Like most delicious things, beer begins in a farmer's field. We use only "two row" barley, with a softer character that makes it expensive and worth it. Unlike the big guys, we never dilute our brews with cheap corn and rice. Sometimes we'll add wheat, oats or rye to create the unique flavors of our specialty beers.
All our grains become, literally, grist for the mill, which cracks their husks to expose the nutty starches within. Then an auger puts the crushed malts into an appropriately named grist case. From there, pale barley and wheat malts go into outdoor grain silos and specialty malts get cozy in smaller 50 pound sacks.
We steep the grains in hot water, the same way you'd brew something else, like tea. Natural enzymes in the barley convert its own starch to sugar, which dissolves into the water. We now have a mix of sweet "wort" and porridge-like "mash."
"Lauter" means "to clarify" in German. When we pump the mash into a lauter tun, its perforated base drains the wort into a brew kettle while its rotating arms mix up the mash. Now our grain is "spent," meaning sugarless. Sometimes we "sparge" the mix, spraying it with hot water to pull out every last bit of sugar. When we're done, the spent grain, still rich in nutrients, is sold to farmers as cattle feed.
We boil the wort to sterilize it, then add the blossoms of a climbing vine, known as hops, to the kettle. As the hops simmer for over an hour, their herbaceous flavors and slight bitterness balance out the wort's malty sweetness, while their natural compounds protect the brew from spoiling. We carefully choose the moment at which we add the hops to uniquely flavor each crafted brew. Sometimes we toss in other herbs and spices to further shape the beer.
Now we pump the hopped wort into the whirlpool, sometimes adding extra hops for a stronger aroma. The centrifugal force pulls out hop residue and any stowaway grain husks. Only pure, seasoned wort is left.
This machine quickly cools the wort down to around 60ºF for ales or 50ºF for lagers, making it hospitable for yeast. To preserve energy and stay eco-friendly, we start our next brew with the water warmed through this process.
A yeast cell creates alcohol and carbon dioxide when it "eats" a molecule of sugar, giving beer its kick and fizz. Ale yeast works best in warm temperatures (60º-70ºF) and creates fruity flavors while it ferments. Lager yeast prefers a cooler environment (50º-60ºF) and works more slowly, yielding simpler flavors.
It takes about a week for the yeast to do its thing. We let ales mature for an additional week, and leave our well-rounded lagers to rest for quite a while longer.
Beers that aren't destined for a Hefeweizen or similar "unfiltered" label are, yes, filtered, to remove any lingering yeast. This is a delicate process. Done well, the brew becomes clear and stable. Otherwise, such as with the "micro-filters" favored by many big brewers, the beer can lose its color and body. All things in moderation.
We store our beer in holding tanks and then bottle or keg it for your drinking pleasure. Our brown glass bottles are topped with special oxygen-absorbing caps, to protect each tasty brew from sun and air. This keeps its color, flavor and scent as perfect when you open it as it was at birth.
Larger brewers usually pasteurize their beer, which may adversely affect its flavor. So we don't do it. That requires us to ship our brews to you in refrigerated trucks, and you to store them in a cool, dark place. That is, for as long as you can wait before enjoying the taste of our painstaking craft. Don't worry. You don't have to prove anything.
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