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Beer Basics

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Beer Ingredients: Yeast

Yeast is a one-celled fungus. But in that one cell of fungus, yeast packs a lot of punch. Over many centuries, brewers and the yeast family have become friends. Their cooperation is most helpful, and necessary, in making beer happen!

Basically, yeast converts maltís sugars into alcohol and its less glamorous step-sister carbon dioxide, causing all the joyful fizz of carbonation. Plus, each yeast strain has sort of its own signature, processing sugars under its uniquely optimal temperature to yield a particular aroma and flavor profile setting it apart from all the other distinctive beer styles. For large commercial breweries, proprietary yeast strains are jealously guarded as the brandís lifeblood. Not too shabby for a one-celled fungus.

The many, many yeast strains used in brewing can be divided into two main categories, top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting. Today, mostly cultured strains are used in brewing, with the main exception of the Lambic style, which uses wild strains of airborne yeast in fermentation. These days, cultured yeasts may be obtained for a given style wherever you the brewer set up shop.

Beer Ingredients: Yeast