Hippo Manchester
October 27, 2005


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In the beginning, there is water ...

Brewmaster Roy offers not-so-secret recipe for beer

By Mike Roy   beergasms@aol.com

I 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 nightclub.

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 Beergasms@aol.com


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 me healthy.

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