Barley in beer and whisky Hordeum vulgare Poaceae

As in the case of wine, no one knows when people first began to brew beer, but the practice was well established by the beginning of recorded history. Beer production was well-established in Mesopotamia and Egypt from least 3000 bc. Analysis of beer from tomb vessels has shown that beer production in ancient Egypt was sophisticated. Malted emmer wheat or barly grains were mixed with ground grains that had been heated in hot water. The enzymes from the malted grains broke down the starch in the resulting mixture, which was then fermented by yeast and bacteria to give a product perhaps similar in character to traditional African beers. The idea that Egytian beer was made from bread is not supported by recent research.

Barley is now mostly used in malt-based beverages. When germinated in water and kiln-dried, barley can be used as a substrate for yeast in beer. Beer was first successfully bottled in 1736, and is now one of the world's most popular beverages. Over 29 million pints per day were consumed in the United Kingdom in 1988, equivalent to 108 liters per head per annum, more than ten times the consumption of wine.

Whisky, distilled from malted barley, was first recorded in Scotland in 1494 by a friar buying malt to make whisky. Now over four million bottles a day are made in Scotland. Barley is the preferred grain for malting. Nonetheless, grains of rye, Secale cereale, are rich in gluten and used to make whisky in the United States, rye beer in Russia, and gin in the Netherlands. Wheat grains, Triticum aestivum, are fermented to produce "weiss" or white beer, a beverage typical of Germany, and are also distilled to vodka, which is typical of Russia.

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Brew Your Own Beer

Discover How To Become Your Own Brew Master, With Brew Your Own Beer. It takes more than a recipe to make a great beer. Just using the right ingredients doesn't mean your beer will taste like it was meant to. Most of the time it’s the way a beer is made and served that makes it either an exceptional beer or one that gets dumped into the nearest flower pot.

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