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- $22 for admission for one to the Wnywood brewery tour ($48.41 value)
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Beer Brewing: Barley to Bubbles
Although beer lists can boast many varieties, nearly all of them share the same basic components. Learn how brewers work their magic with Groupon’s survey of beer brewing.
From golden pilsners to night-dark imperial stouts, astringent double IPAs to rich porters, most beers are made from the same four ingredients—a count that includes water. From start to finish, here are the three other building blocks of beer.
Malt: Malt begins as a grain seed, most often barley. Its impenetrable husk means it’s rarely used in baking, but its rich cache of essential beer-brewing enzymes makes the grain ideal for fermenting purposes. To get the most from these enzymes, brewers first soften the seeds by soaking them for around 20 hours, and then leave them out to germinate for up to a week before roasting them in a kiln. The kiln’s high temperature not only removes water and wimpiness but also combines the grain’s sugars and amino acids to create the telltale malty flavor.
At this point, it’s time for mashing. Brewers combine the malt with smaller amounts of other grains suited to the flavor they’re after, such as wheat or rye, and then they boil the concoction in water for 1–2 hours. This step helps the malt’s enzymes break down starches into sugar, creating a soup known as wort.
Hops: When enthusiasts talk about a beer’s floral aroma, they’re not just being fanciful or saying weird words because they’re drunk. The quality comes from an actual flower, the green hops cone. Sprinkled in while the newly created wort boils, hops add a dose of bitterness that cuts through the sweetness of the malt and possesses an antibiotic effect that helps fight off any bacteria that might meddle with the beer’s flavor. There are more than 100 hops varieties, a diversity that brewers take advantage of to lend their beers unique flavors.
Hops chosen for specialized tasks are incorporated at specific points during the boil. Bittering hops are added throughout the 1-hour boil, flavoring hops are added during the last 5–20 minutes, and aroma hops go in about 5 minutes from the end. After this step, brewers leave the mixture to settle and separate in a vessel known as a whirlpool. They then transfer it to a heat exchanger designed to cool the liquid and create a cozy place for yeast to grow.
Yeast: Bubbles, alcohol, final flavors—yeast is responsible for them all. This tiny fungus breaks down the brewing solution’s proteins and sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide in a process known as fermentation. The methods and yeast strains brewers use to make this happen can vary. Ales are defined by the relatively warm 60- to 75-degree temperature that lets the ale-specific yeast ferment at the top of the liquid over the course of about a week. A lager’s blood runs slow and cold—its yeast ferments at the bottom of a 34-degree solution for a month or more. A more unusual, though time-honored, method is spontaneous fermentation, which allows wild yeast that naturally occurs in the air to settle in uncovered barrels of beer. This is how many belgian lambic beers are produced. Once the fermentation process is over, the beer is ready to be packed, shipped, and sipped.