We get a lot of queries about how exactly we make beer. It’s a difficult question because brewing is the perfect merge of art and science. How do you easily describe that?!?! Really, you can’t. But what we’ve done here, is try supply you with a good base for being able to follow discussions with your beer enthusiast friends at the pub.
First things first: Beer is made with four ingredients: grain, water, hops and yeast
Of course you can use more ingredients, but anyone who claims to use less than four ingredients is spinning you a yarn that isn’t worth listening to. Malted barley and wheat are the most common grains used in beer, but many others can be used (although usually not as the main grain because they cannot convert enough starches to sugars) like rye, spelt, oats, and rice. Water will affect the beer’s flavour and body. Hops are used to give beer bitterness and aroma. Yeast creates alcohol (and has a major influence on taste). Other “things” can be added to beer (like fruit, spices, herbs, whatever), but unless it has the four ingredients listed, it ain’t beer.
Let’s get our beer on!
1) Mashing: Grain + Water = Wort
Beer is made by extracting sugars from various types of grain using heated water. This process is called mashing. We want sugars to be extracted from the grains into the water to create a fermentable solution (called “wort”). When we say “fermentable”, we mean able to be fermented by yeast to produce alcohol (yeasts “eat” sugar and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide gas). Temperature and time are key factors in the mash process. Too hot or too cold will not get the right amount or right types of sugars into the wort. And the mash must be held at the right temperature(s) for enough time to extract enough of the desired sugars. For reference, a mash takes on average 60-90 mins and is at a temperature of roughly 65C.
You may have seen some homebrewing kits which use a syrup-like malt extract. The extract is simply mixed with hot water and produces the wort instantly so you can skip the mash step. This is called extract brewing while the paragraph above describes all-grain brewing. The main difference is that the latter is more time consuming (and requires equipment to mash the beer in), but allows for a wider range of beer styles to be brewed. Literally, if you can dream it up, you can brew it up. (WARNING: it might be brutal)
2) Boil the wort
After the wort is ready, it must be boiled. Beyond ridding the solution of any bacteria or potential sources of infection, boiling separates out certain proteins from the wort and ensures that the wort gets to the right volume for fermentation. As the wort boils, water is evaporated, leaving a higher-sugar solution. The longer it boils, the more sugar it has (usually). This will lead to a higher alcohol content after fermentation (at the expense of volume). Most boils take 60-90 mins, but there are of course exceptions.
3) Add the hops
Hops can be added to the wort at several stages: Start of boil; during the boil; at the end of the boil. The longer hops are boiling, the more bitterness they create. As the time they are in the boil decreases, the amount of flavour and aroma they contribute to the finished beer increases. Hops can also be added during fermentation (called dry hopping) to give a very hoppy aroma and flavour. We like dry-hopping at Rye River Brewing Company.
4) Add the yeast
When the boil is complete, the wort must be cooled to a temperature that is not hostile (or deadly) for the yeast. This is typically done very quickly (within 30 mins) to prevent off flavors from the buildup of certain compounds and also cause proteins which could affect the clarity of the beer to drop out of the wort. It is important to remember that anything that comes in contact with the wort after the boil step must be sterilized. When the wort is cool enough (approx. 24C depending on the yeast used), the wort can be transferred to the vessel where it will be able to ferment. The yeast is then added (or pitched as we say in the business). The wort can also be aerated (shaken up, for example) to increase the oxygen levels for the benefit of the yeast.
5) Let it ferment
The fermentation vessel (usually a carboy or bucket for a homebrewer) which the aerated wort with the yeast is in must be airtight to prevent oxidation and infection from undesired microbes. Most vessels have a lid and airlock (a device which only allows gas/air to escape and not enter). The vessel is then put in a dark place (to prevent damage to the yeast and subsequent off flavours) at a controlled temperature which maintains the fermenting beer within the yeast’s recommended fermentation temperature. Temps outside of this range (which varies based on beer type) can cause undesirable flavours or stop fermentation altogether. Most of the fermentation may only take up to a week, but it is most common to leave the beer to condition for a period of time before bottling or kegging.
