SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – A 2019 Gallup Poll indicates the alcohol of choice among American adults is beer.
According to USA Today, American adults consume about 26.2 gallons of beer each year. The U.S. as a whole consumed an estimated 6.3 billion gallons of beer in 2018 alone.
To put that in perspective, Americans consumed about one-fifth of Onondaga Lake, in beer of course. Onondaga Lake has an average depth of thirty-five feet and surface area of 4.6 square miles.
That’s a lot of beer.
Everyone has their reason for drinking beer; celebration or party, after a long day or simply just to “crack open a cold one.”
We know why we drink beer, and we know how much of it we consume. But how is it made?
The process can be broken down into five or six steps, sometimes more, depending on the type of beer.
The first step is mashing. Like it sounds, mashing combines grains like oats, barley and other malts with hot water known as “liquor,” in a large tank. A large mixer circulates the water and grains together. The water hydrates the grain, causing it to produce fermentable sugars, enzymes and extracts flavor from the grains.
“A little over half of the flavor of the beer comes from malt, the rest comes from hops and yeast,” Rick Hatch, a brewer at Prison City Brewery in Auburn, NY said.
After the mashing period of one or two hours concludes, a process called “vorlauf” takes place. The German word translates to “recirculation” in English, and like mashing, is just as it sounds. Vorlauf recirculates and clarifies the beer before it can be sent to a new tank for lautering.
Lautering is the process where the beer is transferred to a second tank after being separated from the grains
Once the lautering tank is full, the boiling process essentially cleanses the beer by removing excess water and bacteria.
The beer is then transferred to the whirlpool tank, where hops are added. Hops provide a distinct bitter taste for beers like IPAs.
Then it is time for the beer to cool down during a process called “the knockout.”
“During the knockout, you cool it down to the fermentation temperature, add oxygen to it and send it out to the tank,” Hatch said.
After the beer is cooled, it is off to the fermentation tank, where yeast is added. The beer will sit for two to three weeks in the fermentation tank until it is ready to be bottled or put in kegs.
Then it is ready to be enjoyed.