What’s In Craft Beer?

What’s In Craft Beer?

We teamed up with our partner, Tin Cannon Brewing Company to get the inside scoop on creating  craft beer, and to discuss how these ingredients affect ABV, IBU, and Specific Gravity levels. Keep on reading to see what Aaron Ludwig, one of the Prince William County’s many skilled brewers, had to say.

What are the basic ingredients in your craft beer?

We use many different types of ingredients at Tin Cannon, but the basic ingredients in every one of our beers are water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.

What role does each of these play in the final product?

1.     Water typically makes up 95% of beer by volume.  It is, therefore, critical to know the makeup of the water chemistry and how to modify it to achieve the desired outcome.  For instance, in our Unkel Dunkel – dark weissbier – we match a water profile from Southern Germany where the beer style became popular.

2.     Malted barley is the whole grain kernel of the barley plant that has undergone a modification to assist with starch conversion.  Malt is at least partly responsible for many things in the beer including color, flavor, mouthfeel, head retention and alcohol content.  Primarily, malt provides the sugar source which the yeast uses to create alcohol.  Pale malts are typically used to provide the body and sugar content while various levels of kiln dried and roasted malts are used to provide color and flavor.  We use a combination of de-bittered black malt and roasted barley to achieve the dark color and roasted flavor in our Busted Pipe black IPA.

3.     Hops are the flowering cone of the hop plant (humulus lupulus).  Hops contain compounds that are often perceived as bitter, herbal, piney, fruity or citrusy.  They are a major component to the perceived flavor of a beer and provide a balance to the sweetness of the malt sugar.  Our double IPA – Twin Cannons uses a lot of chinook hops to balance the large malt bill, but also provides a perceived fruity sweetness, reminiscent of apricot or peach. 

4.     Yeast consume the fermentable sugars present in the wort, releasing carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts.  It is rightly said that brewers don’t really make beer.  In essence, a brewer’s job is to feed, nurture and clean up after yeast.  In addition to determining the final alcohol content of beer, yeast can also provide a major flavor component.  While many yeast strains are selected because they leave minimal impact on the beer’s flavor (think clean, crisp American style ales and lagers), other strains are selected specifically for their spicy or fruity aromas and flavors.  For example, our Unkel Dunkel uses a German hefeweissbier yeast strain that gives the beer distinct phenolic (cloves) and ester (banana) flavors which are characteristic of the style.

Can you explain what ABV, IBU, and gravity are?

1.     ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume, represented as a percentage.  Most beers range from 3.5% to 10% ABV, but there are many examples outside of that range.  Average craft beers are in the 5% to 7% range.

2.     IBU stands for International Bitterness Unit and is used to express how bitter a beer is, higher numbers indicating a more bitter beer. This number is calculated by summing the bitterness of each hop addition to the beer during boiling. Hops added after boiling, such as dry hop additions, are used to develop a pungent hop aroma and flavor while not adding significantly to the perceived bitterness. In our Imperial Rusted Pipe – Red IPA, we use a pound per barrel of dry hops during fermentation to bring out a distinct piney/floral aroma and flavor, typical for an American style IPA.

3.     Gravity (or more accurately Specific Gravity) is a measurement used to determine the sugar content of beer. If you know the sugar content before and after fermenting, you can assume the difference was converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. A “high gravity” beer is one that had a high original gravity (gravity measurement before fermentation) and will most likely have a high alcohol content after fermentation. These are typically barleywines and imperial style beers.

Now that you know what goes into your beer, visit Tin Cannon Brewing Company in Gainesville, Virginia to try some of the delicious beers mentioned in this blog!

About The Author:

Aaron Ludwig studied Material Science at Penn State and he currently works as a professional engineer for a microchip manufacturer.  Aaron is a long time home brewer recently turned pro.  He built a tremendous 10 gallon brewing system on his own, to include an electric master control panel in his basement brew house before becoming a partner at Tin Cannon Brewing Company.  He lives in Warrenton, VA with his wife, Jen, and their four sons.  



Tags: craft beer  breweries 

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