Thursday, 22 January 2015

Brewing in Canada in the 1960’s – mashing and boiling

We’re still ambling along the winding country lanes of Canadian brewing. This time it’s dead exciting as we’re starting to look at the brewing process itself.

We begin with mashing. It’s a bit lacking in specifics – like temperatures or mashing techniques – but it does tell us something.

“Mashing: In the mashing process, the malt enzymes break down the starch to sugar, and the complex proteins of the malt to simpler nitrogen compounds. The mashing takes place in a large round tank called a "mash mixer" or "mash tun", and requires careful temperature control. Sometimes at this point, depending on the type of beer desired, the malt is supplemented by starch from other cereals such as corn, wheat or rice.

Lautering: When mashing is finished the mash is transferred to a draining or "lautering" vessel, usually cylindrical, with a slotted false bottom 2" or 3" above the true bottom. The liquid extract drains through the false bottom and is run off to the brew kettle. Water is "sparged" or sprayed through the grains to wash out as much of the extract as possible.”
"Brewing in Canada", Brewers Association of Canada, 1965, page 30.

My guess is that in many cases the adjunct weren’t added to the main mash but that during a cereal mash before the main mash began. That’s what you have to do if you’re using non-gelatinised adjuncts like corn grits, which were very popular in North America.

You can see that they were using continental-style brewhouses with a mash tun, a lauter tun and a copper rather than British-style brewhouses with just a mash tun and a copper.

This happens the world over:

“The "spent grains" are then removed and sold, for they are in great demand by farmers for cattle feed. They are either dried and placed in bags or sold wet.”
"Brewing in Canada", Brewers Association of Canada, 1965, page 30.

Though I’ve only heard of British breweries selling the grains wet.

Now boiling:

“Boiling and Hopping: The liquid in the brew kettle is called "wort". It is not yet beer. The brew kettle, a huge cauldron holding up to 15,000 or 20,000 gallons and made of shiny copper or stainless steel, is probably the most striking sight in a brewery. It is fitted with coils or a jacketed bottom for steam heating and is designed to boil the wort under carefully controlled conditions.

During the boil, which usually lasts about two hours, the green, aromatic hops are added. (Hops are the flowers of a climbing plant; in Canada they are grown in British Columbia.) The hop resins contribute flavor, aroma and bitterness to the brew. Boiling serves to concentrate the wort to the desired specific gravity, to sterilize it and to obtain the desired extract from the hops. Undesirable protein substances which have survived the journey from the mash tun are destroyed, leaving the wort pure and sterile.”
"Brewing in Canada", Brewers Association of Canada, 1965, pages 30 and 32.

If those are US barrels, that’s between 500 and 650 barrels. If they’re imperial barrels, 400 to 550. Approximately. Whichever is the case, that’s brewing on quite a scale.

Two hours seems a long time for the boil. I wouldn’t have expected more than 90 minutes.

“Hop Separation and Cooling: After the beer has taken on the flavor of the hops they must be removed. The wort is passed through a "hop jack" or separator to remove both the hops and a large amount of the protein which was precipitated during the boil. This protein is known by the short and expressive name of "trub".

The wort itself proceeds from the hop jack to the "hot wort tank", where most of the remaining trub is removed by settling. The wort is then cooled, usually in a deceptively simple looking apparatus called a "plate cooler". As the wort and a coolant flow past each other on opposite sides of stainless steel plates the temperature of the wort drops from boiling to about 50°F. — a drop of more than 150°F. — in a few seconds.”
"Brewing in Canada", Brewers Association of Canada, 1965, page 32.

Surely that’s a hop back rather than a hop jack. Just looked it up. It seems “hop jack” is the North American term for hop back. I wonder how that name came about? Is it a corruption of hop back?

The hot wort tank seems to be fulfilling one job of a cooler – for settling out gunk from the wort. Though “tank” implies something deeper than a shallow cooler. With the efficiency of the plate cooler in dropping the wort temperature quickly, the hot wort tank didn’t really need to cool the wort, so from that point of view could be as deep as you liked. Though one advantage of having a shallow vessel like a cooler was that the muck would settle out more quickly.

You can probably guess what’s coming next: fermentation.


Martyn Cornell said...

Interesting - the OED has "hop jack", "n. = hop-back n. 1875 R. Hunt & F. W. Rudler Ure's Dict. Arts (ed. 7) I. 515 'A shallow vessel or cooler, over which is placed the hop-jack or sieve for straining out the spent-hops'," but it also has"jack-back" meaning the same thing: "jack-back n. [back n.2] (a) in Brewing, a vessel with a perforated bottom for straining the wort from the hops (also called hop-back: see hop n.1 Compounds 2); (b) ‘a tank which receives the cooled wort in a vinegar-factory’ (Knight).
1764 T. H. Croker et al. Compl. Dict. Arts & Sci. I. at Brew-house, The placed something lower than the under-backs, and has a communication with them all; and out of this back the wort is pumped into the coppers.
1815 J. Smith Panorama Sci. & Art II. 568 The jack-back, which receives the wort after it has been boiled with the hops.
1830 M. Donovan Domest. Econ. I. vi. 175 The liquor is pumped..into a large reservoir, called a jack-back, in which it is allowed to remain until all the yest has collected on the surface."

So "jack" isn't a corruption of "back", but something else …

Dan Klingman said...

Most of the small breweries, at least here in my region of Florida, give the spent grains wet to the farmer. Out of the tun, into plastic barrels, and off to the cows.