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Preparation of Beer

Beer is one of the oldest known alcoholic beverages, with evidence that it was brewed in ancient Egypt, China, Europe and pre-Columbian cultures. Its principle ingredients are water, hops, yeast and grain including oats, wheat, corn, rice and most often barley. One theory suggests that beer was the earliest form of bread. If so, shouldn't beer then be dubbed "the staff of life"?

Steps in the beer-making process:

  1. Malting: Grain is soaked in water so it can sprout.
  2. Mashing/sparging: The malt is heated and rotated to convert its starch into sugar. Straining yields the "wort".
  3. Boiling and hopping: The wort is boiled with hops in a copper or stainless steel vessel. The mixture is cooled and then…
  4. Fermentation: Yeast is added, converting the sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. When it's removed, the resulting product is beer. (There may be a second fermentation or carbon dioxide may be added.)
  5. Filtering: The beer is put in cold storage and filtered before it's kegged.

Fast Facts

  • Due to the poor quality of water in days of old, alcohol was often the safest beverage.
  • Breweries were established in Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Manhattan during the 1630s.
  • Pre 1700, every fourth building in New Amsterdam was said to have been a taproom or brew house, setting the precedent for the high concentration of bars in Manhattan today.
  • In part, Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock because their beer supply was dwindling. An entry of pilgrim William Bradford's diary reads: "We had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution, to go presently ashore again… for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer."
  • Suds were served at the first Thanksgiving celebration.
  • Until Louis Pasteur recognized yeast as a living creature, brewers relied on airborne varieties to activate their brews. Or one batch of beer could be used to start another.
  • The hops used in beer production are related to nettles.
  • Beer usually contains between 3% - 6% alcohol.

Lager vs Ale

While the term ale used to refer to beer brewed without yeast, today the difference between ale and lager is in the yeast as well as length and temperature of fermentation.

Lager is fermented slowly at a low temperature with yeast that sinks, and it's aged longer. Ale is fermented more quickly at a warmer temperature and has fruitier, hoppier and more bitter and floral flavors.

Porter and Stout

These darker, richer brews can be either dry or sweet. Oats and malted barley are some of the additives used to provide depth of flavor

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