Showing posts with label brewing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brewing. Show all posts

Monday, February 3, 2020

Because We Can

Saturday was one of my favourite kind of days, a brewday with one of my local breweries.

In this case I was down at the Devils Backbone Basecamp once more. The plan, to brew Morana for the fifth time. Morana is, as a quick recap, a 14° tmavé speciální, or for the non-Czech speakers a 14° dark special lager, modeled on the sadly now departed Kout na ?umavě dark lager of the same strength.

From the very first time we brewed Morana, back in 2010, it has been double decocted as a nod to the traditional brewing practices of central Europe. It has also always undergone a long period of lagering, about 45 days. It has always used floor malted Bohemian pilsner malt, as well as CaraBohemian, Dark Munich, and de-bittered Carafa II, and it has always been hopped exclusively with Saaz hops. For this most recent brew none of these things have changed. At the end of the slightly longer than many a brewday, decoction does that, we had an on the nail wort that is going to make a simply fantastic beer.

From here on in though, Morana is in uncharted territory. You see, Devils Backbone have recently invested in some fun brewing equipment that we hope will bring Morana, a beer described in Jeff Alworth's Beer Bible as "the best New World effort to make an Old World beer", closer to her Old World antecedents.

Where in years past Morana would have undergone fermentation in a cylindrical conical tank, this time she is being fermented in Devils Backbone's new open fermenter, indeed she is the first lager to do so. As ever when Jason Oliver and I get together I learn shit tons of fun stuff about brewing, and naturally I asked what difference, if any, an open fermenter would make. Apparently the difference is less in the open nature of the vessel than it is in the geometry of it, being broader and shallower than a CCT. If I understand what Jason told me correctly, the CO2 generated by the yeast has a larger area in which to bubble to the surface, raising the yeast as it goes. This results is a fermentation with less circulation in the vessel, resulting in a more leisurely process, and thus the yeast is less stressed than it would be in the CCT. Again, assuming I understood correctly, this will impact the body and mouthfeel of the beer, making it even more luxuriant than previous iterations.

Having fermented for the requisite length of time, and once it is with about 1.5° Plato of target gravity, it will be moved over to a CCT to finish the fermentation with the CO2 valve firmly shut. With the natural carbonation achieved, it will be pumped over to another new toy that Jason gets to play with, one of the horizontal lagering tanks. There she will sit for 45 days at near freezing, and when the time comes to keg her up and drink, she will not be filtered.

During the brewday, Jason treated me to a couple of samples of German style beers sitting in the horizontal tanks. Currently lagering and soon to be on tap at Basecamp are Ein K?lsch and Alt Bier, no prizes for guessing the styles based on the names. Whenever they have been on tap in the past, Mrs V and I have made a point of getting to the brewpub for a few jars and to fill several growlers, based on the samples taken from the zwickel, we'll definitely be heading down in the not too distant future.

I remember once Jason being asked for an article in some brewing magazine about why he does decoction mashes for his lagers, to which he responded "because I can". What better reason to decoct, open ferment, and lager horizontally a Czech style tmavé for authenticity than simply that, because we can?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

17° Perfection

Goodness me it's been a while since I posted.

Mitigating circumstance is that just 5 days after my previous post, Mrs V gave birth to our twin sons, the malé Ali?ky as they have been nicknamed, and we are getting to grips with this whole parenthood thing.

On Saturday, we introduced the malé Ali?ky to that most august of establishments, the pub. I fear that in the rampantly puritanical mind of the Institute of Alcohol Studies (for those unaware, a front organisation feigning academic respectability for the heirs of the Temperance League and their prohibitionist cohorts) the boys are already scarred for life as I have had several beers right in front of them already.

Said introductory pub was the original Devils Backbone brewpub down in Nelson County, and the occasion was the tapping of the beer I brewed with them back in August, a Czech style Polotmavy Speciál. Polotmavy because it is neither light nor dark, but a deep red kind of in between, and Speciál because it has an original gravity of about 17° Plato. In keeping with Czech tradition the name of the beer is Granát, which is "garnet" in Czech, a reference to the famous gemstones from Central Bohemia.

