What is the difference between a brewer and a distiller?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

The difference between a brewer and a distiller lies in the ingredients they use and the processes they employ to create their respective beverages. Let’s delve into the details.

1. Ingredients:
– Brewer: Brewers primarily use malted grains, such as barley, in their beer production. Malted grains have undergone a process called malting, where they are soaked in water, allowed to germinate, and then dried. This activates enzymes in the grains that convert starches into fermentable sugars, which yeast can consume to produce alcohol.
– Distiller: On the other hand, distillers often utilize unmalted grains, such as corn, wheat, rye, or barley, in their spirit production. These grains do not undergo the malting process and are used in their raw form. Distillers also commonly use other ingredients like fruits, botanicals, or even previously distilled spirits to create a base for their products.

2. Brewing Process:
– Brewer: Brewers follow a brewing process that involves mashing, lautering, boiling, fermentation, and packaging. During mashing, malted grains are mixed with hot water to extract sugars, creating a liquid known as wort. Lautering separates the liquid wort from the spent grains. The wort is then boiled, hops are added for bitterness and flavor, and the mixture is cooled before yeast is added for fermentation. After fermentation, the beer is packaged and carbonated.
– Distiller: Distillers, on the other hand, employ a distillation process that involves mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation. The mashing process is similar to brewing, where the grains are mixed with hot water to extract sugars. The resulting liquid, known as the wash, is then fermented using yeast, converting the sugars into alcohol. Distillation involves heating the wash and collecting the evaporated alcohol, which is then condensed back into a liquid. This process is typically repeated multiple times to increase alcohol concentration. the distilled spirit is often aged or matured in barrels to develop flavors before being bottled.

3. End Product:
– Brewer: Brewers produce a wide variety of beer styles, ranging from light lagers to hoppy IPAs and rich stouts. The flavors, aromas, and characteristics of beer are influenced by factors like malt selection, hop varieties, yeast strains, and brewing techniques.
– Distiller: Distillers, on the other hand, create a diverse range of spirits, including whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, and more. The choice of grains, fermentation process, distillation method, and aging significantly impact the final taste, aroma, and complexity of the spirit.

While both brewers and distillers are involved in the production of alcoholic beverages, their differences lie in the ingredients they use and the processes they employ. Brewers primarily use malted grains in their beer production, following a brewing process, while distillers often utilize unmalted grains and employ a distillation process to create a variety of spirits. The end products, beer and spirits, differ in flavor, aroma, and characteristics due to these variations in ingredients and processes.