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How is beer made and with what ingredients?

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Beer has four main ingredients: malted barley (or occasionally other grains such as wheat), yeast, hops and water. The barley is "malted" by being dampend and allowed to germinate. The malted barley is handled in a variety of ways, and this is one reason why beer is so varied in flavour, colour and other characteristics. In general, the malted barley is roasted (and this is largely what imparts the colour) and then mixed with the water, yeast and hops to ferment. The hops impart the beer flavour, and, once again, vary greatly in character, quality and amount. Beers are fermented in different ways too. They can be "top-fermented" or "bottom fermented" referring to how the yeast is added. The results of these different techniques are called either pilsners or ales, and a heffeweisen is a beer which ferments using only the natural yeasts in the air (they're all around us!!!). The end product is filtered (and, in big companies, pasteurized - ie. boiled!) and then bottled. The bubbles are CO2 produced by the yeast as they eat the sugars from the malt. The yeast are little animals which live until all the sugar is consumed by them, and they leave two valuable by-products: alcohol and carbon dioxide.
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