Twin Lakes Brewery uses natural ingredients and 3,000-year-old techniques to brew barrels of beer spilling over with local flavor.
There’s something brewing in Greenville.
Beer, to be exact, and it’s being brewed by Twin Lakes Brewery with both barrels in preparation for the busy autumn ale season.
The two-year-old microbrewery on the Kennett Pike serves up 10,000 barrels of beer a year, adding a bit of local flavor at area taverns with its Route 52 Pilsner, Greenville Pale Ale and Tweeds Tavern Stout.
September is a hectic time at the brewery because fresh ingredients are pouring in from farms across the country and head brewer Jack Wick is working double time to turn those ingredients into golden ale.
Making beer is equal parts art and science, Wick said, with a dash of imagination and a pinch of investigation, but it always begins at Twin Lakes with the same basic ingredients.
The finished brew is a delicate combination of grain, water, hops and yeast Wick blends together using a method that has stood the test of time.
“We’re really trying to make beer the same way they have done it for thousands of years,” he said.
Three millennia ago, the ancient Egyptians crushed grain to make beer, he said, but they did not use conveyor belts or fork lifts to move the grain around an industrial warehouse. Instead, they crushed the grain in a tower and let gravity move it through the rest of the brewing process, he said. Leaving the crushed grain untouched preserves its flavor and leads to better tasting beer, Wick said.
Brewing like an Egyptian makes Twin Lakes unique, he said.
The brewery crushes grain in a cupola three stories above their brewery and lets it spill down into a giant, silver holding tank where it is mixed with the second beer ingredient: hot water.
Once the water hits the grain, Wick is in control of a 1,500-pound science experiment.
The grain is boiled at temperatures ranging from 122 degrees to 170 degrees depending on the type of beer being made, he said. Enzymes in the grain like it hot, Wick said, and convert the grain’s sugars at very high temperatures so the sugars can be used to make beer.
“One degree will change everything,” he said. “If you boil the grain at 151 degrees instead of 150 degrees you end up with a completely different beer.”Twin Lakes Brewery Harvest Festival
Oct. 18, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.
$20, admission includes brewery tour and tasting
Local pumpkins for sale, music by the Sin City Band, $1 hot dogs and door prizes
Each gallon of beer is made from five gallons of water, Wick said, and what separates Twin Lakes from larger beer makers is the brewery's use of crystal clear well water that has not been chemically treated like tap water.
If all goes well, the boiling process creates 700 gallons of sugar water that are moved to a giant kettle and combined with the third beer ingredient: hops.
Hops are essential to beer because they stabilize the sugar water and add bitterness, Wick said.
“People don’t want to drink sweet alcohol. They want balance,” he said.
Hops are added to and removed from the sugar water three times to add flavor and aroma to the beer, he said.
Twin Lakes is unique because the brewery uses whole hops instead of processed hop pellets, Wick said, which add richer flavor to the brew.
Once the hops are fished out of the sugar water, Wick adds the fourth ingredient to the liquid: yeast.
The yeast eats the sugar and creates three byproducts: alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. The more sugar the yeast eats, the more bitter the finished beer will taste.
Wick controls the fermentation by managing the beer’s temperature and when the yeast has finished eating the sugar, Wick lets the beer age for two to four weeks in four massive silver tanks so the flavors can blend.
Nothing else is added to the beer, Wick said, and it is not filtered or pasteurized so each frothy glass keeps its full flavor.
Tasting the end result is rewarding, but making beer can be nerve-racking, Wick said.
“I combine the ingredients and then drink the product 90 days later, so I don’t know if I’ve made a mistake until I taste it,” he said.
The brewing process is similar for Twin Lakes’ three basic beers, Wick said, but he taps into his creativity and ingenuity when he brews special seasonal beers like the new Oktoberfest.
The brew, a special Vienna lager for Delaware’s annual Oktoberfest, began in books, Wick said, as he researched dozens of different grains to find the perfect products to blend into the beer.
He selected four grains that were combined to create a malty, sweet, low-hop flavored beer brewed in a traditional German style. The end result would feel at home in the crowded beer halls of Munich, he said, and ought to give Delawareans a taste of something different.
“For every flavor, every taste in a glass of beer, there is a reason it’s there,” he said. “That creativity is great. It’s fun to create something and enjoy it months later.”