Friday, April 25, 2014


It is a bit surreal that I am done with brewing school. We had our graduation today at Wilder Hirsch in Graffelfing. It was a nice ceremony next to the river with lunch and beer provided. As I sat and drank, I started thinking over all of the topics we have covered in the last 3 months, and it was crazy to think that we went over so much information in such a short amount of time. I have had a lot of support from my family, my fiancée, friends, and Blue Pants as I have worked towards this for the last couple of years. Thank you to everyone that has supported me through this incredible time of my life!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Last Day Before Graduation

Today was our last day of touring! It was a great day, starting off at Kaspar Schulz and finishing up with a tour of Hopsteiner. Kaspar Schulz was unique because they focus more on manufacturing brewing equipment that I could easily see myself brewing on one day. While GEA was cool, most of their equipment was far larger than anything I would want to brew on myself. Kaspar was a lot more interesting because their equipment was mostly for medium to large craft breweries and they also had equipment that would be perfect for a little nano-brewpub. While we walked through the warehouse, we were shown a brewhouse being assembled which will be going to Sierra Nevada as a brewpub brewhouse in Asheville. It looked like it will be very nice when it is completed and I think it was a 20 hectoliter brewhouse, which has an optional coolship and I think they might also have an open frame wort chiller as an option as well. Kaspar also manufactures micro-malting equipment, but I think if I told Mike that I want to malt our own barley he would likely strangle me, so I purposefully kept my distance so I wouldn't get all excited about toys that I can't have.
Afterwards, my favorite part of our whole tour was at Hopsteiner (most people are well aware of my hop craze at this point if you have had much beer that I have brewed or talked to me about beer.) We were given a presentation which included statistics for hop use... It is funny that USA craft breweries only account for a little under 1% of the beer brewed worldwide, but we use 15% of the total hops (measured as alpha acids) in the world. The average beer in the world has less than 4 IBU according to Hopsteiner and the average USA craft beer had 64 IBU in 2013. (For anyone that is curious, Weedy's Double IPA has a calculated 330 IBU, although that number is hypothetical and the calculation won't reflect real world alpha acid isomerization, the IIPA does use about 5 times more hops than the average American craft beer). I asked a lot of questions about hop extracts and hop storage while I was on the tour and I learned a lot from our tour guide. At the end of our tour, we got to smell several different hop varieties, including a few experimental hops that I hope to experiment with this year.
Tomorrow, we will be having our graduation ceremony at a Biergarten in Munich. I can't believe how fast these 3 months have flown by!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Köln, GEA, and Weyermann

After a long weekend in Amsterdam and Köln, it was hard to find energy to blog yesterday. The night before yesterday, I slept on a train and then a few hours in a train station in Munich, so when I got to a hotel last night, I had sleep in mind. So now I have a few days to make up for...

The weekend was a lot of fun. On the way back from Amsterdam I stopped in Cologne and tried several examples of Kölsch. The city was beautiful, the food was good, and the beer was pretty good as well. Kölsch is a very misunderstood style in the USA and as a result, a lot of brewers to a poor job imitating the style. The beer is light, slightly fruity, and moderately bitter. Each Kölsch brewery has differing techniques, but the beers are very similar. Some brewers still serve their beers from traditional casks, while other opt for modern draft systems. Fresh Kölsch from a cask was the way that I preferred it the most, but that was mostly because if it was a regular draft beer, it was typically a boring beer, not too different from Budweiser if we are being honest. However, a few of the breweries did have varying levels of fruity esters that made the beers a bit more interesting.

Yesterday, our class visited GEA and observed each stage of brewhouse manufacturing. It was really neat to see the brew houses being built, especially since the main project is New Belgium's new brewery. We actually got to see the brewery being built before New Belgium did. GEA was very impressive with the speed that they get their brewhouses assembled and their desire to do as much of the work in house as possible. Their equipment was very well built and is designed to last forever. Unfortunately, I can't talk about a lot of the things we talked about there because they are secretive and the innovative projects they are working on can't be discussed in public.

Today, our most interesting tour for me, was at Weyermann Malting. Weyermann has very strict quality control measures in place and they are working on producing a lot of new malts. They showed us around their malting facilities and they were much more open about their techniques than Briess was... Ironically, they also appeared to know a lot more about malting than Briess. They were very friendly, they shared tried and true recipes with us, let us sample freshly malted barley, fed us a great Franconian dinner, and the owners actually came out and talked with us individually throughout the day. By far, the highlight of my brewing tour was at Weyermann today.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Krones and Schneider Weisse

