With more than 300 years of combined experience, we’ve had plenty of time to refine and improve our brewing process. Each new generation has brought fresh ideas and techniques to our rich tradition.
Our innovations add quality. And quality has been priority one as long as we've been in business. We take extra steps unique to each of our brews to ensure their excellence.
The main ingredients in our beers are water, hops, barley and yeast. We go to great lengths to make sure all our ingredients are of the finest quality. Great beer begins with the best water. It’s pure, for sure, but it also has the perfect mineral content for the best lagers and ales. Hops are the green, cone-shaped flowers of vines that grow especially well in Idaho, Washington and Oregon. They add spicy aroma and different flavors to our beers. For some beers, we import special varieties of hops from New Zealand and Germany. Hops also act as a natural preservative. Malted barley is the soul of beer, lending color, body and flavor. MillerCoors primarily uses special varieties of barley with excellent consistency for brewing purposes. Other cereal grains like corn and wheat may also be used with barley. Corn, for example, gives beer a milder, lighter-bodied flavor. Yeast is the critical ingredient that transforms other ingredients into beer. In the process of converting simple sugars and starches from grain into alcohol, the yeast also imparts distinct flavors. This is how we get different beer styles.
Ripe barley from the field is full of raw, natural starches much like those in wheat flour. Before the yeast can work, these natural starches must be converted into simpler starches and sugar. Malting is the natural process of partially sprouting grain, then toasting it to produce malt sugar and a perfect golden hue. Several of our beers include barley that we’ve malted ourselves.
The first step in the malting process is steeping. We begin by soaking the barley in water to clean it and moisten it for germination. In the germination phase, the barley begins to sprout. Raw starches naturally break down into suitable starches and natural enzymes perfect for the brewing process. Before sprouting goes too far, we toast the barley in a kiln. The kiln can be used for more than simply stopping growth. Time in the kiln controls color, from pale gold to rich chocolate. It also controls flavor, creating beer that’s sweet and mellow or dark and bitter. After the malt has aged properly to mellow the flavor, it’s time for milling. We grind the malt into malt flour, called “grist.” Milling cracks the tough outer hull of the grain so water can get in and dissolve the starch and sugars inside.
Mashing is the final process of converting any remaining starch into fermentable sugar.
We add hot water to the grist to produce a mixture called “mash.” The combination of heat and natural enzymes from the barley breaks down the starches into fermentable sugars. This process takes place in large kettles called mash tuns.
When the sugar content is just right, we filter the mash to separate the solid husks and germ of the grain from the sweet liquid. The solids, which make nutritious, high-protein animal feed, are sold to local farmers. The sweet liquid, called “wort,” is transferred to another kettle.
We then heat the wort to a boil to clarify it and reduce excess water. We add hops at this stage for their aroma and spiciness, and to balance the sweetness.
After boiling, the wort is strained, cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank.
Fermenting and Aging
When the wort cools, we add yeast, and fermentation begins. It takes a while for the yeast to multiply, but once there’s enough, it consumes the sugars and produces alcohol and CO2 (carbonation). The fermentation tank is constantly kept at cool temperatures for the yeast to do the best job. Fermenting typically takes eight to 10 days. After fermentation, the filtered, fermented wort is officially beer. But at this stage the young beer needs to mature.
For most of our beers (and all of our lagers), the next step is aging and secondary fermentation in large tanks. A term for this stage is "lagering," German for "storing." During the aging process, the beer matures, develops its natural carbonation and its unique flavor. Ale yeast likes warmer temperatures than lager yeast. So our ales ferment and go through their aging at less icy temperatures than their lager counterparts. It’s why lagers and ales taste different. When aging is complete and the flavors found in our beers are in perfect harmony, it’s time for their ultimate destination.
Depending on the brand, MillerCoors beers may be heat-pasteurized or cold-filtered and sterile-filled. Heat pasteurization involves slowly warming the beer to 140 degrees, then cooling it to room temperature to eliminate impurities. Our cold-filter and sterile-fill processes use cold storage and a series of filtration steps to prevent any potential compromises in beer flavor and quality.
We do our best to minimize packaging for environmental reasons and to keep costs down for distributors, retailers and our customers. We've set ambitious goals for reducing packaging and waste associated with our products, and these goals become more ambitious every year. We offer a variety of packages and container sizes to accommodate the tastes of customers. Not all brands are available in all packages, and not every package is available in all areas. Most of our bottles are brown or green to protect the beer from light. For beers sold in clear glass bottles, we use patented light-stable hops to eliminate light sensitivity.
Our cans, bottles, carriers and kegs are coded with easy-to-read “sell by” dates. This helps consumers know our products are fresh. The codes can also indicate the date the beer was packaged, and the brewery, location, production line and time it was brewed.
Every single thing we do in the brewing process has one objective: We want to produce the highest-quality beer every day.
In our quality-control labs, we constantly test every step of our processes, from raw ingredients to our final product. Chemical analysis helps monitor water purity, the starch content of our grain, hop bitterness, yeast quality, attenuation (alcohol conversion) and many other exacting details. We precisely control temperatures in all stages of the brewing process for consistent results.
Highly trained people monitor quality with this chemical analysis and also through good old-fashioned tasting at various points in the process. We have some 200 trained taste-testers who sample flavor, aroma, color and consistency each day. (Now, that's what we call a "perk.")
Maintaining high quality continues long after our beer leaves the brewery. (Remember this at home, too: The less the exposure to light and heat, the higher the quality and freshness of our products.) MillerCoors has relationships with beer distributors throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Our distributors move our beer quickly and efficiently from breweries to retailers, such as grocery stores and bars. From there, of course, our beers find their way to the parties, dining experiences, the great outdoors and backyards where they taste best.