For some it’s a refreshing beverage, to others it’s a hobby and for some it’s a brewing business.
Beer has been a long-standing industry in the Ohio Valley, and many breweries are still flourishing.
It’s just one of the many items 7News is taking a look at as part of “It’s Made Here”.
“It’s easy to make a beer, it’s difficult to make great beer,” said Greg Whiting, the owner of Hightower Brewing Company.
Many would probably argue that the Ohio Valley has made great beer, and hundreds of thousands of barrels of it, since the area’s heyday.
Although old names like Uneeda Brewing, Reymann Brewing and Schumlbach Brewing aren’t here anymore, the beer industry is strong thanks to local craft breweries like Hightower Brewing Company.
“You can make beer at home, you can get started, and you can take it as far as you want,” said Whiting, who started his brewing in his home with his wife Megan. “There’s so much knowledge to learn about brewing beer.”
Making great beer is a process, that starts with ingredients like hops.
“Some local hops. Some variants from like Australia, New Zeeland, hops all around the world,” Whiting said of his brewing process. “We use a lot of two row barley, crushed grain.”
So what are hops? They’re basically a leafy plant used for flavoring.
“We use a lot of pelletized hops. It’s basically just uh concentrated hops,” Whiting continued. “A little more efficient that leaf hops and there’s different bittering hops. There are aroma hops.”
Once you have your ingredients, it’s time to brew.
Hightower Brewing uses a three vessel setup with a hot liquor tank, mash ton and boil kettles.
First they crush the grain, heat up water and create what’s called a mash.
“The mash process, we’re basically converting starches to sugar in the grain,” Whiting explained. “After an hour and a half mash or so, we’re taking hot water on top of the grain bed at the same rate that we’re taking it off the bottom. We’re just washing the sugars out of the grain.”
The more sugar, the higher the alcohol content.
Then the mixture is boiled for about 90 minutes and that’s where the flavor comes in. It can include anything from fruity to sweet.
“We do some desert styles too which people love,” Whiting said of the different flavors Hightower Brewing Company offers. “I love, do Oreo milk stout, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We’re literally throwing in Oreos and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. We get some looks at the store when we check out a cart full of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
After that the brew goes into a fermenter, and will stay there anywhere from two to three weeks, to three months depending on the beer.
Then, the finishing touches.
“Cold crash, collect yeast, carbonate, can and keg,” Whiting added.
While the beer may start in the Ohio Valley, it ends up all over the map.
“People are big into beer trading and stuff like that,” he continued. “We’ll get people checking in our beer from California, Maryland, from somebody local sending them a beer and trading beer, so that’s pretty cool.”
Hightower Brewing Company is celebrating a special anniversary this weekend, with a new space and new flavors.
You’ll hear more about their plans Friday on 7News.