BEER - Definition: An alcoholic beverage made from the fermented extracts of malt, with or without the extract of other cereal grains. It is usually flavoured with hops.
Etymology: From the Latin bibere - to drink.
Beer is truly an ancient beverage. The oldest made by humankind. Its origins are clouded with the origins of bread. Both were probably discovered at or about the same time, perhaps one as a by-product of the other. Since its inception, beer has remained an accessible beverage. It is widely consumed and in most societies,is regarded as a staple. It is rare to find an agrarian society that does not now or has not in its history, brew(ed) beer. Brewers tend to think of beer as “liquid bread” of a sort. The analogy is a very close one. Both are made from grains, both fermented by yeast, and both can be considered an accessible, easily digested, wholesome source of energy and nutrition.

Technology has changed substantially since the birth of beer but the basic principles remain unchanged; converting starch to sugar, extracting it from the grain source, and fermenting it using yeast which gives rise to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
The Ingredients:
If one were to compare brewing to wine making, water in brewing plays a very similar role to soil in wine growing. Water is the main ingredient in beer. It comprises 80 to 95% of the final weight of a beer. Water, perhaps because it is the least expensive of the raw materials, often seems to be given little attention, especially by small brewers. The fundamental beer styles of the world (Plzen, Munchen, Wien, Dortmund, London, Burton, and Dublin) owe their distinction primarily to the type of water available at each of those locales.

Water sources vary greatly. The specific mineral composition depends on the source of the water. Deep-bore wells tend to provide very hard water with lots of dissolved minerals whereas shallow wells and surface water (rivers, lakes and streams) tend to be much softer and low in dissolved minerals.

The specific type of water chosen by the brewer depends on the style of beer he/she is trying to achieve. Light coloured beers tend to favour soft water with low mineral content. Darker lagers, stouts and ales tend to need a much harder water to establish their characteristic base palates. This is a very general statement, however, as there are a great many exceptions to this as a rule. Pale ales, for instance tend to utilise a very hard water as do many European blond lagers from Dortmund. The dark beers of Munich are made largely with waters considered “neutral” (neither hard nor soft).

Skilled brewers modify the mineral content of specific ions in their water using a process known as “burtonizing” which involves the addition of mineral salts like calcium sulphate (gypsum), calcium chloride (lime), calcium carbonate (chalk), and various other salts to create a water appropriate to the style of beer being brewed. This process is akin to preparing the soil.
What is malt?
In our analogy, consider malt akin to grapes in wine making. It is the source of fermentables. Malt is merely barley that has been steeped in water, allowed to germinate and subsequently kilned. This process allows the native starch of barley (which is unfermentable by brewers yeast) to be broken down to fermentable sugars by natural starch hydrolysing enzymes found in the barley itself.

Depending on the type of malt, this breakdown occurs either in the malt house or in the brewhouse. Malting is by no means unique to barley. Any cereal grain can be malted so why use barley when there are so many cheaper cereal grains available?

1. Tradition Malted barley is the traditional extract source for all continental ales and lagers.

If one travels the world, barley malt generally only forms a portion of the mash load supplemented by the starch source most available locally.
Northern U.S. and Canada - corn

Southern U.S and Southeast Asia - rice

South and Central Africa - sorghum

Other sources (rare) - Manioc, defatted soy meal, oats, wheat, spelt, rye, millet, bere, etc.

2. Flavour Lends fine soft sweetish smooth clean flavours to the beer

3. Ease of Use For various reasons, malt is easier to brew with than most other grains.

4. Easily malted - The most easily malted cereal grain with a high germinative ability.

5. Hardy cereal crop with short growing season
- Can be grown relatively far north or south and matures much faster than oats or wheat.

6. Yields a wort which is nutritionally complete for yeast.
- Promotes a healthy fermentation and thus a clean tasting beer without the need for supplementation with yeast foods.

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