Turning Water Into Brew

How the magic of craft brews happen.

While sitting at your favorite brew pub sipping on a masterfully crafted brew, have you ever thought to yourself “Where, oh where, do these seemingly effortless creations come from?” Contrary to what you might think, there is no magical beer fountain spewing forth endless bounties of this divine libation. No, it actually comes from the blood, sweat, tears and patience of mere mortal men and women.

Generally speaking craft brewing is a five or six step process that can take anywhere from a few weeks up to a couple of months or longer. The first and shortest of the steps is the boiling and steeping stages. This is where grains, malts and the majority of any hops are combined and the magic begins to happen. Depending on the type of brew you are creating, this stage usually takes an hour or two. The primary fermentation stage takes about two weeks. This is when the yeast is added and begins to convert the sugars into alcohol, and flavor characteristics begin to take shape. After the primary fermentation there is a secondary fermentation stage that takes place. This stage is also about two weeks and where extra hops, fruit adjuncts or specific types of woods to enhance flavor can be added. The last, and probably trickiest to get right, stage is bottling which takes a week or two. For the most part the longer you let it sit the better the results. Slightly more sugar is added to the bottle to interact with the yeast and create the carbonation. Adding too little sugar results in a flat beer, too much can cause over carbonation and even cause the bottles to explode.

If these steps occur exactly as they are supposed to and the stars are aligned perfectly, you may just end up with a little slice of heaven in a bottle. So the next time you ask where the beer garden is, remember, there is no actual garden.

Photo by Bernt Rostad

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