October 27, 2005
In the beginning, there is water ...
Brewmaster Roy offers not-so-secret recipe for beer
asked you to challenge me and you did. Much gratitude to Rebecca from
Manchester, who asked a great and probably the most important question
of all, ďHow is beer made?Ē
The recipe for beer can be extremely simple with as little as four
ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast) and its instructions can be
as easy to follow as baking a cake from a box. The flip side of this is
that ingredients are limitless and some brewing instructions might need
their own secret-decoder ring to understand.
Making beer is very easy to understand. To make it you donít need to
have a production plant with giant exhaust stacks or scientists in white
coats turning computer dials to control large tanks that cost more than
your average modest home. Beer can be made in your kitchen or, in my
case, the basement of an old textile mill that houses a bar and
First things first, if youíre going to make beer youíll need water;
thereís more of this in beer than any other ingredient. Second, youíll
need barley, a starchy cereal grain that is malted for the purpose of
making beer. This simply means that itís soaked in water; it germinates
and then is dried. Depending on how itís dried and to what extent,
barley can have many different colors and flavors. Barley is the source
from which sugar is derived; it also contributes greatly to a beerís
color, flavor and mouth feel. Third, youíre going to need hops, which
are cone-shaped flowers that grow on a vine. They provide bitterness as
well as aroma and flavor. Lastly and most importantly you need yeast, a
microorganism (a living thing so small you canít see it with your eyes)
that consumes sugar, producing alcohol and carbon-dioxide gas.
The first step in making beer is like making a bowl of oatmeal. Cracked
barley is added to hot water, stirred to make a thick cereal and allowed
to sit. While sitting in the hot water the barley starts to change,
converting its starch into sugar. This usually takes about an hour, then
the cereal is sprayed with hot water and the sugar water is transferred
into a kettle that will bring it to a boil.
Boiling hops are then added ó their function is to add bitterness, which
grows the longer a hop boils; flavor, more the less it boils; and aroma,
with little to no boil time. Hops are the herbs and spices for a beer.
They can make a beer taste fruity like grapefruit or earthy like grass.
After this mixture is finished boiling (typically 60-90 minutes), itís
transferred and cooled down (ideally about 68 degrees F) into a vessel
in which the yeast is added. A typical ale fermentation (the consumption
of available sugar by the yeast) takes place between 65 and 70 degrees
F, while a lager is fermented usually between 50and 55degrees F. The
time it takes for the yeast to consume the sugar while making beer
varies from as little as three days for ale to as much as fourteen days
for a lager. In either case, once a beer is finished its fermentation
itís cooled to even lower temperatures (typically just above freezing)
to aid in clarification and helping to stabilize flavors in the beer.
There you have it, you now have beer; consume and enjoy it responsibly.
If you have any more questions, donít hesitate to ask. Cheers.
Mike Roy is the brew master at Millyís Tavern at 500 Commercial St. The
Beer Cellar appears semi-monthly in the Hippo. If you have any
suggestions for future columns, questions or would like to comment on
The Beer Cellar send me e-mail to
Beer of the week
Wolaverís Brown Ale
**** (out of 4)
This one also came
from the North End Superette on Elm Street in Manchester. Wolaverís
is certified organic beer, made at a brewery in Middlebury, Vt.
Basically that means that all the ingredients ó hops, barley, etc ó
were grown by farmers that donít use chemical pesticides or genetic
alteration. The idea, the brewers say, is to make quality beer using
a wholly sustainable process.
I didnít buy
Wolaverís because it was organic; it was just a brown ale that I
hadnít tried before. However, now that Iíve had it, I may stick to
the Wolaverís line for a while and pretend drinking beer is making
This brown ale is
mild and creamy, with a deep amber in color. Like all good browns,
it has a smooth and soft taste, slightly malty with hints of cherry
and black currant. I tried it with takeout Chinese, a peanut butter
sandwich and leftover pasta.
ó Robert Greene