When fermentation is complete, many large scale or commercial brewers will filter the yeast out of the finished beer and force carbonate it (pump in CO2) when bottling or kegging. This is why typical commercial lager beer is usually very clear and there is no residue on the bottom of the bottle. Most homebrewers, (and lots of craft brewers) however, do not filter out the yeast. This means that the beer in the bottle/keg is still “alive”. Apart from enabling the beer to “age” and change its taste profile over time, the remaining yeast in the beer will also help carbonate it naturally. When brewers do this they first must check to make sure the fermentation/conditioning process is complete by taking a reading of the sugar content in the finished beer at bottling time (remember: the yeast ate the sugar during fermentation, but if there too much left, it will cause overcabonation and too much pressure will build up in the bottles since there will now not be a way for the CO2 to escape). If this happens, the bottles can explode. But, to get carbonation, you need some fermentation to continue in the bottles. So, when the brewer knows that the fermentation has stopped, some extra sugar (called “priming sugar”) is added to the beer so that a little fermentation will start again. The beer is then transferred to sterilized bottles and capped.
7) Drink it
Unless the beer is filtered and force carbonated, then depending on the temperature the bottles are stored in, the beer will need a few weeks to ferment the priming sugar and cause the beer to be carbonated. Time is also needed to additionally condition/age the beer for optimal taste. If you do decide to brew and go for a very hoppy beer though, the rules change a bit. Hoppy beers (IPA for example) are best drunk fresh as the hop flavour starts to dissipate quickly.
The Celbridge brewery is flying together, and we caught up with Shift Brewer (or Beer Jesus) Owen Ashmore as he was mashing in for a brew of Knock Knock Ned’s IPA. Catch everything in the below video!
Last week we had a big win, but even better fun at AllTech Craft Brews and Food Fair in Dublin. We were lucky enough to win the Dublin Craft Beer Cup 2016 with our amazing 7.1% IPA – Francis Big Bangin’ IPA.
After the win, demand was extremely high and unfortunately we sold out at the event, so could only describe the beer to those who were looking for it. Our description of “big West Coast style IPA” often raised a few eye-brows and most would ask “what exactly is a West Coast style IPA?”
Well we’re here to help with a quick overview of some of the lesser spotted IPA styles.
The lesser spotted IPA
West Coast – West Coast IPAs are known for the huge hop aroma bursting with notes of citrus and tropical fruits. Their malt character is understated, and they finish dry to let the layered hop flavours and aromas take centre stage.
Double or Imperial – While nothing is actually doubled when making these brews, there is more of just about everything. More malts make for more alcohol in the finished brew and allows for more hops to be added to balance the beer out. Double IPAs can range from around 7.5 percent alcohol to 10 percent or more, and they can be downright devastatingly bitter.
Triple – Edging up over 10 percent alcohol, triple IPAs are the culmination of (largely) American brewers’ obsession with hops! These brews can be tough to find as they are expensive and time-consuming to brew, and they must be consumed as fresh as possible for full impact.
White – A hybrid style that takes the hop-forward character of the IPA and blends it with the wheat and often the spices used in easy-drinking Belgian Witbiers. The wheat provides a lighter body and a refreshing zing, and many modern aroma hop varieties shine when paired with the grain.
Black – Every beer-loving pedant’s favourite oxymoron, the black IPA was invented — depending on who you ask — in the Pacific Northwest or North County San Diego. Either way, these dark ales use enough roasted malts to provide a deep mahogany hue and a distinct roasty flavor to standard pine and citrus flavored IPAs. The match works surprisingly well, and a Black IPA can be nice change of pace from typical India Pale Ales.
Well what a weekend that was!
On Friday night, we were given the amazing news that our Big Bangin’ IPA, Francis, had won the overall Dublin Craft Beer Cup at the AllTech Craft Brews and Food Fair – the first time that an Irish beer has ever won the cup! The award is a credit to the amazing work done each and every day by our brewery staff as well as everyone else at Rye River Brewing Company.
With the 2016 Dublin Craft Beer Cup taking up residence in Celbridge and the brewery all but ready to rock and roll – it’s going to be a very big year at Rye River!
Craft beer is a serious business, regardless of the carry on that goes on at the brewery! Craft beer glasses are a serious business too!