Our tour today began at Krones. Krones is a manufacturer of brewing equipment: most notably, bottling lines. We started our tour with a presentation on different types of filling lines and business statistics. The first part felt a lot like a sales pitch, but it was interesting nonetheless. After looking at a lot of sales charts and stats, we talked about low pressure evaporation systems that could potentially revolutionize the brewing industry. The systems cut energy input by reducing evaporation temperatures and utilizing pressure to strip volatile compounds found in malt. After our presentations, we walked through the factory and observed engineers assembling bottling lines and boilers. We ended our tour with a lunch in the Krones cafeteria.
Our next stop was Schneider Weisse. They gave us the best tourer have had yet. They showed us their 5 vessel brewhouse and they even gave us just about enough information to recreate their recipes. They then took us to their barrel aging room and told us what types of barrels they use for which beers. The only beers they are barrel aging now are their weizenbock and their eisbock and they only use strong red-wine barrels from France. After the barrel room, we got to see their open fermenters. Wheat beers are typically fermented in shallow, open fermentation vessels. Typically, the only people allowed in the fermentation cellar are the 6 brewers at Schneider Weisse, so for our class to be allowed in was pretty special. I did take pics, but I cannot upload them right now on our bus. The last thing we did was drink 6 of the beers from their Tap series. The most popular one with the Americans was the hopfenweisse, but my personally favorite was the blonde weisse. All of the beers are fermented with the same yeast and very similar malt bills, but they were all very unique. It was a great tour. Now, it is time for a break from class. I'll be going to Cantillon tomorrow and then heading up to Amsterdam for the weekend. It's going to be great!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tour Day 2 and 3

I never got a chance to blog yesterday as a result of a beer dinner late last night. This tour so far has been partially a study tour and partially a beer drinking marathon. Each brewery we have visited has shown us great hospitality, feeding us, and giving us lots of samples. 
Yesterday, we started the day at Zipf. They were a fairly large brewery, similar to Stiegl two days ago. They are owned by Heineken and they told us a lot about brewery safety. Since selling out to Heineken, they have not had an accident in the brewery that resulted in injury. Previous to the buyout, they had about 15 injuries per year. They made us wear orange vests so that we were visible to forklifts and they had walking areas designated with paint. After our tour of the brewery, they gave each of us a coupon book with coupons for 4 beers and a lunch. I personally was not ready to drink 2 liters of beer at 11:30 a.m. so I only used two of my beer coupons and got a lunch.
Next, we got on the bus to Eggenberg. They had a really cool brewery in a castle, and they even had a chapel where they host special Mass and Weddings. Their brewhouse was pretty modern and mostly automated. They had a seperate building for their lauter tun as a result of running out of space when they recently expanded. At the end of that tour, they let us try their Marzen lager and they also gave us a sample of the beer that used to be the strongest beer in the world at 14% ABV.
To end the night, we went to the Bierkulinarium where we had one of the best dinners I have ever had. It was a 5 course beer pairing led by the highest ranking beer sommelier in the world. Each course was very well paired with the beers they served us and the food was great. We also were able to buy beers from pub and I just happened to stumble upon a bottle of Westy 12. It was exciting to get to try it for the first time.
This morning we toured the Schlagl monestary. Their brewhouse would have been considered very modern and innovative 50 years ago. They had an "automated" system that used valves and a control panel that looked like it came out of a 1960's Martian movie. Their brew kettle was actually rhombus shaped and doubled as a mash cooker. In addition to brewing beer to support their monestary, they also contract bottle for some other breweries and they bottle juice as well. They let us try their limited edition naturally carbonated Doppelbock (served from a 3 liter bottle), their Marzen and their Dunkel and they fed us lunch. The food was good and the beer was great.
After Schlagl, we headed to Baumgartner. It was a modern brewery and fairly large. The tour guide was the actual brewmaster and he was very friendly. Their brewery has won a few awards at the World Beer Cup and we got to try 4 of them to end our tour there. We had a pilsner, an unfiltered lager, a Dunkel, and a Marzen. All of the beers were very good and it was nice to have the brewmaster sitting and drinking with us.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Brewery Tour Day One

We began our European Brewery Study Tour today. The first brewery we went to was Stiegl in Salzburg, Austria. It was by far the biggest brewery I have been to. They brew 1.2 million hectoliters a year (a little more than Sierra Nevada in the USA). The cool thing about Spiegl though was that in addition to their 5-vessel 700 hectoliter brewhouse, they have a ten hectoliter brewhouse for special release beers and on that system, they brew about the same amount each year as we did at Blue Pants this year. A lot of their beers are put into a cellar and aged, along with hundreds of beers from other breweries. They have an area for their aged beers to be drank in the cellar, and it was a really neat environment. They were very friendly and they let us sample their beers, drink a half liter, and they fed us lunch.
After Stiegl, we went to Augustiner Brau. This was kind of the opposite end of the spectrum. They have a new brewhouse, but the rest of their equipment was very old. They use an open air cool ship for chilling wort, open faced wort chillers for the second stage, and then they only had two fermenters. However, they had around 50 conditioning tanks where they naturally carbonate the beer. After carbonating, they filter their beer using the oldest plate and frame filter I have ever seen. In fact, cellulose pads aren't even made for that type of filter anymore, so they have to clean and press their own cellulose sheets. The majority of their beer is served directly from wooden barrels (which are lined with pitch), although they do a small amount of bottling, and a little bit of kegging. Despite all of this archaic equipment, they still brew more beer than any Alabama brewery annually.
Tonight, we are all heading over to the Alchemist to enjoy some belgian style ales, but until then, I am going to enjoy some peace and quiet now that I have a room to myself for the first time in 10 weeks!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Last Week of Class and Final Exam

