The brewing process
Craft brewing today at Saltaire Brewery is a blend of tradition and technology.
Great beers start as superior raw materials. Saltaire Brewery use four main ingredients in the making of beer - Malted Barley; Water; Hops and Yeast. And with just these four ingredients, we can conjure a huge number of tantalizing beers. We also add malted wheat and rye to give further variety and complexity.
- Malt Loft
- Mash Tun
- Liquor Tanks
- Conditioning Tanks
Malts provide the colour, body and a lot of the taste and aroma of the beer. The malts can taste biscuity and silky, or of deep roast coffee and chocolate. The mix of malts goes a long way to determine the style of the beer. A bitter comprises mainly of plain malt, with a little crystal malt or chocolate malt for colour and toffee flavours. We also add a little Torrefied wheat to ensure a lasting head.The Mash Tun is the first vessel in the beer making process. The tun at Saltaire Brewery, receives up to 500 kilos of malted barley per brew. This grist is soaked at 66°C, in hot liquor creating a porridge – called ‘the mash’. Our water is soft Yorkshire mains water, which has low levels of carbonates. We add certain chlorides and sulphates to increase acidity and assist in effective sugar extraction. The water is then known as brewing ‘liquor’.The mash is where a variety of enzymes work to transform the starches into a spectrum of sugars, unique to our ales. After an hour or so, the sweet sugary liquid, called ‘wort’ is rinsed out of the mash and transferred to the second vessel, the brewing Kettle or the Copper. This rinsing process is called ‘sparging’! The remaining spent grains, still rich in nutrients - but devoid of sugars, is taken by a local farmer to be fed to his cattle! The Kettle boils the 4,000 litres of wort for an hour and on three occasions during the boil, we add hops to the Kettle. The initial hops are added and boiled so the hop resins isomerise – i.e. become soluble in water, to produce hop bitterness. The later hop additions provide the aroma and taste from the hop oils. If these hops are added too early in the process the oils are boiled off and flavour suffers.
Hops impart not only the distinct bitterness that makes a beer refreshing, but also adds the spicy and fruity character that so enriches the beer drinking experience. At the end of the boil the wort is cooled and transferred to the fermentation vessels. A heat-exchanger not only cools the boiling wort to 20°C, but also recovers 100% of the hot water that is needed for the next brew. We use English hops, Challenger, Fuggle and Golding, but we recognise the massive contribution made by American and other New World hop growers and brewers. We brew all styles of beers using American, New Zealand, Eastern European and Australian hops.
Yeast. One of the most important ingredients in this almost magical process of making beer is Yeast. At Saltaire Brewery we have cultured a unique strain of yeast which gives our beers a special flavour profile. This pure culture is ‘pitched’ into the cooled hoppy wort in the fermenter and this wort becomes beer! The fermentation process takes about four days. Yeast works its magic in turning the brewing sugars into alcohol, CO2 and in creating unique flavours in the beer. These flavours are the products of the many dozens of chemical reactions that take place as the yeast works on the sugars.
Different yeasts work in different ways and produce different fermentation flavours. We ferment our ale yeast at 20°C, until the yeast has consumed most of the available sugars in the wort. This is measured by watching the gravity of the wort drop, as the amount of sugar reduces during fermentation. When we reach our final gravity we chill the beer to stop the fermentation. The aim is leave a little of the brewers sugar in the finished beer for secondary fermentation
We will only ever use our special English Ale yeast, as introducing different yeast strains into the Brewery systems risks cross contamination with our own yeast, as risk we cannot afford to take.
After fermentation, the beer is stored at 10°C, where it Conditions. This allows the yeast to work on what is called the Green Beer and the remaining yeast reabsorbs any compounds that could impair the finished flavours. Beer is best drunk fresh and Saltaire Brewery aim that their brews should be available for drinking within two weeks of the grain being mashed! We do not leave the beer lying around in tanks any longer than it needs to. Our rate of sale ensures this rarely happens!
Racking & Filling.
When the beer is racked into casks it is ‘fined’, with a liquid made from the swim bladders of fish - it’s true! The isinglass finings carry a positive ionic charge that causes the negatively charged residual yeast to clump, and sink to the bottom of the cask, clarifying the beer. As temperatures increase, the remaining yeast starts to work again! This secondary fermentation converts the last of the sugar to produce the light carbonation that drinkers expect in their pint!”