Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mexican Homebrew 2012

On this years trip to San Miguel I only brought a few vital brewing ingredients including a couple pounds of specialty grain, 3/4 pound of hops and a few dry yeast packets. For the bulk of my base malts I was relying on one of the relatively new homebrew stores down here that sell on-line, in this case Fermentando out of Mexico City(?). It was easy using my Pay-Pal account and I received my order within a few days or ordering. I was very pleased and would highly recommend them. They also seem to have the largest selection of ingredients and equipment and an easy to navigate website that has an English option.

The following are the three beers I brewed. In each case I used a single infusion mash in a plastic bucket at approximately 150f. for 60 minutes and because the water here is moderate to hard I included 5 gallons of bottled water along with the tap water to achieve a beginning boil volume of 7 gallons. I also used an ice bath to chill each to 65f. before pitching yeast.

Eff. 75%
Attn. 81%
Abv. 6.4%
SRM 14
IBU 33
O.G. 1.060
F.G. 1.011

9lbs. 2-row
.75 crystal #60
.50 Aromatic

60 min. boil with:
60 min. 1/2 oz. Galaxy @ 12aa
10 min. 3/4 oz. Cascade @ 5.5aa
3  min. 1 oz Centennial @ 11aa
3  min. 1 oz. Cascade @ 5.5aa

Ferment with 2 pkgs. Safale US-05

*In this beer my intention was to brew a simple pale ale. Unfortunately, I ended up boiling off more then I planned for and ended up with a higher gravity then I wanted. Malt and caramel with a substantial citrus hop flavor that comes across slightly sweet.


Eff. 79%
Attn. 85%
Abv. 6.8%
SRM 10
IBU 69
O.G. 1.062
F.G. 1.009

10.75lbs. 2-row
.25lbs. Crystal #60
.50lbs. Aromatic
1 cup cane sugar

60 min. boil with:
60 min. 1 oz. Centennial @ 11aa
15 min. 1.25 oz. Cascade @ 5.5aa
5 min. 1.25 oz. Galaxy @ 12aa
5 min 1.25 oz. Centennial @ 11aa

Ferment with 2 pkgs. Safale US-05

*This IPA has a bold and accentuated hop aroma/flavor of grapefruit, tangerine and some slight pepper. The malt is subdued with a bready buiscut quality. A dry beer but with a full mouthfeel.


Honey Wheat with Jamaica (Hibiscus)

Eff. 78%
Attn. 73%
Abv. 6.4%
Srm 8
Ibu 24
O.G. 1.060
F.G. 1.016

4.4 lbs. Rahr Pilsener
4.4 lbs. Briess wheat malt
2.2 lbs. local wild flower honey
* I mashed at 156f. to keep this beer from drying out too much. I didn't want the jamaica flower to overtake with its drying effect.

60 min. boil with:
60 min. 1/2 oz. Galaxy @ 12aa
2 min. 2 oz. Dried Jamaica Flower (Hibiscus)

Ferment with 2 pkgs of Safbrew T-58

*The beer is a delicious blend of sweet honey and malt with the tartness of the T-58 yeast and the tropical fruit and drying effect of the jamaica flower. It also has a wonderful pinkish color from the flower.

Considering the equipment I have to use and the conditions I have to brew in here, I'm happy with the results of these brews. My next step is to arrange a tasting to see the response from the locals. Any questions about or comments on these recipes are welcome. Salud!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toro Brewing In Queretero

Brewer/owner Jorgé Torales
New friend and homebrewer Antonio (owner of The Beer Company) and I took a road trip this past Sunday to look in on a microbrewery in nearby Queretero to see how a small Mexican brewery operates and maybe taste a few small batch samples. As we reached our destination, we were not sure if it was the right place. We were parked in front of what appeared to be an abandoned building in a questionable neighborhood. The front had a couple of rusted and padlocked roll-up doors covered in grafitti. But as we looked around and considered the odds of getting caught up in a knife fight with a roving street gang, our host arrived.
Jorgé Torales is probably the youngest professional brewer I've ever met. Thin and energetic he comes across as unassuming, but passionate about brewing. He and his brother who have been brewing for close to ten years, own and operate the smallest brewery I've ever come across. Toro (a play off his name, Torales) brewing or Cerveceria Toro fits easily into one of the grafittied 40'x40' roll-up storage units with plenty of room to spare. But Jorgé and his brother have managed to operate the brewery and make enough sales of their three signature beers to stay in business. In fact they have been professional brewers for the last year and a half and are looking to soon expand. After being invited in, Jorgé, obviously proud of his product, was anxious to have us sample a couple of his beers but I wanted to take a look around first.

Malt mill
A sectioned off area where the actual brewing takes place is about the size of a large walk-in closet. A rectangular stainless steel mash tun that doubles as a boil kettle takes up most of the room. This reclaimed vessel has the capacity to mash enough grain for their typical 45 gallon batch.

