Made In Minnesota: Craft Breweries

March 8, 2017 No Comments
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Quenching Thirst With Innovation

by Nancy Huddleston


toc_columns50pxWith names like Bald Man, Lake Monster, Steel Toe, and Tin Whiskers, what’s not to like about the plethora of breweries that are manufacturing a wide variety of craft beers? There are just over 100 breweries (not including brewpubs) across the state, according to, a website that covers craft beer in Minnesota.

The explosion of craft beer options started in 2011, when the law in Minnesota was changed to allow breweries to sell directly to consumers in taprooms and brewpubs. Today, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports the state has 2.7 breweries for every 100,000 adults over age 21. That ranks 14th in the U.S., according to the Brewers Association. Vermont ranks first with 9.4 breweries per 100,000 adults over 21, Oregon is second with 7.7, and Colorado third with 7.3.

Beer has only four ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. By adjusting these ingredients or adding additional elements, brewers can change the final outcome. The Beer Temple ( explains how craft beer in made:

The actual process to make beer begins with milling, or crushing, the grains. Once the grain has been milled, it is added to a large vessel called the mash tun, and mixed with hot water to form the mash. The heat from the water activates the enzymes within the barley. These enzymes then begin to convert the starches in the grains into sugars. By raising and lowering the temperature of the mash, brewers can control what types of sugars are produced by the enzymes.

The next step in the brewing process is to take the mash and separate out the spent grain from the sugary liquid known as wort (pronounced wert). This process is called lautering. The clear wort is drained away from the hulls and barley grist. Water also is added during lautering so that even more of the fermentable sugars are extracted from the grain. This is known as sparging, which must be done very gradually as not to disrupt the grain bed that acts as a natural filter for the wort.

Once the sweet wort has been separated from the grains, it is brought to a strong, prolonged boil for one to two hours. This boiling process sterilizes the beer. It’s also when hops are introduced to boiling water and begin to break down, or isomerize, molecularly altering the composition of the acids within the hops and releasing bitterness into the beer.

After the wort has been cooled, it is moved to a fermentor. Yeast is added at this point, eating the sugars that were created during the mash. As it consumes the sugar, the yeast expels carbon dioxide and alcohol, as well as a variety of flavor compounds. Fermentation time can vary greatly, from a few days for a simple ale, to over a month for lagers. Fermentation is also where the brewer decides whether or not he/she will be brewing an ale or a lager. After fermentation is complete, conditioning starts, which can take a week or so.

For lagers, this can take months.

The last step is packaging the beer. Typically, beer is packed into bottles, cans, and kegs.

According to the Brewers Association (, an American craft brewery is:

  • Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

The defining characteristic of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation, according to the Brewers Association. “Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.”pm_endmarkred-e1320337243152

NANCY HUDDLESTON is the editor and publications manager of Precision Manufacturing Journal. She can be reached at

Copyright © 2017 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Nancy Huddleston, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing Journal.


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