This section provides details of the essential raw materials that are used in the production of our beers.
Here at Hijos de Rivera we pay meticulous attention to every detail of the brewing process, from start to finish. For this reason, we consider it is essential to familiarise you with all the ingredients and raw materials we use. Beer is a natural drink brewed from natural ingredients, with each one playing an essential role.
Water: A key ingredient in the beer brewing process
There are many reasons why water is a key ingredient in the beer brewing process, although three stand out above the rest:
- Water accounts for the largest proportion of your beer. In fact, it makes up between 85% and 92%.
- Its physical and chemical composition directly affects the sensory characteristics of beer and can involve technological adjustments or requirements associated with the brewing process.
- It played an important role in the creation of classic types of beer (Pilsen, Munich, Pale Ale, etc.), whose origins are closely linked to the properties of the water in the cities they first appeared in. Modern-day technology allows the water composition to be adjusted to the recipe the brewer wishes to use.
Here at Hijos de Rivera we only use water from the city of A Coruña. The physical and chemical composition of this water is ideal for brewing lager-style beers. Fully aware of just how precious this resource is, we apply measures that allow for a steady reduction of the brewery’s annual water consumption.
What are the basic characteristics of water a brewer must take into consideration in the beer production process?
- It must be potable. Free from organic matter, micro-biologically pure and with no strange aromas or taste.
- The pH value, as this may affect certain biochemical reactions that occur during the brewing process.
- Its hardness, due mainly to the levels of calcium and magnesium carbonate. We use water with varying degrees of hardness, depending on the type of beer we wish to brew.
The cereals: Barley and malt: malting in the brewing process
In terms of proportions, cereals are the second most important ingredient in the beer brewing process. A wide range of cereals can be used: wheat, barley, oats, corn and rice…although barley is an essential ingredient that can be found in all types of beer.
Before it can be used to brew beer, the barley must be ‘malted’: in other words, it has to be transformed into ‘malted barley. This ingredient is used in the production of all types of beer, either on its own or mixed with other cereals, which are known as ‘adjunct’ grains, which can be malted or raw.
What role do cereals play in the beer brewing process?
Hot water is added to the cereals to obtain the beer wort. The wort contains the dissolved nutrients from the cereals (carbohydrates, proteins, fibre and mineral salts). The yeast needs these nutrients for the fermentation phase. Barley is the cereal that contains the highest proportion of nutrients.
The aroma, flavour and texture of beer will vary in accordance with the type of cereals used, the proportions and/or the malting process.
Hijos de Rivera’s cereals
Our maltsters must guarantee that our malts meet a series of characteristics, and quality checks are carried out on each delivery.
At least two types of malt are used for all our beers (Pilsen and roasted). The proportion will vary in accordance with the recipe. In the case of 1906 Black Coupage, we use a blend of four different types of malt roasted to varying degrees. In turn, we use a Pale malt for the 1906 Galician Irish Red Ale, as well as two caramel malts and a roasted wheat malt.
Some of our recipes also include a small amount of corn which helps to reduce the sense of fullness and adds to the refreshing character of the beer whilst retaining its full body.
We promote the production of barley for beer in Galicia, working closely with local farmers in the region of Terra de Lemos. We grow two-row barley: the spring Scarlett variety which is then malted and used in the 2019 Christmas beer (winter lager).
The malting process: transforming the cereals for the beer brewing process
In this process, raw cereals are transformed into malted cereals. It can be applied to many types of cereals (wheat, barley, etc.), although barley is an essential ingredient when brewing beer.
It can be divided into four phases:
- STEEPING (2 DAYS)
The grain is either soaked or sprayed to increase the moisture content from 10-15% to 45%. The objective is to hydrate the grains so that they can germinate and the interior of the grain starts to break down.
- GERMINATION (4-6 DAYS)
After steeping, the grain begins to germinate, producing what is known as ‘green malt’.
The objective is to generate proteins that are enzymes which during the wort production phase transform the cereal’s nutrients (essentially starch) into fermentable nutrients (that can be used by the yeasts).
- DRYING-ROASTING (VARYING DURATION)
The grain is heated to reduce the moisture content from 45% to 3-5%. This phase is carried out quickly and at low temperatures in order to product pale malts, and slowly and at high temperatures in the case of roasted malts.
The objective is to stop the grain germination process, adding characteristics that will determine the aroma, colour and flavour of the beer.
- DE-GERMINATION (VARYING DURATION)
The dry grain is passed through vibrating platforms to eliminate the seedlings and radicles. The objective is to eliminate the radicles created during germination.
Hops: Adding aroma and flavour to the beer
The hop is a climbing plant of the Cannabaceae family that sprouts annually from a buried stump and has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. There are male and female plant stems, but farmers only grow the female ones, as they produce the flowers (also called cones) used in brewing beer.
Hops are important because of the lupulin glands present in the flowers, which contain the resins responsible for beer’s characteristic bitter flavour and the essential oils that contribute to its aromatic properties.
Why are hops important in the beer brewing process?
Hops have many positive characteristics. Here we highlight three of them:
The cones contain resins made up of alpha and beta acids, which when isomerised during the wort boiling phase add the bitter taste to beer. The concentration of these resins will vary depending on the hop variety, the plant age and the growing conditions.
The hop cones also contain essential oils – more than 200 compounds that are responsible for the aroma of hops.
Hops are an excellent antiseptic that contribute to the microbiological stability of beer. This characteristic has been known for centuries and was highly appreciated by the early brewers, when preserving beer was a challenging task.
