WHAT IS A BREWERY?
A brewery is a place where beer is produced via a number of processes from mashing, sparging, boiling, bottling and then ageing.
WHAT IS BEER?
Beer is an alcoholic drink resulting from the fermentation of malt, hops and water. Beer can be categorized into ales and lagers, the Zymurgorium will be mostly dealing with ales from the beer side. Ales use yeast that ferments at higher temperatures and from the top, these higher temperatures usually allow for more interesting flavours whereas in lagers the yeast ferments from the bottom and works best at cold temperatures however dependant on style this can be changed by the brewer to create certain flavours by stressing the yeast.
Some beers throughout the world use symbiotic relationships between fungi, yeast and bacteria to add flavours or have just found different solutions to making beer such as sake beers and wines which use koji as well as yeast to break down and ferment rice.
THE BREWING PROCESS OF BEER…
Please refer to the diagram above.
The Brewing process of beer is perhaps the most technical of all fermented drinks this is because an extra step has to be taken when dealing with malt; grain is mostly a store of sugar for the growing parts of a seedling, this store is called starch. Grains use enzymes whilst sprouting to release these sugars into a useable form; it is this process that we take advantage of when forming malt. In controlled buildings known as oast houses grain is dried to below 14% water content, this stops the grain from sprouting prematurely. When the maltsters are ready they then steep the grains in water over a period; the grain then starts to sprout all together. The sprout at the top is measured daily, when the sprout reaches finishing length of about 1cm the malt is then kiln dried. The malt is kept at this certain length as this indicates the perfect moment where the sprout has the best enzyme:starch content leave them any longer and you risks the sprout eating up most of its sugars whilst growing. Different shades of malt are produced by having them in the kiln for differing lengths; this plus the number of different species of cereals that can be made into malt is one of the main reasons beers can taste so different!
Hops are also another key player when it comes to making different styles and flavours of beer. Hops are a relatively recent addition to the brewing world where the first documented use was the 11th century (which means it was most likely used some point beforehand) whereas ale as a whole has been brewed since at least the 5th millennium BC. The brewers back then would have used the whole world around them to bitter/flavour the beer from herbs, fruit, flowers, seaweed and minerals. Hops being a very easy plant to grow and harvest with consistent flavour overtook the brewing world. Although hops is a fantastic plant many brewers are now experimenting with more traditional flavourings to discover flavours we have lost through time and essentially laziness. Hops are grown on wires to force the hop plants upward; the plants were traditionally maintained by farmers who utilised stilts so they could walk and tender the plants much more efficiently than having to constantly move ladders. In late Summer Early Autumn the hops start to flower, this flower is what is harvested, the hop flowers are then stored and raked to encourage them to dry and hold their essential oils. Brewers get excited around this year and quite often celebrate this time by purchasing hops that are not dried in order to make beer using fresh hops.
Now that the farming is over we can discuss the brewing process used at the Zymurgorium…
- The malt arrives at the Zymurgorium already crushed via the use of a mill; this increases the surface area of available starch to which the enzymes present can break down into fermentable sugars.
- We use one vessel to be a boiler, mash/lauter tun and copper. This is primarily for space reasons and does not affect the overall quality of the beer it just means each process takes just a little more time. Firstly the vessel is used as a mash tun; the water is heated to around 74-5°C, then the grist (aka malt and adjuncts) are added over a period of around 1hr30mins the grist’s enzymes are forced to breakdown as much of the starch as possible into sugars, other imported and complex enzymatic actions also occur at this point. This process is known as mashing and the result isn’t beer yet but something called ‘’wort’’ (pronounced ‘’wert’’).
The vessel then becomes a lauter tun, lauter literally is German to separate, the mash is heated to 77°C which stops enzymatic reactions. The wort is then pumped from the vessel into another storage vessel, the spent grist then undergoes sparging to capture as much of the sugar as possible. This grist is then removed and either then used to flavour bread or fed to the animals on the farm so is never wasted. Roughly we can produce 1.5 Barrels at a time.
- The wort is stored in this vessel whilst the mash tun soon to be used as a copper is cleaned of grist.
- The wort is pumped back into the previous vessel now being used as something called a copper, a copper is essentially a wort boiler; at this point you insure sterilisation of the wort via boiling and this is also the point where you add hops and other ingredients for bittering and flavouring.
- This hopped wort is then pumped towards the fermentation vessel/s; but on the way the utilisation of something called a hopback might be in place; some ingredients primarily being hops, herbs and spices lose certain characteristics when placed directly into the copper as the essential oils become volatised. This is where the hopback is useful; the hopback essentially has ingredients which get quickly flushed with hot (not boiling) wort for a brief period, this extracts the desired flavour compounds whilst leaving much of the bitterness behind. The wort is then also chilled to just above fermentation temperature before entering the fermentation chamber.
- Here is the exciting part here is where the beer is made! Here at Zymurgorium we use top-fermenting yeast and warmer temperatures than used in lagers. The yeast is added to the wort and is then left for a period of usually a week whilst being monitored. At this point dry hops (hops not heated) and wood may be added to give a more intense flavour (not bitterness); other more subtle ingredients who’s delicate flavour might be metabolised by working yeast is added a few days after the initial yeast colonisation.
The yeasty foam on the top is harvested this can later be used for the conditioning of the bottles.
The sediment from here is used in the walled garden for compost.
- Some beers may go through another additional stage called lagering; here at the Zymurgorium we produce only Ale styled beer not lager, lagering simply refers to the process of extra storing time this is done in a another vessel to allow more yeast to sediment and to allow for more development in the beer to take place before the final stage.
Some breweries filter their beer; here at the Zymurgorium we do not do this. Filtration is basically pumping the beer through a similar machine used at swimming pools which centrifuge particles to the side and purge them making for a brighter beer. The main reason these are not used here is because there can be a loss of flavour, the Zymurgorium makes many fruit flavoured Ales which would suffer. This is not to say that filtration damages all beer styles for very clean and crisp ales/lagers filtration does add that extra sheen more quickly, but this is something that can be produced simply by letting the beer lager for longer (no need to rush I say).
- Finally when the beer is ready it is bottled/casked. These final vessels undergo a stage called priming; this is where the harvested yeast and either sugar/wort are added. Here we use a method called ‘’la méthode champenoise’’ (this was actually a method used by UK sparkling cider makers copied then by the French to make Champagne) where these sugars get fermented, as the CO2 cannot escape it is trapped in the beer giving the carbonation we desire.
The beer is then left for a period to mature inside the vessel; the beer is still at this point a living creature and changes with time, some beers may take up to 10 years to be at their best. We usually leave them for around 4-7 weeks (nothing great is rushed; refer to the tortoise and the hare) where they are ‘’objectively’’ and ‘’professionally’’ monitored with absolutely no personal pleasure being taken to ensure the quality…
This is what makes Real Ale different to heavily pasteurised beers/lagers which are forcefully carbonated; the effervescence in real ale is due to the slow bottled fermentation process. This conditioning of the bottles/casks does not cause much of an elevation in alcohol levels as it is mostly aerobic respiration.