I listened in amazement as Jorgé explained their process."The grain is mashed-in and left to rest."
Here he points out the false bottom for the tun which looks a little like an aluminum screen door."When the mash is complete the hot wort is pumped to a holding tank (their conical fermentor). This is a no-sparge process. The wort is held in the fermentor while the grain gets cleaned out of the mash tun. Once the tun is clean, the wort can then be pumped back in, the vessel is now the boil kettle. After the boil, the beer is cooled with an immersion chiller and then pumped back into the fermenter. This transfer oxygenates the wort at which point the yeast is pitched."

Jorgé brews once a week and they produce about 2,000 12oz. bottles per month. This production will double to 4,000 per month once they receive the additional fermenter that they ordered for their expansion.I noticed his malt mill against the wall in the next room. I was fascinated because it's basically the same type as I use for homebrewing in Mexico except a little larger (but not by much).

Mash tun and boil kettle
False bottom screen door
The fermenter was manufactured in Queretero for his brewery and has a 50 gallon capacity with ports for sanitary fittings. I was amazed to find out that he was able to purchase these new for about $800usd. and I took note since I may be needing a few of these for myself in the future. Next to the fermenter, on a heavy duty shelf on the wall was another stainless steel vessel that he said was used for the bottling process. The fermented beer is pumped into the vessel with additional sugar. Located at the bottom corner of the vessel is a valve for allowing the attachment of a filling hose. Each bottle is filled, capped and labeled by hand individually, after which they go into a temperature controlled room to condition in the bottle.

Beer bottle labels
 ready to stick
Now, I was ready to sample some beers and we sat together in a make-shift lounge/office area to taste and talk some more about nano-brewing. First up was the Mayan stout called 'K'ATUUN', a beer brewed with the addition of cocoa nibs. A decent beer, not as black as many stouts but the flavor of the roasted grains and the cocoa came through well. This unfiltered beer is not as clear as most commercially available but I'm not a big stickler about clarity in ales. Besides, the flavor of the beer was very enjoyable. This was followed by the Belgian Golden Ale that had flavors of light malt and wheat which was accentuated by the yeast giving it a smooth but tart characteristic. Again, enjoyable and easy to drink. The third beer was not available to taste at the time. That beer 'Mestizo' is (correct me if I'm wrong) their Golden ale but with the introduction of a quantity of mescal blended in at the time of bottling. I'll look for it at The Beer Company in the next couple of weeks to sample.

We got up to leave and I took one last look around but there wasn't any more to it. The basics of the basic. As we said our goodbyes to Jorgé and readied to head back to San Miguel I felt privileged to witness the spears tip of the craft beer movement in Mexico. In the future, Jorgé Torales and Cerveceria Toro may very well be looked back on as the pioneers of the craft beer movement here in Mexico. They are definitely part of the beginning of craft beer movement that seems to be mimicking the U.S. of the early 80's.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Teach Brewing

When I left California for Mexico in December I had no intention of teaching homebrewing down here like I've done in past years. I brought enough hops, yeast and specialty grains with me to brew a couple batches of beer for myself. After teaching some exhaustive five week courses at Cabrillo College, I just wanted to relax and give myself a break. Shortly after arriving in San Miguel, I discovered that's not what I wanted. I really enjoy sharing what I know about brewing with other people. It's very satisfying for me to teach a skill that I have a passion for and at the same time make connections with strangers who share in a love of brewing. What I really wanted, was to do it (teach) differently. What I came to find is that it's the way that I conduct classes that needed to be changed.

20 peso beers about $1.40ea.
A caguama is slang for the
large bottles of corona,
literally means
large turtle
After just a few weeks of warm weather, cheap food and drink and a lot of socializing I was ready to gather some students together and make a batch of homebrew. In the mean time, I forwarded my new class plans and got approval to do it differently at Cabrillo. I decided to cancel the five week course. The reason for this is that it is too cumbersome to manage since I can't leave my materials at the school during the course. Shuttling equipment and fermentors full of beer back and forth between the school classroom and my home and storage unit where fermentation takes place is problematic. I was wearing myself out especially when I needed to haul the 3-tiered brew sculpture, vessels and a ton of other stuff. Along with this challenge, I spent a lot of time worrying that I would forget (which I did on occasion) some vital tool, instrument or ingredient. Finally, (to stay on schedule)  moving primary fermentors around in the back of my van caused the settled trub and sediment to end up mixing back in solution not to mention the possibility of developing a spoiled batch through exposure. Instead, I will be teaching a 1-day introductory brewing class for the beginner and a separate 1-day advanced all-grain class for those with some experience. My plan is to bring fermented beer into class for bottling (kegging for the advanced class) that has been able to spend some time in a secondary fermentor that I hope to have free of sediment.

On another note, I'm excited to tell those people reading this from over the hill, West Valley Community College has asked me to teach these same two classes at their school in Los Altos and I'm eager to get started in a new facility. I'm also working to provide classes at a cooking school in Santa Cruz and will let you know about that once we work out the details.

