Beer Is One Of The World’s Most Popular Drinks

Beer was undoubtedly the first alcoholic beverage to be made by mankind.  It is thought that beer’s involvement with people goes back over 10,000 years, meaning that it appeared right at the beginning of agriculture.  There are references to beer from the ancient Middle East and also from Egypt.  Undoubtedly the simple preparation needed for basic beer contributed to its spread.  Any good calzone recipes with include beer on the side. Nearly every culture on earth has developed beer, and beer is based on the use of grains, usually barley.  Beer is basically a combination of water, grain, hops, and yeast.  For centuries, beer making was a household activity, and although some people still brew their own beer, most beer consumed today is made in a commercial brewery.


How Is Beer Made?
Beer begins with malted barley.  This is barley that has been allowed to germinate in order to produce some important enzymes, but is then heated to prevent further growth.  Beer making differs from wine making in that while sugars are directly released when the grape is crushed, grain provides carbohydrates that must then be broken down into sugars.  To do this, the malted barley is placed into hot water, and those enzymes that were formed when the barley germinated now go to work to convert the carbohydrates to sugar.  The beer is now at the mash stage, and is then filtered into another tank where the hops are added. 
The mixture is boiled, filtered, cooled, and then the yeast is added.  Yeast is what will convert the sugars to alcohol.  Beer can range from having an alcohol content of only 2% right up to 20%, although most beer falls into the range of 5% to 6% alcohol.  Besides alcohol, the yeast also makes carbon dioxide, which is what gives beer its carbonation.  The beer will be filtered again to remove cloudiness and then will be aged.  Depending on the brewery, or the type of beer, it will be aged anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Although the primary ingredients of beer are water, barley, yeast, and hops, it is also a common practice to add other flavoring from spices or fruits.  Many of this kind of beer are produced by microbreweries or in the home.

The Different Types Of Beer
Anyone who thinks that “Beer is just beer,” should definitely think again.  Although there are basically two types of beer:  lager and ale, there are many kinds of each. Many beer drinkers also make a distinction between draft and bottled beer. 
•    Lagers are brewed at a lower temperature, only at about 45 to 55 F.  The lower temperature has a bearing on fermentation rates, flavor, and color.  Lagers also take longer to make, and several weeks are needed to allow the yeast to convert the sugars to alcohol.  The longer time needed also prevents the yeast from producing any ‘fruity’ flavors in the beer.  Lagers are usually fairly light in color and have a lighter flavor (the exception being dark lager).  Most lagers have quite a bit of carbonation and form a good head.  Lagers are the most widely consumed of all beers, and have the characteristic bitter flavor associated with this beverage.
•    Ales are fermented at a higher temperature than are lagers, 65 to 75 F.  This makes for a faster brewing process, and also imparts the fruity or sweet flavor that most ale has.  Ales typically are darker in color than lagers and often have a much fuller body.  In earlier times they were looked upon as being an important source of nutrition, and the low alcohol content at the time meant that they were consumed by all ages.  Today’s ales usually offer a blend of sweet and bitter, although the proportion can change according to the type of ale.  The darker ales, including Belgian and Porter, tend to have fruitier and nuttier flavors and go well with meat dishes.

While most people who enjoy beer will simply a commercially produced beer, many people enjoy the beers available from microbreweries.  Microbreweries are small operations that tend to specialize in traditional or unique beers.  Most microbreweries distribute their beer locally and will brew only a relatively small amount of beer every year.  While larger breweries produce their beer using extremely modern equipment, usually linked to a computer network, microbreweries craft their lagers and ales in casks.  Those looking for a more ‘natural’ beer might find what they want at a microbrewery.