The Hot Side
MASH IT – All beer starts out in the mash, a fragrant soup made of malted barley and water. Ours starts out as two-row Canadian and imported specialty barley which is malted then shipped to Baysville. We bring the grain in from our outdoor silo, mill and then mix it with fresh Lake of Bays water. The mixture is heated up and left to rest for an hour. This is where a crucial chemical reaction takes place – the conversion of long, complex starches into simpler sugars that our yeast can digest and turn into alcohol.
LAUTER IT – The not-yet-beer, called “wort,” is pumped out and into a brew kettle. The sweet, porridgey grain that’s left behind is drained and donated to local farmers, whose dairy and beef cattle come running when they see the truck rolling down the lane. Think: ice cream truck.
BOIL IT – In the kettle, the wort is boiled for 60 to 90 minutes. This is where we add hops – the flowers of a creeping vine commonly found along the 45th parallel across Europe and North America – to promote bitterness, flavour and aroma. Added early in the process, hops increase bitterness; later in the process, they kick up the aroma. The steam escapes through a vent stack in the roof and, if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Baysville during the boil, you’re in for an aromatic treat.SPIN IT – The next stop for the wort is the whirlpool, where a spinning current separates clear wort from hop particles and solids. The leftover solid matter, called “trub,” is left behind and the clear wort is cooled, mixed with yeast and pumped into the fermenter.
PATIENCE – The almost-beer is fermented in unitank fermenters over a period of several days, remaining in the tank for two or more weeks afterwards for aging and clarification.
SCIENCE – Yeast makes beer “beer” by consuming the sugars in the wort and converting them to alcohol and CO2. The CO2 escapes through a blowoff arm, bubbling away through an airlock and, courtesy of the type of yeast used, filling the brewery with aromas such as strawberry, cloves, banana and pear. The alcohol remains in the beer (where we like it).
MATURATION – The spent yeast settles to the bottom of the tank after fermentation and is let off through a drain valve. “Yeast showers” are an infrequent yet amusing by-product of this part of the process – well, amusing for everyone except the unfortunate brewer who has just been coated in ice-cold yeast!
BRIGHTEN UP – Once aging is complete, the beer is removed from the fermenter and filtered by centrifuge on its way to the bright beer tank. The filtered “bright” beer is carbonated in the bright tank and is then ready for packaging.
Sip on this: Contrary to popular belief, the exact same beer is used to fill kegs, bottles and cans. Some breweries will set a slightly lower level of carbonation for their draught beer but, in all other respects, the beer is identical. Any differences in flavour come from the serving technique and factors like temperature, palate and the age of the beer.
A HANDS-ON APPROACH – Packaging is an intimate affair at a brewery as small as ours. Every Lake of Bays beer you enjoy has been filled and hand-packed at our production facility in Baysville by local Baysvillians. The process requires a lot of elbow grease and painstaking attention to detail.
STAPLES (473 mL) – Our year-round brands, Spark House Red Ale, Oxtongue IPA, Broken Axe American Pale Ale and Switchback Pilsner, are filled in 473 mL tall cans. For the beer geeks among us, our production line consists of a four-head fully automated can filler from Wild Goose Engineering in Colorado. This pumps out 30 cans per minute, but requires close attention from the operator. In particular, our production team keeps a peeled eye on the seamer, which rolls the lip of the end over the can. Any slight alignment issue can result in crunched cans and a big beery mess.
KEGS – It’s almost too easy: take a clean transfer hose, connect one end to the bright tank, connect the other to the keg and voila! And with the help of an octopus-like kegging manifold, we can pop off four at a time.
Sip on this: A 58.6 L keg takes more than 24 hours to cool down from room temperature to the ideal serving temperature (2-6°C).
We love visitors. You have a standing invitation to head up to Baysville and visit the brewery and see it with your own eyes. Book ahead for your own free brewery tour.
Cheers and enjoy!