If you’re curious about beer making and how it all works, you’ve come to the right place.
The ingredients are basic: water, yeast, hops, and grain. The process? Well, that isn’t so simple. You need a whole lot of savvy and a knack for flavour. But here’s a little peak into how the Swan Valley brewers do it...
The first step in making beer is turning grain into malt. The grain is soaked in water in a process called germination, breaking down the grain’s reserves of starch. The grain is then heated and dried, which stops the germination.
Mixing the malt with the water comes next. It’s left for a few hours to transform into a sticky, sugary mixture called the wort. This is where malt’s starches become fermentable sugar. This is called mashing.
The wort mix is now boiled up in a brew kettle. It’s here where the hops are added for bitterness, flavour and aroma. Afterwards, solids are filtered from the wort.
Fermentation is where the magic really happens. Yeast is added to the fermenter after the wort has been cooled. Yeast cleverly converts the sugar from the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Small amounts of sugar aren’t fermented and this contributes towards the flavour and body of the beer, along with hops used and flavour compounds produced by the yeast. Beers can be fermented in a few ways:
- Warm: using yeasts that ferment at the top of the beer to make an ale;
- Cool: which uses yeast that ferments at the bottom of the beer to make a lager; or
- Wild: using wild yeasts and bacteria that develop in the beer – rather than the carefully selected yeast strains most brewers use. This process produces unpredictable and different beers every time.
Conditioning and filtering
After fermentation, the beer is cooled down to near-freezing point where the yeast settles to the bottom of the tank, and can then be filtered. Some beer styles are not filtered leaving them much cloudier than others.
After conditioning and filtration, the beer is packaged into either kegs (to be poured on tap) or into cans or bottles for take away. As a general rule for beer, fresh is best. There are a few exceptions to this rule where the beer style will benefit from time in cellar, but the majority of beers taste their best as soon as they are packaged. This is a great reason to visit your local brewery, get the beer straight from the source as fresh as possible.