Well, here I am back at my favourite hobby: making and drinking beer. A back injury and cold weather kept me from outside brewing all winter, so I just brewed from kits. Not nearly as good or fun as all-grain, but it’s still tax-free! So, to demonstrate the difference between the two, brewing from a kit is as simple as adding water to concentrated wort (pronounced “wert”) and adding yeast. That simple. But, there’s no control over the end product, other than playing with fermentation temperatures.
Here is how real beer is made: First pic shows a hopper of barley ready for crushing. The drill at the bottom left spins two textured crushing rollers, which have a specific spacing to crack open the grain.
This is what cracked barley looks like… the little white pieces are the heart of the grain, which contains the complex carbohydrates we’re interested in… when exposed to just the right temperature of water, it converts to simple sugars thanks to the enzymes the barley has as well. Cool, eh?
Meanwhile, I have about 8 gallons of water heating up on my propane burner. This is why brewing all-grain is an outdoor activity! Once at about 175F, the water gets transferred to my mash tun, which in my case, is beer-speak for modified picnic cooler.
This is my “mash tun”. It has some grates for a false bottom, and a modified spigot.
The voile material you see held in place with spring clamps keeps the wet mash from getting everywhere, and makes clean-up a breeze. After I have transferred the hot water from my boil kettle to the picnic cooler, I cover it and wait 5 or so minutes for the water to heat up the cooler. The temperature stabilizes around 162F, which is perfect. I add in my grain, mix it around, then add hot or cold water to attain an exact temperature of 150F. This is crucial. Once there, it sits covered up for 90 minutes. This is the magic time, when the complex carbs are converted to simple sugars.
Next up: recirculation. After 90 minutes, I drain the wort into the boil kettle, then pump it back through the grain bed. This filters the wort, removing most suspended particles.
This recirculation is called “vorlaufing”.
Now comes the boil! Once all (or most) of the wort is drained into the kettle, it’s boiled for 60 minutes.
The voile sheet makes for easy clean-up. The spent grain is donated to a local pig farmer in White Lake. Most commercial breweries do just that – support local agriculture by giving away what the animals consider to be a real treat.
After 45 minutes of vigorous boiling, I add a teaspoon of Irish moss. This makes the suspended proteins coagulate and drop to the bottom. Makes for clearer beer.
This is the effect of the Irish moss – makes it look like egg drop soup! Once off the flame, I get a good whirpool going and let it cool off. The hops (which I added at the beginning of the boil) and trub – another beer term for this stuff you see suspended – sinks to the bottom and forms a cone.
Next day, all the trub has settled, so I transfer the cooled wort to my fermenters. The wort is very clear which is great!
Just add some water to top them up, sprinkle yeast on top, and wait for 2 to 3 weeks. Bottle, wait a few days, and here’s what you get:
Mmmm – beer! What’s pictured is an IPA made from a Brewhouse Canada kit. It’s not bad, but not as good as mine! So, if you have any questions, let me know. I’m open to having people hang out on brew day, so drop me line to find out when I’m out on the deck creating this nectar of the gods.
Cheers for beers,