The process of brewing beer begins early at Hops & Grain craft brewery. Even before the sun rises, brewer Danny Clay has already measured out the grain for his long-standing recipe, then milled and mixed it. The raw grain is then transferred into the mash tun where it’s added to hot water and steeped like tea, causing the starches to break down into simple sugars. The resulting sweet, sticky liquid known as “wort” is then transferred to a boiling kettle where the temperature is brought up to 212 degrees. At this point, the first round of hops is added to the mix to imbue flavor, bitterness and aroma. The hot wort is then cooled on its way to the fermentors, where it meets yeast for the first time. The yeast goes to work on the sugars—converting them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Each day, in various stages of the process, samples are taken from the tanks and tested by Bob Langner, the operations manager who doubles as a lab technician. Langner tests the samples for a number of things, including contaminants and inconsistent flavors, but primarily he needs to know how the yeast is reacting and at what pace. When it’s time, the beer is moved into the bright tanks, carbon dioxide is added and the delicious process is complete.
Clay taking a look at the fresh wort before it’s moved into the boiling kettle.
Spent grains and malt coming out of the mash tun.Hops & Grain uses some of the spent grain to make tasty dog treats (available in their tasting room). The balance is sold to local farmers for animal feed.
Langner testing beer samples in the lab.
Cans of Hops & Grain’s popular beer “The One They Call Zoe” coming off the canning line. Teams of three can 550 cases per day, three to four days a week.
Kegs being cleaned and sterilized before being refilled and sent back out again.
Hops & Grain’s commitment to quality and consistency includes a weekly meeting—a sensory development program—where employees are asked to sample, smell and rate different beers and their components to help refine their palates. This particular week, the staff got to experience “esters”—a mixture of compounds produced during fermentation. All beers have esters but in varying flavors and amounts.
By Melanie Grizzel