Beer is one of the most widely consumed drinks around the world. But did you know the majority of beers are made using just four main ingredients?
This magic foursome is malt, hops, yeast and water, which, when perfectly balanced and combined, make great beer.
Beer ingredient number 1 - Malt
Malt is made from germinated cereal grain, usually barley.
The harvested cereal grain germinates by soaking in water, which is then stopped from further germination by drying with hot air. This process is known as ‘malting’, where enzymes develop for the next stage, ‘mashing’.
The mashing process is where the malt, combined with other grains for flavour, is steeped in boiled in water, and the enzymes do their job by breaking down the starch to convert them into sugars, such as maltose, which creates a malty liquid known as ‘wort’. With the grain husks then filtered off, this sugary liquid is perfect for yeast to feast on further in the brewing process.
Fascinating fact: How the malt is dried affects the colour of the beer, which explains the many different coloured beers.
Beer ingredient number 2 - Hops
Hops are the flowers that come from the hop plant ‘Humulus lupulus’ and are grown around the world. We are lucky enough to have our own hop gardens here in Kent and the south of England.
Hops play a key part in creating a beer's flavour, bitterness and aroma and the timing of when hops are added to the brewing process affects the beer's ultimate flavour profile.
For more bitterness in the beer, hops are added earlier on, whereas adding the hops later on in the brewing process will create bigger aromas.
Hops also have the important benefit of having an antibacterial effect, which counteracts microorganisms, helping beer last longer!
Fascinating fact: Hops come from the same plant family as the cannabis plant; however, the alcohol comes from the brewing process rather than the flowers themselves!
Beer ingredient number 3 - Yeast
Yeast is a single-celled living organism and is an essential part of the brewing process.
It has the important (and natural biological) job of converting the sugars into alcohol by eating the sugar and starch in the wort through fermentation.
There are many different varieties of yeast, and the differences in these yeasts affect the beer's production and how it ends up.
Saccharomyces pastorianus - this yeast ferments in the liquid in cooler conditions and is what makes lager.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae - this yeast ferments in the liquid in warmer conditions and is used to make ale.
Breweries will all have their favourite yeasts as the type of yeast used will give a beer its distinct flavour.
How much fermentation is carried out is another factor in the end result, as fermentation affects the alcohol content, strength and bitterness.
C02 is produced by yeast, determining how gassy the beer will be. Plus, other chemicals yeast produce affect a beer's aroma and taste.
Fascinating fact: We use our own strain of historic Sussex live yeast in some of our beers!
Beer ingredient number 4 - Water
Beer is a liquid, and much of this liquid is made up of water, around 90-95% in fact! Water is key in the process of brewing beer; beer just couldn't be made if it wasn’t for water!
This water, and where it comes from, is a pretty important component of beer. The hardness, or softness and the mineral content of the water will affect how the beer will end up.
Fascinating fact: At Cellar Head, we are in a soft water area which makes brilliant bitters and perfect pale ales!
Why are so many beers so different? This is down to the techniques and beauty of how these four beer ingredients are expertly mixed together by an experienced craft brewer.
Additional ingredients, such as plants and fruits, can be added to the brewing process to create unique and individual flavours and aromas.
Now you’ve read about the magic ingredients of beer, try one (or two) of the many different flavours of beer we produce.
You can shop for our beers here: https://cellarheadbrewing.com/collections/all-products