A Guide to Craft Brewing by John Alexander

By John Alexander

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Despite their complexity, enzymes are capable of building up, by condensation reactions, and reducing, by hydrolytic reactions, long chains of polypeptides and starch virtually without error. In 1884, Emil Fischer discovered the ability of enzymes to distinguish individual glycosidic links in starch, and from this he formulated his ‘lock and key theory’ for enzyme specificity. What this means is that the enzyme is the key, and the substrate (bonds and links) the lock. As every key will only open one lock, so each enzyme will only act on a particular bond or link, and this allows the plant to build up or reduce the materials in its foodstore in an orderly and controlled fashion.

As such, the molecules are transported from the cells to the endosperm (the foodstore), where they are joined together to form long sugar chains by a series of condensation reactions. Two molecules of glucose joined in this way form maltose, add another and maltotriose is formed, then maltotetraose, and so on. When many molecules are joined like this, they form starch that is insoluble in cold water and so does not interfere with cellular processes. Starch makes up about 65 per cent of the materials in the foodstore, and when mixed with hot water the granules swell up and produce a colloidal suspension from which two forms are identified.

Over time, the terms became meaningless, although they remained in force as a trade means of identifying a type of beer. Due to economic circumstances after 1945, the beer market underwent rationalization, and with less beer being produced, the terminology gave way to ‘light’, ‘heavy’ and ‘export’, although the shillings’ rating was resurrected with the ‘real ale’ crusade in the 1970s. Today, all the descriptions are used indiscriminately and do not always reflect the strength or character of the traditional beer styles.

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