Beer has been made in effectively the same way for millennia – first preparing the ingredients, then boiling them, then fermenting them.
The Brewer begins by preparing cereal grains by milling them: cracking every husk to aid in extraction of sugars and improve lautering (i.e., the separation of the starchy liquid from the residual grain). He or she will then mix a ratio of this “grist” with hot water and let it steep. The timing and temperature of the steep creates a unique malt character in every beer. This mashing and steeping can be as simple or complex as required by the brewer, with a range of techniques employed.
Once the grains are steeped, the process of lautering begins. The brewer begins to drain off sweet wort from the bottom of the mashing vessel and will begin to rinse the grains from above with hot water. Sweet wort is heated in the brewkettle to a rolling boil. Hops are added throughout the boil for unique bitterness and flavor.
After boiling, the wort is “whirlpooled” — a technique used to separate trub (hop material and coagulated proteins) from the solution. When proper clarity is achieved, the wort is then quickly chilled to ambient temperature using a heat-exchanger and then transferred to the fermenter.
Inside the fermentation vessel, brewer’s yeast is pitched and fermentation begins. Most fermentations will take about one week to complete. The beer is then slowly cooled to encourage separation of trub and yeast from the final product. Hops may also be added post-fermentation in a technique known as “dry-hopping.”
The beer is then transferred to a bright beer tank for further maturation or packaging. Some brewers choose to filter and pasteurize their final product, while others use a more “hands-off” approach.
At The Exchange, most of our bright beer is carbonated in serving tanks and served straight out of our taps. The rest is matured in oak barrels and tanks for extended periods and then bottle conditioned.