A brewer has a few key tasks they need to accomplish in a work day. Number one (forever and always) is clean! The cleanliness in a brewery is paramount to making a quality beer. The second is ensuring that the yeast is happy and healthy, after all yeast makes beer while brewers make wort. This brings us to the final task a brewer must ensure they are doing with care, that is making wort.
Wort is the sugary liquid that is fermented by yeast in order to create beer. Making wort is achieved in the brewhouse where three of the ingredients come together; water, malted grains and hops. These three elements all have important roles in creating a balanced and flavourful beer, but only after the most critical ingredient, yeast, has had a monitored and controlled fermentation.
Being one of the world’s oldest beverage making processes, brewing has historically prospered in areas where the access to the necessary ingredients is relatively easy. Many of the classic beer styles have grown out of clever brewers understanding how to utilize these ingredients.
Being made of over 90% water, beer is greatly influenced by the makeup of the water used in the brewhouse. Be it extremely hard or delicately soft, water has had a role in the creation of the worlds classic beer styles. This is clearly evident in the pillowy lagers of the Czech Republic that draw soft water from local wells, or the dry finish in an Irish Stout that comes from a source high in alkalinity. Brewers pay close attention to what they can make with the water they have access to.
Malted grains provide the sugar that yeast ferments in order to create beer. Typically brewers rely on malted barley, but other malted and unmalted grains can be used in lesser amounts to develop a unique complexity in any given beer. First the malted grain is steeped in hot water in the brewhouse. Here naturally occurring enzymes break down the starches present in the grain converting them into sugar. The sweet liquid is then separated from the solids and moves into the boil kettle.
Once in the kettle, the brewer brings the sweet liquid to a boil. When boiling hops are added for different durations to provide bitterness, flavour and aroma to the beer. Hops contain a variety of acids and resins. When boiled for a long period these break down and provide the bitterness that is needed to balance the sweetness from the grains. Hops added at the end of the boiling process can impart a variety of aromas, from spice to grass, tangerine to stone fruit.
Once the wort is finished boiling, it is cooled down and moved to a fermentation vessel (which is a different story altogether!) Here the brewer may get a chance to have a beer at the end of the day…but they should probably be cleaning.