CASPER, Wyo. -- It is a complicated process. Amongst many steps, carbohydrates andstarches break into sugars, which metabolize to make carbondioxide. Fermentation creates alcohol. There is mashing and extracting, heating and cooling and then the actual brewing.
"You brew tea," said Ted Briggs, brewmaster with Lander Brewing Company. "You brew coffee. You brew beer."
And in Wyoming, there is a lot of beer brewing.
Two new microbreweries in Buffalo and Cheyenne are slated to open this year, bringing the state's total to 14. Breweries around the state are expanding, including the Lander Brewing Company and the Wind River Brewing Company in Pinedale. The boom, brewers say, is due to increased education, appreciation of craft beers and the movement to "buy local."
Wyoming microbrew sales follow a national trend. According to the Brewers Association, which represents small breweries that produceless than 6 million barrels a year, craft brewers saw a 13 percent increase in volume and 15 percent in sales from 2010 to 2011.
The association also reported 250 breweries opening nationwide 2011.
Clear Creek Brewing Company will join the contingency of Wyoming breweries when it opens in Buffalo in July. A few years ago, there wasn't much a of craft beer culture in Wyoming, said Rob McCorkle,co-founder and brewer.
A carpenter by trade, McCorkle loved the craftsmanship that goesinto creating microbrews.
Wyoming, as usual, at first lagged behind the national trend. But in the last few years, McCorkle saw the industry increase by athird in the state, he said.
"Wyoming is a very unique and independent state and people arekinda searching for that in their beer," McCorkle said.
When Clear Creek opens its doors, it will feature a beer list withsix flagship drinks - a pale ale, an unfiltered wheat, an amberale, an India Pale Ale, a chilly porter and an oatmeal stout. Itwill offer seasonal beers throughout the year.
It also will provide information on microbrews, educating people on the differences among beers and how to fully appreciate their flavors and aromas.
"It's a five senses experience," McCorkle said.
Macrobrews - like Budweiser or Coors - use corn and rice, whichmakes a cheaper, lighter, blander beer, said Briggs of the Lander Brewing Company. Microbrews use rye, wheat and barley.
"We're going for flavor," Briggs said.
Styles of beers have a practical history, Briggs said. IPAs were created to last over long journeys on ships from England to India.
Brewers take the style and history and use it as a guide. Then they add their own twist, like deciding how much alcohol their blend will contain, and using flavors like honey or hibiscus.
American brewers are becoming some of the best in the world, "on the cutting edge of creativity," Briggs said.
It is the hops - flowers off a vine - that give the beer its flavor. They can be added throughout the brewing process and differentiate each brewers' beer, even if brewers are creating a beverage in the same style.
"The hops are the spice of beer," Briggs said.
There is big money is microbrews. Unfermented wort, the liquid that contains the sugars that ferment to create alcohol, are a haven forbacteria, he said. One mistake and thousands of dollars worth of beer can turn to vinegar.
He now has more beer to worry about since the Lander Brewing Company added two new fermenters this year, doubling its capacity.Each can brew seven barrels, or 14 kegs, at a time.
"We've just not been able to keep up with demand in the summermonths," said owner Jim Mitchell.
Lander Brewing Company started distributing in Jackson and Cody last year. That's in addition to trying to meet the demand the Lander Bar creates in the summer. When people travel they like to drink the beer of the places they visit to get the local flavor, Mitchell said.
The brewery sells beers with names that reflect Lander, like Pingora Porter, Red Canyon Red and the popular Atlantic City Gold.
Part of the appeal of microbrews is a sense of ownership of local breweries, said Tim Barnes, owner of Black Tooth Brewing in Sheridan. The brewery opened in November 2010. That first year the owners hoped to sell 500 barrels, but ended up selling 965. This year, they are on track to produce more than 1,200.
"People like to attach themselves to their hometown brewery,"Barnes said. They call it "our brewery," or "my pub," he said.
Drinking craft brews has become a coming of age for people, and the beers are more about quality than quantity, he said. The beers at Black Tooth are already winning awards at competitions, but more importantly, they are reaching new people in Wyoming. In April, thecompany will start distributing in Johnson, Campbell, Weston andCrook counties, Barnes said.
People who are used to drinking Budweiser and Coors might not be sure what type of microbrew to try.
People often think a beer light in color is a best introduction, but that isn't always the case. Some of the lighter beers can alsobe the hoppiest and taste bitter. A brown ale is a goodintroductory beer, Barnes said.
Education is a key piece to attracting new beer drinkers, said Tim Harland with Snake River Brewing Company in Jackson.
When Snake River Brewery opened in 1994 there were hardly any microbreweries in Wyoming. It took awhile to educate people's palates and help them understand what makes craft beer worthwhile.
The company now hosts beer-pairing dinners and offers samplers to make microbrews accessible.
Business is up 40 percent from last year, Harland said. In April alone, business was up 120 percent locally.
Part of it has been the company's April move to canned beer, replacing bottles in stores, he said. People are more likely totake cans with them hiking or boating.
More breweries in the state also help. People now expect to visit the local pub when traveling, he said.
Each brewery has its own personality and signature on its beers. In Jackson, the brewery gets a lot of international tourists, so theytry to keep their beers true to style, Harland said.
If a person likes a pilsner, the one he gets at the brewery will belike the one he'd get in Prague, he said. They use hops imported from the country to emulate it and try to harden or soften the water to match the water table of the region the beer originates in.
For years the best selling beer has been the Snake River Lager, which provides "easy drinking."
Recently though, hoppy beers with more flavor, like IPAs, are growing in popularity. Pako's IPA released in 2011, is already rivaling the lager for the top selling beer spot.
Last year the brewery sold 5,700 barrels of beer. Each barrel holds 31 gallons.
"Right now demand so outweighs supply," Harland said, "we could triple our production and still suffice the demand."