Ah, the smell of malt in the morning! It smells like … beer, but this is not just any beer! It's the special brew made for this illustrious periodical that will be debuted at the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival that takes place March 30 and 31 at the Atlantic City Convention Center.
It's early morning at the Tun Tavern in Atlantic City, and I joined Tun brewer Tim Kelly to brew up an elixir called wort - pronounced wert - by blending precise amounts of milled grain with hot water. Let's see what happens in this magical process.
Each type of malt supplies sugar, color and flavors that give the final product its unique character. Choosing a style and flavor profile will decide the formulation of the grain bill. After soaking for an hour and extracting the sugars from the malt, the liquid is recirculated and more water is added to wash all the sugar it can from the grains.
Next, it is boiled for an hour or so to concentrate the liquid and kill bacteria. While it is boiling, the hops are added to counteract some of the sweetness of the brew and add a distinct flavor and aroma element.
With hundreds of different hops available, one must decide what profile they are looking for in the final product ... citrus, fruit, resin, bitterness. In this beer, we decided to give it a gentle hop aroma and a classic bitterness bite.
Flavoring and bittering hops are added early and aroma hops later on in the boil. Also, Kelly added some raw honey to the mixture to add a bit more sugar and flavor to the brew. This particular honey had an apple/cinnamon flavor to it, which may or may not find its way into the final outcome.
Quickly cooled, the wort is transferred to the fermenter ready to be infused with the brewer's choice of yeast. Next is water - the most important ingredient. Each yeast imparts its own character to the beer and, although all yeasts perform the same function, transforming sugar into CO2 and alcohol, if you add a different strain of yeast to the same wort, you'll get a totally different product.
Spending a week or two in the fermenter bubbling away while the yeast gobbles up the sugar, gives us our finished product. The brewer may choose to filter it or not depending on the style and how well the yeast settles out.
Next issue: What style will the At The Shore beer be this year? Cheers!