Monday, December 30, 2013

The Making of a Parti-Gyle Style Beer

On Saturday, 28 December, 2013, I racked and bottled a “parti-gyle” style of beer that I brewed back on 15 September, 2013. Parti-gyle is an method that produces two or more beers, the second and all of the following beers are less gravity and therefore less alcohol than the original. Each of the subsequent beer after the first are made from the sugars that are left after the initial sparging has taken place. From an initial “big” beer, usually up to 2 more beers can be made.

The beer that was the original “big” beer was an imperial porter that was being made at Saugatuck Brewing Company. The original beer was a double mash beer, in which the brewers mashed into the mashtun once, lightly sparged to get gravity of the wort that they desired, racked out, and mashed in again to fill the kettle with the rest of the wort, again at the desired gravity. The pre-boil gravity that brewers were shooting for was 21.1°P (1.088 SG).

After sparging was complete on the first mash, I took 7.5 gallons of the running that was left in the mash to make my beer. The wort that was taken from the first mash had a pre-boil gravity of 15.4°P (1.063 SG). Once the wort started to boil in my kettle, I added 0.75 ounces of Northern Brewer (10.6% AA) hops to the kettle. With 20 minutes and 15 minutes left in the boil I added 1.00 ounce of Fuggle (2.5% AA) hops to the kettle. Also at 15 minutes left I added to the boil 0.25 tablespoon of Irish moss, to help clear the beer, and 5.00 ounces of cocoa nibs. A teaspoon of yeast nutrient was added to the kettle with 10 minutes left in the boil. The rest of the hops that I added were 1.00 ounce of Fuggle (2.5% AA) at 5 minutes, 1.00 ounce of Fuggle (2.5 % AA) at 0 minutes, and 0.75 ounce of Willamette (5.5 % AA) at 0 mintes left in the boil. I ended up with a total post-boil volume of 4.5 gallons.

At this point, I took a sample and began to super cool the wort with a immersion heat exchanger. Once in the fermenter, I added WLP-001 Cal Ale Yeast from White Labs. A original gravity of 21.4°P (1.091 SG) was read from the hydrometer and from obtaining this, I was able to back construct a grain bill:

5.5# Brewers 2-Row Malt (29.5%)
5# Pale Malt (27%)
3# Marris Otter (16%)
1# Caramel/Crystal 120L (5.5%)
1# Roasted Barley (5.5%)
1# Rye Malt (5.5%)
0.75# Caramel/Crystal 10L (4%)
0.66# Chocolate Malt (3.5%)
0.66# Midnight Wheat (3.5%)

This beer differed from the imperial porter that was being brewed at Saugatuck Brewing Company in a few ways. First, even though that this beer was still fairly high gravity, it was not as massive as the imperial stout that brewery made (23.6°P or 1.100 SG). Secondly, though similar, my hops were different than the imperial porter that was brewed at the brewery. Finally, I used cocoa nibs as another bittering agent in my beer.

After two months in the fermenter, I was able to make time to bottle the beer that I made. As a primer for the yeast, I boiled 3.4 ounces of corn sugar in 1 cup of water. I then pour this into a sanitized bottling bucket and transferred the beer over it. I also added a packet of US-05 to make up for the yeast that were not alcohol tolerant or died because of all the time in the fermenter. I lost around 0.5 gallons after the transfer. From this volume, I was able to bottle 39 12-ounce bottles.

I cannot wait to taste this fully carbonated, because un-carbonated, it was pretty good (though I may have a slight bias). Currently, I have yet in fermenters the Beligian Quad and a sour that I brewed in December of 2012. I have plans to brew robust porter relatively soon with my new Blichmann kettle that I received as a gift for xmas. You would think that working in a brewery would have a negative affect on the amount of homebrewing that I want to do, but so far so good!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Tasting Notes on Burton Baton by Dogfish Head

I went back into my stash of beer to pull out something occupy my palate while I wrap presents for the holiday. After searching through my hoards of beer that I have bought and homebrew and I pulled out something that I stashed back in 2010, Dogfish Head Burton Baton.

Here are the stats:
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Location: Milton, Delaware
Style: Imperial Pale Ale
ABV: 10%
IBU: 70
Malts: Not specified
Hops: Not Specified
Availability: Year Round
Original Release Date: Nov. 2011

Bottle Description: This special ale is a two-threaded blend of young and wood-aged imperial IPA. Please share with love ones and hoard it from non-believers. Lush and enjoyable now, this beer ages with the best of them.

Web Description: For Burton Buton, we brew two "threads," or batches, of beer: an English-style old ale and an imperial IPA. After fementating the beers separately in our stainless tanks, they're transferred and blended together in one of our large oak tanks. Burton Baton sits on the wood for about a month. When enjoying the Burton Baton, you'll find an awesome blend of the citrus notes from Northwestern hops melding with woody, vanilla notes from the oak. The wood also tends to mellow the 10% ABV of Burton, so tread cautiously!

