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What's in My Beer? Learn What Goes Into Making Your Brew

Florida Agriculture Literacy Day was this week and, if you're like us, everything we read about makes us think of beer. So what better time to learn a little bit about it? After all, it's made of things you grow in nature, and possibly your backyard.

Bill Manley, of Sierra Nevada brewing, lays it out straight. "[Beer] is an agricultural product that contains things of the earth that are a little bit different every year."

Like the tomatoes in your garden or the sugar fields near Lake Okeechobee, beer essentially stems from the ground. Everything about it is an organic product; it's food.

But what is it really? To put it simply, it's made of four things: water, malt, hops, and yeast.

Water

The ultimate original gangster of agriculture. We couldn't live without it, let alone grow or cook with it. Since it's a huge majority of your beer, it's one of the most important, and sometimes overlooked, aspects of the product. If you've battled with shower scale, you know there's stuff in that water. Some of it is good, some bad. But most brewers will try to start off with a fresh slate; filtering it and treating it with reverse osmosis.

There are some beer styles, however, that will actually taste better with certain minerals in the water. Porters, for example, can benefit from carbonate, of which some brewers add in calcium carbonate, or chalk. When the Brits were making their porters, they had chalky water, and the style developed from there.

Floridians are blessed with a fantastic aquifer -- as long as we don't wreck it -- and have readily available fresh water to use.

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Doug Fairall
Contact: Doug Fairall

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