With a nod to the structure of the ancient text “The Art of War” and its author, the strategist Sun Tzu, I now present…
The Art of Beer – Pt. 1 (Know your Beer)
- The Art of Beer can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians (or the Sumerians, or the Babylonians, or all of them). It makes it first appearance not long after mankind began to learn to farm and grow grains.
- Beer has been used to provide sustenance to laborers and provide a means of hydration when clean water supplies were low or non-existent.
- It is the oldest and most popular fermented drink in the world. It is the third highest consumed beverage (behind water and tea) in the world
4. All beers are constructed of four main ingredients:
- Grains – Barley, Wheat, Rice and various breads and other starchy foods have been used for making beer over time. The starches are converted to sugars, which will later be converted to alcohol.
- Flavors – Various herbs, spices and sugars have been added to beers over time. These, like all of the ingredients affect the flavor of the beer as well as help to preserve that flavor.
- Yeast – The yeast is what converts the sugars in the wort to alcohol. The yeast also determines what type of beer it will become.
- Water – On average 95% of beer is water. It is the main source of the beer’s flavor and a large quantity is used during the brewing process. Good quality water is needed to make good quality beer.
- The ancients believed the universe to be made up of four elements: Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. While we know the universe is constructed of many more elements than those, those same four elements are all necessary to make beer.
- Earth is represented by the roasted grains, the flavors and the yeast. All of these are cultivated in the Earth itself and impart the characteristics of the regions they come from.
- Water is obviously represented by water. It is used in the boiling of the grains to release the sugars, in the sparging to gather even more sugars into the wort, and in the brewing when the hops are added.
- Fire is represented by the fermentation process. Fire has been used throughout history by metal workers in forging steel, by chemists in creating new compounds and by cooks in creating delicious foods. If there is a chemical reaction present it is usually accompanied by fire. In the case of fermentation that fire is represented by the roiling action that the yeast creates when it is mixed into the wort.
- Wind, the last of the ancient four elements is represented by two important aspects in brewing; the cooling process where the brewed beer is cooled down prior to the yeast being added for fermentation; and patience which is needed to allow time for both the fermentation process to complete and to wait for the bottling process to mature.
- All of these elements are needed to create beer. The combinations can create various styles but in reality these styles can be broken down into two basic types of beers. Beer is either a lager or an ale. The difference is mainly in the type of yeast used for fermentation.
- From those two basic types of beers, the various grains and flavors added as well as the brewing style will determine what style of beer is created.
We will discuss the various types and styles of beers later. In Pt 2 we will discuss drinking beer. Until then… enjoy.