Brewed using natural ingredients maintaining time-honoured British traditions, beer is famed throughout the world for its quality and diversity.
Beer is made principally from seasonal, natural ingredients – consistent and careful craftsmanship are critical. Today’s brewing industry still adheres to time honoured traditions.
“Beer is seen as a simple, unsophisticated drink especially when compared to wine,” says Charles Bamforth, Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at the University of California and the author of several books.
He continues; “Wine is made up of one basic ingredient, grapes, and the finished product can vary from year to year in its flavour and quality. Compare that with beer which is made from a variety of live and temperamental ingredients and yet still, day to day, year by year, it achieves consistency of flavour and quality.”
Made from natural ingredients, not for nothing was the drink known for so long as ‘liquid bread’. Nothing from the brewing process goes to waste, leftover yeast is converted into marmite, the used grain fed to farm animals and the spent hops converted to high nutrient fertiliser.
All beers are made with the same ingredients; hops, water, malted cereal such as barley and wheat and yeast. Each of these contributes towards the diverse range of flavours and character that defines different beer styles but also, importantly to the overall nutritional profile. Beers contain the same nutrients as cereal based foods. They contain no fats or cholesterol, are low in carbohydrates and a source of soluble fibre. One of the most effective forms of soluble fibre for lowering blood cholesterol levels is betaglucan, which is the predominant form of fibre in beer. Two glasses of beer provides up to 10% of recommended daily fibre requirements but beers with high malt content may provide up to 30% (Gromes et al 2000, Bamforth 2002).
All beer starts with a cereal such as barley, a plant bursting with goodness, containing not only natural starch, but protein and fibre too. During malting, the barley is allowed to germinate which releases the natural enzymes that unlock the goodness from the grain. During the final stage of malting, the green malt is roasted or ‘kilned’ to stop the germination process. Malt is at the heart of the colour and flavour of the beer and a wide variety of malts can be made which are then combined in different ways to brew different beers such as lager, ale, mild and stout. Higher temperatures during malting produce malt that is dark with flavours such as toffee, chocolate or coffee. A more gentle heat produces paler malts used to brew lighter beers like lagers and pale ales.
Next up is the brewing of the beer. The malt is crushed and mixed with hot water to produce a thick porridge or ‘mash’ which is kept in a special vessel called a mash tun while the enzymes in the malt break down the starch into sugar. The resulting liquid or ‘wort’ is packed with vitamins and minerals and contains all the sugars required for fermentation. . Next the wort is boiled in a vessel called a ‘copper’ where hops are also added. A wise man once said ‘if malt is the soul of beer then hops are the spice’ and hops are a key contributor to the bitter flavour and aroma synonymous with beer. However, hops are not just for flavour and aroma but are also a natural preservative, helping to ensure the freshness of the beer long after it’s been packaged and, just like grapes, they are a rich source of antioxidants in the finished beer.
Finally, the boiled and hopped wort is filtered, cooled and run into tanks, where yeast is added and the fermentation takes place. During the fermentation, yeast will convert the sugars from the malted barley into alcohol and in so doing will produce a whole host of other fruity and aromatic flavours that give beer it’s characteristic taste. In just a few days most of the fermentation is complete and the ‘green’ beer left for the yeast to do the last of its work. Finally, the beer, made with just these natural ingredients is ready to be packaged and sent to the pub or the shop.