Planning a trip to Australia’s beer isle, or just want to know what makes our beer so special? Brush up on your beer lingo here.
To make beer, you need five things: water, yeast, hops, grain, and a whole lot of know-how. Here’s how it’s done.
The first step in making beer is turning grain – usually barley – into malt. To do this, brewers soak the grain in water. This causes the grain to sprout a tiny plant – a process called germination. This breaks down the grain’s reserves of starch. The grain is then heated and dried, which stops the germination.
After that, the malt is mixed with water and left for a few hours to help turn the malt’s starches into fermentable sugar. This is called mashing, and it transforms the malt into a sticky, sugary mixture called the wort.
The wort mix is moved in a brew kettle. Here hops are added for flavour and aroma, and then the whole mixture is boiled up. This ensures that the beer is sterile – the last thing anyone wants is a beer crawling with nasties. Afterwards, solids are filtered from the mash.
Fermentation is where the magic – or science – happens. The yeast is either added or allowed to occur naturally in the mash. The yeast converts the mash’s sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Sugar that isn’t fermented contributes to the beer’s sweetness, while sugar that is fermented contributes to the beer’s carbonation and alcohol strength. There are three different ways a beer can be fermented.
• Warm fermentation uses yeasts that ferment at the top of the beer. This makes an ale.
• Cool fermentation uses yeast that ferments at the bottom of the beer. This results in a lager.
• Wild fermentation uses wild yeasts and bacteria that develop in the beer – rather than the carefully selected yeast strains most brewers use. This means every brew is unpredictable and different
Conditioning and Filtering
Once fermented, the beer is cooled down to the point it’s almost frozen. This lets the yeast die and settle at the bottom of the tank, where it can be filtered out. Not all beers are filtered, which is why some are much cloudier than others.
Once conditioned, the beer is aged – a process that can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several years. After that comes the bottling, kegging or canning. Then, finally, comes the drinking.