Whichever brewing method you chose, all brewing follows pretty much the same process.
You start with a grain, usually barley although a variety of others crop up in various brews and at various times. You soak it in water, let it germinate and then cook it very gently to dry it out. This creates what is known as malted barley and this base malt is the starting point for our beer. Some malts are then roasted again for longer periods to give them specific characteristics of taste or colour and these specialty malts or specialty grains are used, in smaller quantities to give the different beer styles their unique character.
The malts are then lightly crushed to split open the kernel, and boiled in water (which brewers call liquor) in a process known as mashing. This releases the starch contained within the grain and converts most of it to sugar, producing an amber, sweetish liquid known to brewers as sweet wort.
The wort is then boiled again, this time with one or more batches of hops which add bitterness and flavour and help to give beer its distinctive taste by offsetting the sweetness of the malt. Additionally, hops are a preservative and they were originally introduced to the brewing process in about 800 A.D. to extend the life of the beer when storage methods were less advanced.
Next, this bitter wort (or hopped wort) is cooled quickly to about 20˚C and the yeast is added. Brewers’ yeast is a specialised strain of the same yeast used in bread-making and is the final piece in the brewing equation. The yeast reproduces rapidly and starts to consume most of the sugar in the wort, converting it into alcohol via a process called fermentation.
After a couple of weeks the fermentation mostly stops, and the beer is transferred into a barrel or bottles with a little additional sugar which allows the very end of the fermentation process (called priming or conditioning) to make enough carbon dioxide to give the beer its characteristic fizz.