Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Big Push

There has been quite a bit of activity at The Commons Brewery as of late. Over the past few months we have been on a mission to
A) Get into a full production mode and
B) Get the tasting room opened up.

After returning from GABF my friend Jay who I went to Siebel with and his fiance came to town for a visit. They had just finished up the season working for the 49th State Brewing Company and were on their way back to New York for a few months. Jay is the brewer there and seems to be settling in nicely. He and I had decided we wanted to do a collaboration beer and had been emailing back and forth about exactly what it would be. Our main instructor for the Doemens part of our course is the brewmaster of the Uerige Brauerei, so we decided on a Sticke which is a slightly stronger alt beer brewed only a few times a year. We brewed a small batch together and after fermentation I let it lager for 4 weeks. The resulting beer is wonderful. It will be a fairly regular beer for the brewery.
We got in a bunch of new barrels and racks so I cleaned those up and got them ready for filling.


 We finally got all of our ducks in a row and decided to fire up the big system. The first beer we brewed is called Flemish Kiss. It is a pretty simple pale ale recipe which is fermented with an ale yeast at higher temperatures to bring out the fruity esters in primary then has brettanomyces bruxellensis added in the secondary. The beer sits for about 5 weeks to just get a hint of the brett. Of course over time the brett. character will develop more if it is in the right conditions. We will see how this beer acts once it is bottled.

Having a brand new brewhouse, with a brand new three roller mill poses some problems when it comes to efficiency. We pretty much had to guess for the first batch then compile data as we went along. We ran into some burner problems with the first two batches but have since dialed it in.
The Flemish Kiss fermented out nicely and was transferred to neutral Sirah wine barrels where the brett. was added. The hope was the O2 exchange from the barrels would help the brett. to do it's thing, and in the end it really did help. The flavor was perfect for this beer at about 4 weeks in.
The next batch we brewed is Little Brother which is a nice malt forward Belgian Dark Strong. In an earlier post I mentioned how I had brewed a few small batches of this that went into a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. The idea for the last batch was to eventually blend most of it with the bourbon barrel batch to get a nice smooth, malty beer with a balanced bourbon note to it. Again we had burner issues with the kettle but called in a tech and finally figured out what we needed to do. The beer fermented out eventually but never had the right taste to it. When we did the blending session to figure out the ratio we were happy that the bourbon aged addition really covered up anything were unhappy with. The resulting blend was destined for the Holiday Ale Fest.
Deciding on ratio's

For the third brew on the new system we finally got around to brewing a big batch of Urban Farmhouse Ale which is one of our main year round beers and all was good, although it was  a little finicky in the fermentation and didn't want to clear up when crashed.
With everything starting to look more consistent and knowing we would have some beer to sell  we decided to start thinking about opening up the tasting room. Right around this time we added a third member to the team. Josh Grgas is now in charge of sales and the tasting room. Josh is a very knowledgeable guy about beer (and other things) and has great taste and a great palate. The three of us set a date for the opening and decided I should make a special beer for it. I wanted to do something pretty involved and went with a culmination of a few idea's that I had been wanting to try. I knew I wanted it to be dark, but not taste dark. I knew I wanted to do a farmhouse ale, I knew I wanted to use malted spelt, I knew I wanted to do a sour wort to get the beer slightly tart, and I knew that instead of doing a late hop addition in the kettle I would use flowers instead. The resulting beer is now called Fleur De Ferme.
I started a few days ahead of of time by mashing some pilsener malt in a cooler old school style.
I then ran that off into another cooler and added a handful of crushed malt. The idea is to basically incubate it at a certain temp. for a few days to stimulate the growth of the lactobacillus that is on the husks of the grain I threw in there. I then covered that in plastic wrap to keep the O2 out. I let it incubate for two days. In that time it went from 122 down to 96 which is the perfect range. I filtered out the grain and rain off the liquid. Upon smelling and tasting it it was a nice clean lactic sourness.

I used 26% malted spelt from Germany in the grist bill. The spelt malt smelled amazing. It was like fresh baked bread. The darkness came from de-husked carafa added at the end of the mash. I also added some cane sugar to help dry it out a bit. When the mash and sparge were done I added the sour wort into the kettle along with other wort. At the end of the boil I added the flowers I had chosen which were chamomile, hibiscus and lavender. It smelled heavenly in the brewery for a little while.
Spelt malt
Flower power
The beer fermented out nicely but of course I would change a few things if I brew it again. The tartness isn't as pronounced as I would like it to be and I added a bit more sugar then I should have so the beer was a bit stronger than desired. As for the sourness I will just let the wort sour a bit longer next time and really get this thing tart. All in all though the beer is really good. There are a lot of things happening that all go together nicely.
The weeks leading up to the opening of the tasting room were pretty busy, though we did manage to have some big things happen for us at the brewery. One major step forward was having a plumber fix our floor drain. The existing floor drain was a large catch basin that would really get ripe after a few days and was just too much of a risk micro-biologically. He was able to fill it in and add a new p-trap and floor grate all in a day. 
We were ecstatic. 

