Brewery

Altbier brewery with heart and tradition

As the oldest home brewery in Düsseldorf, the SCHUMACHER family business looks back on a past rich in tradition. Over 175 years of beer culture – find out more about the history of our Altbier factory, take a look behind the scenes and find out everything about the art of brewing a really good Altbier.

Brewery process

Only raw materials of the very best quality are used to ensure the proven SCHUMACHER quality. According to the Purity Law of 1516, the oldest still valid food law issued by Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria, only malt, hops, yeast and water may be used.

Hops and malt

Before we can start brewing, the malting barley must be malted in the malthouse. By adding water, the barley begins to germinate. This process can be recognized externally by the growth of leaf and root germs. Various degradation processes take place in the grain itself and enzymes are activated and formed that we later need during the actual brewing process. This process is completed after six to eight days. The so-called green malt must now be dried in order to make it storable. This drying is called “Darren”. The higher the temperature, the darker the malt – and the darker the beer colour. This malt now goes to our brewery. 

Mashing, purifying, cooking

The amount of malt – the so-called “Schüttung” – is crushed in the brewhouse. The grain is broken, exposing the inside and preserving the husks as much as possible. The malt meal then goes into our brewing pan (Sudpfanne), in which the mashing water (Einmaischwasser) is placed. This is where mashing begins, which lasts about two hours. During this process, the mash is heated to different temperature levels. These are referred to as so-called “Rasten”. Here the temperature is maintained over a certain period of time. During the respective rests, various enzymes are forming in the malting process to break down the starch chains into fermentable sugars. When the starch has broken down to the desired point, the mash is pumped into the lauter tun (Läuterbottich). The lauter tun is equipped with a sieve base and is used to separate the insoluble components (“Treber” – spent grains) from the soluble ones (“Würze” – wort). We get the front wort (Vorderwürze), which contains all the components of the malt that we need. This flows through the sieve base and returns to our brewing pan. The spent grains are then washed out with water. These are fed to livestock by farmers as concentrated feed. 

Now the wort (Würze) is boiled. During cooking we add the aromatic hops (Aromahopfen), which give the beer its aroma and bitterness. After cooking, our wort contains all the malt and hop components we need. The hop spent grains (Treber), which are the insoluble components of hops, are then removed in the lauter tun (Läuterbottich). 

Fermentation cellar

In the next step, the wort is pumped onto the cooling ship (Kühlschiff), where it cools to around 65 °C within two hours. Since our SCHUMACHER yeast would not be able to handle this temperature, we pass the wort through a sprinkler cooler (Berieselungskühler). This is fed with ice water, which runs through the cooler from bottom to top. The wort (Würze) flows off the outside like a film and from there reaches the fermentation cellar at 20 °C. 

Here we add the SCHUMACHER yeast. From now on the wort (Würze) is referred to as young beer (Jungbier). During fermentation, the yeast converts the fermentable sugars formed during mashing into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It is the top-fermenting yeast (obergärige Hefe), saccharomyces cerevisiae. Top fermentation (obergärig) means that the yeast rises to the surface of the young beer during the main fermentation. The reason for the rise is that the top-fermenting yeast forms cell colonies (Hefezellkolonien) because the daughter cells do not separate from the mother cell. 

The carbon dioxide rises and takes the yeast cell colonies (Hefezellkolonien) to the surface of the young beer. The main fermentation (Hauptgärung) takes three days at 20 °C. These temperatures are also the reason for the name Alt (old), meaning that the beer is made using the old brewing method. Before Carl von Linde invented the refrigeration machine in 1873, it was not possible in our latitudes to ferment beer all year round with bottom-fermenting cultured yeasts, as these work at 5-9 °C. This meant taking advantage of the higher operating temperatures of our top-fermenting brewer’s yeast (Bierhefe). 

Storage and filtering

The main fermentation is followed by a storage period of around four weeks. During this storage period, which takes place at temperatures of around 3 °C in closed storage tanks, the beer matures and the carbon dioxide is bound. In addition, the remaining fermentable sugars are broken down into alcohol and carbon dioxide. 

Once the beer has a mature taste, it is filtered. This preserves it and gives it its typical SCHUMACHER shiny amber color. 

We filter particularly gently in order to preserve as many of the flavorful ingredients as possible. This makes our beer taste fuller and maintains a good foam. However, this is also the reason for a shortened shelf life, but that is exactly why our fresh beer straight from the cellar is particularly tasty. After some time, clouding may occur. This is a harmless protein clouding and does not affect the taste. 

Bottling

During filtration, just as during keg or bottle bottling (Abfüllung), care is taken to ensure that the beer does not absorb any oxygen, as beer, as a carbonated drink, would foam up during bottling. Therefore it must be filled under constant pressure. To prevent oxygen absorption, the keg or bottle is preloaded with carbon dioxide before the beer valve is opened. This means that carbon dioxide flows in until the same pressure is created at which the beer flows in. Foaming is prevented and the barrel and bottle are filled. 

Nicht lang’ schnacken (proverbial “don’t chat that long”) 

This is how our beer gets to you: from the malt grain to the barrel, treated with the greatest care and freshly bottled. It is not without reason that it is said that beer makes you thirsty (“der Durst wird durch das Bier erst schön”). The addition that “Altbier makes your thirst even better” (“der Durst wird durch Altbier noch schöner”) is at least as correct. And the best thing of all is the thirst quenched with a glass of SCHUMACHER. 

Try it yourself!

Our Altbier

You will find our Altbier varieties here