Fire Brewed

fire brewedOur award-winning beer is fire-brewed with the best stuff on earth: pure Texas spring water, whole grain, whole flower hops and a whole lotta love! Paramount to our all-natural commitment is our multi-step fire-brewed process.

Brewing with fire is certainly not new…in fact, it’s so old most brewers have moved away from it because fire is more difficult to control than other heating sources. We brew all our beer using an old-world fired process in both the mash tun and kettle. Heating our mash (grain + water) and wort (sweet liquid extracted from the grain) with fire, enables the brewery to delicately caramelize the  sugars in the wort, producing superior malty flavors . We tried recreating our recipes on a steam brewhouse but it didn’t even come close to producing the same flavors.

6968828_mlThe inspiration for the brewery’s unique process and brewhouse came from an old brewhouse in Ireland, similar to the one pictured on the right (circa 1860). Shannon Carter was inspired by the wonderful malt-forward beers of Ireland and the idea of brewing with fire — so much so that he built several fired brewing systems until he perfected the process and brewhouse design.  He then engineered and commissioned a unique fire-heated brewhouse, allowing the brewery to produce a step temperature mash regime without scorching the wort. This process enables the brewery to precisely control enzyme activity while delicately caramelizing the sugars in the wort, leading to superior malty flavors and truly wonderful and unique beers.

To follow is a description of our brewing process:

Milling — Milling is preparing the grist bill (unique blend of malts) for mash-in (introduction to heated water or “liquor”). Precise milling is an important part of the natural brewing process. While almost all beer is made with milled barley malt (some more than others), Shannon Brewing Company is committed to using 100% high quality non-GMO malted barley. We fine-tune our mill to ensure the grain is fractured and separated from the husk (but never crushed into flour), while leaving the majority of the husk intact. The fractured grain and mostly whole husks are very important to developing a quality grain bed, which is critical to wort quality and clarity.

Mashing — The mash tun is the primary vessel in the brewing process. It’s here that meticulously monitored, pure spring water is added to the malt and precisely heated in our fired mash tun to allow enzymes in the malt to convert starches into sugars (maltose) leaving a sweet liquid substance called wort. It is important for some starches to stay intact, as these unfermented sugars give our beer flavor, body and mouthfeel.

The blended malt and water is heated and held at precise temperatures called rests. This combination of time and temperature creates unique flavor profiles for each of our beers. At Shannon Brewing, we use a multi-step mash process, where the mash is left intact and heated in a single vessel. This process unlocks many of the signature malty flavors (toffee/caramel) you’ll recognize in most of our beers.

Lautering — The completed mash is filtered to separate the solids (mash) from the liquid malt comprised of fermentable and unfermentable sugars. The whole husks from the barley provide our first natural filtration bed. The end filtered liquid, called wort, is sweet and clear. Because our mash tun is fire heated, we need to constantly move the wort off the bottom of the tun, creating beautifully clear wort. Once the mash routine is complete, the wort is moved to the boil kettle to be boiled while the spent grains are rinsed with water to extract any remaining sugars. The spent grains are then hauled off and used for animal feed.

Brew Kettle — The wort is brought to boil in our gas-fired kettle. It’s in this stage that the hops and other flavorings are added — producing one of the most wonderful smells in the world! The boil can last anywhere from 60-180 minutes depending on the recipe. The unique blend of boil time, hop variety and amount, give each beer a unique aroma, flavor profile and level of bitterness (measured in International Bittering Units or IBUs).

Whirlpool — The boiled wort is then whirlpooled, allowing the trub (comprised of proteins from the malt and tannins from the hops) to be removed.

Hop Back — After the whirlpool, the wort is pumped through a hop back — a smaller pressurized vessel containing whole flower hops and other natural ingredients. Along with imparting a wonderful hop aroma, the hop back further clarifies the wort.

Heat Exchanger — The wort is pumped through the hop back into our two-stage heat exchanger. In the primary stage, the wort is cooled using cold spring water. The heat exchanger simultaneously cools the boiled wort to approximately 68º F and heats the spring water to near 190º F. The hot spring water is stored in our hot liquor tank and is ready to be used in our next brew. This process conserves water and energy. The second stage of the heat exchanger uses glycol (a food grade refrigerated liquid) to bring the wort down to the desired fermentation temperature. Pure oxygen is introduced to the wort to ensure a quick yeast activation.

Fermentation — The oxygenated wort is pumped into one of our conical fermenter, where unique yeast strains are added. These very happy yeast get to work converting the fermentable sugars to CO2 and alcohol. The fermentation process also produces heat. Monitoring and controlling the temperature is a large factor in determining the flavor compounds produced by the yeast. Primary fermentation can take up to seven days but is usually done more quickly. At this stage, we create additional flavor and aroma profiles through a process called dry-hopping or dry-spicing. We also cap our beer late in the primary fermentation to force some of the CO2 into solution, naturally carbonating our beer.

Centrifuge Clarification — Between the fermenter and the brite tank, the beer is run through a centrifuge made specifically to clarify beer. The centrifuge spins the beer at approximately 12,000 RPM, removing solids from the beer (yeast, hop debris, etc.).

Secondary Fermentation & Patient Aging — After fermentation, we move our beer to a secondary fermentation tank or brite tank.  This process also allows us to slowly lower the temperature of our beer and monitor any additional carbonation needed.

The time and temperature control process allows the beer to mellow and all flavors to harmoniously meld. It also allows almost all suspended solids (mostly yeast and proteins) to naturally settle to the bottom of the tank, producing a beautiful clarity without filtering through diatomaceous earth (DE) or chemicals that don’t belong in beer. We think our beer is beautiful without harsh filtration. We also believe our beer has a wholesome flavor, aroma and mouthfeel that would be altered by chemical filtering.

Packaging — The finished beer is carefully moved to kegs or cans and delivered to our taproom or sent to market. We love our beer and hope you do too!

Sláinte Mhaith