How does beer become alcoholic in the production process?
It comes from a process called “fermentation”, which is done by yeast (and sometimes some bacteria along with the yeast) in beer.
Yeast are little tiny single-celled fungi, kind of like mushroom germs. They eat sugar and poop out alcohol (and some other stuff).
Yeast are added to (most) beer where they start eating sugar in the unfermented beer and they poop out alcohol and they divide to make more and more yeast. Eventually they either eat so much of the sugar or produce enough alcohol that they have to slow down and stop and fermentation effectively ends. Some rare beers use wild yeast and bacteria present in the environment (as yeasts and bacteria are *everywhere*) to ferment the beer, but that’s quite rare.
The process of turning sugar into alcohol also releases carbon dioxide. If yeast poop out alcohol, you can think of them as farting out CO2. That CO2 is what traditionally carbonated beer (though these days just adding CO2 under pressure after fermentation is pretty common).
There is a lot of variability in how yeast ferment stuff. Different types of yeast will give different results. Some yeast make very little alcohol when they eat sugar, and yeast like that can be used to ferment things that aren’t very alcoholic. Some make a lot of alcohol when they eat sugar. Some yeast will die at very low concentrations of alcohol, so they’ll poison themselves before the beer gets very boozy and fermentation will stop. Some can withstand pretty high concentrations, even over 20% alcohol by volume, which is much higher than almost all beer. Getting to 20% ABV also means you have to start with a huge amount of sugar dissolved in your unfermented beer.
Yeast also release other stuff during fermentation, which can lead to a lot of different flavors. Some traditional Belgian strains can produce a lot of fruity, spicy flavors, like banana and clove. Some traditional German strains are very “bready”. Some wild strains can make really funky, weird flavors indeed, which can be unpleasant if not used expertly, but used well can make some of the best beer in the world in my opinion.
Yeast are little single-celled microorganisms that eat sugar and pee alcohol.
So you can add yeast to any liquid that has some sugars in it (like from grapes, grain, etc), and the yeast will eat the sugar and pee alcohol into the liquid they’re living in. Then you filter out the yeast at the end and you’ve got an alcoholic beverage.
It starts off with barley malt. That’s barley grain that’s been moistened, allowed to germinate, and then kilned to stop the germination. It’s then crushed to give you “grist” (if you’ve ever heard the expression “grist to the mill”).
The grist, thanks to the germination, is chock full of wonderful starch. You then put it in water, and raise the water to a specific magic temperature. At this temperature a wonderful thing happens. Some enzymes in the malt turn the starch into sugar. In a miracle of nature, the magic temperature is reached when the surface of the water goes cloudy, a reminder that the Good Lord wants us to drink beer.
This sugary liquid is called “wort”. In the real olden days you’d do a couple more mashes to get progressively weaker wort, to make beer for the ladies and children respectively. Regardless we next boil up the wort with some hops, to add flavour.
So we’ve got our hoppy, malty, sugary solution, the next step is to turn that sugar into alcohol. Fortunately, yeast, within a reasonable temperature range, eats sugar and pisses out alcohol, all the while belching out carbon dioxide. Give it a week, and if you’re a real ale man, and not doing industrial brewing, congratulations, you’ve got beer, and you can now make other people more interesting, ladies more attractive, and yourself more debonair.
Ps. About 25 years since I’ve done brewing but I think this is right, so welcome any corrections!
Beer is made of water, hops (a type of flower), barley (a grain), and yeast (the same tiny creatures that help bread to rise).
The barley is full of sugar, which is food for the yeast. You smash the barley up and soak it in water to get the sugar out. Then you strain the water to make a soupy sugar mixture called wort.
You then boil the wort to kill any bacteria and wild yeast that might be living in it. You add hops during the boiling process for flavor.
Then when it cools down, you toss in the yeast!
The yeast eats sugar and poops alcohol and burps carbon dioxide (bubbles). After a week or two of waiting the yeast eats up as much sugar as it can and then dies or goes to sleep because it made too much alcohol.
When it starts drinking hard liquor?