Beaglethorpe Brew Co. Gravity Fed Goodness

Beaglethorpe Brew Co. Gravity Fed Goodness, Sacramento, CA"

Ladies and gentlemen, I give thee Beaglethorpe Brew Co.

Homebrewers love to show off their ghetto-ass rigs, the mad-max glued-together monstrosities that lead their neighbours to believe they are secretly crafting methamphetamines or building bombs for the Queda.

The process is actually relatively simple. Hombrewers shall recognize. The water goes in the liquor tank, the highest keg converted into a kettle (keggle), then when it reaches the right temp for my mash it goes into the orange cooler mash tun with the grain (grist) for the mash, usually for about hour or so. There is a false bottom in the cooler that filters out the  grains and leaves sweet wort to go to to the boil kettle, also a converted keg.  I batch sparge, meaning I run hot water over my grain after the mash to rinse the residual sugars and get my appropriate amount of wort for my boil. I usually make ten gallon batches of my house pale ale and six gallon batches of whatever seasonal heaviosity my wife is hankerin’. During the boil, I add a bunch o’ hops to give it the bitter and floral goodness. Then, after the boil, I run it through that little plate chiller resting on the corner of the table. He’s connected to a garden hose, and through the wonders of thermodynamics, he brings it from boiling to yeast pitching temperature. From there it goes into the fermentation fridge/closet.

It’s that simple. Shit ain’t rocket science.

“I tell you one thing, he’s not building a playhouse for the children.” – Tom Waits

Hop Backlash Inevitable

January 24, 2009

Year One Of Beaglethorpe Brew Co.'s Homegrown Cascade Hops

Beaglethorpe Brewery's First Year Homegrown Cascade Hops

Maybe you’ve heard the murmurs among your beer snob compatriots. Perhaps you yourself have wondered it aloud over your twenty dollar cheeseburger and Alpha King.  Time was, if you weren’t a hop head, then you weren’t part of the cool kids club, you certainly had no balls, and were likely a sabateur sent by BMC (Budweiser-Miller-Coors) to crash our party. The hop shortage and subsequent price hike of the magical flower didn’t just raise the prices of our beer, it cut the hair off our Samson strength like so many InBev Delilahs. And many of us paid the extra dough. And craft brewers kept cramming as many hops into their homemade hopback contraptions. All trying to out hop eachother. Randall the enamel animal?

One of my first batches as a homebrewer was an ungodly quadruple IPA that split Pliny the Elder’s tongue. I was so proud of my monstrous child, that when my friends cringed, I laughed at their lack of fortitude, and I ran over to Sam Caglione at Dogfishead we chest bumped each other in mutual man love before brushing our teeth with Magnum Hop oil extract.

Garret Oliver, the man behind the scenes at Brooklyn Brewery, Iron Chef judge, and all around  Beer Ambassador to the world once compared over-hopping one’s beer to over-salting one’s food.  Foolish comparison, tis true. The smell of that magical blend of Hops wafting from a Stone Ruination is one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had as a beer obsessive. It was love at first taste, certainly not a sentiment I’ve ever felt while drinking one of Brookyln Breweries foul excuses for the sacred beverage. But the man has a point.

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Beer is made from Water, Malt, Hops, and Yeast, and sometimes some other stragglers as well. And it’s important to bring everyone to the party. One of the best tools I’ve ever discovered as a brewer was this Gravity/Hops Ratio chart over at Homebrewtalk.com. Brewers know that the more fermentables you put into a beer, the higher your gravity, and the more alpha acids from hops you put into your beer, the higher your IBU’s. Some hops have higher alpha acid contents than others, and the longer you boil them, the more bitterness you extract. Some hops are better suited to this than others; Stone’s Arrogant Bastard wouldn’t be so arrogant without a 90 minute boil of Chinook hops, alpha acid bombs. However, hops also contribute that wonderful hop floral aroma as well.This hop aroma dissipates the longer you boil them, so brewers hop burst, drop massive quantities in at the end of the boil, or dry hop, dropping hops right into the fermenter or even keg. Some are better suited to this than others; beers generously dry hopped in amarillo smell like fresh sunbursts of citrus bubblegum marijuana heaven. This complicates this whole idea of hoppiness. When you say you like hoppy beer, do you mean you like it bitter, floral, or both?

