What Is Beer Made Of?

One of the most consumed alcoholic beverages worldwide is beer.

It has been around for thousands of years and is currently enjoyed by millions of people every day. But have you ever paused to consider the ingredients in beer? What ingredients go into this cherished beverage?

Water, malted barley, hops, and yeast are the only four elements required to make beer at its most basic level. 90% of the final product is made up of water, making it the most crucial component. The crop that supplies the sugars that will be fermented into alcohol is malted barley. While yeast is in charge of turning the sugars into alcohol, hops are added to give the beer its distinctive bitterness and flavor.

Ingredients of Beer

Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage that has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years.

It is made up of four main ingredients: grains, hops, yeast, and water. Each of these ingredients plays a crucial role in the brewing process and contributes to the flavor, aroma, and appearance of the final product.


Grains are the primary source of fermentable sugars in beer. The most commonly used grain in brewing is barley, although other grains such as wheat, rye, and oats can also be used.

Barley is preferred because it contains a high concentration of enzymes that are necessary for the brewing process. These enzymes break down the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars that the yeast can consume.

The type of grain used in brewing can have a significant impact on the flavor and color of the beer. For example, using roasted barley can give the beer a dark color and a roasted, coffee-like flavor, while using wheat can give the beer a light, crisp taste.


Hops are the flowers of the hop plant and are used primarily for their bittering and aromatic properties. They are added to the beer during the boiling process and can contribute a range of flavors and aromas, including floral, citrus, and earthy notes.

Hops also play a crucial role in preserving the beer and preventing spoilage. The alpha acids in hops act as a natural preservative, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that can spoil the beer.


Yeast is a single-celled organism that ferments the sugars in the beer, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide. There are two main types of yeast used in brewing: ale yeast and lager yeast.

Ale yeast ferments at warmer temperatures and produces fruity, estery flavors, while lager yeast ferments at cooler temperatures and produces a crisp, clean taste. The type of yeast used can have a significant impact on the flavor and aroma of the final product.


Water is a crucial ingredient in beer and makes up the majority of the final product. It is used to extract the sugars from the grains and to dissolve the hops during the boiling process. The composition of the water can also have a significant impact on the flavor and character of the beer.

Different regions have different water profiles, which can affect the final product. For example, the hard water found in the Czech Republic is ideal for brewing pilsners, while the soft water found in the UK is better suited for brewing ales.

The Brewing Process

Brewing beer is a complex process that involves several steps and careful attention to detail.

Here are the four main steps in the brewing process:


The first step in the brewing process is mashing. This is where the brewer combines the grains with hot water to create a mash. The mash is then heated to a specific temperature, which activates enzymes in the grains that convert the starches into fermentable sugars. The mash is then allowed to rest for a period of time, typically around an hour, to allow the enzymes to do their work.


After the mash is complete, the brewer will drain off the liquid, called wort, and transfer it to a large kettle. The wort is then boiled for around an hour, during which time hops are added to the mixture. Hops not only add flavor to the beer, but they also act as a preservative and help to balance the sweetness of the malt.


Once the wort has been boiled, it is cooled and transferred to a fermentation vessel. Yeast is then added to the mixture, and the fermentation process begins.

During fermentation, the yeast consumes the sugars in the wort and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. The temperature of the fermentation vessel is carefully controlled to ensure that the yeast remains active and produces the desired flavor profile.


After fermentation is complete, the beer is transferred to a secondary vessel for aging. This is where the beer is conditioned and carbonated, and where any additional flavors or ingredients may be added. The length of time that the beer is aged can vary depending on the style of beer being brewed, but it is typically a few weeks to a few months.

Overall, the brewing process is a delicate balance of science and art. From the temperature of the mash to the timing of the hop additions, every step in the process can have a significant impact on the flavor and quality of the final product. By carefully controlling each step in the process, brewers are able to create a wide range of beer styles with unique flavor profiles and characteristics.

Beer Styles

Beer comes in a wide range of styles, each with its unique taste, aroma, and flavor.

The two main categories of beer styles are ales and lagers. Within these categories are numerous sub-styles that vary in their bitterness, aroma, and flavor.


Ales are brewed using a warm fermentation process that typically takes place between 60-75°F. This process results in a beer that is typically fruity, full-bodied, and has a higher alcohol content. There are many different types of ales, including:

  • Pale Ales: These are hoppy beers that are known for their bitterness and floral aroma. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as American Pale Ale, English Pale Ale, and Belgian Pale Ale.
  • India Pale Ales (IPAs): These are a type of pale ale that is known for its high hop content and bitter taste. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as American IPA, English IPA, and Belgian IPA.
  • Brown Ales: These are darker, maltier ales that have a nutty flavor and are typically less bitter than pale ales.
  • Stouts and Porters: These are dark, roasted ales that have a rich, creamy texture and notes of chocolate and coffee.


Lagers are brewed using a cold fermentation process that typically takes place between 45-55°F. This process results in a beer that is typically crisp, clean, and refreshing. There are many different types of lagers, including:

  • Pilsners: These are light, crisp lagers that are known for their clean, refreshing taste. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as German Pilsner, Czech Pilsner, and American Pilsner.
  • Bocks: These are darker, stronger lagers that have a slightly sweet, malty flavor. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as Doppelbock and Maibock.
  • Amber Lagers: These are medium-bodied lagers that have a slightly sweet, caramel flavor.


In addition to ales and lagers, there are many different beer styles that fall into both categories. Some of the most popular beer styles include:

  • Wheat Beers: These are light, refreshing beers that are brewed using wheat instead of barley. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as Hefeweizen and Witbier.
  • Sour Beers: These are beers that have a tart, acidic flavor. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as Gose and Berliner Weisse.
  • Belgian Beers: These are beers that are brewed in Belgium and are known for their complex flavors and aromas. They can be further divided into sub-styles such as Saison and Trappist Ale.

Alcohol Content and ABV

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from malted grains, hops, yeast, and water.

The alcohol content in beer varies depending on the brewing process, ingredients used, and fermentation. Alcohol content is measured in Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and is expressed as a percentage of the total volume of the beer.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a standard drink contains around 14 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. In the U.S., this can generally be found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer, or one bottle at 5% ABV
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor at 7% ABV
  • 5 ounces of wine at 12% ABV
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one shot, at 40% ABV

Beers typically fall in the 3.0 to 13.0 percent ABV range, with the majority being 4.0 to 7.0 percent ABV. Some can be weaker or stronger than this. Brewers can manipulate the alcohol content of beer by adjusting the amount of fermentable sugars, the yeast strain used, and the length of fermentation.

Higher ABV beers, also known as “high-point” beers, have become increasingly popular in recent years. These beers can have an ABV of 8% or higher and are often more expensive due to the increased amount of ingredients and longer brewing process required. They can also have more intense flavors and aromas due to the higher alcohol content.

It is essential to drink responsibly and be aware of your alcohol consumption. The effects of alcohol can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, gender, and tolerance. It is recommended that men consume no more than two drinks per day, and women consume no more than one drink per day. It is also advised to have a designated driver or use alternative transportation when consuming alcohol.

Please drink responsibly, be fully accountable with your alcohol consumption, and show others respect.

Written by Rocco

Rocco is a Florida State University alumnus with years of bartending and hospitality experience. From slinging hundreds of vodka sodas a night in jam-packed college bars to serving carefully crafted cocktails in upscale restaurants, there’s not much he hasn’t done behind a bar. Now, Rocco shares his knowledge and passion for all things alcohol-related here on My Bartender for bibulous readers everywhere to enjoy.

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