Tag Archives: Beer

Wood & Lagers

Well back in the late 1800s, the Bohemian Pilsner (e.g. Urquell Pilsner) stirred a craze amongst brewmasters all over in order to create the palest and most thirst quenching lager known to man.  Among these light lagers that were created following the birth of the Pilsner was the Dortmunder Export (e.g. DAB Export), Munich Helles (e.g. Paulaner Premium Lager), Standard American Lager (e.g. Budwieser), Light American Lager (e.g. Coors Light), Premium American Lager (e.g. Coors Extra Gold), Classic American Pilsner (e.g. Our very own CAP), and German Pilsner (e.g. Warsteiner).  All of these light lagers do a really great job at quenching one’s thirst.

Brewing such beers are very challenging even to the most experience homebrewer and brewmaster.  Since these beers are so light in flavor and color and kind of flaw (from the yeast, hops, malt, etc..) becomes very evident in the final product.  Major brewery’s such as Anheuser-Busch or Coors have highly skilled brewmasters who are able to produce the same product batch after batch, year after year.  I find that absolutely amazing that no matter what ingredient variables they come across, in the end no matter what time of the day or year you pick up a Budweiser.  It will taste exactly like the Budweiser you had before.

As challenging as these beers are to brew, many homebrewers and brewmasters take the challenge in brewing pale lagers.  I plan on crafting the Standard American Lager which normally consists of 60% malt and 40% corn or rice, hangs around 8-15 IBU’s (bitterness), usually a pale 2-4 SRM (pale to golden straw colored), and weighs in at 4.2 – 5.1% ABV.  I decided to use Pilsner Malt and Rice at a 60/40 ratio and mashed (steeping grains in water to convert to sugar) at a very low temperature for 120 minutes.  This ensured I had full conversion of the starches from the rice and Pilsner malt itself. One type of hop called Cascade is being used for bitterness and flavor, just a minute amount is being added for aroma as it’s frowned upon to have hoppy aroma from this beer.  I’m still torn between using two different types of Lager yeast for this beer, upon completion I’ll be sure to update the yeast that was used in this brew.

As always, I’m a huge believer of First Wort Hopping (FWH), this is a process of adding hops to the kettle as I’m sparging (draining the wort from the grains) the wort (sugary goodness that yeast likes) before boiling.  I also plan on doing something very interesting to this beer, normally Budweiser is aged at cold temperatures on Beech Wood which makes it very unique from that process.  My plan is to age this American Lager on Apple Wood instead, to separate this beer apart from other American Lagers.  There’s not much data on aging beers on many woods other than French and American Oak and Beech, which makes it hard to determine how it will affect the lager.  For now the applewood chips are soaking in Ciroc vodka (we only use the best for our beers..lol) to sanitize the chips prior to adding to the lager in the secondary to age.  While waiting for this lager to finish up in the primary, come on down to the brewhouse and enjoy our beers we have on tap! 

-James (Head Brewmaster)

Crossing Into The Dark Side

36 hours on stir plate, WLP 001 first gen is at high krausen!

Let’s face it, there comes a time in every homebrewer’s or brewmaster’s life when they become curious about the wild side of fermentation.  Sure Saccharomyces cerevisiae & Saccharomyces pastorianus  (brewer’s yeast) is a great companion and all, but at times the wild critter’s are needed to achieve a certain beer style.  Of course there are several issues with crossing into the wild side of fermentation.  For instance, there’s not very much scientific/experience data out there with all of the wild critters that can help guide the average-Jo unless they have a Graduates in Fermentation Science or Microbiology.  These wild critters can be very unpredictable, general knowledge states that for beer to taste better to ferment on the cool side of the spectrum.  This prevents our S. Cerevisiae and S. Pastorianus comrades to put out nasty off flavors.  There are numerous of wild critters out there that are desired for certain beer styles, some of these styles include Berliner Weisse, Lambics, Flander’s Red Ale , Flander’s Oud Bruin, Fruit Lambic, Gueuze, Kriek, and several others.

5 lb’s, 60/40 Pils/Wheat ratio in the mash!

