Beer is a fermented drink made from the artful choosing and manipulating of four main ingredients – malted grain (usually barley), water, yeast and hops.
If barley isn’t available, brewers can substitute corn, wheat, oats, rye or rice.
Grain is needed to brew beer. Beer is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages known. Anthropologists credit man’s craving for a good brew with the transition of the nomadic Neolithic people to hunter/gatherer/farmers who grew brew crops.
The Latin name for the Hop plant is “Humulus Lupulus,” which translates to “Wolf Plant.” Fitting, because it grows wild in the countryside, just as wolves do. It is a first cousin to Cannabis, and beer drinkers in the 19th century whose brew of choice was the heavily-hopped India Pale Ale, felt both its alcoholic and narcotic effects.
During World War II, the clever British Royal Navy equipped a ship with a small brewery that made a mild ale using desalinated water and malt extract. British sailors fought to be assigned to the ship, which they dubbed “Davy Jones’ Brewery.”
Roasted malt and unmalted roasted barley taste and smell remarkably like coffee. Some instant coffees contain sizeable servings of roasted malt, a habit that stemmed from World War II when real coffee beans were nearly impossible to get.
Today, malt is cured by coke (a high carbon residue coal product) or coal. But early on, it was dried over a difficult- to-control wood fire. The malt was often charred, taking on a smokey flavor. Today, some German beers are still made with smoked malt.
Brewers prefer to refer to the water they use in the brewing process as “liquor.”
The Beer of the Month Club is the most innovative ways to sample a variety of microbrewed beer from around the U.S.