Why Brewing Beer is a lot like building a website

Dan

Dan
Writes on 9th August 2016

I've got a real passion for brewing beer much like I have for problem-solving and coding, so I've used this as an excuse to write about beer and why I think brewing beer is a lot like building a website.

I've been homebrewing now for 15+ years, I started off making wine and cider, but in the last few years, I've moved over to making beer. In the last 12 months I've moved on to process of making beer referred to as "all grain", a process whereby I work with grain and other adjuncts to make my beer "from scratch", It's really as close as you can get to making beer in the same way most breweries do.

Planning

All great websites and beer start with a plan, a recipe and process you'll follow. Now that doesn't mean that you have to have plan to make good beer (or websites), I've tried plenty of beers that are very much "what have I got lying around" or "I'll just throw this in" that I'd deem tasty, but I've certainly found that they're better when some level of thought and planning has gone into them.

With brewing even though the process I follow from batch to batch is very similar, there are a few key variable I can change in the process to produce exactly what I want. These small changes can have a big impact on the resulting beer, but in my experience nowhere near as profoundly as the recipe. The recipe formulation really defines what it is I'm going to make, and with websites that's no different, at Webnetism we spend time with our clients, define exactly what it is they want and produce a detailed plan of what we're going to deliver before we even start building the website.

Mashing

Mashing is what I really consider the first step in brewing beer. Mashing involves soaking crushed grains (malted barley more often than not) in water that's been heated to a specific temperature for a period of time. The temperature covers a range of around 54-75c, but generally we mash in the 60s, and very commonly at around 68c. The chosen temperature allows us to encourage certain enzymes to convert starches found in the grains into sugars, where certain enzymes will produce different types of sugars. The goal of mashing is to produce a fermentable liquid called wort, which is essentially an ideal environment for yeast and the fundamental base of a beer – but we'll get to this later.

With building websites we also need to make sure we've got a reliable "base" for anything we produce and that's why our new Content Management System (CMS42) is an ideal choice – it's fast, scalable and flexible enough so that it can be used to produce even the most bespoke of solutions our clients require.

Boiling

Once we're done mashing and sparging (effectively rinsing the grain to extract any residual sugar in the mash sugars) we take the wort and we boil it. Boiling achieves various things but there are 3 main reasons we boil:

  • Melanoidins – during the boil sugars and amino acids are combining at high temperatures to create melanoidins. The same thing happens when you cook most foods and generally attributes the flavours that are produced as food browns. In beer making this is the same and the wort can take on sweeter caramel like flavours and darker colours to give the eventual beer different characteristics
  • Hop alpha acid isomerisation – hops are used for a couple of things in beer, taste (bitterness, flavour and aroma) and also preservation. The hop flavours are very volatile but to extract these things from hops we add them at different parts of the boil (and sometimes at a later date once beer is made, but we won't talk about this in this article), add them at the start of the boil (generally a 60 minute period) and you'll extract a good deal of bitterness from the hops as their alpha acids isomerise, add them towards the end (last 20 minutes or less) and you'll begin to add hop flavours to your beer, add them right at the end of the boil and you'll add aroma. 
  • Sanitation – anything after the boil needs to be free from "nasties", the unwanted bacteria and organisms that can spoil your beer. Not a great deal can live in a liquid that's been boiled, so boiling your wort is a great way to ensure you're "base" is clean and safe to use.

This step is all about balance, you can overdo hop additions (though that's a very popular thing at the moment) and boiling, but in my mind you want to get a good balance between your sweet wort and hop bitterness whilst adding other interesting elements to your beer. When we're building websites we want this nice "clean" start point, but we also want to be able to develop our websites to have character. Webnetism and our clients want to get the most out of our websites getting that right balance of fantastic design, flexibility and usability whilst providing all the functionality our clients are after.

Sanitation

As stated above anything not getting boiled, or heated to hot temperatures needs to be sanitised ensuring there's nothing living in the wort that could spoil the beer you're making. Making sure anything underlying your products is clean is fundamental to the way we build websites, you don't want to start building your website on top of something that's rubbish otherwise, regardless of how hard you work on a site you're going to end up with something that's rubbish. At Webnetism our projects always start with a clean base, whether that's our CMSecommerce or a completely bespoke system, we know that it's going to be clean, efficient and we know that the end solution is going to be built to meet the exact requirements our client has.

Fermentation

Fermentation is really where there sweet-bitter wort becomes beer. Yeast consume sugars in the wort and produce CO2 and alcohol. There's loads of different yeast cultures you can use that'll have vastly different impacts on the beer you produce, but generally there's one that's best for the job and one that's really going to produce the beer you're trying to create. 

It's all about control at this point and Yeast, like developers, like a comfortable working environment, with the right temperatures and plenty of sugars (biscuits in our case) and given the best environment produce the best work. That's why our biscuit tins always full and the websites we're building are always great. Sure we might not be as good as making alcohol as yeast is, but I'd like to see them build a website!

Bottling and Kegging

This is fundamentally preparing your final product for consumption – or use in the case of websites.

Now granted this article is supposed to be about why brewing beer is a lot like making a website, but in this section I'm going to have to say it's not. Once you've produced, bottled and served your beer there's very little you can do to change it, maybe there's something not quite right in the recipe or in the process but unfortunately that generally means it's something you'll have to address next time you brew that beer. With websites we always aim to make sure they're extendable so if the requirements of our clients change, or they decide they need their website to do more, we can deliver without having to build the website from scratch.

Brewing to Style

Styles in beer exist, they help describe and categorise a beer, and when drinking a particular style of beer you more or less know what to expect. Styles exist to provide these descriptors but often came about as the popular drinks from particular parts of the world. These popular styles may have been a direct result of the water chemistry of an area, the culture or the ingredients commonly found there, but in some cases (and this is true in modern beer making) purely because the style works and tastes great.

A LOT of the websites we produce are have common functionality, ranging from simple CMS systems to ecommerce and CRM solutions, Webnetism have a great deal of experience with these systems, no matter how complex they get and can always produce a solution for these requirements. With CMS42 at its core your website will maintain its flexibility to work the way you want it.

Brewing out of style

A lot of newer styles that are popular in beer at the moment have been formed as a result of people experimenting, trying to produce something never done before, and some of these are incredible.

With websites we understand that a lot of the time there isn't a solution that already exists for what you want and what you ask us to develop may be completely new. This is exactly the reason why Webnetism has the capacity, skill and knowledge to produce completely bespoke solutions to meet the requirements for even the most complex, ambitious and out-of-the-box projects.

Why not just go out and buy the beer?

Sure you could just go out and buy mass produced cheap lager, and for some this'll work, they'll enjoy it and in the short term it might save some money, but it certainly doesn't mean it's the best solution available. This is true with a lot of websites being developed too, you can go out and buy an off the shelf "cheap" product that'll run and help you manage your website, but it might not be doing the best job for you, it's not really a solution built for you, it's a solution built for the masses that's been forced to work for you. Why settle for that cheap can of lager when you could be enjoying a refreshing pint of your favourite beer that you helped design and craft to quench your exact needs.

Do you think brewing beer is a lot like building a website? Let us know in the comment section below.


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1 comments

  1. Matthew Ayres

    Nice article - I like the bit about the clean base which you build on. I've done some homebrew, but not to your level, only going as far as a bit of dry-hopping.

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