THE BREWING PROCESS
The malting process begins on the sunny meadows of Europe and North America. When the barley is ripe, thanks to the sun and a fertile soil, the grains are threshed from the stalk. After a period of further ripening the grains are soaked in water for them to germinate, as if they were in the ground preparing to become a beautiful barley straw. But before that happens, the grains are dried, heated and even toasted to halt the process. What this short period of germination has done is allow the development of malt enzymes, that then break down various proteins and starch. The best way to learn about the difference between raw barley and malt is to chew a grain of barley, hard and devoid of flavor, compared to the sweet and pliable nature of the malt. The malting process affects both the taste and color of the beer. The longer the malt is toasted for the darker it gets, just like when you put bread in the toaster, with a corresponding change in flavor.
Now the malt is milled in order to convert the starches released during the malting stage into sugars that can be fermented. The kernels need to be crushed and sufficiently milled without damaging the husk, because the husk will be used later during lautering.
When the grains have been mashed we have a sweet cereal mash with various fibers and proteins. To separate the wort (the liquid holding the sugars extracted by milling) from the grains, it is lautered with a large mesh filter in such a way that most of the sugars end up in the lauter tun.
Now we have a pot full of sweet wort that needs to be boiled in order to sterilize and thicken the solution. Hops are added at this point, adding flavor and important chemical compounds like alpha acids that effect the level of bitterness in the flavor of the final product. The longer the hops are boiled in the wort, the more bitter the beer will taste in the end. However, aromatic elements in hops evaporate during the boiling process, so hops are sometimes added late in the process to produce particular flavors and smells.
Beer wouldn't be what it is without the magic effects of yeast, turning sugary liquid into alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. However, the scientific study of yeast is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the foundation of modern beer brewing going back to 1883 when Carlsberg scientist Emil Christian Hansen discovered and cultivated a pure strain of brewing yeast.
When the fermentation process is over the beer is cloudy, and most of today's beer is filtered. Filtering removes proteins and yeast remnants from the beer, stabilizing the flavor and making it clear and brilliant.
The finished product is then put into glass bottles, aluminum cans or kegs. Bottling plants are often more complicated and resource intensive than the brewery itself.
At last the consumer can go to the nearest bar or liquor store to enjoy the fruits of the brewer's labours. To make the most of it, pour the beer into a clean glass to allow the flavor and aromatic qualities of the brew to shine.