What Is Beer Made Of – Beer Ingredients Explained

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Beer is the third most consumed beverage in the world, behind tea and water. Learn how this alcoholic beverage is made by brewers.

You may enjoy drinking beer, but do you also understand how and from what ingredients it is made? Although it can be relatively simple, making beer requires extreme precision and attention because many things can go wrong! In this article, we go over the fundamentals of producing beer: the ingredients.

Table of Contents

What Is Beer Made Of?

Firstly, we begin with the 4 beer ingredients that beer is made from: water, malted grains (more often than not barley), hops and yeast. The latter is a living organism and is therefore not always seen as an ingredient but is no less essential for the brewing process.

A brewer can also add additional flavours, such as herbs (like coriander seeds) or fruit, to these ingredients (anything from grapefruit to cherries).

The 4 Beer Ingredients

  • Water
  • Malt
  • Hops
  • Yeast


Beer is primarily made out of water; in fact, it contains 90% or more of it. All other ingredients in the beer are suspended in water.

The number of minerals in the water, including iron and lime, can have a variety of effects on the outcome. The water from the Czech town of Plzen and the English town of Burton-upon-Trent are the two best-known examples of this.

For making a smooth, crisp beer like Pilsner, Plzen’s very soft water (low in minerals) is ideal. The hop bitters in Indian Pale Ales show up more because of the hard, mineral-rich water from Burton-upon-Trent.

Since everything from the amount, content, and proportion of minerals in the water might have an impact, they are consequently of particular importance. This has a significant impact on step three of the brewing process’s use of enzymes as well (mashing).

Brewers have the ability to modify their brewing water and choose the hardness level themselves. Burtonising is a verb that Burton-upon-Trent left behind.


The most significant and influential element in beer, according to most, is malt. Cereals play a significant role in determining the colour, aroma, flavour, and even the head of the beer. Grain must first be malted before being brewed.

Malted barley is often the grain used to make beer (barley grains that have been soaked in water). During the fermentation process, the starches from these are converted to sugars, which interact with the yeast to produce alcohol.

Beer grains have an impact on various aspects. Whether the finished beverage is a light blonde lager or a stout as dark as the night sky, the colour of the grains will determine its hue.

The viscosity of the beverage is impacted by additional dextrins found in beer (thickness, as opposed to wateriness). also referred to as the mouthfeel Additionally, the proteins they contain help to make the head on top of your pint thicker.

Malts include:

  • Barley
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Spelt, Corn, and Rice


The most popular malt for brewing beer is barley because it has the best starch-to-protein ratio, supplies the enzymes needed for the mashing step, and has husks that are sturdy enough to act as a natural filter bed during the clear fermentation stage.


Wheat has a soft, bread-like flavour with a touch of sourness. It tastes great in wheat and Weizen beers. More proteins are present in wheat, which gives unfiltered White beers and German wheat beers their distinctive haze and heavier heads.


In addition to the familiar oatmeal flavour, oats offer a silky, slightly fuller mouthfeel. Oats are commonly found in oatmeal stout, a sort of stout that has been around for a while.

For instance, it adds the required bulk to session IPAs and the smooth, sweet mouthfeel to New England IPAs. Kuit is a classic Dutch beer style that uses at least 45% oats in the malt dump during brewing.


Rye provides a slightly spicy, earthy touch to beer and can create a somewhat syrupy mouthfeel. It reminds some beer lovers, depending on the amount of rye, of rye bread. Jopen Jacobus is an example of a beer with rye.

Spelt, Corn and Rice

Other options can be included in addition to these grains. Spelt is one example, along with corn. The latter is used frequently in American-style beers as it is a reasonably inexpensive source of starch.

A well-known illustration is Corona or Hite Pale Lager. Rice serves the same purpose in beer that maize does, and corn frequently imparts a dry mouthfeel and aftertaste. It is a key flavour of Asahi Super Dry.


Hops are the blossoms of the Humulus lupulus hop plant. The function of hops in a beer is to add flavour, bitterness, and stability. Hops are the most expensive component of beer. Thankfully, a brewer doesn’t need to use much. They are often introduced during the boiling phase of brewing, where heat is used to release the essential components from them.

The final product’s flavour can be significantly influenced by the hops utilised. Their bitter flavour is essential to counteract the sweetness of the malt, but they also have a tonne of other flavours that broaden the flavour spectrum. Both your nose and your tongue will benefit from this since hops, which are made of essential oils from the plant itself, bring out the scents of freshly brewed beer.

The most well-known example of a beer style that calls for a significant amount of hops is the IPA. Hops offer fragrances and bitterness (smell) while also acting as a preservative because of their antimicrobial properties.

There are hundreds of varieties of hops, loosely classified into three groups, each of which has a name that also denotes its intended use:

  • Aroma Hop
  • Bitter Hop
  • Double Target Hop

Aroma Hop

With a lot of volatile oils that, according to the hop’s makeup, generate a variety of fragrances, including fruity, resinous, spicy, and/or floral ones.

Bitter Hop

Containing a lot of alpha acids, which during brewing are changed into compounds that provide a pleasant bitterness.