4. Foam stability
Hop flowers contain a series of substances that compact the beer bubbles that form the foam, thereby guaranteeing a firmer structure. In other words, hops help to maintain the beer head.
Types of hops and their use in beer
These varieties are highly appreciated by brewer due to their concentrations of alpha and beta acids, which give beer its characteristic bitterness.
Brewers appreciate the concentration of essential oils in these varieties, which contribute to the aromatic properties of beer.
There are also mixed or dual-purpose varieties of hops that can be used to add both bitterness and aroma.
Galician hops and Hijos de Rivera: from past to present
Hops have always been a key ingredient in our beers, reflected in our use of numerous varieties including Nugget, Perle, Sladek, Admiral, Provoak and Cascade. Galician hops are an essential part of our beer brewing process.
It all began back in 1914 with Leopoldo Hernández Robredo, director of La Coruña’s Experimental Farm, who brought several cuttings of the Kent Golding variety to Galicia.
Trials began in 1915, with the full backing of José María Rivera Corral. The project included acclimatization tests in a field for agricultural experiments situated next to the Cuatro Caminos brewery. This alliance marked the start hop farming in Galicia (and Spain).
Later, in 1927, Raúl Fernández Meás, a prominent farmer in the Betanzos area, joined the project and planted the first hop fields.
This marked the start of a period of growth and development that would turn this area into the leading area for hop production in Spain. What’s more, Sociedad Anónima Española del Fomento del Lúpulo was founded in Madrid with capital from around thirty Spanish breweries.
Collection peaked in 1963 at 240,369 kg of dried hops. However, it wouldn’t be long before the competition appeared on the scene, and the battle against imported hops began.
Hop farming ceased in Galicia in 1982 following the closure of the SAE de Fomento del Lúpulo Reception Centre in Betanzos, and the region of Órbigo in León became the principal area of hop production in Spain.
The socio-economic situation changed, buy in 2004 the fourth generation of the Rivera family joined forces with the Mabegondo Agricultural Research Centre and the Sociedad Anónima Española de Fomento del Lúpulo in order to restart production.
The aim was to pay tribute to José María Rivera Corral as Estrella Galicia’s centenary drew close. An experimental plot of 1300 m2 was planted with 300 Nugget hops, and the first harvest was collected in 2006. These hops were used to brew the Christmas edition of Estrella Galicia.
With the backing of Hijos de Rivera the Lutega cooperative was founded in 2008, made up of professionals from the agricultural and industrial sectors. The aim of this cooperative is to reintroduce the farming and transformation of hops in Galicia.
This milestone event was followed by the introduction of new varieties of hops:
– Perle, Magnum, Merkur, H.Mittelfruher and Taurus in 2010;
– Saaz and Sladek in 2011;
– Cascade in 2014;
– Admiral in 2016. This harvest was used for the launch of the 1906 Galician Irish Red Ale
– Centennial in 2018.
Moreover, Spain’s first organic hops plot was planted in order to comply with the procedures set by the Galician Regulatory Council for Organic Agriculture (CRAEGA in its Galician initials).
In 2017, the Rivera family registered the Cosecha de Galicia trade name. The mission was to carry out agricultural projects aimed at promoting the raw materials of our beers (including hops) and the other beverages produced by the Corporation.
We continue to move ahead, testing new hop varieties in order to create the finest flavours for our beers. We firmly believe that the autochthonous value of our hops is a matchless differentiating factor and are committed to continuing our work as artisanal brewers to discover new tastes and profiles.
Yeast: The fermentation agent
Yeasts are single-celled fungi, which in the cast of the vast majority of beers, belong to the Saccharomyces genus. They are responsible for the fermentation of the beer wort. They transform the nutrients present in the wort into CO2, alcohol (ethanol) and organic compounds that are essential for the beer’s sensory profile.
Selecting and caring for the yeast is essential to ensure successful fermentation. It is also vital in order to obtain the characteristics of the beer that master brewers wish for. Any changes in the yeast strain will produce a completely different beer.
What are the different types of fermentation?
Low temperatures (below 16 ºC) are required for the wort to ferment, and they tend to precipitate at the bottom of the tanks during final stages of the process. The result is bottom fermentation beers or lagers.
High temperatures (between 16-26 ºC) are required for the wort to ferment, and the yeast tends to rise to the top of the tanks. This produces top fermentation beers or ales.
Mixed yeast strains (Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces) and bacteria (lactic and acetic, etc.)
In this case, wort fermentation occurs due to the action of a mixture of microorganisms, including yeast (belonging to the Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces genera) and bacteria. Beers brewed using this type of flora originated in Brussels and the surrounding area and are known under the generic term of lambic beers.
Hijos de Rivera yeast
For the production of our beers, we use our own yeast strain that is kept in the Weihenstephan yeast bank in Germany. This strain is both precious and unique, lending special character to the Hijos de Rivera beers.
Interestingly, we used an Ale type yeast for the first time ever in our brewery in A Coruña to produce the 1906 Galician Irish Red Ale.
The handling and use of this yeast is carried out in facilities that are separate from those where we use our own lager yeast strain.
If you’d like to find out more about how we brew our beer, visit MEGA and enjoy a unique experience and a treat for all five senses. All our visits and tasting sessions are under the guidance of an expert brewer who will provide a fascinating insight into the secrets of this industry, offering you the chance to taste, smell and experience the world of beer like never before.
Visit us at Museo de Estrella Galicia and enjoy the MEGA experience to the full.