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Beer production typically involves several steps to take from malting the grain to the packaging of our favorite beverage.  Despite the development of new techniques and technologies, the basic principles of beer brewing have been used for thousands of years, with evidence of beer production dating back to ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Chinese.  These early brewers used natural ingredients like barley, hops, and water to create simple beers that were enjoyed for their flavor and nutritional value.

Today, the beer brewing process involves a combination of science, art, and tradition, with each step playing a crucial role in creating the final product. The ingredients, brewing techniques, and other factors all contribute to the unique flavors and aromas of different beer styles.

Every brewery has a brewmaster, whose skill, experience and talent determine the quality of the beer. The brewmaster creates the recipe, deciding on the combination of malts, hops and yeast, the temperatures and times that will create a perfect brew. At every step of the brewing process, the brewmaster makes decisions that will determine the qualities of the beer.

Let’s take a closer look at the step-by-step process of how beer is made:

Malting: Magic at the Malthouse

Malted barley is a key ingredient in beer brewing, providing the enzymes needed to convert the starches in the grain into fermentable sugars during the mashing process. Almost all beer is made with barley. Other grains are sometimes used, but barley is almost always present and Canadian barley is excellent quality, prized by breweries worldwide.
Malting is the process of sprouting and drying cereal grains to prepare them for use in brewing beer. The whole process can take from 7 to 9 days.
During malting, the grain is first steeped in water to initiate germination, which triggers the release of enzymes that convert the stored starches in the grain into simpler sugars. This process produces a grain that is high in enzymes, which are essential for the brewing process.
After the grains have sprouted, they are kilned, which stops the germination process and dries the grains. The amount of heat and the duration of kilning can vary depending on the desired characteristics of the malt, such as color and flavor. The kilning process imparts flavors and colors to the malt that can contribute to the flavor and aroma of the finished beer.
Different types of malt can be used to create a wide range of beer styles, from light lagers to dark stouts.
Learn more about malt from our friends at the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre here:

Milling: The Beginning of a Wondrous transformation

At its heart, brewing is a series of natural transformations. Barley malt is packed with rich starches and enzymes. When the malt meets heat and water, those starches are converted to sugars. When yeast is added, the sugars are transformed into alcohol and effervescent carbon dioxide. Along the way, wonderful flavours and aromas are released. The result is beer.
The first step in the brewing process is to mill the grains, typically barley, into a fine powder. This is usually done at the brewery using a mill or roller to ensure consistency in the size of the grain particles.

Mashing: In the mash, starches become sugars

First, the brewers mix the milled grains them with warm water in a vessel called a mash tun to form a porridge-like mixture called mash. The temperature of the water is carefully controlled to activate enzymes that break down the malt’s natural enzymes into simpler sugars. At this point, some brewmasters will add corn or rice to make the beer lighter in body and flavour. This process creates a sweet liquid called wort.

4. Lautering: It’s the wort we want!

After mashing, the liquid portion of the mash is separated from the spent grains in a process called lautering. The wort is drained from the mash tun into another vessel. While the liquid will go on to become beer, the spent grains are either discarded or repurposed for animal feed or compost.

Boiling: Time for boiling and hopping

The wort flows to a brew kettle, where it is brought to a boil. At this point, the brewmaster will usually add hops to add bitterness, flavours, and aromas to the beer. The quantity, variety and even the time at which the hops are added, all make a big difference in the final product. Read more about hops. (link to beer ingredients page) Other ingredients, such as spices or fruit, may also be added during the boil.
The brewers move the wort to a hot wort tank to let the solids settle out. When the wort is clear, it’s ready for the final transformation.

Cooling: Making sure it is cool enough for the yeast to thrive

After boiling, the hot wort is rapidly cooled to a temperature that is safe for yeast to be added. This is typically done using a heat exchanger, where the hot wort is cooled by cold water or glycol.
Yeast is a living organism that is sensitive to temperature. By cooling the wort to the appropriate temperature range for the specific yeast strain being used, typically around 60-70°F (15-21°C), the yeast can be added to the wort and begin fermenting the sugars present.
If the wort is too hot, it can kill or damage the yeast, which can prevent fermentation from occurring or lead to off flavours in the finished beer. Learn more about yeast here. (link to ingredients page)

Fermentation: How sugar becomes alcohol, with bubbles

For the next step, the cooled wort is transferred to a fermentation vessel and one or more yeasts are added. There are a great variety of traditional brewer’s yeasts, each with its own subtle taste and texture qualities. But they all perform the same important function: they transform sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This process called fermentation typically lasts several days to several weeks, depending on the style of beer and the desired alcohol content.
Ale vs lager: It’s all in the yeast!
There are two basic categories of yeast. Lager yeast settles to the bottom of the fermenter. Ale yeast rises to the top. They result in the two basic categories of beer: lagers and ales, respectively. Most beer types are ales, but refreshing, golden lagers are always popular.

Conditioning: At long last, beer!

The wort rests in the fermenter or is transferred to another vessel for conditioning for usually three to 12 days, while the brewmaster carefully monitors its progress and adjusts its temperature. The yeasts consume almost all the sugars, adding their own subtle flavours as they release the alcohol. During conditioning, the beer is allowed to mature and clarify. Any remaining yeast and other particles settle to the bottom of the vessel, and the beer becomes clearer and smoother. The effervescent carbon dioxide gives the liquid a refreshing sparkle. After fermentation, the yeast is removed, and the liquid is chilled. At last, we have the delicious beverage called beer.

Packaging: From the brewery to you

Before it is packaged for distribution and consumption, beer can be filtered, carbonated and/or pasteurized. Not all beer will go through these processes, it is up to the breweries to decide, depending on the product they are making.
• Filtration is an optional step in the beer brewing process that involves removing any remaining particles or solids from the beer before it is packaged and distributed by passing the beer through a filter medium. The purpose of filtration is primarily to improve the appearance and stability of the beer, by removing any cloudiness or haze that might affect its visual appeal or shelf life.
• Carbonation, either naturally through refermentation in the bottle or keg, or artificially through the addition of carbon dioxide. This process adds fizziness and enhances the flavor of the beer.
• Pasteurization is a process in which beer is heated to a specific temperature for a certain amount of time to kill any remaining bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms that may be present in the beer. The process is named after Louis Pasteur, the French microbiologist who developed it in the 19th century. The purpose of pasteurization in beer production is primarily to increase its shelf life and stability. By removing any remaining microorganisms that might spoil the beer over time, pasteurization can help ensure that the beer remains fresh and drinkable for longer periods of time, especially in bottled or canned form.

Finally, the beer is ready to be bottled, canned, or kegged and quickly delivered to stores, bars and restaurants, who offer it to you.


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