The latest from Atlas

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Altitude's Live Brew Demo at Pie and Pint

Eliott Menzies with his brew kit
Whilst enjoying pints and pies at Arrowtown Autumn Festival's fantastic Pie and Pint afternoon, we bumped into Elliot Menzies. Elliott is the founder of Altitude Brewing Studios and was in the midst of brewing a special festival beer with a pretty impressive piece of kit. 

Like Eliott's other beers, which are inspired by the Wakatipu, this festival offering was fittingly inspired by Arrowtown. He experimented with some smoked malt to impart a little smokiness into the brew – pretty reminiscent of the lovely wood smoke you can smell at this time of year. The brew is called Autumn-n-ale and will be ready at the end of the month. 

Eliott gave us a talk through the brew process.

The mash
So a little brewing context first for the uninitiated: when brewing the idea is to first to turn a starch source (the malts) into a sugary liquid called wort, then convert the wort into beer via a fermentation process with yeast.

The image (left) shows what's know as the mash tun. First the malt - that's the grain in the picture - goes into the mash tun and hot water is added. This soaks the malt and converts the starches to sugars, some of which (depending on the temperature of the mash and the type of malt) will be fermentable. 

In this recipe Eliott used Carapils, Light Crystal and Smoked malts.

The temperature in the mash tun is around 67c; it's not heated but ideally is kept warm and insulated. The malt is soaked for around an hour and once that hour is up more water is run through it to rinse off all the sugars and colour. This part of the process is know as the sparge. The initial one hour soaking results in a mixture with an almost porridge-like consistency. So the malt is sparged to create more volume so in the end there's more beer but also to dilute the sugars to what is required for abv standards. The resulting sugary liquid is called the wort.

The kettle
From the mash tun the wort travels down a tube into what's know as the kettle.

Inside the kettle: this smelt amazing!!
At this stage in the process the liquid wort is boiled for around an hour. Boiling evaporates the mixture a little and also kills off any enzymes left over from the mash. Hops are also added at this stage and can be added at various points during the boiling. The longer hops are boiled the more bitterness they will impart but less aroma.

Eliott added different hops at the various stages. He added 20g of Nelson Sauvin for 60 minutes to get a nice bitterness into the wort and to balance the natural sweetness. Another 20g of Nelson Sauvin at 50 minutes and finally a combination of Nelson Sauvin and Cascade to give the beer good aromas and mouthfeel. 

Cool it: the heat exchanger
After boiling the hoppy wort is cooled in preparation for adding the yeast. It's passed through a heat exchanger to aid with the cooling process. This is really important as yeast is susceptible to high temperatures and would die if added to a hot wort. No active yeast would result in no fermentation - which would mean no beer!

Autumn-n-ale: ready to ferment
And finally, the mixture flows into the fermenter the yeast is added to the wort and then left to do it's magic for around a week. During the process the gravity of the brew is checked to see if the sugars are turning into alcohol.

Once most of the alcohol has been produced in this primary fermentation it can be transferred into bottles or casks to continue fermenting a little more.

Eliott's festival brew, Autumn-n-ale should be ready at the end of May and we hope we get to try some.

If you would like to try Eliott's beers check out the Altitude Brewing Studios Facebook page or call into Atlas as we often have some Altitude brews on tap.