Where each and every beer is hand-made in small batches, using age old techniques of open fermentation, barrel aging and bottle conditioning. We do not pitch any wild yeasts into our alchemy. Our magic is performed the old fashioned way. All Leelanau Brewing Company beers are aged in custom made oversized French oak barrels. Our headquarters are situated on 18 acres of family owned land located two miles south of Leland, Michigan. Our bed and breakfast, ancient black walnut groves, cherry orchards, pear groves and our future brewing site are all within earshot of Lake Michigan.
Mashing: Crushed malted barley is mixed with hot water as it pours gently into the mash vessel. This oatmeal looking porridge is called the mash. The mash is allowed to rest, while naturally present enzymes convert starches in the barley into soluble sugars. The sugars leach away from the grain into the water, and can be drawn off into the kettle. This liquid mix of soluble sugars is called wort.
Boiling: The dense sugary wort is drawn off the bottom of the mash vessel, and pumped into the kettle. In the kettle it is brought to a vigorous boil. The boil fixes the sugar profile of the wort, sterilizes it, and causes all sorts of caramelizing reactions to occur. Hops are added in careful measure during the boil to enhance flavor and aroma. Towards the end of the boil is when we add our special blend of spices to enhance our character flavors. The boiled wort is then pumped through a heat exchanger, which rapidly cools it to fermentation temperatures. (Most of our yeasts ferment between 65 F and 75 F.)
Fermentation: After the cooled wort is transferred into the fermentation vessel, yeast is added. We employ open fermentation vessels, a very traditional type of vessel that allows for the fullest flavor development of our ales. Special brewing yeast work their wonders, creating alcohol, carbon dioxide, and a whole host of complex flavors in the process. At the end of fermentation the yeast is harvested off the top of the fermentation vessel and stored for re-pitching into subsequent beers.
Maturation: We use very traditional methods to mature our beers. These methods may take longer, and be more labor intensive, but we feel they are well worth the effort. While most other breweries mature their beer for relatively short periods in giant stainless steel tanks, we mature our beer in oak casks. We feel this contact with the wood gives our beers unmatched depth of character, and subtleness of flavor.
Bottle conditioning: After oak maturation our beers are bottled, re-yeasted and allowed an additional time to develop natural carbonation in the bottle. This bottle conditioning, often called bottle refermentation, leaves a fine sediment of yeast in the bottle and results in further complex flavor refinement in the finished beer.
Every step of the process is carefully considered to bring about the most complex and refined beers imaginable. As a result of our dedication, most of our beers will continue to mature and mellow for quite some time when cellared at home. Enjoyment for today, and for tomorrow!
Ingredients and Brewing Process written by Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, LLC. Dexter, Michigan. Brewmaster for The Leelanau Brewing.
Everything in our beer comes from the earth. No additives and no chemicals. Only barley, wheat, hops, yeast, water and alchemy. All natural ingredients given life and vitality through painstaking intimacy with the natural process of fermentation.
Barley: Barley is a cereal grain; it grows in fields all around the world. Special varieties of barley are bred specifically for brewing.
Malting is the process by which raw barley is made ready for brewing. The raw barley is steeped in water until it germinates. Enzymes naturally present in the barley start to break down proteins and starches into simpler more accessible compounds. Once this process is complete the barley is dried and kilned. Variations in kilning time and temperature create malts ranging from very light in color and flavor to dark, roasted, and intense. By using varying amounts of these different malts we can create a complex palette of natural colors, flavors and aromas in our beer.
Wheat: Many of our beers also contain a percentage of wheat, either raw, malted or both. Wheat helps smooth and lighten the barley flavors, and can help with head retention in the finished beer.
Water: Water makes up the majority of any beer, and its properties are very important to the finished product. All water must be pure and delicious. Clean smelling and tasting, and contain the proper mix of minerals.
Hops: The cone of the hop plant is added mainly during the boiling process, but they can also be added during aging and maturation. The hop cone, or flower as it is sometimes called, is very bitter and works to balance the sweetness of the malted barley. Hops also smell wonderful and can add refreshing aromas to the finished beer.
Yeast: The magical microorganism responsible for turning sweet wort (see below) into beer. Yeast use the sugars created during the mashing process (again, see below) to fuel their metabolisms. It is through the yeast’s metabolic processes that beer is created. There are many different strains of brewing yeast, each with their own distinct metabolism, each creating very distinct tasting beers. We use a variety of French and Belgian strains carefully selected to bring out the maximum complexity in our beers.
Brewmaster: The Leelanau Brewing Company is proud to be working with hands-down the Best Craft Brewer in America, Ron Jeffries. Ron’s extensive knowledge and artistic approach make all the difference. Operating his own brewing facility called Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales LLC in Dexter Michigan, his place is as much an artist’s studio as it is a brewery.