Thursday, February 19, 2009

Picture of the Day: Tony!

Is that a Bud Light in your hand, Tony?

Helping Brew The Bruery's 2nd Anniversary Beer

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Hola! As luck/fate would have it, the boys at The Bruery welcomed me back to help them brew up their Second Anniversary beer. I mention fate and luck because the first time I ever stepped foot in The Bruery was 11 months ago when they were whipping up their First Anniversary beer. Such is life. Anyhow, that's me (brown shirt) and the brains behind the Bruery, Patrick Rue (black shirt), standing by a bunch of his barrels. And yes, that is a wine thief in Pat's hand...

So what is the Anniverary Beer? You can forget about styles, as Patrick and the boys have. Recipe-wise it's mostly US 2-row, some munich, and two types of crystal malt. Toss in some Warrior hops at 60 minutes and ferment on their house yeast strain (said to be what Duvel used back in the early 1990s). When that's over, toss it in barrels and call it a day. What's so special about that?

For one thing, the sugar. As you (probably) know, most Belgian beers include at least some Candi sugar/syrup. Also known as "inverted sugar," sucrose, citric acid and water are cooked until the sugar molecules refract light in a different direction. The sugar is also sweeter. Almost all breweries buy Candi sugar, but The Bruery opts to make their own, homebrew style. On a keggle (15.5 gallon converted keg kettle) 100 pounds of C&H Pure Cane Sugar is mixed with about 5 gallons of water. After the concoction begins boiling, a little citric acid is tossed in. And here's the crazy part -- for the Anniversary beer, this conction is boiled for hours. Much longer than I thought was prudent, but Patrick kept taking a peek and saying, "Needs to cook a little more." The invert sugar was boiled until it begin to develop roasty notes. In fact, the finished uber-sweet product tastes like French-roasted honey. 

This is what the finished product looks like. Again, it started life as cane sugar and water and then got cooked down to this. How much? How's 400 pounds of the stuff, hand made 100 pounds at a time? Slavish, if you ask me. But talk about attention to detail. Anyhow, the first 100 pounds of the cooked sugar is added to the empty kettle (beer was still mashing at this point) where it is further caramelized. Then a few gallons of unsparged first runnings are drawn off and caramelized with the sugar. One disclaimer for those of you wanting to try this at home: you are making candy at this point, which is not only in liquid form but well over 400 degrees. It's deadly, lethal stuff. So, massive amounts of caution (and sobriety) are needed. You do not want to spill this stuff on your skin. And we should get back to the beer.

This is a big beer. How big? Last year they used 2,008 pounds of grain for a 30 barrel batch. This year? 2009 pounds. Get it? But there's another key difference. Since last year's 12% abv bruiser got itself brewed, head brewer Tyler King has improved their mash efficiency some 30%. Meaning this year's Anniversary beer should clock in at around 16% abv. Put it this way, at 9 barrels into the kettle, the mid-runnings were coming out 23.8 brix. That's before the sugar and three hour boil. One more thing, they need to brew this beer in stages. So, 15 barrels are brewed starting at about 7:00 am. The other half starts around 3:30 pm. Inverted sugar and all. 

Here's the grant under the mashtun. Sweet wort is pulled from three different locations and mixed together in the grant before either being returned to the mash tun for the Vorlauf or diverted into the boiling kettle. I got to run the grant for the first half-beer's Vorlauf and mashout. While very cool, we're talking about a 40 minute Vorlauf and two-hour run off. Lots of work, but very hands on as someone (me) has to sit and regulate the three valves you're looking at, plus a fourth valve that returns/ships off the wort. 

That's the sight tube used to observe the wort during the Vorlauf. Looking for clear wort. 

Notice how much the wort has darkened up after 40 minutes of Vorlaufing. And no, I'm not sure if "Vorlaufing" is actually a word.

Luckily, Patrick picked up on the fact that I was working too hard and decided to take me barrel tasting! That's me pulling a sample of their Wheat Wine, which was quite boozy but still aging. Yes, we also pulled a sample of their First Anniversary beer. Quite impressive. You do get oak and vanilla from the Heaven Hill Bourbon barrel, but there's also a fantastically deep flavor profile -- layered caramel, darker fruits and a great bittereness that fades into alcoholic warmth.  And I can't even begin to describe what their barrel-aged 18% Imperial Stout tastes like... I'll save that for another post.

Head brewer Tyler King sampling a few of his creations. All in all Patrick pulled nine barrel aged beers for me to taste. Yes, I'm a lucky bastard. I'm not going to say too much more because I don't know what Patrick wants to keep a secret, but I can say that there is a sour beer in the mix that is going to bowl many people over. Maybe even you.

Patrick Rue sampling his wares.

Distribution manager/brewer Jonas Nemura doing the same thing.

Another shot of Jonas w/gas mask. He was milling 1,000 pounds of malt -- grain dust sucks.

