Water, malt, hops and yeast are the 4 basic ingredients of beer. To certain beers we add sugar, spices, fruit or even liqueur. The final result depends on the specific procedures, fermentation periods, temperatures etc. Of course, we are not revealing our brewer’s secrets here. But we would still like to guide you through the basic steps of the brewing process. Welcome to the beginner’s course of beer brewing
Malt is barley that is soaked in water to germinate. During the germination process enzymes are created, which convert the starch in the barley into sugars. Before the leaf bud appears, the germination process is stopped by drying the malt. Depending on the temperature during the first drying, the malt will get different flavours and colours. Brewery Van Honsebrouck buys its malts from domestic and foreign malt houses. We carefully select and strictly inspect them. Instead of malt, another source of starch can be used as the basis of beer, such as corn, rice or wheat.
In the brewing room, the malt is first crushed in a mill and then mixed with water again in the mash ton. The quality and the flavour of the water are extremely important. Brewery Van Honsebrouck gets its water from various wells that are over 200 meters deep. The water is thousands of years old and of excellent brewing quality. We change the starch into fermentable sugars at various temperature levels. The dissolved proteins cause the white head of foam on the beer. The grains are then filtered out of the mash and what remains is the wort; the liquid malt extract that will soon become beer.
We boil the wort for at least 1 hour. Meanwhile we also add hops and spices. Kasteel contains soft Golding-hops, a British variety of hops. For Brigand we use Saaz-hops from the Czech Republic, which gives the beer its characteristic bitter flavour. St.-Louis is made with hops that are over 1 year old. Boiling largely dissolves the hops into the wort and gives it its bitter aromas and flavours. After it has been boiled, the wort has to cool off again. For Gueuze we pump the boiling wort into an open cooling tank where it is infected with microflora from the surroundings. This causes spontaneous fermentation.
In the fermentation room we add yeast to the wort (except for Lambic, which ferments spontaneously). 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. For Gueuze, to which we do not add yeast, it can take several months before all the sugars have been converted and we can call it Lambic.
Now we let the beer rest and age for a while. While it is ageing or lagering, the yeast sinks to the bottom, the remaining sugars are converted into specific aromas and less pleasant flavour components disappear. Lagering creates balance in the beer so that the flavour will remain stable. For the preparation of our fruit beers we add fruits. During the 6 month lagering period the flesh of the fruit completely dissolves and the flavour of the fruit is absorbed into the beer.
By filtering the beer we remove the remaining yeast residue and cloudiness from the beer. For beers that undergo second fermentation in the bottle, we then add some sugar and active yeast. For gueuze and fruit beers a blend of old and young Lambic is prepared before we bottle them.
Brewery Van Honsebrouck has its own bottling plant in Izegem, where the beers are bottled under the strictest hygienic conditions. Our beers with second fermentation in the bottle (Kasteel Tripel and Brigand) are then stored in a “warm room” for several weeks, at 22 to 23 °C. This starts the re-fermentation in the bottles, which gives the beers their characteristic flavour and aroma. After they come out of the warm room they stay stored for another several weeks before they are allowed to leave the brewery.