When I was 21 and that I could finally enjoy drinking alcohol in bars, I often found myself ordering mixed drinks, especially any drink that could drown out the taste of alcohol. With traumatic flashbacks of college nights where vodka is served in a plastic handle, wine in a bag, and bland, liquid beer in cans or kegs, the good liquor seemed like an oxymoron.
Then I tried my first Big Eye IPA beer on tap, and everything I thought about alcohol, especially beer, changed. How was it possible that this IPA and the Keystone Light served at parties were both considered beer?
Through research and with the help of Alexei Vranich, a beer enthusiast and former archeology research professor at UCLA, I discovered the ins and outs of the beer brewing process and the possibility of enjoy a good cold beer.
The making of beer is above all a question of fermentation. Through his anthropological research in South America, Vranich discovered the process of beer fermentation, which plays an important role in some South American societies.
South America is known for corn beer, or “shisha,” which Vranich says is made through a fermentation method that involves chewing corn, spitting it out in a bucket of water and then pouring it out. let ferment using the enzymes in saliva. Vranich also mentions that fermentation techniques were used even before the development of agriculture and have been an important part of human life for centuries.
Unlike South America, however, beer fermentation in the United States revolves around four main ingredients: grains, hops, yeast, and water.
The to treat starts with water and a fermentable starch, the most popular being barley, but starches such as wheat, oats, corn, rice, and rye can also be used. Starch is soaked in water and dried in a process called malting, which produces enzymes by germination and allows the starch in the grain to be converted into simple sugars. The temperature and length of time the grain is dried and roasted affects the color and taste of the final product. Stout beers, for example, are brewed with roasted barley, which is why they are often dark in color and can smell like coffee or chocolate.
To compensate for the sweetness of the sugar brought in by the malting process and to add a new depth of flavor, hops are added to the mixture. Hop actually refer to a plant, or more precisely, the cones of the hop vine. Before the discovery of hops, other plants were used to flavor beer, but hops became the plant of choice due to its bitter but complex flavor and its preservative effect on beer. The intensity of hop flavor depends on the variety of hops used and when the hops are added during the beer making process.
The last ingredient needed to make beer is Yeast. Before adding yeast, unfermented beer is called wort. Once the yeast is added, it immediately begins to metabolize the sugar from the malting process and convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide, turning the flat wort into carbonated beer.
The different yeast variants used to ferment beer are responsible for the separation of ales and lagers. Ale yeasts require higher temperatures, which speeds up the fermentation process and allows the yeast to add a stronger flavor to the beer.
Lager yeasts need cooler temperatures, which allows the yeast to work slowly and retain its flavoring agents. This allows the hops and malt to play a larger role in the taste of the beer.
Wild bacteria and yeast can also be used to ferment beer, a process called spontaneous fermentation, which creates a lambic, or sour beer. This technique first emerged in Belgium, but is now used all over the world.
These four ingredients are great for brewing beer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be replaced or that other ingredients can’t be added. The huge variation in beers that exists today is caused not only by the handling of hops, grains and yeast, but also by the addition of other ingredients such as fruits, spices and extracts.
Once the beer is fully fermented and drinkable, it is packaged in a keg, bottle or can. Beer served in a keg is called draft beer or draft beer.
Vranich notes that while the taste doesn’t vary much between draft beer and bottled or canned beer, draft beer is generally cooler, as most busy bars drip and replace kegs quickly.
“Yes, we knew that. Who are the connoisseurs now? have said all the brotherhoods everywhere.
He also finds that a skilled bartender can improve the aroma and shape of a beer by pouring a beer correctly and choosing a glass suitable for that particular beer.
Now that you have the skills to decipher the flavors and intricacies of a variety of beers, what are you waiting for? Grab your friends and head over to Westwood to start applying them. An exciting journey into the world of craft beer awaits you.