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Let’s learn about beer!

First off, welcome to the inaugural post of the Wishbeer blog. We are excited to be bringing you articles on the world’s (and our) favorite beverage: Beer! As all things have to start somewhere, we figured we would start with an overview of beer.

So, let’s get this show on the road!

Define: Beer
We were sitting around the office the other day talking about the beers we love to drink and one of our colleagues asked a simple question that caused us to pause for a few seconds, “What is beer?”. We stammered something along the lines of, “Beer is beer, don’t be silly.” But, that got us thinking, what exactly is beer?

We know that beer is an alcoholic beverage, but how exactly does one define it? As with most food and drink, it’s the ingredients that make up and define beer. Beer has four main basic ingredients:

  • Water – Makes up the majority (more than 90%) of beer. Believe it or not, water can play a big part in the overall taste of the beer.
  • Hops – Are a flower closely related to the cannabis plant that are used to balance, or flavor beer.
  • Barley – A starch rich grain that when processed (or malted) provides a sugar that yeast can feed on.
  • Yeast – Microorganisms that feed on the sugar found in barley and convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Of course, in many beers other ingredients are added, but almost all beer contains the four basic ingredients.

Each of these key ingredient plays a major part in defining beer. For example, hops provide beer its unique flavor, without them beer would taste a lot sweeter and smoother. Yeast on the other hand is responsible for creating the carbon dioxide (bubbles) and alcohol we know and love.

When we combine these ingredients together in a process called brewing, we will eventually get beer. We will cover brewing in more detail in a later article, but for now the basic steps of creating beer are:

  1. Malting – Gets the barley ready for the brewing process.
  2. Mashing – Similar to brewing tea, the barley is combined with water and literally steeped in order to convert the starch into a form of sugar. This liquid is called wort.
  3. Boiling – The wort is then boiled with hops to ensure the liquid is sterile (safe for our consumption) and to release the flavors of the hops or other ingredients added.
  4. Fermenting – Yeast is added to the boiled wort to convert the existing sugar into ethyl alcohol (the kind we drink).
  5. Conditioning – Storing beer in a variety of containers to help develop the flavor of the final product.
  6. Filtering – This optional step will stabilize the beer’s flavor while removing any residual impurities.
  7. Packaging – Taking the final product from the large storage tanks and putting it into containers, cans, bottles, etc. that can be easily transported and consumed.

While the brewing process is the same for all beer, there are slight differences at key stages that will determine the type of beer brewed.

Types of beer
For the most part, beer is well, beer until you get to the fermenting stage. It is in this stage where different strains of yeast are added which will define the type of beer. To many, there are two main types of beer: Ale and Lager. The easiest way to determine the difference between the two products is based on the type of yeast used and how the fermentation process is executed.

Ale – A top fermented beer, meaning the fermentation happens at the top of the fermentation tank. Ale is also fermented at a higher temperature which results in a beer that is darker in color, and generally stronger in taste than lagers. A classic example of an ale is Kwak from Belgium.

Lager – A beer where the fermentation happens at the bottom of the fermentation tank. Lager is fermented at cooler temperatures which results in a clearer, crisper and smoother beer. A great example of a true lager is Nørrebro Bryghus New York Lager.

So, to sum up: Beer is an alcoholic beverage brewed largely with water, hops, barley and yeast, and there are two main types of beer: Ale – top fermented, stronger taste – and Lager – bottom fermented, cleaner, crisper taste.

Now, that was thirsty work! Check back next week for a deeper look at the brewing process. Until then: Chaiyo!

Wish of the week: Rogue Yellow Snow IPA. Serve this bad boy at a slightly cooler temperature in a nice tall beer glass. Enjoy the nose epic grapefruit and pine nose and slightly aggressive, yet oh so refreshing taste.

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