Sunday, June 19, 2011

Week 19

Monday: Monday was a holiday so no school. I spent the day studying and transcribing some brewing calculations from my notes. One thing that I found interesting was when I boiled some water for tea in the morning, I forgot about it and left it on the burner for a few minutes. When I finally emptied the water, there was a white coating on the bottom of the pan. This come from the fact that Munich has hard water and gets it from the alps. The alps are full of limestone, so there is a high chalk (CaCO3) level in the water. This is one of the reasons that the breweries here have to treat their water quit extensively. It makes me happy to go back to brew in a city with velvet soft water.

Bottom of the pot

Later that evening I decided to have an Andechs Dopplebock that I had had in the fridge for awhile. I have had this beer before, but it was nice to sit and enjoy it after a long day of studying. When the beer warmed it had a nice dark fruit presence reminiscent of dates or raisins. One thing I really like about this beer is that you don't get the boozy fusel alcohol character that is present in a lot of German dopplebocks.It is well made.

Tuesday: Well it was back to school on Tuesday.The German students have the entire week off so we have the place to ourselves. This was the beginning of a very "hands on" week. We started the day with a Chemical Technical Analysis lecture, then the class was split into two groups and our half did Practical Microbiology.
We set up the microscopes and ended up doing a bunch of tests to look for all sorts things. First we just looked at culture yeast in dark field to see if there was anything like bacteria that we didn't want in the yeast. Next we did a methylene blue staining of the yeast to look at the yeast viability as well as looking at the yeast through phase contrast.

Lager yeast in dark field

Methylene Blue stained yeast
 Next we took culture yeast and put that onto different nutrient media. The first is called Doemens Select. That is used to check for beer spoiling bacteria. Next was Standard 1-Agar to check for latent microorganisms. After that we took culture yeast that had been washed (long process) and spread that onto Lysine to check for wild yeasts, and last the same was spread on to Crystal Violet Agar to check for wild yeasts as well. All these samples were incubated and the growth checked at a later date.

Nutrient Media

Next we took samples of wort, samples of beer from the storage tank, and unfiltered beer. The beer was given nutrient broth media and all of them were incubated for a few days. The idea here is to see if anything unwanted grows in any of these samples.
After lunch my group headed down to the other lab to do Practical Chemical Analysis. Our main goal was to perform what's called a congress mash. This is basically a mash schedule done by maltsters to determine a number of things dealing with malt. We also checked the malt for the total nitrogen content and ran it through a Friabilimeter to check for beta glucan levels as well as checking the moisture content with a special machine. After the congress mash we looked at extract, pH, and color. Below is a video of a titration which is part of the process for check the nitrogen content of malt.

Checking the moisture content

Iodine test to check for saccharification.

Wednesday: We had a Chemical Technical Analysis lecture in the morning about water analysis. It was an incredibly informative lecture. My group then went to the C.T.A. lab and did different titration's to determine the make up of Munich tap water. One of the interesting steps was checking calcium hardness by adding caustic (NaOH). This transfers the magnesium out of solution (see picture below) so that you can measure just the calcium hardness. The end results showed that Munich does in fact have hard water.

Checking calcium hardness
After lunch the group went to the microbiology lab to do a membrane filtration of filtered beer and of tap water. We also did pour plate samples of a soft drink and of tap water as well. In the water we are looking for E.coli and coli-form bacteria...yum...

Membrane filtration of filtered beer

Thursday: What I have now dubbed the "intense week" continued with with an hour and a half Chemical Technical Analysis lecture, followed by another Practical Microbiology session. This time we plated a bunch of the the microorganisms that had grown on the media prepared earlier in the week. Of course we found many different things including a lactobacillius strain. Next our group went to the C.T.A. lab and did a titration of cleaning caustic to get the concentration and see if it was within spec. This was a really simple process that I know I will use many times in the future.

