Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aging of Beer

When I first came to Germany I noticed right away that the beer tasted different than in the States. It tasted clean and fresh, with good hop character and a tasty malt profile. While traveling through Belgium and the Netherlands I've noticed that the Belgian style beers either taste the way they do in the States or a little different.

In the States the dominant character of Belgian beer in my mind is the yeast. It adds all the esters, light fusals, phenols, and the typical bready flavor. What I wasn't ready for when I tried my first fresh Belgian beer is that the hops are very forward in most styles. They're bitter! Also the lack of aging allows fresh malt character I'm not used to in a Belgian beer.

To tell the truth, I like the aged Belgian beers that I get in the States compared to the same product only a few weeks old. And that leads me to my question if anyone is still reading this beer blog:

How do you store your beer? Why do you celler beer? What kinds of beer do you celler and what do you think it'll achieve? What's your oldest beer? Will you invite me over to drink your oldest beer?

I've been in the school of thought that beer should be drank fresh and only Lambics should be aged. However, two of my favorite Belgian beers, Westmalle's tripel and dubbel, I can say taste far better a little old.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gastronomical delight

After a long day of walking lost around Amsterdam, Shanna and I are staying in to catch up on the sleep we missed on the overnight train. Right now Shanna's making pancetta pasta with onions, mushrooms and arrabbiata sauce and I'm finishing a Westvleteren 8.

The 8 smells of figs and cherries just like a well aged barleywine. The subtle oxidation that makes this sherry-like nose is one of my favorites. It appears dark brown and has plenty of yeast floaties in it. The taste is strongly carbonated, sweet and delicious. Not phenolic or fusel, it has big esters that coat the mouth. It's a delicious beer. It reminds me of a very good bottle of Chimay Grande Reserve. Although this may be considered a dubbel, I would lump it in the dark strong catagory. Sure it has the lower alcohol %, but the warming flavor, lack of intense caramel flavors and well aged caracteristics move me toword the the dark strong.

Shanna's having a Westmalle Tripel right now. We also got the Westvleteren 12, Brew Dog Paradox Islay and a Danish porter named Hamer and Sikkel by De Molen. The Brew Dog is a islay casked imperial stout. Mmmm Mmm.

We've also been treating ourselves to raw milk Cambert, Buffalo Mozzarella, Swiss Appenzeller, authentic Landjager, and of course chocolate. Tonight we're eating Mozart balls for dessert with the White Widow.

Goodbye Munich!

Sorry I've not been keeping up the blog so well. The traveling made it very difficult and now the screen on my laptop is broken. Oh well, I'll keep chiming in as much as I can with the hotel/hostel computers.

We had a fun graduation on Friday; Lyn from Siebel flew out to Bavaria to hand us our diplomas. We got to sample our horrible wheat beers and our IPA. Later that night I met up with Shanna, (finally!), and we went to join the rest of the fellas at Augustiner Keller for some liters and some goodbyes. I've spent more time with these guys in the last three months than I do my best friends in a few years. Although at times I got really sick of them (and them of me), I know that I made some great friends for the rest of my life. Now if only there were some yearly beer festival held in the center of the country that we could all meet up at...?

Shanna and I had a wonderful three days in Munich. We ran into Nick Phelps and Annie at Dachau and ended up at St. Jakobus in Polach for a beer. Now we're in Amsterdam on a house boat were we'll stay through Queen's Day. Queen's Day is like St Patrick's Day but you wear orange instead of green. After Amsterdam we'll be going through Belgiam and on to Paris to meet up with friends and fly home.

I'll try to blog some more beer geek stuff, but for now I'm just relaxing.

Ta Ta for now,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Uerige Alt homebrew recipe

While at Uerige, I "came" up this homebrew recipe. John, one of the brewers there who happens to be a Siebel grad, didn't help me with it. I promise. This is the most popular alt in Dusseldorf and happens to be very bitter with tons of hop character. Sorry for the metric, it's just how we do things here.

Uerige Alt:

for 42Liters (around 11 US gallons) assuming 90% effeciancy

6.72 kg Weyermann Bohemian Pils malt (slightly undermodified)
170 grams Weyermann CaraMunich II
170 grams Weyermann Carafa III
mash schedule: direct heat step mash
infuse at 1:4 ratio to 45C and immidiatly heat to 52C for protein rest. Hold for five minutes.
Heat to 64 and rest for 30 minutes beta rest.
Heat to 72 and rest for 15 minutes. Check iodine before continuing.
Heat to 78 for mash out.

Boil for only 60 minutes with slow boil.
80 grams Hallertau Perle 8.25% at 50 min
20 grams Spalter Spalt 4.75% at 10 min
20 grams Spalter Spalt dry hop in secondary for three weeks at 4C.

