You may have heard the phrase, “It looks like beer, it smells like beer, dammit, IT IS BEER!” And that my friend is a true statement. Beer has been around for a long time. So, what is beer?
Beer is fermented, alcoholic beverage. That’s about as simple as it gets when trying to explain such a complex topic. There are so many different varieties of beer and different styles from around the world that you could spend your whole life discovering beers that you haven’t tried before. But for the sake of this brief blog post, let’s look at some basic things about beer which I feel is worth knowing.
Definition Of Beer
What Is Beer?
Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from barley and other grains, usually hops. It is the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. The production of beer is called brewing, which involves the fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grains—most commonly malted barley, although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are widely used. Most beer is flavoured with hops, which add bitterness and act as a natural preservative and stabilizer. Other flavouring ingredients such as herbs or fruit may be included or used instead of hops.
Various types of beer are produced by fermenting raw materials such as barley, malted barley, wheat or rye – in a process termed saccharification (converting starch to sugars) – followed by fermentation using a yeast culture – either a top-fermenting yeast (for ales) or bottom-fermenting yeast (for lagers). Many different varieties exist as well as many methods of producing them; shaped bottles and cans are commonly used for packaging beer.
The fermenting of the starch sugars in beer causes the alcohol content to vary from around 3% ABV to 6% ABV or higher. Beer is also sometimes used as an alternative word for malt liquor.
Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world, dating back to at least 5,000 BC. The earliest evidence of brewing dates to Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), where beer was used as an offering to the gods, as well as part of the culture and even medicine.
According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewing was first legalized in the United States in 1978. At that time, fewer than 500 people were making beer at home. Today, more than 1 million Americans brew their own beer at least once a year.
Beer is also known as liquid bread because it contains all of the basic food groups: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Beer is a popular drink around the world, but most people don’t realize how many different types of beer there are.
Now that you have the answer to the question “What Is Beer?”, continue to learn more about beer.
What Is Draft Beer?
Draft beer is the ultimate in freshness. It’s produced and poured directly from a tank or keg, so it’s never been exposed to light or oxygen. Because of this, it retains its flavor, aroma and carbonation much longer than bottled or canned beer.
Draft beer is also usually less expensive than bottled or canned beer because it’s less expensive for breweries to produce.
Draft beer is beer that is brewed in a brewery and then sent to a bar or restaurant where it is served directly from the keg. Draft beer, often called draught beer, can be served from either a pressurized keg or from a cask.
Draft beer has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that it became popular throughout Europe and America.
Draft beer is the beer you drink in a pub or bar. It’s poured into a glass by an employee of the establishment, rather than being canned or bottled.
The draft system is designed to maximize freshness and carbonation, with little to no air contact.
Draft beer is also known as kegged beer, which refers to the method of serving draft beers from kegs instead of bottles or cans.
The term “draft” comes from the German word “zapfhahn,” meaning tap handle.
“What Is Beer?” is just a simple question, other beers are much more complicated, let’s find out more.
What Is Craft Beer?
Craft beer is made in small batches by independent brewers who focus on quality and innovation rather than quantity and cost-cutting. Craft brewers sell their beer (and sometimes cider and wine) directly to the public through their own breweries, brewpubs or tasting rooms. Craft brewers are usually passionate about what they do and take great pride in making delicious beer for people like you!
Craft beer is a form of beer created by small breweries that use traditional brewing methods, which are often somewhat experimental. Craft brewers tend to be independent and family-owned businesses. The Brewers Association estimates that there were more than 5,000 craft breweries operating in the U.S. in 2018.
Craft beer is a term used for beers made with traditional ingredients and brewing processes, but it’s also about quality, flavor and personal taste. It’s about being different from the big guys — or so say many craft brewers.
The Brewers Association defines American craft brewers as:
- Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels
- Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. An investment group, a non-brewing business and other entities are counted as part of the total ownership structure.
- Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.
The above definition has answered the question “What Is Beer?”, let’s understand more about the history of beer.
The History Of Beer
The history of beer dates back thousands of years, and involves a number of different cultures.
Beer may have been brewed as far back as the 6th millennium BC in China, although this is disputed. By 3000 BC, it was being produced in Sumer. The Egyptians were also brewing beer by this time, in addition to winemaking. In 1000 BC, the Babylonians were brewing a wine-like beer called zythos.
The earliest known chemical evidence of beer dates to between 3500 and 3100 BCE in what is now China, where a fermented beverage using rice, honey, and fruit was consumed by humans. As a food source, it was essential in rations of soldiers during the Zhou dynasty (1122–256 BCE) and later in frontier regions during the Qin dynasty (221–206 BCE). By the 9th century CE, an entire guild of brewers existed in Northern Germany.
The first written evidence of beer comes from ancient Egypt around 3100 BCE. Egyptians were making wine out of grapes and barley by 2200 BCE. The Egyptians also had their own version of bread with beer-like qualities called “Bread and Beer”. This was consumed at parties and celebrations as well as during religious rituals such as those honoring Osiris who was known as “Lord of Bread and Beer”.