"But how did the beer turn out?" I hear you say....

Well, it pours a really rich deep auburn, that the picture above maybe doesn't capture fully, and yes I am biased but I think all my children are gorgeous. The head is a healthy inch of ivory foam that lingers for the duration and leaves some lovely lacing down the glass. Aroma wise, there are some traces of a lightly herbal hop character, but given the beer is more balanced toward the malt, the classic Central European smells of fresh bread and a sweet malt aroma (I can't think of a better description honestly, when you smell CaraBohemian malt you get what I mean). In terms of taste, there is lots of breadiness, and a healthy dollop of sweetness, think dulce de leche and you're close, all backed up by a firm hop bite that stops the beer from being sickly - is there anything worse than a sickly sweet beer? Having lagered for a nearly 10 weeks, the finish is clean, crisp, and despite the malt forward nature of the beer, refreshing.

You know, the more I think about it, the more it reminds me of a 14° Polotmavy Speciál from Minipivovar Hukvaldy that I relished back in 2008 over lunch with Max in Prague.

So yes it turned out exactly as I wanted it to, and my only regret is that it won't ever see the light of day at Pivovarsky klub. Given the volume of the batch, I expect it will only be on at Devils Backbone for a few weeks, so if you are in the area get along and try the first recorded authentic Czech style Polotmavy in Virginian history.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Halfway to Darkness

I have a habit of getting interested in, and advocating for, beer styles that are perhaps out of the mainstream of craft beer. What kind of loon starts American Mild Month, for example, or convinces a brewery to make a 1920s Burton Ale, a Czech tmavé, or thinks that best bitter could actually be appreciated by American drinkers? This kind of loon, that's what. Well the loon is at it again.

Tomorrow I will be taking the wonderfully scenic drive down to the Devils Backbone Basecamp, their original brewpub in the hills, and once again we are visiting the Czech brewing world to brew one of my recipes for a rare beer style, a 'polotmavé.

The word 'polotmavé' literally means 'half-dark', and is a style of beer that sits somewhere between pale and dark lager, the one above being from Klá?terní pivovar Strahov. Generally speaking, polotmavé lagers use the same malts as a tmavé, just less of the specialty malts so the beer has an amber or red colour. There is a school of thought that says polotmavé lagers descend from the Vienna Red lager tradition of the 19th century, but I don't want to jump into that today.

If advocating for Burton Ale, bitter, and mild was crazy, then I think this project is proof it is time to be packed off to the beer equivalent of the loonie bin. According to RateBeer, there have been a grand total of 15 polotmavé lagers made by US brewers, though I can't verify the faithfulness of those beers to the stuff I would drink from time to time back in Prague. In a purely Virginian context, I believe this will be the first genuinely Czech inspired polotmavé brewed in the Commonwealth. There is one other on RateBeer but the description says it was just a pilsner with a bit of roast malt chucked in to change the colour, not really in keeping with Czech tradition, so I am discounting that.

With our project, we are planning a 16° beer, which should probably finish out at about 6% abv and using the same specialty malts as for Morana, namely CaraBohemian, Carafa II Special, and Munich. On the hops front we are using a blend of Kazbek and Saaz, to give us about 30 IBUs, and of course we'll be using the Augustiner yeast strain for that clean lager bite that I love so much (especially lagers from Devils Backbone!).

The beer, which as yet doesn't have a name, should be on tap some time in October. Just in time, hopefully, to wet the heads of my soon to turn up twin sons...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Barrels of Best

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent the day at Three Notch'd Brewing here in Charlottesville, making the biggest batch of beer I have ever been involved in. I arrived at the brewery at 7am expecting to be brewing 10 barrels of Session 42, an English style pale ale, hopped exclusively with US Goldings, only to be told that we would be brewing 20 barrels instead.

