Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and caldron bubble! Home beer brewing 101 by Santiago Brewery and Malthouse

My late mother, God bless her curious inquisitive soul, never believed in the old adage that 
"you can't teach an old dog new tricks".  She took up golf in her 50s, joined a feminist NGO 
in her 60s,  learned tai chi in her 70s and started ballroom dancing in her 80s.  I certainly subscribe 
to her point of view -- after all, isn't life just a continuous cycle of learning something new? 

It must have been the Universe sending me a message when I accidentally stumbled on an article
about a Home Beer Brewing workshop to be held at the Crescent Moon in Antipolo.  For an enthusiastic  beer drinker such as myself, it was serendipitous to say the least.  Now instead of
just drinking beer,  I could actually learn how to brew a bottle or two myself.

This is James Gatlabayan of Santiago Brewery and Malthouse who was our beer master for this afternoon's session.  Santiago Brewery is the first local company that takes imported barley and 
converts it to malt, one of the four main ingredients of beer.  

James brought samples of the different types of malt that he makes in Santiago Malthouse -- 
plus some bottles of beer that he had brewed.   

For beginners in home brewing James showed us how with relatively inexpensive materials, 
one can DIY the various components of basic beer brewing equipment.  No need to jump right 
in  and purchase the near-pro expensive stuff, at least not until you're sure you want to go into
brewing on a more serious and sustained level.  This was perfect for Jay who is my DIY expert 
at home.

As you can see,  a start-up home brewer needs relatively simple paraphernalia -- a cooler, a 
5 gallon water jug with an Airlock, a stainless steel cooking vat and a stove.

The first step in beer brewing is called "mashing" where the malt is combined with water that 
has boiled to a certain temperature and allowed to steep for one hour.  James did mention that beer brewing takes time and patience.  During these one-hour breaks, he continued to share tips with 
us and answer questions about the brewing process.

After an hour, we get to the second step which is called "lauthering".  A DIY spigot bored into 
the cooler releases the liquid from the mash.  This liquid is called the wort,  a clearer liquid strained of any particles of malt and which will be used in the next step of the beer brewing process.  
What do you do with the residual grain that is left in the cooler -- James mentioned that it can 
used as compost or even as animal feed.
Hmm -- since it is not fermented and non-alcoholic you need not  worry about your pigs or chickens running around half-drunk.

The collected wort is then transferred to a cooking vat and brought to a boil.   More waiting time --
patience is a virtue in beer brewing.

It is at this stage that hops, the other main ingredient of beer, is added to the boiled wort.  
Hops are very expensive,  costing up to P3,000 + for a kilo.  Unlike malt though, you just use a 
few grams at a time so one kilo should last for several batches.  

The process of beer brewing is quite exact -- while you can vary and experiment with your beer recipe,  there are specific time frames that you need to follow with regard to the various steps in brewing.  After the wort has boiled and after the hops have been added,  your initial brew is now
ready for its primary fermentation.  
The boiled wort must be quickly cooled and transferred to your fermentation container.  
This is also the step where the yeast, the third main ingredient of beer  is added and the cooling 
vessel locked tight and kept cool for two weeks.  

James told us that the fermentation vessel should ideally be a 5 gallon sanitised jug made airtight 
with an Airlock that will allow carbon dioxide to escape during the process and keep your brew 
from exploding all over your kitchen.  The fermenting brew should be kept in a cool place 
(James suggests the "wet t-shirt" method -- no, you don't wear it, you wrap it around the jug to 
keep the temperature constant and cool).
Fermentation takes two weeks for ale (which is what James showed us today) and up to 3 months 
if you're brewing lager.  This probably explains why most craft beers are of the ale variety.
After the fermentation process,  all that is left to do is to add some sugars for carbonation and you're ready to bottle and chill that beer!

Santiago Brewery and Malthouse does not really brew beers on a regular and commercial basis.  Their primary business is converting grains to malt.  But today, James did bring bottles of his own brew for us to try.  
We had different types of ale to choose from including an  IPA (India Pale Ale) and a 
"medieval" ale that James said was brought about by his research into what types of herbs and flavouring were used in 12th century beer.  
He called it his "Game of Thrones" beer.  Something perhaps to drink at the wedding of Daenerys and Jon Snow?

Our  Beer Brewing Workshop was limited to just 15 participants -- a perfectly manageable size.  
We were able to see the demonstrations up close and our questions were answered thoroughly and 
in detail.  
James was more than generous with his  knowledge and enthusiastic about encouraging us to go 
into beer brewing -- whether for personal,  at-home enjoyment or as a start-up, artisanal business.  
Thanks to Crescent Moon for hosting and setting up this very interesting and unique workshop 
(and for the filling and delicious merienda served)  but most of all a huge thank you to
James Gatlabayan of Santiago Brewery and Malthouse -- Pinoy master brewer and staunch proponent of local beer!  
Cheers!  Mabuhay!


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