We also got a brand new jacketed brite tank from Colin at Practical Fusion. He is the guy who built our system and is quite the fabricator.
Loading in.
I also started to get the lab set up a bit more. Really I just got the microscope dialed in and took a peak at one of our house yeasts.
Trying to focus on year round beers I began the process of dialing in our Pils recipe. I first made a small batch with ingredients we had in stock. At first I wasn't too sure about it after tasting through the fermentation but this beer keeps getting better with age. When all is said and done, this will be a nice bitter, dry Pils, with a good nobile hop finish, what more could I want? Well I am going to do one more small batch and will be changing a few things. One of the big change's in the yeast. I would like our house lager yeast to be the same as Ayinger's. I really love that yeast and think it brings out the base malt a little more which is really what will add what is is needed to this beer. We will see.Another change will be the flavor/aroma hop. Not sure if it is a good move but time will tell. It will be cool to have them side by side to compare. One of these is ultimately going to the World Beer Cup competition, so I really need to dial it in. I am also excited about doing more lagers. That is something not a lot of breweries in Portland are doing, and after studying in Germany, something I know quite a bit about.
The week before the opening ended up being a crazy one. I did a lot of work getting the bar ready and putting some of my woodworking skills to use. I made a nice counter top for behind the bar out of some myrtle wood, built a cabinet, refurbished a cabinet, built a chalkboard, wired in lights did trim work and installed a sink. We also got our new tasting room glasses in and they are perfect. I also went and picked up a bunch of new kegs...phew.
Keg washing

We picked a Saturday to do the opening, but also really needed to brew that day. Josh has been doing such a great job selling the beer that we need to keep it flowing. The day ended up being about 16 hrs all the way through. Though the last part was more socializing and beer drinking on my part. All the beers were well received and I got some nice compliments on the Fleur De Ferme and the Sticke. It really felt like the past year of my life had been building up to that moment and I am happy with where I am at. A good number of people showed up including quite a few of my friends. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by such great people who are willing to show their support. I truly am humbled.
The next few months are going to be pretty busy, but I am excited and am lucky to be where I am at. Even on the long days it doesn't feel like work and at the end of the day there is some good beer waiting for me..


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.

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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Week 25

Monday: We had the first two final exams on Monday. The first was a multiple choice test and the second was an essay. After completing the multiple choice test we had a pretty long break before the essay part. Everyone I talked to struggled with the multiple choice test including yours truly, but I felt alright about it. After lunch we did the essay test. We were given the task of describing how to create a crisp clean pilsner and describing the process from mill to maturation tank. We were given the choice between two different malts along with their malt analysis' and there was a list of hops to choose from as well. I felt pretty good about how I answered. We will see though. We got out early enough to do some studying for the microbiology exams the next day.
Through out the week some of us had been trying to finish off the non-German beers that we had been saving. So for a celebration of what we hoped was all passing marks we drank the Chimay red label and all three of the Westvleteren's. The 12 was by far the best in my opinion. The Blonde was good but thin, and the 8 had a weird plastic like taste to it that was off putting.

Two different labels, same beer.

Tuesday:  We had our last two finals for the course. This time it was microbiology focused. It was set up so that two people would go to the lab at the same time. One would do identification and the other would talk to two other professors about plating and such. Then we would switch. I had the plating conversation first. I was asked what would I do if I had fresh wort that I wanted to analyze. That one was pretty easy as I had studied that pretty hard. When it came to the identification part I was given two petri-dish's and told they were microorganisms found in my water supply. I then had to set up the microscope, identify them and explain why they could be bad for a brewery. The nice thing is I studied my microorganisms pretty hard as well and was actually able to identify the first one by just looking at the color of the colony's on the petri-dish. It was Rhodotorula Glutinis which is a wild yeast found in the air and in water. It's not too big issue in the brewery because it doesn't ferment. It's presence is just a sign of insufficient cleaning. It's really easy to identify because it forms red colonies. The next one I was able to get pretty quickly after I smelled it. It was E. Coli. That is not something you want in your water. Most E. Coli. is not pathogenic though. If that's found in your water you need to talk to the city or who ever isn't washing their hands after using the restroom.
Feeling pretty good about the two exams a group of us decided to head out toWeihenstephan. Their big claim to fame is they are the worlds oldest brewery. They also have a university on the premises dedicated to brewing. We had a great time enjoying the weather in the beer garden and trying the different beers. One of the guys bought a bottle of Infinium which is a collaboration beer between Sam Adams and Wiehenstephan. This is supposed to be some revolutionary beer, but I found it to be rather boring.