As I mentioned in my last post, Session 42 is a best bitter, but with a slight difference, we used only US ingredients. No Maris Otter, no Kent Goldings, the ingredients were as follows:
  • 89% Rahr 2 Row Malt
  • 11% Briess Victory Malt
  • 38 IBUs of US Goldings
We are using the brewery's standard yeast, the Edinburgh ale strain which is derived from McEwan's back in Scotland.

The grain bill of just 2 Row and Victory malt will give the beer a sweet, bready, almost toasty base. Usually I would add some crystal malt, but I wanted to avoid the caramel sweetness that seems to be a defining element of the English Pale Ale in some people's minds.

If everything goes well the beer will finish at about 4.2% abv, just a touch above the finest best bitter on the planet, Timothy Taylor's wonderful bottled Landlord.

All the hops in the beer are US Goldings, which is basically Kent Goldings without the Kent. Packed with a Seville orange citrus character, as well as the spicy earthiness you expect from this classic hop. With the toastiness of the Victory malt, think marmelade on warm toast and you're pretty much there...

To say I am looking forward to drinking the beer when it comes out in early December would be an understatement...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pale and Bitter Ale

If rarity were truly an indicator of the world's best beers, then in the American context, the top 100 would have a decent smattering of beers from the bitter family. Getting a well made, or even a made most of the time, ordinary, best, or extra special is almost as difficult as convincing some people that there is more to the United Kingdom than just the bit south of the Tweed.

The bitter beer family constitutes some of my favourite beers to drink, and to brew, indeed I think this year I have brewed more bitter than anything else combined. Bitter, if you have been keeping up with your beer history classes from Ron and Martyn, is also known as Pale Ale. The former being the name given to this type of beer by the 19th century consumer, the latter by the brewer.

On Monday I will be brewing even more Pale Ale. It is my birthday on Monday, and one of the benefits of the place I work is that employees can take their birthday off. However, rather being ensconced in my garage, brewing up one of my standard 2 and a half gallon brews, I will be at recently opened Three Notch'd Brewing Company. By the end of the day, or at least around mid afternoon given our starting time of 6am, we will have brewed 10 barrels of an English Pale Ale, more specifically a Best Bitter.

The beer is called Session 42, and will be the first locally brewed best bitter that I know of since moving to the US in 2009. I will share more technical details next week, when I write a bit more about the brewday itself. The beer in the picture above is of the trial batch, which other than a couple of minor fermentation issues turned out pretty close to what I was looking for...

Update: as you can read in the comments, my memory failed me, probably as I don't recall drinking it, but Blue Mountain Brewery made a Best Bitter last summer, called Straight Outta Chiswick.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Again She Rises!

It gets dark reasonably early these days, I say 'reasonably' because as a child growing up in the Outer Hebrides the sun would set at about half past three in the depths of winter. I am a big fan of winter, I love the cold, the dark and the opportunity to wear my lambswool sweaters and tweed cap every day, I also love, as if you needed telling, the dark beers that seem to be required drinking at this time of the year.

A couple of years ago I went to Devils Backbone for a day to brew a tmavy, or dark lager, which we named for an old Slavic goddess called Morana.

Morana, just one of several spellings, is the goddess of death and and winter in the pre-Christian Slavic traditions, though traces of her cult linger on in modern day Czech Republic through the annual tradition of ?arodějnice, or Witch Burning Night. Each spring, on April 30th, effigies of witches are burnt in the Czech Republic to symbolise the defeat of winter, prior to the coming of Christianity with Saints Cyril and Methodius, those effigies were of Morana.

In Poland the effigy of Morana, known there as Marzanna, is burnt and then drowned, there the effigy is:
a large figure of a woman made from various rags and bits of clothing which is thrown into a river on the first day of the spring calendar. Along the way, she is dipped into every puddle and pond ... Very often she is burned along with herbs before being drowned and a twin custom is to decorate a pine tree with flowers and colored baubles to be carried through the village by the girls. There are of course many superstitions associated with the ceremony: you can't touch Marzanna once she's in the water, you can't look back at her, and if you fall on your way home you're in big trouble. One, or a combination of any of these can bring the usual dose of sickness and plague.
—Tom Galvin, "Drowning Your Sorrows in Spring", Warsaw Voice 13.544, March 28, 1999
Yesterday I was down at Devils Backbone again, to perform the ancient rite of brewing in order to resurrect Morana, she should be back in time for the Winter Solstice, get your growlers ready!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Responsible Brewing?

