According to the German Purity Law (stated in 1516), water, malt, hops, and yeast are the four main beer ingredients. Nowadays, brewers experiment with other components to give a unique personality to their brew. Fruit puree is one of the ingredients that is commonly added to it. So, let’s find out why using these ingredients is the key to making a great beer and how different combinations result in different styles.
The 5 essential beer ingredients
It makes up 90% of the volume of a beer and it has a huge influence on the flavor. Mineral content, pH level, chlorine, and how hard or soft it is, determine the type of beer. Soft, low mineral water is better for making smooth and clean brews. Hard, mineral-rich water highlights the hop character in a beer.
This is why beers from some regions have a very distinctive flavor or the same brand tastes different in other countries. Today, any microbrewery can adjust the values in the water to create any type of beer.
Malts are the sugar needed in the brewing process. Of all beer ingredients, this one is of the utmost importance. (See also: What you need to become a success in the microbrewery industry ) Why? Because malts define the color, smell, taste, and head of the beer, and they come in different forms:
- Barley: It’s the most common one around the world. The starch-protein ratio makes it perfect for the mashing process and the durable husks function as a natural filter during cleaning.
- Wheat: It’s a soft malt with a slightly sour taste. The high content of protein results in a hazier liquid and thicker head on the beer.
- Oats: They have a smooth yet full mouthfeel. They are traditionally used in stouts, but brewers also experiment with other styles.
- Corn and rice: These are the cheapest source of starch, frequently used by big companies.
It’s called the “balancing agent” because hops add bitterness, counterbalancing the sweetness of the malt. When you decide to incorporate it into the mix, it is decisive to the flavor. If you throw it in early, your beer will be more bitter than if you add it later in the process. For homebrewers, this is one of the beer ingredients that works as a natural preservative, so no other preservative is needed.
There was a time when bitterness was considered a bad trait until IPAs flooded the market. So, for the last 15 years, brewers have been using more hops to get the desired hoppiness flavor in their beer. The bitterness is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs).
It’s a microorganism that converts sugar to alcohol. Typically, isolated or cultivated yeasts are used, which guarantee producers the same cells in the batches and more control over fermentation. There are two types of yeast in beer ingredients.
- Bottom fermented: Works at lower temperatures (40-50ºF) and stays at the bottom of the tank during fermentation. The result is a clear drink with strong notes of malt and hops such as lager beers.
- Top fermented: Works at higher temperatures (60-75ºF), producing more fruity aromas that can be found in beers such as ales.
5. Fruit puree
Among flavored beers, the fruity kind has conquered the market. The options are endless, but you have to be aware of the acidity and sugar content of the fruit. The base brew should be light in hops (under 20 IBUs), so it doesn’t overpower the sweetness. The moment to add it will depend on the taste you are looking for.
When using fruit puree as one of the beer ingredients, there are two options:
- After the boil but before the wort gets cooled down. Since you are not using fresh products, there is no risk of contamination.
- During the secondary fermentation while the beer is racked. The mix needs to sit for a week and then be strained to remove any residual solids.
Spices, herbs, coffee, chocolate, and so many other beer ingredients can be added to the mix. But the ones listed above are the core elements to making a standard beer. If you want to try them all, a fun session of bar hopping will do the trick.