The Honours group of 2014 had the privilege of visiting SAB Maltings Caledon and SAB Newlands, with Prof. Barry Axcell- the former Global Chief Brewer of the SABMiller Group. On Tuesday (19 Aug) the honours group visited SAB Maltings Caledon, where the processing of Barley for brewing was explained and some of the vessels in which the processing takes place was observed.


The three main steps of the malting process are steeping, germination and kilning. Steeping is the first stage of the process, where barley is moved from the silos (storage) into the steeping vessels and immersed in water. The soaking in water increases the moisture content of the barley to allow germination to take place later on.

SAB3After the barley has been soaked for the desired period of time, the water is removed and warm air is blown through the barley from the bottom to dry the barley and allow germination to take place. The warm, dry air also prevents moulds from growing in the vessels and infecting the barley. The barley is allowed to germinate just enough to still be used for brewing. If germination proceeds to far, new plants start to develop making the barley unsuitable for brewing. Therefore, the process is very closely monitored and temperature strictly controlled. Each vessel is cleaned after every batch of barley that is steeped and germinated, by one person, from top to bottom!


After steeping and germination the barley is moved to the kiln where it is dried to lower the moisture content and arrest enzyme activity. Higher kilning temperatures promote reactions that form melanoidins, which give both colour and flavour to barley.

Special malts are made by roasting the barley at high temperatures, which allow considerable variations in the colour and flavour of beer. For Milk Stout tSAB11he barley will be roasted to a very dark colour, whereas for a light beer the barley will be roasted to a nice golden colour. So depending on the beer to be brewed the barley is roasted to the perfect stage for the perfect flavour. After visiting the different vessels we were treated to a beer and some snacks! The perfect end to an eventful day.

SAB12On Wednesday (20 Aug) the honours group visited SAB Newlands where the barley we saw in Caledon, is used to brew beer.

The first step in the brewing process involves milling the barley to a finer consistency. The barley is then moved to the Mash Tun, where water is added. This is now referred to as the malt. The malt is continuously stirred and the temperature constantly monitored. The necessary enzymes to produce the sugar from the malt are activated which will later, upon yeast pitching, be turned into alcohol. The malt is then moved to the Lauter Tun where the solids are removed from the liquid, now called wurt (“wort”). The husks that are SAB13removed from the liquid, are used to produce cattle feed and the wurt is moved to the kettle where hops are added to introduce the bitter flavour of beer.

The hopped wurt is moved to the Hot Wurt Receiver where all the solids (hops) are removed. This vessel functions much like a whirlpool and the solids are gathered in the middle of the vessel and subsequently taken off the wurt. The wurt is cooled and the yeast is added. The wurt is allowed to ferment until a desirable flavour profile is obtained. This is now referred to as green beer. The green beer is then matured into unfiltered beer and cooled to about 2°C where the yeasts will precipitate out of solution and will be removed. The beer is then filtered, carbonated, and the colour adjusted. The beer is now ready to be bottled, pasteurized and packaged for distribution. Draught beer is not pasteurized and is packaged into kegs.  After the tour of the brewery, the group was fortunate enough to have a beer tasting.

SAB15By comparison we learned that Millers is very close to water with very little body (flavour) whereas a Milk Stout is rich in flavour (full bodied) and creamy. Flying fish was by far the favourite of the day with a nice fruity flavour and the Pilsner Urquell the least favourite with a strong bitter taste! But if you like a strong coffee, the Pilsner Urquell or Milk Stout is the way to go! Tasting the different beers and comparing them to one another, put all the biochemistry of the flavour compounds and the different steps seen in the brewery, into perspective as the different flavours of the beers could be compared. A beer is not just a beer. Every beer is unique in the qualities it brings to the table.

SAB16Some comments from the honours:
Arno: The visit to the malting plant and the brewery was truly a highlight of the honours course; it was just amazing to see fundamental concepts of microbiology applied to such a large scale operation. I’ll never look at beer the same again, now that I’ve caught a glimpse of the fascinating processes behind its brewing.
Tersia: What I would take with me from these visits is the size of the production and how one small contamination can have a massive effect on the quality and taste of the beer. Every step is precise and it was amazing to see the bottling. I definitely have a new appreciation for beer.
SAB17Barbra: Our visit was a great experience. My knowledge and understanding of the brewing industry has increased significantly. I am very grateful that we had the opportunity to go and I think it was a privilege to be accompanied by Prof Barry Axcell.
Brandon: I have a new appreciation for beer after seeing all the effort that goes into making a specific brand. This is by far the best Selected Topic we have had this year! Thanks Prof Barry Axcell!!

As the honours group of 2014 we would like to thank SAB Maltings Caledon and SAB Newlands for their hospitality and showing us that beer is not just an alcoholic drink but an art to perfect. We would also like to thank Prof. Barry Axcell for his knowledge and for teaching us to be enthusiastic about beer. Cheers!


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