The craft of brewing beer

I attended the Alltech International Craft Brews and Food Fair in February as a freelance reporter and spoke to a number of the attendees on the process of brewing beer.  
Brewed at home and in specially built breweries, the process of making beer is not as simple as mixing barley and yeast with water.
Brewing beer is actually similar to wine making in a lot of ways. When the initial brew is created (by mixing a chosen grain with water and fermenting it with yeast then adding hops for flavour) the beer is then aged.
Jim Larson, an Alltech specialist in fermentation technology, explains that beer can be aged from two days to two years. Beer held in barrels is aged the longest but the drink is typically aged for two weeks – one week for fermentation and another for aging. A number of breweries are now aging their beer in barrels that once contained spirits such as rum, bourbon and even tequila. This typically increases the alcohol content by 1.5 per cent.
Beer, like wine, can be oxidised giving it a cardboard taste. It can also be ‘lightstruck’, where light enters the bottle and interferes with the hops. This is why beer should be stored in amber bottles rather than green or clear glasses, to prevent light entering the bottles. Which explains why some brands serve lime, lemon or orange with their beers, using the acidity to combat the skunky taste.
Larson recommend you should always taste test beer at room temperatures, as with wine, as it reveals more of the complex flavours. The ‘fizz’ in beer is half natural from fermentation while the other half is from carbon dioxide pumped in afterwards.
Padraig Scully has been a brewer at the Cork’s Franciscan Well, the third oldest brewery in Ireland, since 2007. He explains that in brewing terms bright beer is clean beer that is ready for service or has yeast removed. “Some beers we don’t filter like the pale ale or the stout or the wheat beer because the yeast adds quite a bit of character to the beer. As well that stout is black so you’re not going to see the yeast regardless. With the wheat beers the yeast adds quite a lot of character flavour aroma…so you’re getting a lot of banana and clove and that’s being imparted by the yeast that we are using.”
For those who want to learn more about making beer there are a number of courses to attend. One option is the Diploma of Brewing, an online course from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. The aim of this diploma is to leave the brewer with international level of knowledge on the principles of Brewing Science and Technology. The course is split into three modules and further details can be found here.
Image credit: Aisling Kett

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *