Water, Grain, Hops, & Yeast

I wasn’t able to absorb the finer details of every step in the brewing process while I was shooting this photo documentary, so Zach needed to step in and help with that after the fact. Because of that, the article was co-written by Zach and myself. Thanks buddy!

I have been wanting to do this photo documentary for quite some time now, I just hadn’t been able to get it on the schedule. The stars finally aligned though, and I was able to capture Zach from Urbanrest Brewing Company test the new pilot system he just got done building. A saison was chosen as the first brew.

Zach had tested the pilot system out the night before the actual brew day with only water to make sure everything was working. All tests were successful, which was the OK to proceed with brewing a beer in it the following morning. I arrived shortly after 10:00 AM to find Zach and Jeff setting the system up to start heating up the water for the first step in the brewing process. Mashing, or mash in.

It was at that point that the first issue arose with the propane burners not burning efficiently with the vessels on top of them. Changing/modifying the flow of the propane didn’t do much, but it ended up helping enough so we could actually begin. With that out of the way, water was added to the Hot Liquor Tank so it could start heating up to approximately 165°F.

Once the mash liquor (hot water) reached temperature, it was pumped out of the Hot Liquor tank and into the Mash Tun and combined with a blend of Belgian Pilsner malt, wheat, oats and acidulated malt. The Mash Tun was brought up to approx 151-153°F (mash temperature) and set to rest for 60 minutes. This process, similar to making oatmeal, converts complex sugar in to simple sugar, which yeast can then eat to produce ethanol and CO2.

The last sub-step in the mashing process is sparging, rinsing the remaining sugars from the grain bed. Water was heated to sparge temp 170°F in the Hot Liquor Tank, then sprinkled over the grains in the Mash Tun while the sugary wort is being transferred in to the Boil Kettle.

With the wort now in the Boil Kettle, it was brought to a boil, at which point the hops were then added at various intervals. This specific brew called for 4 additions of Jarrylo hops at 30 minutes, 20, 10 and 1 minute left for a total boil time of 75 minutes.

After the boil, it is time to chill the wort down to approximately 65°F so the yeast can begin to replicate as they voraciously eat sugar and convert it to ethanol and CO2. A fast chilling process also helps eliminate the production of bacteria and ward off contamination. The chilling is done by pumping the boiling wort out of the kettle, through the plate chiller, back up through the lid and back into the kettle. Chilling the wort from 212°F down to 65°F took 30 minutes.

While the wort was chilling, Zach prepared the fermentation vessels with sanitizer. These carboys are the fermentation vessels that the wort would be transferred into prior to the yeast being pitched.

After the chilled wort was transferred into the fermentation vessels, Zach pitched a different yeast into each. The first one was a classic Saison strain, a yeast that Zach uses in many of his brews. The other fermenter was pitched with Brettanomyces Trois, a “wild” yeast strain, in order to explore the many different nuances yeast strain selection can bring out in a beer.

Zach provided the following photo of one of the fermentation vessels showing the fermentation activity less than 24 hours after the yeast was pitched.

Active Fermentation

As with any shoot, there are additional photos that make the cut, but don’t necessarily fit into the article. Below are 10 additional photos for your viewing pleasure.

My First Commissioned Photo

The sister-in-law of one of my ex-girlfriend’s contacted me a couple months ago about capturing a photo for a home improvement project. She is refinishing a room in their house and wanted me to recreate a photo that she found on a magazine cover. Her end goal is to get a large canvas print of the photo to hang on the wall in the newly refinished room.

Below is the photo of the magazine cover she sent to me in a text message showing the print on the wall she wanted me to replicate.


The requirements were as follows…

Capture a clear blue sky, the horizon line, and blue water.

Note that the horizon line is not straight in the example she sent. That was the only thing that I did not capture in the recreated photo. I made sure the horizon line was straight so it didn’t look like you were looking at a photo taken from a sinking boat or feel like you were on a sinking boat when looking at it mounted on a wall.

I did an initial test round of shots at the same location that I snapped the “Sunrise” photo last year (August 2013). Being that it was a test round, and the conditions weren’t perfect (cloudy), I was able to tell if that location would be good for when the conditions were perfect.

I also planned on heading into Oscoda, MI the last time we were camping to try to capture the photo on the beach shooting into Lake Huron, but the weather conditions that weekend were very poor, so I didn’t even attempt the shot.

On the afternoon of October 23, 2014, I happened to look outside and noticed there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. The sky was also nice and blue due to the solar elevation angle being lower (24.80° to be exact) since fall was in full effect. Perfect conditions for the photo I needed to capture!

It was around 3:35 PM Eastern when I hopped into the car with my camera and headed to the location where I took the initial test round of shots. I took 39 photos total and ended up using the very first photo, taken at 3:55 PM Eastern.

She plans on getting the photo printed on a 24 x 36 inch canvas.

The Final Product