We just wrapped up our last week of classroom lectures and took our final. It was a huge relief to get the final exam over with. 
Throughout the week we did mostly hands on activities. We filtered, brewed, learned about draft systems, and we bottled the wheat beers that we brewed a few weeks ago. It was a bit of a bummer that we had so many people doing each activity because it meant a lot of people watched as others were doing things. Especially for brewing, we had groups of 10, but it is a mostly automated system that really only requires one person. As a result, a lot of the brewday was spent studying for the final and asking questions about various processes and techniques. 
I had anticipated the final exam being pretty easy, but there was still a huge sense of anxiety going into the exam. We had 7 questions and we had to answer 5 of them. Two of the questions were calculations, and the other five were all essay questions. The questions were things like "Write an essay on the utilization of sugar by brewing yeast." Or "Write about the chemical composition of enzymes, the factors that influence their performance, and the role enzymes play in the brewing process." Unfortunately, I ended up filling up two pages with my responses, and our ten minute warning for turning in papers came much quicker than expected. As a result, I had to rush through the last question and a half. I still think the final went well for me, but I do wish that I could have had more time for my last response.
Now we have two more weeks to complete the program, and these last weeks are the part that we all look forward to the most. We will begin touring around Austria and Germany, visiting three breweries or brewing related companies each day. We have a break in the middle of the two weeks for a few days that will alow me to go to Belgium, Amsterdam, and Cologne. I can't wait to see what we have in store for the next two weeks, and then get back and start brewing again!

Monday, April 7, 2014


Today our class split into three groups. One brewed, one learned about draught systems, and my group filtered. Filtering was really quick, so we only had a half day of class today as a result. The filter we used was a plate and frame filter (basically, the frame holds plates, and sheets of cellulose are placed in between the sheets to form a filter bed). We used diatomaceous earth as a prefilter to help remove some of the yeast before the beer reached the cellulose sheets. This helps prevent the filter from clogging and creating a pressure spike. The beer we filtered was a hefeweizen (the yeast will be added back into the beer for bottle fermentation) and it was sterile filtered.
Sterile filtration means that the beer was filtered through a very fine filter (.45 micron), and all of the yeast, protein, and potential bacteria was taken out. This type of filtration is the most commonly complained about type by beer geeks because of the perceived loss of flavor. My theory is that the flavor doesn't change, but the mouthfeel does as a result of stripping out proteins and smaller yeast cells which contribute to the viscosity and body of beer. It was definitely a good day for a half day since it is 75 degrees and sunny here in Munich!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Catching Up

I decided to take a few days off from blogging, partially because of the material we've been covering has not been stuff that most people will want to read about, and partially because we have been going out after class a lot more frequently. I'll try to get caught back up now...

On Thursday, we spent the entire day looking at Doemens Academy's packaging area. We were shown how to turn on the steam to the bottling facility (used for sanitizing), the bottle washer (75% of beer bottles in Germany are recycled and consumers pay deposits on them...), the crate washer (... And they come in crates, which also are washed and reused and consumers pay a deposit for), the bottle filler and conveyor belts, a PET filler, and a PET washer. The most interesting part of the day for me, was seeing what PET bottles look like when they get to the packaging facility. 1 liter bottles actually look like 3 inch vials, before they are heated, and inflated to the full one liter. This saves a lot of space in the packaging facility. We will be taking turns running the bottler next week as we bottle the beers we brewed last week.
Yesterday, we had a half day (Fridays are always half days at Doemens). The entire day was sensory analysis, meaning when we got to class in the morning, we started sampling beers almost right away. Sounds fun right? Wrong! We were drinking beers in our first session that had been spiked with off flavors. We drank less common off flavors, but ones that do still show up on occasion. The flavors ranged from metallic to stinky feet to lemon pledge and to garlic. After the gross part was over though, we did get to do a fun activity. It was a kind of beer geeks board game. We had a board that had attributes written on it. "Top Fermented/Bottom Fermented", "Alcohol range", "Country Of Origin", "Type of Style", and "Name the Brand". We were given beers in a blind tasting and told to place a chip on anyone of the spots. If we got it right, we got to keep our chip and got more based on the ring in which we placed the chip. I did ok, with my guessing, but I played a little too safe in the early rounds and realized too late that I needed to take more risks in order to win the game. It would be something fun to play again with some beer geeks back home.
After class, a lot of us went to Andechs and visited the monestary and Biergarten. It was really pretty, up on top of a hill overlooking a small town and a lot of hilly farmland. The beer was ok, the food was great, and the scenery was awesome.
Today was by far the most exciting day I have had in Bavaria. I woke up early this morning and headed to the Bavarian Alps for some snowboarding. The mountain was Zugspitze, which is the tallest mountain in Germany. The slopes were incredibly challenging, very fast, and unforgiving. It was nice after I was done to find a bar in an igloo to sit and enjoy a few Lowenbrau lagers.
Next week, we are doing a lot more hands on activities, and it doubt I will go out too often since we are getting into crunch week before we take our final exams on Friday, so I should have plenty to write about.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wort Analysis, Yeast, and Sensory

