Brewing beer is like a science experiment went head on with an art project. It takes a lot of time, dedication and creativity. Co-founder of Weathered Ground Brewery in Ghent, Sam Fonda, took us through the step by step process of exactly how they make their craft beers.
He told us, there are four main ingredients; water, malted cereal grains, hops and yeast. The first step is to gather up all of the grains.
“One of us will be down here dumping the bags of grain manually into this mill, which will crack the grain and send it up into the PVC piping, and then the auger pushes it up into that first vessel here, which is our mash tun,” Fonda said.
As those grains are being cracked and moved into the mash tun, they’re mixing it with really hot water.
“We’re basically making a really big batch of oatmeal, except it’s not just oats, it’s sometimes barley wheat and oats and rye,” Fonda explained.
Then they will stir and mix the ingredients while keeping the temperature at around 150 degrees, which can vary depending on what style of beer they’re making. After they’re done mixing, they let it sit for up to an hour and a half.
“What’s happening there is your having enzymatic activity, where the starches are getting converted to sugars,” Fonda told us.
The next step is to collect the liquid in their boil kettle and leave the grain behind. Once the kettle is full with that they call, “wort,” then they’ll boil it from 9 minutes to anywhere around two and a half hours. During this process is when the brewer will add hops, and the earlier you add it in, the more bitter the beer will be.
“A lot of people think the word bitter in beer as a bad word. That word is actually a really good word. If you don’t add hops to the beer it would be really really sweet, so you need to have that balance there.”
Then they will put it through a whirlpool that spins to make sure the proteins and hops come together. At this point, there is no alcohol yet, just sugar water. So they’ve got to cool it down and send it off into the fermenters that they spend the whole day sanitizing. The process of fermenting is the longest step in making that perfect brew.
“For a light ale, two to three weeks, and for a much darker stout, four to six weeks,” Fonda said.
After it’s fermented and the time is right, the brewer will taste it to make sure it’s exactly the way they wanted it. After that they will put it on tap for their customers to enjoy themselves. Fonda told us, it’s important they always keep their beers fresh, crisp and tasty.