The Arts and Science of Making Craft Beer

Beer is by definition an alcoholic beverage made from malt sugars, flavoured with hops and fermented by selected yeast.  Brewing is a natural process and craft brewers use their skill and knowledge to simply guide nature along. Here are the steps they follow:

Step 1: Choosing Malt

Aside from fresh water, the main ingredient in beer is barley. Malting companies take the barley and soak, germinate (sprout), then dry or roast it to create what's called "brewers malt." Craft brewers can choose from several varieties to give their beer a particular colour and flavour.

Step 2: Mashing Malt

Once at the brewery, the malt is coarsely crushed (or milled) to expose its starchy core but keep its husks whole and allow these husks to act as a filter bed later in the process. The crushed malt (or "grist") is mixed with heated, purified water and through a carefully controlled process, the natural malt enzymes in this "mash" break down the starch into sugar.

Step 3: Lautering Mash

The mash is transferred to a straining (or lautering) vessel. There, the liquid is separated from the husks as hot water is "sparged" (or sprayed) on top of the grains to rinse out as much of the sugary extract as possible. This sugar solution is called "wort".

Step 4: Boiling and Hopping

The wort gets collected in a copper or stainless steel kettle and boiled. Hops are then added at various times during the boil. Hops are the pinecone-shaped, green coloured female flowers of the hop vine that are harvested each fall and dried for use in brewing. Craft brewers can select many different varieties of hops, each one adding a characteristic aroma, flavour and bitterness to the final product. Hops also act as a natural preservative in the beer.

Step 5: Hop Separation and Cooling

After the wort has been boiled and infused with the aromatic flavour of the hops, it proceeds to another brewhouse vessel where the hops are then removed and the wort is clarified. The clear, hopped wort is then cooled to room temperature or lower in preparation for yeast addition.

Step 6: Fermentation

The cool wort is moved to the fermenting vessels and yeast is added. Yeast is a living, single-cell organism, that converts the sugar in the wort to carbon dioxide and alcohol. There are many kinds of yeasts, each imparting its own subtle flavour characteristics to the beer.

Fermentation lasts about seven to 10 days, and in that time the yeast may multiply six-fold. When the fermentation is complete, the yeast is removed. At this stage of its production the liquid is now called beer.

Step 7: Cellars

Finally, this young beer is stored cold for one to three weeks (or more) and then filtered to achieve clarity before it's ready for bottling or "racking" into kegs.

The only thing left to do then is ship the beer to pubs, The Beer Store and LCBO locations across the province where it can be enjoyed and appreciated for the remarkable drink it is!