Home brewing is a big industry in Europe and elsewhere, but it seems that it is just in huge demand in England. There people began to brew their own wine and beer pretty early on, until it turned into a boom in the early eighties. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon and England turned into a country full of specialist on how to make your own alcoholic beverages at home. Everywhere stores went up that sold equipment and kits for brewing your own beer.
It doesn't really surprise when one takes into account the pub opening hours, which were very much restricted until the mid – nineties. Back in the days of the World War I, the House of Parliament decided to do something about the high casualty rates on the home front. Too many people who worked in the armament industries blew themselves and their colleagues up by accident, not working with the required care when building hand grenades because they were either under the influence of alcohol or suffering from a hangover. The only thing the politicians could think of at the time was to limit severely the opening hours of bars, clubs and restaurants. So if people wanted to have a drink after 11:00 pm, they had to be inventive. That's why it seemed that everybody had a barrel with some kind of fermenting liquid at home, waiting patiently for the beer to be ready.
It requires very little money, not much time and a little space to make some superb beer at home. Most people start the process in their kitchens and once they have mixed all the ingredients into the barrel they put it in some quiet corner to let it ferment.
Beer is made, in its purest form, from only 4 ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. In fact, Germany had a so called purity law which the government had to scrap in order to align local laws with European laws, which generally allowed breweries to add chemical components to the beer, some for preservation, some for coloring.
It's not necessary to use some extra clean or purified water to make beer, any tap water will actually do as long as it doesn't have a high mineral content.
The next of the four ingredients is what is called the 'heart of beer', the malt. It is the product of grains like wheat or rye germinating. In itself it is the catalyst for the yeast, but more importantly in provides the flavor and the color for the beer.
In the south of England, particularly in Kent, there are huge hop farms. Hops are bitter tasting flowers that give the beer its herbal aroma. Consider these small flowers as the seasoning for the beer, as oregano might be the seasoning for a spaghetti sauce.
People are obviously familiar with yeast, which is used in making bread. It is a single cell organism that needs sugar in order to exist. Mixing it in with the dough for bread for example, this organism looks for and finds the sugar, eats it and multiplies in the process. As a by product there is alcohol and carbon dioxide, which makes the dough rise. In the beer brewing process it is the special kind of yeast which each brand uses that gives it its particular taste.
After having mixed all the ingredients together comes the difficult part, the waiting. The brew has to go through its fermentation process and before that is finished people are not supposed to drink it or else they get sick.