Use moderatly hard water, not Seattle tap.
Pitch large amount of Wyeast's 1007 German Ale yeast to 20C aerated wort. Allow to free rise to 26C and hold for 18 hours or when ferment is done. Approx. 77% attenuation. Attempt to follow Reinshietsgebot for show.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


From Dusseldorf we headed to Cologne for a tour of Rastal the glass designers. In a country of automation, it was refreshing to see a place with few robots controlling their product. If Rick from Uber is reading this, I'd like to tell him that I saw next years SIB/PIB glasses being made. It is a small world after all. After Rastal we left to see a Kolsh brewery in all of its automative glory. This brewery was unique in that it didn't employ a boil kettle rather it utilized a few mixing tanks that held the wort at near boiling temps for hop utilization and formation of break material and then sent the wort to an evaporator to expel the DMS. Later, we found the largest church I've ever been in and were spellbound for at least an hour.

On the subject of automation, I've been told that the reason the German people are so cutting edge in the field of automation is that after the war most of their workforce was absent. In the early fifties, bottling lines were mostly filled with women. The need for automation was born out of necessity.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bavaria Brewing and La Trappe

We stayed in Tilburg, Netherlands for a few nights. During the day we toured the Malting facility at Bavaria Brewing in the Netherlands. It was the first large-scale malthouse that I've been to. However, no pictures were allowed there.

After a nice lunch we headed up to La Trappe for the last monastery tour of our trip. Unlike Orval, the beer made at La Trappe doesn't separate their brewhouse and their monastery. It wasn't uncommon to see Kenyan monks walking around with bundles of house made cheese. Profits from the beer sales go to charity in Africa, and the monastery serves as a refuge for monks during the war in Africa.

La Trappe is the only "Trappist" brewery located outside of Belgium. Originally located in France, the monastery was re-located during anti-religious movements under Napoleon. It's also known as Koningshoven.

That night was spent in downtown Tilburg gorging ourselves over the 200+ beer menu at Cafe Kadinsky. We also were in the Netherlands...nuff said?

Next day we were off to Dusseldorf. I've seen quite a few Altbier breweries. It's funny but I thought that Alt and Kolsch were just styles that came out a certain region. In truth, Alt is the only beer you can purchase at most places with the exception of Pils. Don't even think about ordering a Kolsch in Dusseldorf! Not if you want to get a punch in the face. The opposite is true about Koln. We travel there tomorrow after touring the Uerige brewery. We met one of the new brewers for Uerige, John, who happens to be an American graduate of Siebel. John took us to a football game to watch Fortuna Dusseldorf lose to FC Union Berlin.

Tonight I'm having a Dortmunder Union Export and catching up on some computer time. I was always curious about the Dortmunder style of beer. The only import I can find in the states is DAB. DAB tastes more like a Pilsner/Helles than how the style guidelines dictate. Great Lakes makes an award winning Dortmunder, but after the three kegs of it at Siebel I thought the beer was terrible. It tasted bitter with no hop aroma or flavor and sweet. Definitely not a sessionable beer for me. It seems that the Dort I'm having tonight is my first real Dort. Well, I'm not wowed. I get the hard water thing, and it's tasty, but boring. Oh well, maybe my love affair with this style is over. If anyone can email me a brand of Dort I should try I would appreciate it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cantillion and Heineken

Cantillion is located in the ghetto end of Brussels. The Brewery is actually a museum although they still brew there once a week only in the winter. Beer is produced only in the coldest parts of the year because they employ an coolship in the attic to cool their wort. After cooling, the wort is sent to a open fermenter for fermentation. You can guess that many bacteria can become present with a week of open and spontaneous fermentation. After a week of fermentation, the beer is moved to used wine barrels where it's stored for a year at the very least. The barrels are used until they fall apart. Refermetation occurs in the barrels sending foam out of the bung. Spiders are welcome in the brewhouse because of the excess of fruit flies. Aside from the spiders, the house cat shown here takes care of other pests. We call her the CIP or CAT system.

The whole place smells dank with the exception of the barrel storage and fermentation room that smells of yeast. The smell of yeast is so strong that it's no wonder that spontaneous fermentations occurs so rapidly. The fruit is added to the lambic in the summer months when brewing is not held but fruit crops are matured. The fruit is added directly to the barrels, stored for six months and bottled. The brewers here suggest not storing the fruit lambics because the flavor is best at bottling. However, the geuze can be stored with excellent results.

