What Is Beer Made Of—Ingredients, Process, and History

Hey, there, beer lover!

You might wonder what goes into that delicious brew you love. 

These are the four main ingredients: water, hops, yeast, and grain.

Let’s dive into this article to answer the age-old question, “what is beer made of?” in more detail!

Here we go!

Beer Ingredients In A Glass.


You’ve probably heard of barley and wheat when it comes to beer, but did you know many other grains are used in beer?

From oats to rye, grains play an essential role in the flavor and texture of your favorite brew. 

The following ingredients are popular grains in brewing different types of beers:


Barley is the most common grain in brewing beer.

It’s used to make pale ales, lagers, and stouts.

Barley is also used to make wheat beers, such as Hefeweizen and Belgian witbier. 

We recommend reading this article to learn the difference between German and American Beers.


They are used when making oatmeal stouts, which are dark beers with a smooth, creamy texture.

Oats are also a main ingredient in some pale ales and wheat beers. 


It’s used to make rye beers, which are often spicy and fruity.

Rye is also an ingredient in some porters and stouts. 


Rice is a main ingredient in light-bodied beers, such as lagers and pilsners.

And also in some wheat beers. 


It’s a main ingredient in light-bodied beer, such as American lagers.

Corn is also used in some wheat beers. 


Millet beers are light-bodied and slightly sweet.

It’s also one of the ingredients in some wheat beers. 


Buckwheat is used to make buckwheat beers, which are dark and malty.

It’s also used in some pale ales and wheat beers. 

These are just a few of the grains used in beer.

Each grain contributes unique flavor and texture to the beer, so knowing which grains are used in your beer is essential.

Learn more about malty beers here.


You know that beer has: 

  • That piquant aroma 
  • Various flavors
  • A range of bitterness, from subtle to intense, perfectly complements the sweetness of the malt.

Well, that’s all thanks to Hops!

They have a strong, bitter taste and smell, giving the beer its bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

These different types of hops include: 

Each hop variety has its unique flavor and aroma profile and creates different beer styles.

For example, Amarillo hops are often used in pale ales and IPAs. 

In contrast, Cascade hops are used in American-style pale ales and IPAs.

Hops add bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer during brewing.

The International Bitterness Units (IBUs) will measure the bitterness of hops in beer.

The higher the IBU, the more bitter the beer will be.

Hops balance out the sweetness of malt in beer. 

Depending on when they’re added, hops can give the beer a different flavor and aroma.

Hops added during the boil will contribute to the bitterness. 

In contrast, hops added later in the process will contribute more flavor and aroma.

In this article, you learn more about hoppy beers.


You may not know it, but yeast plays a massive role in the flavor of your favorite beer.

It’s a single-celled organism used to ferment beer. 

Several types of yeast are used in beer, each of which contributes to the flavor and aroma of the beer.

Ale Yeast

You may have heard of ale yeast and its scientific name: Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

This yeast is the most popular type of yeast in brewing beer. 

This type of yeast is used to make ales, stouts, and porters.

Ale yeast ferments at a higher temperature than lager yeast, which produces a sweeter, fruitier flavor. 

Examples of beers made with ale yeast include:

  • IPAs
  • pale ales
  • wheat beers

Lager Yeast

Lager yeast, or Saccharomyces pastorianus, is used to make lagers and pilsners.

This type of yeast ferments at a lower temperature than ale yeast, which produces a crisp, clean flavor. 

Examples of beers made with lager yeast include: 

Wild Yeast

Another type of yeast used in beer is Brettanomyces, also known as wild yeast.

Use this type of yeast to make sour beers, such as lambics and gueuzes

Brettanomyces ferments at a lower temperature than ale and lager yeast, producing a tart, funky flavor.

Examples of beers made with Brettanomyces include: 

  • sours
  • lambics
  • gueuzes 

Weizen Yeast

Finally, yeast makes wheat beers, such as hefeweizens and witbiers.

This type of yeast is Weizen yeast or Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus. 

Weizen yeast ferments at a higher temperature than ale and lager yeast, producing a spicy, clove-like flavor.

Examples of beers made with Weizen yeast include: 

We have an article about Yeasty Beers that you will enjoy reading.


You know how important water is for beer, right?

It makes up 95% of the drink.

The mineral content of the water can significantly impact the taste of the beer. 

In the past, changing the mineral content of a region’s water was impossible, so it greatly influenced the beer styles that could be made there.

This is why certain beer styles are associated with specific places. 

For example: 

  • Stouts come from Dublin because the water there was only suitable for dark beer. 
  • English-style pale ales from Burton-on-Trent have a unique hop bite due to the high sulfate content of the water. 
  • In Bavaria, the high carbonate content of the water meant that beers had to be dark and low in hop bitterness.

This article will inform you about the best water for brewing beer.

Quick Glance on the Brewing Process

Quick Glance on the Brewing Process

So, we’ve gone through the ingredients that make up a beer.

Now, let’s take a quick peek at how to prepare these ingredients within the brewing process.


It would be best to mill barley and wheat grains to make the mash liquor for beer.

It’s like making coffee grounds, creating the body of the beer. 

You don’t usually need to mill other grains like corn or oats.


You mix the crushed malt with hot water in a mash-tun.

This activates the enzymes from the broken-down endosperms, turning the malt starches into maltose and dextrins – sugars.


Depending on the beer style, you must boil the liquid from the mashing process (wort) for some time.

For example, boil porters and stouts for 60-90 minutes, while 30 minutes up to 90 minutes for IPAs.

Strong ales like barley wine require up to 120 minutes of boiling.

This process pasteurizes the wort and kills off any harmful bacteria. 

It’s also when you add hops and other spices to give the beer its desired bitterness.


You add yeast to the wort in the lauter tun.

This separates the wort from the spent grain bed. 

The yeast then feeds on the sugar from the malted grain, beginning fermentation.

Alcohol will produce carbon dioxide as it ferments.

Finally, cool the mixture one more time.

You know you can also ferment maple syrup?


Cool the mixture down before you filter it.

You can do this directly or in a bright tank, a machine that controls pressure and temperature. 

Or add carbonation at this stage.

This can happen naturally during fermentation, or you can pump carbon dioxide into the beer to get the right amount of bubbles.


You’re all set to enjoy your beer!

Bottle, can, or keg it after cooling and filtering. 

Some brewers take it a step further and age it in barrels or casks, like imperial stouts or real ale, before it’s ready to be served.

Kegs come in different sizes; you can learn about that in this article.

Final Thoughts

You see, beer is a pretty simple drink.

It’s made of grain, water, yeast, and hops. 

But with a few tweaks, brewers can create a huge range of styles.

That’s why it’s still so popular – it’s easy to make, and there’s always something new to try.

Read related articles in the links below:

Brewing the Perfect Summer Drink: Watermelon Beer.

The Pros And Cons Of Using An Electric Brewer.