Mexican homebrew
I feel a lot better about this new approach to teaching but I have to say, even though the five week course was difficult and had it's drawbacks, as a class we sure accomplished a lot and I received a lot of positive feedback from those that graduated.

I promise this, when I can find a school or facility in which I can leave the equipment in place along with the fermenting beer, I will start the five week program up again and probably expand on the idea. I'm working on that plan at this very moment while I enjoy an inspiring bottle of homebrew from my most recent Mexican homebrewers class.

For those interested in attending brew school this spring, here are the links with details.
West Valley College in Saratoga
Cabrillo College in Soquel

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Beer Diary... All Time Most Popular Posts

It's been awhile that I've posted the stats for Beer Diary... Not since this post back in 2009 when the top search inquiry was for my Duvel clone recipe and my beer tasting evaluation sheet. Well, times have changed and so, in the interest of passing on more totally useless information and maybe giving the regular readers a glimpse into what (for the most part) homebrew people are Googling, here is a page view from my Google analytics for Beer Diary... hits.

As you can see, 'Make your own keggle site glass' is overwhelmingly the most popular subject and most of this support comes from online searches. Seems the brewing community wants to figure out how to make these themselves rather than pay the $60 or so to buy one. This does not surprise me since from personal experience I know how cheap we homebrewers are, but what is surprising is the second line item, Pulque.

Spending a few months each year in Mexico for the past several years, I've witnessed the growing interest amongst Mexicans in pulque as having an important cultural significance, and the interest to revive and maintain this tradition is vibrant. But most of the hits on this subject (at least those that find Beer Diary...), are coming from the U.S. which leads me to ask what is prompting this rising desire in Americans to know more about this subject. I can tell you that after tasting pulque from a couple of sources that this is not the most delicious drink out there. In fact, I'd put it fairly low on my list of tasty beverages. So what is the intrigue? If any gringo reading this has the answer, please enlighten me/us. Even though there are 20 comments on the subject, none address the North American popularity.

Pulque from a plastic jug. It doesn't get any better.

As the list continues it kind of levels out in terms of popularity with an anecdotal story, the beer fest event and a technique using a french coffee press for extracting hop flavor.
There's no rhyme or reason that I can see for the randomness of the interests. I would have thought that there would be a larger number looking in the area of techniques or equipment.

Having the above information is valuable for most bloggers that are focused on generating some income from their content but I don't write with that purpose in mind. I want to pass on brewing information that I enjoy writing about with the idea that others can benefit from it. Then again, I think it would be fun to make a bunch of inexpensive site glasses to sell from the side bar. What do you think? Should I go into the business of keggle site glass marketing?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cerveceria Minerva

One of the craft beers that are more available through larger production and better distribution than most here is Cerveceria Minerva. Sandwiched between the two beer giants, they get a small allowance of real estate on the shelves at some of the larger grocery stores. That said, the main convenience store chain Oxxo (the 7-11 of Mexico), is owned by Femsa (Coka Cola) who also owns Cerveceria Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma (Bohemia) and includes Heinekin. Naturally, Oxxo only sells Moctozuma brands and Coke, not Pepsi, and so even though there are a million of these stores you will never see a craft beer in any of them.

So, against all odds, the 'big boy' of the craft beer movement in mainland Mexico is Cerveceria Minerva  out of Guadalajara, with their line up of five popular beers including: Colonial which claims to be like a Kolsch which I'll talk about in a minute, Vienna, Pale Ale, Imperial Stout and their idea of a Pilsener called Malverde.

A thumbnail sketch of Minerva's history: Jesus Briseno, the major share holder along with several other owners opened the brewpub La Minerva in 2003 and quickly found that he had outgrown the demand of the brewery. They managed to fund the purchase of larger equipment from the U.S. and focused on growing the business, bottling beer and finding a way to break into a market dominated by two giants, the Modelo and Cuauhtemoc-Moctezuma breweries. They made there mark on the brewing community after winning gold at the World Beer Cup in 2010 for their pale ale. Emboldened by their success, they ventured forth with some interesting and provocative specialty beers. One, their ITA or Imperial Tequila Ale and a couple of honey ales that are marketed towards the gay community, one called Purple Hand and the other Salamadra.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I sampled a bottle of their Colonial Ale which is marketed as the brew that made Cologne, Germany famous, 'Kolsch'. I was excited to try this beer as this style is one of my favorites and I imagined would go down great in the heat of Mexico. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed when I was initially impressed with the huge amount of diacytl in the nose and first taste. It over-powers all that could be good in this beer, like the subtle balance of malt and hops which took a concentrated effort to discover. This beer is 5% abv and is filtered clear and has a beautiful color and white head. The mouthfeel is full and carbonation is moderate but I just couldn't get past the aroma and taste of butterscotch. I'm not discouraged, I'll plan to sample some of the other beers they offer and report back but I hope there is improvement.

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