Introduction: How to Make 20,000 Pints of Beer.

Picture of How to Make 20,000 Pints of Beer.

There are several projects here for small-scale home brewing.

I thought I'd find out how they do it properly.

I turned to the Adnams Brewery, and enlisted the help of their Quality Manager, Belinda Jennings, who I first met in a field in Suffolk...

Step 1: Raw Materials

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The thing about brewing is that there are no secret ingredients.

Water, malt, hops, yeast.  That's it, for a proper beer.

What affects the final flavour is the way these things are treated.

The softness of the water, how dark the malt is roast, the species of hop, the strain of yeast.

Malt adds sweetness, and provides the sugar for fermentation.  Hops add bitterness, especially to balance the sweetness of the malt, and the yeast, of course, turns the sugar into alcohol.

Most brewers (Adnams included) will happily give their recipes, but they won't give their yeast - established brewers have strains that are slightly different to other brewers' strains, and so affect the flavours.  Adnams have been using the same strain of yeast since 1945.

Step 2: Preparation and Control.

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Malt must be milled, yeast grown and water boiled.

The remains of the milled malt go to be animal bedding - very little of anything is actually thrown away by Adnams.

In 2008, Adnams installed a whole new brew-house.  As well as being highly controllable and automated (in-line systems weigh out ingredients instead of sacks having to hefted in by hand), it also recycles the waste steam from the brewing process - it saves 30% on energy costs, but it also means that the brewery doesn't smell of brewing, which is a shame IMO.

Step 3: Wort.

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The milled malt is heated and stirred (mashed) with water in the lauter tun, for 90 minutes.  This dissolves the sugars and other flavours out of the solid malt, making a liquid called wort.

The heating pattern - how hot, how long, when the temperature is changed etc - affects how much of what flavours are dissolved out of the malt, and will affect the final flavour.

When the wort is transferred to the next tun, the solids are left behind, eventually to end up as cattle feed.

Step 4: Hopping

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Hops add bitterness, flavour and aroma to a beer.

Hops added early to the wort cook the longest and add most bitterness (the bitter flavourings are resins, which are harder to cook out of the hop).  Hops added later provide flavour and aroma from oils which evaporate quickly when heated.

The timing of hopping has a huge affect on the flavour.

Step 5: The Best Bit...

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The actual fermentation.

The yeast that was fed up on wort is added to the hopped wort, and warmed - the temperature is maintained in the region of 20oC.  The exact temperature of the fermentation controls the fruitiness of the final flavour; slightly higher temperatures increase the fruitiness, slightly lower temperatures decrease it.

The beer spends three days being warmed, then is cooled to around 6oC for four days to mature.

Step 6: Firkin!

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Beer travels to pubs in barrels.

Well, it used to.  Actual barrels are quite large - 288 pints - so the vast majority of beer gets transported and sold in firkins, which hold 72 pints.

The barrels are all recycled - flushed with hot water, blasted with steam, and refilled whilst still hot.

The barrels are then moved to the edge of Southwold, to their warehouse with a living roof, ready for distribution all over the country.

Step 7: The Fun Part

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Sorry, I mean quality control...

All the brews are tasted as soon as they are ready.  The process is very like wine-tasting, except that you have to swallow, because much of a beer's flavour is after-taste.  No pansy slurp-and-spit here!

Samples from bottled batches are also tasted regularly through their shelf-life, and a month beyond; this is a non-pasteurised beer, and it is potentially possible for the flavour to alter with time.

Step 8: Art and Science

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Brewing is one of those processes, like papermaking and smithing, that is equal parts precise science and black art.

Careful records of what goes in and what comes out have to be maintained for customers, food authorities, the customs and excise...

Samples are taken all through the system and monitored.  Swabs are taken regularly to check for microbial incursion (remember, this beer is not pasteurised, so the whole system has to be scrupulously clean).

But, at the same time, the unexpected happens, like the Belgian-style beer that absolutely refused to settle its fines, no matter what they did...

Step 9: And a Little History.

Picture of And a Little History.

The brewing house was refurbished in 2008, but Belinda took me to see what was left of the old methods.

"Proper" copper tuns and vats that were a pig to keep clean.  Steam valves that had to be turned by hand.  Wobbly steps that had to climbed with sacks of hops.  Picturesque, but unpredictable.

But... look at that view!

Step 10: Credit Where Credit Is Due.

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Naturally, I owe a massive debt of thanks to everybody at the Adnams brewery, especially:
  • Fergus Fitgerald, Chief Brewer, who gave permission for the whole thing (but, unfortunately, could not be there the day I visited)
  • Belinda Jennings, Quality Manager, who looked after me on the day, giving me access-all-areas and fitting me around her proper job and a visit by shareholders.
  • Graham Gilbert and Colin Chambers, who kindly allowed me to take their photo whilst about their work.
  • Thanks also to all the other staff at the brewery who put up with me trailing around the place like a lost drunk.
I know this whole thing looks like an advert for Adnams, but it really isn't meant to be, it's just an insite into how the Big Boys go about the craft of brewing.