The famous wheat beer

Wednesday:  We were supposed to make and fill our soft drinks but a special part was missing so we just switched what we were going to do on Thursday and that was filtering and transferring some beer. We filtered an IPA that the owner of the Regele brewery had made at the school as well as the Helles that my group had made. The Helles turned out to be a great beer. I was actually kind of surprised. The day was pretty long and most of us were a little rough around the edges from celebrating the day before but we pressed on and got the beer filtered. We also transferred the giant abbey beer we had made earlier in the month. According to lab results from the Alcholizor it was still fermenting with the primary Orval yeast and was at about 11.2% alcohol. It really is too bad we won't get to try this beer. Maybe when it is on the market commercially.

Before filtering: L: Helles R: IPA



Thursday: We finally made our soft drinks. The day turned out to be long and full of little problems but we got it done on a skeleton crew. After Tuesday a few people didn't even show up for the rest of the week. Seems crazy to me but in the end it's nice to have fewer people there. We made three different soft drinks. One was a raspberry flavored one that ended up freezing a pump on the mixing unit. It was quite the challenge to get it flowing again but we did.

It looks worse than it was.
 The other task a couple of us did was to fill kegs with our Helles. It wasn't the most exciting job but still educational non the less.

 Friday: After getting to sleep in a bit we met up at the school to get our grades and to take a class photo in front of the school. In the end everyone passed, what a relief.
I spent the rest of the day packing and shipping out some stuff that wouldn't fit in my suitcases. Later that night I all met up Kyle and Robbie to finish off the last beers from my fridge. One was a year and a half old Orval and the other was the Duvel Triple Hop. Both beers were fantastic. The Duvel is something I am going to play around with at home. I really like the spiciness and fruitiness of the dry hopping and with the clean crisp beer backbone.

Later we all met up at the Hofbrau Keller for a huge graduation ceremony. The German students were also graduating so the place was packed. There were probably about 300 people there. Most of it was in German of course but a little boring for those of us who only know a little German. It was still a fun night. Some of us pooled together to get Michael an "Eder Litre", some cigars and some Simpsons socks. He really like all of them. I said goodbye to a lot of people and thanked professors and such. It was nice to finally be done with it.

Kieth Lemke giving a speech

Kyle approves

Saturday: I woke up, packed the last few things of mine and caught the train to the airport. There were 5 of us all booked on the same flight back to Chicago. We all met up and had a final beer at Airbrau, then at 3:40pm Munich time left Germany. On the flight home my movie screen didn't work so I just sat there for 9 hours. We landed in Chicago at 6:20pm. After getting through customs I said my goodbyes to those guys then headed over to the domestic terminal. After about an hour I got on plane headed for Portland. At 11:30pm Portland time I landed. Jen was there waiting for me, which was awesome!! It was an emotional reunion. Being apart form your partner for 6 months is very hard. It was a strange feeling to finally be home.

Sunday: We got back to the house and had a beer, ate some food ad chatted for awhile before going to bed. I slept for about 3 hours then finally got up. Jen and I had some breakfast and visited some friends. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, then in the evening Jen made some pasta and clams. A group of friends came over and we had a nice time in the backyard.
It is a strange feeling to finally be home and to acclimate myself back to American culture. I am excited to get out and start putting all my knowledge to use. I plan on keeping the blog going with fewer posts mostly talking about some exciting home brewing experiments that I am doing or when I am hired somewhere talking about some fun stuff I am doing there. The journey continues...............................................

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 24

Monday: I was still pretty exhausted from my weekend of fishing, but I pressed on. We did malting again first thing in the morning. This time we were looking at germination. The rootlet formation was good and we checked the moisture content.

Malt sample


After that we had a 3 hour lecture titled Staff Management. It was supposed to be about leadership but it was a bit more like a motivational lecture. We talked a little about business structure but most of it was about who is in control of your life. It was actually a pretty nice talk. We have most of the day Thursday to continue the conversation. After lunch we had our final lecture with Dr. Zepf. He talked about yeast propagation, then spent some time telling us material to study for one of our final tests. We ended the day with another check on the malt.

Tuesday: Again we checked the malt in the morning. The modification was looking good based on the length of the acrospire on the malt. We then started the kilning process.

The acrospire is almost as long as the kernel.

 After that our group piled into the van again and drove to Salzburg to the Stiegl Brewery
We were helping with the brewing of a Roggenbeir brewed on their 10 hl. pilot system. They do special beers every month on this system. This particular recipe was special because all of the rye used was grown and malted just south of Salzburg. The recipe also had about 50 % rye which we thought might cause a problem in the lauter but they managed to make it work. While there we also got to try a few special beer they had produced. They had a great way that they aerated the yeast and not the beer. I may try to play around with that in the future. It involved a spray ball on a wand and a hose. After the brewing we had dinner and some beers in their beer garden before returning to Munich where we were greeted by an enormous thunderstorm.