Thoughts: The beer pours a deep copper color with a one-finger off-white head that dies quickly to a lacing around the glass. The clarity of the beer is pristine. Toasted and biscuit malts on the nose with other aromas that include dark caramels, dried dark fruits, wood, and, floral and herbal hops. Subtle hints of vanilla in the back. On the front of the palate dark caramel, toffee, and pitted fruits with an undertone of sweet bready malts. Smooth and creamy as the beer flows over the palate, with plenty of herbal and citrus still present after the years. Subtle suggestions of vanilla and brown sugar present in the beer. The beer finishes dry with a huge herbal and oaky punch, but with a mild alcoholic bite. As the beer is drank, the lacy head sticks to the sides of the glass and when swirled in the glass, the beer has nice legs, slowly trickling down the sides of the snifter. It also has a nice alcoholic warmth on the body at 10% ABV.

I still have 2 more from 2010, and 1 from 2011 and 2012 in my hoards. I think the 2010 maybe at its peak of flavours and may have to be drank soon.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tasting Notes on my homebrewed Chocolate Molé Stout

On 16 August, 2013, I brewed a Chocolate Molé Stout. After fermentation was complete, it was transferred to a secondary fermenter. At that time I seeded and sliced up two Pablano (another common name are Ancho) pepper and oven-roasted them. I also seeded and sliced two addition peppers. After the peppers that I roasted were charred, I removed them from the over. I added the contents of both the fresh and roasted peppers into the secondary fermenter with the beer. A mistake that was made while transferring the beer was I accidentally knocked a water canteen off of my table into the secondary fermenter with the beer. Luckily no infection happened. I've been drinking it on and off the past month, as well as my many other homebrews. I just wanted to provide some notes on the beer for my readers.

As the beer was opened, there was very little gas that escaped from the bottle. The Chocolate Molé Stout pour black and opaque with very little head that dissipates almost completely from the beer only leaving a slight lacing on the glass. Good amounts of earthy aromas (I feel comes from the Fuggle hops and the chili pepper used in the mash), cayenne (hot), and peppery (vegetable or green) spices comes to the nose as well as hints of chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. As the beer hits the palate, a slight cayenne (hot) pepper as well as roasty flavours are present. As the beer rolls over the palate, hints of sweet dark caramels, toffee, dark pitted fruits, and chocolate are present. Off the back the palate, some peppery (vegetable or green) flavours comes forward as well as some warming hot cayanne (hot) peppers. The beer has a medium mouthfeel and body, but a good amount of carbonation, which was strange because the lack of a head. This definitely has a lot going on in it.

Some of the things that I was looking for in this beer was more body, deeper chocolates, and more head. Changes that I may or may not do in this beer are: (i) use lactose to give more body and some sweetness, (ii) not use a hot chocolate mix, and (iii) make my own mole to use in the boil. I like the grain bill for this beer, so I will want to keep this the same. Ideas that I have for the mole in the boil is to add dried Ancho chiles, cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, ground nutmeg and possibly some ground coriander, cumin, and anise seed (as these might muddy up the flavours). Overall, I am happy aboot this beer, but I also see improvements (as I always do) can be made.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Brewing of a Belgian Quad

Last week I decided to brew one of many beer ideas that I have for a homebrew. This list is compiling and I felt like it was time to test of these out. Since I started working for Saugatuck Brewing Company, I have only brewed two other times as a homebrew, one was a beer that I have done before, slightly modified and secondaried with an added ingrediant (Chocolate Mole Stout secondaried with Poblano Peppers...I will do a review of my thoughts of this beer...mental note). The second beer that I have done in this time is a partigyle style beer from the runnings of a bigger beer done at the brewery (though, the second runnings still came out to be 17°P and the O.G. was 23°P).

This current beer is of a style that I have never attempted before, a Belgian Quad. There is no BJCP style outline for this beer, though there are for a Belgian Dubble and Tripel. In my Beersmith, I entered it as a Belgian Dark Strong Ale. The grain and hop bill is as follows:

15# Belgian Pilsner Malt
2# Munich Malt (Germany)
1/2# Caravienna Malt (Belgium)
1/4# Biscuit Malt (Belgium)
2# Turbinado Sugar (add a pound at a time after 24 and 48 hours of fermentation respectively)
2 oz. Styrian Golding (Celeia from Slovenia, 3.2% AA at 60 min)
1 oz. Fuggle (UK, 4.5% AA at 10 min.)
1 oz. Fuggle (UK, 4.5%AA at Flame Out)

Four days prior to brew day, I ventured to Brewer's Edge Homebrew Shop in Holland, Michigan to pick up a vial of yeast. I knew that since that this was a big beer, that I didn't want to stress my yeast out too much and I needed a big starter. I talked to Tim aboot my options. I was thinking of WLP550 a Belgian Ale yeast from White Labs because of the Phenolic characteristics, though not as fruity and medium to high alcohol tolerance. Tim and I talked a little and I decided to go with his choice of WLP530, a Abby Ale yeast because of more fruitier and earthy characteristics.

Once home I made a 1-L starter for the yeast by boiling 4 oz. of dry malt extract (DME) in 1 L of water for 15 min. I then super cooled it in the sink to room temperature (through feeling the bottom the flask) and added the vial of yeast to it. A rubber stopper was then put on the flask with a airlock. I put it in a closet to build up yeast cells until brew day.

