Milling the grain is the first step to prepare for the mash. The goal of milling is to break up the grain so the starches are exposed and to separate the husk from the grain.
Once the grain is milled it is mixed with water in a large tank known as a mash tun. This is known as mashing and its purpose is to convert the starches from the grain to fermentable sugars. The grain and water mixture sit for an hour at a temperature between 149°F and 160°F to give the enzymes time to fully convert the starches to sugars. Mashing at the lower end of this range results in a beer with more alcohol and less body while mashing at the higher end of this range results in a beer with less alcohol and more body, thus having a significant effect on the final product.
Once the mash is complete, the liquid containing the extracted sugars, referred to as wort, must be drained from the grain into the boil kettle. This process is known as lautering. The mash tun has a perforated false bottom, that acts like a colander, allowing the wort to pass though but not the grain. The husks striped from the grain during milling act like a filter, preventing the small pieces from being transferred. While the wort is being drain, 170°F water is evenly applied over the grain. This is known as sparging and is used to rinse any remaining sugars away from the grain and into the boil kettle.
As the wort is collected into the boil kettle, it is heated until it comes to a boil. The boil usually lasts about an hour, sterilizes the wort, and causes proteins to gather and drop out. The boil is where hops and most other flavor additions are added to beer. Hops are a bitter tasting flower added to beer to help balance out the sweetness of the malt. They also add a floral or citrusy taste and aroma to the beer depending on the variety and time it is added to the boil. Hops added at the beginning of the boil add bitterness to the beer. Hops added with about 20 min remaining in the boil add the hoppy flavor to the beer. When hops are added at the end of the boil they add an aroma to the beer.
After boiling and chilled prior to transferring it to the fermenters, the wort whirlpooled and chilled. The whirlpool causes all of the hop matter and proteins, trub, to form a cone in the middle of the boil kettle. The wort can then be drawn from the outside edge, leaving the trub behind. On its way to the fermenter, the wort passes through a heat exchanger to chill it down to a temperature favored by the yeast. This temperature usually ranges from 60-75°F depending on the yeast and style beer.
The beer then sits in the fermenter anywhere from a week to two weeks. Fermentation for most of our beers is done in about 3-5 days but it may take longer for the yeast to drop out of suspension depending on the yeast strain. As the beer finishes it will be cooled down to a temperature just above freezing in a process known as cold crashing. This helps the remaining yeast drop out. Once the beer is finished in the fermenter it will be moved to a brite tank.
The beer can condition further in the brite tank allowing for the flavors to blend and smooth out. Another function of the brite tank is to carbonate the beer. CO2 is dissolved into the beer through a carbonation stone, similar to the process of oxygenating prior to fermentation. Once the beer is carbonated it is then ready to be kegged.
The beer is kegged straight from the brite tank is then ready to be picked up by the distributor or wheeled into our tap room. The beer is then tapped and poured for everyone’s drinking pleasure.