The brewing process is simple and straightforward. While many beers on the market boast exotic ingredients, complex barrel aging programs, and multiple fermentations, there are really only three ingredients necessary to make a beer.
Water: The most crucial ingredient necessary (beer is a liquid) and the most important to tweak with respect to its overall chemical composition, the correct manipulation of this ingredient is often the dividing line between a good beer and a great beer.
Fermentable Sugars: Without a sugar (e.g. maltose, sucrose, fructose, glucose, galactose) for the yeast to metabolize, there is no carbonation, no alcohol, no activity, and thus, no beer. The source of sugar in most beer comes from malted barley; however it’s not uncommon for fruit, rice, corn, and other nontraditional ingredients, to supply the necessary sugars.
Yeast: The difference between sugary wort (unfermented liquid) and carbonated beer. This ingredient is more varied than the number of styles of beer currently on the market. With the ability to impart a clean base to support a beer’s other ingredients, or produce a plethora of spicy and fruity flavors, this ingredient ultimately determines the mouthfeel, level of residual sugar, cloudiness, and ultimate flavor profile.
That’s it! With that being said however, hops are present in nearly every style of beer. From wet hopped, straight from the vine to the kettle, to aged hops (dried and stored to provide an increased shelf life for beer), the variety of uses for this ingredient are limited only by the brewer’s imagination.