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Starting to cook


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The brew kettle at Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto is attractive as well as functional.

By: Stephen Beaumont


If you think of the brewing of a beer like the cooking of a soup or stew, mashing in can be equated to the making of a stock, and the boil might be considered the equivalent of cooking of the stew. During this part of the process, hops, which are both a natural preservative and the spice of beer – see Hops – the spice of beer – are added to the wort. 


Once transferred to the brew kettle, the wort will be brought to a boil and maintained at that temperature for on average one to three hours. At various points during the boil, hops will be added, most commonly on two or three occasions, but sometimes up to as many as seven or more times. (There are even breweries, most famously the U.S. craft brewery, Dogfish Head Brewing, which use special machinery to add hops continually throughout the boil.) Hops added earlier in the boil tend to produce more bitterness, while those added late in the boil will yield more aroma.


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The rapidly expanding Milwaukee Brewing Company has a utilitarian brewing kit, with the kettle on the left.


It is also at this point that other spices might be added to the beer, although care must be taken when delicate ingredients are used, since the ferocity and heat of the boil can have negative effects on certain herbs and spices. Some traditional seasonings that might be applied include coriander and dried orange peel for Belgian style wheat beers, and allspice, grains of paradise or other strong and durable spices in stronger, heavier ales. In today’s craft brewing world, however, a brewer might use everything from coffee to cocoa to vanilla beans, all manner of odd, esoteric spices.

Once the cooking of the wort is completed, the sugary, hoppy liquid becomes known as hopped wort. It is now ready for fermentation.


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