Not sure where to start with craft beer? Just want to brush up on your beer knowledge? Good, you’ve come to the right place.
We want to take the snobbery out of craft beer and make it easier for more people to enjoy a better pint. At TA Brews, we don’t just look at beer from the perspective of wherever you call home; we look at beer from a transatlantic viewpoint. Based in the UK and Canada, our mission is to build a bridge between Europe and North America to help celebrate a beer renaissance on both sides of the pond.
The beauty about beer is you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy it; nor do you have to be wealthy. Unlike wine, world-class beer is accessible to all budgets. But while you don’t need to make rocket science of it, the more you know, the greater your enjoyment will be.
So what are you waiting for? While they say Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language – one thing that truly unites us is beer. You could even say beer is its own universal language!
So let’s get talking shall we? Starting with the basics:
What exactly is beer?
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from grain, hops, yeast, and water. While malted barley is by far the most commonly used grain, other sources of fermentable carbohydrate, such as wheat, maize, and rice are also sometimes used to create different styles and flavors.
Let’s look at each main ingredient independently:
Water makes up the vast majority of your beer; generally speaking up to 90% of a pint is water. Not all water is made equal, though, as the mineral ingredients can have a profound impact on the final result. Water is therefore arguably the most important ingredient of all.
Many brewers even add mineral content in an attempt to emulate certain water types from well-known areas. The most common example is a process known as “Burtonization” where brewers attempt to emulate the water at Burton Upon Trent, England. The water here is thought to be ideal for brewing Pale Ale and IPA, where a firm bitterness is required, and Burton delivers in abundance.
Malt starts out as barley, which is a cereal grain grown all around the globe, but for barley to be any use in brewing, it must first be malted.
Malting basically means to steep the grain in water – causing them to sprout before leaving them in a kiln to dry. The process helps to break down the hard husk, which enables us to extract the sugars required to brew beer. The temperature of the kiln, and how long the malted barley is left inside determines the color and flavor of malt, which can range from very light and delicate to dark and heavily roasted.
Learn more about malt by checking out our guide to grain.
Hops are the spice of beer. They give your pint much-needed bitterness to balance the sweetness of malt – they also give beer additional aromas and flavor. Without hops, beer just wouldn’t be beer.
Interestingly, hops are actually a flower – a relative of Cannabis – that grow on very tall bines. The small flower cones form in the late summer/early fall. There are dozens of varieties delivering a wide range of flavors, including spicy, citrus, woody, piney, earthy, floral, and more.
To learn more about hops, check out our introductory guide.
Yeast is essential if we’re to turn our lovely raw ingredients into beer. During the fermentation process, yeast eats the sugar – producing alcohol and carbonation in the process. The beer style you want to create determines the yeast variety, of which there are two main species:
- Saccharomyces – a variety used in the ale brewing process, which ferments at warmer temperatures.
- Saccharomyces cerevisae – used to produce lagers and ferments at cooler temperatures.
Within each main species, there exists a whole host of strains; all of which have a big impact on flavor.