Culture yeast and lactobacillus

We also did a sieving of some malt. This is done with milled malt to see what your grist looks like. Six different sized screens are used and the malt is sieved through the screens. A certain percentage of larger matter stays on the bigger screens and so on until the bottom where you find flour. Based off of this you can adjust your mill, or adjust the mash to better utilize the grist you have. The rest of the day was 3 hours of Chemical Technical Analysis lectures. Towards the end I was getting pretty worn out. The shear amount of information that has entered my brain this week is insane, but that is exactly what I signed up for.

Results of the sieving

Friday: It was more lab work on Friday. We started the day in the Microbiology lab plating more microorganisms. I had studied this subject matter a bit the night before so it felt a little better. My lab partner Viet and I were able to identify everything we plated which made me feel good. What didn't make me feel good was when were informed of what we should study for the test. Let's just say I have my work cut out for me.
We then went down to the C.T.A lab to do some analysis. First we took a beer and de-gassed, meaning we shook it to remove the CO2, next we filtered it to remove foam. We then poured it to a special beaker and distilled it. From this we were able to find the exact alcohol content, and exact original gravity. One of the best parts was we got to use a density meter, which is a super nerdy machine that tells you the density of a liquid. We then looked at our density with a really accurate laboratory refractometer. This is quite the apparatus. It involves a water bath and different oculars to look at samples and it is all based on light refraction and liquid density. Last we took an extract reading with a really accurate hydrometer.

Distilling off the Alcohol

Alcohol and water



 Saturday: Study, study study. The weather was pretty terrible, and I really wanted to use my time this weekend to wrap my brain around the insane amount of info that has entered it during the week. In chatting with my friends who are also in the course we all agree that this week was the toughest one yet, in a good way. The great thing is I don't feel lost at all. I really feel like I am getting what I am being taught, and that I know more than I think I do. So in an effort to reverse the learning of the day, I decided to celebrate with a beer tasting. When Jen and I were in Italy last month there were many breweries I wanted to explore but alas time was limited and I figured Jen didn't always want to got to breweries during her vacation. One of the places I wanted to try to get to was Birrificio Le Baladin. They are one of the many Italian breweries really pushing the boundaries for European craft beer. It's hard to say what they specialize in but I guess it would be Belgian inspired beer. I was able to find a place in Munich that carries their beer, which is not an easy thing to do. I bought a few different varieties so more reviews will come in the future.
I went with the Nora first. This is an interpretation of an Egyptian spice beer. It is spiced with ginger, myrrh, and orange peel. The spices come through well but with a nice balance. Not overdone at all. It has an estery nose with a spicy quality to it. The myrrh comes through nicely as well as the ginger. The taste is very similar to the smell, but a little stone fruit comes through. At first it had a slight metallic taste, but that faded as the beer warmed. All in this is a very complex beer, I'm glad I finally got to try it.

Sunday: Study study study. I spent the better part of the morning finishing up a study guide for the microbiology material we need to know for our final test. I then spent some time in the afternoon looking over the numbers for the beer that we will be making on Monday. We are making a hybrid IPA with both English and American influences. I have to say it has been great to stay in for the weekend and hit the books. My brain is starting to get pretty full though. Along with all the academic information, I am really starting to plan what exactly it is I am going to do when I get back to Portland. I am excited to put all this knowledge to work and start following my passion. I am at a really fun fork in the road and I am very excited about it, but first I need to finish the program.  


  1. Sounds like an intense week. This might sound very basic, but what technique did you learn on reading a hydrometer accurately? Do you measure from the bottom of the meniscus, or where the liquid meets the glass? Also I see in the sample tube is very full. Was that on purpose, or just how it happened to be in the photo?

  2. That depends on the hydrometer. The one in the picture said "von oben" on it which in German means from above. If it isn't written on it you should always read it from the bottom of the meniscus. The liquid height is just a result of putting in too much of sample.

  3. Holy wow. You're becoming a proper scientist.

  4. When you "liked" bierbrasserie bazi, I thought you were home. But alas.

  5. Not yet. Just over one month more!!