In ancient Egypt beer was commonly used for ritual purposes (including as offerings to one’s ancestors) as well as for casual social drinking. Egyptian artisans were also skilled at producing bread and beer; “bread” being the yeast-risen dough that forms the basis for modern Egyptian flatbreads such as foul mudammes, and “beer” being the product of fermented grain mash. Beer may have been known in Nubia since ancient times: at least since the 5th century BC Herodotus mentions “Aithiopians” drinking a beverage made from millet which he calls “cake”.
Around 1550 BCE in Mesopotamia, the Sumerians were brewing a different kind of beer that was made from bread instead of grains. It fermented quickly enough to be drunk at festivals. They also developed a form of beer that was stored in clay jugs and consumed daily.
The Greeks developed the process of lactic fermentation from around 400 BC and the Romans improved on Greek brewing techniques during the time of Julius Caesar. During the Middle Ages, monasteries played a central role in brewing beer across Europe.
Beer continued to be popular throughout the Roman Empire despite its high cost compared to wine because it had more calories than wine which meant people could eat less food while still feeling full after consuming it than if they just drank wine alone which is mostly water instead.
In 1822, German chemist Andreas Cornelius Agrell successfully isolated pure yeast cells found in fermenting beer and developed a pure yeast culture that he sold commercially.
You already know what is beer and the history of beer, see the ingredients that makeup beer in the next section.
What is beer made of?
Beer is made from four main ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast.
Water is the most important ingredient in beer. It makes up 95% of the total composition of beer. The type of water used for brewing can affect the taste and flavour of beer.
Malt is what gives beer its colour and sweet taste. Malt is made from germinated cereal grains such as barley, wheat or rye. In brewing, the malt is often dried over a fire to stop germination and then roasted in an oven or kiln to develop its characteristic flavour and colour.
Hops are the flowers of a climbing vine that produce cones full of bitter-tasting resin. Hops are added to beer for two reasons: flavour and stability. They give beer its unique flavour but also help preserve it by controlling certain bacteria that could spoil the brew.
Yeast is a living organism that converts sugars into alcohol during fermentation (the process where sugars are converted into alcohol). Different strains of yeast produce different flavours in beer depending on the type of strain used (some produce more esters while others produce fewer).
Source of Nutrients in Beer
A standard 12-ounce serving of beer contains about 150 calories, which isn’t much at all compared to soft drinks or alcohol. Alcoholic beverages often contain less than 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), which is approximately two drinks per bottle for a 5-ounce glass. A 12-ounce serving of red wine has about 100 calories and white wine has about 80 calories.
Beer doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol but it does have carbohydrates, which are broken down into sugar during digestion. The sugar gets absorbed into your bloodstream quickly and provides an immediate source of energy — that’s why it can sometimes be difficult to sleep after drinking a lot of beer or other alcoholic beverages. Beer also has B vitamins such as niacin and folate as well as vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) and selenium (a trace mineral).
Beer contains less protein than most other alcoholic drinks but it does contain some B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin and thiamine) which may help to prevent deficiency diseases such as pellagra (a condition caused by a lack of niacin). Beer also contains some vitamins A and C as well as potassium, sodium and magnesium.
Above is the definition for the question “What Is Beer?”, along with the history and composition of beer nutrients, which is the explanation for the question behind, let’s see.
Why Beer Is the World’s Most Beloved Drink
There are many reasons, but the following five are among the most compelling.
- Beer Is a Refreshing Beverage
- Beer Is Easy to Digest
- Beer Has a Long History as a Popular Drink
- Beer Is a Rich Source of Nutrients
- Beer Has Many Health Benefits
The question “What Is Beer?” told you that beer is a drink, but how to enjoy it is standard, let’s find out.
How to Taste Beer
There’s more to beer than just the taste. Color, aroma and mouthfeel can all be indicators of a particular beer’s style and brewing process.
Here’s how to get the most out of your next sip:
Look at the color. The color of a beer can be used as an indicator of its style. For example, a pale ale should be golden or copper in color; an imperial stout should be jet black; and an IPA should be amber.
Take a whiff. As you tilt your glass, inhale deeply through your nose. Aroma is important because it tells you what flavors are present in a beer — not just the obvious ones like hops or malt, but also those that may not be so apparent on first sip. For example, if you smell nutty aromas in a porter or coffee aromas in an IPA, those flavors will likely be prominent on your taste buds as well.
Lift the glass to your lips and take a sip. Swirl the liquid around in your mouth before swallowing so that all five senses are engaged during tasting!
This is the first in a series of informative posts I hope to write addressing common questions about beer with the first question “What is beer?”. The goal here isn’t to define what beer “is,” as that’s a bit nebulous, but rather to explain what beer is composed of and how it is made. Whether you’re a newbie in the world of beer, or a longtime drinker, hopefully I can shed some light on some concepts that you may not have known or didn’t fully understand.