How beer is made
Beer is a beverage that has thousands of years of tradition, known already by the Sumerians. Barley was grinded, water added and let to dry. The mixture was grinded and mixed with water once again. The beverage was certainly tasteful, but different to modern beer.
Beer was introduced into Europe by the Slavs from the Carpathian mountains and it grew roots in Slovenia. Valvazor already wrote about brewing beer, breweries in today’s sense can be discussed from the 17th century onward.
Brewing beer has always been real art. The procedure has mostly remained the same and follows the traditional recipes. Advances in technology have changed beer.
Ingredients: water, barley, hops
Even the first brewer in Laško knew that good beer cannot be made without quality water. Water from the hills around of Laško is exceptional – microbiologically intact, crystal clear, with a low content of carbonates, which gives a special and characteristic taste to the beers from Laško. Malt, the basic ingredient for manufacturing beer, is produced by fermenting barley. Different varieties of malt, pale, caramel, colour are utilised for brewing different beers.
For manufacturing malt, two row early barley is primarily used; its spikelets are formed from equal rows of seeds, rich in starch. First, barley is cleaned and sorted, then soaked to germinate, which lasts for several days. Thus, the so called “green malt” is produced. Dried and cleaned malt must mature for at least one month.
Malt production in Laško was the only one in Slovenia and has been closed since January, 2000, due to insufficient needs of Pivovarna Laško. Thus, malt is imported from Austria, Czech Republic, France and elsewhere.
Of course, there is no beer without hops, »the spice« which gives the characteristically pleasant aroma and refreshing bitterness with its aromatic substances. Hops have also been known as a medicinal herb. Some of its medicinal ingredients remain in beer, giving it, along refreshing, also medicinal properties.
The technological procedure of manufacturing beer continues in the brewery. By brewing, optimal conditions for enzymes’ functioning are reached, which are otherwise inactive in malt, preparing as good as possible food for yeast. Water is added to malt and then milled. This phase is known as worting, the mixture of water and malt also known as wort.
In special containers, by increasing temperature, conditions for enzymes’ functioning are created and thus substances in malt are broken apart. Under the influence of protolithic enzymes at lower temperatures proteins are converted, and, at higher temperatures, under the influence of amyloidal enzymes, carbon-hydrates are converted. Newly formed dissolved substances are called the extract and the fluid lauter. By separation, the lauter’s unsolvable parts of malt, a significant part of the extract still remaining in the unsolvable part, are removed with water.
The produced liquid, known as fermented wort, is boiled in boiling kettles where hops are added successively.
Pivovarna Laško is proud of a large, technologically most contemporary brewery with the capacity of max 8800 hl daily (8 kettles daily i.e. 1100 hl/kettle), and a smaller one, totally automatized computer aided brewery having capacity of 4.500 hl daily (6-8 kettles/day, 600 hl/kettle).
Fermentation, conditioning, filtering
Fermenting beer including hops is pumped into a special container where hot residue is removed. Fermenting beer is then cooled to the initial brewing temperature, aired by sterile air and yeast is added to start the alcoholic fermentation. Alcohol is formed, including carbon dioxide and side products. Heat is also released, therefore beer must be cooled down during fermentation.
After fermentation has completed, young beer is formed, which must be cooled down, yeast removed and pumped into tanks for conditioning. The process of conditioning varies in duration depending on the type of beer, Temperature from -1 to 0 degrees, prescribed pressure and duration are the conditions required for a complex taste and beer aroma, and saturation with CO2.
After conditioning is completed, beer is still more or less blurry. For crystal clear and long shelf-life, beer is to be filtered.
For this phase of production the brewery has increased its capacities by almost 100 per cent in later years and modernised the attic premises. All processes in this phase are automatized and computer-aided.
Before packaging, beer is treated with heat – pasteurised – thus primarily increasing its biological duration.
In 1976, Pivovarna Laško put online a new filling hall with a line for bottling and a line for kegs. The oldest still operational line having capacity of 55.000 bottles per hour was put online in 1988. A technologically more advanced line (60.000 bottles per hour) was put online in 1992. Same year, a new line was installed for kegs (240 kegs per hour). In early 1993, equipment for cans was also replaced, thus achieving 30.000 cans per hour. Simultaneously the brewery increased and modernised the pressure attic with computer-aided cleaning of tanks and lines.
Even with the best beer on the market, ignorance and lack of knowledge on the side of traders, warehousing personnel and consumers, can decrease beer quality. Beer is sensitive to sunlight, heat and steep changes in temperature. Therefore, it should be stored in a dark and cool place (up-to 10 degrees °C). A saying goes that beer is consumable as long as it’s clear. And as such, it will remain as long as it is stored properly. Quality beer deserves this, we owe it to its origins.