August 02, 2018

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Belgium 2018

A little over two weeks ago, Rob and I made it back from our second annual trip to Belgium. We took 9 days to make the rounds, revisiting some favourite haunts in Brussels, making it to a spot that we missed out on last time, and spending a few days exploring the countryside along the Belgium-France border. The trip was a great chance for us to take a step back from daily life at the shop & in the brewhouse; we came home with a few exciting ideas and stomachs full of beer & cheese.

To keep this blog post from turning into a novel, I’m going to embed that we used to track our trip at the bottom of this post. It includes layers for our brewery stops, beer-centric bars & restaurants, the hotels we stayed at, and the places we missed out on.

HOTELS

St. BernardusNot super worth checking out this layer on the map. Our travel policy is to spend enough to be comfortable, but no more than that. We’d rather spend our money on beer & food. The only exception to the policy was our night at The Brouwershuis, a B&B tucked right in beside St. Bernardus brewery. We spent a little bit more for our night there, and were glad we did. It’s a gorgeous spot with kind hosts and a great breakfast. They also helped us coordinate a tour at the brewery.

The brewery itself was enormous. They have a production size of 40,000 hl, which they are in the process of doubling… and yet our guide referred to the company as a “small brewery” throughout the tour. This was a phenomenon we’d see later in the trip, too, at Jenlain/Brasserie Duyck. As we travelled, we figured out that this is the language of large, independently owned breweries. It has less to do with size than with family/community-focused business goals.

MISSED OUT
Girardin

As soon as you get outside of major cities, Belgian breweries operate on their own schedules. Generally speaking, this means bottle shops that are open 1-2 days a week for super limited hours, if at all. One of Rob’s very favourite pit stops was at Girardin. A family-owned brewery and farm, they offer bottle sales from their warehouse on Fridays and Saturdays (limited hours). No tastings, no tours, no nonsense. Two 750ml bottles of Girardin Black Label + a glass cost €9. We immediately found the closest picnic table and put that glass to use.

Anyway, my point is that it’s just not possible to get everywhere. This time, we missed out on a few spots on our list based on the way that brewery hours lined up with our trip plan. We’ll hit them next time.

RENTING A CAR

Au BaronBelgium is a great country to travel by train. That said, we wouldn’t have been able to get to many of the places on our list without a car. We spent a surprising amount of time driving down one-lane country roads, pulling off onto the edge of a field to let someone pass going in the opposite direction. Without a car, we wouldn’t have made it to two of our favourite brewery stops this trip:

Au Baron, a French farmhouse brewery that sits right along the Belgian border. They make excellent small-batch Biere de Garde, and have a great restaurant attached to the brewhouse that offers a full menu (a rare find) and a riverside patio. Owner/brewer Xavier Bailleux took the time to tell us about the brewery’s history (started by his father), focus, and process. The drive in and out of the countryside brewery was gorgeous.

FantomeFantôme, home of Coca-Cola drinking, politics talking, kind-hearted, badass brewer Dany Prignon. I prearranged our visit via email, and we were expecting a quick pop in to check out his brew house and pick up a few bottles. We ended up spending close to six hours with Dany, who brought us to lunch with some extended family members. Rob has long been a fan of Fantôme’s brewing philosophy (and oh-so-delicious brews, of course), and this stop - to me - was the ultimate example of Belgian hospitality.

BRUSSELS

Don’t rent a car to use in Brussels. Driving in this city sucks. Otherwise, it’s an awesome place. Get on a bus on Sundays and head out to Grote Dorst for an unmatched bottle selection and the nicest people. Check out Booze n’ Blues, our favourite dive bar: go there to sit at one of their sidewalk tables and drink a selection of De La Senne on draught or Cantillon Gueuze (+ a couple others) in bottles.

CantillonSpeaking of, WE MADE IT TO CANTILLON! The timing of Church holidays during our last trip meant that Cantillon was closed the entire time we were there. Not so this time around. We went at open, did the self-guided tour, and spent far too long in their tasting room. We also brought home as many bottles as we possibly could. Cantillon really is must-visit (ideally, on every trip).

THE WORLD CUP

La BarboteurWe aren’t big soccer/football fans, but being in Belgium and France during the world cup finals and semi-finals was awesome. We did the big public space thing once (Belgium v. France) in Ypres, Belgium. Beyond that, we tracked down beer bars & bottle shops that were showing the games, and are glad we did. La Capsule in Lille, France, is a great spot. When we got back to Brussels at the end of our trip, we were pumped to be able to watch one game at Moeder Lambic Original and the other at our favourite bottle shop, Le Barboteur.

Well would you look at that, a small novel. Honestly, this was the shortest I could make this thing while still doing the trip some level of justice. If you made it this far, thanks. Belgium is a special place; we’ll be going back.

3 Years in the Making

It happened. It feels like only yesterday that I was just hanging out in my basement, trying to hock hops and grain to the local neighbourhood kids. If you have been along for this ride you have seen me in many locations and at varying levels of stress (mostly dependent upon the supply of beer). The plan was to release this blog post prior to launching the bottle shop on Thursday, but things were a little busy and it didn’t happen. So it goes.