This past Sunday, 30 Nov., was brew day. Since I live in an apartment complex in Holland, MI., I have no access to water outside, where I brew at. I got permission from the CEO of Saugatuck Brewing Company to be able to brew in the production area, with my equipment. That morning, around 11:00, I loaded my car with all of the equipment that I required to brew, as well as a supply of beer. Even though I work at the brewery and I am able to get beer inexpensively, but I have an ample supply of homebrew that I should drink.

Once at the brewery, and everything was unloaded, I began heating up water to boil for storage in my hot liquor tank and mill my grain. I used some of the boiled water to preheat my mashtun, while the rest went into the hot liquor tank. Water was then heated to strike temperature of 160°F. After draining the preheating water from the mashtun, I added 22 quarts of strike water to the mashtun. To this I sifted and stirred in my grains. The temperature of my mash was a little low. To raise the temperature of my mash, I added some of the water that I put into my hot liquor tank to the mash to get it up to mash temperature of 148°F. I held it at mashing temperature for 75 minutes.

Once mashing was completed, 14 quarts of 203°F water was stirred into the mash to raise the temperature to 168°F, which was held for 10 more minutes. After 10 minutes, the wort was drained into a pitcher and recirculated back into the mash by pouring it over a spoon, so not to disturbed the grain bed. This process is called a “vorlauf.”

Once the wort came out clear, with no sediment, it was drained directly into the kettle. After a volume of 7 gallons was reached, a gravity was taken. A pre-boil gravity of 16°P (1.066 SG) was exactly what I was shooting for. The kettle was then heated to a boil. After the boil began, a first hop addition of 2 oz. of Stryian Golding, was done. With 15 minutes left, a teaspoon of Irish Moss was added to the boil as a clearing agent. Eighty minutes later the second hop addition of 1 oz. of Fuggle was done along with a teaspoon of yeast nutirent. During that last ten minutes the wort chiller was set up and sanitation of equipment to transfer the wort to the fermenter was done. At the end of the boil, a final hop addition of 1 oz. of Fuggle hop was done.

After the boil was commenced, the wort chiller was immersed into the wort to rapidly cool the wort. During the cooling process, a sample of the wort was taken and a gravity reading of 19.8°P (1.083 SG) was recorded. This reading was 2°P lower than what was expected. Once the wort was cooled to a temperature of 70°F, it was transferred through a auto siphon to a sanitized fermentation bucket, capped and an airlock was added to the bucket.

Back at my apartment, once fermentation started, the next day a pound of Turbinado sugar was dissolved and boiled for 15 minutes in 2 cups of water. The pan with the solution was cooled in a sink of cold water, then added to the fermentation bucket. This process was done again the next day. I figured the O.G. to be 23.5°P (1.101 SG) after the addition of the sugar.

After 3 more day, I went to check on the fermenter, and the air lock was full of krausen and the lid of the bucket was ajar from the bucket. The fermentation was so strong that it blew the lid right off of the bucket! Hopefully that there was so mush CO2 in a layer on top of the beer that it won't become infected.

I will leave it in the bucket, on top of the yeast cake, for some time before transferring it to a secondary bucket. The reason behind this is two fold; (i) I want to reuse this yeast for another beer in which, once the beer is transfered, I will add the second beer on top of the yeast cake, and (ii) I want to allow this beer to mellow out and any of the fusel alcohol hotness of the beer will subside. The idea for the second beer from this yeast is a Belgian Table Beer that will be around 4.5% ABV and will be simply 2 malts and 2 hops. I am currently working on this recipe and it is almost complete. I'll write another article on the tasting notes once I bottle it and give it plenty of time to bottle condition.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Drink beer, that is all....

WARNING: This might come of a little of a rant.

I'm sure that you all have seen this, while sitting in a bar or pub, a conversation that is critical of a beer that a brewery has made. Not because it has gone bad or completely undrinkable, those need to be heard, but because it doesn't fit someones personal standard. Beer is made to be consumed, not to be criticized.

This is troubling to me. Especially people who are brewers and/or work for breweries. What happened with “A rising tide raises all ships”? Then there are those people that are self-professed “beer geek,” or “beer snob.” Okay, I'll admit to it, I have called myself a “beer geek,” but that is not because I love good beer, I do, but I call myself that because I consume knowledge aboot beer. I'll constantly read and learn everything that I can with beer. This is why I consider myself a beer geek.

I'll also admit that I drink “macrobrews.” I don't hide from that fact. In fact, I just opened a Busch Light, because I am at my parents and that is what my fathers drinks. If my father offers me a Busch Light, I will not turn it down because my father offered me a beer. I don't turn my nose up at a beer because it is not popular or is a macrobrew.

I love (if there was a stronger word that that I would use it) craft beer, but I'll drink a Budweiser, Busch, Miller, or Pabst. Some people will not allow themselves to drink what they consider it "garbage.” I know that some people will cringe for me to say this, but the macrobrews make quality beer.

A big thing that makes up quality is consistency. Every Budweiser that you will drink taste exactly the same, unlike some craft breweries. Some craft breweries consistently change what hop they use in a beer and call it the same beer. Also, some breweries cannot consistently hit gravities, this also changes how a beer tastes on the palate.

