The Brewing Process
Making the perfect pint
Creating the perfect pint of Copper Dragon beer starts at our maltsters, They take the finest barley and using skills perfected over 100’s of years, treat and transform it into the brewers key ingredient, malt…
Delivery, screening & storage
Hand selected barley is delivered to the maltings where it’s checked and if required, dried to a moisture level of less than 12% ensuring safe storage until it is required for the start of the malting process.
Before the barley can be used, it is necessary to undertake a process called screening. This is where the un-treated grain is passed through a variety of sieves producing an even size corn. This process also has the benefit of removing any dust and other potential impurities.
Steeping the grain
Once the grain has been screened, it then undergoes a process called steeping. This is where water is added to the grain bringing its moisture level up to the optimum for malting purposes. This encourages it to germinate, produce enzymes and develop a maximum level of brewers extract
As barley isn’t an aquatic plant, steeping is split between periods of water on followed by air rest. Normal steeping regimes are between 48 and 72 hours and are equally split between wet and dry steeping.
Aeration is carried out during the wet steep and during the dry steep C02 extraction is carried out. Both processes ensure that the already active grain receives sufficient oxygen.
This simple stage is where the Maltster’s skill comes into play as the correct combinations of water/air/water etc must be controlled to raise the moisture content of the grain to the required level of around 46% without drowning it! At around this figure of 46% moisture, the embryo within each kernel of barley starts to germinate and the grain is moved onto the next stage, germination.
During germination, the chitted (germinated) grain is allowed to grow and develop enzymes that degrade starch, proteins, and cell wall materials, providing a convenient form of enzymes and freely available starch which will be converted into extract later on in the brewer’s mash tuns.
This is where the grain is laid out on the maltings floor to a depth of approximately 20cm. The growing grain develops heat which is manually controlled by turning it with wooden shovels. This keeps the temperature below 16-degrees C during which time the grain develops a root and modification of the starch takes place.
Unlike the Floor Maltings, steeped grain is put into large Saladin Vessels up to a depth of 1.5 metres. Mechanical turners constantly agitate to prevent heat build-up and keeping the germinating grain loose. At this point the grain is called ‘Green Malt’.
Automated Germinating Kiln Vessel (GKV)
This is state of the art technology which combines germination and kiln drying into one computer controlled process. Like the Saladin maltings, the steeped grain is transferred into the GKV where an enormous computerised arm agitates the grain during the germination process. Once this is complete, the GKV then becomes a kiln; drying and stopping the germination process after a specified period.
Germination kilning vessel
GKV Plenum Chamber
As the name suggest, Kilning takes place in a heated kiln! Kilning uses variable combinations of air-flow and heat under very tight control firstly drying the grain (between 50-70 degrees C) and then curing it at higher temperatures (up to 100 degrees C) stopping any further changes within the grain.
The temperature/air flow profile varies depending on the malt being made. During the process, sugar and amino acid products react to form melanoidins and other compounds which contribute to the final colour of the wort and beer.
Deculming, Screening & Storage
Malt from the kiln is put through a machine known as a deculmer. This removes the ‘culm’ or small rootlets that have emerged from each kernel during germination. Malt culm is a bi-product for the maltster and is often sold as an animal feed as it has a higher protein content by weight than the original barley.
The finished malt is then put into store for a specified period before being screened and then sent to the Copper Dragon Brewery ready for milling…
Storage complete, the malted barley is loaded and sent to the brewery ready for our bit of magic!
Without hops, our amazing beers simply wouldn’t be amazing. Responsible for everything from bittering to delicious hoppy floral aromas and flavours, this is where hops start their journey into your pint of beer.
The role of hops
Hops, like malt, are a key ingredient in the production of any beer. They contribute to the bitterness, aroma and palate of the beer depending on the type of ale being produced.
These properties derive from the lupulin glands containing the hop oil and resins in the hop flower.