Yesterday was a great day with more chemical analysis, dry yeast handling, and sensory training. Our chemical analysis was about wort and which parameters we should be checking and trying to control. These include concentration of dissolved sugar, pH, starches (checked with an iodine test), color, and attenuation limit (using a forced fermentation).
After our chemical analysis lecture, we talked about dry yeast handling. Each time we talk about dry yeast here, I am more convinced that it should be kept out of production breweries and left for small brewpubs and homebrewers, one of the big issues I have with it is that when the yeast is shipped, between 30-40% of the yeast cells are already dead and commonly misshapen. To me, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages by a lot, not that great beer can't be brewed with dry yeast.
Afterwards, we moved on to a mock tasting panel in which we did a few different types of tastings. The most interesting one, we tried three different pilsners, gave certain attributes numerical values, and made charts of how our tasting panel felt about the beers. This could be a great way of doing recipe development in the future with a tasting panel at home.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Calculations, Mash Techniques, and Malt Analysis

Today was one of our most informative days so far. We started off the class with a discussion about malt analyses and how to understand them better. As we were going over the lecture, I was looking at an analysis from our malt provider back home, and I think I may have found the source of some of our frustrations with beer haze.
After looking at the analysis, we had a lecture about calculations for recipes, and we tied some of the discussion into our malt analysis lecture. When we were talking about mash temperatures in our calculations, I had the opportunity to ask questions about enzymes and how they work at various temperatures. It was good to talk to our professor about amylase enzymes and the effects of breaking the mash into two seperate saccrification rests in order to get each type of amylase enzyme active on its own, which in turn helps to have more control over the fermentability of the wort.
Next, we had a talk on quality management, but most of that lecture we were talking about beer history and what quality management meant in the past. We are not done with that lecture and I think we will continue later in the week,
Lastly, we talked about fermentation control and we practiced taking gravity readings. While this sounds very basic to any homebrewer, we talked about things that can effect gravity readings and we were shown some examples of gravity readings that were off for various reasons (yeast in suspension, temperature, test tube not filled enough, hydrometer got the top wet, etc.) and it was shocking to see how far off it is possible to be on a reading. Today was definitely a day filled with a lot more practical information than we normally have.

Friday, March 28, 2014

End of Week One

It was a huge shock to wake up today and realize that our first week in Munich is already coming to an end. We have had so many great experiences in the week, it just flew by. It has been awesome to go to brewpubs after class and to speak to locals about beer. In all honesty, in the classroom we haven't learned as much as we did each day in Chicago, but we have learned a lot by talking to our German professors and colleagues.
Yesterday, we got to brew for the first time in Munich. It was my first time using a four vessel system (600 hectoliter brewhouse). The mash tun was heated with steam, so we got to do a step mash. I was talking to the Doemens brewer that was guiding us, and when I told him that in America craft breweries typically do single infusion mashing, he was shocked. He said that if you told a German brewer that they could brew great beer using a single infusion, they would call you crazy and tell you that it is not possible. While we were brewing, we also worked on cleaning the fermentation room, malt grist assortment analysis, forced fermentation tests, and we took turns as a group being in charge of the brewing.
After class yesterday, we went to this incredible beer patio (not a true Biergarten). I spent most of the night drinking Augustiner Pils. It was an eye opening experience for me. I always thought that I didn't like pilsner, but that beer was incredibly drinkable, crisp, and refreshing. I wish it was something that we could get fresh in America.
Today was a bit of an easier day. We started off with carbonation calculations for bottle conditioning, then we did brewhouse efficiency calculations, and we finished off the day with a tasting. This tasting was different from the others. We had to break into groups, try a beer, talk about it for 20 minutes, and then give a 10 minute presentation to the rest of the class about the beer. The idea was to describe the beer in a way that would make the class want to buy it.
Tonight, I'll be going to the English Gardens. If it is anywhere near as much fun as I had at Schneider Weisse, Augustiner, and White Fang, I just might have to run away from America and live in Munich the rest of my life. The people here have been very friendly. It seems that you can't go to a pub without a local teasing us Americans and then buying us drinks. I even met two brothers from Cologne that bought 4 rounds of drinks and invited me to a beer fest. Prost!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Wow... What a great day... today we were in a lab, discussing microscopy.  We worked on identifying different yeast strains and bacterias.  It was very informative, and it was great to work hands on. It was very helpful to see up close and personal examples of the various types of beer spoilage organisms. We looked at 3 types of saccromyces and multiple types of lactic acid producing bacteria. Tomorrow, we will be working in the brewery. I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Munich Day 2

Second day at Doemens today. We started off the morning working on hop calculations and talking about theories of recipe development. We discussed how you can set a target bitterness unit, and then say "I want x percentage of my bitterness from my first addition, y amount from my second, and z amount from my third" and then use algebra to calculate how much hops you need from each addition to get your target IBU and flavor.

