Beer as a beverage can range from light character and flavor all the way up to incredible complexity and depth. For the brewer behind the beer, this begins with selection of ingredients. Many budding beer aficionados have heard of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law. The initial version of this legislation set standards on pricing of beer, and also defined beer as being produced solely from malted barley, hops and water. At that time, yeast had not been discovered, and would not be until the work of Louis Pasteur. Eventually the Reinheitsgebot would be expanded to include yeast as an ingredient in beer. Although many breweries holding to the German brewing traditions still follow the Reinheitsgebot (despite no longer being on the books), many other brewers feel free to include a wide range of other ingredients, including fruit, spices, herbs, and other grains.
In this series of posts on brewing ingredients, I hope to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of beer ingredients in the average beer drinker. For experienced homebrewers, there are other sources online that already provide more technical information than will be found here. I will provide an overview of the four basic brewing ingredients: yeast, grain, hops and water. I welcome feedback on what the readers would like to hear more detail about regarding homebrewing and ingredients, and going forward we will delve into other topics including an overview on the production of other alcoholic beverages such as cider, wine and spirits.