Sunday, September 11, 2011

August and beyond....

Well it's now been over a month since I finished brewing school in Germany. It was a strange process re-acclimating myself back to American culture. I do feel blessed to live in such a great city though. I really missed a lot of the niches that make Portland a wonderful place to live.
Upon returning I went back to work at my old job doing maintenance for the book store except only two days a week. The plan was to spend the rest of the time searching for work brewing. More on that in a bit...

Upon my return I quickly fired out a few home brews. First off was tart pilsner. This was inspired by a beer that was brewed at the Weyermann malting facility on thier pilot system. It was a czech style pils except they had some rye malt in it and a fairly high amount of accidulated malt to give it the tartness. My approach in my version was to forgo the rye and keep the tartness a little lower as to not get in the way of the overall bitterness. So far it's been tasting pretty good from the samples I've taken.
The next round of home brewing came from my experimental side. I had been conceiving an idea for a Belgian Pale ale for quite awhile. I basically knew I wanted to use a large amount of raw wheat and also get my coloring from Special B. Past that I would adjust things if I thought it was needed. I split the batch and fermented with two different yeast strains. The idea here was to ferment warm to see what esters I could get from either strain. The first one I used was the De Dolle yeast and the second was the Achouffe yeast. In the end the De Dolle yeast won hands down. The Achouffe yeast kicked out a ton of isoamyl acetate which is the banana like ester found in Bavarian hefewiezen. This was not an flavor I was looking to have. On the other hand the De Dolle has a nice apple/peach like character that I find to be very pleasant. I would like to try this again and maybe ease up on the fermentation temps and possibly add a bit of coriander. Basically balance out the beer.
De Dolle yeast Belgian Pale with a fresh Newport hop cone added

The next piece of great news is that I now have a job brewing beer. Mike Wright from Beetje Brewery is in the middle of expanding from a 1bbl operation run out of his garage to a 7bbl brew house in a new space. We will be doing production brewing with a tasting room. There is a plan to change the name soon but more details on that in a later post.
I have been helping Mike build the new brewery as much as I can. It is a new experience for both of us but also an exciting one. It's easy for me to say that as I am not the one paying for it. My other role has been to keep the beer stream flowing by brewing on the 1bbl system while the brewery is being assembled. One issue we were facing right off the bat was fermentation temperature control. We solved that by building a room that would be temperature controlled to the beer temperature by way of a thermowell on the side of the fermentor. Mike has been using some plastic conical fermentors that are pretty convenient for this scale of operations. I have named the room the "tool shed" because that is what it reminds me of. The idea is that when we switch over the fermenting duties to the stainless conicals this room with become a bottle conditioning room. Or if we do special beers on the 1 bbl system we can still ferment in there.

The "growing" brewery

The "Tool Shed"
The first beer we brewed at the new space was Beetje's Urban Farmhouse Ale, which a nice medium alcohol, medium bitterness farmhouse beer. It really is meant to be a nice approachable farmhouse ale and that's exactly what it is. It is also the time of year when hops are ready to be harvested so we decided we should brew a fresh hop beer. The cool thing is Mike let me have free reign with this one. I wanted to do something that wasn't like every other hop bomb made in this town. Mike said he had some Chinook, Centennial, and Cascade hops growing in his yard so I decided a sort of northwest influenced fresh hop farmhouse ale would be perfect. I kept the grain bill pretty simple with most of it being Briess organic 2-row. I wanted to balance it out a little but also give it some depth and color so I added a little Aromatic malt along with a little Cara-pils and finally a touch of rye. I wanted the hops to not be over the top so I bittered it with Columbus to about 27 IBU's then I added the Chinook fresh hops with 5 minutes left in the boil. At knock out I added the  Centennial's and the Cascade's. I want the citrus like character of these hops as well as the grassy fresh hop flavor to play well with the fruity esters produced by the farmhouse yeast but I don't want the hops to dominate the beer. So far the fermentor sample have tasted very nice. I just hope it dries out like I want it to.

Fresh hops

The next beer in the Beetje line up I brewed was a beer called "Little Brother". This is a Belgian Dark Strong. It is a pretty complex beer. The idea with this round of this beer was to do a double batch/fill. After fermentation is complete it will get put into a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel to age for a few months. Later when the bigger system is up and running we will brew the recipe again and blend it with the barrel aged beer. I think it will be a great cool weather slow sipper. We are talking about getting our barrel aging program going right away. We are going to concentrate on wine barrels with some wild and sour beer being made as well.

Swelling the top

One fun thing we did was to put together a blend for a local beer event. Mike has a beer called "Flemish Kiss" that basically starts out as a northwest style Pale Ale, but then he adds Brett to it to give it.....well a flemish kiss. It has a nice caramel flavor that really stands out. We took some of that and blended it with a beer that had been aging in a wine barrel with the Wyeast Rosaleare blend. That beer has a mild sour character but it not super sour and has a nice pink hue from the wine. We tried a few different ratio's and with the help of our friend Sean White (who introduced us) finally came up with a good blend. The resulting beer had a great Brett profile with a well balanced sourness. I was happy with the results. I can't wait until we have more beer to do this with.


I am really excited to be involved with Mike and Beetje. I feel we both have similar idea's and a similar approach to things. That makes working together as a two man operation a lot nicer. I look forward to what we will do next. There are some idea's floating around between us that will be fun to play around with. I really appreciate that Mike is letting me have creative input. It makes working there that much better. It will be interesting to see what roles we take on as this moves forward.

The last bit of beer related fun. Before I left for school a group of 6 brewers all brewed a flanders red separately then put it in a Tempranillo wine barrel. I basically made my share, fermented it, handed it off then left for Chicago. Well we finally got together and tasted it 6 months in. The beer is coming along nicely and really had a great sourness even at 6 months old. We are going to let it sit for another 3 months and see how it tastes then. We also discussed what to brew next. I think we are going to do an English old ale. It should be fun.


The pelicle.

It has been a very busy month and I have a feeling September and October are going to be the same. I am absolutely loving every minute of it too. It really is great to find something you love to do and then do it. It doesn't feel work. I think the next year will be one of the best yet. I can't wait.


  1. What's up Sean, great name. I stumbled on your blog because I'm going to brew a BPA this weekend & am wrestling with which yeast to use. Ironically, my choices are De Dolle & Achouffe. Nice work.

    Mind sharing your recipe for your BelgianPA?

  2. Absolutely.

    73% Pilsner
    13.1% Raw Wheat
    9.3% Munich malt
    4.6% Special B

    18.9 IBU's from EKG's added at the 60 min. mark of a 90 min boil.

    4.3 IBU's from Saaz added at 15 min.

    Mash at 66 C (152 F) for 60 min.
    The raw wheat can easily be subbed out for malted wheat. Let ma know how it turns out.