Above: a sight not many see – the back of the brewery with its original brickwork. At left is a screw conveyor that brings malt from our silos into the brewery for milling.
Most of you know that the Oland family has been in the brewing business since 1867. But did you know that our Saint John brewery has been around for just as long? (We purchased the brewery from James Ready in 1928 – but the building itself was built between 1867 and 1890.)
It’s a great old building, and much of our actual brewing takes place within its walls. (Newer areas of the brewery – allowing more room for machinery – are home to our bottling and canning line as well as our warehouse.)
One of the weird things about working in such an old building is that we must fit our tanks and pipes into the spaces we’ve got. Our milling process is no exception. Here’s how it goes down…and up.
Our signature malt arrives by train from western Canada – pulling up to the back of the brewery on a rail spur just for us. Depending on our brewing schedule, we might get one or two loads per week. A rail car contains 90,000 kgs of malt. Each of our lager brews takes approximately 8,900 kgs of malt, which means one rail car gives us enough for 12-15 brews.
Above: rail cars designed to deliver malt are specially outfitted with doors along the bottom of each car.
Our team attaches a metal tray, which is connected to a large hose, and then rolls open the door at the bottom of the rail car. The malt is sucked by pneumatic pressure into one of our malt silos at the back of the brewery, where it is stored until we need it. You can see this process happening in our Beer 101 video on malt.
Above: our malt silos. Each silo can hold ½ a rail car’s worth of malt. You can also see some of our fermentation tanks at right.
Our signature malt makes up the bulk of our grain bill, but other brews also require different types of malt including black, crystal, and others.
Above: bags (at left) and 1,000 kg large totes (at right) of specialty malts.
Malt arriving in smaller bags comes pre-milled. This malt is measured out and weighed using the scale pictured below, and then added to the mash tun by hand.
Above: our malt scale.
Malt arriving in large totes still need to be milled. When we need it, we suck it into an empty malt silo in the same way that we suck malt out of a rail car. The specialty malt is then brought into the brewery for milling as normal.
Here’s where our old brewery has its say in how we do things. Our milling process happens over two storeys.
We bring the malt into the building using screw conveyors and bucket elevators, and deliver it to a screening machine that uses both screens and magnets to ensure that no foreign matter or clumps pass through to the mill.
Above: our screener (top floor) and our mill (bottom floor). You can see the brown piping at top right, where the malt is dropped into the screening machine. Both machines are a bit dusty – but that’s to be expected when you’re grinding grain!
From the screener, the malt is dropped to the storey below, where it is milled – which you can read up on here.
Once the mill has done its job, the malt is sent back up to the storey above, where it is collected in a giant funnel, called a grist case, above the mash tun. It accumulates there until we have the right amount for the next brew. The grist case itself is almost two stories tall.
Above: the top of the grist case above the mash tun.
Above: the bottom of the grist case, and the mash tun.
Stay tuned for next time, when we’ll follow the malt into the mash tun!
More on malt: http://www.mooseheadbeeracademy.com/beer-101-episode-2/
Malting and malt attributes: http://www.mooseheadbeeracademy.com/barleymalt-part-one-two-bbh/
Milling at Moosehead: http://www.mooseheadbeeracademy.com/weve-got-crush-malt/
Calibrating your mill with malt sieves: http://www.mooseheadbeeracademy.com/artifact-really-malt-sieves/