However, hops also contribute to better head retention, help with the removal of unwanted proteins resulting in a clearer beer, and beer hops have anti-bacterial properties.
Hop picking is still a very manual process
Our hops are sourced from a variety of countries by our merchants, Charles Farram
Hop sourcing locations
At Copper Dragon Brewery we use a variety of hops from England, Europe and the USA sourced from the UK’s foremost hop merchants, Charles Farram & Co. Ltd.
Skillful use of hops ensures that all of our five real ales have distinctive tastes, palettes, and aromas.
We brew all of our ales on a Bavarian 30-brewer’s barrels plant that delivers a consistently high quality product, time after time. So whether it’s Golden Pippin or Copper Dragon Pilsner, every pint should be as good as the last.
- Automated bulk malt handling system
- Four-stage brewhouse
- Dedicated fermentation area incorporating C.I.P. (Clean in Place) & yeast handling
- Cask washing and filling
- Temperature controlled warehouse
Our Bavarian 30-barrel brewhouse
The conveyor based 4-roller malt mill
Malt is delivered in bulk, 20 tonnes at a time from a local maltster. Conveyors and elevators take the malt from the wagon into silos where it is stored prior to use.
Specialist malts (used for the likes of Copper Dragon Black Gold) eg: Crystal malt, chocolate malt and roast barley are delivered in 25 kgs sacks.
The malts for each brew are accurately weighed before passing through a 4 roller mill @ 2 tonnes/hr. The milled grain is then held in the grist case for the next stage of the process – “Mashing”
Mashing involves mixing the milled grain with hot water via a Steels’ Masher into the conversion vessel.
Liquor treatment salts are added to the mash to ‘Burtonise’ the liquor (brewers terminology for water).
The mash is kept stirred at a temperature of 65degC for 90 mins during which time enzymes present in the grain converting starch into sugar.
The mash is then heated to 75degC before being transferred to the lauter tun for the next stage of the process – “Lautering”
Brewer Dave checks on mash progress
The glass backs used to check clarity
During lautering, the sugar produced in the conversion vessel (known at this stage as wort) is separated from the grain.
The lauter tun vessel has a false base with tiny holes in it which allow the wort to filter through whilst retaining the grain behind.
Wort is recirculated back into the lauter tun until it is bright and free from solids, only then is it transferred to the wort kettle. Hot water is then used to sparge the grain bed and remove the residues of sugar left in the grain.
The filtered wort is now ready for the next stage -“Boiling”, whilst the spent grains are used for animal feed.
The wort is boiled for 90mins using high-pressure steam in the wort kettle.Boiling has many effects including sterilising & stabilising the wort, and isomerising the hops (added at this stage to give the beer it’s bitterness).
Just prior to the end of the boil – ‘Irish Moss’ is added which further helps stabilisation. The boiled wort is then transferred to the whirlpool for the final brewhouse stage – “Wort Clarification”
Inside the brew kettle where the wort is boiled
The whirlpool is so called because wort is introduced tangentially at high velocity. This forces any residual solids produced during boiling to settle in the base of the vessel.
After a stand time of 30mins, the clarified wort is ready to move to the next stage – “Fermentation”
En route to the fermentation area, the wort is cooled using a plate heat exchanger and oxygenated, this process promotes the yeast to convert the sugar in the wort into alcohol.
Fermentation is monitored by checking the specific gravity of the fermenting wort and electronic temperature control systems ensure consistent flavours in the beer every time.
At the end of fermentation the ‘beer’ is cooled and the yeast drops to the bottom of the fermenting vessel from where it is cropped for use in future brews.
Top of the fermenters where the magic happens!
Cask ale packaging
Casks which are returned from trade are de-ullaged, washed externally and then internally cleaned and sterilised. The cleaned casks pass through to the cask racking machine where they are filled with fermented beer, finings are added here to produce a crystal bright beer.
All our cask ales are packaged this way