Thursday, July 31, 2008

Banforth Speaks

(left to right) Bamforth with Mark Taylor, Zymurgeeks, Dave Bossie.

Charlie Banforth , chair of the food science technology department at UC Davis spoke tonight at the Bookshop Santa Cruz promote his recent book "Grape -vs-Grain". From what I've read, Mr. Banforth brewed at Bass while living in England. Worked at Anheuser-Busch after coming to the States and is now at UC Davis. He has 30 years experience in the brewing industry and seemed pleased to share some along with a fair amount of humor all the while pushing the sale of his book. A fair number of Zymurgeeks were present and Banforth was kind enough to have his picture taken with us after signing our books. When asked what he considered the greatest challenge to modern brewers he said packaging and preserving the beers fresh qualities were the challenge. He also clearly stated that he didn't like overly hopped beers that many micro breweries were producing lately. He emphasized the importance of balanced beers. He said that there are a lot of great beers to be drunk and said that he wouldn't say what his favorites were before going on to include 'Boddington' and 'Newcastle'.
I ended up buying his book although much of the information in it has been covered by others in the past like Gregg Smith's book 'BEER A history of suds and civilization from Mesopotamia to microbreweries' and Christopher Finch's 'BEER a connoisseur's guide to the world's best'. Banforths book includes the history of wine and makes a case for moving beer up the ladder of respectability in high society. He actually declared beer superior to wine in numerous ways but insisted that he wasn't bias in the least. I asked why large producers of 'lite American lagers' insist on promoting their product as needing to be 'ice cold'. Banforth responded with stories of wanting a beer that is extremely cold for those hot days at the ball game, and how refreshing and satisfying it sounds. I followed up with the question, "would 'bud' taste good served at 50-55f. and he flatly stated 'No' and moved on to someone else.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

High kraeusen

What we have here my friend is my Bavarian Weizen during high Kraeusen. As you can see, I ferment in a 13.5 gal. plastic container. This one originally had malt extract in it and I got it from my local homebrew shop. I use food grade plastic liners for the ease of clean up and I also find it very easy to salvage the yeast by pulling the bag out of the fermenter and poking a hole in the bottom, letting the yeast drain into a sterilized jar. I can then just pour the jar into the next beer I make that requires the same yeast. At the moment I have a jar of california ale yeast in the refridgerator and when this is done I will have a jar of Whitelabs hefeweizen IV, . I usually repitch yeast eight to ten times before buying new yeast and I typically have on hand a hefeweizen, california ale and southern German lager yeast. For the most part these yeast will suffice for most of the beers that I like to brew (drink) but occasionally I will have others for special brews that I don't make regularly. I want to note here that the outer container in the picture is to contain ice for keeping the ferment to an acceptable temperature. It's difficult to see, but I believe the temperature is 66f. at the time of the picture. I would like to get a large phenolic (clove/spice) flavor with this brew and the word in the brewing world is that a cool fermentation promotes these flavors more so than the ester type (banana) flavors. I'm hoping 66f. is low enough, we'll see. As I stated earlier, this is a repeat recipe using 13lbs. of wheat and 6lbs. of domestic 2-row barley. The difference this time is that I have used 8oz. of Crystal #60 instead of #20 because that is what I had on hand. And if the truth be known, I used Centennial hops for bittering and flavor. Not traditional but during these times of hop shortages I again went with what I had on hand. Besides, I think centennial may impart an extra flavor dimension in terms of the citrus quality that could enhance this style of beer. Maybe more refreshing/quenching. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From the scrap heap


I've tapped my latest brew, it's a dry stout. It's from a recipe that I have been following for a number of years and besides my pale ale, it's a beer that I like to always have on tap. Robust and creamy with a good coffee and chocolate flavor. The bitterness is a little on the high end for a Dry Stout but very drinkable and low in alcohol so it's easy to drink several pints after a hard days work. Yesterday I brewed up a Bavarian Weizen. This beer is a repeat recipe from the last one that I talked about not fermenting until I added an american ale yeast. I have high hopes for this new beer as the krausen from the hefeweizen yeast is already forming nicely 24hrs. later. In the mean time, while at the recycle center today, I saw off to the side of a dumpster a couple of 20lb. Co2 tanks. One even had a decent regulator on it. The attendant said I could take them away for five dollars. Wow! I now have three. Every once in a while you come across a good deal like that. I'm not quite sure what I'll do with three 20lb. Co2 tanks, the fact is, I'm using my 5lb. tank to carbonate and dispense my beer. I need to accidently come across a stainless steel fermenter, that's what I need.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Not an American wheat

