I’m writing this article to speak a little about the four ingredients in a beer. Simple enough, right? Maybe not. Many or most of us may know that a beer is made from water, grains, hops and yeast. What many of us may not know is the role that each of these plays in beer. I want to offer a brief (not a comprehensive) discussion on this topic. In the future, I will write some more about each of these along with some history of beer. For now, let’s jump in.
Water. Well, that’s the end of that one…or is it? Not all water is created equal for all beers. Some water is harder or softer, as many of us have experienced if we have lived in more than one place. Some water is more chlorinated than other water. There are numerous variables in the question that cannot be addressed here. Suffice it to say that different types of water are more or less conducive to particular styles. This is one of the reasons that the waters used for brewing in Dublin, Chicago, and numerous other cities have acheived a degree of fame. Those who attempt to make a Guinness without the particular waters of Dublin do not end up with the exact taste of Guiness. This is not coincidence or brewing method; it is water. To alleviate this problem with brewing beers, many home brewers and companies are forced to use various forms of calcium, gypsum, and other additions to create the conditions suitable for particular styles. Differences in water from place to place have, to some degree, led to the varied styles that we see today.
Another aspect of water that is important to mention is that water has natural ions present that are indespensible to the brewing process. Those waters that are de-ionized (such as distilled water) are not appropriate for brewing in that they do not have the necessary ions and nutrients for alcohol conversion. There is much more that can be said, but this is a starting point. Who knew water could do so much? Water is a transformer of beer…more than meets the eye indeed. Next up…grains.