It's a slogan that we see a lot of these days, "Drink Responsibly", you can see my take on the slogan at the top of this page, for example. Pretty much every beer advert on the TV flashes it up after they have attempted to convince us that drinking their beer will put us at the heart of rather suave social situation or will give us the courage to chat up the boss's daughter. In all this fraternisation and sexual tension, one is encouraged to "drink responsibly".

Drinking responsibly, whatever that means, is certainly a commendable aim. I would most assuredly not encourage people to down a session's worth of some high octane brew and then drive, neither do I think drinking gallons of alcohol every night of the week is good for you. So yes, being a responsible drinker is something I think is a "good thing".

The question I have then is how come all the responsibility gets punted on to the drinker rather than the producer of the beer? Surely if a brewery is serious about encouraging its drinkers to be responsible, which I am fairly sure they aren't they are just complying with regulations, then they should be brewing more session beers?

It is a fact of life that people enjoy drinking and socialising, and by socialising I mean being with real physical people in actual buildings rather than being a social media approximation of real life. From a purely anecdotal perspective, people seem to drink at pretty much the same rate regardless of the strength of the beer being imbibed, though when you get north of about 8% the drinking speed does drop off, and understandably so.

Let me give you a concrete example, imagine you are at a party and in 5 hours you drink the equivalent of 6 US pints (4.8 imperial pints, 5.5 500ml glasses, or 8 12oz bottles) of Pilsner Urquell, which is 4.4% ABV, so just under the limit for session beer. If you are 250lbs then your Blood Alcohol Content would be 0.05, or to put it another way, you aren't getting a DUI on the way home. Let's up that though to the fairly average ABV for American breweries of 6.5%, based on my reviewing brewers' ranges and working out averages, and your BAC would be 0.11% and should you get caught you are in a shit load of trouble, and not just from your mother.

While I accept that it is the drinker's responsibility not to guzzle nearly a gallon of "average" beer and then drive home, sometimes it is pretty bloody difficult to get anything other than an "average" strength beer in the pub. It wouldn't hurt if the brewers and pubs gave responsibility a helping hand by having a diverse selection of sub 4.5% abv beers.

There are plenty of beer "styles" with upper limits on their ABV which fit nicely in the definition of session beer, and sadly they are the styles that seem to be the most neglected in the "I use more hops and have more alcohol than you" dick waving contest which is craft beer. So come on brewers, stop just nodding in the direction of session beer and let's see how good you really are at brewing by developing a whole range of beers.

PS - those that think 6% can be a session beer clearly don't know what they are talking about, and I would like to invite them to responsibly take a long walk off a short pier.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Horses and Ships

My good friend Max over at Pivni Filosof is asking the following question today on his blog:

"If you had a brewery with a capacity of 3-5hl a batch, what sort of beer would you have as your "workhorse"* and which would be your "flagship" and why?"

As a beer lover and homebrewer it is the kind of question which inevitably crops up fairly often, usually though in the context of the kinds of brews that would form the core range. Having to decide though on two beers to really be the heart of the line up is more challenging.

As with any business plan, it is important to consider your market and what they expect when they drink beer from your brewery. It would be all too simple to say, I live in America therefore I need a big hoppy pale ale. You have to remember that I live in Virginia, and so what are the local beer tastes? Given the success of the core ranges of Devils Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain, one thing is clear - lager has a following in this neck of the woods.

Again it would be too simple to extraoplate from that and give in to my love of Czech lagers by making my workhorse something akin to Budvar or the magnificent Kout na ?umavě desitka. I am not convinced that the majority of the American public really understand pilsner lagers, equating them with brands like Miller and Budweiser.