Double Target Hop

Has many alpha acids as well as hop scents.

By the way, while it is technically feasible to create a bitter beer using only one aroma hop, you will need more hops to get the necessary level of bitterness in the finished product.


Yeast is a living organism, of which there are hundreds of species. Beer brewers usually use isolated or cultivated yeasts, which means that all yeast cells are the same. This allows the brewer to best control the fermentation process.

This final important fungal microorganism ingredient is used to convert carbohydrates (sugars) into alcohol.

The yeast and temperature at which they are fermented determine whether a beer is a lager or an ale. The yeast “Saccharomyces Pastorianus,” which bottom ferments at a colder temperature, is typically used in lager. Ale often top-ferments using “Saccharomyces Cerevisiae” (also known as Brewer’s Yeast) which is done at warmer temperatures.

There are roughly 3 types of beer yeast:

  • Top yeast
  • Bottom yeast
  • Wild yeast

Top Yeast

Around 15–25 °C is the preferred operating temperature range for this yeast, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Top yeast comes in a variety of varieties, each with special qualities of its own. Esters are a beneficial byproduct of yeast that give beer its “fruity” scents. Top yeast makes more of them.

As wort ferments, yeasts create esters, which are primarily impacted by three factors: fermentation conditions, wort composition, and yeast traits. Esters are typically recognised in beer as flavours of fruit, such as banana in a Weizen or pear in a Belgian Tripel.

Since different types of yeast each create different esters, several brewers have developed their own special yeast strains. In the UK, top-fermented beers are referred to as “Ale.” Perhaps the most well-known is IPA.

Bottom Fermented

Saccharomyces Pastorianus, also referred to as Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis. When the yeast is fermenting, it sinks to the bottom of the tank and operates at lower temperatures of between 5 and 12 °C.

As a result, the flavour profile of the resulting beer is “cleaner,” allowing you to detect more malt and hop tones. This is due to the fact that less yeast produces fewer flavours.

In the UK, bottom-fermented beers are collectively referred to as “lagers.” A pilsner is the most popular and well-known type of lager.

Wild or Spontaneous Yeast

This particular strain of yeast was once thought to be unwanted contamination that brewers should avoid using in their facilities. Brewers didn’t begin cultivating it and using it to their advantage in the creation of beer until much later.

Typically, the brewer does not actively add this kind of yeast to the beer. The wort is exposed to the open air after the brewer pumps it into a cooling vessel (a big, shallow bathtub). The fermentation process is subsequently started when the natural yeast cells from the air come into contact with the wort. These yeasts are not isolated.

Although they are frequently added in cultivated form, Brettanomyces (Brett) is considered to be “wild” yeast. A well-known instance of this is with Orval.

Brett is a known yeast that can be challenging to control and has the ability to ferment non-fermentable carbohydrates. Although Brett can take a little to work its magic, it will eventually eat everything. It is also a very powerful yeast that is challenging to get rid of.

Because of these two factors, a Brett infection is frequently found extremely late in the disease and is irreversible. Because of this, brewers who use Brett tightly maintain this yeast apart from the rest of the brewery.

Additional Beer Ingredients

Water, malt, hops, and yeast are the primary elements needed to make beer, but brewers are allowed to experiment with a plethora of additional ingredients.

Many confuse sugar with being the fifth ingredient beer is made from. Most of the time, sugar is an all-natural result of the malting process. Although it is rarely done, sugar must be added directly to beer. Sugar affects both the beer’s gravity and the degree of subsequent fermentation.

Nevertheless, a lot of brewers today use components like fruit that are likewise high in sugar. It can be challenging to estimate how much sugar is actually in the beer you consume because these substances aren’t specified on the beer labels.

Today’s beer can be made with a variety of ingredients to give it a distinctive flavour, aroma, and look, including fruits, spices, herbs, flowers, coffee, chocolate, and much more.

There are countless other items that can be used to make beer. But there are some components that recur frequently:

  • Coriander seeds – often seen in Belgian beers and definitely in white beer
  • Coffee – primarily in an imperial porter or stout
  • Cherries – in Geuze or Kriek-Lambic
  • Citrus fruit – appearing in IPAs and pale ales in recent years

Of course, the list does not stop with these well-liked add-ins. Numerous flavours, such as vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper, can be found in beer. If you have a taste for a unique beer, Gose beer, Italian grape ales, sweet stouts, or oyster beer can be of interest to you (no oysters involved).

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are the 5 ingredients in beer?

The only necessary components for beer are grains, hops, yeast, and water. You only need the primary four ingredients to make a high-quality beer, despite the fact that some people count the sugars or additives (known as finings) as the fifth ingredient.

What grain is beer made from?

Although barley is the primary grain used to make beer, any grain can be utilised. This contains rye, wheat, rice, and oats.

Does beer come from potatoes?

No, potatoes are not a source of beer. Malted grains, yeast, hops, and water goes into the brewing of beer. One alcoholic beverage made from fermented potatoes is vodka.

By Tickety Brew

Ivor Ardghal : Brewer and Writer at Tickety Brew