Thursday, February 26, 2009

Smooth Sailing!

Well, folks, last weekend went much better than the previous brew session. Good friend and accomplished homebrewer, Jeff Harbaugh, pitched in on the brew day. He made quite a contribution, the recipe. We have brewed his serial award winning Irish Red Ale. Rechristed as '1849 Irish Red Ale'.
Here is the rundown on all the bling that Jeff's Irish Red Ale has brought back:
2005 Upper Mississippi Mashout 3rd
2005 Kansas City Biermeisters 3rd
2005 BUZZ Boneyard Brewoff 3rd
2005 St. Louis Brews HHHC 2nd
2006 BUZZ Boneyard Brewoff 1st
2007 AHA Nat'ls First Round 1st

This is a beer with quite a pedigree. I made some adjustments from Jeff's recipe to make it turn out properly on our system, but it has been awarded Jeff's seal of approval.

1849 Irish Red Ale weighs in at 22 IBUs and 5.5% ABV. It is ruby red in color with a toffee and toasty malt profile, floral hop presence and a soft, slightly sweet, clean finish. Great with classic Irish fare.

The name comes from the song by the Irish Folk-Rock band 'The Elders' from Kansas City. '1849' is from their first, self titled album. It tells the story of Irish immigrants fleeing to the United States from the wrath of the potato famine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three 'Belgians' and an Icon

The last month has been pretty crazy. Not only with all the brewing (keep drinking it, folks!) but also with all the 'networking'. Part of the appeal of getting into this profession is that our 'conferences' and 'conclaves' are often beer festivals, and our meetings, well, are almost always conducted over, if not centered around a pint of ale or lager. I've had a few out of town colleagues pass through in the last month. You may recognize a name or two.
At Cicero's Beer School on 1/21, the presenters were from Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, MO, just across the state line from where I grew up. My first exposures to craft beer were Boulevard beers. I will never forget those first Boulvard Pale Ales and that first Bully! Porter was without a doubt was part of the reason I ended up making beer for a living.
Boulevard didn't send just a sales rep (just teasing, Laura and Nicole, you rule!). But John McDonald, the founder and Steven Pauwels, the brewmaster, were there, as well. John made time to talk with me about the early days of Boulevard, moving his family into the fledgling brewery when it was adjacent to his carpentry shop and about the disciplined dedication it takes to run a major brewery at such a high standard.
Steven was very encouraging about our little project in Benton Park and excited to discuss the exploratory nature of the Smokestack Series, and how his Belgian nature and experience has made the experimentation that much more comfortable. Small batch brewing, whether five gallons, 3 barrels or 35 barrels can be a lot of fun. Steven hopes to brew on our tiny system next time he's in town, after all, it is 1/100th the size of Boulevard's main kettle.
This past Wednesday took me back to Cicero's Beer School to meet Brennan Greene and Stephen Hale's good friend, Lauren Salazar of New Belgium Brewing Company. Lauren heads up the Lips of Faith Program, Sensory Evaluation, Sour Ale program and other projects at New Belgium. Brennan and I drank Mighty Arrow with Lauren after her talk and decided to head down to Bailey's Chocolate Bar with her for some more beer and discussion. Afer some 2004 La Folie (sumblime) and Le Fleur Misseur (delightful) her event at Bailey's ended and we stepped next door for a night cap. 33 Wine Shop had some North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which I could not resist, and then we split a bottle of De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2006, a funky, strong Flanders style sour ale of the highest caliber. Then it was time to go home, after all, we had Hefeweizen and Altbier to brew at the Taproom the next morning.
After we finished the double brew day and plenty of cellar work I recieved a phone call from a friend. Micah from Brasserie Brugge in Terra Haute and Indianapolis, IN. He was passing through town for the night and in search of some ingredients he was short on. We hung out at the Taproom for a while and between he and some other visitors stopping by we had a nice impromptu little party, then it was on to Buffalo Brewing Company for some Buffalo Drool, Rye IPA and chimichangas. Micah also shared some of his excellent Belgian sytle ales with us, White, Black and Trippel de Rippel.
Friday, it was back to work at Mattingly. After a morning of cellar work I trekked over to Schlafly to borrow some line cleaning gear and ran into Brennan, Lauren, Mike Sweeney and Joel from New Belgium finishing up a tasting. They then informed me that the tasting was about to Mattingly! I rushed back and put some vintage homebrew in the cooler and they showed up shortly thereafter. Following a quick tour and a brief draft tasting of Cardinal Direction Abbey Dubbel, Black Sky Stout Porter and others we got down and dirty with the homebrew. Two year old Wild Ale, two year old Straight Rye Whikey Oak Aged American Rye-Wine, two year old Saint Andrews' Strong Scotch Ale, and over a year old Pale Ryeder Palm Sugar Rye Tripel were all sampled, and thoroughly enjoyed (don't worry, they were each split 5 ways).
Lauren then had another event to host at The Stable, so I finished up my work for the day and met plenty folks down there. I had some Abbey Grand Cru with Augie Altenbaumer, who works on the bottling line with us at the Taproom for the Reserve and Bottle Conditioned Series and has been brought on as the brewer for The Stable.
We finished up with some Southern Tier Cuvee #2 and called it a night...because Mardi Gras was the next morning and there was plenty of work to be done!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And I looked and behold, a pale horse - And his name that sat on him was Death - And hell followed with him

