A Bit of History

 

 

Originally, beer was a mixture of malt grain and water fermented under the action of wild yeast. As history progressed, hops were introduced for their qualities as a preservative. These days of course, hops are an essential component because of their bitter taste and fine aroma.

The traditional method of brewing involves special treatment of malted grain       (usually barley) to convert its starches to fermentable sugars. This occurs automatically during a process called “Mashing”.

The malted grain is cracked, mixed with water, heated to about 68 deg C and held at this temperature for 1-2 hours. The fermentable sugars created in this process are washed out of the grain, mixed with hops and boiled for 30-60 minutes. This mixture, which is now called the “wort”, is then cooled and strained into the fermenter and made up to the correct volume. Yeast is added and the brew is allowed to ferment.

 

Another style of brewing is a little easier because it avoids the grain treatment process by using malt extract. This is mixed with the other ingredients and water and boiled for 30 minutes or so. The resultant wort is cooled and strained into the fermenter and fermented out. We refer to this as “Malt Extract Brewing”

 

The easiest way to make beer these days is to use one of the many pre-prepared home brew packs that come in the form of a can of concentrated wort. All you need to do is mix it with water in a fermenter add the yeast and allow it to ferment.

We call this “Kit Brewing”

Although it is easy, this does not mean the quality of the beer you make is poor.

In fact, you can make great beer this way. To do so, remember that it is important to use really good quality ingredients. 

 

The History of Hops
The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany (which is today the most important production centre with about 25% of the worldwide production), although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing was in 1079. Hops were introduced to British beers in the early 1500s, and hop cultivation began in the present-day United States in 1629.

Until mechanisation (in the late 1960s for the UK), the need for massed labour at harvest time meant hop-growing had a big social impact. Many of those hopping in Kent were Eastenders, for whom the annual migration meant not just money in the family pocket but a welcome break from the grime and smoke of London. Whole families would come down on special trains and live in hoppers' huts for most of September, even the smallest children helping in the fields.

Today, the principal production centres for the UK are in Kent (which produces Kent Golding hops) and Worcestershire, and Washington state for the USA; other important production areas include Belgium, as mentioned Germany and the Czech Republic.

Hops are the flowers of Humulus lupulus used as a flavouring and stability agent in beer since the seventeenth century. Hops contain several characteristics very favorable to beer: (a) hops contribute a bitterness that balances the sweetness of the malt, (b) hops also contribute aromas which range from flowery to citrus to herbal, (c) hops have an antibiotic effect that favours the activity of brewer's yeast over less desirable microorganisms and (d) the use of hops aids in "head retention", the length of time that foamy head created by the beer's carbonation agent will last. The bitterness of commercially-brewed beers is measured on the International Bitterness Units scale. While hops plants are grown by farmers all around the world in many different varieties, there is no major commercial use for hops other than in beer