As part of this outing, we joined the brew master at the on-site brewery and learned how to make beer, something which I would like to share with you now.
First off, it is not nearly as intimidating as you might think. There are a few pieces of equipment that we used, and some very definite rules about temperature and sanitation that we had to follow, but other than that, the making of beer took us six easy steps. We were making a stout ale, and for that we used:
1. 80 litres of hot water heated in a copper kettle to a temperature of 65-68 degrees Celsius. The actual temperature was made a little hotter than this because we wanted the actual temperature at the start of the first stage to be between 65 and 68 degrees.
2. A large sack of malted barley (looked like about 40 pounds to me).
3. A large copper kettle, called a mash tun, with an oak skirt to stop the radiant heat from the liquid and a spigot at the bottom, protected by a screen on the inside of the spigot for draining the liquid (sweet wort) out when the malted barley has been thoroughly soaked.
4. A small amount of dried hops in pellet form. The quantity was about a small ramekin full.
5. A large copper cooling tray into which the liquid from the mash tun was poured.
6. A 36 gallon keg into which the cooled liquid was poured.
7. A small vial of brewer's yeast.
In any event, brew kits are going to give you the right quantities of ingredients. What I wanted to explain was a bit of what I learned about the process itself.
All beer is made from barley, including wheat beer. Wheat beer will contain a large proportion of wheat, but will not be 100%. Barley is a starch and when starch is broken down, it becomes sugar (glucose). Yeast will convert that sugar to alcohol.
What a lot of people don't know is that in the 1860's, the labourer's diet was often lacking in nutrients, and the purity of local water supplies was often suspect. Water often had to be boiled before it could be drunk. So when labourers worked in the fields, beer was often a cheap, safe alternative to water that had the added benefit of providing nutrients and calories. It was not like the mass produced, tasteless beer of today, but was more like the ales that are produced by the smaller microbreweries today.
So the first step in the brewing process is to extract the sugars from the barley. This is done through a process called malting. Once the barley kernels have been separated from the chaff by thrashing, it is placed on a floor and moistened to start the germination process. As this is occurring, starch is being converted to sugar and when the optimal amount of sugar is present, the germination process is halted by roasting the barley. The degree to which it is roasted, just as with coffee, will dictate the flavour and colour of the resulting beer: Guinness or other dark ales, will use barley that has been roasted to a dark brown colour, as well as lighter brown. Most golden beers use barley that has been roasted to a golden brown colour. This stage doesn't concern us, as we would buy the malt already roasted from a brewing supply store. But it is nonetheless interesting to understand the process.
The next step, which is really our first step is to take the water out of the copper kettle and transfer it to the mash tun. Then we add the malted barley and stir until it is the consistency of runny oatmeal. We leave it for 45 minutes to an hour. During this time the heat is activating the enzymes in the barley and causing more starch to be converted to sugar. The water is drawing all the sugar out of the barley and much of the colour as well.
When the 45 minutes is up, we open the spigot and slowly drain the liquid, called sweet wort, into a bucket. We have to be careful not to crush the barley mash by draining it too quickly. Also, we want to get the most sugar out as possible, so to do this, once we have drained a bucket, we gently recirculate it by pouring it back into the mash tun. We repeat this for about an hour and then we start transferring the sweet wort back into the boiling kettle. At this point, the wort tastes very much like a dark ale, but without any bitterness at all. That is going to come from the hops.
I had thought that hops was a grain. But it turns out that it is a flower that grows on a vine. The way it has been grown traditionally is to have poles that stick straight up and have the vine climb the pole. So when you see poles sticking straight up in the gardens of old 19th century villages, chances are, they were growing hops. Hops contains a bitter oil that acts as a natural preservative. When the flower is dried and boiled with the sweet wort, it forms the liquid that later becomes the beer, with its characteristic bitter taste. So that is the next step: add the hops to the sweet wort and boil it for about another hour. The liquid at the end of this stage is just called wort, the "sweet" being dropped, as it is no longer just sweet.
When the wort has been boiled, this is where sanitation becomes critical. We don't want any foreign bacteria to multiply in the wort. We only want the yeast to multiply and do its job. So we have to cool the wort to room temperature as quickly as possible, while straining out any debris that could clog the spigots in the casks.
To do this, we pour the wort through cheesecloth onto a large shallow copper pan that has a spigot and draining trough attached, that in turn is fitted with a funnel assembly that will allow the cooled liquid to be poured straight into the cask. The bucket used to pour the wort into the trays is kept in the boiling kettle so as to prevent any contamination from germs that the bucket could pick up from any surface it is sitting on. It takes a good hour for the wort to come to room temperature once it is poured into the cooling trays.
Once it has cooled, the spigot is opened, and it slowly drains out into the cask. When the liquid is all in the cask, which is nowhere near full, it is time to add the yeast. The yeast comes in a small bottle and this is carfully tipped into the cask from the hole at the top, being careful not to touch any of the yeast including any spilled yeast. Then a square of cheesecloth is placed over the hole to stop anything entering the cask, but allowing carbon dioxide to escape.
Then depending on what type of beer is being made, the cask will be left for anywhere from 4-7 days. After that time, it is fit to drink, although most brewers recommend that it be left for another week to age and develop the flavours.
So that is brewing in a nutshell. I can't wait to buy a kit and try to make some of my own beer!
For this week's menu I broke out the slow cooker cookbook, so that I can get more listing done and the first item on the menu is potato and leek soup. It is extremely simple. All you need, in addition to your slow cooker is:
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 medium leeks (white part only) fully washed to remove all sand and sliced thin.
4-6 cups chicken broth, just enough to cover the vegetables when they are in the slow cooker insert.
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste.
You don't add any seasonings at the beginning. Just place the vegetables and stock on the slow cooker, turn to low and cook for 5-7 hours.
When the vegetables are done, puree the soup, in batches in a food processor, adding the butter and salt and pepper to taste at that point. Serve it with a nice French baguette and some butter.
My productivity in listing improved quite markedly over the weekend, with all the 1c and most 2c Jubilees being listed. I close out August with just over $2,000 in sales, which is very encouraging. Today, I will be tackling the 3c and 5c values. I attach scans of the 2c and 3c values now, which I haven't shown before: