Sunday, October 25, 2009

The End is Nigh

In just about a month, I'll finally be done with what turned out to be a summer-wrecking odyssey in to the world of beer. Since June I've been a student of the American Brewers Guild Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering school, essentially doggy-paddling my way through malting, fermentation, and flavor biochemistry, microbiological beer analysis, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, sensory science, beer maturation, clarification, water chemistry and much more. It's been fascinating to see the brewing process all the way down to the molecular level, but I'm really ready to be done. Since starting the course, most of my free time is spent in the den reading or watching dvd lectures. My family and friends are ready for me to be done too. The house renovation is on hold and I haven't thrown a leg over a bike since June. (;_;)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happiness is a Brown Ale

The Bliss is just around the corner which means I need a beer to cover my price of admission. I have a Barley Wine I can take, but it probably needs a bit more time. I have a Saison, but I've gone Belgian the last two years. I thought back to a conversation at last years Bliss where it was suggested (with tongue in cheek) that I was afraid of hops. I'll admit that in years past, I wasn't as receptive to hoppy beers as I now am and I'm still not to the point where I'm ready to chew on a mouthful of hops like some of you are, but I'm digging a bit more bitterness in my beers these days. So, for this year's Bliss, I give you my Brown Ale.

16 Plato (1.066)
61.2 IBU

68% 2-Row Malt
10% Caramel Malt (40L)
8% CaraPils Malt
8% Wheat Malt
4% Chocolate Malt
2% Special Roast

1.38 oz N. Brewer hops - 8.8% aa (60 mins)
0.75 oz N. Brewer hops - 8.8% aa (15 mins)
1.38 oz Cascade hops - 6.3% aa (10 mins)
1.5 oz Cascade hops - 6.3% aa (0 mins) 10 min. steep
1.5 oz Amarillo hops - 8.5% aa (0 mins) 10 min. steep

50 mL 1st generation, Troegs house ale yeast slurry

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Summer Recap

Yeah, it's been a while. It turned out to be a pretty busy spring and summer.

Work around the house continued, with no real end in sight. We have paint on most of the walls, the yard is starting to look pretty good, and we took care of a much needed replacement for our circa 1900, ~50% efficiency coal furnace. All in all, a pretty expensive summer. x_x

Even with the job and the toddler, I still managed to throw a leg over a bike every now and again. I've primarily been tooling around the Lake Williams/Lake Redman and Rocky Ridge trails in York with my brother-in-law but the highlight was our trip to the Kingdom Trails for a weekend with some of the Ridemonkey crew. If you haven't been there, stop thinking about it and go. You won't regret it.

Life at the brewery continues to be good. In July we competed in a "Battle of the Brewery Bands" hosted by Stoudt's in Adamstown. Everyone had a great time and all the proceeds went to charity. Oh, and we won! (that's me in the grey wool cycling cap rockin' the pennywhistle)

The highlight of the summer was my promotion at work. With the marriage and departure of one of our brewers, we had an opening and they offered it to me. Of course I said yes. Now for the phrase I can't say without a big grin on my face:

I am a professional brewer

Pretty sweet, eh? I had always hoped it might happen, but never expected it to happen so soon. Needless to say, I'm ecstatic. After two decades of trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, I have finally realized the answer and I'm living it. I honestly look forward to going to work every day.

So there you have it. Summer 2008, abridged.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

3rd Annual Bootlegger's Bliss

Yeah, I know, it's been a while. Excuses coming soon. For now, peep this:

Get your brew on. The Third Annual Bootlegger's Bliss will be launched upon an unsuspecting and largely uncaring world on SATYRDAY, NOVEMBER 1st. Information on registration and other event details will be posted soon.

In the meantime, and for the benefit of those unfamiliar with this mid-Atlantic rolla-puh-brewza, I've resurrected below the official Maniblissto from a past post. For a broader understanding of the Bliss, go here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Iron Chef...Brewing?

It's been over a month since I started working at Troeg's and I'm happy to say that my feelings about the job have not changed. I'm still loving it. The people that work there are a huge part of why I'm enjoying it so much. Unlike my last job, there's no us/them division between those in charge and those who aren't. It's not uncommon to see the owners working the bottling line or driving a forklift. Likewise, you'll occasionally see John, the head brewer, asking a homebrewer about experiences with a particular technique or for thoughts on a new recipe.

