The Art of Handcrafting a Beer: Part II

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By Jason Jugenheimer, Mahoning Valley Flight Crew

Relationships are important in any endeavor. Whether its personal or business, work or play, relationships play a large role in developing a solid foundation. Although we are just getting started in this particular endeavor, the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew feels that we have started to build solid relationships with local distributors, bars, restaurants, and of course breweries.

Because of the relationship we've developed with the guys at Birdfish, we got the opportunity to take an idea we've tinkered with at home and realize a small dream of brewing our beer with Birdfish Brewing.

In Part I of this series, we looked at how it all came together. With a little bit of luck, lots of laughs and of course beer, Part II is going to give you a glimpse of the Flight Crew's evening of brewing at Birdfish.

When you home-brew from a kit, even when tweaking it, you can brew a five gallon batch of a craft beer in a few short hours. Brewing a batch for brewery consumption is a different task. To brew a beer is a six hour shift, and a lot of down time… spent cleaning.

I never recognized the vast differences of ingredients between the batch sizes, going from a few pounds at home to well over sixty pounds of grain to brew a 31 gallon batch of malted nectar. It’s mind boggling to see the amount of grain that goes into brewing. We started our base off with forty pounds of Maris Otter Pale Malt in addition to chocolate malts, black malts, and caramel crystal malt. All of this had to be run through the grain mill.

We then took all of our milled grain and added it along with our flaked oats to a large 50 mash tun to let it steep for an hour. This allows all of the sugars to be extracted. We also added rice hulls to the mash; this adds nothing to the beer but is important to help act as a filter when transferring the wort to another kettle to boil.

What starts out as 44 gallons of wort boils down to about 33 gallons. Throughout the hour-long boil, a combination of Northern Brewer and East Kent Goldings Hops, Blueberry puree, and Lactose sugar was added to the beautifully deep dark chocolate color of the boil. People often have favorite smells, some of which are odd: gasoline, skunk, campfires, you get the gist. One of mine is the smell of wort when brewing. To me it’s the smell of bread baking and makes me a little giddy knowing what that smell means.

Finally we get to do a final transfer of the beer into a large 42 gallon conical fermenter. The guys at Birdfish have this neat little device called a plate chiller that takes the wort from a 212° F boil down to a fermenting temperature of 68° F, all within a few feet of transfer hoses. Yeast is then added to allow the fermentation to occur. Roughly 31 gallons of beer (one barrel) make it into the fermentor, leaving head room for the beer to ferment.

All that is left to do now is wait for the initial fermentation to happen. Then the beer will be sampled, things can be added if need be and the fermentor moves into the cooler to secondary ferment and await kegging and carbonating. Which is what will be the focus of Part III of our blog, and we are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to write that.


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