Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall, and the fun continues

It's been a very busy couple of months for me. I have been working hard at the brewery and we are making some great progress. The name has officially been changed to The Commons Brewery  which is a great name and fitting for what we represent. Plus people can pronounce this one properly.
In September I brewed a number of batches on the 1 bbl system to help keep the stream of beer flowing. We ended up getting some more fresh Cascade hops so I made another fresh hop beer. This time around the idea was to do a darker Belgian ale with the fresh Cascade's. I pulled a slurry of the Westmalle yeast from another beer and fermented the majority of the batch with that. I also put some into a smaller conical fermenter and added some of our house farmhouse yeast to it. The recipe was based off of a beer I had made at home which I really liked. The idea was to have a darker beer that was light in body and refreshing, but at the same time have some great fruity ester qualities that balanced nicely with fresh Cascade hops. Sadly in the end this beer did not turn out. It was close to being good, it just had a certain earthy, clay like taste on the back end that was not pleasant. We are pretty sure we know why so the next time it can be avoided. I would like to try it again because I think it could be a great beer.

Fresh hops

Hot break
Mike and I also had a chance to go to the GABF in Denver this year. It was a first for both of us and a really fun learning experience. We had a booth where two of our beers were poured. The Urban Farmhouse Ale, and Flemish Kiss. We spent the majority of the time behind the booth pouring and talking to people. The event has volunteers for pouring but we found that this was a great way to "hand sell" the beer and talk to people about what we were doing. We got some really good feedback and some new fans. Both of the beers were entered into the competition as well, but we sort of knew that we wouldn't win anything because we had tasted them both before leaving and discovered that neither had the desired carbonation level and these are two beers that need the a higher dissolved CO2 volume. This was one of the many lessons learned.

Mike behind the booth
We did get a chance to get out and enjoy the Colorado weather one day. The guys from the Breakside Brewery invited us to do a hike in Boulder and check out the Avery Brewing Company. The hike was fun. It was a great way to burn off some of the beer we had been consuming and a great reminder to me how out of shape I am.

Scott enjoying the view

Barrels at Avery

Mike's inner "hipster" is finally unleashed
We had a good time and now we know how to approach it differently next year. I did have a chance to catch up with a few of my school mates there and that was a good time. I am hoping next year I will get to see more of them.

Before we left I had been brewing like crazy on the 1bbl system  just to have some beer for us to sell. One of the things I had done was to brew a double batch of the Urban Farmhouse Ale to ferment while we were away. Upon our return we found the beer had not attenuated completely and the fermentation was stalled. We have a few theories as to why that may have been including the generation of the yeast pitch and fermentation temps. Regardless we tried a few tricks to try rouse the yeast but to no avail. We then decided that because we had just gotten a bunch of wine barrels from Mike's step-brother this beer would be a great candidate for a Brett saison. The beer was transferred into a neutral Sirah wine barrel and we pitched some Brett B. in it. Well at least we thought we did. It turned out that we actually pitched the  Roeselare blend from Wyeast. While this was not what we intended, this is also something we have discussed doing, so no harm no foul. The beer will also get various dregs from other sour/wild beers to help it get some good sourness going. After I transferred it to the barrel I had enough left over to send it to a small conical fermenter we have. I was curious to see what would happen if I applied some heat to it. Would it continue to ferment? Well it did. I'm not sure if it was the heat or the rousing from the transfer but it fermented out nicely. Then I went ahead and screwed it up. I have been curious to see what the Urban Farmhouse would taste like with a some more hop aroma and flavor. Not that the recipe needs changing, I just wanted to see what other things we could do with it in the future. I decided to dry hop this small portion of the "problem child" batch with a small amount of Saaz hop pellets. After finally tasting the finished product, I am not impressed. It has a certain character that is best described as grassy. It's what I would call almost good. Oh well it was only 5 gallons and not all experiments turn out well, that's why you experiment. We are going to experiment with blending it with something else to see what happens...who knows.

Speaking of experiments, one of the other beers I brewed before leaving was for an event called Killer Beer Week. It is a celebration put on by the Brewpublic blog. We were asked to brew something with rooibos tea for the event.  Not knowing what that was I set out to do some research. Rooibos is native to South Africa and is in the legume family. It has a nutty, earthy quality to it that is quite suttle. We tried a few different tea's and came up with a good dosing rate so the next step was to build a beer around it. I felt the the tea could very easily be buried if we went too big with the beer so I decided on a Belgian Blonde ale as the base. That worked out well because we had the Westmalle yeast already. I knew for the grain bill I wanted to use pilsner malt, wheat and a healthy sugar addition for fermentablity. The next step was to think of a theme or direction for the beer. I wanted to do something African because of the rooibos. Knowing that in Africa palm wine and palm beer is pretty popular, I went with palm sugar in the grain bill. Next I wanted to add some native African spices to add some more flavor layers. Because it was still a Belgian beer I went with melegueta pepper seeds, and some coriander that was brought back from Africa by some friends of ours. The tea was added in the whirlpool at a rate of 4.5lbs/bbl. The spices were added at the same time. It was pretty cool to see the beer go from blonde to a muddy red/brown color with the tea addition. The resulting beer was a dry, orange colored beer with some nice nutty/earthy/spicy notes at the end. All in all I was quite pleased with it. The final step was to name it. I struggled with this one for a while until my friend Michelle nailed it on the head, "The God's Must be Crazy". Done and done.

The tea addition
The final product

There have been more fun beers made and some other big achievements but they will have to wait for another post. This one is long enough. Until then we continue to work hard getting the brewery put together and trying to get some beer out to the market.
The fall is a good time for us to hunker down and move forward as it is easy to stay indoor's in the PNW during this time of year. I have a feeling that by the middle of November we should be operating at full capacity and crafting some great beers. The fun continues.

1 comment:

  1. Takes a big man to blog about his failures but you have a good attitude and learning spirit. Also congrats on the Afro-Belgian beer, would have liked to try it if I were closer.