This past Sunday's brew, the Pale Ryeder Palm Sugar Rye Tripel proved to be the most trying brew, if not experience of my career...which has involved quite a few tribulations and trials. This slightly modified quote from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came to mind as I finally brought the beast to its knees...

"From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak I fought with the Pale Ryeder... Until at last I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain side... Darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time... The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life age of the earth... But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back until my task is done." - Gandalf the White

Allow me to break the battle down for you, my readers.

The first brew (every brew has to be a double brew in order to yield an acceptable amount of beer) went without much event. The lauter (process by which the grain is rinsed of its sugars and the wort, or unfermented, beer is collected in the kettle to be boiled with hops) went a little slowly, but was otherwise without incident. The boil and knockout proceeded without incident, as well. As I boiled the first batch, I mashed in the second. At some point, the train derailed.

When it came time to vorlauf (recirculate the mash in order to solubilize the sugars created there and to get the straining ability of the barley husks to filter the wort to clarity) and nothing happened. It simply would not flow.
I blew air back through the collection tube and I could only get a slow trickle for a few seconds before it would sieze up. Then I under-let some water into the mash to see if that would free things up. The result was the same.
I tried heating the mash up to 190 degrees with no results. Even adding as much water as the vessel could hold to thin the mash and then again raising the temperature again brought on the same result, total stagnation. After lautering about 10 pitchers worth of the wort through a colander/strainer into the kettle, I decided it was time to rethink 'Plan B'.
I then decided it would be best to clear my head with a pint of BrightSide Belgian White and dinner, and then attack my problem from a different angle.
Coming from a homebrewing background, I am used to having equipment fail, and in general not having the resources to back up my goals. It was precisely this foundation in homebrewing that I used to slay the Pale Ryeder.
I got out my old homebrewing mash-lauter tun, the 48 qt Ice Cube I have used in every homebrewing batch since the first, fateful Weissbier, and filled it to the brim with my scorching hot, sticky mess. A tiny stream of wort appeared out of the collection tube! I had found a chink in the armor! I also have a 5 gallon bucket with a bunch of holes drilled through the bottom half that I use for soaking tank parts in another bucket full of caustic when cleaning the tanks. This device closely resembles the one Charlie Papazian has published as a cheap mash/lauter system. I used it for just that purpose.
After 5 hours of this agony, I finally had a relatively full kettle. It was far from the clearest wort I had produced, but it had an acceptable gravity and tasted fine, so I proceeded with the boil and knockout. Which, when compared to the collection went relatively smoothly.
When I removed the spent grain from the mash/lauter tun and I removed the false bottom, I found that it was packed with grain on both sides. It had completely jammed up on both sides of the very device designed to make the separation of wort and grain possible. So, even if I had some rice hulls on hand to stir into the mash and possibly salvage it, it would have been beyond saving without my drastic action.
From 7am, when I began to heat the strike water for the first mash until just after 1am when I finished the CIP (Clean In Place and sanitization) of the heat exchanger it proved to a mentally, physcially and emotionally trying day and night.
Although the volume I collected was bit short, I managed to nail my original gravity right on the head, 20 degrees Plato for the average of both batches. So it should end up a couple tenths above 9% abv and will see service in the early summer. In addition to Rye Malt, Pale Ryeder Palm Sugar Rye Tripel is also brewed with Pilsner Malt, Palm Sugar (duh), Magnum, Sterling and Styrian Golding hops and our house Belgian Yeast culture.
As it says on the back of my beloved Nort Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout sweatshirt "Never Say Die". I'm not sure if I felt more like Rasputin, Gandalf or Johnny Cash at theend of that brew, but I'm glad I got it done, and so will all of you when the beer is ready.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beer Geek Gauntlet!