Next, we discussed yeast propagation. It sounds like Doemens is very set in their method of propagation, and may even have a higher level of quality over Wyeast and White Labs. From what I understood, Doemens is more patient with propagation steps and is very gentle with the yeast. According to our professor, this allows for a little bit of leeway when fermenting a full batch of beer...   According to our professor, when yeast is handled very well, it can be advantageous to pitch less yeast than is typically recommended in order to get positive flavor contributions.

We then did back to back styles tasting courses. We tried a traditional English Porter, an English Pale Ale (both of which had brettonamyces), a Berliner Weisse, Duckstein, Frü Kölsch, and Altbier in our first session. Of these, the Berliner Weisse was by far my favorite. The porter and pale ale were my least favorite, but they felt overly bitter and spicy from the Brett. According to my friend Ky, from Cologne, the Kölsch was not a good example of the style, and he invited me to a Cologne bierfest here in Munich next week.

In our second session, we tried the German styles that are common today. Dunkel, dopplebock, Helles, Pils, Export Dunkel, and Schwarzbier. All of these were pretty good, but so much of the German beer tastes the same, I am already starting to miss how many options we have in America. To wrap up the day, we milled grain for a batch of beer to be brewed tomorrow.

Monday, March 24, 2014

First Day at Doemens

We have finally moved on to classes in Munich! Today was our first day at our Munich campus (The Doemens Academy). After a few mishaps on the public transportation, my roommates and I arrived about 15 minutes late, but luckily we just missed the introduction. We arrived in time for a tour of the campus. This is the part of the course that we all look forward to, since now we are going to be doing applied brewing techniques, working hands on with high quality brewing equipment.

First they showed us the lab where we will do microscopy. This looked pretty much like you would expect a college biology lab to look. Then, we looked in the chemistry analysis room. This was pretty cool since we got to see some equipment that none of us had ever seen. The only thing I recognized was some glass distilling columns. I am looking forward to finding out what the rest of the equipment is and what it is used for.

Next, we moved downstairs and checked out the Doemens brewhouse. This was the coolest part of the tour. It is a 500 liter (about 5 barrel) brewhouse with 4 vessels. We were told that Doemens frequently brews test beers on this system, but none of it is sold. They also do research for breweries who want to recreate a beer. A brewery can send a sample of a beer to Doemens with a request for Doemens to try and build a clone of the beer and give the recipe to the brewery. Afterwards, we looked at the fermenting room, the bottling line, and packaging facility.

After our tour, we met in the cafeteria for lunch provided by Doemens. We had pork and gravy with potato salad and pilsner. The food was great, and it was a nice surprise to have our first lunch provided by the school.

We then moved on to a styles tasting. It was really unique because the styles we tasted were mostly German styles that are now extinct. The only style that we tried that is still commonly brewed was Schwarzbier, but it was brewed the historically accurate way, using top fermenting yeast, juniper berries, honey, and brettonamyces. Our professor told us a bit about the history of German beer, and spent a fair amount of time complaining about the Beer Purity Law. It was funny to listen to her telling us about how she doesn't like the law, when in a lot of countries the purity law is exposed as a marketing scheme, implying that their beer is superior because of it. Other styles we tried were gose, Dortmunder Adam, and a few others.

It was a really easy first day, but I think we all know that won't last. We have a very busy three weeks ahead of us.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Past Week

I have been laying off blogging for the last week since we were doing a one week business of brewing and case studies module. I figured most people don't want to hear about accounting. The class got split into two sections this week. For two days, one section split into groups and worked on technical case studies. Then, the next two days we played a simulated brewing business game that intended to teach us about accounting, finance, and marketing basics.

The case studies were definitely the more interesting part of the week. Our group was faced with a the following situation: You are the head brewer at a brewery that is expanding. Ownership decides to buy a second brewery in a different location. The shape of the fermenters in the new location is rectangular instead of cylindroconical. The new rectangular fermenters are horizontal, close topped fermenters and we have to match the flavors while using minimal investments.

This would be quite a problem in real life. Our first thought was "It's time to leave this brewery and find a new job." The first things that would need to be addressed would be water chemistry in the new location, and if the raw materials are not from the same source, you might need to get creative to make sure that all the specifications of the malt will fall within the same parameters. The more difficult problem though is due to the shape of the fermenters. The horizontal fermenters will be much more shallow, so the hydrostatic pressure will be lower. That means the yeast will be under less stress, thus producing less esters and fusel alcohols. It would also mean that the yeast would flocculate faster, leaving it less time to clean up secondary metabolites. Typically, rectangular horizontals also don't have precise temperature control, instead relying on cold rooms to help maintain fermentation temperatures.

