It's a Beautiful Day, the song from U2, for some reason sticks in my mind as I think about the Saturday morning in April that I got to spend brewing. Brian, the brewmaster from 5168 Brewing was doing a collaboration beer with Tim and Dean from Boiler Brewing. As you can tell from the picture above, it was so much fun to get to learn about the brewing process from these two amazing breweries out of Lincoln, Nebraska. I think you are going to enjoy learning a little bit about the process!
A rainy, cool morning and the Nebraska spring football game was all the buzz in Lincoln. Little did the 90,000 fans know that there was something pretty exciting brewing on the south side of Lincoln at 5168 Brewing. Near 57th and Pine you will find the 5168 Brewery along with a Local, Beer, Patio, and Kitchen and also Hiro 88. Just happens that Charlie owns all of these wonderful establishments. If you are not familiar with the Local, it is one of the premier craft beer establishments in Omaha and Lincoln serving upwards of 50 local Nebraska brews always on tap. What a great place to go try out locally brewed beers! Hiro 88 is one of the best sushi restaurants in Omaha and Lincoln that also has incredible Pan-Asian cuisine. It gets even better, now there are the amazing 5168 beers to pair with the food. A wonderful setup and now more about the Brewtiful Day!
So this was my wife's first trip with me and I was so glad she came to experience what a brew day is like and to grab some great photos. We arrived at 8:00 am and the guys were just getting the malt ready to be milled - all 410 lbs of it.
So this being my first time to see the process I hope I captured the key details. Please remember I am a newby as I describe this! So I learned that the first step in the process is to mill the barley malt which is really crushing the grain. The purpose is to expose the starches so that they can later turn into sugars then finally alcohol.
There are so many types of malts that used in the different styles of beer. I learned this past winter about the whole process of taking barley and turning into malt which is fascinating. This is a whole story on its own! Malts can be roasted for longer periods of time and that that is how you get you different flavor and colors into the beers. For the lighter ones, you will get some honey, caramel, and sweeter notes. On the other side of the spectrum such as Chocolate malts, you will get more roasty, nutty, and coffee types of flavor.
The milled malt now goes into the mash tun where hot water is added slowly and the mixture is stirred. The mixture, better known as the "wort", is where the starches are broken down into sugars. I learned that water temperature during this phase is quite important. Cooler water temperatures, for example say around 145 degrees, will make crisper, dryer beers. Take that temperature up just 10 degrees and you will have fewer sugars being produced which will give you richer and somewhat sweet beers. The wort stays in the mash tun for about an hour and goes through a process called vorlauf (or recirculation). This step is valuable for preparing the grain bed for sparging which from what I understand is done to get as much of the sugar out of the mash as you possibly can. Vorlauf is also important in helping to clarify the wort.
During the brewing process, there is a lot of science being used. For instance, Dean checks on the gravity of the wort to make sure that the level will turn into the ABV (alcohol level) desired for the beer. The pH level is another key item checked. You can think of pH as the acidity level of the mixture. The sweet spot to try to land in is between 5.2 to 5.5. The pH level can affect various characteristics of the beer and ultimately the flavor. Last but not least, checking to make sure there are enough active yeast cells is important for the fermentation process. Tim sets up a sample to be reviewed under the microscope. The same yeast can be harvested and used multiple times as long as there enough active cells.
A brewmaster is a very busy person on a brew day. I couldn't believe all of the setup time required just to get started. Lots of cleaning and preparing the equipment. You have to be pretty mechanically inclined to figure out how to get all the connectors and hoses in place for the various pieces of equipment. Now back to the brewing!
What once looked like a big bowl of oatmeal now has had the the sugar liquid extracted and brought over to the brew kettle to begin the boil process. Why is boiling important? I didn't realize that this step is done to first of all sterilize the wort. Later during the fermentation process, the only living microorganism you want to have is the yeast to do its job on the wort. Boiling also extracts the bitterness from the hops to help balance the sweet wort. There are so many types of hops and this is where the brewmaster can be very creative with the flavor that comes from them. Lastly the boil helps bring the remaining malt proteins together so that the can be removed with the hops after the boil has completed.
There are still several more steps in the brewing process before we get to enjoy this awesome, collaboration beer. In another post I will take you through them. This however concludes the Brewtiful Day I had with the Brian, Tim, and Dean. I thank you guys for sharing all of the great information and getting to know more about both of the breweries.
For more information on 5168 Brewing, check them out on their website. You will be glad to know that you can have one of their great brews at the taproom in Omaha, any Local, Beer, Patio, and Kitchen and also Hiro 88 restaurants. Matter of fact, I went next door to the Local after brewing and had lunch which included a delicious Hawaiian Porter.
It you haven't been to the Boiler Brewing taproom, it is a must. It is incredible to see how they turned an old boiler room into one of the coolest taprooms in all of the state. You will always find an amazing variety of beers there. Brewing small batches with incredible flavors is where their passion lies. I had an incredible Russian Imperial Stout called Monte Grande the last time I was there. For more information on Boiler Brewing check out their website.
I feel like I am forgetting something... Yes, the beer wow that would have been embarrassing to forget. Directly from Brian:
Reinheitsgebot be Damned! At least a little. We brewed a classic-style German pils. German pilsner and Munich malt for a sweet, bready grain base. Rather than settling for traditional noble style hops we decided anything worth doing is worth overdoing with new world German Mandarina Bavaria hops. Lending a firm yet soft bitterness merging into floral orange blossom and citrus mandarin hop flavors and aromatics.