This week’s blog is going to be different. It’s going to be about beers, the brew process and a little background information. After starting to work at a local brewery in Maastricht, de Maastrichter Maltezer, I started to discover more and more about this fascinating drink. If you don’t like beers or if you aren’t interested in beers whatsoever, I would recommend you not to read it. But if you want to impress your mates in the pub with some nice fun facts, a little knowledge and some deeper understanding please continue reading. Do you know where the word pub originally comes from? I bet you don’t. Looking for other fun facts? Continue reading and you will find out…!
First and foremost I would like to address that I am not a beer sommelier or graduated beer student. I am just a passionate, interested guy who loves sharing his knowledge and wants to know everything there is to know about beers. So if you spot any mistakes, please let me know since I only want to improve ;)
Back to the topic of today; beer! We all know what beer is and we all have drunken one at least one in our lives. Some people love it, where others prefer wine. Do you know which country drinks the most beer per capita? The Czechs! They drink 142.6 liters on average per capita per year. Germans know how to drink beer too, they take the 4th place in the raking, with a nice 104.7 liters. The Netherlands is ranked just below Belgium, on the 23rd spot, with an average of 71.4 liters. Last but not least, Ireland can be proud since they are still in the top 10. With 97 liters they take 7th place. Source
So beer consumption really differs all over the world. Back to beer itself, do you know what it contains? Most people do, so I won’t go into details about the ingredients. Four main ingredients make every beer a success. However, every single ingredient can have a big influence on the color, taste, body, alcohol percentage and smell of the beer. The magic four are: water, starch source (most common source is barley malt), hops and yeast.
Before everything will get real technical and potentially boring, I will try to keep it nice and light. Just to give you that little edge. To stay with the ingredients, lets talk about malt. You have lots of different types of malts. Malts are germinated (cereal) grains that have been dried in a process called ‘malting’. Drying the malt happens at different temperatures, depending on the beer you want to make. So what does malt do? Malt contains starch that can be transformed by enzymes into sugars. Those sugars are food for the yeast that will later transform them into alcohol and carbonic acid. The most common used malted grain? Barley.
.Lets move on to the next ingredient; hop. Hop is a plant that can grow up to 14 meters. The female cones of this plant are separated from their husbands, since they are the ones that are used in beer. Time for a little fun fact! You might already know this one. To which family belongs the hop plant (Humulus lupulus)? The marijuana plant! Guess why you get so hungry and you crave fat food when you had a few pints? That’s because of our dear friends, the hops. Moreover, hops influence the taste (bitterness), the smell, foam and the preservability of the beer. There are two types of hops used in brewing beer; bitter hops and aroma hops. Interested in more knowledge about hop? Find the info here.
Before I forget, lets highlight the ingredient water. One of the ingredients that everyone takes for granted. Did you know that water has a big influence on the beer? The minerals of the water, location dependent, change the structure of the beer.
Next up: its time for the last ingredient; the yeast. This microorganism is quite an important one, since it makes what most people crave in beer; alcohol! There are, like type of malts and hops, many different types of yeast that work best at different temperatures. That’s where the difference comes from between lager and ale; lager is fermented at a temperature between the 5 and 15 degrees Celsius. Whereas ale is fermented between 15 and 25 degrees. Basically, what the yeast does is eat the sugars and poop out alcohol and carbonic acid. Sorry wish I could make it sound more tasteful than that…!
Meet Jack. Jack is a happy barley seed, who is ready to see daylight and pop out of the ground. He wants to make new mates and is ready to grow as fast as he can. But in order to grow he needs sunlight and water. He needs to be comfortable. So at some point he feels nice and comfortable and everything is warm around him, so Jack thinks he can start germinating, to start growing. The moment the germ comes out, he knows he’s fucked. The whole time, he was pranked. He is actually in a malt house where they put him in a warm bath in order to start the germinating process. Before he knows it the water is gone and he is being dried on a hot surface. Jack unfortunately dies because of the heat, and his husk gets a different color. Rest in peace Jack!
Quite a sad story, right? This story explains the first step of the brewing process; called malting. At the end of the process you’ll have malt. Malting is one of the in total 9 steps. I will explain them all briefly, to not make this blog a book. Just to give you a little deeper understanding. Have a look at the image below to see the steps of the brewing process.
After milling the first step of the brew process starts; mashing. Mashing is actually like making porridge. Only a little harder. At different temperatures, in different stages, you heat the mash to let the enzymes do their work properly.
After the porridge is made, it’s time to filter it. This step is called lautering. In this step the mash is separated into the clear liquid wort and the residual grain. Wort is simply hot sugar water.
After the liquid is clear, it’s been pumped back into the brew tank, to start brewing. This step, boiling the wort and adding the hops, is the only step you actually call brewing in the whole process!
Once the wort is boiling you add the hops and you boil it for a good 70 minutes, depending on the recipe. After the boiling, the brew is pumped into the whirlpool where it will spin around on a high speed. This spin makes sure that all the left overs of the hops are taken out of the brew.
Once that is completed, the brew is cooled back to the temperature the yeast works the best. Remember the difference between a lager or ale?
After it is all cooled down, the liquid is transported into the yeast tank. After adding the yeast, and potential extra ingredients such as coriander, citrus peels or whatever the recipe says, you close the tank and let the yeast do its work for a good week.
The fermenting process is, once again, recipe dependent. After a good week the beer is fermented and most of the yeast either has lowered itself to the bottom (lager fermenting) or has risen to the top (ale fermenting) of the brew. The next step is conditioning.
Conditioning happens in lots of different ways nowadays. A huge trend is barrelled aged beers who are, like wines, matured on barrels. The most common way is lagering; the beer is then stored in lagers, which are stored at cellar temperature or below. The conditioning process normally takes 2-4 weeks but can take up to months or years. It is a process that can be compared with aging a wine.
The next step is filtering. Depending on the type of beer you make, you filter the beer first, before you bottle it. Several beers have a second fermentation on the bottle, giving it a more complex taste and a higher alcohol percentage.
The last step is packaging. This step speaks for itself I believe.
Soo, long story, right? Would you like to see the process step by step in imagines instead of text? Click the picture below or check de Maastrichter Maltezer Instagram account at the Highlights to see this awesome process.
Lots of reading. So this section will be short, but fun! Since I saved the best for last. Let me give you some fun facts!
Fancy some more fun facts? Go ahead and have a look at this awesome website filled with fun facts.
Ready to open a beer? I hope you learned something from today’s lesson. A little different blog, but I am just so fascinated by this drink. Experiencing a brew process first row is something truly unique!
Have a great day, and remember; you don’t need to weekend to drink beer! Cheers!