Brewing 101: Ingredients

Now the big decision, what kind of beer do you want to make? Beer brewing is unique among fermented beverages. While the agricultural aspects are important, the choices made by brewers have a very noticeable effect. The brewer creates, picking and choosing from a world full of ingredients to do his or her will. This can seem daunting at first but let's begin with a simple yet tasty american pale ale.

First the Basics. Beer is primarily made of of only four ingredients: Malted barley, hops, water, and yeast.


The malted barley is the heart of the beer. It contributes the color and alcohol as well as much of the flavor. To be useful in brewing malted barley must undergo a process called mashing to convert the starches of the grain into sugars that yeast can digest. This process is relatively difficult to control and requires additional equipment at time.

Luckily homebrewers have a convenient option, malt extract. For most beginning brewers, every batch begins with several pounds of malt extract in dry or liquid form. This shortcut makes a lot of sense. Someone else has already done the hard work of converting the malt starches into sugars and your yeast will happily consume these to produce a great tasting beer.


These sticky cones primarily add the bitterness to your beer, while also adding a pleasant aroma and providing and antibiotic effect against bacteria. This makes beer more stable and unlikely to spoil over time. Hops also contain tannins which attach to proteins in your brew and results in a clearer final product.

Hops for homebrewers come in two main forms: whole and pellets. Both will work great for your beer. I prefer whole hops because they are easier to filter out with hop bags. The choice is up to you but know that if you choose pellet hops, be sure to use 10% less than the recipe calls for. Pellets tend to be more efficient than whole hops so you will not need to use as many.


Water is a much more important ingredient than it may seem. Throughout history different areas of the world became known for different types of beer. Pilsen became known for it’s light crisp pilsners, while Burton upon Trent became known for hoppy pale ales. What made pilsners made in Pilsen better than those brewed elsewhere? The Water. More specifically the minerals in the water.

While it is important to know that water is an essential ingredient, for the beginning homebrewer it is nothing to worry over. Most tap waters will be just fine. And the malt extract will add any other minerals needed. In the future you can start playing around with water, but for now just know your beer will taste great even with just normal tap water.


Finally yeast, the magical ingredient that makes all of this possible. The yeast cells will eat up all those sugars from the malt and turn that sweet grain water into nice bubbly beer. To do this we have to get some live yeast cells to start the process. From there they will multiply and convert your sugars. Brewing yeast comes packaged two ways, liquid and dry. For the first timer i would recommend dry yeast. Modern dry yeasts will give you the same results as liquid yeasts, and I have had great success with them.

Dry yeasts are cheaper and much easier to store and transport. Just make sure to follow the packaging instructions to re-hydrate them before using. In the future you can start trying liquid yeasts if you want. These come in many more varieties and are definitely worth some experimenting once you get the basics down.

So finally here is your recipe. Go to your nearest local brew store and get these ingredients. Also if you have no store nearby you can also order online at a place such as

American Pale Ale Recipe


  • 6lb Pale Malt Extract Syrup
  • 0.5 lb 60L Caramel/Crystal Malt
  • 0.5 lb 120L Caramel/Crystal Malt
  • 2 oz Chocolate Malt
  • 1 oz whole Chinook or Centennial Hops
  • 2 oz whole Cascade or Simcoe Hops
  • 1 pkg Safale US-05 Dry Yeast

Next up, Brew Day!