How to Brew: An Overview
Alright, let’s talk about brewing beer! Over the next several weeks, we’ll be releasing a series of posts about the brewing process, specifically comparing regular brewing with using gluten-free ingredients. We’ve already discussed several gluten-free grains in one of our previous posts, but now we’ll talk about the process of taking them from grains to delicious, delicious beer.
To start, let’s quickly go over the brewing process. Each future post will focus on one elements outlined below. Keep in mind, this is a generic overview of the process and can differ significantly depending on the type of beer that is being brewed:
- Malting: Often not included in the traditional brewing discussion because it is usually not performed at the brewery, malting is a crucial step in the process. The raw grains are germinated, which essentially means they are allowed to sprout, developing the enzymes necessary for brewing. The grains are sometimes roasted to add flavor to the beer.
- Mashing: The grains are milled to expose the starches and then mixed with water in a mash tun to form the mash. The mash is raised to specific temperatures to activate the enzymes, which break down the starches into sugars, a process called saccharification.
- Lautering: In this step, the sugary water, known as the wort, is separated from the grains in a lauter tun. The wort is drained away and a process called sparging trickles water through the grains to increase the sugar extraction.
- Boiling: The beer is boiled to extract alpha acids from the hops as well as flavor and aroma. This provides the trademark bitterness and also serves to sterilize the beer. At the end of the boil, the wort is often filtered using a whirlpool process and then cooled to ready it for fermentation.
- Fermenting: Now that the wort has been prepared, it is ready to be turned into beer. The wort is put in a fermentation tank and yeast is added to convert the sugars into alcohol. The yeast, a fungus, consumes the sugar and releases alcohol and carbon dioxide, naturally carbonating the beer.
- Conditioning: The beer is allowed to rest to remove unwanted flavors. The yeast has already processed most of the sugars, but remains active and begins consuming the unwanted compounds still in the brew. At the end of the process, the yeast flocculates (assuming it is a flocculating strain) and sinks to the bottom for of the tank removal.
- Filtering: Most breweries filter the beer after conditioning to remove the last of the unwanted sediments. After filtration, beers are typically carbonated in a bright tank.
- Packaging: The beer is bottled or canned and packed or kegged for shipment.
Oh, and of course step #9: Drinking!
To learn more about each step in the brewing process, and how it differs for gluten free beers, stay tuned over the next few weeks. We’ll be diving in-depth into each step.