At ZB we take a traditionally modern approach to brewing. We brew the traditional beer styles of Europe and bring them to life in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is a world of beer out there so join us in the Journey of Discovery.
This is the first of a five-part series to demystify what goes into beer so you can understand a little more of what you are drinking next time you crack into a ZB.
When I am showing a group of people around the brewery, I begin with a question. What four ingredients go into making beer? It usually takes some coaxing to get the group to name all four ingredients. It made me wonder if it is a question that some may feel they should know the answer to but do not. If you are a regular beer drinker you must know how it is made, right? Possibly not and if you are one of these people then read on. We are sure you will enjoy your next ZB a little more after this. Beer is made from four natural ingredients; water, barley, hops and yeast.
The importance of Barley
I know when I first started to drink beer, I had little idea what it was made from. From the imagery on the labels, I could see there was some link to barley, but I had no understanding how this translated to the frothy, amber beverage sparkling in my glass.
Very simply barley provides the carbohydrates (sugars) that yeast ferments into alcohol. Barley is for beer what grapes are for wine and what apples are for cider. But barley is not just a source of sugar for yeast to ferment, it provides many qualities to beer such as colour, sweetness, mouthfeel, and aroma. Barley is grown the world over. In NZ it is mostly grown in Otago and Canterbury and smaller growing regions include Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Manawatu. The barley plant produces seeds that are packed with the energy required to germinate and begin its life as a plant. This energy is in the form of carbohydrates. It is these seeds or grains that the brewer is most interested in.
These carbohydrates are complex unfermentable sugars as opposed to simple sugars found in fruit which are easily fermented by yeast. The brew house process of mashing is the breaking down of these complex sugars by enzymes that exist in the barley kernel. Mashing is what sets brewing apart from wine and cider making. Brewers manipulate these enzymes during mashing by combining barley with liquor (brewers’ term for water) and adjusting time, temperature, and pH. After mashing the brewer lauters the grains by rinsing them with hot liquor and discards the spent grains. The resulting liquid or wort is boiled then cooled and yeast is added to ferment the sugars into alcohol and thus creating beer.
Next time you are staring into your glass of beer reflect on the fact that what you are drinking is not just the work of the brewer but the result of sunshine, rain, farming and science. At Zeelandt Brewery we take a traditional modern approach to brewing by understanding the story behind the beer, its place in history and its relevance today.