Brewing great beer begins with quality ingredients. As with most brewpubs and craft beer production breweries, we use nothing but the best malted barley (and maybe other grains), hops, yeast and water available at any price.
We are fortunate to live in an area where our water comes from the Floridan Aquifer, which is one of the best sources for water in North America. Great beer cannot be produced without great water, which is why location is one of the most important considerations for a brewpub or microbrewery.
The barley we use in making our beer is purchased from commercial brewery suppliers and is “malted” for use in brewing beer. Malting grain is a specialized field in itself, and requires a great deal of expertise, space and unique equipment, so most every brewer uses commercially malted grains.
The malting process encourages the grain to begin germinating, then at just the right time, that process is stopped dead in its tracks by quickly drying the grain in a special kiln. After going through the malting process, much of the grain will undergo additional processing, like roasting, toasting, smoking, etc. This creates a huge variety of grains with varying characteristics.
Grain is turned into coarse grist by running it through our roller mill just prior to going to the mash tun/lauter tun. Just like freshly ground coffee, we wait until the last minute to process the grain so that it’s at it’s peak freshness.
The adjustment of the rollers in the mill are very important, since we are simply looking to crack the shell of the grain so that water can easily penetrate it.
The mash tun/lauter tun is a big heated kettle where warm water is mixed with the grain. The grain and water mixture is allowed to steep for 1-2 hours at just the right temperature. This enables the starches in the grains to convert to sugars (simple and complex). Inside the bottom of the mash tun/lauter tun is a screen that will allow liquid to flow out, keeping the wet grain captive. As the sweet liquid, now called wort, flows out the screened bottom, it is pumped into the brew kettle. Additional hot water is showered over the grain to rinse all the sugars out of the grain, and it is also pumped into the brew kettle. The goal is to get as much of the sugar from the grain as possible.
Our brewing system is sized to produce about 5 barrels (or 155 gallons) during a single brewing cycle. A barrel is 31 gallons. We will need to brew a little over 6 barrels to produce 5 barrels of beer, due to the loss in steam during the brewing process.
Once in the brew kettle, we bring the wort to a rolling boil for 1-2 hours. During this boil, we add hops. Hops added early in the brewing cycle will provide bitterness to offset the sweetness of the malt. It will also serve as a preservative. Hops added later in the brewing cycle will impart additional flavors and aromas. Hops can also be added after fermentation. This is called dry hopping, and it produces bolder flavors and aromas.
After the wort has been brewed, it is pumped through a chiller to cool it from boiling to about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Oxygen is added as the wort makes its way to the fermentor. Oxygen enables the yeast to get a good healthy start in converting the fermentable sugars into alcohol and co2. It will take 7-10 days to complete the fermentation process. Once completed, the yeast will go into a dormant state and drop to the bottom of the fermenator. In order to ensure this process happens completely, we drop the temperature in the fermentor to about the same temperature we will be serving the beer at, which is about 37-39 degrees Fahrenheit. This process is called “crashing”. After about 24 hours we can be assured the yeast will have dropped out of suspension, and can easily be drawn off.
Some of our beers are finished at this point, with the exception of carbonation, so we pump the beer through a plate filter as it goes into our bright beer tanks. The beer can be dry hopped at this point, or it can rest for a few days prior to being served. A second filtering is required if the beer is dry hopped. Once the beer is carbonated and has aged, it’s ready for your enjoyment!
Craft beer is made by folks that are dedicated to making great beer. We love what we do, and we love sharing our passion for great beer!
Enjoy, and drink responsibly!
The Pinglehead Brewing Team