Beer is one of the oldest man made beverages dating back over 7000 years. Throughout the millenniums there have been many changes to the processes used to create beer, however many of the basic practices remain the same. Today beer is made with four primary ingredients; barley, hops, yeast, and most importantly water. Beer can be made using a variety of equipment ranging from simple household equipment, like pots and spoons, to high tech steam jacketed kettles with full automation using various pumps and valves. Here at the Roscoe NY Beer Company we do everything we can to make the best beer possible.
The Mash Tun is arguably one of the most important brewing vessels in a brew house. We have a 20 barrel mash ton that is capable of producing high quality low and high gravity beers. The mash ton is used to convert the starches of malted barley into fermentable sugars. It is crushed and hydrated into the mash ton. The barley is agitated and stired in a hot water bath ranging in temperature depending on beer style around the 150 range. By doing this, we allow the active enzymes to begin breaking down the starch inside the barley and converting it to a sugar that will be used later in the brewing process. This process takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on beer style. After the starch is fully converted into sugar, it is extracted and pumped into the brewing kettle.
The boil kettle is just that, a large kettle designed to boil the liquid that was retrieved from the mash tun. This sugary solution is called wort. Boiling sterilizes the wort so there are few, if any, living organisms left in the liquid. This is also the point in which hops are added to the wort. Hops can be added at various times during the boiling process to achieve different things. Bittering hops are added closer to the beginning of the boil, whereas aroma hops are added closer to and even at the end. Some hops are added directly into the fermenter. Many different hop flavors can be achieved, ranging from neutral hops that impart little flavor to hops that impart grapefruit, pine, earthy or even resinous flavors.
After the boiling process is completed, we now have sterile wort, which is still just a sugary hoppy solution. It is now ready for fermentation. This is the process of turning wort into beer. After boiling, the wort is rapidly cooled and pumped into a fermenter. We then pitch in a desired yeast strain at a desired quantity. Yeast will begin digesting sugar, turning it into both alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process can take anywhere from as little as 6 days to upwards of 6 weeks. After fermentation is complete, the vast majority of the sugars have been fermented into alcohol and other compounds.
The aging process begins even prior to fermentation being done. This process is very crucial to high quality beer. During this stage, yeast will begin breaking down byproducts of fermentation, making a much better flavored beer. During this time, yeast also settles out of solution to clear up the beer. At this point the beer is ready to be conditioned to be packaged.