Beer Making: It Gets Complicated

To produce better beer, gear is justified

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By David Hammond

The more you get into beer making – or golf or scuba diving – the more equipment you feel you need, and the more complicated the process becomes.

At Oak Parker Roger Lupei’s house on a recent Sunday afternoon, instead of my working together with him on a five-gallon batch of beer, he was making ten gallons all by himself (additional hardware sometimes permits workforce reductions).

Lupei had five gallons of Double IPA in his inverted fermenter, which he would soon tap off into a clear plastic jug for its secondary fermentation. This is a heavy-duty piece of equipment, and it simplifies the process while definitely notching up the “seriousness” of the beer-making operation.

On his gas burner, Lupei had another five gallons of a Chinook IPA in process. As part of this multi-step beer preparation, he was making about a gallon of “hops tea,” a mixture of water and hops that he’d add to the Chinook IPA.

IPAs – or India Pale Ales – are English ales that were  once shipped to colonists in India. On the long sea voyage, much beer would be lost to spoilage, so to help preserve the beer, hops were added. More hops meant more protection from spoilage, and IPAs are a very hoppy brew, which Lupei loves, confessing, “I’m a hop head.”

From the Double IPA Lupei has in the inverted fermenter, he taps off the dead yeast and captures the good yeast, which he puts into a beaker. A magnetized stir plate – the kind you might find in a lab – automatically spins the yeast gently for two days, encouraging the growth of yeasts that can be used for yet more beer.

Lupei’s most recent acquisition is a tank of pure oxygen to oxygenate the wert (liquid extracted during the process of cooking grains). He has a lot of gear.

It used to be so simple. Now it’s more complicated. In the service of producing better beer, however, this increasingly sophisticated, hardware-intensive process is more than justified.

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