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Introduction to brewing


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Literally dozens of decisions must be made by the brewer before the beer is ready for bottling.

By: Stephen Beaumont


Armed with the multitude of ingredient possibilities detailed in the What’s in a beer section , a brewer now faces a basic brewing process with a proverbial spider’s web of decisions to make. Some of these decisions will have had to have been made weeks or months before brewing can begin – what sort of equipment to buy for the brewery, for instance, or how to heat the kettle and mash tun – while others will be much more single recipe specific.

Leaving aside the issues that must be resolved long before a single beer recipe might be developed, among the myriad of choices a brewer must make are such matters as the combination of grains that will go into the mash, the varieties of hops used to season the beer, how the brewing water might need to be prepared, how long to set the boil and even in what package the final beer will appear.

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Modern breweries come in all sorts of sizes, from modest and hand-on to huge and highly computerized.

Even more basic are such issues as whether the beer will be fermented at warmer temperatures with an ale yeast or under cooler conditions with a lager yeast, how much sugar the unfermented beer might contain and whether those sugars will be derived entirely from grain or supplemented by raw sugars – hence how strong the final beer might be – and whether the desired character will be crisp and refreshing or malty and satisfying, light-bodied and with an unassertive flavour profile or boldly hoppy and intense.

Each decision made along the way will certainly, and possibly dramatically, affect the character of the final beer. So with every single step, the brewer comes closer to defining the colour, aroma, flavour and even the texture of their beer.

It has been said that wine is created in the vineyard, where carefully tended grapes develop characteristics that will only reveal themselves after fermentation. That being the case, beer is most certainly created in the brewhouse, where ingredients – most of which are available to any brewer with the money and inclination to buy them, no matter where their brewery might be located – must be put together in very precise ways in order to yield a consistent, flavourful brew.


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