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Breweries and Micro-Breweries

Though beer can be made at home, most beer is made in dedicated breweries, and has been for most of history. The oldest known brewery is the Weihenstephan brewery in Fresiing, Bavaria, which can be traced back to 1040AD (although there’s a friendly claim to the throne from the Czech brewery Zatec, who claim they can prove they paid a beer tax as far back as 1004AD). Before the proliferation of breweries been was mainly brewed by women in the home, and it was the Christian monasteries who started the shift to industrialization of beer-making.

History of Breweries

The first breweries were multi-story buildings. The higher floors housed the equipment used in the earlier stages of the brewing process, and gravity helped to transfer the product to the next stage down the production line. (This layout has largely remained intact to modern day, although mechanical pumps allow layouts to be more diverse).

When James Watt vastly improved the steam engine in 1765, this meant a great leap in production for the breweries. The brewers could now mix ingredients more reliably, and use the immense steam power to help moving greater quantities of liquids around. Then when Carl von Linde perfected the refrigerator in 1871, brewing could move to an all-year-round practice (heat affects yeast, imparting unpleasant flavours on the beer, so brewing in summer was more difficult). Possibly the most important advance was Louis Pasteur’s discovery of the importance of microbes in the control of beer fermentation, and further research allowed brewers to begin choosing yeast for its fermentation characteristics and flavour.

Modern breweries are mainly made from stainless steel (the large copper vessels you commonly see in a brewery use a decorative copper cladding for that nostalgic look). Stainless steel is very good for beer-brewing – it imparts no flavour, can easily be cleaned, and is very sturdy under pressure. A major addition in modern breweries is the constant analysis of samples for oxygen content, infections and unwanted variations, to ensure the beer is of a consistent and high quality.

What are the steps in brewing beer ?

Beer brewing is a usually split into 7 steps within the brewery ;

  1. Mashing – mixing milled grain with water and heating.
  2. Lautering – separating the extracts from mashing to create wort, a sugary mixture
  3. Boiling the wort – sterilizes the wort, and hops are added to contribute flavour
  4. Fermenting – the sugars metabolize into alcohol and carbon dioxide
  5. Conditioning – cooling the beer, this removes some unpleasant flavours. The beer becomes smoother
  6. Filtering – (optional) Removes solids from the beer, giving it a polished shine
  7. Filling – packaging the beer

Types of Breweries

There is a wide range of volume and variety of brewing companies currently in operation. The largest brewery in operation to date is the Belgium company Anheuser-Busch Inbev. Anheuser-Busch Inbev holds nearly 25% of the market share in the world, and includes a portfolio of nearly 300 brands. This includes global brands Budweiser, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Staropramen, Leffe and Hoegaarden, and regional brands such as Skol, Labatt’s Blue and Michelob.

Regional breweries are breweries that distribute to a certain local region, although with modern distribution methods this term is not so common. A microbrewery is simply a small brewery (also known as a craft brewer). The smallest breweries are perhaps Brewpubs, whose beer is primarily to be sold on the same site as it is brewed. There is also a healthy culture of people brewing their own beer in their homes, now known as home-brewing. Depending on the country, a home-brewer is only allowed to brew a certain volume of beer, and some countries restrict the brewing of hard alcohol completely.


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