Malt is the base ingredient used in beer. Most beers use barley malt as its main ingredient with some beers also incorporating a combination of wheat, rye, corn or rice. At Alpenglow Beer Company, we only use 100% gluten-free malt, so that means no barley, wheat or rye. We use buckwheat and millet in our beers. Malt is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as “malting”. The grains are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air. By malting grains, the enzymes required for modifying the grain’s starches into sugars are developed. Once the malt is dried, it can be further roasted to varying degrees to impart a wide spectrum of colors and flavors to the beer.
A malt mill is used to crush the malted grain at the beginning of the brewing process. Crushing the malt exposes the grain’s endosperm which helps to ensure optimal conditions for enzymatic activities during the mashing stage.
Mash Tun (pronounced “mash ton”)
The milled malt (also called “grist”) is combined with hot water in the mash tun, a vessel used to convert the complex starches in crushed grains into simple sugars that are more readily fermented. Once the optimal level of sugar is extracted from the grist, the sweet wort (pronounced “wert”), is separated from the grain bed through the lautering process. During lautering, the grain bed acts as a filter through which the sweet wort flows on its way into the kettle.
The brew kettle is where the wort is brought to a rousing boil. Here, the brewmaster adds the all-important hops to impart bitterness, flavor and aromatics to the beer.
After the kettle, the wort flows through a heat exchanger (very similar to a radiator) where cold water cools it from a near boiling temperature to approximately 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooled wort is pumped from the heat exchanger to a fermentation vessel. Yeast is introduced to the fermenter as the cooled wort enters, and the fermentation process begins. During this stage, the yeast consume the sugar in the wort and convert it to ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas.
Once fermentation is complete, the wort is now beer! The beer is run through a filter to remove any lingering particles and into a serving tank.
The finished beer can be served directly from the serving tank or the finished product can be packaged into bottles, cans, growlers or kegs for distribution.