Craft Beer 101
I haven’t written about craft beer yet on this blog which is a little embarrassing (insert emoji of monkey hiding eyes!) I wasn’t sure how to deliver what it is I love about it and how I want to share that here. I’m learning my way and first, I want to share with you some 101 knowledge that can help you understand craft beer better.
First, the main ingredients in beer are:
- Water – Beer is mostly water (which doesn’t mean you can rehydrate with beer! Haha) and so it’s essential that the water used in brewing beer is of quality. Quality means that the mineral content in your water is appropriate for your beer. It affects the pH of the beer which in turn can impact the taste of the beer.
- Malt – Malt contributes to multiple things in your beer, color, body and sweetness. Malt is the process of malting barley or wheat for your beer. This involves soaking the barley, allowing it to germinate, and then stopping germination with heat. The amount of heating that barley malt gets is going to determine the type of beer you make.
- Hops – I naively used to say, “I don’t like hoppy beers.” But while the majority of beers have hops, there are styles that do not have hops added to them. Hops are added to balance the sweetness from the grains during the brew process, but they do not make all beers bitter. This is what we (Steve and I) think a lot of people mean when they say they don’t like hoppy beers, overly bitter. But hops can add all kinds of flavors and aromas to beer.
- Yeast – Without yeast, you wouldn’t have beer. Learning about yeast is where the microbiologist inside me comes out from college. There are many different strands of yeast but in short, when yeast is added to the brew it begins to eat/ferment the sugars (from all of the above) and it produces many things, but the main things to know about are carbon dioxide and alcohol.
- Adjuncts – This is where unmalted grains like oats, rye, or rice come into the brewing process but also things like fruits, tea, spices, vegetables, donuts, bacon…haha the list goes on and on. These adjuncts I find are the reasons many people pick a beer to drink, especially if they don’t know what style they like. They see, citrus IPA…they think awesome! But the bitterness of that IPA might not be what you expected since it’s called citrus.
Other terms to help you know what I’m talking about when I write about beer:
- ABV: alcohol by volume
- IBU: international bittering units, the higher the number the more bitter the beer. Steve argues that this is not always true because everyone tastes bitterness differently.
- Styles/ BJCP: The Beer Judge Certification Program this is the guideline for judging home brews and beers that are entered into contests/competitions by style. You can go to their site here to learn more.
- Mouth-feel: The sensation inside your mouth you get when drinking beer or any liquid
- Head: In the simplest way, it’s the foam on top of beer or the FOB foam on beer. The had is what gives you a visual, some people perceive a beer a certain way because of the head. The head on beer is from the proteins in the beer, these proteins are not found in wine, cider, or liquor which is why these products do not have a “head.”
- Nitro: A higher amount of nitrogen goes into the solution of beer, when you have a nitro beer you’re pushing a gas mixture into the beer that is higher in nitrogen than normal. Nitro beers have small bubbles which gives you the soft and creamy sensation of this kind of beer.
- Wet vs. dry hopped: Wet hopping is taking fresh hops/unprocessed hops and adding them to the brewing process, ideally within 24 hours of being harvested. When you wet hop a beer, you need to use more hops than if you were to use dried hops. Think of using more fresh herbs vs dried herbs in cooking. Beers that are wet hopped are going to give a different flavor profile. You’re going to see more of these in the Fall because this is when hops are harvested (usually in August). Dry hops go through a kilning process where they’re exposed to temperature for certain amounts of time. Then they are processed into different forms; pellets, whole leaf, powder, plugs, and extracts.
- Body: Basically, people will explain the body of a beer being light, medium, or full bodied (and some in betweens). It’s the way it’s going to feel in your mouth, a big IPA or barely wine will sit in your mouth and you may describe it as heavy (full) bodied.
I’ll continue to add to this as needed to help you understand the different and complex elements in beer. It’s a science that I wish I would have gotten the chance to learn more about it in school. I hated science back then, but now I appreciate it so much more in every beer I drink!
What questions do you have about beer? Ask away! I love hearing about home brewing and new beer flavors you’ve tried, share them with me on Instagram @The_Beer_RD.