When you talk of beer, you’re really speaking about barley soup that’s been allowed to ferment. The ingredients are a little more complicated than what you may think, as lots of consumers consider beer a simple brew of just four basics: grain, water, yeast and hops.

Ground-up barley (and sometimes the addition of other wheat and/or grains) is wetted until the kernels just start to sprout (germinate). The kernels are then dried or roasted, the result being barley malt.

This barley malt is steeped in hot water, which is later drained into and then boiled in a brew kettle where it is seasoned with hops. The last of the soup-making steps leading up to bottling is the transfer of the “soup” into yet another kettle or vessel, and the addition of either top or bottom fermenting, to complete fermentation.

This over-simplified recipe fails to mention the different pieces of equipment essential to a “souper” brew, and represents just a “stock soup,” but it does give an overview of just how beer is made. The addition of other ingredients, the cooking, aging and storage times, and the temperatures during manufacturing, all play big roles in the taste and appearance of the final product.

Lagers and ales are the two main “super soups.” Ales are made with top fermenting yeasts that rise to the top of the fermentation tanks; bottom fermenting yeast is used in the production of lagers. Ales take less than 3 weeks to brew, while lagers require several weeks from start to finish. (“Lager” actually means “to store”.) Ales are brewed at high temperatures, while lagers are cold brewed. Taste differences? While lagers are crisp, clean tasting and well balanced, ales are more malty, floral and herbal. Enjoy the soup . . . whichever one you prefer!

ASK MR. BEERHEAD: TOM GRAINGER OF LOON LAKE, INDIANA, ASKS: “Do the old battery-operated Beer Chillers really work — cold beer — in just 2 minutes — really?”

A few years ago, this device was the rage, and it really DID work! You’d insert two AA batteries, and a room temperature 12- or 16-ounce can of beer (or soda or juice) into the device, and in just 2 minutes it’s cold. How? Simply by spinning the can in ice-water! The inventor found that by spinning it at a slight angle (creating a wobble), it worked even faster! Another claim was that all carbonated beverages could be opened immediately with no foaming or explosions! Great for emergencies when you really NEED a beer!


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Tracie Burket
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