If you want to see how your beer is made, in pictures from start to finish, read on…..
First the malt (usually two, three or four different types) is weighed out according to the recipe. We use Maris Otter pale malt, Chocolate malt, Dark Malt and Crystal Malt – they all have their specific uses and quantities vary according to the recipe.
Then it is loaded into the hopper from where it is hauled up into the mash tun with an Archimedes screw – very clever! This is noisy but saves lots of lifting heavy sacks of malt.
The malt is poured into the mash tun, a huge steel vessel, along with hot water (74 degrees C) being stirred all the time into a giant porridge. The porridge ends up at 65 degrees C and the smell is a lovely – ovaltiney and malty!
Once all the malt is mixed to the correct thickness the lid is put on, to maintain the correct temperature for the mash. After about 90 minutes, during which time the malt’s sugars are released into the water, by the action of naturally occurring enzymes, we have a hot sweet wort (pronounced ‘wert’).
The mash tun has a false bottom, so when we switch on the sparge water (hot water sprinkled onto the top of the mash) it rinses the wort out of the grain, and the wort comes out of the bottom, leaving the spent grain inside the mash tun. The grain bed acts as a filter as the wort is ‘run off’ from the bottom of the mash tun into the underback,
The hot wort is pumped into the ‘copper’ (no longer made of copper but a huge steel boiling kettle) from the underback. The wort is pumped direct to the bottom of the copper to avoid too much splash, and so as to aid thorough mixing.
The copper is heated with three large electric elements, until we have a good rolling boil, for about 90 minutes.
This is when the brewery can feel like a sauna! The strong smell of hops takes over from the malty mash smell.
Hops are added at two stages, releasing bitterness and aroma compounds. We use only English grown hops, Fuggle, Golding, Whitbread Golding, Challenger, English Cascade and Bramling Cross. The boiling sterilises and concentrates the wort and precipitates unwanted proteins.
At the end of the boil, the hot sterile wort is filtered through the bed of hops and pumped into the fermentation vessel via a heat exchanger so that it arrives at 18 degrees C, a coolish fermentation temperature, which rapidly rises to 22 degrees C, and is kept in the range 20-22 degrees C.The heat ‘extracted’ is transferred into water which ends up in the hot liquor tank, ready for use either cleaning or in the next brew – helps reduce the electricity bill! The wort is poured into the fermentation vessel using a fishtail hose, so that it is well aerated and in prime condition for the yeast to begin work.
The fresh yeast is skimmed off the top of the previous week’s brew and stored in a sterile fridge until needed.
The buckets of yeast are poured into the fermenting vessel – ‘pitched’ – and the vessel is then covered over, and the party starts!
The yeast begins to break down the sugars and convert them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Primary Fermentation takes 3 to 4 days, depending on the strength of beer. Yeast is skimmed off two or three times for use next time. Just before the end of primary fermentation, the beer is cooled to 8 degrees C, so as to preserve some fermentable sugar for secondary fermentation and conditioning in the barrel. 6 days after the brew, the beer is barrelled into into 9 gallon casks called firkins.
The barrels are cleaned until they are spotless, sterilised and sealed with a keystone in the top and a shive in the side. Finings are added during barrelling which clears the beer of yeast making it ready to drink.
Once barrelled it is stored in a cool room, where secondary fermentation takes place for a week or two, building up carbon dioxide.
After transport to the pub, the barrel is ‘tapped’, in other words a tap is hammered into the keystone, for connection to the pipe leading to the bar. A soft wooden spile is pushed into the shive, to release excess gas, and once judged to be ready, a hard spile is tapped in, which seals the barrel. The yeast is left to settle and once the beer is clear the spile is removed so that the beer can be drawn through the pipe to the bar.