And finally, the newest Bruery brewer, Jay. Here he is eating a well-earned lunch after he not only muscled several 500+ pounds barrels of spent grain, but cleaned the damn mash tun. I liked this young brewer quite a bit, and not just because he complimented my homebrew. Anyhow, I hope to see 'em all next year for the Third Anniversary.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beautiful Barrels at The Bruery

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Right, so I spent the better part of today down at The Bruery helping them bottle up some beer. When you're unemployed the world is indeed your oyster. Bottling beer isn't very much fun. But checking out all the fancy oak barrels that Patrick, Tyler and Co have laying around is loads of fun. Er, barrels full, in fact.


As of right now they have... a lot of barrels. I'd guess about 200, give or take. Patrick is apparently planning on having over 500 barrels full of beer by the end of the year. Which is... you know... hella ambitious. 

Luckily the Bruery is overflowing with barrels. Kinda literally -- they're everywhere. What sort of barrels? Last time I was at The Bruery (11 months ago!) they "just" had bourbon barrels [EDIT: Brandy barrels, too] -- including Elijah Craig! But now...

Yup. Wine barrels. I know little about wine but "Bourgogne" is a red wine. And what's in them? As it turns out, all kinds of stuff.

Like lambic. That's right, lambic. Brewed and funked right here in California. Smelled pretty good, too. And while the sharp sourness was missing from the nose, it's only been a few weeks.

Oooh. An Imperial Stout. But of course, made with The Bruery's house strain. So, Belgian Impy Stout. And that barrel has been all emptied out! I also saw a Wheat Wine, an Imperial Wit, a Flanders Red and some less exotic stuff plus their anniversary beer (I was there last March when they brewed it) hiding amongst all the barrels. I like what I saw. And now, some parting shots -- enjoy!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

And Tits -- George Carlin Tribute Beer

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"There are 400,000 words in the English language and there are 7 of them you can't say on television. What a ratio that is. 399,993 to 7. They must really be bad. They'd have to be outrageous to be seperated from a group that large. All of you over here,you 7, Bad Words. That's what they told us they were, remember? "That's a bad word!" No bad words, bad thoughts, bad intentions, and words. You know the 7, don't you, that you can't say on television? "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits" Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that'll infect your soul, curve your spine, and keep the country from winning the war. "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits" Wow! ...and Tits doesn't even belong on the list." --George Carlin

As you may know, Drew and I (and especially Drew) like to do tribute beers when people we like die. We're getting ready to brew up the fourth year of Gonzo -- the Hunter S. Thompson tribute beer with rum, tequila, bourbon, mushrooms, hemp and poppy -- among other adulterations. Drew brewed a tribute to Michael Jackson. Well, when my hero George Carlin died, I contacted Drew and he felt just as strongly -- we had to brew something. We went back and forth (for months) on the recipe almost going for an imperial Irish stout before settling on a very bitter big Irish red with American yeast. Figured that was a good translation of Carlin into beer. The name? I think Drew's calling it "Carlin's 7," but the actual name is "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits." "And Tits," for short.

Aiming for a 1.087 OG, we wanted a lot of yeast. You're looking at a 3-gallon carboy sitting on a stir-plate filled with Wyeast 1272 (American Ale II). We went with 1272 because while it's still a neutral American yeast, I feel it accentuates the malt a bit more than the hops. Which may work with our Irish/American hybrid.

That's me starting to vourlaf. Our grain bill consisted of 40% Marris Otter, 40% US 2-Row, 5.75% Caramel 60, 5.75% Munich 8L, 4.25% Caramel 120, 3% Biscuit and .75% Carafa II. Seven malts, get it? Well, that's what it was supposed to be, but we screwed up and added two pounds of Biscuit. C'est la vie! I believe this grain bill is loosely based on AleSmith/Jamil Z's "Evil Dead Red" beer, but obviously pumped up. We mashed it at 151 for about 70 minutes. Now you hear from a lot of people that tell you to just pull off the first quart or so when you Vorlauf and then begin collecting your sweet wort in the kettle. Speaking for Drew, we feel different. In fact, depending on the beer, I might recirculate the entire volume of the mash tun twice. Why?

Here's the wort after a gallon or so has been recirculated. Yeah, it's free from particulate matter, but it's still a bit murky.

And here's that same wort after we've recirculated 20 gallons or so. You tell me which you'd rather runoff into your kettle. Yes, it takes longer. But so what?

Not to belabor the point, but I (and we) just think this is the superior starting point. And it costs you nothing but time. Plus you'll get better efficiency and fewer tannic-causing particles in your beer.

It's always teach a friend to homebrew day! That's Dr. Drew on the left and my buddy Josh Liberman (no relation, spelled different) on the right. Josh's first brew. He did real good.

There's Sven and Amy adding some hops. Oh yeah, we hopped this guy with 3 ounces of Chinook for 71 minutes (George died when he was 71) to make it as roughly bitter as possible. We added a 3 ounce blend of Columbus, Warrior, Chinook and Cascade at 15 minutes and another 3 ounce blend of Chinook, Amarillo Gold, Palisade and Simcoe at flame out. Seven kinds of hops...

