Shoppers Schoolhouse - A Visit To a Microbrewery
If you have ever wondered how your favorite microbrewed beer came to be, read on to find out.
Grain is the essence of beer. It is the sweet malted barley that gives the beer its color, flavor, and body. Join us now as we follow the journey of the grain...
Barley is a cereal grain of the genus Hordeum that grows in temperate regions of the world. The many strains of barley used in brewing can be devided into two types, two row, and six row. Two row barley is preferred over six row because its kernels, called barley corn, are plumper and sweeter than six row barley.
Belgian Bisquit Malt
Brewing is hard work. At a microbrewery, a brewers job involves early mornings, long hours, and heavy lifting. Here a 6000 pound shipment of Barley is unloaded by hand.
The process of making great beer involves several steps.
- Milling: In this step the grains are crushed so that the endosperm, the starchy matter inside the grain's hull, is exposed.
- Mashing: Here the starches from the grain are broken up by enzymatic action into fermentable sugars and dissolved into the brewing water, becoming wort.
- Lautering: The separation of the sweet wort from the spent grains.
- Boiling: In this step, the hops are added and the beer receives its bitterness.
- Fermentation: The wort is cooled and yeast is added, allowing fermentation to begin. It is in this step that the alcohol is produced. It is then aged and conditioned.
- Bottling In this final step the beer is packaged for your consumption, so go ahead and enjoy!
Unloading a shipment of Malted Barley
Milling the barley is an important step in the brewing process. Milling exposes the starch found inside each barley corn, so that the enzymes can do their job during the mashing process. The "crush" of the grains is essential, as it will affect the next two steps in the brewing process.
If the "crush" is too coarse, then the mashing process will not be able to extract all of the fermentables from the grain.
Too fine a grind and you risk having a stuck run off during the lautering process. .
Barley Being Milled
Mashing the grains involves using heat, and the enzymes that occur naturally in malted barley to convert the starch present in the grain into sugar, which can be used by the yeast during fermentation.
First water is pumped into the mash tun, then grains are added. Now the temperature is adjusted to activate the enzymes.
Grains in the Mash Tun
This is the control panel, from here the temperature of the mash , and other parameters, can be controlled. Precise temperature control is essential during the mash, as the temperature must be high enough to activate the enzymes, but too much heat will destroy them..
The control panel
After giving the enzymes time to make their conversion, the brewer must be sure that the transformation of starch into sugar is complete. To do this the mash is tested for the presence of starch. A few drops of iodine are added to a sample of the mash, If the Iodine turns purple, this indicates the presence of starch. This shows that the mash is not complete. When the iodine does not turn purple, there is no starch present, and the mash is complete.
Testing for Starch
At this point the wort is pumped out of the mash tun, and into the lauter tun, to be seperated from the spent grain.
The lauter tun is a vessel with a false bottom. There is a grate that allows the spent grain to be separated from the wort. The wort is pumped back into the mash tun, while the spent grains are removed to be used as cattle feed.
At this point, the husks of the grains have completed their journey, but the sweet wort extracted from the grains is just about to begin its adventures.
Farmers Pick Up Spent The Grain
Now the wort is pumped into the brewpot to begin the boil.
The first hops are added, even before the lautering is complete. The wort is then boiled for 1 1/2 hours.
Additional hops are added to provide flavor and the boil is completed. The wort then enters a whirlpool where the proteins are allowed to coagulate, and form what is called a trub cake. The wort is then separated from the coagulated solids, ready to ferment.
Adding hops to the wort
Yeast from the previous batch is added to the fermenter, and the wort is pumped in. Fermentation takes place. The yeast converts the sugars from the malt into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The beer is aged. Now it is ready to be bottled..
Yeast is added to the fermenter
This is where the bottling takes place. Bottles are moved along a conveyor belt, and fed into the bottle filler.
Because the beer is already carbonated, the beer must be kept under pressure to preserve the head and to prevent the beer from foaming over before it is capped.
Once full, the bottles are capped, Inspected, and packaged for sale.
We're gonna do it our way... A Fresh Beer, Ready for market