A good beer is a fine thing, and in today’s world it’s easy to find many great brews from near and far. With craft beers, microbrews, imports, and domestic standards on the market, it’s easy to find something exciting. But this beverage is a lot more interesting than the many brands and varieties in which it comes. Here are four things to know about beer before you take your next drink.
1. Beer is typically made from three ingredients.
In short, barley, hops, and yeast are added to water and brewed to perfection. First, malted barley is mixed with hot water until it becomes a lot like oatmeal. The liquid that is left behind gets drained off, and that liquid is then boiled with the hops. Then yeast is added to the barley liquid-and-hops mixture and left to ferment. The yeast takes the sugar that was left behind in the original barley-and-water mixture, and turns that sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. The ethanol is what makes beer an alcoholic beverage, and the carbon dioxide is what creates the carbonation (and the nice head on a well-poured beer). If the brew is fermented at higher temperatures, it might become an amber, a Belgian ale, a blonde, an India pale ale, a pale ale, a porter, a stout, or a wheat beer. Those beers typically fall under the umbrella category of “ales.” But if the brew is fermented at lower temperatures, it could become a bock, a double bock, a Dunkel, a Helles, a Marzen, or a Pilsner. These are typically classified as “pilsners.”
Which beer you wind up with depends on the type of hops used, as well as the proportions, the specific temperature, the length of time the brew is allowed to ferment, and also the water quality and other environmental factors. Those spent barley grains from the first step can also be turned into delicious whole-grain beer bread, so beer brewers don’t need to go hungry or thirsty.
2. Beer can go bad if it is exposed to light, or if it is stored improperly.
Glass bottles make it easiest for light-exposure to ruin a good beer. But even if the beer is in a container that doesn’t seem like light can get through, the extra warmth of light can affect the beer’s state within its keg or can. Beer should not be stored on its side. This is because the yeast will settle and create a ring on the side of the bottle, can, or keg. That ring will stay where it forms, which can affect the flavor of the beer for the worst. If the bottle is stored upright, the yeast ring stays on the bottom of the bottle and touches the least amount of beer surface area.
3. Beer was invented by the Sumerians more than 4,000 years ago.
The Sumerians were one of the earliest civilizations. Sumer was located in Mesopotamia, which is part of present-day Iraq. Today, we still drink this ancient beverage, but the flavor and ingredients are certainly different thanks to evolution. The Sumerians had different kinds of beers, which they brewed from wheat, barley, and other mixed grains. Women were the only members of Sumerian society who were allowed to brew beer. You can still read the ancient beer recipes those female brewers used, as the recipes were carved into clay tablets that still exist today.
4. Beer and marijuana are related.
Hops, which grow on vines, are a member of the same family as marijuana. Both plants grow flowers, are used to make state-altering substances, and are members of the Cannabinaceae family. In case you were wondering, it is possible to brew beer from marijuana, but hops should not be smoked.