So some ideas that we talked about to match flavors included: attempting to put head pressure on the fermenters to increase ester production, however that would also increase diacetyl production, and without the fast flocculation of the yeast, it might not have time to remove the diacetyl. We would also have to rack the beer quickly off the yeast in the horizontal fermenter since the yeast can't be dropped out of the bottom, thus resulting in quick autolysis.

My favorite solution that we came up with was to transfer half the fermenters from each brewery to the other brewery, ferment the beers and blend. Our presentation ended up going really well, and it was a good way to end our Chicago classes. Tonight, I'm off to Munich to start classes at the Doemens Academy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Materials of Construction, and Maintenence Effectiveness

Today was a MUCH better day, not so much because of the material, but because John Mallett was back and he made the material sound a lot more exciting than it actually was. We spent some time talking about the historical materials that were used for brewing, such as clay pots, wood, copper, and now stainless steel. I have been intrigued about fermenting in wooden vessels for a while now, so it was fun to talk about that. The advantages and disadvantages are the same things for wood. The wood is porous, so micro-organisms can settle in well in wood causing potential contaminations, but the contaminations have potential to give desirable flavor contributions. Wood breathes, so the beer will oxidize, but that too could be desirable in beers that will age for a long time. There are also unique flavor compounds from the wood itself, but that could be a desirable character or an undesirable character as well.

As far as copper goes, I am still convinced that a copper kettle could produce better beer than stainless steel, but it is much harder to maintain, and when trying to crank out beer, that drawback probably outweighs the marginal flavor benefit of removing some sulfides.

When we talked about stainless steel, John showed us a lot of pictures of vessels that had imploded and vessels that had exploded. I have always thought that people would be surprised if they knew how often these types of accidents occur, even in large breweries. One of the tanks was actually from Bell's and was caused by the fermenter being completely closed without pressure relief valves. When. I get back, we will definitely be doing a re-training of all the employees to talk about how to deal with even small amounts of pressure. John showed us a picture of a tank that imploded just as the result of a siphon creating a vacuum effect when a tank got over filled.

We ended the day doing a sensory evaluation. We were handed 7 samples of Budweiser with unknown compounds being added. Surprisingly, I got 6 out of 7 compounds correct, and 4 of the ones that I got right came on smell alone. I had always thought this was something that I was bad at, but today I learned that tasting off flavors is actually a strong point of mine. I guess I have had a lot of beer in the last 3 years though, so maybe that shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as it was... Speaking of drinking beer...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PID, Mixproof Valves, and Pumps

We spent a lot of time today talking about automation. We started off talking about PID principles (proportional, integral, and derivative). Hopefully I get to put this knowledge to use one day, but right now, I think we are pretty far off from automating our brewery, and when we do, I am lucky to be working in a brewery owned by a family of engineers. In all honesty, our talk today really just prepared me to be able to speak with the engineers and follow the conversation, not to go and start installing automation. Although, I probably could work more effectively on simple controls, like our glycol system.

After PID, we talked about mixproof valves with a sales rep from a valve company. Again, this was information that I am happy to have access to when we get to the point that we need to employ their use, but is not too applicable to what we are doing right now. Now, we have a pump that we wheel around, and we have hoses for all our cleaning and transferring. Mix proof valves come in handy when you can have hard pipes that never move, and then you could clean a tank, empty another, and fill another all at the same time.

We then went on to talking about pumps, and how to size them and avoid pressure spikes and drops. I am looking forward to tomorrow when we have John Mallet back again from Bell's to talk about materials of construction.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another fun day!

Today was another discussion about brewing equipment and systems. We talked about air compressors, co2 collection systems, and the different types valves used in breweries and their advantages. A large portion of the discussion revolved around different types of air compressors and why we use the types that we do. After that, we had a slightly more interesting discussion about carbon dioxide collection and reuse. The idea of capturing co2 from fermentation, cleaning it, and reusing it to carbonate the beer in a brite tank was intriguing, but it would be way more expensive than it is worth at our size. After that, we talked about valves. Our professor passed valves around the classroom and we got to see the different ways they work.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Heat Exchange and Ramblings

Before I came to Siebel, I tried to find blog posts or journals from brewers that had been through the program. I found a few blogs, but most of them ended after a week or two. I am beginning to see why... It is really hard to keep up with this. Between studying, going to class, and trying to experience as much as possible, blogging is difficult to do.

For the past two weeks, we have learned about a lot of things that most people don't think about being part of the brewing process. Things like packaging, cleaning, sanitizing, brewery maintenence, and today, how heat exchanges. It is funny to think about how all of these topics are all things that a "complete" brewer thinks of. At Blue Pants, we have such a small staff, we all take on a lot of individual responsibility. When we talk about things in class like making sure that graphics line up on case boxes in order to make a package visually appealing; it seems crazy to think that at bigger breweries, this would be a concern of the brewer, or rather, the brewery manager. But that is the type of thing that we talk about.

