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We’re going to be chatting about a multitude of topics throughout these bulletins so we thought we’d re-discover the basics in two parts. (You can find a glossary of terms in part two, linked below).
Let's chat all things BREWING. Yes, even though it tastes as though it were sent from heaven, beer is the result of nature, science, and a brewer’s free will. We’re going to nerd out, and it's going to be fun!
It all starts with precious barley. Barley is the chosen grain for brewing for a multitude of reasons; 1) the husks act as a natural filter bed through which
to strain the wort (pronounced ‘wert’), 2) Barley contains a large amount of starches which can be converted to sugars, and 3) Barley already contains the enzymes to convert those starches to sugars! Mind blown.
In facilities called malthouses the barley is soaked in water for 2-4 days, during which the grain prepares for growth. To keep growing, just like humans, the kernels need oxygen so are transferred to a cool, aerated area where a shoot (called an acrospire) begins to grow within the kernel. It grows and grows until it is the length of the kernel itself AND THEN THE CAGE COMES DOWN! The growth is stopped in its tracks and the barley is transferred to the kiln. Sad for the barley, great for us, because this is where all that delicious malt flavour and beautiful coloring are imparted via indirect heat. (There are so many beer geek tangents on malt and kilning we could go off on at this moment but we’re going to save them for later posts. Stay tuned.)
While this is going on in the malthouse, there are brewers around the globe whose brains are spinning creating recipes for their next great brew. Just as a baker selects the grain bases that give the desired flavour and textures, the brewer selects their ‘grain bill’ from our maltster’s inventory and can choose to include adjuncts such as wheat, oats, rye, corn, or rice. Whatever grains are chosen are milled (crushed to expose the starches) and then added to the mash tun along with hot water for Mashing. Nature takes over and those handy enzymes convert the starches to sugars. AND THEN THE CAGE COMES DOWN! The brewers spike the temperature to kill this enzymatic activity and are left with a sweet
liquid full of malt flavour and colour called wort.
The wort is separated from the spent grain (“lautering”) – holla out to those barley husks – via “vorlaufing”; the recirculation of the wort for clarification and “sparging”; spraying hot water over the grain like a fire sprinkler to rinse off any remaining sugars. From there it's into the kettle we go! (Anyone else suddenly keen for a beer in the spa?) The wort is brought to a rolling boil for sanitisation and the first round of hops are added!
Alright friends, at this time we will take a short intermission so you can continue with your daily tasks - which we hope includes a drink!
You can carry on with part two, including a glossary of beer terms, here.