People that I also consider “snobs” are those that sneers at beers that some breweries make. Because you may be spoiled by a bar or brewery because of the selection that it has doesn't mean that a beer that is made by another brewery is any lesser. Also, another thing that I question of these self-professed beer geeks, is that they criticizes a brewery because they state that all of that brewery's beer tastes the same. I'm sure that there IPA and porter tastes exactly the same. I also think it is a degree of jealousy that people have over a brewery because how popular it is.

Some websites advocates such behaivour. When I review a beer I tell how it tastes on my palate and how the aroma comes across my senses. I try to never criticize or de-construct, pouted over, nor declared insufficiently “hoppy.” I try to stick to BJCP guidelines and try to teach myself flavours and off-tastes.

In my mind, breweries, brewers, and people that drink craft beer need to support all breweries. Good beer is good beer. If I have a drink with you, I don't need you to stoke what you think is your ego near me, because it can get messy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How I got into Craft Beer

I was asked one day, how I became interested in craft beer. This was question that Ashley Rouston, The Beer Wench, as part of a interview question sheet that she e-mailed me. During the same series I asked her similar questions on her background as a blogger. I am not sure if my answers to her questions were every published.

I'm sure how I became interested in craft beer is similar to most everyone story. This story lead me further and has gotten me into craft beer industry. It all started when I first entered college. In high school, I didn't drink alcohol hardly at all, though I other things. 

Staying on topic, I started drinking what every other college student did and currently still drinks, the yellow fizzy water. Though I find nothing wrong with drinking this, because I still partake in drinking beer like Pabst and the like (especially when it is free and given to me by my father). I'll go further in this discussion on another blog on beer snobbery.

My first memorable night in drinking was after my first freshman college cross country race. Strangely I remember that night. It was a night of drinking Icehouse and after that I couldn't drink beer again for a while. That was until I drank Guinness. After my first sip of that it, I was thrown back because I didn't think that beer could taste like that.

After this instance every once in a while I would try beer like Budweiser, but I would usually fall back on Guinness or straight up liquor. That year went by finishing cross country, indoor track, and then outdoor track, partying and drinking throughout. The summer came and I found a new beer that I fell in love with while spending most of my time in Saint Joseph, Michigan. A 22 oz. beer was being past around and this beer was Solsun made by Bell's Brewing Company (now called Oberon). Again, being thrown back by what I was tasting, I was immediately hooked by craft beer (though not called that during that time.

Fast forward to 1999 my junior year at Grand Valley State University. I turned 21 and I found a small speciality (it was small then) shop call Siciliano's Market. I didn't know it then, but it was a gold mine. Perusing the shelve, picking out beer like Piraat and Founders, I was astonished by what I tasted. Then in 2003 I turned to homebrewing with my buddy and now head brewer at Pike 51 Brewing Company. I initially chose homebrewing because it was cheaper, but because it took three weeks to get a beer and my other pleasure (in which I mentioned earlier), I was both impatient and lazy.

I finally graduated and moved away to Charolotte, NC and found a beer bar called The Flying Saucer that had 85 beers on tap, plus over 200 bottles. Because I was teaching inner city middle school in the Charlotte-Mecklandburg School system, I ended up at the bar a lot. I eventually joined a beer club at The Flying Saucer in which, after we finished 200 beers, we got a saucer plate to hang on the wall and $100 in beer on the bar for a personal party. I also found a beer/wine store called Total Wine.

The next year I took a high school teaching job in Indiana, 45-min. north of Lafayette. I lived in Lafayette and while living there I found a local brewery called Lafayette Brewing Company. Still not knowing what was happening to the beer scene or the industry, I was really digging what I was tasting.

I ended up back in school in 2006, trying to refocus my education. During that time, I also tried my hands in homebrewing again. We went to the now defunct Michigan Brewing Company and learned how to all-grain brewing. I started to go to Founders Brewing Company, when it was in the Brass Works building on Monroe Street. A beer bar ended up opening in Grand Rapids, MI in 2008 called Hopcat. I applied to be the brewer their, but never heard back. I applied at New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, MI as someone to give brewery tours, but at that time I also got accepted into Miami University in Oxford, OH for graduate school. Still not really realizing what was happening in the craft beer scene, I decided to follow the route of more schooling and go and get my masters degree.

I continued homebrewing as I was in graduate school. I attempted to start a homebrew club in Oxford, but that failed. Another one that a buddy of mine, Matt Aerni, and I started was more successful though. I followed through and got my master's degree in zoology studying beneficial insects in agricultural dominated landscapes. While getting a master's degree, I did start up at a nanobrewery/brewpub called Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub. We only could brew on Sundays, but only having one tap and competing with 8 guest taps, with the likes of Dogfish Head and Stone, our beer didn't sell much.

Finally, in 2012, I got fed up with the academic world and started looking for a job in the brewing industry. I talked with people like Mitch Steele (head brewer at Stone Brewing Company) and Joe Mohrfeld (Owner and brewer at Pinthouse Pizza in Austin, TX) on ideas to take to owners. I had a couple of phone interviews. One that sounded promising at Founder's, but I had to turn down a second interview because teaching promises that I made at Miami during my PhD. After I got really fed up with the academic world I regretted turning down the second interview. I finally got some on-site interviews at Aviator Brewing Company in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina and Ohio Brewing Company in Akron, Ohio, but never got any call backs. 