American and English Pale Ales and IPA’s seem to exemplify this confusion. American IPA’s have gone hop mad, some using First Wort Hopping, Hop Bursting, and Dry Hopping to get truly high levels of hop aroma. Traditional English IPA’s are very bitter, with some hop aroma in the finish. The best of both seem to understand that the secret to a great IPA is not hops alone, but hops and malt, working in harmony. Beers that balance their gravity and their bitterness, are drinkable. And I don’t mean drinkable like light, I mean drinkable like I can drink a lot of it.

So the next time you drink your favorite regional brewery’s finest, ask that loving pint where it falls on the following chart. If you’re lucky, your brewery will tell you the Original Gravity in the IBU’s, and you can see how they pull that shit off.

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Windell Is Also Surprised That People Drink Miller High Life Light

Miller High Life and its  working class hero, supposedly lovable delivery dude,  Windell Middlebrooks, are going to be running one-second long advertisements during the SuperBowl. You’ll remember his cherubic chocolate features from such feel good High Life commercials as “Hey rich whitey, you are charging too much for beer. That’s just wrong. I’m giving it back to people with integrity” as well as some of the better Hannah Montana episodes.

A  30-second commercial typically costs $3 million during the Super Bowl, making the one-second ads something akin $100,000. I’m guessing the commercial will have something to do with how the economy is forcing Windell to buy only a thirtieth of a Super Bowl commercial, and we can relate to that because we are poor.

One second will be long enough to make me thirsty, I guess. I wonder if he’ll take his shirt off.

Either way, I’ll never understand why Miller High Life abandoned the incredibly moving commercial spots directed by Errol Morris. Tear.

Beer Lore: Saison Dupont

January 23, 2009

2879340335_42f84fc095_bThe Dupont brewery, nestled in the Hamlet of Tourpes, within the french-speaking Hainaut region of Belgium, is light enough to quench a farmer’s copious thirsts, yet mightily flavorful and complex enough to put to  shame any bullshit “summer ale” put out by any hack American Brewery. Saison as a beer style is emblematic of the hardworking people of the country, and was designed by farmers for farmers to quench their thirst after sweating over cow haunches during the hot summer months.  Dupont’s classic version  epitomizes the style and is reportedly made with pilsener malt, cane sugar, and hallertau hops.  High fermentation temps of up to 90 degrees push the hard to attenuate yeast to its limit, fermenting the beer in three days and causing fruity skronk notes and a dry effervescent finish. The beer is then bottled with a different strain of yeast that gives a magnificent head out of its champagne bottle and rocket top worthy of a theatrical murder. Though, one can smell wasps of pepper, coriander, anise, or orange Peel, prominent spices that other brewers tend to add to their saison recipes, Dupont’s brewers firmly assert that all of these aromas come from their yeast, and that other brewers are just playing with themselves. Saison Dupont is widely considered to be idealized version of this hallowed beverage.

When in Belgium be  sure to check out the Dupont Brewery and Cheese Cremery, which pretty much encompasses the entire rural village surrounding it, with its statue of St. Arnold, patron saint of brewers, and small brewery cafe,  “Les Caves”, directly across the street. Les Caves is possibly the best place to drink a couple glass fulls of mindblowing Saison with the proud people who make it, salt of the earth, and get your ass kicked in bumperpool while accompanied by uproarious local laughter. 2880165222_5009859046_b

Jamil Zainasheff’s (The Thurston Moore of Homebrewing’s)  Saison Recipe:
Batch Size (Gal): 6.00 Wort Size (Gal): 6.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 11.63
Anticipated OG: 1.060 Plato: 14.82
Anticipated SRM: 4.6
Anticipated IBU: 39.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
—————————————————————————–
77.4 9.00 lbs. Pilsener Belgium 1.037 2
6.5 0.75 lbs. Wheat Malt Germany 1.039 2
6.5 0.75 lbs. Munich Malt Belgium 1.038 8
1.1 0.13 lbs. CaraMunich 60 France 1.034 60
8.6 1.00 lbs. Cane Sugar Generic 1.046 0

Hops

Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
—————————————————————————–
1.70 oz. Hallertauer Tradition Pellet 6.00 39.8 60 min.
0.75 oz. Hallertauer Tradition Pellet 6.00 0.0 0 min.

