History of Brewing
Beer is produced by the process known as brewing. The ways in which this process is performed have varied over the years, but several basic principles have always remained the same. In order to make a beer, a form of starch, most commonly some variety of cereal, is submerged in water and left to ferment with the addition of yeast. Some records show mankind partaking in beer brewing as far back as 6000BC, with some historians suggesting that the process was even discovered earlier than that. There is evidence to show that many of the world’s ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Mesopotamians all engaged in the beer brewing process.
The two primary ingredients of beer are water and a starch source. Yeast is then often added for the fermentation process to take place and hops have also been an integral part of the brewing process for many centuries, providing many modern beers with their distinctive flavors. The most commonly used source of starch in beer production is malted barley, but various alternative do exist including rice, maize, cassava, and more. The type of water used can also influence the beer produced; for instance areas with soft water will be well-suited for the brewing of light lagers. Some manufacturers also add clarifying agents during the brewing process to create a beverage with a high level of transparency.
The First Stage: Malting
The brewing process occurs in multiple stages, usually beginning with the malting of the barley. This process takes several days to complete and is vital to prepare the barley for the fermentation process. First, the barley is submerged in water and left to soak for around 40 hours. Next, in the longest stage of the process, the grains are left to germinate for approximately five days in a specially designed environment. Finally, to terminate the malting procedure, the grains are heated at increasingly high temperatures in a large oven called a kiln. After this procedure is complete, the barley grains have officially become malted.
Mashing, Lautering and Boiling
The next major stage of the brewing process is known as mashing, which is essentially the breaking down of the malted barley, creating simpler and smaller sugar molecules to make the fermentation process simpler and faster. The process lasts for at least an hour and involves hot water being mixed with the grain as the temperature slowly increases in a large container called a mash tun. The resulting sugary liquid, known as wort, is filtered out of the mash tun and this stage of the process is called lautering. The next step is boiling wherein the wort is boiled together with a certain amount of hops in a large vessel called a copper. This is one of the most important stages of the process as it is here where the flavor, color and consistency of the beer will be produced. Different amounts of hops can be added to create different varieties of beer.
The Final Stages: Fermentation, Conditioning and Packaging
After the boiling, the wort is filtered once more to remove any precipitate and promptly cooled to prepare for the fermentation stage. This is when yeast is added to the mixture, which is left in a large fermentation tank for several weeks, depending on the type of beer being made. It is during this period that the alcohol content of the beer develops. Afterwards, there is the conditioning stage, where the beer is once again left for several weeks or even months, during which time the beer’s consistency will change and new flavors will develop. The conditioning times vary for each beer and some will be left longer than others to develop smoother consistencies and richer tastes.
In most cases the beer is filtered after the conditioning period; this stage helps to give the beer a smoother consistency and clearer appearance, free of any precipitate. Various filtration techniques can be used, some stronger than others, to give beers different levels of cloudiness and transparency. To terminate the beer production process, the beer is packaged into cans, bottles, containers or kegs, ready to be shipped off to customers all around the world.