Restaurant Beer Education


The processes involved in producing craft beer and better wines have a number of similarities and a number of differences. Both undergo crushing, fermentation, filtering, aging, etc., but in somewhat different manners.. This article outlines several components of the wine and beer making processes.  Part 2 discusses the different aesthetic characteristics that are related to the steps of the beer and wine making processes

Production Process Steps

  1. The Crush

  2. BulletFor beer the crush is using a grist mill to grind up whole grains (barley malt, wheat, etc.) into a grist or coarse meal. The crushed grain is then placed in the mash tun.

  3. BulletFor wines grape berries are crushed or pressed to release the juice that contains the fermentable sugar. In making red wines, the grapes are first lightly crushed and then the juice along with the crushed pulp and skins go into the fermenter. The pulp and skins will commonly be pressed later to separate them from the juice following primary fermentation. For white wines, the fresh grape berries are pressed to extract most of the juice and only the sugar-rich juice is delivered to the fermentation tank.

  4. Mashing

  5. BulletFor beer the crushed grains are steeped in hot water so that the natural enzymes found in malted barley may convert the complex starches into simpler, fermentable sugars. This process step is called mashing. The sugary liquid, called wort, is removed from the mash and delivered to the kettle.

  6. BulletWine does not undergo a mashing step because grape juice is naturally full of fermentable sugar.

  7. The Boil

  8. BulletFor beer the sweet wort is pumped into the brew kettle and boiled for typically 60 to 90 minutes. Hops (the bittering agent) are added during this step. The boil terminates the enzymatic action in the wort, extracts the bitterness and flavors from the hops, boils off undesirable volatile flavors, coagulates and precipitates proteins allowing them to be more easily removed from the beer, concentrates the wort and, finally, sterilizes the wort.

  9. BulletWine does not undergo a boil step.

  10. Fermentation

  11. BulletBoth beer and wine are naturally fermented beverages.

  12. BulletYeast produces the primary fermentation process in both beer and wine. Yeasts eat the sugars in the sweet liquid wort produced by brewing process just as they eat the sugar in grape juice. During fermentation, yeast produces both alcohol and carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide may be captured and used to carbonate beer and sparking wine.

  13. BulletDifferent sugars. The primary type of sugar in grape juice is fructose, while the primary sugar in brewing wort is maltose.

  14. BulletDifferent yeasts. While beer and wine yeasts belong to the same big family, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, there are many different strains. Vintners may use the natural yeast occurring on the grape skin, or they may add a specific winemaking yeast. Brewers almost always add a specific brewer’s yeast. Some yeast strains are better for wine, some better for beer. While they are essentially similar organisms, in that they all eat sugar and produce alcohol, different strains of yeast can have quite different effects on the beer and wine produced. Various yeasts will produce differences in fermentation speed, alcohol content, aroma and taste characteristics.  Both brewers and vintners often add very specific yeasts to control the characteristics of the resulting beverage.

  15. BulletBrewing yeasts fall into two major divisions: lager and ale. Lager yeasts sink to the bottom of the fermentation tank and do their work there. Ale yeasts rise to the top of the tank and do their thing there. Wine making yeasts are divided into several major groupings. Some are better for heavier red wines and some are better for white wines.

  16. BulletPreferences for specific strains of beer and wine yeasts are related to the production of specific beer and wine styles, for instance a Bavarian Hefeweizen or a Red Bordeaux.

  17. BulletHIgh alcohol beers are normally produced by either (a) adding more grain to the mash, as in the Imperial-style beers or (b) by adding sugar to the boil kettle, as in the stronger Belgian-style beers. The use of small amounts of sugar in brewing is not typically subject to industry or government regulation.

  18. BulletHigh alcohol table wines, such as big California Zinfandels, are produced using very ripe grapes with a high natural sugar content. Fortified wines, such as Port and Sherry are fortified, or made stronger, through the addition of grape brandy or other distilled spirit to the base wine. Subject to local/national regulations, sugar may be added to juice if the sugar content of the grapes is too low to obtain the desired alcohol percentage. Adding sugar to grape juice is called chaptalization. For example, chaptalization is not allowed in California, but is okay in the Eastern United States. It is forbidden in Italy and Australia, but allowed in Germany and in certain regions of France.

  19. Clarifying

  20. BulletBoth brewers and vintners may use racking, fining, filtering and other techniques to separate the yeast and other solids from the beer or wine before it is bottled.

  21. BulletA clear, bright translucent beer or wine has had the yeast removed from the liquid.

  22. BulletWhile filtering is very common in both beer and wine, the other techniques listed above are also effective at clarifying beer and wine.

  23. BulletAn intentionally cloudy beer, or less commonly a cloudy wine, contains residual yeast.

  24. BulletWhile many commercial beers and wines are filtered, unfiltered beers and wines are both common.

  25. Tank/Barrel Aging

  26. BulletBoth wine and beer need aging following fermentation to allow their characteristic flavors to fully develop.

  27. BulletWines typically benefit from considerably longer aging than do beers.

  28. BulletFollowing completion of fermentation, many common ales need only a few days of aging or conditioning.

  29. BulletStandard lagers typically age for several weeks or more in chilled lagering tanks before they are bottled.

  30. BulletStronger lagers such as Bocks and Doppelbocks are aged more like white wine, meaning they may be aged for several months in lagering tanks or sometimes in barrels.

  31. BulletSpecialty barrel-aged ales, often brews with higher alcohol content, typically receive a few months to a year on oak.

  32. BulletWood-aged beers and wines may not have been aged in actual wooden barrels but may have been tank aged on oak chips.

  33. BulletOnly a few sour beers, most notably the Belgian Lambics used in Gueuze, are barrel-aged for multiple years that would put them in a similar barrel-aging category as some red wines.

  34. Bottle Aging

  35. BulletBeer is more similar to white wine in that it is ready to drink when it is distributed to the market.

  36. BulletBottle-conditioned ales may require up to a few weeks of bottle-aging before they are released to market. During this time they obtain their natural carbonation in a similar manner to that of Champagne.

  37. BulletBetter red wines typically improve with some bottle aging; however, very few beers improve with bottle aging. Once they are released to market, beers change with bottle aging, but few improve to any extent. Once bottled, the majority of beer styles should be consumed within six months.


Wine & Beer Similarities, Part 1

See a brewery when visiting wine country

Wine isn’t the only tasty beverage fermenting in the tanks of Napa and Sonoma counties. Nor is wine the only local product to take gold at prestigious international competitions. And wineries aren’t the only ones with interesting, educational tours.

Why not take in a great artisan brewery on your next trip to California’s wine country. Many of the microbreweries have tours and tasting rooms that welcome your visit.

Wine Country Beer is your guide to finding the best local breweries in the northern and central coastal areas of California. Sample world-class, award winning beers. Learn more about the brewing art and the master crafts people who make it happen.