If you were able to get out for the launch on Thursday, it was a crazy day that I really hope you enjoyed. Our tasting room still needs to be built (oh God), so Thursday was the only day we will be serving pints at this point. You may have heard that we are still waiting on our growlers to actually show up, but we will fill a CLEAN growler that you bring in. Moving forward, the plan for the bottle shop is fairly limited hours. Fridays the bottle shop will be open 11am to 7pm, Saturdays 11am to 4pm. At this point, we will be releasing the barrel-aged sours the third Saturday of every month and they will be available until they are gone. When possible, we will be applying for SOPs on bottle release days so that the bottle shop can operate as a tasting bar while the permanent one is being built.

The homebrew shop hours are not affected. Please remember that the AGCO knows you are not to be trusted (ha!). They require us to have separate entrances and tills between the homebrew shop and bottle shop. So, we are not allowed to sell you beer in the homebrew shop because society as we know it would crumble in confusion if you thought you could buy homebrew supplies and beer at the same time. Public service announcement: please remember when you are at the grocery store that, if you see beer, it is not a replacement for milk for your children.

Quick notes on the beers from this first release:

So It Gose - 50/50 old barrel aged and fresh beer. This beer is bottle conditioned to a carb of 3.2 (if you’re not a homebrewer, think champagne). Serve very cold (2-4C) - the high carbonation lifts the sour and salt lightly off the palate and makes the beer super refreshing. So It Gose was inspired by the original release of Maverick and Gose, a collab release between Mike and Ian of GLB and Amsterdam. It was the first time I had this style and I immediately fell in love with it. This is meant to be enjoyed soon and will not necessarily benefit from additional aging.

G. Lite Foote - The original blend of this was primary fermented in a whiskey barrel. I think I was out drinking at Grand Trunk the night before and had a whiskey sour and, in a moment of genius, said to myself “Rob you are gonna make that even better.” It is a blend of multiple beers; the carbonation on this is the lowest of the three as it was inspired by a cocktail. Due to the time it spent on oranges that I bought from No Frills, there is a significant amount of pulp that made it through to the end. So be mindful when pouring. Again, it is a bottle conditioned beer and this one has potential to spend time in the cellar and develop. There are, as of the time of posting, 4 bottles of this left in the shop.

Ain’t No Sunshine - Probably my favourite of the three releases. My thought was to make a peaches and cream sour. I played around with the idea of putting additional spices in beyond the vanilla beans, but ended up not. It’s a solid 10 months on peaches with a few vanilla beans. The base for this was open-fermented and then blended with the barrel-fermented base of G Lite Foote. Then, prior to bottling, it was blended again with small amounts of 2 other beers. This can go in the cellar but it’s ready to be enjoyed right now.

Quick note on the label info:

Anything barrel-aged and sour that is released is blended with multiple beers for release, unless otherwise stated. The recipe base that is listed on the bottles is the original recipe that was used, but obviously does not include the beers that are blended into it before bottling. Just something to keep in mind.

Thanks again to everyone who came out on Thursday, and for the messages of support from those who wouldn’t make it. It was amazingly reassuring to have such support from the community.

Life is Short. Homebrew.
Rob

Guest Post: Souring the Sausage

Summary:

We made a triple-decocted sausage-spiced caramelized-first-runnings hefeweizen which blew off all its yeast, spontaneously soured and spent 5 days bottle conditioning in my oven. Then we made beer judges drink it.

Recipe Selection:

My brewing buddy Mike and I decided to brew a Spice, Herb, or Vegetable entry for the Royal Finger Homebrew Competition. To test some ideas, I made tinctures and concentrates of blueberry, ginger, cranberry and orange zest to mix into a pleasant English porter I had made earlier in the year. The results varied from undrinkable (astringent cranberry) to unpleasant (biting ginger).

Several beers and much discussion later, we started joking about making the weirdest beer we could imagine because the judges would be obliged to taste and comment on it ($7 to make Rob drink weird shit? SOLD!). I remembered a recipe in Experimental Brewing called "Bratty Brat" which is a decoction-mashed Hefeweizen with seven different spices that are used in German bratwurst (full recipe at bottom). Looking online, I couldn't find anyone willing to admit they'd made this beer. Having no tasting notes or anyone else's experience to draw on, we followed the recipe as closely as possible. The only modification we made was the addition of 8oz of acidulated malt to compensate for my rock hard tap-water.

The Brewday:

We brewed using spices from Bulk Barn (hand crushed), malt & hops from Short Finger and Waterloo tap-water decholramined with campden. The recipe calls for a single decoction to rise from a 120f protein rest up to a 150f mash, but it took us three decoctions to finally hit temperature (then a little cool water because we overshot to 156f).

 Vorlauf and fly sparging went well and, in a large stainless skillet, the first quarts of runnings were reduced to one cup of syrup-like goo that we scraped into the kettle with the rest of the wort. It was really interesting to see how thick it became; it was at least as thick as maple syrup and that was when it was still hot. A little more reduction and it would have been a malt-based hard candy.

The boil and chill were uneventful and went according to plan. A single 1/4oz Hallertau Magnum hop addition at 60 minutes and a 1/2  whirlfloc tablet at 10. The spices were added at 5 minutes and stirred in well to prevent them sticking to the sides above the fluid level. The boil was a bit foamy at first but not excessively given the 5lb of wheat malt used. Chilling was relatively quick for summer: 25 minutes to a 68f pitching temperature using a 25' copper immersion chiller.