Extras

Amount Name Type Time
————————————————————————–
1.00 Oz Irish Moss Fining 15 Min.(boil)

Yeast
—–

Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison

Mash Schedule
————-

Mash Type: Multi Step

Acid Rest Temp : 0 Time: 0
Protein Rest Temp : 131 Time: 30
Intermediate Rest Temp : 0 Time: 0
Saccharification Rest Temp : 146 Time: 90
Mash-out Rest Temp : 170 Time: 20
Sparge Temp : 170 Time: 40

Total Mash Volume Gal: 5.40

Reuters announced today that Japan’s Asahi Breweries LTd., furthering the trend of recent intergalactic beer company consolidation, is going to buy nearly twenty percent of China’s Tsingtao Brewery from InBev for 667 million, that is until Reuter’s realized that they made a big mistake and prompty changed the “m” in million to a “b”. Lord knows, Asahi and Tsingtao taste the same anyhow, so I’m not sure any beer drinker cares. I was always get a Sapporo when eating sushi anyway and pretty much stay away from Chinese Beer entirely, that is unless my local asian fish-market superstore is chucking twelve-pack of cans for $4.99.

Chinese Beer Drinkers Demonstrate How Much Tsingtao They Have to Drink to Get Buzzed

Chinese Beer Drinkers Demonstrate How Much Tsingtao They Have to Drink to Get Buzzed

Beer Lore: Orval

January 21, 2009

Orval, Trappist Ale

Orval, Trappist Ale

According to local legend, and displayed somewhat enigmatically upon “Queen of the Trappist” minimal purple gold and silver label, Mathilde of Tuscany, not one of those Brueghalian peasants mind you, but a real italian beauty, dropped her wedding ring, given to her by her dearest knight in shining armour or some shit, into the local river, and this ring was promptly swallowed by a trout. So she prays to the local saint, like you do, for the return of the token of her truest love. Said fish, driven by God’s mysterious ways, coughs it up, along with the recipe and the funds for this grandiose beverage. Needless to say, with its trademark candied sugar, dryhops, and monk funk, all wrapped in loving embrace, this beer is certainly a gift from the gods. Up until recently, I couldn’t find Orval anywhere this side of the Atlantic. Now, she’s starting to pop up, by the bottle, for around five bucks a pop, at local fine food and beverage stores everywhere. Just don’t get too glum about the price tag. If we can believe the catholic church, all proceeds go to charity.

Unimaginably dry and crisp yet with a hint of sweet malt palate that one only gets from those finest lightest trappist beverages. If monks mowed lawns and I’m sure they do, this is what they’d drink after composting their clippings. Brewed with Pilsner malt, with a slow stepping up mash schedule to get that malt complexity, as well as minute amounts of Caravienne or Caramunich Malt for that deft sweet flourish, and a trace of what to me tastes like purple spiderwebs in the finish, the lurking whiff of Brettanomyces, the holy bacteria of monk funk, lurking in the background

By the sixth bottle of Orval, I realize that beautiful epiphany of the monk drunk, that the candied sugar ferments out nearly completely, giving this beer the treacherous sneaky quality of all divine hallucinations. An excercise in balance and subtlety, the Brett character reminds me of the husky geuzes, but without that tongue splitting aftertaste that makes so many novice beer drinkers cringe. How do they do this?  I feel as if I am destined to try and brew this with different yeast combinations for the rest of my life, and if I come anywhere close — I’m goddamned sure the lord will strike me down with blasphemy, or better yet, some militant Belgian monks hellbent on protecting the holy grail will come and kill me with sub-machine guns, curved knifes and speed boats. So hells yes, this is worth five bucks a lil’ bottle, but don’t be a bitch, and buy at least twelve, so your own pale-skinned red-haired girl can find solace in the divinity of your love token. She might say, as the legend goes, “Truly this place is a Val d’Or

Best Orval Clone Recipe according to much lauded MarkR of the wonderful TastyBrew.com forums.

