Smile Politely

Science of brewing with Bill Morgan from the Blind Pig

The Blind Pig has been a town staple for twenty-five years and, according to the Beer Advocate, holds a spot as one of the top fifty places to drink beer in the United States. If you go to the brewery (“the Little Pig”), you will find six homebrews on tap. These six beers change frequently and sell like hotcakes due to their complex and unique flavors. 

Bill Morgan, brewmaster for over 20 years, smiles for the camera despite being immersed in the grueling process of scouring the Mashtun.

Beer aficionados can already tell us that these complex flavors owe their existence to science. And I’m no different: like a mad, but inspired, magician, the Pig features brews that carefully combine several flavor profiles to surprise and delight customers.  

Chris Knight, owner

For instance, on tap now is a black IPA called “Wookie Snacks,” which is a beer crafted with malted barley, rye, and three different kinds of hops, giving it the taste of an IPA, but the look and subtle aftertaste of a stout. Other brews on draft include a Zwickel pilsner, a cherry milk stout, a schwarzbier lager, and an “Awesome Red Ale.”

As in every lab, bacteria rule the roost. Next up on draft is a Cherry Berliner weisse, a beer traditionally from Berlin that is fermented with lactobacillus, a bacteria found literally on every probable surface and is known as the “yogurt bacteria.”

Beyond being scientifically interesting (there’s yogurt bacteria in beer?), beer brewing is just plain beautiful. It’s an activity in which science intersects with design.

MASHING. Bill emptying the Mashtun after mashing.

THE KETTLE. Bill taking a sample of the wart from the kettle.

Hops added in 4 editions to make the cherry Berliner weisse.

FERMENTATION: picture of two fermentation tanks, one with hoses connected to transfer the cherry Berliner weisse wart for fermenting.

The Little Pig Brewing operation will be expanding in the coming months to a brew house on Market Street in Champaign. The barrel, fermentation tank, and serving tank system will remain in place at the Little Pig, and the Market Street space will more than double this capacity with ten barrels and twenty fermentation tanks.

If you’d like to try the Pig’s awesome homebrews, pop on over to the Little Pig for mug night ($2 off draft beers and ciders). Mug night is every Tuesday and Wednesday night, and is a great way to try a variety of beers/ciders/radlers without breaking the bank.

And be sure to check out St. Louis Beer Night on August 13th. Every beer scientist should be there.

Above image courtesy of the Blind Pig’s website.

All other images courtesy of Bridget Curren.

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