So what are these wild critters that I speak of?  Well, I won’t go into specific strains for there are far too many to list but I will give a general idea of what they are.  These include Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, Enterobacteriaceae, and Acetobactor.  I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the characteristics on the wild critter’s except for one as this is the critter that we’re focusing out attention on today in the brewhouse.  We’re seeking to brew a Berliner Weisse and this beer is very unique as it focuses on a symbiotic relationship between S. Cerevisiae and Lactobacillus delbrueckii or other strains of Lactobacillus.  But where does one get a hold of this known beer spoiling organism?  Well, there’s numerous of places in your house where you can obtain this critter.  Do you have cabbage or cucumbers in your fridge?  Well, chances are that you have Lactobacillus.  Got some Pilsner/2-row/6-row malt laying around?  Odds are you got Lactobacillus there too.  Got some yogurt with live culturs in it?  You definitely got your Lactobacillus in there (I’ve never tried this before, although it’s frowned upon through this route…).  In short, you have Lactobacillus in your house or brewery already.  Generally most homebrewer’s and brewmasters do everything in their power to avoid this critter.  Or if you’re lazy you can just buy a pure Lactobacillus culture from White Labs or Wyeast.Lactobacillus is actually a very temperamental organism, it doesn’t like oxygen, cold temperatures, and hops (for the most part).  There are some hop resilient strains out there, but White Labs and Wyeast strains do not like highly hopped beers.  We’re taking out chances by obtaining our Lacto bug from Brewferm Pilsner malt.  This particular batch is very dusty so we’re very curious on how this will turn out.  Our yeast strain of choice to ferment this out is WLP 001 Cali Ale yeast from White Labs.  It’s on a stir plate at high-krausen as we’re brewing today.  We’re also trying out a lot of different brewing techniques today as the brew day progresses.  For example, we’re mash hopping this beer with low alpha-acid hops (Hersbrucker), we’re single decocting this brew and proceeding with a no boil as well.  This is our smallest grain bill we’ve ever brewed with as well!  For this 5 gallon batch we’re only using 5 lb’s or grain with a 60/40 ratio of Pilsner/Wheat malt for this Berliner Weisse.

Below is the BJCP’s specs on this amazing beer:

17A. Berliner Weisse

Aroma: A sharply sour, somewhat acidic character is dominant. Can have up to a moderately fruity character. The fruitiness may increase with age and a flowery character may develop. A mild Brettanomyces aroma may be present. No hop aroma, diacetyl, or DMS.

Appearance: Very pale straw in color. Clarity ranges from clear to somewhat hazy. Large, dense, white head with poor retention due to high acidity and low protein and hop content. Always effervescent.

Flavor: Clean lactic sourness dominates and can be quite strong, although not so acidic as a lambic. Some complementary bready or grainy wheat flavor is generally noticeable. Hop bitterness is very low. A mild Brettanomyces character may be detected, as may a restrained fruitiness (both are optional). No hop flavor. No diacetyl or DMS.

Mouthfeel: Light body. Very dry finish. Very high carbonation. No sensation of alcohol.

Overall Impression: A very pale, sour, refreshing, low-alcohol wheat ale.

Comments: In Germany, it is classified as a Schankbier denoting a small beer of starting gravity in the range 7-8°P. Often served with the addition of a shot of sugar syrups (‘mit schuss’) flavored with raspberry (‘himbeer’) or woodruff (‘waldmeister’) or even mixed with Pils to counter the substantial sourness. Has been described by some as the most purely refreshing beer in the world.

History: A regional specialty of Berlin; referred to by Napoleon’s troops in 1809 as “the Champagne of the North” due to its lively and elegant character. Only two traditional breweries still produce the product.

Ingredients: Wheat malt content is typically 50% of the grist (as with all German wheat beers) with the remainder being Pilsner malt. A symbiotic fermentation with top-fermenting yeast and Lactobacillus delbruckii provides the sharp sourness, which may be enhanced by blending of beers of different ages during fermentation and by extended cool aging. Hop bitterness is extremely low. A single decoction mash with mash hopping is traditional.

Vital Statistics: OG: 1.028 – 1.032
IBUs: 3 – 8 FG: 1.003 – 1.006
SRM: 2 – 3 ABV: 2.8 – 3.8%

Commercial Examples: Schultheiss Berliner Weisse, Berliner Kindl Weisse, Nodding Head Berliner Weisse, Weihenstephan 1809 (unusual in its 5% ABV), Bahnhof Berliner Style Weisse, Southampton Berliner Weisse, Bethlehem Berliner Weisse, Three Floyds Deesko

Kettle full of grain dust and hand full of grains while sparging, wort temp 124F.

Our plans for this brew:

60/40 ratio for Pilsner and Wheat malt mashed at a low temperature to ensure an extremely fermentable beer.  Since we stove top mash in our kettle, we crushed the grain over the kettle to spread malt dust all over it (you’ll see why we did this in a minute).  We mashed in with 1 1/2 gallons of hot liquor (water) to the 5 lb’s of grain the mash tun was only a quarter of the way full (first time ever!).  After 20 minutes from mashing in we added 1 oz of Hersbrucker hops and according to our calculations that will bring us to 3 IBU’s of bitterness..craziness!  Our total time for mashing our grains was 90 minutes to ensure full conversion of the starches into precious sugars.  We then transferred the mash into our lautering tun and began fly sparging into the unwashed kettle.  It still has dust from the middle on up from when we crushed the grains and had some left over grains from the transfer.  This will give the Lactobacillus a head start on the brew because by the time the wort hits the kettle it’s at a temperature of 120F.  Which is the prime temperature for Lactobacillus to to it’s job of inoculating the wort, now it all makes sense! (as a side note, we sanitized anything that came into contact with this brew to prevent other nasty’s in getting into this brew) We’re also not boiling this brew to prevent DMS (a corn-like off flavor) since this is supposed to be a clean-crisp-refreshing beer.  To ensure Lacto does get inoculated in this brew we’re also tossing in a handful of grains as we sparge into the kettle.  Our starting OG for this brew is 1.028 @ 5.5 gallons, SRM (color) 2, and the IBU’s (bitterness) is around 3 (calculated), and 84% brewhouse efficiency!

