How We Brew
The Thompson Brewing Co. has a rich history of brewing high quality ales and lagers. Quality is our number one priority when it comes to brewing. We take extra steps unique to each of our brews to ensure their excellence.
The main ingredients in our beers are water, hops, barley and yeast. We strive to ensure all our ingredients are of the finest quality. High quality beer begins with high quality water. It is clean and fresh but also has the perfect mineral content for the best lagers and ales right down to the ph content.
Hops are the green, cone-shaped flowers of vines. They add spicy aroma and different unique flavors to each of our beers. Hops also act as a natural preservative. Malted barley is the heart and soul of beer, adding color, body and flavor. Thompson Brewing Co. selects only the finest grains and special varieties of barley specifically designed for brewing.
Yeast is the backbone ingredient which turns all of the other ingredients into beer. In the process of converting the sugars and starches extracted from grain into alcohol, the yeast also adds distinct flavors. In fact, there are many different kinds or strains of yeast, each one unique in flavor and conversion ability – taking the sugars and starches extracted from grain into two separate containers and adding to each a different strain of yeast, one will find a very distinct and unique flavor from each container by simply changing the strain of yeast. This is how we get different beer styles. Thompson Brewing Co. has selected the yeast strains which bring out the best flavors and aromas from the grain.
Ripe barley from the field is full of raw, natural starches much like those in wheat flour. Before the yeast can work, these natural starches must be converted into simpler starches and sugar. Malting is the natural process of partially sprouting grain, then toasting it to produce malt sugar and the perfect aroma and colors.
The first step in the malting process – turning grain into starches and sugars – is steeping. We begin by soaking the barley in water to clean it and moisten it for germination – germination is the process of making a grain sprout. In the germination phase, the barley begins to sprout. Before sprouting goes too far, we toast the barley in a kiln. The kiln can be used for more than simply stopping growth. Time in the kiln controls color, from pale gold to rich chocolate. It also controls flavor, creating beer that’s sweet and mellow or dark and bitter. After the malt has aged properly to mellow the flavor, it’s time for milling or grinding. We grind the malt into malt flour, called “grist.” Milling cracks the tough outer hull of the grain so water can get in and dissolve the starch and sugars inside.
Mashing is the final process of converting any remaining starch into fermentable sugars. We add hot water to the grist to produce a mixture called “mash.” The combination of heat and natural enzymes from the barley breaks down the starches into fermentable sugars. This process takes place in large kettles called mash tuns. When the sugar content is just right, we filter the mash to separate the solid husks and germ of the grain from the sweet liquid. The sweet liquid, called “wort,” is transferred to another kettle. We then heat the wort to a boil to clarify it and reduce excess water. We add hops at this stage for their aroma and spiciness, and to balance the sweetness. After boiling, the wort is strained, cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank.
When the wort cools, we add yeast, and fermentation begins. The yeast multiply and start consuming the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2 (carbonation). The fermentation tank is constantly kept at cool temperatures for the yeast to do the best job. Fermenting typically takes eight to 10 days depending on the style of beer being made. After fermentation, the filtered, fermented wort is officially beer. Often at this stage the young beer needs to mature to bring out the signature flavors in our beer. When aging is complete it’s time for their ultimate destination, you, the consumer.
We want to produce the highest-quality beer every day which is why our quality-control department constantly monitors and tests every step of our processes, from raw ingredients to our final product. Chemical analysis helps monitor water purity, the starch content of our grain, hop bitterness, yeast quality and many other exacting details. We precisely control temperatures in all stages of the brewing process for consistent results.
Feel free to drop by to see us brewing in action!