Craft breweries have gained popularity in the last few years. A brewer must be innovative, patient, and meticulous – meet James Silber, a brewer with over five years in the business. He is the owner of Silber Brewing Company, along with his wife Hannah Silber. Silber Brewing Company is located off State Highway 46 east of Boerne on Rust Lane.
The first step of James’ brewing process is developing a recipe. There are four main ingredients in beer: water, malt (grain, barley, wheat, oats, rye), hops (a flower with an aromatic oil), and yeast (microscopic fungi). Once the necessary ingredients are prepared, the malt is “milled” or cracked to expose the inside of the grain. The malt is then “mashed” by adding hot water, so the enzymes break down the starch into sugar. This occurs for about an hour. James’ system is made up of three vessels: a hot water tank, a mash/lauter tun, and a boil kettle/whirlpool tank.
The liquid is then separated from the solids through a process called lautering. The sparging process also takes place simultaneously by adding hot water to rinse as much of the sugar as possible from the kernels. The resulting liquid is called wort, which is then boiled for an hour for sterilization and to caramelize the sugar. During the boil, hops are added. In general, adding hops at the beginning of the boil will add bitterness with little flavor, while adding hops at the end of the boil will add flavor with little bitterness.
After the wort is finished boiling, James will create a whirlpool which allows any remaining solids to group into the center. This enhances the clarity of beer. Next, the wort moves through a heat-exchanger to bring the temperature down from around 200°F to around 70°F and is transferred into a fermenting vessel.
Once in the fermenter, yeast is added. It typically takes two weeks to complete the cellaring process. James checks the density of the beer throughout fermentation to determine the alcohol percentage. Instead of filtering the beer, James uses the “gravity method” since he is creating small batches, not producing mass quantities for packaging in stores. He uses glycol jacketed tanks to maintain the appropriate temperature for each beer.
Once the beer has completed fermentation and conditioning, CO2 is then added to the brew via an aeration stone for about an hour. The brew goes straight to kegs stored in a draft system at 38 °F. Then, pints, growlers, or cans of beer are filled directly from the tap for your enjoyment.
The meticulous care James and Hannah use to create their beer is evident by the fans that gather to listen to live music and enjoy the original artwork on the walls by local artists. Even in pandemic times, their customers pick up cans of their favorite brews – enough so that Silber Brewing Company ran out of their small-batch beers in April. They encouraged their customers on social media to try some of the other local brewers in the Boerne area. That shows the integrity and positive attitude that “there is enough for everyone”.