We aerated by shaking two half-filled growlers of wort for a few minutes them dumping them into the fermenter with the rest of the wort. We pitched the 1L yeast starter that had been made the previous day using 100g DME and WLP380 Hefeweizen IV liquid yeast on a stir plate. OG: 1.058.

We also put an equal quantity of the same spices into a cup of vodka in a sealed mason jar to create the tincture the recipe suggests so we could adjust the spice level at bottling.

Fermentation:

Fermentation started within 3 hours and increased from "weak" to "active" to "very active" to "fucking berserk" over the next 24 hours. The 1/2" tube on the blowoff cap was full of rapidly moving krausen that was blowing into a gallon of Starsan in a 5 gallon bucket. The Starsan appeared to be almost boiling there was so much activity. A water bath with wet towels and ice packs were used to keep the temperature pretty steady in the 70-7f range.

By 48 hours, fermentation had slowed considerably and then practically stopped. A sample was taken on day 4 to assess progress: it was still a bit sweet and the spices strange but not unpleasant. No reading was taken and I replaced the blowoff tube with an airlock and left it another 6 days. When I emptied the blowoff bucket, I found nearly a centimeter of yeast settled in the bottom.

On day 10 the reading was 1.018 and the airlock was very slowly bubbling. Half a packet of US-05 was added to give it a kick and we left it 17 more days and checked again. Day 27 the gravity was down to 1.015 (hooray!) but the taste was kinda... sour? (oh shit)

We left it for 12 more days and bottled it to 3.2 volumes using corn sugar. It was still at 1.015 and more noticeably sour but not really bad tasting. The spices were present but very much in the background with the sourness now taking center stage. We filtered the spice infused vodka through two coffee filters and added zero, 10, 20 or 30 drops to each bottle to create a range of spice levels. Our expectations were low but we'd invested too much in the batch to abandon it without following through with bottling. 

Bottling and Baking the Beer:

We opened a bottle after two weeks at 68f. No hiss. No carbonation. Nothing has happened since we bottled it. It's drinkable but not good.

A week later we decide to dump it and crack the caps on the first case of bottles. Some of them hiss... they taste... OKish. Only a few had carbonated. We figured they were stored too cold, and maybe the other case could be saved if we heated it up a bit to wake up the yeast.

The Royal Finger competition deadline was 6 days away. The house was cold. How could I heat up an entire case of beer? Wait, I have an appliance purpose-made for heating things up! Into the oven it went! My bread-making experience had taught me that my oven light throws off enough heat to keep the oven interior around 120-130of for proofing sourdough. So, for the next 5 days, my oven was home to a case of beer and every few hours I checked the temperature and cycled the light on or off as needed to keep it in the 85-90f range.

The day before the contest deadline, the bottles had carbonated! But not all of them. Interestingly, only the bottles with no spice tincture added had reliably carbonated. Very few of the 10 drop bottles did and none of the 20 or 30 drop bottles. Perhaps one of the spices was suppressing the yeast & wild bacteria that was carbonating the bottles?

The Judgement:

We entered two bottles into the Royal Finger Homebrew Competition as "Oncle Kraut's Sour Sausage." We thought it a good idea to acknowledge the sour character of the beer to make it seem intentional. The judges were kinder than we expected: 20/50 and 24/50 with the general consensus that it was an interesting attempt but that the lactic sour flavour overwhelmed the spices and other flavours. I can't disagree with them.

Looking back on our process, what seems to have gone wrong was the massive blowoff on day 2. So much yeast was lost and the beer so lightly hopped that wild bacteria (probably lacto from the taste) were able to establish themselves and take over from the yeast. It was fortunate that much of the sugar had already been consumed by the yeast so the bacteria has less to work with and the sourness was not able to build to extreme levels.

The remaining bottles are in my garage being used occasionally for braising cabbage, onions and bratwurst.

                                                                                             

The Recipe:

The original recipe is called "Bratty-Brat" and appears on page 174 of Experimental Brewing by Drew Beechum and Denny Conn:

For 5.5 gallons at 1.057 OG, 13.8 IBU, 4.0 SRM, 5.9% ABV 

GRAIN BILL
6 lb. Pilsner malt
5 lb. wheat malt
1 lb. rye malt

MASH
Protein Rest: 124°F 20 minutes
Saccharification rest: 150°F 60 minutes (raise via decoction)

HOPS
0.25 oz Magnum | 14% | 60 minutes

SPICES
(5 minutes in boil)
1/8 tsp allspice, lightly crushed
1/8 tsp black pepper, lightly crushed
1/8 tsp caraway seed, lightly crushed
1/8 tsp celery seed, lightly crushed
1/8 tsp clove, powdered
1/8 tsp ginger, powdered
1/8 tsp nutmeg, grated

BOIL NOTES
Take the first quart of runnings and reduce to a cup, allow it to get scary dark to add a bit of smoky complexity to the beer.

YEAST OPTIONS
Wyeast 1010 American Wheat (for a neutral profile)
WLP380 Hefeweizen IV (for a mild German Hefe profile)
WLP410 Belgian Wit II (for a spicier finish)

Ferment cool and check spicing. Adjust via tincture.

                                                                                             

About the Author: 

Martin Williams is a Waterloo-based homebrewer and stay-at-home Dad. An active member of True Grist, he's also the very recent co-founder of the Mashematics Society, a tiny (3 person, 5 math degree) homebrew club. While this particular brew didn't win any accolades, Martin recently earned a gold medal and an Honourable Mention in the BOS round at Brew Slam for his "Miserable Fat Belgian Bastard" Belgian Pale Ale.

