The majority of beers are made using four major ingredients; water, malted barley, hops and yeast.
People always forget about the water but I’ve listed it first because beer is mostly water. I use tap water to brew but I do add a few teaspoons of various salts and chemicals to it adjust the pH and make sure the right salts are there for the beer style I’m trying to brew…
Malt (or malted barley)
Malt provides the fuel for the most important process in making beer. It contains the sugars that the yeast turns into alcohol. Malt also provides a whole load of flavour and all the colour in your pint.
Hops are so important too. They are a herb that you add as a flavouring to the beer. You use just a handful of hops compared to several kilgrams in a typical homebrew. Hops add bitterness and aroma. You could argue they are the most important beer ingredient. Without them beer would just be very runny bread…
When the Germans first set out their beer purity laws they didn’t include yeast (more on that later). No one knew what kind of magic turned malty liquid into beer until . It is of course a lovely little micro-organism that feeds on sugar, produces alcohol and carbon dioxide.
There are loads of additional ingredients that people use to make beer – wheat and other grains, fruit and other flavourings. But I’ll cover them as and when they come up in my homebrewing.