Hen & Hound Brewery Co.

Month: February 2015

By in Beer school 0

Malting? What has hair loss got to do with brewing?

Malt gives beer its colour, flavour and contributes to the mouth feel of the beer. Malt is grain that has been tricked into coming to life (and then killed) in order to release it’s wonderful sugar. This sugar in combination with yeast is turned into the alcohol in beer.

Malting is the process of converting barley or other cereal grains into malt, for use in brewing, distilling and other less important life pursuits.

The malting process begins by germinating grain (normally barley) by immersing it in water to encourage the grain to sprout. The barley is then turned for around five days while it is air-dried. The grain is then kiln-dried at which point the grain is killed and becomes malt. 

The longer it is in the kiln the darker the colour. Malts range in colour from very pale through to chocolate or black malts.

Malts are typically divided into either base or specialty malts. Base malts do the majority of the work in terms providing the fermentable sugar for the brew and specialty malts provide much of the flavour and colour. For instance our ‘tell me how it ends pale ale’ uses pale malt as its base (about 90% by weight) and crystal malt (about 10% by weight). Despite being only 10% the crystal malt gives the beer much of its colour and the important caramel flavours. The list of malts used for a brew is often collectively referred to as the grain bill.

Base malts include Pilsen (pilsener) malt, pale malt, wheat malt, Maris Otter, 2-Row and 6-Row. Specialty malts include Vienna malt, crystal malt, chocolate malt… There are hundreds of malts each with different characteristics depending on what you are after. Specific information can be found here on a large range of malts. This link may help you find out about a specific malt or give you a sense how malts can vary.

The last step before you can use the malt in your brew is milling or cracking the grain. After this you have a bag of milled malt that is ready to brew with.

By in Beer school 0

All I hear these days is ‘hops, hops, hops’! What are hops?

Good question. In Australia (at least) you can largely thank the craft beer scene for bringing hops to our attention. Before that most Australian brewers used just one type of hop called ‘pride of ringwood’ which was bred by CUB in the 1950s – think Foster’s lager. Now there are more hop types available to a brewer than they can poke an … empty schooner at – too forced? yep.

Hops are the female flower (of a hop vine) which secrete an acid called lupulin (photos below). It is this acid that is prized as it helps with the beer’s head, gives it the bitterness that we all love, act as a natural preservative and give it both flavour and aroma. Hops are closely related to marijuana and only grow in latitudes between 35 to 55 degrees north and south – they do grow in Canberra.

When making beer the hops are (mostly) boiled to extract the acid – either fresh or as a pellet. The more alpha acid in the hop you are using and the longer you boil it for the more bitter the beer. However, the more you boil it the less aroma you will get. This is why brewers often add hops throughout the boil (either the same type or different types). For instance our ‘tell me how it ends APA’ has citra boiled for 60 minutes, a second lot of citra added 45 minutes later (for 15 minutes) and cascade added after the boil ends. Hops added after the boil are called dry hopping, this method extracts the flavour without the bitterness – If only that was possible with people.

Hops have lots of odd and mysterious names: chinook, fuggles, saaz, vic secret. Once you identify a beer or a style you like, try and find out what hops are in it and how bitter it is (bitterness is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU) – the higher the number the more bitter). This will help you know what to look for in the future. This link is a good place to start.


I’ll soon be harvesting our home grown hops (all American cascade) so stay tuned for more beer school and more beer drinking soon.


By in Beer school 0

Brewing sounds fun and easy: Brewing overview #1

brewing hammer and hops

Fun, yes but only if you like hard work. Easy, not really. Like a lot of things it can be as complicated as you want but even at its most basic you are still looking at a solid initial three hours to get it into the fermenter, a week or two in the fermenter, an hour or two bottling then two weeks until you can drink it. But the rewards are worth it!

Brewing has the following practical steps:

– Everything before the fermenter (mashing, sparging, boiling)

– Fermenting (sitting in plastic or metal container turning into alcohol)

– Bottling and conditioning (putting in bottle with some sugar and capping)

– Drinking.

If you eventually move to all grain (like the one I did today) your tasks and time are roughly as follows for the first step:

1) Heat 20 litres of water to 50-60  degrees C. Add grain and keep at temp for an hour to an hour and a half. (2 hours plus a bit of prep time)

2) Sparge (wash grain) with 30 odd litres of water at 75 degrees C. (30 min plus an extra 30 carting and heating water. Spent grain to chooks).

3) Boil wort (left over liquid) for 90 minutes. Adding hops at various points throughout. (Hour and a half). Good point to eat cake and maybe have a beer. Also good time to sterilise fermenters and other tools.

4) Chill wort as quickly as possible. You need to get it from 100 degrees C down to the temperature at which you can add yeast (15-24 degrees C) as fast as possible to the stop the risk of infection. With an immersion chiller this takes about 30 minutes.

5) Rack chilled wort to fermenter and add yeast (10-20 minutes).

6) Clean up and have another beer (up to an hour).

At this point your brew is ready to start becoming beer, but it isn’t drinkable for a few weeks. But that is another story…