Beer is a magical liquid, created by chance around 9500BC. The earliest records of a prepared beverage relate to beer. It emerged around the same time as cereal farming, meaning that bread and beer are close cousins. The magic in both in the living organism yeast.
In very basic terms, yeast eats sugar. When it’s in a moist environment, it expels CO2 and creates ethanol. The ethanol is what gives beer its alcoholic properties. Generally the alcohol percentage will sit at four to six per cent, after yeast has done its job. Before beer was widely understood, the yeast occurred naturally, attracted to the wet, sugary environment. Now, we find strains of yeast specifically engineered in laboratories to ensure consistency.
The grain determines the flavour of the beer, malted barley being the most common. Roasting the barley can give a more toasted taste and in turn makes for a darker beer in colour and flavour.
Then we move on to the addition of hops. The flowers from hop vines add distinctive taste as well as acting as a preservative. Their flavouring is generally bitter, but they can also be used to add aromatics. They’re added in at different points in the brewing process depending on the hop.
Beer continues to evolve, while at the same time remaining completely unchanged. The Germans have a law in place from hundreds of years ago, which states they can only use water, hops, yeast and grain in their beer. Known as the German purity law, it means that most of their beers remain unchanged in hundreds of years. The other side of the coin sees some brewers going completely left field, with things like ageing in used whisky barrels or adding fruits to the brew.
While beer does evoke a sense of loyalty and some drinkers never waver from their favourite, it’s important to remember there is whole world of beer out there. So next time you’re at the pub, maybe push the boundaries a little. Dabble in a little something dark, or maybe something a little more hoppy.
Or mix with Schweppes Lemonade to make a Shandy.