Finally I saw a blog video podcast of a new brewery in Cincinnati, called MadTree Brewing Company. I thought that if I could volunteer, maybe that could help. In this video, they interviewed three owners (Kenny McNutt, Jeff Hunt, and Brady Duncan), two of them (Kenny and Brady) had huge beard, just like mine. I thought, I need to contact them and work there! I started volunteering in February of 2013.

After a year of looking I got another on-site interview at SaugatuckBrewing Company (SBC). In April of 2013 and they sounded interested in me and my experience. I went back to Oxford feeling ecstatic and 2 days later, while out for drinks with fellow graduate students, I got a notice on my phone of an e-mail from the brewery. They hired me to begin work on 1 May. I told all of my friends, then I had to notify my advisor. That did not go over well at all, but I decided that I had to stop pleasing other people.

I started at SBC with some cellar and quality control work. A week later, I got put on as a brewer. Currently I am the second-shift brewer and lab geek (quality control) for the brewery. I get to do all sorts of fun and exciting stuff with brewing and science. Lately we done an experiment with open fermentation and I harvested the yeast and am building that up. I got to design my own beer not to long ago and also, I am learning all sorts of new things. They like me a lot there and they also gave me a small raise last week after working there only 5 months!

It seems that I found my place in life. All in all, I'm living the dream and happy to be back in my home state of Michigan.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Brewing a Chocolate Mole Oatmeal Stout

I have been slacking on the blog as of lately. Currently trying to catch up on other blog reading, plus other hobbies that attempt to do leaves me not much time to write. I felt a little guilty that I have not wrote an entry, but I thought of something short that I can write aboot.

With brewing professionally at Saugatuck Brewing Company, I wanted to continue homebrewing and refining my beers that I make. The weekend before last I decided to to a brew session. One of the other brewers and a cellar person wanted to brew also, so I loaded up all of my equipment and headed into Holland, MI to brew at their house. My recipe for this brew was a Chocolate Mole Oatmeal Stout. The other people that I work with decided to do a Maple Stout. Both of these are tasty for the up coming Autumn season. 

I previously did this recipe and it scored well at the Michigan Beer Cup homebrew competition in 2012, where I scored above a 40, but only took honorable mention in my category. I decided to slightly modify the recipe and then do peppers in the secondary. The grain bill that I did is as follows:

10.5 # 2-Row Brewers Malt
1.33 # Flaked Barley
1.25 # Flaked Oats
0.5 # Cara-Pils
0.5 # Caramel/Crystal 120 L
0.33 # Roasted Barley
Shit ton # Rice Hulls

That morning I crushed the grain for a early afternoon brew session. What is nice aboot working at a brewery, I have access to inexpensive malts and hops, and a crusher. I started the brew session by boiling water for storage in by hot liquor tank and pre-heating the mashtun.. After which I heated more water to strike temperature. To the grains, I added 1.5 discs of Abuelita's Mexican Hot Chocolate made by Nestle™ and one-tablespoon of Chili Powder.

After I got the water up to strike temperature, I drained to mashtun and transferred 19 quarts of 168°F water into the mashtun. Then I had my fellow brewer Nick help out by gently pouring the grains into the liquid, while I mixed to to prevent formation of doughballs. This is a slight change from how I previously done this. Before I added the grain to the mashtun first then added water. This procedure worked much better. Once I check the temperature and adjusted it slightly, by adding water from the hot liquor tank, I mashed for 45 minutes.

Next I did a vorlauf for 15 minutes and the beer cleared up pretty good. Instead of doing a batch sparge, I changed the next step to bringing up the mash temperature to 168°F for mashing out by adding 7.5 quarts of 202°F water to the mash. I did this over a spoon to prevent disturbing the grain bed.

I mashed out approximately 7 gallons of wort to my kettle and prepared for the boil. At the start of the boil 1-oz. of Chinook whole leaf hops. These hops were from my harvest that at the end of the summer of 2011. At 40 minutes left, I added a half of a disc of the Mexican hot chocolate mix, at 15 minutes I added Irish moss as my to help clear the beer, at 10 minutes I added both yeast nutrient and 1 oz. of Fuggles hops, and finally at 2 minutes I added a half of a disc of the Mexican hot chocolate mix and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. My original gravity came out to be 1.079 (19° Plato), but I only collected 4.25 gallons, leaving my efficiency low at 65%.

During this week sometime, I plan on preparing peppers for the secondary. I will take and roast a whole Pablano pepper in the oven and save it in the refrigerator. When the gravity reaches and stays at the final gravity of 1.018 (4.5° Plato), I will transfer the beer to the secondary and add the Plabano pepper. I will add the both the roasted one and a raw one to the secondary. I will prepare them by cutting them into strips to increase the surface area and removing all of the seeds. I want to give this beer a savory flavour, no more heat.

My plans for future homebrews are as follows:
Belgian Blonde (with yeast harvested from Maredsous 6 bottles)
Robust Porter secondaried with Habenaro peppers
Saison secondaried with blueberries
American Wild Ale (with yeast harvested from open fermentation experiment)

I plan to bottle soon also the American Barleywine and a Mead that I steeped with Hibiscus flowers in the water before I cooled and added the honey.