Dark lagers though are very much taken to, if our experience of brewing Morana and the Barclays London Dark Lager at Devils Backbone was anything to go on. Both 10 hectolitre batches sold out in less than a month if I recall. Thus I would  make my workhorse beer a Czech tmavé.

As for my flagship beer, I think this is the right venue for allowing my preferences more rein, and so this decision is easier in many ways, though my market still needs to be considered. I love history and brewing beers based on recipes from years gone by, so my flagship beer would be something from the 19th century, some from Scotland perhaps, something to confound the expectations of know it all beer bores who think Scottish beer is all about sweetness and a lack of hops. I would recreate William Younger's 140/- ale from 1868, which Ron Pattinson wrote about.

So there you go, a dark lager and a historic beer to mess with peoples preconceived notions of a nation's brewing traditions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Into Darkness...

Think Czech lager.

Ok, do you have an image in your head of Czech lager? Let me guess, it is golden, topped with a frothy white head (which, if well made and poured, can support the weight of a small coin), the nose is grassy, lightly lemony, all the things you expect from Saaz, the taste is bready and malty and when you get a great example of Czech beer you wonder why anyone would ever drink anything else. That is Czech lager, yes? The vast majority of the time you'd be right, but for the 5% of beer production in the Czech Republic devoted to the dark arts, to tmavy, or ?erny, le?ák (dark or black respectively). Legally speaking the only official name for a dark lager in the Czech Republic is tmavy, and thus that is the term I will use.

According to Czech tradition, or at least the things I was told by Czech men in pubs when I first moved to Prague back in the 20th Century, tmavy is beer for women, specifically beer to give women bigger breasts. What they neglected to mention was that the dark lagers of the Czech Republic are a whole different world from the Pilsner inspired golden lagers, and so it was only in my last few years in the city that I got a taste for them.

When I went down to Devils Backbone to help brew their recreation of the 1842 Pilsner recipe, Jason and I discussed at length Czech beer, and came back again and again to tmavy and how it differs from the German dark lagers, dunkels and schwarzbier. We came to the conclusion that it would be an interesting project to brew a tmavy and so we set about finding as much information as we could. Emails were sent to various Czech brewers, websites were read in various languages, style guidelines were consulted, though not in the obvious places - certain websites are of the opinion that a Czech tmavy is either a dunkel or a schwarzbier. Why then do I maintain that tmavy should have it's own style? Simply because the history of dark lager in Bohemia is very different from that of Bavaria, where dark lagers preceded pale lagers by a few centuries, in Bohemia, however what became dark lager was dark ale until the 1890s - you could then argue, if you so wish, that tmavy is in reality more closely related to porter than dunkel or schwarzbier. Indeed, the iconic, and distinctly stouty dark lager from U Flek? is known to have been warm fermented until that era.

Having garnered the relevant information, got the necessary malts and hops, scheduled a time which worked for all involved, we got together on Saturday to brew. Taking part in the brewday on Saturday was myself obviously, Jason and Aaron from Devil's Backbone, Lyle Brown of Battlefield Brewery in Fredericksburg and Nathan Zeender, a journalist from DC, whose article in Brew Your Own magazine about kvass was fascinating.

We used floor malted Bohemian pilsner malt, Munich malt, CaraBohemian malt and Carafa II special malt in the grist, and only Saaz hops in the boil, to achieve about 25IBUs, the yeast is Jason's prefered Augustiner lager yeast, and the brewery's incredibly soft well water. Because we wanted to be as traditional and authentic as possible, we did a double decoction mash. When everything was done, which took about 8 hours, we had, in the fermenter, 11 hectolitres of 14o tmavy speciál - that's 1100 litres or about 290 gallons. The beer will ferment for about 8 or 9 days and be lagered until, at the earliest, February 1st 2011, though ideally we would like to do 2 months worth of lagering.

