Ingredient Selection: Our process begins by selecting only the finest ingredients from all over the globe. We source ingredients from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the USA, to name a few. This includes everything from our grain, hops, and yeast, to orange peel, raspberries, cherries, chocolate, and bourbon barrels. No sacrifice is ever made in the quality of our beer to save time or money. We firmly believe the purest and best ingredients make the best beer.
Our System: We operate on a steam-jacketed 10-barrel (310 gallon) copper brewhouse manufactured by the Pub Brewing Company. We currently have four 10-barrel fermenters, one 20-barrel fermenter, and six 10-barrel brite tanks. Additional holding capacity is achieved through the use of bourbon barrels that we age some beer in. We currently have 40 barrels in use from multiple distilleries.
Milling, Mashing, and Vorlaufing: Our grain is poured into our mill by hand, one 25kg bag at a time, to be milled to our desired consistency. The milled grain is then sent from the mill to our preheated mash/lauter tun via an auger, and rests on top of a false bottom. As the grain enters the mash/lauter tun, it is hydrated by hot water to form a thick mash. At the same time, as the tun slowly fills with grain and water, the brewer is constantly mixing the mash by hand with an oar and a hoe. This process takes roughly 45 minutes and is very physically demanding on the brewer to achieve a mash consistency that is not only desirable to us, but is necessary to make the high quality standards we have for our beer.
After mashing in, we let our mash rest for 30 minutes. This accomplishes several things. First, it allows for conversion of complex starches into simple sugars. This is achieved by enzymes in the malted barley that become active at the high mash temperature. The enzymes break down long polysaccharides into shorter, simpler sugars that the yeast will later feed on to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. This rest also helps to establish a grain bed.
After the mash rest, we start a process called vorlaufing. During this process, we make use of the false bottom in the mash tun. The bottom is constructed of stainless steel that has slits in it that will allow liquid through, but hold the grain bed in place. Using the grain bed as its own filter, we pump the now sugary liquid from below the false bottom to back on top of the grain bed. This helps significantly to improve the clarity of the mash by removing unwanted impurities and leaving them behind with the grain. We typically vorlauf for 15 minutes, or until the liquid reaches a desired clarity.
Lautering and Sparging: After vorlaufing, we begin to lauter. This is the process by which we move the sweet liquid, called wort once in the kettle, from the mash/lauter tun to the boil kettle. Here at Voodoo, this is a purely passive process that relies on gravity. We will typically lauter over 1.5-2 barrels of wort before we start the next process, sparging.
Sparging is the process by which we spray hot water (170-174⁰F) back on top of the grain bed in order to extract any and all remaining sugars left in the bed. We continue to sparge almost until the end of our lauter. The entire lautering process lasts about 2 hours.
The Boil and Whirlpooling: Now that our kettle is full of wort, we bring it to a nice controlled roaring boil. This helps undesirable proteins precipitate out of the wort, as well as sterilize the liquid to keep it free of natural and airborne bacteria and yeast we don’t want in our final product. We typically boil the wort for 90 minutes, but some beers, such as our wee heavy, we boil for over 5 hours!
During this time we also do our hops additions; some beers only have one, others have 4 or more. At the conclusion of the boil, we begin to whirlpool the wort. Just like it sounds, the wort is pumped from the kettle through a pump, and back into the kettle through a bent arm that creates a whirlpool. We do this for 15 minutes. Since we don’t filter any of our beers, this is an important step for us as it creates what is known as a trub pile in the bottom of the kettle. The trub pile contains all the things you don’t want in your final product, including the coagulated proteins that precipitated out of solution, as well as spent hops. After we shut off the pump, we let the whirlpool rest for 20-30 minutes to pull everything into a nice tight pile so we can knockout.
Knockout, Pitching Yeast, and Fermentation: After the whirlpool rest, we begin moving the wort from the boil kettle to a previously cleaned and sanitized conical, stainless steel fermentation tank. We actively pump the wort from the kettle through the heat exchanger, where it is cooled to fermentation temperature, ales 70-72⁰F and lagers 53-55⁰F. Once cooled, the wort is oxygenated on its way to the fermentation vessel where the yeast is pitched during knockout. This helps to ensure the wort and yeast are blended into solution uniformly and consistently.
We use three different strains of yeast here at Voodoo, our proprietary Belgian strain, and a house ale and lager strain. Knockout of an ale takes approximately 30 minutes and a lager takes about one hour. Once knockout is complete, the wort begins its journey to becoming beer. The yeast feed on the sugars in solution and form ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, among other byproducts. Fermentation can last anywhere from 3-10+ days depending on style and strain.
Once fermentation is almost complete, the tank is capped to capture the naturally produced carbon dioxide, and hold it in solution. Once complete, the temperature of the tank is dropped to allow the yeast to flocculate out of solution and settle in the bottom of the conical fermenter, where we will capture it and repitch it in the next batch of beer. Once the yeast is pulled, this is where we would add dry hops to a beer, like our IPA.
Aging and Packaging: Once the beer has had time to age on dry hops and soften alcohol ester production, the beer is ready to be moved to one of three places. First, it can be packaged directly into a firkin or pin, where the beer will be served on cask as real ale. Second, it can be sent to age in oak, like in one of the many bourbon barrels we have here. Lastly, and most commonly, we send it to one of our brite tanks where it continues to cold age. Cold aging can range from 7 days to 6 weeks or more, depending on style. From the brite tanks, the beer is either kegged or bottled, and sent to market for your enjoyment!