Beer brewing is the age old process of turning malted barley, hops, yeast and water into the fizzy and flavorful intoxicating beverage that is unmatched in popularity. Though the spread of breweries has taken off in recent years, the process itself remains very similar to days of old and as the saying goes, "If its not broke, don't fix it."
Let's take you through the brewing process with this simple diagram:
Fig: The Brewery Process
1. MASHING & LAUTERING
We mix malted barley with hot water to achieve a temperature at which natural enzymes in the barley break down the starches to sugar which will eventually be used by the yeast to create alcohol. Many different roasts and varieties of barley are available today and brewers today mix and match these according to what color and flavor they are working to attain.
The liquid, now called "wort", is the circulated through the bed of grain to leech out more sugars and filter out grain particles. Once the wort is clarified we transfer it to the brew kettle.
The wort is brought to a boil and hops are added at different times to obtain different flavors. Boiling hops also adds bitterness. Generally hops are added at the beginning of the boil for bitterness and at the middle or end of the boil for flavor and aroma.
Certain beers like our Blonde has nearly no hops, and other like the Raging Elephant are full of hops and they are added continuously near the end of the boil.
3. COOLING & WHIRLPOOLING
Since both grain and hops are plants, particles will be left behind in the process that are undesirable in the finished product. To quell this we get the spin the wort in the kettle so that the unwanted plant matter will centrifuge in the middle and we draw the wort from above the unwanted mass.
Whirlpooling is also when we add many spices to the beer that we do not wish to boil. For example, in the Blonde we add a bag with dried orange peel and ground coriander at this stage. The wort will absorb the flavor but not have the effects of boiling such delicate spices.
The just boiled wort is then instantly cooled to a desired temperature, generally 19C for ales and 10C for lagers, while it is pumped into a clean fermenting tank and yeast is added.
At the ideal temperature the yeast will begin to eat the sugars creating alcohol and co2 in the process. The primary fermentation is usually over within a week and then the beer is carefully monitored to ensure quality and when the sugars are nearly all gone we stop the release of co2 so that natural pressure will build inside the vessel. When all the sugar has been converted to alcohol we drop the temperature inside the tank to 4C and the active yeast goes dormant and falls to the bottom.
5. MATURING AND CONDITIONING
We then transfer the beer to a different tank where it is kept to further mature and eventually get pumped to the taps for consumption. Until the last pint the beer is kept in the pressurized tank only to be exposed to the outside world when it splashes into your glass!
Here are some fun facts about beer:
1. Thomas Edison recorded a song "Glorious Beer" by Dan W Quinn on a wax cylinder in 1899, and was one of the first songs ever recorded.
2. The worlds strongest beer is 55%! This beer brewed by BrewDog is sold with the bottle inside taxidermied rodents.
3. Andre the Giant once drank 119 beers in 6 hours, and passed out in the hallway of his hotel.
4. Australian Cricketer David Boon once drank 52 beers on a flight to England. When asked about this Boon says only, "Never spoke about it, never will."
5. In 1814, 1.4million liters of beer flooded London after a vat burst!
6. At any given time almost 1% of the world's population is drunk!