McCadam Distributing is pleased to remind you that brewing -- the process of using yeast to convert vegetable sugars to alcohol -- is at least 10,000 years old, dating back to Mesopotamia.

Alcohol is created when a yeast, a microscopic single-cell organism, comes into contact with plant sugars. These plant sugars can come from fruit, like the sweet sugars of grapes for wine, or from grains for beer.

Most plants produce complex carbohydrates in abundance and sugars are simply simple or broken down complex carbohydrates like starches. When the yeast comes into contact with the sugars, it consumes sugars as an energy source and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as waste.

Despite the great ingenuity of brewers, the basic beer brewing process has remained essentially the same for tens of thousands of years.

Beer brewing consists of four basic steps:

Grain Processing - The brewer employs various methods for turning grain into a fermentable product.

Germination - The grain is steeped in water and soaked to encourage sprouting. Sprouting releases a special enzyme that catalyzes or helps the conversion of complex carbohydrates into simple, fermentable sugars.

Kilning - The grain is dried and roasted. This kills the sprout and provides the grain with roasted grain flavors and color. Lighter colored beers are more lightly roasted. Darker beers are more darkly roasted.

Milling - The grain is cracked and the sprouts removed. This crushing allows the grain to be better exposed to the boiling water. This helps convert more sugars and more efficiently kill bacteria in the grain.

Mashing - Sugars are created from complex carbohydrates or starches in the grain by simply applying heat. Chemical bonds break and the resulting pieces are smaller, simple carbohydrates -- sugars -- that can be fermented by the yeast.

Boiling - Hops and flavorings are added to this grain sugar and water mixture called wort (pronounced wert). Boiling helps to kill all bacteria in order to eliminate competition for the brewer's yeast and, as part of the mashing process, to break down complex carbohydrates into smaller, simple carbohydrates (sugars) that are fermentable.

Pitching - The wort is cooled to a temperature perfect for the particular brewers yeast to enjoy a competitive advantage against any stray bacteria for the wort's sugars. The yeast is then pitched and immediately begins to quickly reproduce. Pitching a yeast is a relatively new step in brewing. Ancient beers used wild, airborne yeasts to inoculate their wort.

Fermentation - The yeast's biological process consumes sugars and produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethyl alcohol (EtOH or ethanol). Some of this CO2 is allowed to escape and some is used to carbonate the beer so that it's bubbly.

That's it! To learn more about brewing beer, the history of beer, or the science of beer, McCadam Distributing encourages you to tour a local microbrewery.

Call us now with any and all inquiries.

Tel. (518) 563-2270

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