For naming this beer, I suggested, and Jason agreed, that we use the name of an ancient Slavic goddess, Morana, the goddess of winter and death, who goes under several other names as well, but Morana was the one I liked best. Traditionally when Spring comes, an effigy of Morana is burnt to celebrate the end of winter, and given the timing of the beer being released, it is kind of fitting that a beer dedicated to her would be available during the last throes of winter.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to Bohemia

As I mentioned in Monday's general post about Devils Backbone, I spent Saturday with their brewing team. The project in hand was to brew a replica of the original 1842 recipe used by grumpy old Josef Groll to create what became Pilsner Urquell. I first heard about their plans for this beer back when I was browsing in the light of the magnificent 1904 Stout (please, please make more!), and patiently I waited. Each month Devils Backbone send out a newsletter to those who have signed up, and on receiving it earlier this month I replied, simply asking when the pilsner was coming? Following a few emails between Jason and I, he very graciously invited me to come out and help brew, so, of course, I jumped at the chance and cleared my schedule.

At 8 o'clock on Saturday morning I rolled up to the brewery, or rather, was driven by Mrs Velkyal as she needed the car to go rowing, to be met by Jason, and bags of milled grain filling the brewhouse with that gorgeous malt aroma. Eventually we would be joined by Jason's assistant, Aaron, and coming in and out pretty much all day was Heidi, who was taking photos and making a video. Jason's brewhouse is German designed and built, although in a former life it was in Japan. Being German built, there are three vessels rather than two, the usual mash tun/brew kettle and lauter tun being joined by the decoction kettle. In keeping with the plan to be authentic as possible, we would be doing a triple decoction  mash, which takes about 3 hours rather than the more common 90 minute infusion mash.

Just briefly, though I imagine most of you know how decoction mashing works, essentially you bring the main mash to a predefined temperature, pull off a portion of the mash into the decoction kettle, bring that to the boil and then return the decoction to the main mash, which raises the mash temperature and creates Maillard reactions. Obviously for a triple decoction you do this three times, each at a higher temperature than the last. Entirely oversimplified I know, but there we go.

With regard to the recipe, Jason was using an article in The New Brewer magazine as his guide, which called for Bohemian Pilsner malt, in Jason's case floor malted from Weyermann, acidulated malt and a touch of light caramel malt (if I recall properly, I didn't take notes, I was too busy being awed at brewing with a champion brewer). The hops? Well to quote Connor McLeod, "there can be only one", Czech Saaz. One of the things I was really interested in was to see the water profile. Plzeň is famous for it's incredibly soft water, but to my surprise this wasn't to be an issue, because the well from which Devils Backbone draws its liquor is actually softer than Plzeň! For yeast, Jason stuck with the Augustiner lager yeast he uses, which really adds to the authenticity because it was a Bavarian yeast that first fermented the sugars in the wort that gave birth to the pilsner style lager. It was my pleasure then to get the process started by chucking in the first bag of milled Bohemian Pilsner malt.

The mash took about 3 and a half hours rather than the usual three, mainly because the decoction kettle wasn't heating the decoction quick enough, soon fixed though with a good whack of a hammer - recalling the comment of another brewer I know describing his job as "1 part artist, 1 part scientist, 1 part handyman". To celebrate the first decoction we popped open a bottle of Budvar, the second was marked with Devils Backbone's Vienna Lager, the third with one of Aaron's recipes Reilly's Rye, which was very nice. With the three decoctions done, the mash was pumped over to the lauter tun to be sparged. The picture below shows the first runnings of the wort back into the brewing kettle.

During the sparging process we popped into the bar for some lunch, some more samples - the highlight being for me the UK IPA and their Congo Pale Ale, a Belgian IPA which was distinctively champagne like. Eventually though we had 11.5 hectolitres of wort, measuring at that point 11.5° Plato, correctly predicted by Aaron. Once the boil was on, and it was a vigorous boil, in with the first round of hops - ah the smell of Saaz. I am sure I am entirely biased, but Saaz is one of my favourite hops, wonderful aroma, great flavour in the beer. To mark the first and second hop additions, I pulled out a bottle of the barley wine I brewed last November, of which only 13 bottles remain (from an original batch of 18 that is). Both Jason and Aaron were very complementary about the beer, and given it's marked hoppiness, I may have miscategorised it in the recent Dominion Cup. The third hop addition was heralded with their Scottish ale, Ale of Fergus, to which I alluded on Monday, along with the comment that they don't normally mark all the stages of the process with a toast - a practice I fear I would institute if I had my own brewery!