Today, we spent a lot of time discussing how heat exchanges. We started off with a discussion of how you raise one pint of water from 32 degrees to 33 degrees, and progressed to how you make sure to have the correct size piping to carry steam through jackets to ensure that you can bring wort to boiling temperatures safely. We have also been working with professors that only work in Celsius (which makes so much more sense than Fahrenheit), and the adjustment process has been a bit of a struggle. A lot of the day was spent talking about steam systems.

We watched a video of an explosion that happened in New York City in 2007 as a result of a faulty steam system and it really reinforced the fear that I have of steam boilers. A large part of the last two weeks has been that way, really driving home the fact that most craft breweries are not taking enough safety precautions in almost every area of the brewery. The lectures have been very dry, incredibly boring, hard to follow, and yet, very helpful.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Keg Washing and Filling

Today we mostly talked about keg washing and filling, as well as safety precautions that you should take while doing so. Afterwards, we talked about problem solving techniques. The fun part of the day was when we did German beer style tasting. We tried Pilsner Urquell (I know... Not German), Konig Pilsner, Kostritzer Schwarzbier, Franziskaner Weissbier, Weihenstephaner Dunkel, Reissdorf Kölsch, Einbecker Mai-ur-Bock, Celebrator Doppelbock, Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Uerige Altbier, and Ayinger Dunkel.

One of the questions that I had for our professor (who was from Germany) was in regards to whether or not he had ever had a German style brewed in America that he thought was a great representation of the style. Surprisingly, he said yes. His belief was that so many American brewers though brew beers based on descriptions, or based on the flavor they get from out of date or mishandled bottles. He said that the American breweries that do brew great German style beers have been to Germany and studied the beers there.

The beer that took my by surprise today was the rauchbier. I had always said that smoke was one of the 3 flavors that I hate in beer (the other two being honey and diacetyl). The rauchbier that we had today though was really well balanced, easy to drink, and very smoky, almost meat like. It got me ranting to take a stab at brewing a traditional rauchbier when I get home.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Packaging Stuff

These last few days have been tedious. It has been a chore just to stay awake during the classes. For almost three hours today, we talked about bottle washing for recyclable bottles. We did eventually get into talking about different types of bottling/canning lines and equipment, which was slightly more entertaining. We also watched a bottling line in action where the operators were trying to speed things up as much as possible. If I saw the numbers correctly, they were filling 1,600 bottles per minute, however, they were wasting a lot of beer in the process.
I talked with some of my professors one on one about sour beer production after class (something I am really wanting to experiment with.) So naturally, after class I went to Binny's and picked up a few bottles.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Labelling, Packaging, and Time Efficiency

Today's post will be a lot shorter than normal simply because no one will want to read much about what we covered today. We talked about how to label bottles, different types of glue, and we watched videos of a labeling machine at work. We then talked about basics of canning, bottling and kegging and how to determine where bottlenecks in the operation happen. That brought us to a lecture on efficiency in the work place and the importance of having all packaging equipment being as efficient as possible. We ended the day with a discussion of the different types of gasses that are found in the brewery and some of the safety concerns associated with the various types of gas. These are the kinds of days that people don't think about when they say "Brewing school must be really cool."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Friday and Monday

I never had time to post a blog on Friday since we went on a tour of Metropolitan, so I'll try to recount Friday's events in addition to today's event in this post.

On Friday morning, we talked about carbonation, quality control, and quality assurance. A lot of the talk focused around the various ways of testing beers and how to properly carbonate. After carbonation, we talked about how to set up a tasting panel, how to properly taste beer, and different types of taste tests that we can do.

We ended the day with a mock tasting session. We were asked to differentiate between three glasses of beer, one of which had Bud Light and the other two being Budweiser. Our class was not able to definitively tell a difference between the two beers. If I remember correctly, about 60% of the class noticed that the Bud light was the different beers, but only 5 or 6 people correctly identified the difference as being the mouthfeel of the beer.

After that test, we were given two glasses and we were told to vote on which one we liked better. One of the glasses had regular Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and the other one had SNPA that was spiked with diacetyl. I smelled the diacetyl in the sample and didn't even drink it because I could tell from the aroma that I would not be supportive of that beer. Only 8 people in the class said they liked the diacetyl sample better.

After the mock tasting panel, we did a palate training course with Belgian styles. By the end of the palate training, the alcohol was beginning to make an impression on most of the class, and it was time to take a field trip to Metroplitan. It was a nice small brewery that specializes in German lagers. They were very friendly and they gave us a lot of samples during our tour,

Today was a fun day filled with a lecture on bottling and packaging, followed by statistics. After our stats lecture, we got on a bus and headed over to Goose Island's main production facility. I was on a tour with Ian Hughes, the Environmental and Safety Manager. He was a very friendly tour guide. He fielded all the questions that we asked him, including what it was like to be working in a craft brewery owned by Anheuser Busch. From everything he told us, it sounded like the only real differences since the buy out have all been improvements. He specifically mentioned a greater awareness of safety and an even greater emphasis on quality control.

