The Brewing Process

Brewing is a magical process that turns the principal ingredient barley into a wonderful beverage called beer!

Strictly speaking, ‘ale’ has no added hops, unlike ‘beer’ that does. Flavour and bittering components are included to make the final product more stable, interesting and enjoyable to drink. That’s brewing in a nutshell. For a bit more detail, read on.

The first step in the process is to turn the starch in the barley grains into fermentable sugars.

A soaking in warm water encourages the barley grains to germinate before being kilned (heated) to stop them sprouting further. We use Isle of Wight barley (read the full story here) and here it is being transported to the Maltings to process. The malt the arrives ready crushed in 25kg bags on pallets which are then stored on a mezzanine floor in the brewery ready for use. We also keep the hops there in 5kg vacuum packs.

Isle of Wight barley
Goddrads brewery barley added to the process

On the day before a brew all the ingredients are prepared.

First, the water is tested for calcium content and adjusted to our requirements by the addition of dilute acid and gypsum based dry treatment. From now on, the water is referred to as liquor. Second, the malt (mainly pale malt) is weighed out with the required amount of crystal malt (for mouthfeel and flavour), torrified wheat (for head retention) and roasted barley (for colour and flavour). These dry ingredients are known as the grist. They are then tipped into the grist case. A different grist is used for each beer and our stronger beers use more of it.

Other than freezing, the best way to preserve the freshness and aromas of hops is to vacuum pack them. So, guess what?……..

we use vacuum-packed hops that are weighed out into sacks ready for use the following day. We use a different blend of hops in each of our beers – except Fuggle-Dee-Dum which is 100% Fuggles hops.

The final jobs are to clean and sterilise the fermentation vessel, then the hot and cold liquor tanks are filled and set to heat up/cool down overnight.

Process Shots

Brew day! If all has gone well overnight, the two liquor tanks are now at the required temperature, the grist case is full of the correct grist and we have a brewer with a vague idea of what to do.

The grist is allowed out of the grist case under gravity and is mixed with hot liquor in a masher, on its way down into the mash tun below, where this porridge-like mixture (mash) sits on its perforated false bottom. The temperature of the resultant mash is controlled by mixing the hot and cold liquor in the masher to achieve a temperature of 65 degrees centigrade. Varying this temperature up or down by a degree or so alters the proportion of unfermentable sugars (dextrins) and thus the sweetness and mouthfeel of the finished beer. The mash is left for an hour, during which time the enzymes in the malt are activated and convert most of the starch contained in the malt into fermentable sugar.

Process Shots
Process Shots
Adding hops into the beer at Goddards
Hops at the end of the boil

The liquid wort (as it is now called) contained in the mash tun is strained off through the perforated false bottom and pumped into the copper. This takes about an hour during which time the remaining sugars are rinsed out by spraying the mash with hot liquor, a process known as sparging.

When sparging is complete, the remaining ‘spent grains’ are removed from the mash tun and put into sacks (strangely, there’s not much competition among brewery staff to perform this task). The sacks of spent malt are then taken away by a local farmer for animal feed.

As soon as the wort covers the stainless steel heating coil in the bottom of the copper, the gas-fired heater is switched on and starts to heat the wort. It reaches a vigorous ‘rolling’ boil some two hours later.

As soon as the wort boils, hops (known as copper hops) is added to the copper. These add bitterness to the finished beer. After 55 minutes boil, during which time the bitterness is extracted from the hops and the wort sterilised, a more hops (‘late hops’) are added for the last 5 minutes of the boil and give the finished beer aroma and hoppiness.

After the 1 hour boil the hops settle on to the perforated false bottom to form a bed. The hopped wort is then recirculated through this bed until it is ‘ bright’.