The Heineken brewery in Tilburg was easily the largest brewery I've been in. They used a double-decker bus to show us the facility. Every part of the brewing process was automatized. The workers never come close to touching the product as it's being made. We were not permitted to take pictures. The contrast between Cantillion and Heineken was staggering. I would personally brew at a dirty museum than an immaculate, computerized factory. Cantillion produces 3,300hl of beer per year while the Tilburg brewery (one of many Heineken breweries) produces over 8 million hl.

Oh yeah, check out a video of Cantillion at my friend Geoff's page:

Bofferding and Orval

On the second day we went to Bofferding in Luxembourg and Orval in Belgium.

Orval is a small monastery in Belgium making only one beer. The beer is produced once a week. We got to see all the new equipment next to all the old. In 2007 the monastery purchased new equipment. So next to the old copper kettles are new stainless kettles covered in copper for appearance. Also, their beer is dry hopped! This was quite exciting for our American brewers.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First day of the study tour

It's the first day of the study tour through Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Our first stop was the OeTtinger Brewery to see the largest brewery in Germany. These guys produce 8 million hectoliters of beer per year and sell their beer at a near loss to take advantage of the frugal market. When on sale, some of their beer will sell for 4euro a case (ten liters!).

Well, cheap beer is cheap beer if you ask me. After a fantastic lunch, we were off to the original KHS plant where they manufacture filling stations. It was incredibly huge for a plant that doesn't supply washers or labelers. The kind folks at KHS fed us and gave us beer (see a trend with the Germans?). They showed us where the anti-aircraft guns were stationed during the war when their plant was leveled to the ground. Tune in tomorrow; I'll be at Orval.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Easter Sunday Gordon, Craig, Nick and I went hiking up the Bavarian Alps in the small skiing city of Garmisch. Although the hike was only 1,000 feet in elevation, we were worn out from following nearly every other trail before finding the trailhead. It does help to learn some German before you travel.

It was a clear 70 degree day and as we approched the top we were dreaming of biergartens again. Jokingly, we said it would be great if their were a biergarten at the top.

Well, to our suprise, there was one. We had some Weissbier and hung out in the sun before heading back into town.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gearing up for the study tour

Yup, like I've been saying, our class is starting a rock band and have chosen this picture of us with bikes as the first cover. Our internet has been off and on so I've had a hard time keeping up the blog. That and I've been having too much fun to play on the computer.

Last week at Doeman's is finally over. We've just finished the final exam and I feel confident that I passed.

Last Wednesday, Matt from Firestone Walker brewing flew out here to give a day seminar on hops. He also shipped sample beer from California. Most everyone was excited to taste the overly hopped US beers, except the Brazilian students. We had a liter of Augustiner at the Kellerhall and talked shop after class.

The weekend before a few of us traveled to Nuremberg. We traveled through the Coliseum and Zeppelin field where Hitler held his massive Nazi rallies. Walking into the Coliseum was chilling. It was run down, full of shrubs and birds. A haunting thunder rolled in on rain clouds when we entered. There is a museum inside and a small platform to view the massive enclosure. The coliseum is mainly used for storage.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More updates from Bayern!

This week was spent using a DE filter on our beer and in the bottling plant packaging. Working on the filling side of the beer industry is not very interesting to blog about.

On Thursday we got a chance to brew again. Our teacher Eder nabbed some American hops from HopUnion while in the States so that we could show these German students how IPAs are made. Eder's expression while we added large handfuls of Centennial every five minutes was priceless.

I also found my favorite beer: Augustiner Lagerbier Hell. Liters of this delicious lager cost only 5.20euro at the Braustube. Half of the Munchiners prefer this beer and the other half prefer the export version Edelstoff.

Export lager is another style worthy of consideration.

There are basically two types of export beer: type 1 is very pale(7-9 ebc) and dry. Final attenuations of up to 86%(Augustiner Edelstoff) and a bitterness of up to 30BUs. The increase of alcohol and bitterness balance the dryness. Type 2 is higher in color (12ebc) and lower in final attenuation (80%). Because this beer is slightly sweeter, the bitterness is also lower (18-26BUs). If Dortmunder were still being brewed, it would fit into this category. However, most Dortmunder beers being made are moving toward the Bavarian Pils style which is more acceptable to a large audience.

Another point I would like to make: Bavarian Pils is not really "Pilsner". Sure it's stronger, dryer and made with soft treated water, but the brewers in Bavaria have been lowering the bitterness for the south German palate and calling it Pils. BUs on this sub-category dip dangerously down to 18-20. The trend for more boring beer is here in Germany just like in the States. Northern German and Bohemian styles have anywhere from 35-50. Flensburger Pils I know from experience is 44BUs. That's quite hoppy for a dry lager!