Every Pint Has Its Purpose: A Brewing Experience at Great Lakes Brewery

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Tucked away on a road off Royal York Road in Etobicoke lies a nondescript two-story building. If not for the large company banner, or the bright yellow and blue umbrellas dotting the summer patio, few passersby would guess that some of Ontario’s most tantalizingly flavorful beers are made inside.

On the morning of May 30th, CBSR staff members David Klar and Sarah Nieman arrived at Great Lakes Brewery to participate in a unique experience: brewing a custom beer facilitated by Recipe Development Brewer Mike Lackey. Joined by students from the Prud’homme Beer Certification program, we carefully crafted the exclusive brew that will be enjoyed at CBSR’s next Pints With Purpose event in Toronto, ON.

Responsible Brewing Practices

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Great Lakes Brewery is one of Ontario’s oldest craft breweries, and is committed to supporting its community and minimizing its environmental impact. Everyone benefits from GLB’s sustainability practices: malt waste from the brewing process is sold to local farmers to feed pigs, and a blended beer lovingly called Swamp Juice prevents 600-800 litres of waste water poured down the drain every week.

As Alex Whitlow proudly described, all the ingredients in our custom Pale Ale were locally sourced from within the Province of Ontario from responsible growers. The malts were from Barn Owl Malt, a family operation in Belleville that specializes in small, single-origin batches using traditional floor malting techniques. The Cascade pellet hops were also sourced from small-batch growers in southern Ontario.

A Beer to Enjoy With Colleagues

The beer we set out to make was light in body with a mild hop profile: the perfect easy-drinking beer for those warm summer nights to share with colleagues and friends. As we learned throughout, the beer making process is surprisingly complex and sensitive. Even a slight deviation from the recipe can yield a significantly different tasting beer. For those who want to learn more about the brewing process, a short summary can be found below.

Our all-Ontario creation will spend the next few weeks fermenting, and will be ready to serve at Pints With Purpose in Toronto on Thursday, June 29th, 2017. Come enjoy this “Pale Ale with Purpose” with us, and raise a glass to celebrate the positive impact that you are making across the Greater Toronto Area.

The first 25 registrants will also receive a 500ml bottle of our custom brew to take home. For more information about the event and to register online, click here.

The Brewing Process

We brewed a pale ale, light in body and a touch hoppy – perfect for warm, summer days. The process was surprisingly complex and sensitive, with even a slight deviation from our recipe resulting in a significantly different tasting beer.

Step 1: Water 

The brewing process begins with piping hot water and additives for preservation. The quality of the water is paramount to the end product: water in different regions naturally contains different minerals and hardness levels, which can drastically affect the taste of a beer. GLB must then craft the water they use for brewing to achieve their best beer possible. For a pale ale with a balanced taste, water temperatures need to be around 160°C before the malt is added.

Step 2: Converting Starch to Sugar

The alcohol from beer comes from malt, which needs to boil at high temperatures to crack the kernel and convert the starch from the grain into the sugars that will be fermented. Adding malt to the water can lower the overall temperature up to 10°C, and our pale ale needed a “mash-in” temperature to simmer at around 152°C. Higher simmer temperatures (up to 160°C) will produce more complex sugars and result in a sweeter beer with higher alcohol content. Lower temperatures (around 145°C) will do the opposite – a beer with little sweetness and a lower alcohol percentage.

Step 3: Recirculate the Mash

After a 45 minute wait, our mash was ready to recirculate. The liquid becomes cloudy at the bottom of the mash tun during the heating process, and dragging it up to the top of the mixture allows the sugars now present to be better evenly distributed. The liquid is called “wort” as it becomes a clear, golden colour, and is the sugary component that ultimately gets fermented. We had a taste of the wort from our pale ale; it was very warm and reminiscent of the fresh and sweet scents of a meadow on a sunny day.

Step 4: Separating Mash From Wort

Once the wort was flowing clearly, we transferred it to a second container. This takes time, and requires a process known as “sparging” – adding more hot water to the top of the mash tun to keep the pressure on the grain bed consistent as the liquid slowly drains out into the second container. Once fully transferred, the wort is boiled for almost an hour to remove any last remnants of starch and contaminants.

Step 5: Adding the Hops

No beer is beer without the bitterness of hops balancing out the sweetness of the malt. At GLB, they add hops wrapped in a linen bag after the wort has been boiling for 50 minutes. Five minutes later, the heat is turned off, and more hops are added for an additional five minutes.

Step 6: The Chiller

Before the wort can be transferred to its final fermenting destination, it needs to chill out. GLB uses a plate chiller to quickly lower the temperature of the liquid, running the hot wort through one tube and cold water through another to transfer the heat from the wort to the water until it reaches the desired temperature.

Step 7: Fermentation

We left our pale ale at this stage, where it will spend the next few weeks fermenting to prepare for our upcoming event. With the mash on route to a local farmer and the excess wort ready for the next batch of Swamp Juice, we truly brewed some Pints With Purpose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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