How to make beer – The Carlton United Breweries Brewhouse, Melbourne

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne

Having worked in a food manufacturing company for almost 10 years, I always jump at the chance to tour a factory. The process of how things are made, and automating to produce on a mass scale is really fascinating to me. So whenever I travel, a visit to the local brewery, winery or chocolate factory is usually on the cards.

A friend of mine who is a keen home brewer recently celebrated his birthday, and we took him to see how it’s done at Australia’s largest brewery, the Carlton and United Brewery in Abbotsford. The site has been brewing for over 100 years, producing more than 20 beers and up to 150,000 litres of beer per day! The annual output of the site is 420 million litres of beer each year, which amounts to 1.1 billion stubbies and a whole lot of happiness.

CUB is owned by parent company, the British/South African SABMiller, who is currently the second biggest brewer in Australia (approx 39% market share), and second largest brewer in the world.

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Having been to a number of brewery tours across the world, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It took me back to the basics of brewing, and was presented in a modern, entertaining way.

So how is beer made?

Beer is usually made up of four ingredients – barley, water, hops and yeast. Barley is considered “the grapes of beer”. Unlike grapes for wine or apples for cider however, there is almost no sugar in barley to help with the fermentation process when yeast is added. So the barley is soaked in water and then dried, allowing it to germinate. This process converts the starches in the barley seed into simple sugars, providing a food source for yeast. How fascinating! The barley is then roasted, which influences the final product – the darker the roast, the darker the beer.

A nine step process follows:

  1. Milling – crushing the malted barley into small pieces (grist).
  2. Mashing – mixing with hot water, forming a thin porridge like consistency (mash).
  3. Lautering – straining the mix, leaving the residual sweet malty liquid (wort).
  4. Kettling – boiling the wort, sometimes adding hops 20160409_134652e
  5. Whirlpool – stirring the liquid, removing the clumps of protein (trub) before cooling.
  6. Fermentation – adding live yeast culture. The yeast feeds off the fermentable sugars, turning them into alcohol and CO2.
  7. Maturation – allowing the flavours to develop in a cool environment
  8. Filtration – removing yeast and other solids. When the yeast is no longer effective after several fermentations, the yeast extract is sold to make products like Vegemite. Approximately 18 tonnes of yeast extract is produced each day at the CUB brewery.
  9. Pasteurisation – heating the beer to 60 degrees C and cooling it down to kill the bacteria. Bottled and canned beer are pasteurised after sealing, while kegged beers are pasteurised prior to kegging. Interesting to note to why keg beer can sometimes taste better than in a bottle or can – keg beer is usually pasteurised for a shorter period, and is usually fresher with a shorter time into market, both impacting the taste. Additionally, keg beer is usually served in a glass, which allow the aromas to be released from a wider surface area.

The tour took us through segments of each step of the process, and we were guided through the factory and the bottling area to see how it was all done. Even though it was on a Saturday, the bottling plant was running, and it was hynotising watching the bottles get washed, dried, filled, capped, labelled and packed. No photos were allowed, so you just have to take my word for it 🙂

The rubber hit the road at the end of the tour – the tasting. There were 11 beers on tap, which showcased the range under the Carlton United Breweries portfolio umbrella. Carlton Dry, Carlton Black, Great Northern, Victoria Bitter, Crown Lager, Pure Blonde, Strongbow Apple Cider, Melbourne Bitter, Peroni and my personal favourites, Fat Yak and Carlton Draught unpasteurised (tasted like a craft beer!).

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Overall it was a fun day out with the boys, and I liked it enough that I would go again. Worth a visit for anyone interested in beer or looking for a different Melbourne tourist experience.

Carlton Brewhouse
24 Thompson St, Abbotsford, Melbourne 3067
Open Mon–Fri (9am – 4pm) and weekends (10:30am–4pm)
Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne

 

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