Oh, I do recommend that you favour them with your business - Adnams beers are all in my top-ten favourite brews, and I tend to be fussy about what I drink.  They are also very environmentally aware as a company, producing a carbon-neutral brew, pioneering thinner bottles, and building a green-roofed warehouse, all of which got them crowned 'Carbon Innovator of the Year' by the Carbon Trust.

Oh, and about that field...

On the way to the brewery, I had a small, er, incident, and my Mini ended up in a field.  Belinda and a colleague, Paul Hester, very kindly came and pulled me out of the field (which is more than the AA would do, despite me being a member for twenty-five years this December!).  If they hadn't done that, then this Instructable would probably never have happened.


Edbed (author)2015-08-19

Could u also go round their distillery ;)

Kiteman (author)Edbed2015-08-19

I could now, but the distillery wasn't open to the public in 2009...

Yard Sale Dale (author)2013-12-22

That's cool. Did you do this for a class project, or just for fun?

Kiteman (author)Yard Sale Dale2013-12-22

Ha, just for fun and personal interest.

Bazzatron (author)2012-01-14

So, the abbreviated guide would be something like....

1)Obtain brewery
2)Brew beer
3)repeat until 20,000 pints have been accumulated.

jonnybo111 (author)2011-02-17

what the heck are kirkins i thought they were kegs!!! :S

If you mean firkin, it's roughly 41 liters or one quarter barrel. Also one sixth of a hogshead. (I hope I recalled those correctly) Firkin is actually the measurement and thus a common name for the container that holds said amount. Mmmm...Beer! Thanks for this one Kiteman.

t.rohner (author)2010-08-14

Very nice report (not a instructable imho...) I made at least 40000 (imperial) pints in my life, but it took me ten years ;-) Last year, our "brewery" had it's 10. annyversary. So we wipped up a little party. It was so well received, we had to repeat it this year. With some special food and enough beer. Some pics of it: also not an instructable in it's pure form, just bragging...

solo.card (author)2010-05-26

 Fantastic! It's a shame you couldn't see the pasteurisation process, or indeed document canning / bottling. Quite interesting!

I toured the Fosters brewery in Manchester many moons ago, and they are interesting places. (That brewery smell is fantastic, isn't it!)

The problem with many factories (or at least the industry I am in) is that most of the process is in sealed tanks, pipes, etc, so you only ever see the final product.

sharlston (author)solo.card2010-06-04

the canning process is pretty simple i can explain if you want me to?

Kiteman (author)solo.card2010-05-26

Adnams don't pasteurise their beer - it's all as real as it gets.

Fosters?  Sorry, that's lager, not beer... ;-)

xproplayer (author)2009-11-03

Fyi on a small error

quote "which is more than the AA would do, despite me being a member for twenty-five this December!"

i believe you forgot an a and years.
dont mean to be a critic btw just being helpful
P.S. when i first saw this i thought you were going to make 20,000 pints of beer at home......
keep up the great work!

Kiteman (author)xproplayer2009-11-03

I didn't forget an A (I live in the UK), but I did forget the years...

AndyGadget (author)Kiteman2009-11-03

Just out of interest, Kiteman, which AA would that be? ;¬)

Derin (author)AndyGadget2010-05-23

The one most probably running your TV remote.

Kiteman (author)AndyGadget2009-11-03

The one that is supposed to collect drivers from fields, not from breweries...

skunkbait (author)Kiteman2009-11-11

Oh.....  My cousin likes to say he's the founder of AU.  
                                                                       (Alcoholics Unanimous)

MrMystery96 (author)skunkbait2009-12-31

At least he didn't start a face book group known only as F.U.G.U. (I did...)

(Federation of Uber Geeks United)

xproplayer (author)Kiteman2009-11-09

i dont think they would pick you up from a brewery they would probaly think your a drunk and dont deserve to be towed......

no offense just a joke
i never noticed before but congrats on 100 'ibles

depotdevoid (author)2010-02-06

Very nice instructable Kiteman, and you beat me to the punch!  I was talking to my little brother the other day about doing an instructable a lot like this--he's head brewer at a microbrewery here in Oregon.  I think yours is probably better than mine would have been though, as his operation is quite a bit smaller scale than that of these folks and I'm not sure my writing chops are up to par with yours.  Thanks for sharing your visit to this historic brewery!

Kiteman (author)depotdevoid2010-02-07

Hey, go for it anyway - readers will be more able to replicate a microbrewing project than one on this scale, and your brother doubtless uses slightly different ingredients and processes.

As for the writing, practice makes perfect.

MrMystery96 (author)2009-12-31

A field in Suffolk you say? kiteman, what a dog you!

M4industries (author)2009-12-24

 What a milestone! 100 instructables! TimAnderson has double that, but you still have significantly more instructables than most of us.

MrMystery96 (author)2009-12-16

I visited a few vineyards in both canada and germany, but this was extraordinary!

Kiteman (author)MrMystery962009-12-17

Thank you!

