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There is quite a difference between the type of equipment that you will see at a commercial brewery in comparison to the machines that people will use when they brew beer on their own from the type of grain that is used, to the cases that are used to keep everything fresh, there are multiple events that are also different as you go through this process. Here are some of the basics:
When people go to a local brewery that uses a 5 bbl brewhouse, they will often see a very large kettle, one that is round and used for brewing large amounts of beer. There is often an additional one, usually much smaller, referred to as a mash tun, and you may also see a few lagers or a lauter tun. These are used for the express purpose of carrying the steam out of the area where the brewing is occurring, and this can cause entire neighborhoods to feel as if they are intoxicated due to the aroma that is created through the brewing of beer.
In most cases, these are going to be made of a copper like material, and they may also be referred to as coppers in certain circumstances. To learn more about why copper is used to make beer, check out this excellent article from Beer And Brewing: https://beerandbrewing.com/dictionary/DEIMHAaIoY/ . Today, although this term is no longer in use as it once was, this equipment is still fabricated in a similar manner, yet stainless steel is often the material of choice.
There will be a total of three vessels that will be used, and during this process, during which it is cooled, the beer is going to be pumped out into a fermenter. These are typically sanitize, even though they are airtight vessels, and the only thing that will be in their other than the beer is going to be carbon dioxide which will build up a lot of pressure. There are some people that use a much more traditional approach, such as people that brew here in countries such as Belgium or Great Britain, where they are going to have completely open vessels, and this can be beneficial because of how the fermentation process will occur, typically through some type of airborne yeast. (Belgian Lambic brewers, for example).
As you will see, there are different types of tanks that are used for the purpose of brewing beer. For example:
When you go to many of these breweries, there is a very small or short aging process which creates the initial fermentation, often using what are called aging tanks.
The next step is going to be allowing the beer to agent side of the tanks, tanks that are called finishing tanks, that will be the last step before they are sold or distributed publicly.
The terms that are used by those that brew beer can be interchangeable to some degree. For example, if you have an aging tank, they may refer to this as a fermentation tank; finishing tanks can be referred to as conditioning tanks, and this is going to be used by packaging breweries that are going to hold and serve the beer from these tanks whenever you go to a pub.
Beer that is transferred regularly, from one vessel to another, inspiring the aging and brewing process, are typically very clean, equipped with hoses and pumps that you will find in any brewery, calling to mind a Rube Goldberg device.
If you would like to get started with brewing beer, and you are excited to do so, you only need $1 million, perhaps a little more, to get the very basic equipment that is needed.
There are certain things you need to understand about breweries, especially when you go on a tour, and there are certain terms that you need to know.
Yeast: Microorganism which eats sugars converting them into alcohol
Malting: Drying, germinating, and preparing a grain such as wheat or rye
Milling: Grinding grain for the mash turn
Mashing: Steeping and grinding the grain and adjuncts typically in very hot water
Lautering: Separating grains with a mash filter
Boiling: Flavoring with hops and in a brew kettle
Fermenting: Adding yeast which changes sugars to malt into alcohol plus the byproduct of carbon dioxide
Conditioning: Aging two weeks or up to many years, in a tank this can be for several weeks or in wood barrels for what could be years.
Filtering: Removing yeast and solid materials (though not all beer is filtered)
Adjuncts: Adding corn, rice or wheat to the primary starch
Barley: Cereal grain starch when brewing beer is a standard
Fermentation: The metabolic process made possible by yeast to convert the wort into what will soon be beer
Hops: Bitter flowers that or obtained via the hop plant which can stabilize beer and add extra flavor
Grain bill: This is where you mash ingredients and this part of most beer recipes
Malt: Soaked grains that are going to germinate and become sugar
Mashing: Mixing after malting grain fermentable sugars when using hot water
Starch: This is cereal grain, which is steeped and fermented, and represents the building blocks of all beer that is made
Wort: Steeping malted barley, in hot water, leads to this material
Humans all over the world drink water, yet they are also going to have at least one beer from time to time. Beer is one of those interesting topics that people used to confirm the belief in deities, and there are many people in history that were drinkers that were part of some religious movement. From politics to religious figures, there has been a part of our history for thousands of years. From Mesopotamia, to our modern day breweries, it is representative of one of the oldest recipes known in history.
So now you know a little more than the average person when you go on a brew tour. If you ask good questions to the tour guide, you’ll have a more fun an interesting time, and they might even let you sample a few more beers than the average tourist.