The Chemical Process Behind Craft Beer


Beer brewing has been around for ages, but the craft beer industry has experienced growing popularity in recent years. Many people are also becoming interested in home brewing. Craft beer is beer produced in smaller quantities by a microbrewery or craft brewery. This differs from beer that is produced on a very large-scale by big players. Beer making relies on a specific chemical process involving a few steps.

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The Key Aspects of Beer Brewing

There are many types of beer around the world. Some common types are drunk by millions of people, while some varieties are produced locally and only consumed in their specific cultural and geographical contexts.

In general, the four ingredients of beer are water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The type of water used affects the quality of the beer made, so many breweries have their own water purifying systems. By removing impurities and various ions using a process such as reverse osmosis, the beer quality is improved.

Malt is cereal grain such as barley that has been soaked in water to begin the germination process. The germination is them halted by a drying process. Malt is a major contributor to the flavor and color of the resulting beer.

Hops are another ingredient found in beer. These are flowers of the Humulus lupulus plant. Hops are added to beer to add the floral scent and bitter taste. Their fruity flavor can also balance the flavor of malts. Finally, there is the yeast. Yeast is used for the fermentation process. Whether you use bottom or top-fermenting yeasts determines what temperature fermentation takes place and whether you have a larger or ale.

The actual beer brewing process involves a number of steps to essentially extract sugar from the grain for fermentation into alcohol. The malt or grains are steeped in hot water in a process known as mashing. Enzymes are activated, and this releases sugars. The resulting sugary liquid is called wort and is then boiled with hops and other spices. The mixture is then cooled and strained. Yeast is added, and the fermentation process begins where yeast feeds on the sugar to produce alcohol.

The Differences Between Craft and Large Scale Beer Brewing

Besides the commercial difference, there are a number of differences in the brewing of macro and micro scale beers. One of the major ones is in the type of malt used. Craft brewmasters are often very big on experimentation and creativity. They love to experiment with ingredients and create never-seen-before rich beer flavors.

Large scale beer producers often use what are known as adjuncts to supplement some of the malt used. Adjuncts are grains such as corn and rice that have not malted. While this does not affect the alcohol content of the beer, it does lighten the color and dull the flavor. Major producers are therefore able to cut the cost of production for a small reduction in flavor.

Another difference is that for craft beer, hops are very important for their desired flavor mix and to balance the hops. The bitter taste is an acquired one. Large beer producers, on the other hand, often do not use hops because they do not use as much malt.

The essential difference with craft beer is that it is made with a lot more creativity and concern for the perfect flavors. Although there are four ingredients used in the beer brewing process, there are so many decisions that affect the final product. The quality of water, the type and quantity of malt, the quantity of hops, the variety of yeast, and the brewing conditions all affect the flavor, color, and thickness of the beer. You could end up with a lager, ale, or other type of beer.

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