German Wheat?
I was a little disappointed in the wheat beer I made in June. I brewed what I was expecting to be a light colored and low gravity German wheat. For a 10 gallon batch I used 13 lbs. of wheat malt and 6 lbs. of domestic 2-row malted barley with just 1/2 lb. of Chrystal #20. My starting gravity was 1.050 with 18 IBU's worth of Saaz hops. The brewing went without a hitch and I got an 80% efficiency from the Mash. The problems came after pitching the yeast. I pitched 2 packages of DY65 German Ale yeast, the temperature in the fermenter was 70f. and 2 days later there was absolutely no sign of fermentation activity. I waited another 12 hours with impatience before finally giving up and pitching 2 packages of US05 ale yeast. The fermentation was up and going strong by the next day, which was all good and fine except that I didn't really want an American wheat. I don't like American wheat beer. Eventually fermentation ended with a final gravity of 1.012-It didn't taste bad, then again, it was an American wheat, not what I wanted. American wheat beers don't have a lot going on in terms of flavor. There isn't much aroma either. There is a refreshing and thirst quenching drinkability to them and the mouth feel is often thick and creamy. Anyway, I ended up adding a little black cherry extract. No help. The final word is that I still drank it. Why not?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

House sitting in Aptos

2.5 gal. Homebrew keg with dispenser

While in Mexico, Susan made arrangements through craigslist for us to house sit for a couple in Aptos, Ca. who would be going to Spain for 6 weeks. So, after arriving in Seattle we proceeded to Whidbey to get our vehicles out of storage for the trek back to California. Naturally I packed my van with some essential brewing equipment that was also in storage and a few personal items and left everything else there for a future retrieval once we found a permanent place to live. I wanted my brew sculpture and converted keg/boil pot for brewing some extract batches, my large plastic fermenter and also some kegging equipment, there was no point in bottling if I didn't have to. After a couple of settling in days in California I set to brewing 10 gallons of pale ale. The local brewing supply company had the ingredients I needed including liquid malt extract. I used 12 lbs. of malt extract and 2 lbs. of honey. I bittered with Columbus hops.
Ten days later my beer was kegged, carbonated, refrigerated and ready for consumption. That's what I'm talking about. I kept the 2.5 gal. kegs in a small bar fridge that was at the house and dispensed with a tap and co2 injector attached directly to the keg.

The Modelo Brewery tour

A classic Vienna Lager

We spent our last weekend in Mexico City, partly to explore and enjoy one of the largest cities in the world and also for the convenience of an easy ride to the airport. I was determined to visit the Modelo Brewery before leaving Mexico. After all, a major portion of all beer consumed in Mexico is produced by Modelo and a major portion of all the beer I consumed was Modelo. A battered V.W. bug taxi got us from our downtown hotel room to Modelo in about 20 minutes through heavy traffic. Once inside the air-conditioned and I might add 'shabby' lobby we waited. I have to say here that for a company that I suspect makes millions in profit from the sale of beer, they could have spent a few hundred at least on a new couch and some decorator items. We sat patiently on a tattered green Naugahyde sofa of the 60's era as a few other tourist (locals) joined us. Finally, a tour guide led us all through to the cafeteria for a sample of beer and cheese before we went into the production plant. We were assigned an English speaking tour guide and she nodded approval when we informed her of our interest in Modelo and our own brewing experience. Then she confiscated our camera and said no picture taking was allow in the plant...."for security reasons". We also had to turn over identification for reasons unknown. Then we headed into the promised land of large lagering. We stopped at a colossal sculpture of St. Gambrinus where our guide took our picture. Then into the first of many huge buildings. We progressed form the mashing to boiling to chilling to lagering. On the way out to collect our belongings and the complimentary 'Victoria' water bottles, stickers and of course the picture of us with St. Gambrinus we passed the grain silos. At the time a semi truck was unloading grain into the portal to the silo and I insisted that our guide find out where that grain came from. She spoke some spanish to the labored that was unloading the truck and informed me that the grain came from a maltster in Mexico City that was owned by Modelo. After some further questioning I determined that it is possible to get some grain from Modelo at their malting company if I showed up at the plant with a truck and some money. This was good news and I felt that the entire tour was worth just that bit of information. Finally, as a afterthought I realize I have said nothing about the beer in the entry. Well, I have address Modelo beer in earlier entries and to add more here would be redundant however I will say that Modelo is like Budweiser in that millions of people drink it and enjoy it as their preference in beer and I can't negate that reality. For every beer there is an occasion.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Back to California!

What's in there?
Well, sorry about the delay. I finally got back on line and man it's been a journey since the last posting. Susan and I are settled into a semi-permanent place (good 'til November 08) and have tentatively unpacked our stuff. It's difficult to fully commit to spreading out every little bit of my personal belongings when I may not be here for long. Our plan is to head back to Mexico when winter returns and our lease is up but repacking and putting everything in storage again is disconcerting to say the least. In the mean time, there's beer to brew and enjoy.
I want to recap all the highlights of my brewing world since the previous post and catch you up on my plans for future brews but it's going to take some serious keyboard work so I may break it up into more reasonable chunks in the next few posts along with my current projects.
I will say here that my proposals for teaching brewing classes at the community colleges has had good response. Cuesta college in Paso Robles and Cabrillo college in Aptos, Ca. both wanted to offer my 6 week course in their Fall course offerings. Cabrillo contacted me first for the Fall so I had to push Cuesta college off until spring of next year. With some real time experience teaching I will expand on the idea of teaching and work towards private classes and beer tastings out of my house (wherever that may be).
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