First published on 22 Aug 2013. Updated on 24 Sep 2013.
Wearing safety goggles over our sleep-deprived eyes (it’s 6am!) the day starts with a lot of gun flexing and dust huffing as we upend massive sacks of flavour-boosting roasted and crystal malts into a crusher. Thankfully, big pipes ferry the other tonne of pale malt to the giant pot/masher. We’re not that tough.
Mashing in is one of the steps which could mess up your beer. The temperature of the water determines which enzymes are activated in the mash and what final alcohol and residual sugar you will achieve – these are important components of the beers balance. Luckily, a computer adjusts the heat for us.
While things are getting sweet and soupy in the mash tun we measure the things that are going to make the beer taste beery. In this case: hop flowers, new season hop pellets and a raft of other brewing knick-knacks like brewer’s salts that also help define the balance of the final beer.
After an hour we get a sample (it tastes like hot, sweet, liquid Weetbix – good with whisky, apparently) and drip in iodine to see if the starch is cooked out. It is. Huzzah! We take more to the lab to check the PH balance, strength and sugar levels (and take photos of ourselves looking sciency).
After 75 minutes, we drain our liquid (the wort) into a giant kettle and rinse the grain to get the last of the tasty sugars and make up the volume. When it boils, we add the hop pellets and our raft of other brewing and then we jump into the mash tun to shove out the grain for famer Jurgen’s dairy cows. Delicious.
Pie time, and then more testing for PH and sugar (it turns out beer-making is about 80 percent chemistry, and 20 percent running up and down stairs).
Once our almost-beer is scientifically perfect, we spin out the debris in a big whirlpool, run it through a big tea strainer thing holding our succulent hop flowers (the hop back) and send it through cold pipes to chill. And that’s it! We siphon off a barrel for own hoppy batch, and the rest goes into Elwood (the open fermenter) with live yeast. In one month, it will be beer! Job done.
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