Great beers should be appreciated, and for just about every craft beer, there is a craft beer glass to go with it. If you’re like us, you’ll drink it out of whatever is closest (like a boot) but if you want to up your glass game, we’re here to help. Here’s a simple guide to show what glass should go with what beer. (Click the image for a full sized version).
Craft Beer Glasses
Want your own McGargles Pint Glass? Check out our shop HERE
Can you imagine our surprise?! The real McGargle’s have been in touch – no joke!
Recently, Patricia Goplin from Wisconsin in the United States contacted the us. Incredibly, she was born ‘Patricia Anne Bridget McGargle’!
Patricia’s father was 100% Irish with all his grandparents coming from Ireland. The family think the original name may have been McGarrigle because that name appears in numerous places on family records, including the family farm papers which was purchased in 1876. There were also several variations of the spelling of “McGargle” listed in the same records.
Records back then were fairly haphazard in rural areas in the States, but the family has always gone by McGargle!
Last year Patricia and her family even visited our brewery and spoke with Alex (our head brewer/chief beer geek) about the name behind the beer.
This year, Patricia braved the cold on Christmas Day to show off her McGargle’s swag with her sister Sue (another original McGargle) and her daughter Teresa.
Happy new year McGargles!!!
What time is good for a cocktail? Any time is the correct answer there. When it comes to a twist on the classic cocktail, Craft Beer Cocktails are what we’re all about at McGargle’s. We’ve gathered some of our favourite cocktails and given them a craft beer twist. Some of these are perfect for the long winter nights we’re in the depth of right now (Black Velvet) and others are best kept in the holster until the sun (rarely spotted big ball of fire in the sky) makes an appearance.
Uncle Jim’s Black Velvet:
This cocktail is made using our Uncle Jim’s Stout, and Champagne, which are carefully poured into a tall Champagne flute. Using an equal measure of both the stout is carefully poured, over the back of a spoon, on top of the Champagne. Pouring the drink this way means that the two liquids remain in separate layers.
The drink was created in 1861 by the bartender of the Brooks’s Club in London to mourn the death of Prince Albert. The drink is meant to reflect the black armbands that were worn by mourners. A variation of this drink can be made using cider or perry instead of Champagne.
This cocktail takes it’s inspiration from traditional cocktails. Margartia lovers look away now. Using frozen limeade concentrate rather than lots of limes saves on squeezing and on time! It can be tricky
To make this cocktail combine 180ml each of frozen (undiluted) limeade, tequila and Fancy Frank’s Lager in a blender with ice and blend until smooth. If you feel so inclined garnish with a slice of lime.
This cocktail largely wins a spot in this list because of the great name. As with the Beer Margarita this is a take on a traditional cocktail, with a beer twist. In fact it’s more an addition than a twist, the idea with adding a beer to this cocktail is to add just a touch of bitterness, but be warned…using too much beer could unbalance the drink.
For this drink use 60ml Cachaça, two wedges lime, two wedges lemon, six mint leaves, 15ml agave nectar and 300ml of Francis Big Bangin’ IPA. Muddle citrus and agave nectar, add mint and cachaça and shake with ice, top with beer in the mixing glass and serve.
Raspberry Beer Cocktail:
This is a refreshing summer cocktail – not for right now, but when we get those three days of sun in July you’ll be glad you have this recipe. This is a cocktail born of the craft beer boom and we can’t et enough of it in the offices here.
This punch-style cocktail contains 3/4 cup of frozen raspberries, three-and-a-half bottles of chilled Cousin Rosie’s Pale Ale, one bottle of frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate plus half a cup of vodka. Simply mix all the ingredients together in a large punch bowl. Garnish with lemon and lime slices, serve over ice and kick back and enjoy the micro-summer.
The Red Eye:
This cocktail featured in Cocktail the movie from the 1980s starring Tom Cruise. In the movie this cocktail is purported to be a cure for hangovers, although we cannot confirm that one! We’ll do some research though!
This drink has a Bloody Mary feel to it and contains one shot of vodka, 180ml tomato juice, 330ml of Fancy Frank’s Lager, one teaspoon of lemon juice and a raw egg. A dash of hot sauce can be added if that’s your thing, pour these into a large glass in the order listed, and good luck.
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