Beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by fermenting cereal grains. Typically, the grain used is primarily barley, sometimes with additional ingredients such as wheat or corn. Through the application of water and heat, enzymes convert starches in the grain to fermentable sugars. Those sugars are consumed by yeast, yielding alcohol and carbon dioxide. Since at least the 10th century, hops have been added to beer because they help reduce the risk of unwanted bacteria during fermentation and provide additional flavor.
Beer can be divided into two general categories: ales and lagers. Ales are produced by top-fermenting yeast strains at approximately room temperature, while lagers are produced by bottom-fermenting yeast strains at cooler temperatures. Steam beers, which use lager yeasts at ale temperatures, straddle this divide. Each category can be further subdivided into numerous styles based on their ingredients, brewing process, and place of origin. These styles are based on many subjective qualities and evolve over time. The style guide published by the Beer Judge Certification Program provides a standard for each style's subjective aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel, as well as objective characteristics such as ingredients, alcohol content, color, bitterness, and specific gravity before and after fermentation.
Steps in the Brewing Process
- Malting the barley
- Mashing and sparging the malted barley to produce wort
- Boiling the wort with adjuncts and hops
- Rapidly cooling the wort
- Pitching yeast into the wort
- Fermenting of the wort into beer
- Packaging into bottles, cans, or kegs
- Bottle conditioning or forced carbonation
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