Monday, November 26, 2012

Midwest Homebrewing Supply - Trappist Ale

I'm in the process of making some mental adjustments since relocating to Mexico, and I was glad to finally get a chance to brew my first batch of homebrew as a way of grounding myself in my new environment. Because it's difficult to get good homebrewing ingredients here, I highly anticipated the shipment of an All-grain kit from Midwest Homebrewing Supply.

Midwest is a huge homebrewing retailer located in Minnesota and they had already shipped my kit even before I arrived in San Miguel. Shortly after getting my equipment set up I received Midwest's Noble Trappist Ale kit in my local post box. The box contained all I needed including a nice mix of pre-crushed grain, Belgian candi sugar, hops and yeast. The grains and hops were already measured out, and because I don't have a scale yet, made it easy for me to jump right in and brew.

A box of goodness from Midwest Supply

The grain tasted good and the noble hops had a clean fresh aroma. The kit also included Whitelabs WLP500 Trappist ale yeast (one of my favorites for it's large phenolic character) and I hope it's still viable having spend some warm lag time in customs at the Mexican border. We'll see in a day or so. The brew session turned out to be an enjoyable day. The equipment performed without a hitch and brewing with the kit was a no-brainer. I glanced over the instructions that came in the box and they were in-line with the way I brew, although they didn't specify when to add the candi sugar to the boil. I chose to wait until the last 15 minutes in an attempt to keep the beer light in color.

Brew tree set up for first batch
Using the large Duda Diesel plate chiller and a post chiller coil in ice water I was able to quickly get the wort down to pitching temperatures. I want a cool ferment so I decided on 64f. to begin with. I may ramp up the temperature to 72f. a few days into the ferment if the yeast doesn't do it on it own. I took some samples for a refractometer reading to confirm I got the gravity I wanted and that it matched what Midwest Supply said I should expect as an original gravity. It was spot on. I also did a quick calculation to determine the 20 IBU hop bitterness as you can see from my notes below.

By the way, here is a quick formula to figure ibu's. (Qty of hops in grams x AA% x Util.%  x .1 / Qty in liters) In this case: 56grams x 2.4aa x 27util. x .1 / 20ltrs = 18ibu's

Sweet wort ready for the pitch

Midwest's Noble Trappist Ale (all-grain) Kit

Batch size 5gal.
Eff. 80%
o.g. 1.054
Ibu's 20

Grain Bill:
Mash at 152f. for 60 min. add candi sugar 15min. prior to end of boil
9lbs. domestic 2-row
8oz. carapils
8oz. light crystal malt
1 lb. light Belgian candi sugar

Boil for 60 mins. with:
2 oz. hallertau (pellet)at for 60 min.
1 oz. styrian.goldings (pellet) for 3 min.

chill to 65f. and pitch 1 tube wlp500 trappist ale yeast.

After spending a few hours in the brewery, I felt rejuvenated and inspired to get busy brewing and filling some kegs and the experience was made all the more enjoyable by the ease of brewing a kit.
I would highly recommend Midwest Homebrewing Supply for their quality brewing kits and the friendly service I received from their sales staff and an easy to navigate website. You can contact Midwest by clicking the link above. If you get a Midwest kit to brew please leave a comment here letting us know how it went for you. Cheers!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cerveza Patricia

Here I write about a beer that I care nothing about. I didn't enjoy the flavor and am suspect of the character of the beer for the fact that they use artificial coloring as a listed ingredient on their label.
I tasted Cerveza Patricia and found it to be heavy, cloying and with a lingering chemical quality that I could attribute to the artificial coloring and flavoring that is adding during the brew. This is a dense black beer with a quickly dissipating tan head.

Cerveza Patricia

I investigated further on the interweb after sampling this beer and found that they don't have a website except for their facebook page. From that site and with the help of my Google translation button, I was able to garner some information about the brewery. I was amused to find that although Patricia was established in 1936 they started shipping two 'flavors' of beer, clear and black (clara y negra) in the 1950's but the site doesn't define those types of beer any further. The label on the beer I tasted claimed to be a porter. The beer is produced by the FNC or Factories National Beer located in Uruguay and part of the ABInbev group and I found a couple bottles of it at The Beer Company.

I will say in their favor, the packaging very cool. A large embossed P on one side of this thick glassed, weighty bottle and a large dent on the opposite side that makes it easy to handle. I was sorry to rate this beer "No me gusta".

In the mean time, I've located a Beer School/nano-brewery site in the San Antonio neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende and am about to make a deal with the leasing agent for a month to month contract. Hopefully, there will be no glitches and my socio and I can start moving our equipment into place and making the modifications needed to start brewing some beer. I've got six pounds of this years hops coming down via a courier shuttle from Loredo and plans to order the grain very soon. I'm getting so exited I can't stop my brain from running through all of the possible scenarios of success. I'll post a few pics once we're moved in. Cheers to that!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Beer Company San Miguel

Each night since I arrived in San Miguel I've laid in bed before going to sleep thinking of names to call the brewery I want to create. Ranging from historical references like Allende to the quirkiness of Roof Dog I continue to be eluded as I chase ideas that will lead to the perfect title. Maybe cardenal?Eventually I fall into a fitful sleep only to wake in the morning with a blank slate for a brain. Nada. My solution to this vacuum of inspiration? Go sample some beers with friends.

