(MTN News-HELENA) Beer is as old as mankind itself and part of the reason the drink has stood the test of time is because of the simple ingredients.

The process of making beer is really simple at its core, but over time the steps have been refined and perfected to give us the variety of beers we know today. In no place is that more evident then in the breweries we see in Helena.

It is why the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, how we know Billy Carter, and the reason some of us were born. The libation is a huge part of human culture and here in Montana it is no different.

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With the number of domestic microbreweries in Helena has doubled in the last 5 years. But how is it made?

Well all beer is really just 4 ingredients: water, malt, yeast and hops. Each added at different times and in different amounts for different beers.  The malt which is barley grains is “tricked” into thinking it is Spring so their enzymes activate, and it is heated then used by the brewers.

“Then we are going to crush it, pump it, add a little hot water and what that is going to do is take those enzymes that were kind of stopped and it is going to reactivate those enzymes. So we want those enzymes to get going, breakdown all the starches into the kernel into sugars that we can use to ferment into beer,” said Blackfoot Brewing Co Brewer Erik Hystad.

A good way to think of it is if a batch of beer were a loaf of bread the base malt would be the flour. Within an hour of being in the hot water the enzymes have finished their job and made a sweet liquid called wart.

This wart is recirculated in the tank in order to filter out any impurities and the mix is then moved to the kettle where it is brought to a boil and hops are added.

“Hopps do two things: 1. they give a bitterness and kind of different flavors to the beer, and 2. they also act as a natural preservative. But hops will kill beer spoiling bacteria,” said Hystad.

This new mixture is then whirlpooled to settle the hopps and moved to the fermentor where the temperature is lowered and yeast is added.

“And then the yeast is kind of going to do the rest of the work.  It is going to consume the sugar we took from the grain and convert it into alcohol and carbon dioxide,” said Hystad.

The yeast is eventually removed and the beer is moved to filtered cooling tanks, but just like every other craft there are always tweaks and improvements that can be made to the product.




Reporter: Andy Curtis