Brew-In-Review: Stalled Fermentation

Recently I ran into an issue that I have not had to deal with in the past: a stalled out fermentation. I have had quite a few homebrewers come by the shop asking why they are stuck in the mid 20’s with their wort - beer limbo liquid. Let’s get into it. When it comes to stalled fermentations there are a few easy places to start:

  • Yeast health - old yeast, poorly stored. If you did a starter, it will probably be pretty obvious if the yeast isn’t super healthy. If you didn’t, you should.
  • Yeast Starter - Did you do a starter? Sure, you can generally get away without doing one, but why risk it? You know what day you are going to brew, so make the starter happen 48 hours prior. Make sure that you have sufficient yeast available for the amount of wort and original gravity.
  • Wort Oxygen - yeast needs oxygen to kick in fermentation. There are certain brews that I do not oxygenate (most of my quick turn around sours with lactobacillus), but it’s a good general principle.
  • Fermentation Temperature - are you controlling the temp? Do you know the temp?

What Happened with my Beer?

GoseI brewed a Gose using Escarpment Lactobacillus blend and their Ontario Farmhouse - big lacto starter and what I thought was a sufficiently built up ON Farmhouse - and then I open fermented, which usually leads to a pretty rocking fermentation. My OG was 1.044 (pretty small beer). I pitched at a toasty 29C. The next day fermenter was sitting at 28C and, because it was open ferment, I was able to peek my head in and see a nice layer of krausen building on top. Went away for Thanksgiving thinking all was right in the world and came back to a fermenter at 26C, a pH of 3.3 and a gravity of 1.027. What the fork? Krausen had completely dropped out.

I was annoyed and so immediately blamed my yeast supplier for selling me faulty yeast … Ha! Kidding. No one would do that...… right? After talking to Escarpment, Richard informed me that due to the intense pH levels of my brew, I probably should have built up my starter even larger. Keep this in mind if you are playing around with sour beers with low pH. Err on the side of huge when it comes to yeast pitches.

How Did I Get it Down?

The first thing I did was get the heat on and make sure that fermentation would not continue to drift lower than 25C. If you stall out, get your beer back into the ideal temperature range for the yeast you are using.

Next thing I did, which was not pretty, was dump in a ton transferring to the barrelof BE-134 saison yeast to get my yeast count up high. Super frustrating because no one likes buying and using extra yeast. Once this was done I continued with my note taking, checking in on things every morning and sometimes in the evenings as well. I checked temperature, pH and gravity and inspected the wort for signs of krausen reforming.

In the end, krausen did reform and from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday, the beer was slowly saved. I am bummed because this was my first go with the Escarpment ON Farmhouse and now the beer is a real bastard. At the end of the day, though it’s all good because the final gravity is sitting at 1.013. Not as low and dry as I usually like my farmhouse, but I will take that over 1.027 any day.


Any success or horror stories about your own stalled fermentation experiences? Feel free to share 'em in the comments.
Life is Short. Homebrew.
- Rob.

 

Mango Dairy Jaws (Part Two)

Alright, we’re back at it for Part 2. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, here’s what you missed: NEIPA style guidelines and the brewing process for a Milkshake IPA. In this follow-up post, I’ll be focusing on what happens after brew day. Let’s get into it.

DRY HOPPING

When I first heard about the practice of dry hopping during primary fermentation, I wasn’t buying it. I have played around with it a bunch, though, and based on my own sensory I do think that it has an effect on the final beer. This could have a lot to do with just the sheer amount of hops that are used, but the main reason for the primary fermentation dry hop is biotransformation. The chemical reaction that occurs as our wort is transformed into beer can affect the end flavour of the hops we add in. We whirlpool hops to avoid full isomerization when we are looking to infuse aroma and flavour into the beer, but the high temperatures can still be a volatile environment for the aroma we are trying to maintain.

With traditional dry hopping, fermentation is in its secondary phase and so there is no chemical reaction going on to infuse the aroma and flavour into the beer. Instead, we are infusing the beer by steeping large quantities of hops. The addition of primary fermentation dry hopping impacts the finished beer in a few different ways from traditional dry hopping. If you were at the talk at TWB, these are all the words that I couldn’t pronounce properly. When we dry hop in primary the biotransformation gives us increased access to existing essential oils and compounds.

Terpenes – volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons that are found in the essential oil of plants (Hops!). Monoterpenes are in contact with the yeast during fermentation and react with the hops that we add in and, in turn, promote the fruity tropical notes that we’re looking for.

Glycosides – the release of non-volatile aromas (in our case sugars) during fermentation. Glycosides in their original form are said to be non-odorous, but when we change the environment the hops are in - boiling, whirlpooling, biotransformation - we then gain access to the odours. One scholarly report stated that it is considered the core aroma associated with hops in beer.

Thiols – fruity, sulfur-based compounds that are released and increase citrus, tropical fruit, onion and BO aromas in hops. Thiols are already present in hops and we do access them, but the addition of primary fermentation is supposed to grant us greater access.

Full disclosure: most of the information I could find online on this topic was directly linked to cannabis, not to beer. I was able to find a few scholarly journals on the subject of different types of terpenes and the role of glycosides, but to try and sum that up is a short book in itself. I was slightly frustrated while trying to dig up more information on this with regards to biotransformation as it was not often mentioned, but from what I can tell it is still a very new technique and there does not seem to be a lot of information published about it directly (at least not that is available to me at this time). There is a lot of random info on homebrew forums, which is a great start, but I was looking for a little more scientific research and was not overly successful.

