How we make our craft ale

Beer is one of the world's oldest prepared beverages, possibly dating back thousands of years. The purpose of brewing is to convert the starches & proteins found in cereal (typically barley or wheat) into a sugary liquid called wort and then to convert the wort into the alcoholic beverage known as beer in a fermentation process effected by yeast.

First of all, we need to explain ALE which is the style of beer that we make. It is quite distinct from the pilsner lager which is common in Bulgaria. Two main features stand out – (1) ale is "top fermenting" beer meaning that the yeast which converts nutrients found in the "raw" beer tend to be active at the top of the beer wort; (2) ale ferments initially at room temperatures (19-23 degrees Celsius) which impacts the flavor profile, creating more fruity, aromatic beers.

The first step in making beer involves preparing a mixture which combines a starch source (normally malted barley) with hot water in a process known as "mashing". Hot water (known as "liquor" in brewing terms) is mixed with crushed malt or malts (known as "grist") in a mash tun. The mashing process takes around 1 to 2 hours, during which the starches are converted to sugars, and then the sweet wort is drained off the grains. The grains are now washed in a process known as "sparging". This washing allows the brewer to gather as much of the fermentable liquid from the grains as possible. The process of filtering the spent grain from the wort and sparge water is called wort separation. We use special filter frame (called false bottom) which allow a more finely ground grist.

The sweet wort collected from sparging is put into a kettle, or "copper", (so called because these vessels were traditionally made from copper)and boiled, usually for about one hour. Boiling sterilizes the wort and stops any further enzyme extraction. Hops are added during boiling as a source of bitterness, flavour and aroma. Hops may be added at more than one point during the boil. The longer the hops are boiled, the more bitterness they contribute; when hop flavour and aroma are desired, then some hops are added towards the end of the boil.

After boiling, the hopped wort is now rapidly cooled and transferred to the fermenting vessel where the yeast is added. During fermentation, the wort becomes beer in a process which typically requires a week to several weeks (and occasionally even months) depending on the type of yeast and strength of the beer. In addition to producing alcohol, fine particulate matter suspended in the wort settles during fermentation. 

Fermentation occurs in two stages, primary and secondary. Once most of the alcohol has been produced during primary fermentation, the yeast begins to settle, the temperature of the beer wart is lowered and it enters secondary fermentation which improves beer clarity, flavor and taste. At our brewery we use modern, conically shaped fermenting vessels which allow for both primary and secondary fermentation to be carried out in the same vessel. Once fermentation is complete, the yeast also settles, leaving the beer clear. It is then transferred for bottling or kegging. It may or may not be filtered during that transfer depending on the style of beer being produced.

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