Learn about our brewing process!
Okay folks, it’s time to dive headfirst into the intricacies of the brewing of Avery beer! On occasion, the information that follows might get a wee bit technical. So sit back, pop an Avery brew, and read all about what we brewers do day-in and day-out. Get really into it and one day you may find yourself asking our favorite question here at Avery Brewing Company, “Do I really get paid to do this?”
Beer is made from four primary ingredients: water, malted barley, yeast, and hops. Brewers work with these ingredients to create the best brew possible, and the range of flavors, aromas, colors and textures are limited only by a brewer’s imagination and skill.
1. Water: The places where beer styles emerged earned their reputation for that style in great part because of their water. Today, we can manipulate the chemistry of water to mimic that of those famous spots, and intentionally achieve flavor varieties that brewers of yore would think impossible.
2. Grain: The primary sugar source for beer.
- While any starch-rich grain can be used (wheat, rye, sorghum, etc.), the vast majority of grain used for brewing is barley. In order to make those starches accessible as a food source for yeast, barley is first malted. Malting is a process of wetting then quick-drying harvested grain to make the seed think it’s time to grow. After malting, enzymes are accessible to allow the conversion of starches into sugars.
- The malt is then kilned, or roasted, which adds color and flavor to the beer. The longer the malt is toasted, the darker the grains will become and the more complex flavors will be produced. Flavors of toast, caramel, chocolate, and coffee are some that can be created as the malt gets darker with more time kilning.
3. Hops: This flower produces an aromatic yellow resin from its lupulin glands that is loaded with Alpha and Beta acids, which are the components responsible for bittering beer and balancing the sweetness of malt. There are dozens of hop varieties, which produce flavors and scents like citrus, pine, earthiness, grass, and many more. As soon as hops are picked from the vine, these aromas and flavors begin to degrade quickly, so hop growers process most of them into pellets for brewing, which are vacuum sealed and can stay fresh for as long as two years.
4. Yeast: These eukaryotes are all around us all the time, but for brewing, we can divide them into two main categories: domesticated (Saccharomyces cerevisiae & Saccharomyces pastorianus) and wild (Brettanomyces).
- When someone mentions “brewer’s” or “baker’s” yeast, they are referring to Saccharomyces. During fermentation, these fungi produce alcohol and flavors in a very predictable and clean way.
- Ales are predominately brewed with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a yeast strain best used at temps. ranging from 10 to 25°C (50 to 77° F), and are generally regarded as top-fermenting yeasts since they rise to the surface during fermentation.
- Lagers are predominately brewed with Saccharomyces pastorianus, a yeast strain best used at temperatures ranging from 7 to 15°C (45 to 59° F). At these temperatures, lager yeasts grow less rapidly than ale yeasts and tend to settle out to the bottom of the fermenter, so they are often referred to as bottom-fermenting yeasts.
- Brettanomyces yeasts, or “Bretts”, produce more funky, barnyard, clove, and horsey flavors. They’re referred to as “wild” because they are less predictable in brewing than their Saccharomyces relatives. These days, beers made with Bretts are rarer and not nearly as available as those brewed with Saccharomyces.
- Milling: Malted barley goes from our grain silo into a grist mill, which cracks open the malt and gives us better access to the starch inside while maintaining the integrity of the husk to insure lauter quality.
- The Mash: The grist goes through a hydrator where it is mixed with hot water on the way to the mash tun. Here, the malt and hot water are mixed with a rotating rake, starch is converted to sugar, and wort is created – a hot, sweet liquid. This wort is then pumped into the kettle.
- The Boil: In the kettle the wort is boiled for about an hour so that undesirable volatile organic compounds (VOCs, which are basically off-flavors) are driven out of the wort. The boiling also acts to concentrate and sterilize the wort, and it is during this step when the hops are added.
- Hop Additions: Hops are typically added in three doses. The first addition boils for 60 minutes and acts as the bittering hop, imparting the necessary counterpoint to malt sweetness. The second addition is added with 30 minutes left on the boil and is responsible for hop flavor. It will impart some bitterness and some aromatics making for a deeper and more complex beer. The last addition goes in when the boil has been stopped and is known as the aroma addition. This third hopping will impart almost exclusively aroma to the beer and is critical for the “nose” or smell of the finished product. We also dry-hop some of our beers, which is a fourth addition added after the wort has fermented, which adds even more hop aroma.
- Whirlpool: Now we stir the wort in the kettle. This whirlpooling causes the hop particulate and other solids (mostly proteins) to fall out and collect at the bottom of the kettle.
- Knockout or Transfer: From the kettle, pump the wort through a heat exchanger, after which it is pumped into a fermenting tank (at about 20°C/68°F for ale yeast and 10°C/50°F for lager yeast).
- Fermentation: Yeast is added, or “pitched,” into the tank, which will metabolize the sugars in the wort and yield alcohol, CO2, heat, esters, and more yeast. This fermentation will continue until the sugars are mostly gone. More fermentable sugar = more alcohol = longer fermentation.
- Clarify and Filter: We clarify our beers using a centrifuge, which spins the beer at 4,850 RPM, giving our beers the clarity and brilliance we desire. For coarse-filtered beers, after the centrifuge we put the beer through a paper filter called a Supra-pak, which filters out everything bigger than 10-20 microns. A third step, if desired, is the Profile Star, a 5 micron absolute filter, which we use for IPA, Joe’s, and The Kaiser. Unfiltered beers such as White Rascal do not get filtered, only clarified.
- Bright Beer: Clarified beer is known as bright beer because you can see through it. This beer is pumped into a tank (appropriately called a “bright tank”) where it waits to be kegged, bottled, and canned.
- Transportation: Once packaged into bottles, cans or kegs, all Avery beer is kept cold (38-42°F) through the entire supply chain until it reaches the customer. Refrigeration slows down the natural oxidative processes within beer and keeps it fresher for a longer period of time.
- Send off: With triumphant hearts, the brewers at Avery bid farewell to another batch of beer in their quest for the perfect brew.