A Brief History Of Beer
Early Sumerian scripts show bread made from barley being crumbled into water to make a mash, which people then drank. It is recorded as having made people feel ‘exhilarated’. The baking of the bread would made the barley soluble and really achieved a similar role to the malting process used nowadays. Effectively, the bread was means of processing the barley into a form that could be stored and transported. Fruits once picked had to be used during their season or turned into wine but wine lacks the proteins present in a beer.
A seal from around 4000 years ago suggests that the Sumerians by this time knew about producing malt.
Cultivation of barley originated around the Uphrates and Tigris rivers but spread North and Westwards. The Romans being accustomed to wine, noted that the people of the North drank beer.
After the dark ages, Christian Abbeys improved brewing processes as they produced for pilgrims and themselves. The modern abbeys that still produce beer today are mainly Roman Catholic. Disapproval of drinking by some religions is a recent phenomenon.
By the mid 1580s, brewing started to become more scientific. Significant advances and beer styles developed mainly in Bohemia, France, Germany, UK, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The greatest milestone in the 1800s was the isolation of pure culture yeasts. Traditional real ales and most wheat beers use a top fermenting strain of yeast referred to as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast ferments on the top of the beer supported by it’s production of CO2 as a by-product of fermentation. The yeast is skimmed from one fermentation to initiate the next.
As a comparison, lagers ferment at a cooler temperature and use bottom fermenting yeasts referred to as Saccaromyces calsbergensis. These ferment at lower temperatures of around 5 to 9 deg C for up to 2 weeks.
The Production of Beer
There are four main ingredients in a real Beer.
WATER – The quantity and variety of dissolved salts in the water used will play a great part in the character of the final beer. The salts play a part in the extraction of fermentable sugars from the grain as well as affecting the way the yeast behaves during fermentation. The total salts in Pilsen’s water amounts to around 30 parts per million whereas in Burton on Trent UK, the content is 1220 parts per million. The main salts of interest are as follows; Calcium – increases the extract (efficiency of extracting sugars during mashing). It can also help to make the beer clearer. Sulphates – enhance the bitterness of the hops. It was Calcium Sulphate in the local water in Burton on Trent that helped to create the pale ale style of beer. Chlorides – help to enhance sweetness. These are relatively high in the waters of Dublin and London. This is where Porters and Stouts originated. Part of the modern brewing process involves modifying the content of these key ions to produce a water that is best suited to the style of beer being produced. .
MALT – Grapes can be made to release their sugars simply by crushing. In more Northern latitudes where grapes and sweet fruits do not readily grow ancient people turned to another source. It was probably discovered by accident that as a harvested grain started to germinate, it’s sugar content seemed to increase. This was due to the conversion of starches in the grain into sugars as the seed began to germinate. If this process is stopped by drying at an optimal point in this process, the grain will contain some sugars plus a quantity of enzymes to aid the extraction of fermentable sugars. The process of mashing (see below) makes use of these enzymes to do just this job.
HOPS – Winemakers used to add aroma to their wines through adding spices and fruit. The favourite for brewers is to add the flower of the hop vine. When wine makers moved to ageing their wines in oak casks, they discovered that the wood performed a similar job but most modern beers are too light in flavour to cope with this process. The herbs and spices once added to wine also acted as a preservative. The hop cones added to beer also perform very well in this respect. The hops add alpha and beta acids that provide bitterness and aroma to the final product. Hops are chosen for their content in these products as required by the beer being produced. They are also added at different stages in the process depending on whether they are being used to provide bitterness or aroma. Our beers use hops to provide both bitterness and aroma.
YEAST – The first winemakers did not realise the spontaneous fermentation of their grapes was caused by the wild yeasts that collected on the skins of the grapes. Some styles of beers still make use of wild yeasts but as the yeast has such a contribution to make to the character of the final beer, most modern brewers prefer to control the yeast culture. They style of ales we produce uses top fermenting yeast. These are yeasts that form a foam on the top of the beer during fermentation. This foam is skimmed at a certain stage in the fermentation and used to start the next beer fermenting. These yeasts are used at higher temperatures. They are pitched in at around 15 deg C and the fermentation temperature rises as the yeast culture grows. The temperature can rise to 25C or more but must be controlled to prevent undesirable products being produced that can affect the final flavour. The sugar content of the liquid is monitored throughout the fermentation and the process is stopped when the desired alcohol strength is reached.
- The malt is cracked (rolled between precisely set rollers) to just split the grains but not produce flour. This stage is critical as we just need grains that are split to release the sugars and enzymes. Grains that are crushed to a flour prevent the mash from being effective and can block filters etc later in the process. This cracked grain is mixed with water at a precisely controlled temperature of around 67 C. This is a temperature that stimulates the enzymes in the malt to convert starches to sugars that are released into the liquid now called a wort.
- A process known as sparging is used to try to maximize the extraction by adding more water until the volume of liquid is correct and the recirculating the wort through the grain.
- Once the sugar extraction is completed 90-120 minutes, the wort is pumped through to a large boiler known as a ‘copper’.
- The wort is now brought to the boil at which point the first batch of hops is added. Hops added at this stage are for bitterness. Any aroma imparted from the hops added at this stage will be boiled off.
