What Are The 4 Main Ingredients In Beer?

Are you tired of heading out to expensive bars to drink?

Perhaps you like a beer at home but you’re tired of the mainstream choices at your local supermarket?

If so, there’s an easy solution…

Brewing your own beer is a smart way to cut costs while also enjoying your drink exactly the way you like it.

Brewing is easy to get started with but takes a lifetime to master so what are you waiting for?

Today, we’ll give you a glimpse at the main beer ingredients.

The four primary ingredients in beerWhile many elements can be added to the brew batch, the foundation of beer is made from these four essential ingredients:

  • Water (H2O accounts for up to 90 percent of beer’s content)
  • Barley (this is the recommended grain for beer but there are also other types)
  • Hops (this influences the flavor and aroma of the beer)
  • Yeast (fundamental in the fermentation process, its core purpose in beer is to make alcohol)

We’ll walk you through the importance of each of these right now.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Top 5 Craft Beer Recipes

1. Water

While it’s often not taken into consideration, water is right up there in terms of beer contents.

What Percentage of Beer Is Water?

water from the faucetIf you’ve wondered how much water is in beer, it generally accounts for about 90% of your drink making it the main ingredient in beer.

Of all beer components, the importance of water should not be underestimated.

There are many issues that come into play with water…

  • Is it hard or soft?
  • How are the pH levels?
  • Is it heavily chlorinated?
  • What’s the mineral content like?

When a brewery is thinking about beer making ingredients, a great deal of emphasis is placed on water. While not all beer tastes the same across the board, it’s essential that beer of the same brand remains consistent. The role of water is central to this consistency.

Despite the percentage of water in beer, the next 3 ingredients along with a solid brewing technique are where the magic comes together.

2. Barley

holding grains of barleyWith beer brewing ingredients, just like when you’re making any alcoholic drink, you’ll need a source of sugar.

Barley steeps in the cereal grain but is treated differently than when it’s used for food…

Harvested barley needs to go through the malting process to prepare the starch inside for fermentation. When the barley is soaked in water for a few days, these starch-laden carbs are converted into simple sugars through germination. When we look at yeast, another ingredient for beer, you’ll see the importance of this process. [1]

Germination is arrested with heat being applied. This is called roasting the barley. The length of the roast affects the color and flavor of the beer.

“Barley grains possess impressive features that make them ideal for creating the malt required by the brewing industry.”
– Matthew Tucker, Associate Professor

If this is all complicated to you, you can learn more about it here: How to malt barley. So…

As well as being instrumental to the alcohol content in your beer, malted barley in beer impacts the body, taste, and aroma of your finished drink. A cool thing about this ingredient is that you can make

Interested in learning how to make malted barley?

3. Hops

Hops are little green flowers that grow on a bine. This is similar to a vine but without tendrils. These flowers are shaped like a cone. These cones become filled with a bitter resin that acts to balance out the extreme sweetness of malt.

What Are Hops In Beer?

hops ready for harvestIf you’ve wondered what does hops do for beer, it essentially acts as a balancing agent. [2]

The stage at which hops are added directly influences the flavor. Hops thrown in early leads to a more bitter beer while you can enhance both flavor and aroma by adding it late.


If you’ve ever asked yourself what makes beer bitter, it’s the hops.

If you’ve ever wondered about IPA beer ingredients, it’s the prevalence of hops that gives this beer its distinctive taste.

When it comes to types of beer hops, there are 170 varietals. The beer with most hops is the one with the highest rating in International Bitterness Units (IBUs) and brewers around the world have jumped on the hop trail following IPAs lead.

Many beers now use hops as far more than just a stabilizer. The hoppy taste becomes the defining characteristic of that drink.

Do All Beer Have Hops?

Of the four main beer ingredients, hops is not essential.

However, if you leave this marvelous flower out of the brewing process, you’ll end up with an oversweet a flat-tasting beer.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Top 5 Craft Beer Recipes

4. Yeast

Of the main ingredients in beer, yeast might be invisible to the naked eye, but it plays a fundamental role in the brewing process.

Does Beer Have Yeast In It?

scoop of yeastAs many old brewers say, they do not make beer. Yeast makes beer.

Yeast is a fungus, a single-cell microorganism. The yeast eats the simple sugars created in the malting process converting it into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

The brewer needs to give this fungus a helping hand by making sure there’s enough food for it to feast on as well as keeping the temperature and light levels just right.

After a week or so of eating and reproducing, the environment becomes toxic for the fungus at which point the brewer can draw some off ready for the next batch.

While yeast can have an effect on the final flavor, its core purpose in beer is to make alcohol.

Types of Yeast

  • Ale Yeast: Ale yeasts collect on the top during fermentation and are fermented at 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lager Yeast: Bottom-fermenting lager yeast undergoes fermentation at cooler temperatures from 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit

Ales have a more complex arrangement and are much heavier-bodied.

Lagers are lighter and very crisp.

Given that you can’t even clap eyes on yeast, it’s role as one of the ingredients to make beer should not be underestimated.

What’s Makes a Good Beer?

beer with barley and hopsWhat makes a good beer is almost entirely subjective and you could spend a lifetime searching for your perfect tipple.

While the 4 ingredients in beer are shared, the way in which they interact brings about wildly differing flavors meaning there’s truly a beer for everyone.


Now that you’ve got a solid idea about beer content, you can approach the brewing process with a little more confidence.

How do you make beer might well be the next question you have so see this article or explore our site for some great ways to get started. With just the basic beer ingredients above, you can start experimenting until your drink is just the way you like it.

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