Drew finally busted out his ThruMometer. Pretty fricking (excuse me Mr. Carlin fucking) handy actually. The Thrumometer is showing the temp post wort chiller. The handy part is being able to adjust the out valve of the pump so as to maintain a temp around 68-70 -- good for pitching. Anyhow, the beer's fermenting away. The only bummer was that we missed our gravity by quite a bit -- something like 15 points (Target was 1.087, OG was 1.072 or so). After thinking about it we've narrowed it down to three culprits. 

1) Drew's grain mill is set poorly (I don't think that's it)
2) Somebody weighed the grains out incorrectly
3) Drew's cheapo stupid braided SS hose (instead of a manifold) got crushed by the 35.75 popunds of grains or got twisted in some way.

I'm not mad, just disapointed, as it was an otherwise flawless brew day. Er, OK, fine -- forgot to add the Whirlflock. Bite us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blasts from Pasts

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Just going through some old photos and found these.

My old 48 qt mashtun on the right, my (now old, but then new) 100 qt job on the left.

Me and Nick holding the California Homebrew Club of the Year Trophy at Anchor in Feb, 2005.

Don't drink and brew. Or use Glass.

Tobacco Sunburst runoff. I think this was from the Pretzel beer.

Spent pretzels. Yup.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Green Beer

Hi there! Last week this blog chronicled the brewing of The Audacity of Hops, a big sticky DIPA. Well, here's a pic of part of the beer in primary. It's the greener one in the back. I'm glad you can see the blue painter's tape label that reads "Essex Ale" just to give you a known commodity to compare the green to. Neat, huh? That's what you get when you overhop your beer.

Here's another picture. Go dry yeast, huh? We'll let you know how it tastes in a few weeks. Also, I don't know why Drew's using an airlock in the background there, either. Cheers!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Double Audacity

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Hello there! I know it's been since May, but life is a funny thing. Long story short, the lovely Amy and I moved in together and there's no way to brew it up at the new place. So, I hung up the kettles and have been in semi-retirement drinking Pliny in bottles. But, once you're bit with the homebrew bug, you're sick and infected for life. And my good buddy Drew Beechum finally got his Stout Guy Brewery up and running at his new place, it was time to dust off the mash paddle and brew some damn beer! Mother Nature felt the same way and she gave us the single most beautiful day in recent memory. Gotta love late January in North Eastern Los Angeles.

What to brew? Well, the only beer I'm really interested in anymore are DIPAs. Sue me. And then I saw a wonderful typo/malapropism on some forum somewhere, "The Audacity of Hop." This beer quickly became a no brainer. Now, Amy and I had brewed a nice big DIPA just before we moved called Sea of Love, but sadly we never got to drink very much of it. Jimmy saw to that. Anyhow, The Audacity of Hops is based on the earlier recipe with a couple changes. Namely, more hops.

In addition to the 20 pounds of domestic 2-Row, 12 pounds of Marris Otter and 2 pounds of Carapils, we added 0.25 pounds of Black Patent Malt. Just, you know, why not? And then we decided to darken the beer further by tossing in a bottle of that Dark Belgian Syrup stuff. So we'd wind up with a (fairly) dark, highly attenuated beer with no discernable roast character and hopped out both the wazoo and ying yang. 

Oh yeah, we added 1.5 pounds of this yummy raw, organic Malawian, fair trade cane sugar, too. Despite the darkening, we're still following the Vinnie method of adding lightness (i.e. sugar) and body (i.e. lotsa dextrin via the carapils). But which hops?

While we did forget to hop the sparge water, every other point of this beer's creation got hopped. Mash Hops? Hell yeah! We used a varietal from New Zealand called, "Green Bullet." Smelled good, in sort of a resiny, high-alpha hop way (I think the alpha acid was 13.3%).Hey, with a name like "Audacity" what else you going to do?

One addition for each day of the week! From left to right you're looking at 2 ounces of Amarillo Gold as a FWH (First Wort Hop), 3 ounces of Warrior + 1 ounce of Newport for the 90 minute bittering charge, an ounce of Simcoe at 45 minutes, 1 ounce of Amarillo Gold + 1 ounce of Columbus at 30 minutes, 1 ounce of Palisade + 1 ounce of Columbus at 10 minutes and another 2 ounce mix of Palisade and Columbus at flame out. Counting the Green Bullet Mash Hops, that's 15 ounces of hops in 10 gallons of beer with 221.3 IBUs. Ha ha ha! And that's not even considering the 4 additional ounces of hops we'll be using to dry hops these suckers. 

That's right, I said suckers. As in plural, two. The first of the two, The Audacity of Hops, is going to get dry hopped with 2 ounces of Amarillo Gold. The second beer, The Audacity of Aretha Franklin's Hat (seriously), is getting an ounce of Columbus and an ounce of Summit. Personally, I'm equally interested in both.

Thankfully the day went off without a hitch. Hey, we even had John Palmer on hand to remind us to toss pennies into the kettle when it began boiling over. And I trust John Palmer. Drew, John and I all tasted the 1.096 (target was 1.098) wort just after it cooled and prior to entering the fermenter. We all agreed that for a pre-yeast beer this one tasted really good. Perhaps audaciously so.