Alcohol: The Making Of

By James Madeiros


How Different Types of Alcohol Are Made

To the drink-loving layperson, the making of alcohol may seem a bit like magic. A little of this, a little of that, ferment, ferment and voila! Booze. But, how does it really happen?

Fermentation is the unifying theme among beer, wine and liquor, although what is being fermented is what makes the difference between the three.

Beer is actually pretty easy to make and always involves a combination of four ingredients: water, yeast, barley and hops. Briefly, water is mixed with barley as it is mashed to help extract sugars. Once done, more water is added to the mix and then boiled. Then hops are added to give beer that beery taste, after which yeast is added to trigger fermentation. Tweaks in this process and additional flavors added later are what give beer its wide variety.

Wine is basically fermented grape juice. Red wine is made from fermenting grapes with skins intact, while white wine is made from the juice of pressed grapes with skins removed. Either way, the juice begins to ferment on its own, but yeast is later added to help the process along. Factors that give wine its variety include the type of grape, the type of storage barrel, additional flavor ingredients and length of maturation.

Last but certainly not least, the key to making liquor is the process of distillation. Generally speaking, liquor is the distillation of beer or wine in that it is either a grain or fruit that is used as a base. Distillation is the process of boiling the alcohol base and collecting and condensing the ethanol vapor that results. The vast variety of liquors is the result of distilling different bases (grains, fruits, potatoes, agave plants and sugar/molasses) as well as the addition of different flavor ingredients and storage techniques.

Liquor is more difficult to produce compared to beer or wine and is also illegal to make without a slew of licenses and permits, so if you’re thinking about a home brewing operation you may want to stick to the basics.

Of course, I should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, you should work with your medical professional to determine what’s best for you. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

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