“Beer, so much more than a breakfast drink.” I saw this saying above a friends bar. So true.
Water, malted barley, hops and yeast: that is beer. Yet that is just the beginning of the canvas. Depending on where your grains come from, to how they were kilned, they change from sweet base malt, to notes of caramel, toffee to chocolate, coffee and dark roast. Some grains will give beer a hint of raisin, others a sweet candy. Then you can add different sugars to dry out a beer, give it a different taste dimension.
Hops, a bitter flower that can be used for just bitterness, but also flavor and aroma. With the new strains available to the brewer, one can bring flavors of onions, oranges, grapefruit, dried apricots to pine. Add that with different herbs and spices and you can really make a beverage that will dance on your tongue, wanting to be paired or cooked with in a dish.
Then we have yeast, the living breath of a brew. With out yeast, a beer would only be wort, or unfermented sugars from barley. Yeast eat most of the different sugars, giving up carbon dioxide and alcohol. In this process, depending on the temperature, pitching rate (numbers of cells per volume) and yeast stain, we get flavor. Take a large batch of wort and split it up amongst different fermenters and add different yeasts; you will get different beers! Yeast can add hints of spice like clove, cinnamon to fruit flavors like banana to a brew. They can change how a beer tastes to how much body a brew has. The difference from a barleywine to a dry stout to a tripel to Bavarian wheat has some influence from the grain bill or grist, but the yeast play a huge role in the final product we know as beer.