SHERIDAN — You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to brew beer, but you will need practice and knowledge of basic chemistry to make good beer.
Despite the explosion of craft beer and home brewing over the last couple decades, many people still don’t know what goes into making their favorite brews. To help, here is a bare-bones, step-by-step guide to get you started, courtesy of Black Tooth Brewing Company Vice President of Liquid Assets Auggie Katzer.
Beer is made up of four main ingredients: hops, water, malted barley and yeast.
The first ingredient brewers work with is malt. Malt is created by allowing a grain — such as wheat or barley grown all over this region — to germinate.
The ingredient is then dried in a kiln and can be roasted to create different flavors. The heat and speed at which malt is dried and roasted can be used to create a number of different flavor profiles, like chocolate or coffee.
Black Tooth uses a mill to grind the malt, then called grist, to prepare it for the next step.
Mash tun and brew kettle
The resulting grist is entered into a vat called a mash tun and mixed with heated water. During this process, natural enzymes within the malt break down much of the starch into sugars, which will play a vital part in the fermentation process (coming later).
The mixture goes through a false bottom near the floor of the vat, straining the liquid. The spent grains will go to a farm as feed, and the liquid — called wort — moves to a brew kettle where brewers will add hops and other ingredients depending on the type of beer they’re creating. This step takes about 90 minutes at Black Tooth.
Katzer describes yeast as “the magic” ingredient of the brewing process. The yeast reacts with the sugars in a fermentation tank, converting the sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Fermentation comes in two main forms: lager and ale. Ales ferment at warmer temperatures and over a shorter period of time, normally about eight days, Katzer said. Ales usually have a more complex, robust flavor profile with a higher alcohol content.
Lagers take about six weeks. These beers are generally smoother, cleaner and more crisp.
Black Tooth uses a centrifuge to chill the beer and remove remaining yeast particles. Breweries, and especially craft breweries, differ in how much they filter their beers. If you see a beer that looks cloudier, it likely contains some yeast, proteins and starches.
After filtering, the beer moves to a bright tank. Depending on the type of beer, brewers will add carbon dioxide during this step to add crispness and drinkability to the beer.
After 24 to 36 hours, the beer is carbonated and ready to go, either to tap or, in the case of Black Tooth and other breweries, to a canning line.