To keep the good vibes going, John has come up with a bit of friendly competition: a brewing contest. The only limitations are that it: 1) must be brewed onsite with the brewery's 5 gallon pilot system, 2) it must be ready to drink by the first week of August, and 3) it must use the common "Iron Chef" ingredient. This round's ingredient is sugar. The twist is that each team was given a different form of sugar: molasses, honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup. The winners get their names on a trophy to be displayed in the brewery's tasting room. John also mentioned the possibility of the best beer being brewed on the big system and released as part of their Scratch Beer series.

All the employees were divided into 4 teams. My team drew maple syrup. We've got some recipe ideas already, but are unsure of the best way to get the maple to come across in the finished product. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Living the dream....sort of

I left the glamorous life of a DoD contractor 2 years ago to become a full-time, stay-at-home dad which has been, without a doubt, the most rewarding experience of my life. If you get a chance to do this, don't hesitate, do it. In the last 2 years I've seen first-hand the miraculous transformation we all go through from slobbering poop machine to walking, talking, miniature person. The only down-side to the whole adventure was that the only conversation I've had for a majority of my waking hours has been with a slobbering poop machine, now miniature person. So, to those of you I've cornered and rambled at, sometimes on and on and on, I'm sorry, I was starving for talk about something other than what color everything is.

To remedy my problem I decided I had to get more interaction with other grown-ups. I had to return to the workforce. The thought of returning to the life of Defense work I had previously known was enough to make me ill. The money was good, but there is something to be said for wanting to go to work in the morning. I was standing in the tasting room at the Tröegs Brewing Company when it hit me: I needed to work in a brewery. What more noble employment than that in a place where they make beer? None, I say. After a brief conversation with head brewer, John Trogner, during which he encouraged me to apply, I thought "why not?" I love beer. Even more, I love making beer. The combining of water, grains, flowers, and fungus to end up with something so delicious is magical. I had to be part of it.

After several weeks and a couple of interviews, I'm now a full-time employee of the Tröegs Brewing Company in Harrisburg, PA. I'd love to say that I'm brewing, but I'm working in the packaging side of the house. The work can be physically demanding, but I'm loving it. The employees all seem to share a love of good beer and good music. A couple of them even mountain bike. I've only been there a week, but so far, so good.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Leap of Faith

In the weeks leading up to February 29th, I saw various posts on the brewing boards about folks planning to brew something special on the extra day of this intercalary year. Most folks were simpling planning to commemorate the day by brewing. I hadn't planned to do anything, but then had an idea: could I brew something big and let it age until the next leap year in 2012?

Aging for four years. That's a long time to not drink my beer. To date my longest aging was a single bottle of a Belgian-style dark strong ale that I lost track of in my basement. When I finally found it, it was 16-months old...and delicious. :)

After a couple beers I figured "what the hell" and started looking at the logistics of brewing an English-style Barley Wine.

20 lbs Maris Otter Pale Malt
9 oz Crystal Malt (120L)
9 oz Caramunich malt
Target hops - 57 IBUs (60 mins)
0.5 oz E. Kent Goldings (20 mins)
0.5 oz E. Kent Goldings (flameout)
London Ale yeast (WLP013)

Est. OG: 1.100

Brewing this presented some unique problems. The grain bill was easily twice the size of anything I had brewed before. There was no way I could brew this recipe without substituting in some extract in place of grain, which I really didn't want to do. I finally resolved to cut the batch size in half and be done with it.

When I went to pick up the ingredients, one of the shop guys suggested brewing half one day, pitch the yeast and let fermentation start, then brew the other half the next day and add it to fermenter. Brilliant.

By the time I finished up day two, the first day's work was just shy of high kraeusen. Adding more wort to it was the equivalent of adding a 3 gallon starter to a 3 gallon batch. Within 4 hours the foam was pushing in to the blow-off hose that I thankfully remembered to affix.

Check back in four years to see how this one turned out.

Maybe I'll check on it around know, to make sure everything is working out alright. ;)