Well pilgrims, the journey began with a day in the brew house and mashing in. It was like standing on a step ladder in a giant’s kitchen, stirring thick heavy porridge. A sauna while getting a great upper body and arm work out – my biceps are much more toned 😉
Pete (brewer extraordinaire) and Gareth talked through the process so I could understand the steps but most importantly the changes that need to happen to the grain in the brewing process to extract the fermentable sugars in the malted barley.
Just like making a great cup of tea, the temperatures for the mash need to be just right as this will change the starches inside the crushed barley into sugars that can be fermented and turned into alcohol. As hot water is mixed gradually with the grain into the mash tun, we constantly stir for about 35 mins to ensure there are no clumps.
The mash then sits for about an hour to allow the alpha and beta amylase (natural enzymes in the barley husk) to do its job before we begin recirculating the liquid in the mash tun. All this means is that water from under the grain is drawn off and pumped through the top through a spray ball over the grain bed below. This not only helps to draw out the sugars but the grain husks also help to filter the wort and it gradually becomes clearer. The hot wort tastes very much like a sweeter, less chocolatey version of milo, and this beautiful malty sweetness is perfect for making beer or whisky.
The next two steps are lautering and sparging. Lautering is the transfer of the sweet wort over through a chiller and into a vessel where it can be fermented. As this is being transferred additional hot water in the hot liquor tun is sprayed through the grain to extract any final residual sugars. I found out that this is carefully measured as you don’t want the tannins from the grain. Yeast is then prepped and poured into the wort. This amazing organism then eats the sugars in the wort and converts these into alcohol.
While I’d like to say this was the end of the brew day it was far from it. Hoses that have been connected and disconnected are cleaned, hot water is used to clean out the chilling unit and the shovelling of the wet heavy grain out of the mash tun begins….