Batch Size (Gal): 5.50 Wort Size (Gal): 5.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.13
Anticipated OG: 1.056 Plato: 13.83
Anticipated SRM: 5.7
Anticipated IBU: 45.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Pre-Boil Amounts
—————-

Evaporation Rate: 15.00 Percent Per Hour
Pre-Boil Wort Size: 7.10 Gal
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.043 SG 10.83 Plato

Formulas Used
————-

Brewhouse Efficiency and Predicted Gravity based on Method #1, Potential Used.
Final Gravity Calculation Based on Points.
Hard Value of Sucrose applied. Value for recipe: 46.2100 ppppg
Yield Type used in Gravity Prediction: Fine Grind Dry Basis.

Color Formula Used: Morey
Hop IBU Formula Used: Rager

Additional Utilization Used For Plug Hops: 2 %
Additional Utilization Used For Pellet Hops: 10 %

Grain/Extract/Sugar

% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
—————————————————————————–
79.0 8.00 lbs. Pilsen (2 Row) France 1.039 2
11.1 1.13 lbs. CaraVienne Malt Belgium 1.034 22
9.9 1.00 lbs. Turbinado Sugar Generic 1.046 0

Potential represented as SG per pound per gallon.

Hops

Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
—————————————————————————–
1.75 oz. Hallertauer Tradition Pellet 4.30 34.9 75 min.
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Pellet 5.00 7.3 20 min.
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Pellet 5.00 3.6 5 min.
1.57 oz. Styrian Goldings Pellet 5.00 0.0 0 min.
2.00 oz. Styrian Goldings Pellet 5.00 0.0 Dry Hop

Yeast
—–

White Labs WLP510 Bastogne Belgian Ale

Notes
—–

Fermentation should be kept as close to 59F as possible.

Pitch a tube of White Labs WLP650 – Brettanomyces bruxellensis into the secondary. Allow at least a month for the funk to work its magic before bottling.

Bottle with a small starter of the primary yeast strain.

The fabulous bottle-conditioned bounty of Belgium.

The fabulous bottle-conditioned bounty of Belgium.

Like Darwin stepping off the HMS Beagle to behold the Iguana and Komodo, a beer lover in Belgium is confronted the widest array of concentrated beer bio-diversity in the world. And I, like a schoolboy reading battered science-fiction novels under the covers with a flashlight and eager imagination, devoured Michael Jackson’s romantic tales of the arcane brewers and brasseries of Belgium. His tireless chronicles of the Belgian beer mages and their unconventional approach to beer-making, sense-of-humour, and blatant disregard for the so-called rules of brewing tradition, turned these ordinary men into the bandit folk-heroes of my amateur home-brewer dreams. If there were trading cards I would have collected them. R. Crumb, are you listening?
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Brewer Puppet with Apron and Mash Paddle, Pipaix

Brewer Puppet with Apron and Mash Paddle, Pipaix

Trappist monasteries like Orval, Westmalle, and Westvleteren, pouring candied sugar syrup into Singles, Dubbels, and Trippels, weaving prayers, incantations,  into their arcane design. Bearded Lambic Blenders of  Lambeek and Beersel and their ancient art of collecting wild yeast and bacteria from the heavens, weaving their concoctions into alchemical realities called Geuzes, hitherto only known by the mad and delusional. Farmhands of Hainaut, churning cheese and mashing grain, until Sunday, when their wives go to chapel and they go to the brasserie to shoot bumper pool and drink gallons of sundappled and peppery Saison  — the list went on and on, like a league of Superheroes, each with their own super power, uniform and ethos.
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Mrs. Beaglethorpe Enjoying her Frites

Mrs. Beaglethorpe Enjoying her Frites in Antwerpen

Recently, my wife and I had the great fortune to tour Belgium for a couple of weeks. After years of drinking improperly handled bottle-conditioned beers that survived their trek in questionable condition, to make their way across the Atlantic ocean. We decided to make the jump. We booked a flight, rented a car, grabbed our tattered copies Jackson’s “Great Beer Guide to Belgium,” and Tim Webb’s “Good Beer Guide to Belgium”, and with a determined and well-conditioned livers, had the time of our lives, one amazing beer at time.  And yet still, like some obsessed collector of old blues acetates, I yearned to meet the heroes behind the music. R. Crumb, I’ll say it again, are you listening?

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