Put on your dirndls or lederhosen, let the festivities begin. Oktoberfest is a 16-18 day folk festival held in Austria and Germany (and now around the world). It began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago when Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on Oct. 12, 1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races.
Here in the states, it is simply a good reason for communities to come together and celebrate for a weekend, or two, or three…. It is also a good excuse to have a beer.
At RightPlantz, we do like a good beer and why wouldn’t we, it’s made from plants! While we are admittedly no experts on how to make beer, we are pretty good at growing plants.
What Plants Are Needed To Make Beer?
Beer is a fairly simple recipe. You only need four ingredients.
A source of sugar is required to make any alcoholic beverage. To make wine, the source is grapes. To make beer, the source is grains. Almost any grain will work; wheat, rye, rice, but the preferred grain is barley.
The barley is put through several steps to get it ready for brewing including soaking it and applying heat. This process is called malting and the grain is now called malts. The process converts the starches to simple sugars.
Next the malts are roasted. The length of the roast will help determine the color of the beer and the backbone of the beer’s flavor.
Hops are the flower of a vine plant named Humulus lupulus (kind of fun to say!), which can grow up to 30’ long. The hop itself is the dried female flower. They are responsible for the bitterness of the beer as well as flavor and aroma. When used early in the process, they lend bitterness to the beer. When used later, they provide flavor and aroma.
There are tons of varieties of hops now available, each with their own unique level of bitterness and flavoring. They can range from flowery to citrusy to piney or grassy. Breweries will use varying amounts of different hops in any individual beer to achieve a precise flavor profile.
Other Ingredients Needed To Make Beer
Breweries do not make beer. Yeast makes beer. Without yeast, there is no beer.
Yeast is a single cell organism that eats the simple sugars in the malt. In doing so, it creates alcohol and carbon dioxide. After a little time (usually a week or two) of devouring the sugars, the environment becomes toxic to the yeast and it goes dormant. Breweries will usually draw some of it off to use in the next batch. Several generations of the same yeast strain can be used to brew beer.
Just like the other ingredients, there are several different yeasts available and each can add a different flavoring to the end result.
Water quality and content is so very important to the outcome of the beer that breweries will spend considerable time testing local water before establishing a new site. Afterall, beer is 90% water.
Considerations include pH levels, hardness/softness, chlorine and sulfate levels and mineral content.
It has been said that Arthur Guinness’ 9000 year lease for the Guinness Brewery in Dublin included free access to the water supply. The one time local authorities tried to make Arthur Guinness pay for his water, he is said to have grabbed a pick-ax from one of the sheriff’s men and swore at them until they left.
That is how important water is to beer.
What Other Flavoring Can Be Added To Beer
The growing popularity of craft beers has pushed the envelope as to can be added to beer. Today’s craft beers can have hints of anything from orange to coffee to oregano. Fruits and spices have opened up a whole new level of flavoring and all of the sources are derived from plants. Although one is only limited by one’s imagination (and taste buds), here is a list of some flavorings to consider:
All that’s left is to enjoy a nice cold one. Cheers!
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