Over the past two decades, the hobby of homebrewing beer has skyrocketed. Many inspired homebrewers have took the plunge and decided to establish their own breweries so they can share their beer with their communities. Most Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery; July 2014 data suggests that there are more than 3,000 breweries that operated full or part-time in the United States. Whether you’re looking to start the hobby or set up shop, here is some information to help interested enthusiasts start brewing.
What Makes Beer?
At its core, there are four basic ingredients that make up beer: grain, water, yeast, and hops. Wheat and barley are the most widely used grains, but brewers sometimes use rice, oats, rye, and even corn; these malted grains can be roasted to achieve darker beer styles that include everything from brown ales to stouts. Hops are a kind of flower that adds the characteristic bitterness to beer — different hop varieties are cultivated by growers to give hops pine, floral, citrus, or fruit-like characteristics to beers; this is most noticeable in India pale ales (IPAs). The yeast produces the actual alcohol by consuming the sugars from the malted grains; a lager is cold-fermented using a bottom-fermenting yeast in contrast to ales which use top-fermenting yeasts at higher temperatures. Many brewers believe water to be the most important ingredient — as a general rule of thumb, if the water is good to drink it will be good to brew with.
Launching Your Own Brewery
Running a brewery is just like brewing your beer at home — but on a larger scale. Once you have a place to set up shop you’ll need to invest in the right equipment. The same companies that produce industrial ovens can provide the gas burners used in brewing: while industrial ovens typically have several burners over the actual oven unit, industrial kettle heating burners instead focus their heat on the brew kettle to maintain a consistent temperature to slowly allow grains to release their sugars. The beer then goes to a mash/lauter tun to strain the grains from the wort before going back into the brew kettle where the hops are added and finally into a fermenter where the yeast is added. With the right industrial burners and equipment, any hobbyist can make the transition to a full-time brewer.
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