I'll let you know of my thoughts of the beers in future entries.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Uses of Spent Grain

Although this entry is not really aboot beer, it deals with cooking (what beer is aboot really, cooking). In the future, some of these entries will not be aboot beer, but loosely tied with beer.

Part of making beer, there is always excess waste. Water is the major component in brewing that is wasted (I'll go into further detail on this subject in a future entry). Other wastes are: spent grain, hops that fall out as trub in the boil, yeast after fermentation; I'm sure that there are others, but currently, I feel that is enough to list. Recently, I have been trying to be efficient in the use of these waste products. In this entry, I'm going to focus on spent grain.

Spent grain in a brewery, for the most part, gets used as other products. At Saugatuck Brewing Company, where I work, spent grain is used in one of two forms. One form is as cattle feed. A farmer comes twice a week and picks up anywhere between 10 and 15 barrels of spent grain. This is a common practice in breweries. The other form in the brewery that I work for, spent grain is used in making bread. Maybe once every week we get a 1-gallon bucket to fill with spent grain that the kitchen will use in the making of bread for soup, pizza bread, or other assortments of products.

As a homebrewer, there are things that can be done so that spent grain is not wasted in a landfill. One way is to use it in compost. This compost will turn to rich soil that can be used in the garden. Spent grain can be the carbon source in your compost as other sources (vegetables and fruits) are the nitrogen source. A good carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) would be somewhere in the range of 25-30:1. A C:N less than that would make a compost pile that is literary skinky. 

Another way that spent grain can be used is in cooking. My main way is in making spent grain granola. Others that I have tried is in making cookies and bread. I'm going to talk in this entry on the making of spent grain granola. It is very easy and there isn't much measuring that has to be done. I just add ingredients and, even though each batch changes, it always comes out pretty rad.

The first thing that I do after I get done with the mash is to try to dry out as much spent grain that I can. This requires using a couple of Pyrex baking pans that are 2-in deep. I usually fill two of them and throw them in the oven at 250ºF for somewhere around 24 hours. Every couple of hours or so I mix them to get equal drying. After it cools, it is still a little damp, but I put the spent grain in gallon-size ziplock bags and then store it in the freezer. 

In making of granola, the first thing that I do is take approximately 3 cups of the spent grain and let it slightly thaw. In a mixing bowl, I add to the spent grain, a cup of Quaker Oats and almond slices, less than a cup of wheat germ and flax seed. The liquids that I add are somewhere in between ½ and ¼ cup of vegetable oil, honey, and maple syrup. I use my hand to mix this, then spread it thin on a cookie baking sheet (that should be lightly greased). 

In a preheated oven, I bake this for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 250ºF. Every 15 minutes or so, I stir the granola to ensure equal browning. I eat this granola every morning over yogurt with strawberries and blueberries that I get from my local framers market here in Holland, MI. 

I hope that this will help homebrewers to find alternative uses of spent grain and other waste. I'll post some more ideas on what else to use other by products of homebrewing, as well as some other spent grain recipes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

An experiment of open fermentation!

Near the end of May of this year, two of the brewers at the brewery that I worked at, Saugatuck Brewing Company, decided to do some experimentation with wort. The wort was pulled from a beer that was brewed called “The Applause” or other wise known as “The Clap.” This beer was pitched with a wild yeast strain that was pulled from grapes that were picked from Fenn Valley Winery. After the yeast was pitched, there was extra wort after the beer was put into 5-gallon buckets and left to open ferment inside the brewery (the experiment that I reference). 
After only a just a few days a krausen developed on the wort, a sign of fermentation. To keep from infecting other beers in the brewery, the buckets were placed outside, under cover so that rain would not enter the buckets. On this past Thursday, these buckets were retrieved to see how they progressed. The first observable effect of open fermentation was that there were a lot of fruit flies (dead) and fruit fly larvae in the buckets. I decided to smell it and it had a very wonderful tart aroma to the beer. I hurried to find a cup to sample, while the other two brewers decided what to do. The taste was almost as amazing as the smell (minus the fact that I was drinking fly larvae with the now beer). A gravity reading was taken on the beer and it has a ABV of 5.5%. The beer was filtered through some cheese cloth into another bucket.

Later in the evening, I took one of the buckets and gathered some yeast to propagate. I took a sample in a plastic cup, because I didn't have any other vessel to gather it in. I took it home that night and put it into the refrigerator to deal with the next morning. 
The next morning, I pulled the yeast sample out of the refrigerator to warm it up a bit. I prepared a starter out of 200 grams of dry malt extract (DME) and 500 mL of water (to create a 1.040 specific gravity solution). I boiled the solution for a couple minutes and cooled it as quickly that I possibly could. While the starter was boiling, I used a spoon to scoop out as many dead fruit flies and larvae out of the yeast sample that I could. I poured the starter solution into a per-sanitized 1.9 liter growler, after-which I added the yeast to the growler. I put a bung on the growler and shook it up to oxygenate it as best that I could. I then added a airlock to the bung.
It will be interesting to see how this progresses. I will tempt to build this sample up more, by, decanting the liquid and adding more DME solution to it. Eventually I would love to make build a beer with this yeast!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Experimenting with small batch brewing.

