Our Brewing Process
The process starts in our kitchen where our “tilt skillet” doubles as our mash tun. The mash tun is a device that you steep your malted barley at an exact temperature for an exact time. This process help convert starches to fermentable sugars.* When the malted barley first goes into the mash tun, it is covered with 157ºF water. Tasting it now would taste like wet straw hay. Taste the same water one hour later and it would taste like sugar water!
This “liquor” is transferred to a 115-gallon boil pot where heat is applied and additions of water, malt extracts, hops and finings agents are added at different times to achieve different results in flavor, color, body, and alcohol levels. Boiling is carried out for about 1-hour and hops are added at different times for the desired bitterness levels. The job of the hops is to balance the sweetness of malted barley in beer. (There are hundreds of varieties of hops from all around the world.) Hop “cones” are just that and grow on vines similar to how grapes grow. The cone contains small sacs of very bitter resin which are what we’re after for beer making.
Finings agents help clarity the beer while malt extracts help boost the body of the beer. The water in Amarillo comes from treated well water and is quite well suited for beer making.
After the hour or so boil, it’s time to transfer the 200ºF hot wort (pronounced “wert” which is beer before yeast is added) needs to be transferred to the fermentation room (trailer) and cooled. This distance is about 100-feet and a special pump is used to transfer 200ºF+ liquids. Wort is pumped through a special copper pipe that is encased inside another pipe allowing cold water to cool the outer copper pipe. We call this counter-flow cooling.
The wort leaves at 200ºF and arrives in the fermentation room at 73ºF and fills the fermentation tank. Time is allowed for the filings agents to clarify the wort (about an hour or so) and this “trub” is then drained off and discarded.
Next, O2 or pure oxygen is bubbled through the wort to oxygenate the wort for the yeast cells when added. After 12-minutes, the oxygen is turned off and the yeast is “pitched” or poured into the wort.
The tank is sealed with the exception of a blow-off hose to allow the escape of CO2 gas created by the yeast’s hard work. Yeast eats sugar, burps CO2 and makes alcohol, then when all the sugars are gone, yeast goes dormant. After 1-week or so of this magic, the process is done. We now have un-carbonated beer! This flat beer is allowed to settle out for 3-6 weeks to further clarify and develop its flavors.
Time to rack or transfer our beer out of the fermenters. Our choice of containers is ½ barrels kegs (15.5-gallon) which we fill to 15-gallons to allow CO2 gas head room. Kegs are cooled to 33ºF for 2-days and CO2 is applied for 24-hours at 30-PSI.
That’s it, all that is left is to leave the kegs alone till it’s ready to be tapped and drank up by our guests.
Truly the most incredible complement is having our wonderful patrons carry out a 64 oz Growler full of their favorite Big Texan Brewery Beer. Delivering a quality handcrafted beer to a guest, seated in one of the most Worlds most famous Steakhouses is an incredible challenge. There is NO room for error or uncertainty; that product has to be perfect and must pair itself to the finest plated Texas beef-steak served. That bar was raised even higher when DRAFT Magazine selected The Big Texan Steak Ranch as One of the “Top 10 Places in the World for Beer Drinking” (where’s John Wayne when you need him?)
So far acceptance has been overwhelming and that part time weekend hobby is pushing well into overtime. Who would have ever dreamed that removing another BMC product from our tap lines to make room for additional handcrafted product would bring such pleasure?
*The first step in wort production is to make malt from dried, sprouted barley. The malt is ground into grist. The grist is mashed, that is, mixed with hot water and steeped, a complex and slow heating process that enables enzymes to convert the starch in the malt into sugars. At set intervals, the most notable being when the mixture has reached temperatures of 45 °C, 62 °C, and 73 °C, the heating is briefly halted. The temperature of the mixture is usually increased to 78 °C for mash-out. Lautering is the next step, which simply means the sugar-extracted grist or solids remaining in the mash are separated from the liquid wort.
In homebrewing, the malt-making and mashing steps can be skipped by adding malt extract to water. The wort is then boiled and the process proceeds as indicated below.
Once the wort mixture has been created, it is then boiled in order to sanitize as well as extract the flavors and aroma from the hops, which are added to the wort at set times in two parts: The bittering hops are boiled for around an hour to an hour and a half, and the finishing hops are added toward, or after, the end of the boil. Hop cones contain resins, which provide the bittering and take a long boil to extract, and oils, which provide flavors and aroma, but evaporate quickly. In general, hops provide the most flavorings when boiled for around 15 minutes, and the most aroma when not boiled at all (i.e., added after the boil, a process called dry hopping.)
At the end of boiling, the hot wort is quickly cooled to a temperature favorable to the yeast. Once sufficiently cooled, the yeast is added, or “pitched”, to begin the fermentation process.
The adjunct grains that can be added to the mash include wheat, corn, rye, and rice. Adjunct grains may first need gelatinization and cooling. They are used to create varietals beers such as wheat beer and oatmeal stout, to create grain whisky, or to lighten the body (and cut costs) as in commercial, mass produced pale lagers.