Two Years Now

Has it really been that long?…
It was two years ago when I first started here at the Bruery and after reading my very first blog post I kind of miss those days… See, back then a regular day was coming in around 8 am, maybe getting on the phone and placing a few orders, and then starting to build and place the equipment you see in the Bruery today. When I look back on it, I thought it was hard at the time but now realize how fun and easy it really was! I love creating and building things, from an early age you would see me following my father around with my toy hammer trying to help him out. As I grew up, so did my love for creating things; this probably explains why I wanted to become a brewer. After Patrick and I had everything settled in its final resting place, it was time to start brewing. Over the next few months we worked out most of the kinks in the system (some we still have today) and finally got the brewery running somewhat smoothly. Ben Weiss (now our Marketing and PR guy) was hired on and helped create some new kinks (cough…Black Tuesday…cough); Yes Ben, I am still blaming you for leaving the mash paddle in the tun and making the mess that it did (I know Patrick was there too, but he signs my checks!) but hey, I guess it worked out!

Fast forward to today and we still have kinks every now and then. When I left the brewery today Travis, our lead brewer, was dealing with a stuck mash that will probably land him at the brewery until late tonight. My regular day still begins at 8am, though you’ll find me here a lot earlier now. My day still consists of making phone calls, checking my e-mail (which seems to increase on a daily basis), and talking to the press every now and again, which is new to me (I feel like such a dork being in front of a camera, I don’t know how Patrick does it.) At some point in the day I try and make it out on the brewery floor but seem to be kicked out by Jay and Travis because I’m just getting in their way. I usually head back to my desk and start thinking about scheduling issues, raw materials, warehouse design (don’t get me started on this), brew house layout, cleaning kegs, water supply and all the work that has to be done before the holiday but we can’t fit it in (mostly because of our water supply!) Oh, did I mention how many kegs we are going to have to clean in the new year? Ahhh!

I may not be designing (I have a BA in advertising), building or even brewing as much as I used to but after looking back at the past two years I wouldn’t have it any other way. This sure beats the old days of being all alone while Patrick was off spreading the word of our newly opened brewery. Hell, now I even have four people in the brew house to bug all day. The most exciting change over the past two years for me happens when I call my vendors . They know who we are; this beats the long conversation of “what brewery are you with?” – vendor, “I’m with The Bruery” – me, “I know you’re with a brewery, which brewery?”- vendor. This happened on every phone call for at least three months!

A little info on our new, as of now “nameless” beer we will be tapping this weekend.

It was about three weeks ago when we decided to start yeast propagation for Saison De Lente. Seeing that we usually always have a steady supply of our proprietary yeast strain, we needed to prop up some Brettanomyces. Usually doing a yeast prop, I would harvest the yeast and dump the “beer” that we used to prop it; this time, since it would be tying up a fermenter, I thought it would be fun to brew a 100% Brett – Extra Pale Ale. I kept the recipe fairly simple with Vienna as my base malt and a little C-15 and Kiln Amber for taste and color. I really enjoyed the hop profile of Humulus Lager ,so I thought I would keep it along the same lines, I lowered the IBU level to around 40 and used half the flavor and aroma hops that Humulus Lager used. Jay and I first brewed seven barrels and were very happy with the end result; we pitched the starter yeast and went home. The next morning I came in at 7am and checked the fermenter; it wasn’t bubbling away. I climbed up the ladder and opened the man-way, I poked my head in and saw fermentation! At this time most brewers probably would have taken a gravity, pH and dissolved oxygen reading just to make sure it really was fermenting (it wasn’t by the way.) After climbing back down the ladder I headed straight to the mill and started milling for the second part of the batch. The first brew tasted great but was a little too dark for me, so Jay and I left all the specialty malt out of this brew. About half way through the brew Patrick came up to me and mentioned something about not dry hopping this beer. You see when we dry hop our Humulus Series beers we lose a lot of the product due to the hops. I loved this idea because this beer didn’t need any dry hops and it meant that we would have that much more of it to drink. I ran straight to the brew house where Jay was working away and eagerly told him to double the whirlpool addition hops (to make up for the lack of dry hops). Jay’s face lit up with excitement! We knocked out the second brew into the fermenter and were delighted with the color and flavor of the day’s brew. Everything went so well over the two day brew; the color ended up being a little darker than I would have liked but I should have expected that when we went with Vienna as the base malt instead of two row.

Over the next four days I walked into the brewery each day hoping to see the fermenter bubbling away, but nothing. How can this yeast starter batch that we brewed not ferment? I’m dead I thought, I’m really in deep sh**! After a few phone calls to Patrick to tell him the bad news we decided to pitch our house strain and forget about the yeast prop and 100% Brett E.P.A that would’ve come from it. At the time we only had pitchable yeast from our 3-4 week old Saison Rue that was getting ready to be bottled the following Monday. We already harvested yeast from this batch twice before and the only yeast that was left was either stressed or dead, not ideal either way. We pitched the yeast hoping for the best and came in the next morning disappointed again. Luckily, we were brewing this day which meant we would have fresh viable yeast; after pitching yeast for the day’s brew we attached the yeast hose to the E.P.A tank and added fresh viable yeast. When we came in the next morning it was happily bubbling away, what a relief! After its week or so ferment, I pulled a sample from the tank and Travis and I tried it: low to medium body, nice mouth feel, extra dry and great hop aroma. It was still a little darker than what I was hoping for though. Travis and I both agreed that it didn’t need much more, maybe a little bit of cold conditioning but hop wise we liked it where it was (what were we thinking, you can never have too many hops!) I told Travis to come up with a dry hopping schedule and he did: one pound of Columbus hops in a fifteen barrel batch. When he told me how much he added I started to laugh; I have never heard of someone using so little hops for a dry hop addition. After a week and a half of dry hopping and cold conditioning, we pulled another sample. It was delicious! That one pound of dry hops changed the flavor ever so slightly and in a good way. The beer ended up being a little darker than it should have been (reminds me of Sierra Nevada), 4.3% ABV, crazy dry (from the low mash temp we did when we thought it would be a 100% Brett beer) and with a great citrus hop presence that you can have pint after pint of. The Brett character mildly comes through for most people but I think it will grow with time, which hopefully we won’t find out because this beer needs to be consumed right now! Look for a cask of this sometime this month; we dry hopped it in the cask with the hops Kevin had growing outside of the home brew shop! As for the name, I think Tyler’s Birthday E.P.A (my birthday is on the 28th) sounds good but we’ll probably end up calling it Humulus something…
P.S. I think this long post makes up for the lack of posts by me!!

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