St. Louis beer geeks rejoice! The Jefferson Ave. bridge is finally completed!

If the reason for my excitement isn't immiately clear, allow me to explain.

Morgan Street Brewery, the Schlafly Taproom, Buffalo Brewing Company and the upcoming Cathedral Square Brewing Company are all more or less along a 3 mile long stretch of Olive/Lindell/Locust. 

Then we have Square One Brewery and Distillery, 33 Wine Shop and Bailey's Chocolate Bar all nestled in Lafayette Square on Park Ave.

Of course, further south we have The Stable, Mattingly Brewing Company (duh...) and the upcoming FOAM.

All of these are easily connected by if not on Jefferson Ave.

Looks like we may have to arrange an epic brewpub and beer bar crawl at some point...

By the way... Black Sky Stout Porter now on tap at Mattingly Brewing Company!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stupid Groundhog...

It appears that little critter, Phil, was just messing with us earlier this week. This little false spring we're getting is nice, even if it is a tease, since I know we will still see plenty of bitter cold before brighter times are upon us.

The good news is that once the warm weather breaks, that means I can use the small fermenters to brew up another batch of lager, in this case, Hammer of the Gods Imperial Baltic Porter. Being a lager, it will like to ferment cool, in the 50s or so, so another artic blast will be welcome, in that sense. Hammer of the Gods will be a massive beer, I am targeting 9.5% ABV and plan to age it until next winter before serving. It will be brewed with Pilsner, Munich, Rye, CaraFa II Special, Special B, Special Roast and Caramel 60L malts and Belgian Dark Candi Syrup and hopped with Magnum and Mt. Hoods.

Next month or March, I will acquire a used Bourbon Barrel, which I have devious plans for. I will fill it with Cardinal Direction Abbey Dubbel and inoculate it with Roselare Blend. It will undergo a massive transformation and will emerge from its woody cocoon in about two years as a totally transformed beer. A portion will be pulled out and carbonated for service and the barrel will again be topped up with fresh Dubbel to mature for the next year.

Dead Flowers Double IPA, Abominator Smoked Doppelbock and Billy Pilgrim's Imperial Pilsner are all patiently conditioning in the cellar and coming along nicely. I had talked of Dead Flowers Double IPA on cask, and depending on the actual yield, this may or may not happen (such insane hop usage does have its drawback, getting less beer out of the process). After Hammer of the Gods hits fermentation row it will be followed with Sticke Fingers Rye Altbier, Old Harbinger American Barleywine and a Wheatwine. There is also Pale Ryeder Palm Sugar Rye Tripel, a Spiced Belgian Golden Strong Ale, Rye IPA and others in the works. Black Sky Stout Porter is almost ready to serve, and will hit the taps next Friday to be followed by its sibling, Black Dawn Coffee Porter. Also, Cardinal Direction Abbey Dubbel hit the taps today, and holy guacamole! it is good!

Brewed with Pilsner, Munich, Wheat, Special B and Caramel 60L malts, Belgian Dark Candi Syrup, Turbinado Sugar, Magnum, Sterling and Kent Goldings hops and fermented with our house Belgian Yeast culture to 7% ABV and 25 IBUs it is a warming, rich offering with a crisp, clean and dry finish.

See you all at the bar!