The pilot brewhouse


Sampling the wort

A zwickle sample of their Vienna lager

 Wednesday: We spent the first couple of hours finishing up our malting. With the malt ready to go we just needed to clean off the rootlets and bag everything. We also ran a bunch of samples to see how we did. In the end we slightly over-modified the malt, but that's not a bad thing. If you were doing an infusion mash, this would be a great pale malt to use. The experience was really fun and I learned a lot more about malting. It would be fun to have a small pilot malting box to play around with.

Results of the Friabilameter

After the malting we went straight to the cellar for some filtering. The other group of our classmates had made a pilsner that had all sorts of problems with the fermentation and really tasted very strange. The idea with our filtering was to see if we could remove some of the stranger flavors by not only doing a D.E. filtration but also adding active carbon. We set the filter and got a really nice flow but alas the beer could not be saved. The active carbon is pretty amazing. It pretty mush stripped out most of the color and flavor leaving a watery diacatyl ridden liquid. It was very very strange. We decided to dump it. Hopefully we will have something else to filter next week.

Kyle steaming the filter

Dosing in the active carbon
The day was not not totally shot though. A couple of us went back to my place to do some studying. We also enjoyed a bottle of Cantillon Iris. This beer is different from a lot of their other beers in that they don't use unmalted wheat, just malted barley and they use fresh hops along with a dry hopping dosage in the barrel. It was very good.

Thursday: Our Staff Management lectures continued with almost 8 hours of sitting in the class. It really is an interesting discussion we were having. It has diffidently strengthened my drive to find a different work environment when I get home. Talking about all the ways to lead people, manage them, and generally just go about getting your job done helps to solidify my displeasure with the job I will be going back to. That said I have a new outlook on how to deal with the problems there and of course I am actively seeking brewing work so hopefully my time there is very limited.
After the all day lecture we had our final Styles Tasting with Dr. Saucher. He did a review of all of the styles we have talked about over the past 4 months then we ended it with a tasting of northern German top fermenting beers. We had a Muhlen Kolsch and a Pinkus Alt. The Alt was nothing like any other Alt's I have had. The color and bitterness were very low for that style. The Kolsch was a nice though with a slightly fruity/estery note to it along with a bit of SO2 in the flavor.

Left: Kolsch Right: Alt

 After class we had another BBQ. It was another nice time chatting classmates and eating great food. This time the beer was a little better because we had the beers we bottled last week so there was a pilsner, an English mild and our IPA.

Friday: Friday was a sobering day. We had 4.5 hours of microbiology review for our tests next week. One part was to identify 20 different samples. I did not do as well as I would have liked to but the weekend of studying helped.

Saturday: Study study study. Next week we basically have four exams. I was least confident about the microbiology exams, but after studying them most of the day Saturday I feel much better. I plan on one more session of studying the material on Monday.
After the long day of brain training a group of us went out to eat then decided to do a fun experiment. I had a few dopplebock's in my fridge and I wanted to do a blind tasting. Chris also had some that he added to it. There were four of us, Duncan, myself, Duncan's girlfriend Amy and Chris. Amy poured all the samples so we didn't know what was what except for her of course. We tasted them all, then secretly decided which was worst (6) up to which was best(1). Afterwards we compared the results. They were actually a little surprising. The Camba beers were both bourbon barrel aged so they were pretty obvious and not very good. All in all it was a fun experiment. I can't wait to try this more at home. Taste panels are really good for breweries and this is just one way you could see how your beer stacks up to the competition.

Duncan:                           Amy:                                Chris:                                   Sean:
1}Andechs                      1}Andechs                     1}Celebrator                         1}Riegele
2}Riegele                         2}Salvator                       2}Riegele                              2}Celebrator
3}Celebrator                    3}Camba Heller Bock    3}Salvator                               3}Salvator
4}Salvator                        4}Camba Dopplebock  4}Andechs                               4}Camba Dopplebock
5}Camba Dopplebock    5}Celebrator                  5}Camba Dopplebock              5}Camba Heller Bock
6}Camba Heller Bock     6}Riegele                       6}Camba Heller Bock            6}Andechs

Sunday: Study study study. This time I concentrated on the technology side of things as well as studying malt analysis and malting and brushing up on my calculations. I also did a brief review of yeast propagation and beer styles. This part of the test I feel fairly confident in. On Monday I will see how educated I really am. Then on Tuesday I will see how good my knowledge of microbiology is. It will be nice to have all the tests behind  so I can start getting ready to go home. I am ready.