Working in beer may be the coolest job one could have, but it’s the nerds that make the best beer. Our production brewery runs 24-hours a day with painstaking methodology, an uncompromising high level of standards, and an unshakable passion for the craft. After all that hard work, thankfully there’s a cold beer waiting in the Tap Room at the end of each shift.
Take a tour through our brewing process to see how an idea becomes your next go-to malt beverage!
"People ask me all the time where brewers come up with ideas for each new beer recipe,” says Brewmaster Robbie O’Cain. R&D is essential and ongoing at the brewery. We can test new recipes with experimental ingredients or make tweaks to current recipes on our small pilot rig - essentially glorified homebrewing. Inspiration can come from sampling beer in distant parts of the country, a new flavor combination at a favorite restaurant, or even while singing your favorite song in the shower (or is that just us?). Our whole brew team tries out ideas every day, so stop by our Tap Room for the latest concoction on tap.
Great people make great beer. The quality of our beer is a direct representation of the effort and caliber of the operators at Starr Hill. We're able to recruit highly talented individuals because we nurture a culture of excellence. We have a strong focus on developing our production staff through cross-training and continued development in their personal brewing interests.
The style and recipe for a beer will dictate from where we source ingredients. To brew authentic, high-quality beer we seek out raw materials true to the style’s country of origin and during peak season for fruit and other special additions. We use real ingredients, like actual cherries instead of syrup. Like Papa said: better ingredients, better pizza & beer, right?
Malted barley and wheat runs through our mill and is cracked to allow its fermentables sugars to be released in the mash. The types of malt added determine the color and body of the beer, like Reviver Red IPA’s beautiful red color comes from a combination of pilsner, wheat, crystal and chocolate malts - not from dye or food color.
In the Mash Tun, the cracked grain is combined with hot water to convert the starches to sugar. The sweet liquid, called wort (no, not the bump on your hand - that would be gross), is separated from the grain in the Lauter Tun. We then donate that spent grain to Farmer Dave to feed to his livestock.
Fermentation means it’s time for the final ingredient to be added in order for this liquid to fulfill its destiny of becoming beer. Yeast has a pretty sweet life: eat sugar then turn that into alcohol and CO2. Our Yeast Propagator, “The Meatball,” lets us maintain and grow our various yeast strains as they await their chance to dine on the buffet of sugar in our next batch of wort.
With our beer now chock full of hop solids and yeast particles, we need clarify it before it reaches the final stage: packaging. Rather than using a filter which strips out hop oils, wastes precious beer and uses a non-renewable resource, the centrifuge acts like the spin cycle on a washing machine to separate the solids from liquid, preserving all those delicious aromas and flavors.
Now the beer is ready to hit the stages, shelves, and taps across our distribution footprint. Our packaging line cleans, sterilizes, labels and fills 104 (12 oz.) bottles every minute. The rest of the beer finds it way to you in kegs, cans or 22 oz. bottles. 89% of our beer is shipped in under 15 days from packaging, so it's always a fresh as possible.
Opened in September 2017, we now have a custom 5-barrel brewing system, Starr Hill’s first for producing small batches since moving from its original brewpub location in 2005. The pilot system gives us increased flexibility for brewing upwards of 50 limited release batches of ales, lagers and wild beers each year, led by Brewmaster Robbie O’Cain. We tap a new pilot beer each week at our Roanoke and Crozet tap rooms - come by to see what's on next!