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July 31, 2007

What’s in my beer?

Posted in: Features

GIVEN THE huge range and variety of beers that are available there is no single answer to that. However the basic composition of beer is as follows.

WATER
Well that’s pretty obvious but the mineral content will have a crucial effect on the flavour and colour of the beer produced. Compare a bottle of San Miguel from The Philippines to one from Hong Kong, for example.

MALT
Grains such as barley and wheat are soaked, germinated and baked. The starches released by the grain turn to sugar. Subtle differences in malted grains will produce quite different tasting beers.

YEAST
This is what makes the process work. The yeast digests the sugar from the malt and turns it into alcohol.

HOPS
Added during the brewing process as a preservative and to add bitterness and aroma. There are dozens of different types, each with their own character and flavour. These days the words ale and beer are interchangeable but strictly speaking an ale is beer without hops.

The choice of variety, quantity and brewing method all have an effect on the taste, colour and strength of the beer produced. Lager, stout, porter and barley wine are all beers but are quite different in appearance and taste.

Variety can be expanded further by adding fruits, herbs, molasses, honey and spices.

LOOKS FAIRLY simple huh? Home brewing is in fact a popular hobby. I remember my first attempts back when I was a student. Of course if I had persevered, or if I had followed the instructions rather than trying to produce the strongest beer ever brewed, I might eventually have come up with something drinkable.


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