OTHER ADDITIONS TO CONSIDER

Vanilla beans are very common, but I didn't use them.

Oat Milk – hey, if you are lactose intolerant, go for it! It’s a great alternative.

Fruits – lots of options here, but tropical fruits and berries seem to be the go-to. We pureed fresh mango at a rate of over a 1lb per gallon and people at the event said there could be more mango present in the mango version. When considering your fruit addition, pay close attention to your hop additions and try to have them working together in the flavours you are looking for. You can go fresh, frozen, commercial puree, or natural extracts. Each one comes with its own flavour attributes and there is not necessarily a wrong choice.

Whenever I talk about fruit, someone inevitably asks about additional alcohol points and how you calculate for it. To be honest, I don’t do it very often. As far as I am concerned, it is not a huge factor but, if you are trying to reproduce things exactly, I get it. Blend in your fruit and make sure it is properly mixed into the beer, then take a sample and measure it. Let it kick in another fermentation on the fruit sugars you have added and once it is done take another reading. Now calculate the ABV created and at it on.

It is always worth noting that the fruit you use - especially fresh - will vary from year to year. Each harvest will be different. Keep in mind that how ripe the fruit is will also significantly impact the end results. Some of the mangos we used for Dairy Jaws were not as ripe as I would have liked, which was part of the motivation to puree it all. I think this was a factor in people asking for more mango in the event version of the brew.

In the end, I blended the dry hopped and fruited versions for myself down at the shop and think the resulting beer is the best option of the three. One of my main complaints with this style is that a lot of commercial examples have no balance and in no way resemble an IPA. When putting Dairy Jaws together I wasn’t looking for booster juice in pint form. Some people love the fruit punch/booster juice style milkshake, but it’s just not my thing and I feel like it does a disservice to the base style. Something to keep in mind while you stomach the price of the hop bill. If in the end, you can only taste blackberries…. well, you see where I’m going with this.

One thing that came up at the Homebrew Hangout that I didn’t mention in the talk was the use of apple puree as a base addition for your milkshake. I didn’t dig too deep on this side, but a few professional breweries are said to be doing with Omnipollo being one of them. This was not done with Dairy Jaws, but I imagine it would work well and potentially could be a much more affordable way to increase that fruit note – apples are way cheaper than mangos!

EQUIPMENT CONSIDERATIONS

So much fucking hops and mango puree, and you need to have a way to leave them behind. Cold crashing is great, and you could also use a fining agent. I rarely do. I ferment in 15G keg fermenters and on each fermenter I have keg dip tube screens. This time around, they weren’t up to the job. I have recently brought in hop infusers for the shop. I have drilled a hole in one of them to drop the draw tube into and see if this larger screen will help with clogging. In the end, I could transfer the double dry hopped version under pressure but I was unable to transfer the mango version this way. Everything was just constantly getting clogged. I ended having to go old school and use an auto siphon. The main issue with this is that it opens the beer up to oxygen, which as we all know is the enemy at this point in the game. Whenever I do a dry hop, I purge with CO2 first and then 3 times after once the lid is closed. When I had to use the auto-siphon I was constantly blowing CO2 into the fermenter to try and keep a blanket on the beer even though the top was open.

Finally, I should mention that Culum and I brewed about 120L of Dairy Jaws. Because of all the fruit and hop additions, loss was almost 20L. Just something to keep in mind - you will not be able to get every drop out of your fermenter unless you want chunks.

Alright, we made it to the end! Any questions? Write them in the comments section below, and I’ll get back to you asap. Otherwise, happy brewing.

Cheers,
Rob

Mango Dairy Jaws (Part One)

If you made out to the Homebrew Hangout last Wednesday evening, you know that milkshake IPAs are not my favourite style. But who cares what I think?! According to the cool kids, milkshakes are the bee’s knees. With that in mind, I figured I should try it out. Please note that Dairy Jaws is my first attempt at the style. This post, and the second instalment that will follow it, should serve as a bit of a reminder for those who caught the talk, but also as a good reference point for both Milkshake IPAs and NEIPAs.

The way I look at a Milkshake IPA is that the base style is a NEIPA. Now this, I’m familiar with; I have brewed a few over the last little while and do enjoy a pint or 3 of this style from time to time. So, what are we looking for? If you have had Heady Topper from Alchemist, Susan from Hillfarmstead or Julius from Tree House, you have tried the benchmarks of this style. In a NEIPA, we are looking for hugely hop forward flavours and aromas, with an emphasis on late hop additions. In other words, less perceived bitterness than traditional West Coast IPAs. The beer should have a soft, moderately full body and a slight residual sweetness. The style is well known for its hazy appearance.

NOTE: HAZY does not mean MURKY! Make sure you dial in your pH to get the right colour. Haze is present because of the techniques we are using – high oat malt bill and less flocculating yeast. Read on for more specifics.

