After I develop a recipe to the point where I feel it should be the next step is to take it up to Old Dominion to play it out commercially.  Lets walk through the brewing process.  Each picture below can be viewed full screen by clicking on it.  

The first thing we do is to mill the grain.  The pale malted barley is stored in silos out back and is moved to the mill hopper via a flex auger.  The specialty grains are added in 50# bags to a hopper located above the mill.  

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The next step is called doughing in.  This is the process of mixing in the malted barley and specialty grains with preheated mash water.  The temperature is held at a point which favors the two predominant enzymes present in the malted barley. These enzymes are beta and alpha amylase which break down the long starch molecules found in the malted barley to simple and complex sugars, respectively.  This step is called the saccrification rest. The temperature of the mash remains uniform throughout the kettle due to the paddle which rotates constantly.  After we are sure all the starches have been converted to sugar the mash temperature is raised to a point which deactivates the alpha and beta amylase.  We must then separate the sweet wort from the grain.  Below are shots of the dough-in and during the saccrification rest.   

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To separate the wort from the spent grain we transfer the mash to the lauter tun.  The lauter tun has a screen false bottom just above the actual bottom of the vessel allowing the wort to run out of the vessel free from the grain.  Once the lauter tun is filled valves are opened allowing the wort to flow from below the false bottom and gently returned to the top of the grain bed.  As the wort is recirculated the grain compacts.  As the grain compacts it becomes a more effective filter.  Eventually, the recirculating wort is crystal clear.  At which point it is ready to be sent to the kettle.  The knives can rotate slowly around the lauter tun to gently raise the grain bed in case it compacts too tightly.  They are also used to help plow the spent grain from the lauter tun at the end of the cycle. 

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Once the wort is crystal clear we divert the flow to the kettle.  The we start the sparging process.  This consists of sprinkling the grain bed with hot water to gently remove all the simple and complex sugars to the boiling kettle.  The kettle is equipped with a paddle to ensure constant temperature and reduce the possibility of a boilover.  Below you see the sweet wort entering the kettle.

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When the kettle is full the wort is boiled for 90 minutes.  The object of boiling is to stabilize the composition of the wort and extract the bitter, flavor, and aromatic principles of the hops that give the beer its wonderful hop character.  At the completion of the boil the hops and protein are removed by transferring the wort to the whirlpool tank.  

As the wort spins around in the whirlpool tank the particulate matter collects in a cone in the center.  The clear wort is collected from the side of the tank leaving most of the hops and trub behind.  

While we are waiting for the whirlpool to stop we pitch the yeast into the cleaned and sanitized fermenter.  The yeast is collected from the cone of the previous batch.  

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After we have pitched plenty of fresh yeast and sealed the fermenter, the wort is cooled by passing it through a heat exchanger.  Cold water enters the exchanger from one side and the hot wort from the other.  The heat from the wort is transferred to the cold water and visa versa .   The cooled wort is oxygenated in-line on its way to the fermenter where it becomes acquainted with worts best friend - lots of fresh yeast.  

Here are some more shots from the first batch of New River Pale Ale.  Which began at around 6:00pm and ended at about 4:00am.  

I can't remember which one of the six trappist monasteries in Belgium has this saying on the wall.  "God bless the mother that gives birth to a brewer."  Well you got to love one that will stay up all night brewing and taking pictures as well.  Thanks Mom.

momatthehelm.jpg (56545 bytes)Mom 

onplatform.jpg (56794 bytes)Kenny

kenny&greg.jpg (43351 bytes)Kenny (left), Greg Spradlin - Brewer Old Dominion Brewing Company 

rinser.jpg (52504 bytes)bottling line.jpg (57019 bytes)Here are a couple of shots from the first bottling of New River Pale Ale.  The first picture shows the bottle rinser.  The second shot you see the beer moving from the labeler to the case packer.  Next time I'm at Old Dominion I'll try to get some better shots of the bottling line when it is not in use.  Things were moving much to fast to get clear pictures.