Being a scientist, trained in experimental manipulation of the environment to see how organisms react, I decided to start to do experimental manipulation on beer, at a smaller scale, to see what kind of flavors that I can pull out. The environment for this experimental manipulation is the wort that would be turned into beer by yeast (the organism). My normal homebrew system is 19 liters (5 gallons) but at Saugatuck BrewingCompany, where I work, we brew on a 10-barrel system (1200 liters or 315 gallons). My system might be good for experimenting for SBC, but the small batch system for my homebrew system is 3.8 liters (1 gallon). Even though I work at a brewery, I will continue my hobby of homebrewing.

To ferment in my small batch system, I use 2-1.9 liter (0.5 gallons) growlers from various brewing companies. Currently, I have only done two batches, both meads. This is because I do not have a mashtun that would be proper for this scale. This is my next purchase, a small cooler that I can convert into a mashtun for this purpose.

My experimental brew that I did on 30 June 2013 was a mead (which I previously mentioned). I had two 0.9-liter (1-quart) mason jars with honey that I used for this experiment. One jar was from honey that I collected from my hive last summer and the other was collected from a colleague of mine when I was a graduate student at Miami University of Ohio. The second jar was late season collected in the fall of last year and both sets of honey came from areas that surrounded Oxford, OH. 

The late season honey had solidified, so I put the jar in a pot of 55°C (130°F) water to liquefy it. I also added the early season jar to the pot to help with reducing the viscosity, to that I could pout it easier. Each jar contained approximately 1.1 kilogram (2.5 pounds) of honey in it. While adding the honey to the fermenters, I started to boil water to bring up the volume in the fermenters. This was where I started to add complexity to my experiment.

In the water that I boiled, I added a small amount of solidified honey. I did this to help in the utilization of the hops that I added. Lowering the pH by having some sugars in the water helps in utilizing hops, because just making hop tea in plain water could run the risk of giving harsh-tasting, vegetal or astringent polyphenols (as explained in “Malt Extraction: Late Addition Brewing” in the May/June 2013 issue of Zymurgy). Once the water started to boil, I added 7 grams (0.25 ounces) of hops to the boil. The hops that I used was from the 2012 crop of the Chinook that I harvested last year. I boiled to 5 minutes and added then cut the flame and added the other 21.5 grams (0.75 ounces) to the boil.

Once the boil was complete, I cooled the water with my immersion wort chiller to approximately 25°C (77°F). I then added the water to each growler until the volume came up to the bottle neck, giving room for formation of the krausen. I shook each growler for 15 to 20 minutes to thoroughly mix the honey and give oxygen to the wort. I then took a gravity reading then added one package of yeast to each fermenter. The O.G. was 1.128 and should be 15.9% ABV mead. 

I will let this ferment for 6 months before bottling it. What I am looking for in this mead is a little bit of bitterness (Beersmith calculated it to be 19.2 IBU) and have a citrusy/grapefruity taste from the hops.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Every Town Needs a Brewery

With the boom in craft brewing over the past couple of decades and the ever growing number of breweries in operation, you would think that the curve has to plateau at some point. In the adjoining figure that I borrowed from the brewer's association, the number of breweries in operation in 1887 was 2011. There was a steady decline until prohibition (1920 – 1933) where there was a ban on the sale, production, and the transportation of alcohol. After the passage of the 21st amendment, revoking prohibition, only a few of these breweries were able to reopen. The downward trend continued to occur until circa 1977. In the 1990's and early current century there has been an accelerated growth in the number of breweries to an estimation (by the Brewer's Association) of 2416 total U.S. Breweries in March of 2013.

I made it a goal of mine to visit as many breweries that I can since I quit academia and started working at a brewery. Over the past month and a half I have tried to visit 2 to 3 breweries every weekend (either on Sat. or Sun.). With that in mind I have been looking for new breweries in places both close and far away from my current residence in Michigan (please suggest a few). Over the past three weekends we, my girlfriend and I, have been pretty good at keeping up this pace. So far 10 breweries has been visited. Besides that I have visited a few (up to 5 more) other ones since I have moved back to Michigan in late April.

On my weekly travels to and from my parent's house to take care of the hop garden, between my current residence in Hamilton and my parent's in Edwardsburg, there are a few nano-style breweries/brew pubs. In the 7 towns that I pass through going one route, there are 2 breweries (Patchwork Brewing Company in Decatur, Michigan and Paw Paw Brewing Company in Paw Paw, Michigan). In another route I pass through 5 towns and zero of them has a brewery. This cause me to ponder, “What if every town had a microbrewery?” In light of renewing locally, especially in buying local vegetables and meat, this seems like a very good. Breweries were places of local gatherings as well as places to conduct business. Why not renew this as well as well as renewing everything else local?

There are a few positive things that could occur by having a brewery in every town. First is jobs, especially if said brewery has a kitchen that serves food. You must have people that work the production area, including brewer, cellar, and packaging. If you really wanted to, 1 person could do this, but this would take away from the quantity and maybe the quality of beer. There would be bar staff. There would also be wait staff and kitchen staff if said brewery served food.