QUICK STYLE BREAKDOWN

Aroma

  • Malt – clean and neutral with a slight bready sweetness – NO CARAMEL
  • Yeast – neutral with a light fruity character that accents hop flavours – commonly peachy
  • Hops – intense fruits – not grassy

Appearance

  • Hazy and opaque – ideally a hazy golden colour – ranging from straw to orange
  • Should have a nice rocky head that sticks around

Flavour

  • Malt – should match the aroma
  • Yeast – fermentation shouldn’t show up too much, but light fruity esters are nice
  • High hop flavour – back to fruits – ripe tropical fruit, stone fruit and citrus
  • Bitterness can be medium to low – I would stay on the low side
  • A slight sweetness should be present, but not because of unfermented sugars.

Mouthfeel

  • Medium to full body with a smooth feel (can be enhanced by the presence of lactose).
  • No harsh astringency should be present from malts, so watch sparge temps.
  • Medium carbonation

I kept the above notes in mind when trying to create the base recipe for Dairy Jaws. There are obvious similarities between NEIPAs and West Coast IPAs, but the colour and the lack of bitterness are the keys. I have taken the original recipe and scaled it down to a 19L (5G) batch size. Follow this link Dairy Jaws Milkshake IPA or HeyZeus NEIPA.

BREWING CONSIDERATIONS

Water and pH. Dial in your pH to the 5.2-5.4 range. This is going to significantly help with colour as well as the hop aroma we are looking for. I brew with tap water that runs through a filter to pull out all the chlorine and chloramines. If you doctor your water, use an IPA base but increase the chloride level to help soften the mouthfeel up to 180-200ppm.

Malt Bill. I have played around with some very high percentages of oats, oat malt and flaked wheat (35%+) but, in the end, 20% of the malt bill being oats seems to be the ideal range. Gravity should be 1.050-1.065.

Yeast. As I said, we are looking for a slight fruity peach ester from our yeast – Dairy Jaws was brewed with Wyeast 1318 London 3. Other options include Escarpment Foggy London, Escarpment Vermont, WLP095 Burlington, WLP007 Dry English or Omega DIPA. Believe it or not, I have used all of these yeasts and my preferred at the moment are the Foggy London and the 1318 (psssst they are the same thing…)

Now the important part HOPS!
You are going to use a lot of hops to make this happen. The most commonly used varieties are the obvious ones: Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, Mandarina Bavaria, and more Citra. I’d always encourage you branch out and play around with alternate hops but, if you are trying to recreate the style for the first time, maybe start with a few of these. I always use back up hops in my hoppier styles and, in this case, there are lots of options. Anything with a C is probably a good bet - Cascade, Centennial, CTZ (Columbus) - plus Amarillo and Simcoe.

Hop Additions and Times. If you are going to add hops early in the boil, I would go FWH (First Wort Hopping); this will mellow out a bit of the bitterness and help keep it in the 20IBU range. Otherwise, for boil additions, the earliest I would add anything is 5min before flameout. For the Dairy Jaws brew, no hops were added until after flameout and whirlpooling. Note that Dairy Jaws has a perceived bitterness of 38 IBU.

Whirlpool temperatures are key. High isomerization is between 85-99C+ (185-210F). I find whirlpool a fun way to play around on brew day - the day gets pretty boring if you don’t have any hop drops! Different hops will produce different aroma and flavours if whirlpooled at different temperatures. For example, in Dairy Jaws, we whirlpooled Simcoe for 15min @ 95C (203F) in the hopes that it would produce more of its passion fruit and berry notes - not exactly what Simcoe is known for. We then used Citra and Idaho7 @ 85C (185F) for an additional 15mins to try and impart some intense citrus notes. There does not seem to be a ton of information readily available at this point about whirlpool temps and hop variety variations. To me, this is part of the fun of the style and the technique used; there are a lot of things to discover.

Now for the actual Milkshake side of things. Everything to this point is really talking about how to nail a NEIPA, but the people demand milkshakes, so let’s look at it.

For Diary Jaws, we added in lactose in the last 10min of the boil in order to create more body and a smoother mouthfeel, giving the illusion of a thick milkshake. I recommend 1lb for a 5G batch, but use your discretion. For the original Dairy Jaws brew we added less than a 1lb per 5G batch; I ended up doing a quick boil of another lactose addition that went into secondary to achieve the mouthfeel we were looking for.

Alright. This brings us to the end of brew day, and to the end of this post. Check back in a few days for a follow-up about what comes next. I’ll be chatting primary fermentation dry hopping, common additions (fruit and otherwise), and equipment considerations. Until then, happy brewing!

Cheers,

Rob

SFBC World Address

Hey all,

I wanted to take a minute or two to pass along a few important updates and ask for your feedback on a possible change to the shop. We've got three things to cover: 

ONE

If you haven't checked the website in a little bit, I have finally updated the events section and would like to invite you all out to the Homebrew Hangout on July 26th @ Kick-Off Sports Bar in Waterloo. It runs from 7:30-9:30pm. This month’s hangout is featuring Kevin Freer, head brewer at Block 3 Brewing in St. Jacob's. Kevin and I did a collab brew on their Blichmann BrewEasy system back in June in preparation for this event.  We brewed a sour ale that is hopped with the new Cryo hops (which I am hopefully bringing in for the shop very soon). I am particularly excited about this hangout because, if you haven’t noticed, my go-to style has been sour lately. Kevin is going to do a talk on kettle souring techniques and quick sours. He is a great resource on this topic and an excellent speaker, so I highly recommend getting down early and bringing some questions for him. 


