yeast is a fungus.





Yeast is the vital organism that ferments sugars to create alcohol and carbon dioxide. Each brewery preserves its own yeast variety, which provides a unique taste to the beers. There are many variations (or strains) of brewing yeast. Most brewers will protect their own strains to avoid imitation, and therefore preserve the individual nature of their beers.



Hops are important as they influence both the taste and aroma of the beer. There are many types of hops with their own distinctive flavours and smells. Hops can be added either at the start or the end of the brewing process. Hops added at the beginning of the brewing process tend to add bitterness, whilst those added at the end will result in far more aroma.


Hops will add bitterness to beer when resins within them are changed during boiling. The ‘hoppy’ or flowery aroma comes from oils within the hops that have survived or been added after the boiling process. In traditional ale production, a handful of whole hops will be added directly to the cask at the end of the process. This is called dry hopping. In traditional lager brewing a proportion of the hops are also held back, but are added towards the end of the boil. This is called late hopping.

Whole hops will provide a richer, more complex flavour than chemical extracts and hop essences that are sometimes used. Unfortunately, many large-scale modern breweries (focused on cost and process efficiency) choose to use these inferior hop extracts and essences instead of whole hops.


The closest relative to the hop plant is the cannabis plant, from which marijuana is derived.







At least 85-95% of nearly every beer is water.




Even the best beer in the world consists mostly of water. The type of water will also influence the quality of the beer produced. Some breweries were initially established in certain places because of a natural supply of good quality brewing water. Many breweries are located at the site of a spring so they can draw fresh water direct from the source. The water requirements also change depending on the types of beer to be brewed, for example, traditional English ales require water with high levels of calcium, whereas Pilsners require water with low levels of calcium.



Other Ingredients

Other additional ingredients can sometimes make their way into beer.

Unfavourable ingredients would be those that brewers do not necessarily declare, for example, cheaper sugars, starches and other chemicals generally used to cut costs. Discerning beer drinkers are usually not in favour, as it usually degrades the overall quality of the beer.

Favourable ingredients on the other hand, would be used by brewers to create a particular type of beer. Other grains, such as wheat, and ingredients as exotic as vanilla, fruit, cinnamon, honey, ginger and chocolate can all be used to create certain styles and flavours of beer.










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