As the number of breweries has grown steadily over the past four decades, one of the fortunate by-products for the brewer was the opportunity not only to try out a dizzying variety of styles, but also to see first-hand where and how beer is made.

No two breweries are identical. Of the more than 8,000 breweries in the United States, there are differences in size, equipment, character and intention. But they all make a delicious drink from water, malt, hops and yeast (and other special ingredients).

Most breweries offer excursions. In some states, such as New Jersey, it is legal for visitors to the brewery to inspect a plant at least once a year. While some breweries approach the tours in a fragrant way, others demonstrate their stainless steel and raw materials. The good brewery employs energetic, passionate and knowledgeable guides who bring joy and education to the process.

As it may take some time before we can return to the brewery for a tour of the facility, you can consider this as a virtual tour to help you better understand the brewing process and to inspire you for your personal visit.

Beer life cycle

The cooking day begins with the preparation of the ingredients. The grain comes first, and depending on the recipe or style you can use different types of malt and grain. Large breweries have attached a grain office to the brewery for storage, but most American breweries store grain in bags on the shelves or in the mouth until it is ready to be consumed.

Whole grains go through a mill to Christ, who breaks them open. From there it is transported to a tunnel boring machine where it is mixed with hot water (up to 155°F) and rotated for a period of time. During this process, simple sugars are released into the grain, which then contribute to the formation of alcohol.


The result is a thick mash that looks like a spice. The sweet liquid, now called wort, is drained from a brewing tunnel and transferred to a kettle for brewing. When brewing in a kettle, the wort is brought to the boil and the standard time for many beers is about 90 minutes, although some take longer and some less. Usually hops are added at different intervals during this process to create aroma, flavour and bitterness. Different recipes determine when the hops are added, which affects the end result.

At the end of the boiling process, the wort can flow in different directions. In the case of beer and lager, it usually passes through a heat exchanger, allowing the liquid to cool quickly before being pumped into a fermentation tank where yeast is added.

In other cases, the warm wort can be transferred to a reefer vessel, also known as a cooling vessel. This is a shallow bath that ensures that the liquid remains outside. As the wort cools in this tank, it reacts with the surrounding yeast, initiating the brewing process. After about a day, the beer is transferred to another container, for example a keg, food fermentation tank or stainless steel tank.

Computer graphics overview of the brewing phases Illustration by Eric DeFreitas

There are two main types of fermentation tanks. Horizontal tanks are mostly used for storage, while conical fermenters, standing upright, prefer beer. These, like the brewery’s teapots, are measured in volume using a standard 31-gallon barrel. Larger breweries will have fermentation tanks the size of several hundred barrels. Smaller breweries can use barrels that can accommodate only half a barracks.

Yeast is added to the fermentation tanks to start the process of converting the sugar in the must into alcohol, thus releasing CO2. There are many different types of yeast that can bring a variety of flavors and aromas to the human body. Some beers also depend on a certain type of yeast to obtain the desired result.

In addition, some brewers dry the hops from the beer during the fermentation process by adding them to the cooled wort in a cask to give the hops a lighter, juicier profile without bitterness. The New England style is very popular.

For some types of beer, fermentation may take a few days, although it usually lasts a few weeks in the breweries. Some can even make a great beer for a year or more, like strong imperial beer in bourbon barrels.

Once fermentation is complete, many beers are filtered or passed through a centrifuge to remove particles. Some can also be placed in fragile tubs to allow more time for ripening.

Before packaging, the beer receives a healthy dose of extra CO2 to create an extra sparkle. The beer can be packaged in kegs, cans or bottles. Some breweries add a small amount of yeast to the bottle before bottling to condition the bottle or to ensure a second fermentation, where the yeast slowly consumes the remaining sugar and allows the beer to grow in the bottle.

The beer is finally ready to drink. Cold beer is best for most beers. When a brewery sells beer to the public, this usually indicates that the beer has reached its peak and is most in demand. Other beers, on the other hand, may have been cellulose-based for quite some time and develop with age.

Published on the 5th. November 2020

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