TWO (+ feedback request)

bulk grain binWe are planning some fundamental changes in how SFBC moves forward with grain selection. There are more than a few pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together at this point, but before we move too quickly ahead I thought I would check in with everybody and make sure this change would be something that would be advantageous (or at least acceptable) to the community. Essentially, I am getting tired of repacking grain all day and would like to move towards a more efficient way of pulling malts through a Bulk Barn-style service. As a customer, you would be able to come in and weigh out your malts by the gram rather than selecting the 1 and 4lb options. This would allow people to select the exact amount of malt needed for any given brew day. The plan currently is for this option to only be available in store; the online service would remain the same using 1 and 4lb bags. This way, if you don’t want to come in and pick your own malt, you can still order online and come in later that day to grab your order and keep moving. Have thoughts on this change? Please let us know in the comments section below, or by emailing me at rob@shortfingerbrewing.com. Your feedback is important - we're not into making changes that won't be positively received by this great homebrew community.

THREE

Lastly: Our next homebrew competition is coming. Kat is putting together the full competition page this week, and registration will open once it is up. Keep an eye on social media - she'll let you know as soon as we're up and going. This time around, we're working with Royal City Brewing Co. on a BJCP sanctioned event. In an effort to keep things manageable, we're capping entries at 100. The styles included in this competition will be as follows: 

4 - Pale Malty European Lager 
8 - Dark European Lager
10 - German Wheat Beer 
13 - Brown British Beer
19 - Amber and Brown American Beer 
27 - Historical Beer
30 - Spiced Beer

The entry and bottle submission deadline will be Saturday, October 14. Judging will take place on October 21/22, and we're aiming for an awards ceremony in Guelph the following weekend. We'll keep you posted on the details as we iron them out. In the meantime, happy brewing. 

LIFE IS SHORT. HOMEBREW.

- Rob 

Prototype Brew #1

brew dayWhere to begin… I have been slacking on blog posts lately.

Let’s start with: it felt really good to finally knock out a brew on the prototype system. Feels like I haven’t had any time to actually brew lately and that sucks.

In terms of the first brew day as a whole, I can’t really complain. That said, it wasn’t truly a full run through. First off, I only used two of the three vessels. I ran a no sparge brew, which is a first for me. Essentially running a very soupy mash. I decided to do a split batch brew and run the system at half capacity. Total yield for the day was 105 liters (pretty small). The mash build up was 80% 2 Row, 17% Cdn. Wheat and 3% Acid malt. The batch was split in to two fermenters; half was inoculated with Escarpment Foggy London and the other with Saison 2 from White Labs.

The fun part of this brew was that I decided to play around with the Tavistock lupulin powder that Kyle dropped off.  75grams at 10min and 400g for whirlpool. The only reason I did this for the prototype brew is because we weren’t running the full system and so it isn’t quite an accurate measure of what the system will be doing on a regular brew day. It was nice to be able to play around with the powder fairly risk free. That being said the target gravity was 1.058 and I hit 1.057. To be honest, I didn’t hate the no sparge method. It seemed a little weird, but numbers and volume were all on point.  The main goal of the run was to look for any glaring issues and determine how well the false bottom performed.
Main issues for the first brew day.

  • If you have been in the back room and looked at the prototype system, you'll know that there are ports all over the place. I was short a couple clamps and caps to run the full set up so this was why I ran the 2 vessel.
  • The pump on hand is not up the job – can’t really complain as I got it for free.
  • Chilling through the Therminator took for F’in ever.
  • Mash went well, took a little while to clear but an alternate pickup manifold under the false bottom should take care of this.

This week, after the brew, I spent a lot of time spending a lot of money on new fittings, a new pump and discussing working out the design for our counter flow chiller as well as all the hard piping to run the system (still working on this). If you start a brewery, buy twice as many clamps and valves as you think you will need… this shit is not cheap. 

What I have discovered from this adventure to fully build my own system and design it with Greg is that it would have been a lot quicker and easier to buy one… but do I care? Not really, because I have enjoyed the hands-on side of setting the back room up. That being said, every time someone walks in the door and says "hey, I heard you were a brewery," I kind of laugh and say "well, sort of." I am in the process of trying to build one from scratch. If you ask me for a timeline, I am still trying to open the doors before the LRT (ION) is cruising through the Tri-cities in 2020, but I will make no promises. The other thing I have learned repeatedly with starting my own business is just how much I don’t know. That list seems to get bigger every day, and it is super enjoyable to be constantly challenged and forced to learn new things. Working in a brewery is not the same as trying to start your own from scratch, as it turns out.

fermenterWe will be hosting our final event in the back room for May’s Homebrew Hangout on the Wednesday the 31st before I start some further construction and then fill the room with fermenters and other equipment. This will be our Annual Big Bottle Share event. It was one year ago in May that we hosted our first Bottle Share Homebrew Hangout in the front room before I filled it with shit and so it seems fitting that, before I fill the back room with shit, we should do the same. Where the annual event will be in 2018, I don’t know – maybe our barrel storage facility? This Homebrew Hangout will not have a feature talk but it will feature the first beers brewed on the system: Proto1 and Proto2. Hope to see you all out, and can’t wait to share some Homebrew.

Life is Short.
Homebrew.

