Brewing with Portland U-Brew

So as I mentioned in a couple past posts, about a month ago, Ktams and I made our own beer through a home brewing class with Portland U Brew and Pub. The class was through a Living Social deal, and we were in a group of approximately 12, brewing two batches of golden ale and one batch of red ale. Even though P.U.B. is kind of a testosterone overload, these guys really know their stuff! Jason, the owner, walked us through the beer brewing process step by step. I didn’t have our camera along (what with all the open containers of beer) so all of these pictures have been taken through Instagram. I am going to do my best to relay the process to you after the jump!

I think this is a fermenter. Lord knows I was drinking (it was a prerequisite for the class). 

So the first step in the brewing process is called mashing. This means boiling the malted grains in water to break down the starches into sugars (pictured below–the pouring of the malted grains into the water while my mister stirs).

What’s not shown is separating the sugar-rich water from the spent grains and moving them into the boiler (sorry!).
The next step is boiling the sugar-saturated water, which ensures sterility. Here is where the hops are added to add aroma and bitterness to the beer. This mixture is known as wort. 

Adding the hops in a hop bag.
After this, the wort is rapidly cooled through the use of a heat exchanger from the boiling temperature down to the fermentation temperature (approximately room temperature). The cooling process of the wort is extremely important because at too high a temperature, the yeast is killed off immediately, or if it isn’t cooled fast enough, bacteria can grow, ruining your batch. At the right temperature, the yeast is added. 

The pots after the yeast was added.

The yeast is in charge of converting the sugars into alcohol. This occurs over time during the fermentation process. I want to take a moment to talk about how important sanitation is at this when brewing beer. You can not sanitize too much! One thing I really liked about P.U.B. is that they used an iodine-based sanitizer instead of (more commonly used) diluted bleach. I have personally found iodine sanitizer to be safer and it isn’t as harsh as bleach. Bleach, if not thoroughly rinsed, can evidently cause some nasty tastes in your beer, too.

Pictured above are the fermentation jugs A.K.A. carboys (middle jug being filled with what’s-soon-to-be-beer). Airlocks are put at the top of the jug.

Are you wondering what the weird devices are at the top of the jugs? Those are airlocks. They are responsible for letting the carbon dioxide out but keeping the bacteria laden oxygen OUT. The first stage of the fermentation process lasts about a week. Thankfully we haven’t been camping out on the floor of their basement waiting for this step in the process. The employees of P.U.B. transfer the beer to a secondary carboy, leaving the yeast in the bottom of the first fermenter. It then sits in their cooler, is kegged and force carbonated, which allows P.U.B. to create natural clarity without filtering the beer (the yeast flocculates–that’s a fun word, right?).

The beer is bottled (or kept in the kegs) for about a month in total before you can partake in the liquid gold. We picked up 12 22oz. bottles of both the red and the grapefruit IPA (which we didn’t brew–but I believe the grapefruit would have been added in the second fermentation process).

I would definitely suggest this experience to anyone thinking about brewing their own beer. It was very interesting going through the process step by step and put a lot of brewery tours I’ve taken into better context–and the beer is delicious! We were able to try most of the beers we were making before we came to claim our 24 bottles, so we knew that what we were taking home was going to be enjoyed to the last drop. Granted, there is a little taste difference because of the age and the extremely slight inconsistencies in brewing (I would call it human error but it has a negative connotation–and this case really isn’t negative). If you are in the Portland area and interested in learning more about home brewing or Portland U-Brew,  check out their informational page.

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5 Comments

  • Reply Jenn November 9, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    How fun! While I am not into beer much beyond a light domestic (so classy huh?)… this would be a great spot (for the single ladies) to meet men! Ha!

  • Reply Motormouth November 9, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    So fun!!! I think any craft is so fascinating to learn and experience, but one where you get to taste yummy beer after is even better!

  • Reply marlynn November 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I am super impressed and in awe of the whole brewing process, and love how you broke it down here. What a fun experience!

  • Reply Kari Koupon November 9, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Totally a novice question, but does the fermentation in beer have lots of probiotics in it? I have been researching different ferments and have been curious about the amount of probiotics in beer.

  • Reply Susannah November 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Wow! Nate would totally love this!

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