Today’s post is from Tom, one of the brewers at the Carillon Brewing Company.
I had never brewed beer before, but I have friends who did. The beers they produced tasted different than what I bought at the store and the whole process intrigued me. I have also developed an interest in the people and stories behind Dayton’s history. So, when I heard that Carillon Park was going to build a brewery exhibit that would tell the story of how beer helped to shape this area, I decided to volunteer as a brewer.
It turns out that beer was more than just a good drink at the end of a hard day of work. Cities grew up around rivers and streams, but the water wasn’t always clean enough to drink. The water often was the source of diseases and before science developed an understanding of what caused disease, many people simply avoided drinking water for basic hydration. They drank beer instead because it was thought that the alcohol in the beer lessened the chance of disease.
Fermented beverages, like beer, have been around for thousands of years. People early on developed the basic steps and we still use a similar process today. Malted grain is milled and mixed with hot water to extract sugars. Grain is malted when it has been allowed to sprout, then dried and roasted to preserve the sugars that have developed. After steeping in the water for a while, the water is drained away from the grain and more water is poured over to make sure as much of the sugar is carried away to the next step, which is boiling. Boiling the sugar water, which brewers call wort, allows the brewer to add other ingredients to create the flavors wanted in the finished product. Then the wort is cooled and moved to a fermentation vessel where yeast is added. It’s the yeast that converts the sweet wort to beer by consuming the sugar and converting it to alcohol and carbon dioxide.
What people didn’t understand until late in the 19th century was that the boiling step in the brew process was what really made beer less likely to spread disease than water.
At Carillon Brewing Co., we replicate the processes and recipes of the mid-19th century. There are no computers to control the process, we have to use experience to judge if we’re doing things correctly. We heat our water and boil our wort using wood fires. The kettles we use were made for us out of hand hammered copper. When we need smaller pieces of wood, we split it by hand using the tools of the time. If something needs to be moved up, we carry it or we raise it with pullies and ropes. Water is moved by hand using wooden ladles. It’s hard work.
The historical recipes and processes yield beers that taste somewhat different from modern beers. Refrigeration didn’t exist so some of our beer is served straight from the cask, at room temperature and with only natural carbonation, just like it would have been served in 1850. We also brew historical soft drinks and bake bread using our wood fired hearth oven. We hope this provides an opportunity to talk to our visitors about how Daytonians lived during that time.