- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

Making beer isn't as effortless as drinking it.
It's a process that can take two weeks to a year and involves mashing, boiling, fermenting, filtrating and maturing the brew, says Bill Madden, brew master at Capitol City Brewing Co. in Shirlington.
"There is both art and science to brewing beer," Mr. Madden says. "The science and technology definitely help make consistently good beer."
The art involves creating new flavors and having a "feel" for brewing beer, whose basic ingredients are malt (germinated barley), water, hops and yeast, he says.
Making beer is an old practice that dates back to the Egyptians, at least 7,000 years ago, says Michael Lewis, professor emeritus of brewing science at the University of California at Davis, the only school in the nation where students can earn a doctorate degree in brewing science.
"Brewing has existed long before any biological science was around," Mr. Lewis says. "Biological science is a product of the last century and a half. Brewery as an art long preceded that."
Thousands of years ago, someone baked bread with yeast and then by mistake got the dough wet, he says. The wet dough sat around for a while, letting the yeast ferment the sugars in the dough, which created alcohol, flavor and carbon dioxide.
"The relationship between bread making and beer brewing is fairly clear," Mr. Lewis says. "It's much the same process."
The practice spread throughout the Roman Empire, reaching what are now Germany and Britain, the heavyweights of current beer brewing.
Germans traditionally favor lager, which is also most Americans' favorite type of beer, while the British favor ale, Mr. Lewis says.

Though different in flavor, lagers and ales are made much the same way: The malt, water, hops and yeast are blended, processed at high temperatures, fermented and stored, generally from two to six weeks (up to a year for some very flavorful ales).
The first step is creating malt from barley, which happens before the grain arrives at the brew house.
Barley is turned into malt by being soaking in cold aerated water for 40 to 50 hours and then being left to germinate. Once it has germinated, the grain is kiln-dried with warm air.
The malt arrives at the brew pub, where a brew master, like Mr. Madden, crushes the grain in a mill. This is where the husks and kernels are separated.
Malt tastes like breakfast cereal, and without hops, which are introduced later in the process, beer would have a sweet flavor.
The kernels are then hydrated with hot water, which in the brewing industry is called "hot liquor." The liquid that's created from mixing the water and the malt is called wort, which is essentially sugar water.
The brew is strained. The wort is saved; the mash (which looks like oatmeal) is a waste product Mr. Madden has an agreement with a local farmer who picks up the mash to feed the farm's cows.
It's time to boil the wort and add hops to give the brew a bitter flavor. Mr. Madden usually boils the brew for about 90 minutes. Then he lets it rest for about 10 minutes, after which the spent hops are removed.
The flavor is not created merely by adding hops, however. The malt, too, can be roasted or caramelized, which creates additional flavors. The roasting also can darken the beer's color.

Mr. Madden then lets the brew, which at this stage is called "green beer," cool. "Green" indicates "young." The beer is not actually green.
When it's cooled, it's time to add the yeast. The yeast metabolizes the sugar in the brew, creating additional flavors, alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Some beer drinkers assume that if the beer tastes "light" it also is low in alcohol content, but that's not necessarily the case, Mr. Madden says.
The alcohol content is an independent variable. It depends on the fermentation process and the amount of malt used. A light-tasting beer with a high alcohol content can be produced if the wort has a high sugar content, the fermentation is done for a long time, the infusion of hops is low and the type of malt used is mild.
The fermentation is done at temperatures ranging from 50 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the yeast used and the type of beer the brew master wants to create.
"This stage is where we allow the yeast to do its magic," Mr. Madden says. "It basically does all the work for me at this point."
Because the yeast strains are unique and are living organisms, it's important to make sure they are kept separate to avoid cross-contamination. If an undesired yeast strain were to get into a batch of beer, it could destroy the flavor.
"If I were to get the German [style] yeast in my English beer, I'd be sunk," Mr. Madden says.
If the brewer wants to make alcohol-free beer, he has two choices: to distill the finished product to extract the alcohol or to expose the green beer to a very small amount of fermentation.
The fermentation in Mr. Madden's brewery takes three to five days.
Voila, the beer is here but not so fast. Though the basic beer is done after the fermentation is completed, beer, like wine, needs time to mature. Though wine takes years, beer normally take a week or two.
Before serving the beer to his customers, Mr. Madden tests the finished product to see if the carbonation is correct and if there are any undesired flavors.
"Too much C02, and it will attack the tongue. Too little, and the beer will taste flat," Mr. Madden says.
The beer also may be filtered or strained at this time to ensure a clear, as opposed to cloudy, brew.
Once the beer is tested and tasted and gets Mr. Madden's stamp of approval, it is released to the public.
This is when it would be packaged were it in a megabrewery, but at the Capitol City Brewing Co., it is served from kegs as is.

Consistency and quality control are the megabreweries' areas of expertise, Mr. Lewis says.
"Budweiser is the epitome of quality, say what you will about the flavor," he says. "It always tastes the same. It's the highest quality."
Though most people may think the microbreweries are the new kids on the block, the megabrewery really is the novelty.
"They came about after World War II, while the microbrewery has been around since 5000 B.C.," Mr. Lewis says.
Microbrewery means it's a small brewery often with a pub or bar attached to the business. There is no wide distribution or sale of the brew beyond the microbrewery and bar.
About 3 percent of all beer in the nation comes from microbreweries, Mr. Lewis says. The effect these smaller breweries have had on beer brewing in general go way beyond what that low number might indicate.
"It's been good for beer in general because it's helped people realize how complex beer making is," Mr. Lewis says.
Though people may be starting to realize that beer making is a complex art form, beer is still a blue-collar beverage, and some wine consumers look down their noses at it.
"I think it has to do with where it's grown and made," Mr. Lewis says. "One is made in the Napa Valley, the other in downtown Cincinnati. I think that makes a difference."
In reality, however, wine is easier to make, he says.
"To make wine, you just have to find grapes and stamp on them. "That's why people ask, 'Why bother making beer when wine is so much easier?'"

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