Obviously in between stages Jason and Aaron weren't just sitting around twiddling their thumbs, there being plenty of jobs to be done, such as sanitising the fermenting vessel, harvesting the yeast, preparing for the next days brewing by milling the grain. With everything done to prepare for the wort, it was pumped through the heat exchanger and into the waiting fermenter. I was intrigued to see how they would pitch the yeast, basically as the wort is being pumped into the fermenter, the yeast is pumped into the same hose through a valve, while aeration is achieved with a jet of filtered air rather than pure oxygen. When the final gravity measurement was taken, it read 12.5° Plato - just right for a Bohemian Pilsner.

And there it is, Devils Backbone's replica 1842 Pilsner. When the fermentation is about 1° Plato from the target, the airlocks will be closed and the remaining CO2 created will carbonate the beer, a process called "spunding". Under pressure, the beer will then be transferred to a lagering tank to sit for at least 30 days, before again being moved, under pressure, to one of the serving tanks.

I want to thank Jason and Aaron for having me along to take part in the brewing process. it was a fantastic day and we have discussed doing another brew day together. In the meantime I will wait patiently for what I hope will be a wonderful drop of lager that I will fill every growler I own with. Cheers!

Monday, July 12, 2010

British Sedition

In the current edition of Brew Your Own magazine there is an interesting article about the birth of a new beer style, at various times the style in question has been called Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale or in my ever so eloquent term when I first had the style, "crap". Having got together an eminently qualified collection of experts, it was decided to set the parameters for the new style, which at the Great American Beer Festival will be known as "American Style India Black Ale". The parameters for the GABF are as follows:
  • Color = 25+ SRM
  • Original Gravity = 1.056–1.075
  • Final Gravity = 1.012–1.018
  • Bitterness = 50–70 IBU
  • Alcohol by volume = 6–7.5%
In terms of mouthfeel and so on, the parameters have been set as follows (and I have taken these directly from the Brew Your Own website):

Aroma – Prominent Northwest variety hop aromas – resinous pine, citrus, sweet malt, hints of roast malt, chocolate and/or Carafa®, can include mild coffee notes, dry hopped character is often present.

Appearance – Deep brown to black with ruby highlights. Head varies from white to tan/khaki.

Flavor – A balance between citrus like and spicy Northwest hop flavor, bitterness, caramel and roast, chocolate, or Carafa® type malts. Any roast character should be subdued. Black malt is acceptable at low levels but should not be astringent. Any burnt character is not appropriate. The finish should be dry with caramel malt as a secondary flavor. Diacetyl should not be present. The main emphasis should be on hop flavor.

Mouthfeel – Light to medium, hop bitterness and tannins from roast malts combine to create a dry mouthfeel. Resinous character from high levels of dry hopping may create a tongue coating sensation.

Comments – Some brewers prefer to cold steep the dark grains to achieve a very dark beer without the tannin contribution of adding these grains to the mash. The use of Sinamar® color extract to enhance the color is common.

The article itself, which you can read here, then goes on to explain how ASIBA is different from a hoppy stout or porter, but I personally am unconvinced. Therefore I have decided to try an experiment with an upcoming homebrew project. I am going to take one of the clone recipes provided with the article, leave the malts alone by and large, but substitute the hops with British varieties such as Challenger, Target and Northdown. As of this moment I am undecided as to whether to stick with an American yeast or use a British ale strain of some kind.

If I discover that indeed ASIBA is significantly different from a traditional porter, then I would like to believe that I will have developed a new beer style to revolutionise the world of brewing, the British Style American Style India Black Ale! I am sure the world waits with bated breath.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bordering on Brewing Bedlam

Being literate and of a curious nature (take that any way you wish) can be a curse at times.

