Beer School #5: Beer, De-Mystified

Disclaimer: The intent of this article is to dig to bedrock. If you’ve been there already, just look at the cosplay girls. That’s never a waste of time. But if you can look at the beer in your hand, and not know exactly how it was made, then please read on.

Life is...
Life is…
...really fun.
Really fun.

Okay, here’s how to make beer:

Get six pounds of barley malt extract, one ounce of hop pellets, five gallons of water, and a package of yeast. Put the malt extract and the hops into the water and boil it for an hour. When it cools down, add the yeast. Pursue other interests. One week later add four ounces of sugar and put the stuff in bottles. Give them some privacy. One week later put the bottles in the fridge. Stare at them and say “beer” in a gravelly voice. Victory is yours.

In fact, that was too much. That was nine full sentences. Here it is in three and two fragments:

Put malt and hops in water and boil for an hour. Cool and add yeast then leave for a week. Add sugar and bottle then go elsewhere. Bam. Beer.

Still too much. Here it is in one:

Leave sugar water outside.


For real? For real. For really real realsies.

the simplest things...
the simplest things…


Here is a list of things:

Beets, barley, grapes, cactus, agave, sugar cane, avocado leaves, dandelions, wheat, yucca, cassava, potatoes, apples, corn, rice, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, honey, maguey, pineapple, plantains, maple sap, saguaro sap, palm sap, coconuts, sorghum, millet, bananas, anise, fennel, wormwood, strawberries, insects, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, pomegranate, snozberries.


Snozberries. Whimsical. Classic misdirection.


So what do they all have in common? They are all plural words or phrases. They have also all been made into booze.

RRWHIRP? (record scratch. That collection of letters with a question mark is a record scratch, the international auditory shorthand for a double take elicited via surprising revelation)

Look, people love booze. They make it wherever they are, with whatever they have. Hence the list above, which is by no means even nearly exhaustive. So what are they looking for, these booze-makers? Why not make it out of rocks, or fuel oil, or helium?

Sugar, that’s what. They’re looking for sugar.

First you get the sugar, then you get the booze, then you get the woomin
First you get the sugar, then you get the booze, then you get the woomin

“Okay,” they might say, “so I got a handful of sugar and I spit all over it and rubbed it into the cracks in my tilework. It’s not booze yet.” Valid point. Please allow some elaboration…

Sugar is just the numerator. Sugar is just the pigment on the brush.

Sugar is what Shai-Hulud consumes. It is not Shai-Hulud.


Arrakis... Dune... Desert planet
Arrakis… Dune… Desert planet



Magnificent. Magical. Masterful. Microscopic.

If yeast were big enough to see, we would crown them with laurels. We would render unto them that which is Caesar’s. For they bestow upon us such wondrous things, such beautiful things. They are as the Magi. Here, for you, I lay their gifts upon a blanket. Behold.


Indeed. Thanks be unto yeast.

Yeast are microscopic creatures made out of Alton Brown’s socks. They live everywhere and they eat simple sugars (except maltose, which is why you’ve never enjoyed any delicious dairy-based intoxicants). And when they do, they excrete ethanol (friendly alcohol) and carbon dioxide. Let them go to town on a sugary solution in an air-tight container, and you’ve got booze. Not only booze, but carbonated booze. They do that for free! Just for fun! They can’t help but be that awesome!


Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.
“Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.” – B. Franklin


Did he actually say that? Let’s just say he did, because the world is a more wonderful place that way.

Next time on Beer School: Beer, Re-Mystified.

Brian has more to say. Look for him here  or here

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