How To… Make Beer


by Clint WallaceStaff Writer

Peter Griffin from The Family Guy said it best:

“It’s like I died and went to heaven. But, then they realized that it wasn’t my time, and so they sent me back to a brewery.”

My emotions swelled when I walked behind the bar of Rock Bottom Brewery, knowing I was going to see how it all worked.

Peter can’t brew beer.

Brian can’t.

Not even Stewie can brew beer.

However, Rock Bottom Brewery’s very own Brewmaster Eric Sorensen can – and he does a wonderful job. Brewing beer is an extremely intricate process, manipulating molecules for the perfect blend of malted barley, hops, water and grain. The ratio of these elements depends on the type of beer you desire. Imagine a chemist working on splitting atoms and you’ve got the amount of time and concentration that go into brewing beer.

We start the process of brewing beer in a round, silver-colored grain mill. In the mill, malts and other ingredients are mashed together into a ground substance. Once this process is complete, the end result gets a new name, grist.

The grist moves to its own hopper, which is another large, silver -colored container. Here the grist gets a shower of water, turning the grist into porridge-like solution named mash. Sorensen was concocting a pumpkin spice beer and the mash contained portions of roasted pumpkins. The aroma was magnificent– if you like the smell of grain. The product gets moved to a mash tun, which is another round silver container.

In the mash tun, the product gets another shower of H2O and the brewer uses a paddle to stir the mash. During this process, starches within the mash turn to sugars. After another shower of hot water is added, the liquid inside is drained through the mash, called wort.

The wort takes a trip to a brew kettle where it is raised to a boil and gets different ratios of hops. Hops help with the bitterness and smell of beer. Once the fusing of hops and wort is completed, it gets pumped through cold water. The wort starts at a boiling temperature and it cools to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit. After this diligent process is completed, the mixture ferments.

The wort moves through a system of pipes to a huge, silver fermenting tanks. When the liquid transfers to the tanks yeast is added. The time of fermentation depends on the type of beer. A lager (Bud Light) takes about seven days, while ale (Boulevard) needs around four days for fermentation.

After the first round of fermenting is complete, the tanks are cooled to about freezing, and the beer works for another week. From the cooling tanks, it moves through more pipes to serving tanks, where it is poured for our drinking pleasure.

The process is much more intricate than what I explained, but this is a great start. Sorensen said he makes his beer with a “six-pint rule.” The “six-pint rule” means the beer is made in such a way where you can only have about six pints before you get full of beer.

Some of you realize other brewing companies don’t work with that rule in mind. The beer Sorenson creates isn’t made for chugging; it’s made for slow enjoyment. This enjoyment may be experienced over again, but, as always, drink responsibly. When asked why he likes his job, Sorensen smiled and stated, “I like my job because I make people happy.”