Beer, no matter what you are drinking, is made from four basic ingredients: barley, water, hops, and yeast. The process of brewing extracts the sugars from the grain so that the yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2, which creates beer. Of course, you don’t have to know how beer is made in order to enjoy it. For that, you just have to come to Lucky Girl Brewing Company and enjoy craft beer in an authentic American bar. If beer isn’t your forte, we are proud to have just opened our B52 Wintery! Whatever your style is, and whatever your taste is, we promise you that you’ll find it here. Come in and visit us in Paw Paw, or contact us today to ask about our membership.

The Process – Broken Down

The first step of the brewing process is malting, which is the part of the brewing process that starts with grains, like barley, wheat, rye, and other things. The grains are harvested before beginning the process of heating, drying out, and cracking. Next, the grains, or the grist, goes through a process known as mashing. The grains are steeped in hot water to activate the enzymes in the grains, causing them to break down and release their sugars. Once this is done, the water is drained from the mash, revealing a sweet and sticky liquid called wort, which is basically unmade beer. 

Wort is then boiled for about an hour, during which hops and other spices or ingredients are added for distinct flavors. For clarification, hops are the small, green cone-like fruit that provides bitterness and provide balance in the beer They act as a natural preservative, but also add distinct flavors to the beer, depending on how much is added. After the wort is boiled, it is cooled, strained, and filtered before being put in a fermentation vessel where yeast is added to it. The beer is held in these fermentation vessels for a couple of weeks, either at room temperature or at cold temperatures, while the yeast absorbs the sugar in the wort and produces CO2 and alcohol as waste. 

This entire process produces alcoholic beer, but it is still uncarbonated. The beer, which is still flat, is then bottles and either artificially carbonated or bottle conditioned, which occurs when it is naturally carbonated due to the CO2 the yeast produces. Beer can age from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, adding to its flavor.  

How to Brew a Pilsner

Pilsners are known to be golden in color with a balanced hop and nut flavor. They are easy to drink and refreshing, with an alcohol content between 4.2 – 5.8 percent. Good pilsners, however, as agreed to by many different brewers, are difficult to make because of how temperamental the yeasts are. They take some finesse and diligence, but the hard work is worth it, especially since the final product is so delicious. 

  • The Grain Bill – The grains used in a pilsner should be simple — using a 100% pilsner malt may even be the best way to go. When brewing the malt, boil the malt for 90 minutes instead of the traditional 60 minutes before continuing to boil for an extra 30 minutes with the lid off the get rid of excess dimethyl sulfide. 
  • The Hops – Noble hops should be used exclusively with pilsners because of their low bitterness and complex aromas. 
  • The Yeast – A German, Czech, or lager yeast can be used for the yeast, as they will all produce similar results. Starting with a large amount of yeast and a controlled fermentation temperature will contribute a clean lager, 
  • The Water – Tap water is still good-tasting and cost-effective. The softer the water, the softer the hop flavor, which is a contrast to water with a higher carbonate level. You can soften your water by combining it with distilled water from grocery stores. 50/50 is a good place to start, especially since mash and fermentation need natural minerals to ferment properly. 

How to Brew a Sour

Sours are complex and thirst-quenching. Their acidity, twangy tastes, citrusy aromas, berry flavors, and crisp finishes are commonly enjoyed by many, and they are continuing to grow in popularity. They tend to be a bit more expensive, but can sometimes pack a punch in their alcohol content level. Brewing sours at home comes with a few warnings: the bacteria in sours can contaminate the homebrewing equipment and can even spoil the other styles. Contrary to popular belief, however, you can make a fast sour in the same time it would take you to make a pale ale that maximizes the amount of lactic acid-producing bacteria early in the brewing cycle.

  • Kettle Souring – It is important to add the lactic bacteria to the brew kettle first after the wart has been cooled by purified water. This would normally be done after the beer is fermented, but the rules change a little when you’re doing this at home.
    • It is better to avoid using hops in at-home sours because they slow down the performance of souring bacteria. Instead, opt for fresh herbs. 
    • Avoid sour mashing unless you’re good at it. You can achieve kettle souring with Greek yogurt or probiotic shots.
  • Transfering the Acidic Wort – Transfer the newly acidic wort into a large glass jug to provide a controlled environment for further fermentation. For the next step in this fermentation, you need additional bacteria, saccharomyces, and Brettanomyces yeasts. These can be obtained from other sour beers. While this may seem counterintuitive, they are the easiest way to get the cultures you need. Plus, you get to drink most of the beer, while the other small portion you use contributes to the greater production of your own.
    • You don’t need much beer, pour two to three ounces into the carboy to begin additional fermentation. 
    • After a few weeks in this step of fermentation, you will notice the development of diacetyl, which is just the artificial butter flavoring that is a result of all the fermentations. It develops at very high levels when pediococcus is a part of the mix. Your beer at one to two weeks should taste tart and have a buttery finish. 
  • Dry it Out – this is the third and final fermentation step, which involves the addition of Brettanomyces yeast, which will dry the beer out further and absorb the diacetyl. That is a complex sentence which basically implies that you will be left with a sour and crisp sour of your dreams.
    • At the stage, you can either add crushed fruit or fruit puree to the beer, or you can blend it with other finished beers to create your own unique hybrid. If you are bottling the beer, it is better to bottle them at a higher temperature, as it ensures good carbonation.  

Enjoy Some Already-Made Beer

Making your own beer takes some investment in time and money, not to mention dedication and appreciation to the process. It is important to plan ahead and consider the kind of equipment you need. But, once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a homebrewing cellar that will be overflowing in no time. There is, of course, nothing wrong with wanting nothing to do with the homebrewing process. If you are the person who wants someone else to make their beer (most of us are) then come to Lucky Girl Brewing Company for craft beer and an authentic American feel. Our craft beer brewery also offers wine at our B-52 Winery! View our brewery menu and our wintery menu before you come in, or just give us a call about any of our beers.