Silly question you say? Everyone knows what beer is. But most people don’t really know how America’s most popular beverage is made. So here, in a nutshell, is how beer is brewed.
Water is mixed with barley seeds (malt) which are allowed to germinate (sprout) and then they are mashed (crushed). This turns the starch in the seed to sugars which makes great food for yeast. The water and sugar, called wort, is separated from the seed husks and put into a kettle. Here, the wort is boiled and hops are added for bitterness. The wort is then cooled and then brought to about 40-50 F and yeast is added. The yeast (a fungus) eats the sugar in the wort and through a chemical process called fermentation releases alcohol as a by product. Depending on the style, more hops can be added at the end to add floral and citrus aromas. And that’s how you get beer!
What is the difference between a Lager and an Ale?
Most major US brands (Bud/Miller/Coors) are lagers which means they use a yeast that sinks to the bottom of the vat and likes to ferment at cooler temperatures. Most US lagers are made with about 50% barley and 50% corn or rice making them lighter tasting, sometimes tasteless. Ales are made with mostly barley and a strain of yeast that floats on the top of the vat and works at warmer temperatures. This type of yeast adds interesting flavors to the ale that are immediately recognizable.
What is Craft Beer?
This is a harder question to answer. However, most people know when they are drinking a craft beer becasue of the taste. Because of how it is made, it just has more flavor. There are all different styles of craft beers from IPAs to Stouts brewed all over the world. It might be easier to explain what a craft (micro) brewers is.
A craft brewery is small, traditional and independent. Of the 2000 breweries in the US, over 90% of them would be classified as craft brewers. According to the American Brewers Association an American craft brewer is:
•Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less. For comparison, Anheuser- Busch produced 160 million barrels in 2006.
•Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt (barley) flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands)
•Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
What are the different styles of craft beer?
Here are some of the most popular styles of craft beer: