Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another great Friday

This was a crazy fun! At lunch we were shuttled to Laschet's german-style beer bar for German style tastings. It was a benefit to have Dr. Michael Zepf from Germany (shown here to the right) with us along with instructors Mary and Tim. Laschet's was kind of a mecca for Siebel students when the school was located closer. We tried every style of oxidized beer they had in the bottle and commented on them. The draught beer was in good condition although Michael insisted it would taste better in Munich. He was sort of a celebrity. If I were sitting at Prost in Greenwood and found out that the guy sitting next to me was a German brewmaster trained at Weihenstephan, I'd think it was pretty cool. After lunch, a few liters of DAB and some Celebrator, we were bused back to Siebel and started drinking on the Goose IPA keg.

Tim called last call at school and the bunch of us decided to check out Curt's new place. He recently had to move from the waterfront skyrise to the 58th floor of the John Hancock tower. That's us checking out the view on the left. Michael decided to come along since it was his last day before flying back to Bavaria. We drank beers in the dark and studied the view while asking Michael about mashing techniques, what to do in Munich, Barack Obama, the fusarium problem in Europe etc. Adam and I had a great conversation about Seattle breweries and where to hike in the Olympics and Cascades. It made me homesick, but I can't wait to go hiking with Shanna, Chris and Colin when I get back. Then we went to the top of the tower where there's a bar and had a drink.

After that we trained up to Wriglysville to check out another beer bar. Michael thought it was exciting that the subways were just like in the movies! It was packed at the Risque Cafe so we went to the Hofbrau house and finished a few litres of infected Hofbrau. This class has made us more sensitive the the effects of beer aging and lacto infection. I don't know if that's a good thing. I feel like a snob. Hofbrau is a government owned brewery so Michael thought it was funny to be at one in Chicago. I don't remember how many times I said "ein prosit" but I do remember saying it after the owner found out we had a real German with us and sent over Jaeger shots. I said my goodbyes and walked home shortly afterwards.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beer Stability and Free Recipe!

This week we're being taught by Dr. Michael Zepf from Munich. He's an extremely smart guy who did his thesis on beer gushing. Shown in this picture is Danny enjoying a litre of Pils, not Dr. Zepf. The Germans would not like the lack of foam on Danny's beer.

"There is no such thing as beer stability. When you age wine and it slowly turns back into grape juice. When you age beer it slowly turns back to wort. Which would you drink?"

Some of the problems with beer stability are the trends in the market towards longer travel of the beer, lower flavor, lower "light" alcohol beers. Although this is not true for the local handcrafted "malternative" beer, it is definitely a trend of the large and some of the craft breweries.

The precursors for staling (lipids, high alcohols) are effected by temperature, oxygen, light and of course, time. Different free amino acids, through the Strecker degradation reaction to form "aging carbonyls". Aging carbonyls are described as having a "sweet, moldy taste". These aging carbonyls through yeast reduction are then reduced to higher alcohols. It's the aging or "time" factor that effects all beer. Through aging and oxidation the higher alcohols and other factors, that our yeast buddies spent so much time producing, go back to the aging carbonyls. That's what Dr. Kepf meant by beer being turned back into wort. Fresh beer has a crisp, dry and bitter taste. Old beer looses bitterness and becomes more sweet and finally turning to a cardboard flavor.

Although Dr. Zepf employs decoction mashing on all of his beers at the brewery, he suggests not to on lighter beers. Lipoxygenase is denatured at 60C, and he suggests mashing in at this. However, he won't stop decoction mashing out of tradition. Why change a winning team?

Here's a little Amber Hefe recipe I came up with in honor of him:
O.G. 12P. around 20EBC about 14BU
for 12 gallons treat water to match Munich or at least 100ppm Calcium
50% Wheat 4EBC 10lbs
40% Munich 16EBC 8lbs
10% Carahell 24EBC 2lbs
.5% Carafa Special II 900EBC 2oz

(edit. mash in for ferulic acid rest at 45C and apply heat to mash to 60C before continuing.) Mash at 60C. Pull large decoction after 20 min. Iodine test decoction before denaturing enzymes. Add small portion of decoction to raise mash to 65C. Hold for 10 minutes. Add rest of decoction to raise to 72-75C for mashout.

Boil with lowest burner you have, not vigorously for 6o minutes! Add 13BU (1oz)of German Perle extract or pellets at 40 min, add 1 or 2 BU (.5oz)of German Tettnanger pellets at 10min. Whirlpool, chill and ferment at 17-19C (edit. ferment at 20C)with Wiehenstephan 68(Wyeast 3068). Bottle condition and serve at breakfast with sausage and pretzels.

BTW after we finished the sierra nevada pale and 312, we finished kegs of fat tire, two kegs of Great Lakes dortmunder, Three Floyds Gumball head, and another sierra nevada. Yeah us!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Les Petite Mutants

Here's a winning picture of the remaining members of the Zymotechno band "Les Petite Mutants" studying at Curt's place on the 59th floor of a waterfront skyrise. That's Curt from Bend on the left, Chris from Chapel Hill, Brian from Pendleton and of course, Paul from Ventura in front weaseling his way into every photo I take.

This week was all about yeast microbiology. When we got to processes of genetic engineering my brain shut off. I wanted to get my hands on a microscope and some petri dishes to practice the techniques we've learned, but that will likely be saved for Germany.

An interesting study about acid washing from a large American brewer: Hop acids are more to do with destroying Pedio and Lacto than the lower pH. Just squirt a little tetrahydroisohumulone in your yeast brink! Sounds easy enough. Now if I could only buy some hydro-humulones...

The third most produced material during fermentation is glycerol. Didn't see that one coming.

There's a brewing process called Continuous Fermentation. It consists of yeast entrained in an inert medium, like beechwood or silica balls, and the wort is slowly passed through to create a faster fermentation.

We also learned the chemical reactions of all the most abundant flavor compounds in beer. Then we tried spiked samples of Bud with all the nasty stuff in small or large amounts. We tried diacetyl, acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate, amyl alcohol, acetic acid, DMS, metallics, higher BUs, lactic acid, SO2 and higher ethanol. Some of us were blind to flavors while others were overly sensitive. The fridge that all these chemicals are stored in stinks up the whole room every time it's opened. Although the DMS is in a screw top test tube, sealed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge, on an average day you can smell it through the fridge door. Siebel sells kits of this stuff for homebrew clubs and beer geeks with ASBC recommended amounts for spiking if anyone's interested.

My favorite sensory analysis was American Beer. We did Premium Lager, Amer. Wheat, Fruit Beer, Amber, Pale Ale, IPA, DIPA, Barleywine, Imperial Stout and wood aged beer. After polishing off Boulder Mojo, Arcadia DIPA, Rogue Old Crustacean, Flying Dog Gonzo and Goose Bourbon County I looked over at my friend Danny and proclaimed that I was really drunk. That was a fun Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week three Wee-hee

This week starts off all about yeast and microbiology. WEEEEE!

Actually, all the classmates are really into this one. What's eye opening to me is the amount of potential spoiling bacteria in wort. The teacher mentioned an article published by Dr. Michael Lewis at UC Davis claiming that the traditional protein rest employed may have more to do with the bacteria present in the malt producing protases than the barley producing other proteolytic enzymes. I couldn't find this article so send me a link if you can.

I also learned that vice-president of Siebel, Mr. Keith "Lemy" Lemcke has found my blog so no more dark, mysterious, ultra-top brewing secrets will be released via this blog. For a guy that's composed of mainly ears and nose, Keith's a really nice guy. My favorite job he has is "official keg-swapper".

One of our yeast teachers Graeme, from Scotland, informed us that the yeast make their own CO2 and it's that CO2, among other things, that make finished beer so free from microorganisms. Some brewers he exclaimed inject CO2 into their beer and, with a despicable face, "That's not real ale!"

We decided as a class not to let him know that Scotland's not a real country.

Well, we killed the Sierra Nevada Pale and the Goose 312 yesterday. That's five kegs in a little over two weeks. John Maier's insists his class killed six kegs a week. I think it's a fabrication but a good goal nonetheless.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Standing Ovation

I'd left Chicago's Rock Bottom restaurant having finished the appetizer sampler, with fellow-in-beer Paul, when I heard the beautiful music. You couldn't call it a sampler; it was more of a double-decker smorgasbord of grease and dipping sauces. It went well with the imperial red ales and as we were walking down into the drab yellow tile subway walls our stomachs churned happily.

Then as I said goodbye to Paul to head on the north red line and he to head south, I heard them. I was just pulling my ipod out of my jacket when the sounds of music wafted up through the tunnels. At first, one would think it was just another jerk with a stereo playing for all to hear. I shoved my ipod deep in my jacket to investigate.

Three old men, some missing teeth, one with guitar, one with a shaker were singing. The fellow without any instruments made up for the fact by flowing his arms through the air like a conductor to the tune "Stand By Me" which they executed in three part harmony. "If mountains we look upon, should tumble and fall," the overly red mouthed man raspily sung. The guitar player hit the lowest bass note on "fall" with a smile. The man with the shaker kept the rhythm nearly smacking off his top hat. The new passengers stood around them like a trash-can fire, their music a respite from the cold, dirty subway. Some of us bopped our heads, some left dollars for them. I thought of all the crazies I and others had seen on the trains of Chicago since getting here. Other old men trying to sell me expired train tickets, other ones taking loudly to themselves, one guy snorting coke off his forearm and punching himself in the face until he bled and the other old man sitting on a street corner who showed us with awesome precision how to get to the brewery. "Thanks for the standing ovation," the red-mouthed man said and we laughed just as the train intruded. I couldn't listen to the more hopeless music I had left in my ipod; especially with "I won't cry, I won't cry, I won't be afraid just as long as you stand by me." blasting through my head.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Last Call Bell

Did I mention we drink a lot of beer? As a class we've finished a keg of Bud American Ale, Boston Lager, Goose Island Honker's, and now we've moved on to Goose 312 and Sierra Pale Ale. It's only the end of week two.

My friend in shortness and awesomeness, Paul here displays the last call bell. When the faculty call for last, well, you can read the note.

Some friends are forming within the class. A lot of the west-coasters (myself included) are grouping up. About six of us are planning on renting a house in Grafelfing close to the school in Germany. It'll be like real world, but maybe beeral world.

There is one woman in the class of 28. Claudia works for InBev in Brazil. She spends most of her time talking to Thiago also from Brazil.

Did I mention the water here sucks? It's like drinking milk. I haven't had a good cup of joe since I left Seattle. I mentioned this problem to my west coast friends and they all experienced the same problem. Maybe we're all coffee snobs?

Yet again today is another test. We've covered so much stuff this week I'm not sure how well I'll do. Passing is only 70% or higher and last week I got 97%. I'm looking forward to treating myself to a calzone from Amato's at lunch. The Italian restaurants have real italians out here. In Seattle it's only Greeks.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

YouTube - Stackenblochen

YouTube - Stackenblochen

Here's to how I feel about those crazy Germans.
Love it or hate it, they've a way with order.

The Mixing Formula!

Here's an easy one familiar to all you algebra students!


Capital letters express quantities and lowercase express properties.

Let's say I have 200bbls of beer at 7.15%abv. How much abv will I have if I add 100bbl of water?

b=0%abv (water)
C=300bbl (after dilution)


It also works for color!

Brewer's Cross

Quick hand formula for decoction brewers thanks Germans! I might end up with this tattoo.
Imagine a cross through the equation.

Mash temp_______________________________________________100-x

Align Center

_________________Desired temp(x)_____________________

Boiling(100)___________________________________x-mash temp

Add the two numbers you get on the right (100-x) + (x- mash temp)= y This is your factor.
Then go back and divide to find your percentages (100-x)/y= percentage left in mash.
(x-mash temp)/y= percentage to remove and boil.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hot-side aeration

I know there's been a lot of discussion in the homebrew meetings about the effects of "hot-side aeration". Here's the meat of the subject: Oxygen can bond itself molecularly onto many things (of which in class we haven't discussed) in the wort AND the crushed grain. I'm assuming it bonds with amino acids, peptides and other long-chain proteins like b-glucane that are soluble but unfermentable in wort. (Help me out bio-chemists!)

There is an enzyme developed in barley, that is prevalent in well-modified malt, called LOX or lipoxygenase. Just like it sounds, it digests lipids in the presence of oxygen. Most home, craft and micro-brewers don't even bother with the level of LOX- you can't measure it, you can only prevent it. It causes beer staling(oxidation), and in some cases gushing, in a frosty brew. I don't yet understand how it works, enzymes are ALL denatured at boiling temps, but LOX obviously can ruin a finished beer.

So, you can aerate your mash and crushed your dry grains all you want as long as your product is consumed within a month of manufacture. Large breweries go to great lengths to ensure that oxygen cannot expose the mash bed or the crushed grain. Many large breweries have wet malt mills: mills that crush wet malt to ensure no exposure to oxygen.

Anybody want to weigh in on this one? I'll ask Ray Daniels tomorrow and I won't leave until I have a bio-chemical answer.


Here's a picture of Briess's office building in Chilton, Wisconsin. We had a great power-point seminar about making specialty grains and sampled all their product. Then it was off to the middle of town to visit the malting plant built in 1900. We were told not to bring any cameras, cell phones or recording devices because they've had problems with "blogs". So, sorry I don't have photos of the facility.

After learning about the process for a whole week, we could walk through the facility and point out exactly what everything was and did. The class felt pretty darn smart. Although we had frosty beverages on the bus and at lunch, we did spend seven hours driving to and from Chilton. I felt like a rock star in a very unpleasant way.

Briess is coming out with a smoked malt targeted for heavier american beers like smoked porter. Unlike Bamburg malt, it won't be something you should use over 30%. It will be 6-9L six-row made with cherry wood. I want to try it.

We got back around 7:00 and because it was my birthday, Chicago was raining and 50F. Thanks for making me feel at home. A lot of the guys went to the Local Option and drank IPAs untill fun conversations about metal, 60's pop and grunge persisted into the evening.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Barack and BYOB

Here's a funny thing about Chicago that Seattle natives might find interesting. There's a special liquor license a restaurant can buy called BYOB. That's right, bring your own beer. You pretty much go buy your favorite six-pack or 40oz. and bring it to dinner with you. I just need to find the right beer to go with Thai food.

It's no surprise, but Chicagoians love Obama. Near infatuation. You can find framed pictures of him in gift shops. It's not uncommon to wear Barack clothes everywhere. I especially liked this spray-painted mural.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday of Immortal Darkness

We celebrated the first week's test by following one teachers to Piece Pizza and Brewery. Paul (shown) exemplified our feelings to this massively flat pizza.

I'm torn between the group of students that will surely be thought of as the "trouble makers" and just sitting back out of the action. No matter how much trouble we get ourselves into on this trip, I'll make sure I don't regret anything.

If you are ever going to Chicago, you should check out the Hopleaf. They have a massive selection of Belgians for what I found was quite affordable. I got a generous pour of Triple Karmeliet in proper glassware for $7. Beat that Brouwers!

What I have found kinda annoying is how many people pack every good bar on the weekends. Eric, Sara, Erin and I went next door to the 'Leaf to get even more pizza and Czechvar. Mmmm real Budweiser.

A few of the classmates and I made up a fictional brewery during class at breaks. I guess only beer nerds would find this funny but we were cracking ourselves up. Since the class is from all over the US, the goal is to go to brew events/festivals/web forums and make hype about a fictional brewery much like Spinal Tap. This small, eco-friendly brewery would be famous for brewing "Immortal Darkness". Whenever the teacher would describe an inefficient way of brewing, we would murmur under our breaths, "immortal darkness". "Dude, have you had Immortal Darkness? I heard they use fifty pounds of Summit per barrel! Yeah, intense! I also heard they use chocolate malt as their base and have a bike repair shop in the brewhouse! Man, I got to move to Portland. They make such gnarly beer."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A long week full of info

Tomorrow is the big pop quiz so tonight I'm studying hardcore. Not that it's any different than any other day this week, but I guess there's significance. I have been able to get to know the other fellows in the class more and more as the week goes on. We drink beer at lunch and after class at die bier stube. Sometimes it's hard to concentrate after lunch, but the beer is free and good. We've already killed a keg of Boston Lager and are moving on to Honker's Ale. I don't know if we'll get through that keg of Bud American Ale. The beer on tap is a long tradition included in the tuition. I thought it was just "really cool" at first but found that it indeed teaches a lesson. We are reminded repeatedly that as new brewers we are the "ambassadors" of the beer world. We are expected to drink beer and function or decide not to drink beer to function. Also, the teachers describe beer as "food" and "good for you". It provides protein, b-vitamins, essential minerals, and anti-oxidants. It is also better for you than wine. However, in the States our teachers can't publish that; ATF holds strict rules on those facts even though they have been published in scientific journals. Today we took class pictures to stand up next to the ones on the wall. They provide a jacket, shirt and tie if you should desire to look nice. Of course I put it on, combed my hair over and gave my best Augy Busch impression I could.

I never thought I'd look forward to a Friday so much. The whole class is probably going to Piece Pizza and Brewery at the end of tomorrow. This week we learned more about barley, malt, specialty malt, hops, hop extract, and water than I thought I could ever know.

Here's some tidbits that homebrewers might find interesting:

Grape-nut cereal is flavored with base malt.

Manufacturing roasted barley is so dangerous that most malting companies keep the local fire department on the phone while it's being roasted.

At least one major brewery uses 50% adjunct

Budweiser used pellet hops and Willamette in the finish until bought out by InBev

Sam Adams uses whole hops (we learned how INCREDIBLY inefficient this is)

Despite my predisposition, hop extracts aren't that bad. We even got to sample some.

Breweries require a certain type of base malt and the malting companies make it for them. (I thought one malt from one malting company was all I could buy)

Many large breweries don't hop their wort; they add hop oils after fermentation.

Barley is alive before and after the malting process. I still don't believe this one.

Hops are not bought and sold. Alpha acids are bought and sold.

YouTube - George Carlin Talks About "Stuff"

YouTube - George Carlin Talks About "Stuff"

If there were any way to describe my feelings about moving to Chicago for a few months...

RIP George

Monday, February 2, 2009

Intense learning,,,head hurts

So I thought I'd keep up this blog especially for my homebrew friends. I thought maybe writing down what I learn will help me study and I'm sure people'd be curious. That's not going to happen; there's just too much info. We spent 3/4 of the day on barley before we even touched on malt. That's six hours of farming knowledge. I woke up with a cold too.

What may tickle homebrewer's brains: premature yeast flocculation can be related to the amount of CO2 present around the barley during the germination phase although no one knows why. During the dormancy phase of the barley, the plant acts kinda like a mammal; it respires O2 and releases CO2 instead of the other way around. That's why proper removal of CO2 in the steeping tanks is important.

Gushing in the final product can be attributed to too much percentage of barley infected with fusarium head blight (a fungal pest that plagues corn, barley and wheat). It causes a deoxynivalenol or DON (vomitoxin) which is carcinogenic and withholds free CO2 into the finished beer causing the bottle to gush. If your barley is infected with DON, and you try to sell it as feed, animals tend to vomit, hence the name.

All of these problems can be avoided by buying malt from a GOOD maltser who has sound malting practices and buys only barley with a 95% germination rate. No more discount malt, eh?

BTW, we're touring Briess here soon, I'll try to sneak my camera in.

Officiating dictates Super Bowl XLIII to the unreviewed end - Shutdown Corn... - NFL - Yahoo! Sports

Officiating dictates Super Bowl XLIII to the unreviewed end - Shutdown Corn... - NFL - Yahoo! Sports

I'm a bitter Seahawks fan. The refs gave Super Bowl XL to the Steelers too.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ray Daniels and Super Bowl

Here's a classroom shot at Siebel. Lots of history here that I'll try to record as much as possible. Note the head shots of Augy Busch III class of '61 and John Maier class of '86. The Siebel bier stube is a bar that dates back to the beginning of the school. VP Keith informed us that everyone that has ever been at class there has had quite a few beers at this bar. Stroh, Pabst, all the Busch family and many more. On tap was Bud American Ale and Sam Adam's Boston Lager. Not the highlight of the brew scene for me, but hey, the New Glarus guys dropped off a ton a beers for sampling as well. I met Ray Daniels; he'll be teaching for a week. All of the students were a bit star-struck.

I expected the students would be from breweries but only a few were. Most were entrepreneurs like myself and I found myself talking about the business side of brewing more than the brewing. One thing we all had in common was official beer-geekdom. One fellow sighed, looked around and said, "Well, now I know why people dress up at Star Wars conventions." Many of the students were from the west coast including three from Seattle, myself included. After the meet and greet we went across the street to Goose Island to watch the Steelers cheat their way to another Super Bowl win.

Shirts on Sheffield

My room is small and shakes with the passing trains. If you're familiar with the brown line heading north just before the Belmont and Clark stop, you may remember the house/business that says "Shirts on Sheffield". I can wave at the passers by. Antoine and his girlfriend Claire welcomed me this morning with a tray of coffee mugs, sugar and cream. It was just another line on the list of hospitality and warm friendship these two have. It's strange to stay in a little, old house in Chicago. Seattle's housing is small I believe because the land is so hilly and landlocked in beautiful water. Chicago is totally the other end of the spectrum. There is not even a whisper of inclination let alone a hill is in this land. Storms in Seattle can come in overnight and surprise everyone or promised snow may not come at all. In Chicago, you can see the weather coming from Canada days before it hits. It can be predicted to the hour. Building and streets here are massive. Most streets, even side streets, can be four or five lanes with parking on each side and large sidewalks. The theater in Oldtown is literally four times the size of the Paramount in Seattle. I feel like an ant. One can see a destination just a few blocks away, but it still takes what feels like forever to walk it. Everyone mentions the great public transport, and it is! But darn if it's not expensive to get around. $2.25 per trip on bus or the L with a two hour $.25 transfer. Getting a day pass at $5.75 is worth the investment if you'll make more that two trips. The taxi system is far cheaper than Seattle. It is not uncommon to get honked at by a taxi when you walk out of an establishment. In Seattle, you have to call a taxi and wait sometimes for twenty minutes for the guy to charge you twenty or more buck to get home. Sheesh.