- Rob

March 17, 2017

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local pick-up ›   store news ›   update ›  


Store Closure: March 21-24

Hey all, 

Just wanted to post a quick reminder that we'll be closed from March 21-25, 2017. After two and a half years of working to build Short Finger, it's finally time for a bit of a break. What can we say? We're tired. With that in mind, here's what you need to know: 

1. Our amazing friend Tymm will be keeping the shop open for us on Saturday, March 18 and Saturday, March 25. THANKS TYMM! 

2. During Rob's absence, local pickup of online orders will be unavailable. Especially on the 25th, after a few days out, we just can't ask Tymm to pack up the volume of orders that we receive AND provide great customer service in store. Instead, please pop by to say hello and do some shopping. He'd be happy to help you put together a recipe (or a mashtun).
Note: Orders placed during this week will be available for pick-up when the shop reopens on March 28. 

3. Milling will be unavailable from March 18-25, inclusive. That beast is finicky, and we're giving it one week vacation. 

4. Shipping will also be unavailable from March 18-25. Orders placed during this period will be shipped out on Monday, March 27. 

We apologize for any inconvenience that this store closure may cause; thanks for your patience & support.

Cheers!

Brewing Local, Part 1: Hops

Note: This post was originally published as a feature in the February 2017 issue of the Community Edition. It is available online here.

                                                                                          

It’s no surprise that the recent flood of small craft breweries in Ontario has led to the rise of related industries. Escarpment labs in Guelph is Canada’s first liquid yeast lab, and companies like Harvest Hop and Malt and Barn Owl Malt are offering Ontario grown grain. Hop growers are popping up all over the province, too, but breweries have been slower to make the switch to local hops, which are used to add bitterness and aroma to beer. Local Hops

The challenges of going local are very real. Hops are terroir driven, meaning that elements like topography and climate play a significant role in the development of the crop. Cascade hops from Oregon will be noticeably different from those grown in, say, Australia. Same deal for those grown right here in Waterloo region.

This can be problematic for brewers who are after the telltale grapefruit characteristic of the American variety. On a more technical level, it can also impact the amount of alpha and beta acids in the cones, which affect bitterness and aroma. When it comes to brewing, consistency is key. Thankfully, there are workarounds.

Culum Canally, worker/owner at Together We’re Bitter Co-operative Brewing, explains their system for managing quality: “As far as consistency of the hops are concerned, we will use local hops to a greater or lesser degree and blend them in with hops from more established growing regions like the Pacific Northwest to ensure that we maintain a consistent flavour profile in our beer.”

Wynette FamilyMost literature on hops suggests that it takes about three years for plants to mature to the point that the cones are suitable for use in brewing. But with nature involved, that certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule. As an example, Kyle Wynette from the Tavistock Hop Company (pictured on the left) points to the difficulty that growers have had in getting the Centennial varietal established on this side of the continent. While his alpha acids are consistently within range, yields have been low. Considering that Ontario is home to over 200 operating breweries, with another hundred in the planning stages, small yields are problematic.

The Ontario Hop Growers Association lists 61 member farms in their directory. Unfortunately, the listing doesn’t provide details about the age or size of most farms, so it’s hard to get an accurate sense of what’s really out there. Of those growers that do list their acreage, many are farming less than a few acres of crop. In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, for comparison, hop farming accounts for over 40,000 acres in the state of Washington alone. We’ve got some growing to do.

With twelve acres planted and more planned, Wynette’s strategy is to work with fewer brewers to make sure that the supply is consistent in terms of quality and availability. This plan speaks to the needs of brewers like Kevin Freer, who emphasizes the challenge of sourcing local hops in a province where the hop supply just can’t meet the demand.

Tavistock HopsSpeaking about his desire to increase the use of local hops at Block Three Brewing Co, where he is head brewer, Freer mentioned the advantage of being able to work closely with growers who are able to plan for the needs of the brewery and tailor their growth accordingly. 

This seems to be the key. Local growers offer the kind of personal relationship that can’t be had with hop suppliers south of the border or across the ocean. Wynette and the crew at Tavistock deliver all of their hops personally, and stress the importance of developing close relationships with their customers.

But change has been slow. For the most part, local hops are still something of a novelty, to be used on special occasions and with a specific purpose in mind. Breweries like Innocente and Abe Erb have partnered up with local growers in the past, for example, to brew harvest-season favourite wet hopped ales.

In November, Together We’re Bitter partnered up with the Tavistock Hop Co. to develop a heritage beer that honours the history of hop growing in Waterloo Region. They were able to use hops that Wynette propagated from more than 100-year-old plants found on the site of the former Preston hopyards, a farm that was active prior to Prohibition.

Brewing LocalLater this month, breweries from across Ontario will participate in the fifth annual Great Ontario-Hopped Craft Beer Competition, which partners them up with a local grower. Among others, Block Three, Wellington and Elora Brewing Co. are slated to compete.

One-off brews are great for raising awareness about local hops but, if the industry is going to succeed, there will need to be a bigger commitment on the part of craft brewers. Thankfully, a few breweries have already taken the plunge. TWB uses Tavistock Cascade and Centennial in a few of their staple hoppier offerings, for example, while Wellington Brewery’s Kickin’ Back Dry-Hopped Session Ale is made exclusively with hops from Clear Valley Hops in Nottawa.

Looking ahead, it’s all about balance. Growers need to take the required time to establish a viable and consistent crop, while breweries need to show support by starting to move away from their reliance on imported hops. If everyone plays their part, we should soon be able to attribute the bitterness of our favourite local IPAs to nearby growers.

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