Brewing process

Welcome to beer
brewing for beginners

We have all the basic ingredients of beer – water, hops, malt and yeast – available to start brewing. The final result depends on the specific processes used, the fermentation periods, temperatures etc. Let us guide you through the basic steps of the brewing process.

At Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck we brew beers of top, spontaneous and mixed fermentation. In this beginner’s course, we will also illustrate the difference between the types of fermentation.

Malting

The brewing process starts outside the brewery walls with the malting of grain. Malting is a crucial stage in the production of beer. Barley is mainly cultivated to brew beer, but other grains such as wheat, rye or oats can also be turned into malt as the basis for beer. The malting process starts with cleaning and soaking the grain in water to germinate it, followed by kilning (or drying) the malt at a high temperature. Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck buys its malt from domestic and foreign malt houses. It is always carefully selected and strictly inspected.

We select our malt with the utmost care because it plays a key role in determining the color, aroma and flavor of the beer. Once it has arrived at the brewery, the malt must be milled to form the grain mixture called “grist”. This breaks the grain down and releases the starch. The grist is mixed with hot water in the mash tun to convert the starch into fermentable sugars. The starch dissolves in the mash tun and the resulting liquid is separated from the spent grain.

Mashing

Mashing consists of mixing the coarsely crushed malt and water in a mash tun. Both the quality and the flavor of the water must be optimal. That’s why the water composition is extremely important when brewing our beers.

During the mashing process we mix the water and the malt. In this step of the process, the starch in the malt is converted into fermentable sugars. Temperature plays an important role in activating natural enzymes in the malt to convert the starch into sugars. The amount of time the malt is heated affects the composition of the wort, which is the sugary liquid that remains after filtering. In this way, it also influences the fullness and the foamy head of the beer.

Filtering

After the mashing process, a sugary liquid and the spent grain of the malt remain. In the next step of the brewing process, all the grains and liquid are transferred to the lauter tun. During the lautering process we separate the sweet liquid from the grains. After the filtering in the lauter tun, we temporarily store the spent grain in silos. It is then collected and distributed among dairy farmers. Since we are FCA-certified, we can legally distribute the spent grain to be used as cattle fodder.

The sugary liquid that remains after filtering is called wort. This sweet liquid will soon become beer.

Boiling

Boiling serves to sterilize the wort, to concentrate it and to separate it from the so-called “hot break” (the brown scum that forms on top of the wort as it approaches boiling point). The wort is pumped into the boiling kettle where at this stage, we also add hops and spices to give the beer its bitterness and specific aromas. We only use hop cones of the female hop plant. Boiling largely dissolves the hops into the wort and gives it its bitter aromas and flavors. Therefore, the brewer usually starts with hops that contain bitter substances. Aroma hops are added towards the end of the boiling process. The hops for our beers come from all over the world. For example, we use mild Golding hops from Poperinge for our Kasteel range.

After it has been boiled, the wort has to cool off. For top-fermentation beers, the boiling wort has to cool to 64-77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fermenting

During the fermentation process, the fermentable sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide. At a high temperature, fermentation takes 1 to 2 weeks. During the conversion process many aroma components are released. We can only talk about beer once all the sugars have been converted. For our nitro infused beers, we use two types of fermentation:

  1. Top fermentation takes place at a high temperature between 64 and 77 Fahrenheit. This type of fermentation applies to all Kasteel Nitro beers.
  2. Mixed fermentation occurs when, after the main fermentation, the wort is pumped into oak barrels, where it ferments with lactic acid. This type of fermentation applies to all Bacchus Nitro beers.

Lagering

Once the main fermentation is finished, the yeast is separated from the beer. The beer is then transferred to storage or lager tanks for maturation. During the aging or lagering process, the yeast sinks to the bottom, the remaining sugars are converted into specific aromas and less pleasant flavor components disappear. Lagering balances the beer so that the flavor remains stable. If necessary, the brewer adds extra ingredients.

For our fruit beers we add fruit in this step of the brewing process. During the six-month lagering period the flesh of the fruit completely dissolves and the flavor of the fruit is absorbed into the beer.

Filtering

A second filtering is required during the brewing process. This is necessary to remove the remaining yeast cells and cloudiness from the beer. The excess yeast is stored in silos until it is collected by an authorized distributor. Yeast contains a lot of vitamins and can therefore be used as pig feed. Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck is legally allowed to distribute the yeast thanks to the FCA certification.

Canning

Now it’s time to package the beer in cans. Kasteel Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck has its own canning line operating under the strictest hygienic conditions.

For our nitro beers in can, a droplet of liquid nitrogen is injected above the beer, right before closing the can. In this way, the beer will be saturated with nitrogen gas which gives the beer a smooth and creamy head.

The beer can also be transferred to kegs.

Tasting

Once the brewing process has been completed it is of course time to taste the beer! Is it sufficiently bitter? Do the fruit aromas stand out as they should? These questions can only be answered at the end of the brewing process. Once approved, the kegs and cans of nitro beer can be sold to consumers.

You too – beer lover par excellence – can now taste and enjoy the beer. Follow these serving tips for our canned nitro beers:

  1. Activate the nitrogen by shaking the can three times in a gentle way.
  2. Tilt the can and pour the nitro beer into a glass in one smooth movement.
  3. Enjoy your perfectly poured nitro infused Belgian beer!