The second thing that a brewery could bring a town is tourism, or money from outside the town. This tourism could also help other businesses or could help open new businesses. The downside to this is that it sort of takes away from the whole local aspect.

A third positive would be the promotion of everything local. The trend currently is buying everything local. This can be seen with the farmer markets popping up in small towns. In fact, local grains and hops can be used in the production of beer. I know that the brewery that I work at for, Saugatuck Brewing Company, makes one beer that includes all Michigan products (everything but yeast) called Michigan Wheat Ale. The malt comes from Michigan Malt Company in which we get the 2-row brewers barely, wheat and crystal 60. The hops come from Empire Hop Farm. The kitchen uses locally grown produce and spent grain from the brewery. The brewery gives most of our spent grain to a local farmer to use as feed for his cattle. The brewery also uses a local person to etch our glasses that we use for our pub club.

Yet a fourth positive is that the pubs could be used as meeting. In the 1800's, pubs (which, for the most part, brewed there own beer) in both Europe and the U.S., were places where people met to exchange goods. This idea can be taken one step further today with bartering of goods to the brewery to use in house for exchange of discounts and/or goods.

What if every town had a brewery? These, plus other ideas that can be made in my comment section, are pluses for every town to have a brewery.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Hop Tending 2013: The Progression of the Hop Garden

With living in Michigan again, I once again can take care of my hop plants that we (my mum, father, and I) planted three years ago. It is a lot easier living 90 minutes away instead of 5.5 hours away to come back and take care of the girls. I call them girls because that it what they are, female. The cones, in which brewers use to bitter or give aroma, is what is put into the boil kettle when making beer.

Hop plants (Humulus lupulus) are monoecious, meaning that each plant only has a single reproductive morphology on plant, compared to dioecious plants which has both. Monecious plants have either the female reproductive parts, called the stamen (located in the hop cones) which receives the pollen, or they have the male reproductive parts, called the anther which develops, carries, and delivers the pollen to other plants and reproductive parts. Diecious plants have both parts contained within a flower.

Like grasses and corn, hop plants are wind pollinated, which do not require insects (such as bees) for pollination. The pollen must be transported by wind from the male plant to a female cone. Brewers do not want hop plants to get pollinated and harvest them before this happens. Brewers also do not plant male plants. Hop breeders do plant want male plants so that the female cones become pollinated to develop new varieties. A lot of work is done to develop new varieties for different aromas, amount of alpha acids (the chemical that provides the bitterness), disease resistance, and efficiency. Some the newest varieties that have been developed in the past few years have became very popular (i.e., Simcoe and Citra).

On the other hand, diecious plants either do or do not require (plants that can self pollinate called “selfing”) require insect to pollinate.

After moving up to Hamilton, Michigan to work at Saugatuck Brewing Company, each week I travel to my parent's property in Edwardsburg, Michigan to work on the hop garden. On the property, both of my parents have their businesses. My father owns a tool shop, in which he makes plastic injection molds to produce parts. My mum owns a greenhouse business, in which she also sells that harvested hops each year. I hope that working in the brewing industry will give me more of a market to sell my hops in, but being whole hops has drawbacks. Mostly, the hops needs to be bagged for the boil or they clog the lines.

The first weekend of May was my first time working on the hops for the year. I started with clearing the rows of weeds. It was a difficult task with using a hoe, so I located a rototiller that was in one of the barns. This rototiller is very ancient! I don't think that it has been used in 10+ years, but my father and I pulled it out, sprayed the carburetor with some starter fluid, and pulled the starter cord. It started right up with first pull!

Now that I cleared the rows between the hops vines, it was time to trim the hops back so that each line had two vines growing up it. With the plants being very young, it also makes them very fragile. I only broke maybe 4 vines that I tried to maneuver to that they would twist up the lines. The total time spent out in the garden was only around 4 hours to do 5 rows of 5 hop rhizomes.

The next week was relatively easy with only trimming new shoots away. It is amazing with the growth of the vines. In direct sunlight, I would estimate that the vines grows aboot 3 feet during a week.

Week three the vines on some varieties were all the up the lines! This week again did not require much work. Mostly, I didn't feel like doing much work after driving through the night from Oxford, Ohio back to my parents, with a bee hive in the back of my Subaru Outback, full of bees (in which I use for honey production, unrelated to my hop plants). As you can notice in the photo at the end of this paragraph, the bee hive located in the background, to the right, under a tree.

Last weekend (25 May, 2013) was fourth weekend working on the hop garden. By this time most of the hop vines have crawled up and over the top of the lines. During this week and did a lot of trimming of new shoots coming up, weeding in between the rows, and makings sure that the rhizomes didn't cross over from one row to another by digging out extra rhizomes. I also tried to “train” the vines to curl around the top lines. A few of the vines were broken off by the wind. This will make the vines fuller as the apical meristem is broken off and meristems at the nodes of the plants are allowed to grow.

The last few things that was done this final week was watering and checking for insect pest. I set up a sprinkler in between the rows and ran it for aboot 20 minutes. For checking for pest, I looked under the leaves for pests like aphids and spider mites. I found none of these to speak of and if they do become a problem, I apply my knowledge of biological pest control and will by predatory mites or lady bird beetles to consume the pest.

I will provide further updates as the year progresses.