It's fun to see the responses from people when they first find out I brew my own beer. Most think it is cool. After all, it is cool. Some will ask if it is good. Some will ask if it is like Mr. Beer. Others will ask how the process works. This last question I like the most.
My response usually begins with a, "if you really want to know, I can talk about this for hours..." It's true, I'm happy to talk for endless hours about brewing and I'm also aware that people really don't want to know all of that detail. I also feel like a conversation hog when spouting off all the information, only to find that they weren't really that interested and in fact were simply trying to be nice. I do think it interests people. How do you do that?
So, for most conversations the nutshell version should suffice. I do think people are interested from a 50 yard distance, without wanting to get into the details. How do you bake a cake? Mix flour and water and bake for 30 minutes...Right?
Here is the nutshell version.
1. Barley seeds are watered and allowed to germinate (begin growing), and then the process is halted after little sprouts begin to be seen.
2. This is dried (kilned) and now known as barley malt. The grain now carries inside it a lot of starches.
3. The grain is crushed (milled, but not into flour consistency) and these starches are extracted from the grain through a warm bath in water. This is called the mash.
4. Not only are they extracted from the grain, but the warm water also breaks the long strands of starches into smaller strands of more simple sugars during this process.
5. This new sugary pre-beer, called wort, is now boiled for usually an hour, and hops are added to the wort at this time as well.
6. Hops are little cones from a growing vine type plant, and they add the bitterness (and flavor and aroma) to the beer.
7. After boiled and cooled yeast is added.
8. (This is my favorite part) Yeast eats the sugars in the wort and converts them to alcohol. They poop out alcohol and fart out carbon dioxide.
9. After several weeks, the beer is ready to be bottled, and usually a little bit of sugar is added at bottling time which will continue to ferment in the bottle. Without anyway for the carbon dioxide to escape, it gets absorbed into the liquid and functions to give the beer its head and bubbles in the final product.
Wow. 9 steps only. How can we make this even more simple? Let's give this a shot.
The real Nutshell Version.
1. Malted barley contains starches which are broken down into simple sugars, through the mash process
2. The sugary wort is boiled and hops are added during this stage, which will impart bitterness, additional aroma and flavor
3. This is now cooled and yeast is added, which eats the sugars and spits out alcohol and carbon dioxide.
4. After 3 week, it is ready to bottle, and after 2 more weeks it will be sufficiently carbonated and ready to drink
Aha. Beer making in 4 east steps.