At Half Pints, we brew beer using four basic ingredients: barley malt, water, hops, and yeast. This may sound like a simple approach, but given the combinations of available ingredients, we can literally make thousands of different beer styles and flavours. The size of each batch we make is roughly 1000 liters.
Brewmaster David Rudge starts his day by grinding malted barley in the two roller grain mill. This grist is transported by auger to the brewhouse where it is mixed with hot brewing liquor (water) to form a mash. The mash looks almost like a 200 kilogram bowl of porridge, and once mixed it will sit undisturbed for approximately an hour. During this hour, enzymes in the barley malt will transform the starches into sugars, which later in the process we will ferment into alcohol.
After the mash is done, the liquid portion of the mash is pumped over to the brew kettle. This takes about an hour, during which the mash is sprayed with hot brewing liquor (a process called sparging) to rinse the sugars from the grain.
The total volume of liquid (known as wort) is brought to a rolling boil. During the one hour boil, we add hops in different stages to get different flavours. Hops we add at the beginning of the boil will provide bitterness. Hops added towards the last 20-30 minutes of the boil will add flavour to the brew. Finally, after the boil is finished, we can add hops again for aroma in the beer. Each addition provides a different flavour sensation when the beer is consumed.
Once the boil is complete, we transfer the sweet, hopped wort into one of the fermenters. During this transfer, the wort is cooled, and oxygen is added to help yeast growth. We add yeast into the fermenter and over the next few days the yeast will convert the sugars in the wort to carbon dioxide and alcohol. The fermentation process takes five to seven days at room temperature (20 C.) for ales, and two to three weeks at cellar temperatures (10 - 12 C.) for lagers.
When the initial fermentation finishes, we chill the beer to get the yeast to drop to the bottom of the tank. Sometimes we'll add hops directly into the fermenting tank, or like our Stir Stick Stout, we'll add ground coffee to the tank. This process, called dry hopping adds a huge aroma of fresh hops into the beer.
Usually, this is the point that most breweries filter their beer. Half Pints doesn't. Simply put, filtering removes flavour from beer, and we (and our customers) expect more flavour from our beer. It takes a lot of patience and time to wait for a beer to clear, but it will eventually happen.
The flat, clear beer is transferred to its final tank within the cooler, where it is carbonated. We then keg our beer, as needed, from this tank. When bottling, we use 100% recycled industry standard bottles, filling and capping four at a time. The bottles are labelled after filling and packed by hand into cases.
For specialty beers in 650ml. bottles, we pull out our original hand bottler, and fill the bottles one at a time. It instantly makes us remember how far we've come since August 2006, when we opened to the public.