B-Dub’s in the primary!

We plan on a 2 month fermentation regiment and bottling this brew, this beer is rarely found on tap and we plan to continue with the tradition of this very elusive brew.  This beer will be served with raspberry syrup when it’s ready and we look forward to raising a pint with you!

Cheers!- James (Head Brewmaster)

Beer…the possibilities are endless!

Wow what a busy day it was at the brewery today, we brewed a Belgian Specialty Ale that we dubbed “Lokie’s Bloed Ale”.  Then we kegged 2 other batches of beer to carb’ up in time for the Tasting Party that’s scheduled for the 14th later this month.  We’ve also been conducting multiple experiments with our beers, grains, yeasts, and hop combinations the past several weeks.  Without even realizing it, our house strain of yeast decided to turn to the dirty side while we weren’t looking (it mutated).  For those “beer nerds” out there, our house strain became less flocculant and more attenuative.  Also be on the look out on the websites main page!  We posted a survey requesting your guidance on our next move!


Sustaining & Propagation of Yeasts is Child’s Play ‘Round These Parts!

24 hours on the Stir Plate

Sustaining and the propagation of yeast cultures is one of the most difficult tasks in a brewery.  Yeast is a living organism, so they require special care, food, nutrients, water, and even AIR!  Anyone can go to the homebrew shop and pitch a “smack pack” or “vial” of yeast into their wort, it takes a special breed of beer nerds to go above the call of duty and sustain and propagate yeasts.  We use specialized “yeast food” that’s derived from Dry Malt Extract (DME), but we add additional nutrients and special water that yeast go crazy over.  We even inject clean air into the starter flask that’s scrubbed from all VOC’s and particles up to 3 microns in size.  When you think that’s enough we continuously monitor temperatures to ensure optimum results.  The result from going “above and beyond” is in the beer itself…or a picture or two!

We’d Like to Dedicate this One to the Ladies!!


Let’s face it, beer isn’t always appealing to the ladies.  Us guys love hoppy beers, malty beers, and balanced beers for the most part.  Ladies instead, like to enjoy a fine wine or a mixed drink for the most part.  But how do we appeal beer to the ladies you might ask?  Well, here at the brewery we have an answer to introduce beer to your sister, girlfriend, wife, or momma!  The Union Vanilla Caramel Cream Ale (UVCCA) is an amazing beer that is both appealing to us men and to our ladies.  But we should forwarn you now, if you’re lactose intolerant..avoid this beer.  Our good friend’s that inspired us to create this beer enjoyed it at their wedding back in 2010.  During fermentation we plan on soaking the gourmet Madagascar vanilla beans in Ciroc Vodka for optimum vanillin extraction and of course..to sanitize the beans in a separate container.  When finished fermenting we’ll add the vanilla extract and beans to the secondary and let it age to perfection at lagering temperatures.  By the time it hits the keg to be served it’ll have an endless Waltz on your palate with notes of caramel (from select crystal malts) and vanilla that will keep you coming back for another pint full!

Cheers -James

Adapt & Overcome

Here at the brewery we’re always trying to keep everything running smoothly, but sometimes a “curve ball is thrown at you” and you have two options.  Fail or adapt and overcome, naturally failure is not an option here at the brewery.  Today we crafted a new beer to our beer arsenal, the American Witbier.  We had two issues to overcome; one was “Old Man Winter’s” brutality, the other was an efficiency issue during our sparge.  We overcame our cold issue by using a unique lager strain to ferment our brew with.  The efficiency blunder actually worked in our favor, although it’s never a great thing to waste a portion of the grain bill.  Beer nerd specs soon to come for this fantastic new beer we have to offer!


Even the Best Can Be Improved Upon!

Here at the brewery we’re always looking for a way to improve our beers, whether it’s improving the malt, hops, water, or yeast.  Our Copperhead Ale is under going a revised fermentation regiment.  Instead of only using the usual yeast strain to ferment with, we’re blending our usual strain with a new one to achieve a better beer as a end result.  Cheers!

Copperhead undergoing First Wort Hopping


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