- The wort is boiled for around 90 minutes before the aroma hops are added and the heat removed.
- After a short period of time, the wort is rapidly cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel at around 17 deg C.
- The yeast is added as soon as conditions are right and fermentation generally starts in a few hours. It is important that the temperature is controlled within tight limits as this affects the fermentation products and hence characteristics of the final beer.
- After a few days, the sugar content and alcohol content reach a target value and the fermentation is stopped by cooling the beer below the yeast activation temperature.
- The yeast is removed and the beer is then pumped to conditioning tanks. It remains in these tanks for a few days to mature before being transferred to casks or bottles.
- Bottling involves an additional process to encourage further conditioning in the bottle. The bottled beer is not filtered or pasteurised so that the beer continues to develop once bottled as long as the environment is suitable.
- If the bottles are stored upright at 14-17 deg C, the yeast continues to ferment slightly and adds some condition to the beer. This yeast will also fall to the bottom of the bottle so the beer should be decanted in one go to prevent the yeast returning to suspension.
Types of Beer
o Description: Named after its founder, Louis Lager, this drink is characterized mainly by its prominent malt and hops flavor. Are generally sweet and spicy; bright, clear in color, and have a collar of foam around the glass.
o Production: Brewing draws sweetness from the malt; hops are added during the process. The beer is then carbonated and aged over time. Lager is often bottom-fermented and becomes quite smooth and round.
o How to enjoy: Best with spicy foods (pizza, Mexican, Indian, and even seafood).
o Description: Ale can be bitter and spicy or malty and sweet. They can also be any color and strength.
o Production: Ale is fermented with top-fermenting yeast, usually near room temperature. It tends to have a more fruity character than a lager.
o How to enjoy: Try ale with any food that is full of flavor (grilled fish or sharp cheeses).
o Description: Named for the porters at the Covent Garden Market in 18th century London, porter sustained and provided nourishment for people throughout their long days. They often come in coffee or chocolate flavors and are dark in color.
o Production: A top-fermented beer, it’s brewed as a blend of three beers. At one time porter had a lengthy aging process, which made them quite sour to drink.
o How to enjoy: Porter goes with just about any meat dish (beef, chicken, or lamb). It also goes well with desserts.
o Description: Stout originated in Australia and Asia. In the 1800s, a beer called Nurse Stout was thought to promote health “for invalids.” It was also used to bathe newborn babies to promote clear skin, or in Irish hospitals to help nursing mothers produce milk. Stout is full-bodied and thick, with a flavor similar to coffee. It can take on many flavors including sweet, bitter, milk, or even oatmeal. Stout is usually deep black in color.
o Production: Stout is a type of ale made with top-fermenting yeast.
o Description: Pilsner became popular in the mid-1800s in Bohemia. People liked the golden, sparkly, clear beer. Pilsners are highly hopped and full of flavor. They are soft to drink and don’t have as thick of a body as other beers.
o How it’s made: Brewed with hops and often have caramel malt added to give a golden color and gentle flavor.
o How to enjoy: Pilsner beer goes with nearly any meat, excluding beef, and with mild cheeses.
o Description: Drinking wheat beer is as close to drinking champagne as beer ever gets. Originated in Belgium, if you need a thirst-quenching beverage, you may want to try this beer. Wheat ale in itself has a taste full of citrus. Adding fruit flavoring gives a nice aroma and taste.
o How it’s made: Brewed with malted wheat and barley. Yeast is used to ferment the beer. Fruit and more wheat malt are then added.
o How to enjoy: Try drinking wheat beer with a salad or with Chinese food.
How to Serve and Taste Beer
Beer should be served at correct temperature for maximum enjoyment.
- Lager beers should be kept in the refrigerator before serving at 9°C/48°F.
- The light American and Australian lagers should be server at a lower temperature of 6°C/42°F.
- Ales should never be over-chilled, or it will develop a haze and loose their fruity-flavors. 12-13°C/54-56°F are recommended temperatures for serving.
- Very strong ales should be served at room temperature.
Never store a bottle-conditioned beer in the refrigerator, but keep them cool and standing for several hours before serving to allow the sediment to clear.
Serve beer in glasses large enough to hold a 12-ounce bottle so you can pour the entire contents at once. Sloping pilsner flutes are nice, as are the large, slightly tapered English-style pint glasses. The head on beer, especially lagers and bubbly ales, is important. A good inch to inch-and-a-half head of foam is ideal. Begin pouring with your glass slightly tilted, and gradually straighten it as you pour, carefully building the head. Serve most beer well chilled but not icy (about 40 degrees to 45 degrees). Stouts and British-style ales such as esb can be served at cellar temperature (about 50 degrees).
Before you taste the beer, notice its appearance. The head should hold for a while, indicating good body and malty character. As you drink, the foam should cling to the glass. Carbonation varies based on beer style and producer, but some beers — such as typical American pilsners — can be overly fizzy from high levels of carbon dioxide. Aromas should be hoppy, malty, or fruity, depending on the beer style. Beware of sour, skunky, stale odors, which indicate outdated beer.