Cardenal image by

  We're living within walking distance of the 'Ancha', the main road that leads into San Miguel and the street where The Beer Company, a specialty beer bar, is located. Across from the Instituto and a couple doors down from a car repair place where a dog sleeps in the greasy doorway The Beer Company is easy to miss. It occupies a small niche in the ancient adobe that lines the cobbled street and because San Miguel is a world heritage site the sign above the door is cut out of discrete metal as not to detract from the Spanish colonial architecture. Inside its dark and cool, a pleasant spot to take some time out of searching for the future beer school/nano-brewery site and thinking of names, to have a few beers with the owner of The Beer Co., Antonio.

Antonio with his wife Liz

I brought down a couple beers from the States to share, beers that Antonio can't get here including a Knee Deep IIIPA, and a DogFishHead Punkin ale. He offered up a Canadian import called La Stout from Ghosttown Brewing out of Montreal that was brewed with absinthe. An unusual but very delicious beer. We followed that with a Mexican beer called Medusa brewed by 7mares which was anything but delicious. I'm not sure how to describe the odd flavors of this beer other than distasteful like old vegetables, nice label though. I finished this session with a Golden ale brewed by Belgoo and was very pleased with it's crisp, refined Belgian qualities. This is a 7.5% amber ale brewed with spelt. While enjoying the beers I helped Antonio get the co2 hooked up to his new single tap kegerator and we discussed bringing in a larger cooler in order to provide additional taps for the beers Francisco and I will be brewing in the future.
Stout with absinthe
Belgoo amber with spelt

The Beer Company would be a great venue to launch some new craft beer on draft. You don't see a lot of draft beer in Mexico, just bottles so this unique delivery system may lead to increased sales. At least that's the idea that Antonio and I agreed on. Naturally the beer would have to be pretty good too. Aside from Antonio's place I've got leads to a couple other restaurants that want to serve homebrewed/craft beers. So it begins. If you have an idea of an awsome name for a nano-brewery in the state of Guanajuato, leave a comment and we'll add it to the mix. Cheers!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Brewing Beer In Mexico 2013

So, where was I?
Oh yeah, I'm heading back to San Miguel on Monday and with the help of friend and fellow homebrewer/business partner Francisco, I have managed to relocate most of my brewing equipment for use this year. Naturally some of the larger equipment I'll get manufactured locally but the hard to get parts like plate chillers, food grade tubing, high temperature pumps and such I've packed to bring with me. Most of this has fit into two large 70 lbs. suitcases. This is the beginning of a project that hopefully will develop into a means of earning a living so that I can stay longer this time around.

I feel as empty as a stripped keezer
I'm experiencing a certain amount of kegerator separation anxiety as I dismantle the well worn keezer. Stripping off some of the parts I may need in Mexico and arranging for a friend to utilize the rest while I'm gone. As I pack my bags I keep going back and forth in my mind about what this year's journey will look like. Since I didn't reach my Kickstarter money goal to start the Beer School I'm working with a very limited amount of funds which makes every purchasing decision critical. I'm also conflicted about choosing the best course of action. I want to continue trying to realize the idea of the Beer School and I also want to produce beer for sale. I'm struggling to prioritize these options in order to focus my direction, whether it be towards the school, a brewery or both simultaneously.
I did come up with a list of tasks to move me further along in the process and all of the tasks are essential for both projects but the emphasis is on brewing beer for sale.

1. Lease space
2. Set up brewery (purchase additional equipment)
3. Homebrew some beer to dial in the system using grain purchased from retail source
4. Create brewery name and logo and develop website and copyright name and logo
5. Brew, bottle and label sample beers while continuing to use grain purchased from retail source
6. Apply for my FM3
7. Apply for beer school bus. lic. (beer school is not necessarily located at brewery)
8. Establish account with wholesale ingredient supplier using beer school lic.
9. Purchase initial ingredients
10. Apply for Mfg. and retail sales lic. for 6% or less beer
11. Create space at brewery or rent space for direct sales to the public
11. Establish local accounts and help set up draft systems
12. Apply for over 6% beer lic.

All that remains

Kegs say good bye

In the mean time I've used Google's awesome language tool to translate all of the Beer School teaching material to Spanish and after glancing over the results I can see I'll be spending a bit of time correcting grammar errors and a lot of the math that got scrambled in the transition. But, over-all I've saved myself a huge amount of time if I tried to do this translation by hand.

As I consider my future in Mexico I experience a multitude of mixed feelings. Excited at the possibility of succeeding at creating a new life doing what I love to do in a place that I've come to think of as a second home. Energized by the thought of re-connecting with the local homebrewers and being involved in developing a larger and more active brewing community. At the same time I feel uncertain about the steps I'll need to take to make my vision a reality and compounding that, the fear of complete failure that taps endlessly in the back of my mine like some kind of Chinese water torture. Cautious and fearless equals crazy.

I plan to post updates as I go along about how I'll make this happen and give some insight into what goes into making a beer school and/or a nano-brewery a success (or failure) in San Miguel. Also, I'm open to and would appreciate any suggestions, information or experiences by those in Mexico who've gone down this path before. Cheers and we'll see you South of the border. Salud!

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