Brewing: From Grains to Glass
The Ingredients: At Solstice Brewing Company we begin each beer by selecting the proper malts to achieve the color, body, and roasted or carmel flavors in the finished beer. Light beers have little or no roasted or toasted malts and dark beers have a lot of heavily roasted malts.
The malt is then “cracked” in a mill and mixed with hot water in the mashtun until the temperature is stabilized somewhere between 148 and 158 degrees. The grains are then steeped for approximately 60-90minutes. During this time natural enzymes in the grain spring to life and begin breaking down starches in the grain into fermentable sugars.
After the grain has been steeped it is then sparged (rinsed) with warm water. The sparge water runs over the grains, picking up the sweet liquid along the way, and moves into a boiling kettle. After the grains have been sparged with the appropriate amount of water the resulting liquid in the kettle is called wort.
The wort is then brought to a boil and hops are added. Hops are boiled in the wort for different amounts of time to bring out different flavor profiles. The addition of hops at different times of the boil can change the amount of bitterness, the aroma, and the herbal flavor of the beer.
Once the hop boil is complete the wort is cooled and yeast is added to begin the fermentation. The yeast begins to consume the fermentable sugars in the wort and produces alcohol and Co2 as by-products. After 10-14 days the yeast will have consumed all of the sugar and go dormant. The beer is then cooled for several days and then filtered. Calculated amounts of Co2 are then injected into the beer to give it just the right amount of bubbles. The beer is then ready to be packaged for shipping or served up straight out of the tanks of your local brewpub. Cheers!
Brief History of Brewing:
Brewing beer is essentially the process of extracting the fermentable sugar from grains and fermenting it. What makes beer the beverage that we know today is the generation upon generations of learning and experimentation driven by the necessity to increase the desirable flavor and storage life of beer.
Beer has been brewed for several thousand years and was originally done so to use up grain in forms other than flour, meal, or seed. Every culture that has ever evolved its agricultural processes to such an extent that they had more grain or fruit than they could store, began the process of fermentation. Early fermentations were wild and usually fermented by wild yeasts present on the grains of fruit skins. Over time people began to isolate favorable yeasts by reusing the sediments and jars of the better tasting beverage when beginning to ferment the new one. For this reason there are many wonderful yeast strains around the world developed to produce the best or most desirable flavors from each distinct fermentation. That is why the strain of yeast used can effect the finished flavor of a wine or beer as much as some of the ingredients.
Beer as we know it today usually contains for basic ingredients: Water, grain, hops, and yeast. In the past these ingredients would have been almost the same except hops. In the process of brewing the sweetness of the grains is extracted by steeping and rinsing with water. This fermentation produced a sweet liquid that was alcoholic, but lacked good flavor and storability. People in past began spicing the beer with everything from cinnamon to onions and garlic. Some of these helped to improve the flavor of the beer and increase its life, but none did as much for the brew as hops. The addition of hops to the brew created a distinctly bitter flavor to contrast the residual sweetness of the fermented wort and the acidity of the hops did much for the shelf life. At this time beer, as we know it today, was born.