Wort goes into beer?

Updated: May 15, 2019, 07:46 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi

A craft bar is all set to kick off tours designed to acquaint tipplers with the process of brewing. We dropped in for a walk

Wort goes into beer?
Alex Barlow explains the process of mashing in the malt before it is goes through five more stages to become a rich and creamy stout. Pics/Suresh Karkera

Yes, may I get a glass of Belgian wit and could you please scrape the froth off before you serve it?" That's what we would often elucidate with a silver tongue and the confidence of a seasoned sommelier. It has taken a lot of talking, asking questions, listening and drinking to understand that we were far from being right — the froth, in essence, should never be scraped off.

And damaging as it may be to our notions of awareness about food and drink, we are eager to learn more. So, when we hear that a craft bar in Lower Parel is ready to kick off tours of their brewery — offering an insight into the process of making beers, and tasting and pairing them with fare that complements the flavour profiles of each drink — we sign up.

Saison of lovers with baked goat cheese on crusty bread with beetroot and tangerine

It's thus that we chance upon the history behind Indian Pale Ale, or IPA, a favourite among this country's beer drinkers. "When the British were here during the Raj, they always brought beer with them. But the most popular one at the time was a beer called the porter. However, it wasn't exactly very thirst-quenching. In the 1700s, in the UK, they were just developing a beer pale ale, which in comparison to porter was much more refreshing. So they started shipping that to India. But the problem was that the beer wasn't robust enough to last the journey, and in those days, the only way that they knew how to make a beer last longer was to make it stronger in terms of alcohol content by adding more hops to it, because that kills bugs," Alex Barlow, master brewer at Thirsty City 127, tells us.

The head of brewery pours a glass of freshly made beer
The head of a brewery pours a glass of freshly made beer

We are at the back end of the main bar, having been initiated into the brewing process through an immersive video that we were shown at the space also used for events before proceeding to get the low-down on how grains are transformed into delicious beers. We learn that there is a lot of science behind it.

Barlow takes us through the factory-like interiors, explaining the role of each vessel and condiment step-by-step. He says, for example, how it is crucial to ensure the purity of the water (referred to as "liquor" in brewing) used in the process. For this, the liquor is purified and rid of all salts and minerals to ensure there's no contamination, and then it is boiled. Thereafter, malt kernels that are made from barley by specialist malsters are crushed inside a vessel.

Industrially, this process is known as milling, which is followed by mashing, which involves a steeping process where hot water is used to hydrate the malt and convert the grain starch into fermentable sugars. Then, lautering helps separate the mash from the clear liquid, which at this stage is called wort. This liquid is then boiled, chilled, aerated, and fermented with the help of yeast to create beer that is then matured and carbonated.

Now, after coming up to speed with the science behind making beer, we are redirected to the main bar where Barlow takes us through the logic behind pairing the beverage with different dishes. A fruity brew like Simona, for example, can be paired with chicken satay skewers that have complex flavours and a creamy texture that complements the effervescent brew, whereas a dark and bitter brew like the black jamun porter can be enjoyed with a chocolate cake.

We listen intently as the master brewer takes us through eight pairings while speaking with the informed acumen of a scientist, as we relish good grub and drinks like we would be (in a manner of speaking) inside the chocolate factory that Charlie visited in Roald Dahl's book, had it been meant for adults.

At: Thirsty City 127, Todi Mills, Lower Parel.
On: May 16 to July 26, 5 pm (Thursdays and Fridays)
Call: 68493243 (max six people per batch and only one batch each day)
Log on to: insider.in
Cost: Rs 2,000 to Rs 2,500

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