KnexFreek (author)2009-11-30

I will make some tonight. Thankyou.

(jk im 13)

gearhead1951 (author)2009-11-12

If you ever find yerself in Chattanooga  Tennessee ,   look up th' Big Bend Brewery !  It is a microbrewery/pub that serves up some of th' best "specialty" beers and ales I can remember drinkin'  ( stop snickerin' dang it ,  you know what I mean !!  ) 

skunkbait (author)2009-11-11

Good job!  I've toured a few winerys, but haven't gotten to tour a proper brewery yet.  I'll try to make it a point on my next vacation.

PKTraceur (author)2009-11-10

Very interesting 'ible Kiteman!

clark (author)2009-11-02

 wow! really neat!

Kiteman (author)clark2009-11-02

And that was a fast comment!

xproplayer (author)Kiteman2009-11-09

and a fast reply in the same exact minute!

discontinuuity (author)2009-11-02

Very cool.  I like to make my homebrew, and it's interesting to see on a larger scale.

I live in Golden, Colorado, where they make Coors.  It's definitely not my favorite beer, but on the brewery tour they claim that their copper kettles produce less of a metallic taste.  Do you know any of the reasons why Adnams would use stainless steel rather than copper for the new vats?

Yeah, copper costs like gold these days, and junkie would probably break in to steal the copper.

and maybe some beer too?

maybe something with sanitation? i know that all doctors stuff is all stainless steel.

One of the main reasons may be that SS is way easier to clean and sanitize than copper.  Not sure how it effects the flavor, but copper naturally forms a thin copper oxide layer which is dissolved into the beer by the acidic wort.  Copper reacts badly to some cleaning agents (like bleach) causing larger than usual copper oxide deposits, which when dissolved into the wort can cause serious problems.

Kiteman (author)tashiandmo2009-11-03

That is the reason - far easier to keep clean.

The new vats have no riveted joints, nowhere for bacteria to lurk, which is important when the end product does not get pasteurised.

=SMART= (author)2009-11-08

Great idea doing a tour of somewhere and making it an instructable !
really interesting to see how they go about making beer, and seeing the technology they use.
Thanks !!

t.rohner (author)2009-11-06

Although this isn't a instructable in it's pure sense, i enjoyed reading it.
You have thoroughly researched all aspects of brewing.
By the way, i have brewed 40'000 pints of beer and ale over the last 10 years...


Yerboogieman (author)2009-11-05

Nice! My family and I make some pretty good beer at home.

qldazza (author)2009-11-05

Adnams is surely one of the best brewers. It rates right up there in my all time favourites.  I used to live in Diss and would make regular visits to the coast to stock my Adnams supply direct from the source.

There is a tiny little pub in Bungay called the green dragon that brews it's own beer, well worth a taste if you are in the area.

Another favourite of mine was St Peters. Did a really nice cranberry beer and a gorgeous old hall to enjoy it in.

qwertyboy (author)2009-11-05

hehe, hoppers for hops

trike road poet (author)2009-11-05

I really liked this instructable, while it wasn't a make your own brew sort of thing, it showed the steps and the explanations were detailed.  Understanding the process of making something is a stepping stone to learn more, making one appreciate instructions later.  What you gave was a serious introduction to the process and the next instructable on making beer will be that much clearer and understandable.  Great job, and great pictures that actually showed the subject clear.

Kiteman (author)trike road poet2009-11-05

Thank you, I thought I'd try something a bit different for my 100th project.

strangebike (author)2009-11-05

I can honestly say I never get tired of looking at beer and brewing. Pity it doesn't like me as much as I like it or do they really ship all the hangovers to Basingstoke? The Ringwood brewery does a tour of their site which is a really good evening out. Well I got piddled :-)
great instructable

Kiteman (author)strangebike2009-11-05

Thank you!

ecohun (author)2009-11-05

Excellent Instructable, makes me want to add beer making to my cider making. Would I be able to use my old oak wine barrels or is this courting disaster.

greendeane (author)ecohun2009-11-05

As far as i know, unless you were brewing a very very strong flavoured beer then the oak/wine flavour can be over-powering, especially if the barrels are not full sized. smaller barrels have a higher oak/liquid ratio which makes the problem worse. Of course you can re-season a full sized oak wine barrel and then use it. Then you have to try and brew enough beer to fill the barrel. which won't be as much fun as trying to eympty it with friends! most home brewers who are looking for an "oaky" note in their beers seem to put oak chips in their glass fermenters.

gjm (author)2009-11-05

This is fantastic, thanks for posting it.
I was in England in the mid eigthies (I was in the airforce) and a friend and I wandered up to visit the Theakston brewery. Of course it was the weekend and they were closed but we met a cooper who worked there at a local pub and he had keys to the place and gave us a private tour.
It was amazing; at that time they were still putting their beer in wooden kegs.
This instructable reminds me of one of the best times I had when I was there.

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Bio: The answer is "lasers", now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Project previews on Tumblr & Twitter: @KitemanX
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