For any home beer brewer, it never hurts to spend a little time understanding the basics of homemade beer recipes. Since most recipes hold four key ingredients (water, fermented sugar, hops and yeast) the more you understand these ingredients, the better you’ll be at manipulating and brewing to produce the tastiest homemade beer possible.
If you think about it, water is the basic ingredient in beer and yet too many people don’t consider the quality of the clear liquid when they add it to their brewery. If you don’t live in an area where the tap produces clear, safe water, then make sure you purchase gallon jugs of purified water to use in your homemade beer recipes. The purest ingredients will get you the best tasting results; you don’t want something as simple as water getting in the way of quality beer.
Fermented sugar is also found in all beers but most beer brewers refer to this as malted barley. Barley is the actual seed of the barley plant, a grain that resembles wheat. There are different types of barley that will produce a unique taste when added to homemade beer recipes. Malted barley has been allowed to germinate for almost forty hours and then soaked in water to increase the amount of water found in the seed. After a draining process, it is slow-cooked for about thirty hours before it is ground into small pieces. After another round of heating, it produces a sweet liquid that is then ready to add to the beer mixture.
Have you ever heard someone drink a glass of beer and comment, “Not too hoppy?” They are referring to the third and vital ingredient as hops. The actual hop is the flower of the hop plant that usually comes in compressed little pellets greenish in color. Because the fermented sugar that comes from malt barley is so sweet, hops are needed to balance out the sweetness. With a bitter taste, the amount of hop flower you add to the beer will determine the intensity of the sweet flavor.
The final standard ingredient in beer is yeast. When thinking about yeasts remember this: not all yeasts are created equally! This will keep you from a common mistake among beginner beer brewers: using bread yeast. Beer yeast is made especially for use in homemade beer recipes and comes in two varieties: ale and lager. You need the yeast to convert the sugar into alcohol. Ale yeasts are referred to as top fermenting because during the fermentation process they will rise to the top. Lager yeasts are just the opposite (bottom-fermenting) and will settle at the bottom of your brewing container. Yeasts are essential to unique flavors of beer as they produce various aroma byproducts.
Overtime you can make your homemade beer recipes your own by adjusting the levels of yeast, hops, malted barley and water that you use. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to get the right tasting beer – the rewards are definitely worth the struggle!