Not all beer is made the same way. Indeed, brewers seem to figure out a different way of making beer in every brewery out there. Here are a few notes on my discoveries. (Caution: may be nerdy and/or technical.)
As the last post in Homebrew Week, I offer you a complete chapter from The Secrets of Master Brewers. Whether you want to brew this beer or not, it will give you the sense of this book and what you'll find inside. It's great for homebrewers or people just interested in fully understanding beer styles.
The following few paragraphs will take you through the process of making all-grain beer, from mashing through bottling. Just one session of brewing will illuminate more about the process—the chemistry, the variables, and the ingredients—than the most elegant description. When you’re done, you’ll have eight 500 ml swing-top bottles (or ten regular bottles) full of a classic American pale ale.
Most of the homebrewing world is geared to introduce newbies to homebrewing by a method called “extract brewing.” I'm an unusual partisan here: I have absolutely no problem with extract brewing as a method of making beer. With the products available today, you can make fine beer that way. What I'd like to argue, though, is that when you start, you should start with all-grain
The Ferdinand Brewery in Benešov, south of Prague has been malting their own barley for over a hundred years, and the way they prepare the malt and the barleys they use look remarkably like the approach Americans are now trying to revive. Ferdinand is also the source of Weyermann's Floor-Malted Bohemian Pilsner Malt, which is available here in the US (Patrick and I used it on a recent helles).
Modern IPAs have moved away from bitterness in favor of juicy fruit flavors and aromas. But they do still taste bitter. What we're learning is that late-addition hopping and even dry-hopping can add substantial perceived bitterness. The reasons have funny names like hulupones, humulinones, and polyphenols, and we're only just starting to emphasize the role they play in brewing.