Grand River Brewing purchased its Criveller brewing system at auction in August 2005 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. The equipment was dismantled, crated and shipped to the brewery and then reassembled at its current location. The main equipment purchased included the Mash Tun, Brew Kettle, 6 -23 htlt fermentors, 4 conditioning tanks, 2 brite tanks and a 12’ x 25’ cold room.
In the beginning stages of the brewing process a liquid referred to as wort is produced. Wort is a sweet, slightly sticky and malty liquid that forms the foundation for that beautiful beer in your glass.
To arrive at the wort producing stage, we first have to prepare our malt. The malt is the body or backbone of beer. Depending on what style we’re producing we load different amounts and types of grain into the hopper for our mill. Generally there is one main grain that provides most of the foundation that is combined with specialty grains that contribute colour and different tastes.
When the malt is loaded in the mill, we start the mill and the grain begins to be crushed. The rollers of the mill are spaced so that the husks of the grains are broken open delicately but the body of the grain remains intact. We don’t want to produce flour here; we want to produce an open grain that will be suitable for starch conversion as well as a separate husk that will act as a natural filter bed to separate the wort from the grain.
The crushed grain is augured into the mash tun and is mixed with warm water at the same time. Once the grain is in the mash tun at the proper temperature, warm enough to allow the enzymes to function adequately to enable starch conversion and cool enough not to denature them, we allow them to sit for usually an hour to attain proper starch conversion.
After the hour is up, we circulate our wort from the bottom of the grain bed over the top of the bed and allow it to clarify. Once this process is complete we begin lautering. This is where we use the screened false bottom of the mash tun to separate the wort from the grain and move it to the kettle. While we’re lautering we are also sparging. This is where we spray warm water over the top of the grain bed to rinse out any remaining wort in the grain bed.
During this process we are checking the gravity of the wort several times. This gravity check allows us to determine the density of the liquid and how much sugar is present in it. This aids us in determining when to stop the lautering process, because we have attained our target gravity, and also gives us an indication of the final gravity and resulting alcohol by volume level will be after fermentation.
Once all of the wort is in the kettle we then bring it up to a boil. When the wort reaches a boil, we add our bittering hops. These hops provide the overall bitterness to the beer and much of the hop flavour. Depending on the style of the beer and the desired effect, different hops can be added at different times to achieve different results. When the boil nears completion we add our aroma hops. These hops provided most of the hop aroma present in our beers and are added at the end of the boil so that the aromatic properties aren’t boiled off and lost.
After the boiling and hop additions are complete, we then whirlpool the wort so that it separates the hop pile from the wort through centrifugal force. Once this is complete we pass the wort through our heat exchanger to lower the temperature rapidly so that we can add the yeast on the way to the fermenter.
The fermentation process begins When the wort is inside the fermenter and the proper fermentation temperature is reached,. This step in the process is where the sugars in the wort convert to alcohol and also produces the carbon dioxide. During the 10-15 days in the fermentation vessels, the brewer monitors daily the activity of the yeast.
Then the beer is separated from the yeast and filtered to remove any leftover yeast and proteins. Once filtration is complete, the beer is carbonated and packaged in kegs or growlers for sales and distribution.
This craft brewing process provides Grand River Brewing with satisfying and delicious beer. Next time you enjoy a Grand River Brew keep in mind the hard work and age old process we undertake. Enjoy!