How does the alcohol get into your beer?

news-20140711-5How is this percentage obtained? At first glance this seems like an alchemical process, which is the prerogative of a talented brewer who weaves his magic. But in fact, and in spite of the complexity of the secret calculations of the barley masters, the alcohol level is obtained by a natural chemical reaction. So whether we are talking about the most impetuous abbey beer or a bold Scottish beer, the method is the same, only the duration is different.

In the beginning there is the malt, which can be extracted from any grains - but in the case of beer, barley is of course preferred. This is because this grain germinates very quickly and is a rich source of enzymes and starch.

During the brewing process, the enzyme production is activated, which in turn will help the barley seed transform the starch into sugars in a moist environment. After this stage, the germination of the barley is stopped and the next step is the fermentation process. The germination is then interrupted by heating the barley grains.

The temperature determines the beer’s colour and type (blonde, brown, amber or stout). Then the wort that was obtained is fermented by reheating the grains and adding yeast to it. This will attenuate the concentrated sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The latter will gradually escape from the tank allowing the alcohol to develop and become denser. The denser the wort, the higher the alcohol by volume will be. The brewer checks this with a hydrometer.

During the brewing process, the wort volume is also evaporated and hops are added at the start of the boiling process to determine the bitterness of the beer. This can also be done at the end of the boiling process for more aroma.

The alcohol by volume is calculated by comparing the density of the alcohol (its weight in kg) to the density of the water (in litres). The hydrometer will check this density by flotation. Regardless of the alcohol content, the beer’s flavour can also be enhanced by adding hops during a second fermentation, i.e. when the alcohol is sufficiently concentrated. This is called “dry hopping”. You can also add spices, which will custom