The ability to read books such as Beer in America, which covers the history of our beloved drink in the New World from 1587 to 1840, not only broadens one's knowledge of beer and brewing, but it gives people all manner of strange ideas. Or at least, it gives this person here all manner of strange ideas.

Not content with plans to plant a hop garden and a mini-barley field so as to be better able to attempt as authentic a pilsner style lager as possible (I guess at some point I'll have to plant broad leaved trees to keep the beer cellar under the garden warm), I would love to try and make some ale similar to those brewed with all manner of ingredients during the Colonial Era, ingredients like molasses, Indian corn, spruce tips and wild hops.

One of the things that comes up time and again in the book is how brewers working in such straightened circumstances made beers which were an acceptable substitute for those which came over on the boats from England, and later the UK. I am assuming here that by "acceptable substitute" the colonial brewers weren't simply making something wet and alcoholic yet foul tasting (unlike various large, rich, modern, industrial American brewers, admit it, you were thinking it!). This naturally leads me to wonder what the beer being shipped from the mother country would have been like, and wouldn't it be awfully good fun to brew a small batch of each for comparison sake?

Just a quick aside, is it only Mrs Velkyal whose eyes seem to be on a permanent roll when I am concocting various lunatic plans, or do all the Beer Blogger Widows do the same?

So, the upshot of buying and reading this excellent book, which I will review properly at some point in the future, is that now I need to learn about Elizabethan era brewing in England, find out how Indian corn was used in colonial brewing, and see what I can come up with.

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Feature - Brewer of the Week

A new feature here on Fuggled for the coming Fridays is a questionnaire for brewers around the world, first up is Jeff from Lovibonds.

Name: Jeff Rosenmeier, Founder / Head Brewer
Brewery: Lovibonds Brewery, Henley-on-Thames, England

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I started home brewing about 15 years ago after a friend of mine showed me that you could brew really excellent beer at home. I got pretty burned out from an IT career and decided to try a second career in brewing by starting Lovibonds Brewery in 2005.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

I think if a brewer wants to make clean and consistent beer, he needs to be a clean freak. One of my heroes is Charlie Papazian, as he taught me to brew through his writing and I think his Relax, Don’t Worry attitude is also a key characteristic. I find that if I am the clean freak, it helps me relax!

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

I’d say all my commercial recipes started as home brew recipes. We still test all new beers on a pilot level (100l) and probably always will.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

I don’t homebrew per say anymore. I still play on the pilot kit and a majority of production happens on a 700l plant, which to me still feels like homebrew.

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

I really love to brew our Henley Dark, which is a Smoked Porter. I traveled to Alaska about 10 years ago and was really inspired by the things that Alaskan Brewing Co. were doing in Juneau, including their famous Smoked Porter. I still hand smoke about 5% of the grist for this beer with lovely smelling beech wood on my Weber BBQ. When you combine that with the other malts in the mash tun on a cold winter morning, it’s pretty easy to understand why brewers do what they do.

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?


Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

This changes all the time depending on my mood really. I’m currently working on a keg of Henley Amber (Pale Ale) in the kegerator and it is tasting pretty good. I like the fact that this beer is only 3.4% abv, yet the flavours haven’t been watered down. Drinkability is the key to me for every beer we brew. If you don’t want to have that 3rd pint, then I haven’t done my job properly. I find this beer very drinkable at the moment.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

To me it is very important that each of our beers has a story, to me that is authenticity. I’m maybe not the most creative person in the world, so most of my beers are inspired by something else that I have experienced, but with my own little spin on it.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

Tough one really…there are some great breweries here in the UK and I’ve made a lot of friends and hope to be doing some collaborations with them in the near future. A bit further a field, I would love to do something with Lagunitas. I love their attitude and love all of the beers that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting thus far.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

Brew Dog’s Punk IPA . Punk IPA, because I think it gives the big finger (or fingers) to the establishment that has made IPA in the UK into an insipid drink without any hops or alcohol. Brew Dog have their naysayers, but I cannot say enough about how I admire what those guys are doing for the UK craft brewing movement. Obviously, their beers rock as well.

Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

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