We got to see the barrel aging rooms at the brewery and we saw a brewday in progress. It was a great tour and I personally gained a lot of respect for what they are doing at Goose Island. Their barrel aging program was awesome, their equipment was really nice, and the beer we got to sample was top notch. All in all, today was a great day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beer Spoilage Organisms

It seems like every Thursday I nearly forget to write a blog post... Probably because it is always a big study day before a test.
Today was a harder day than the others this week. We talked about beer spoilage organisms, how to detect them, what they produce, and what effects they have on beer. It has always been funny to me when people say that you have to be extremely clean when you brew or else it could make you sick. I've always told people that you will only get sick from drinking too much of it... Just like you would from any non-contaminated beer.
Today, we brushed upon that subject when our professor reassured us that no known human pathogens can survive in beer. For several reasons, beer is a poor environment for pathogens, or any bacteria for that matter. Low pH levels, carbonation, alcohol, and the preservative nature of hops all help to make beer a relatively stable product biologically. Unfortunately, there is still some bacteria and wild yeast that can effect beer flavor, aroma, and body. So while the contaminants will not make you sick, they can make beer taste gross.
After class, I had the opportunity to talk with my professors one on one. We got to discuss various issues that I have encountered at Blue Pants and how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. It seems like every day, I learn something new that we can improve, or sometimes, change altogether. I'm only a third of the way done with the course, but I have learned a LOT in the last month.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Today was a great example of brewing theory. Over the last week, we have talked about how to improve shelf life. One professor told us how filtering damages beer stability, another told us that filtering could slightly improve beer stability, and another one said that sterile filtering is an absolute must for bottled beers. Clearly, there is no right answer. You can look around at great craft breweries throughout the USA and see the different schools of thoughts. Bells, for example, does not filter or even use fining agents in their ales. They do filter their lagers. Some breweries, like Sam Adams, use a very fine filter and filter out even the smallest particles out of their beers. Some use coarse filters and get out the larger yeast cells, while leaving behind the small cells. And then there are even a few that filter out everything, and then add yeast back in right before bottling.

So now within my group of classmates staying in one apartment, we have six brewers with six different opinions on filtering.

At the end of the day we had another palate training session. We used Budweiser as our control beer and tasted 10 different flavor compounds. We had diacetyl (butter taste), Iso-amyl-acetate (banana ester), acetaldehyde (green apple), Eugenol (spicy phenol), fusel (rancid alcohol), boozy (Budweiser spiked to 10% ABV), and a few others.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gushing, Color, Maturation, Yeast Harvesting

Today was another long day. It has seemed a little repetitive since we are going back over a lot of the same topics we talked about last week, just more in depth. The most interesting part of the conversation came early in the day when we talked about gushing and the unpredictability of gushing occurring in bottles. If you have been drinking craft beer for a while, surly at some point you have opened a gushing bottle (it might have even been one of our early bottled batches which we tracked down and solved). Gushing is what we call it when you open a bottle and beer starts shooting out. In extreme cases, you can lose over half of a bottle of beer to gushing.
The interesting part of the conversation came when our professor told us that throughout history, there have been instances of gushing occurring as an epidemic. One of the first reports of this was in 1924 when many breweries throughout Germany suffered from inexplicable gushing issues. Another epidemic occured in 1937 throughout many regions of Europe and the United States. It has happened many more times since then as well. The theory is that it is an unknown problem with malted barley that has caused the epidemics. We know that fursarium on barley can cause a toxin which creates gushing, but this is not what happened in these cases. Hopefully with modern farming and malting techniques, this will no longer be an issue, but it is interesting to wonder... When will we have the next epidemic?

After gushing we moved on to storing and aging beer, and we talked about yeast harvesting. I can't wait to bring all this new yeast knowledge back to Blue Pants and make a few changes to our yeast handling practices.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Beer Stability

Trying to write today's blog post is a bit of a challenge. Quite honestly, today sucked. We talked all day about beer stability and the different ways that beer can go bad. The bulk of the conversation revolved around "Don't expose beer to oxygen."

The day actually started off with an interesting conversation. We touched on how fermentation parameters can effect beer stability. Basically, any secondary yeast metabolites such as esters, fusel alcohols, and aldehydes will age quicker than beers with lower concentrations of by products. We also talked about how filtering can actually make a beer LESS stable (counterintuitive from everything that most of us know about filtered beer) and how bottle conditioned beer can lead to a much greater life shelf as a result of yeast taking in any oxygen that might be dissolved in beer. As you may have guess by now, oxygen is one of the biggest problems that leads to spoiled beer.

As the professor was speaking, I began to realize how recipes, in addition to brewing practices, can effect staling in beer. This was never something I had to worry about as a homebrewer, but now that we bottle at Blue Pants, the oxidizing effects of various ingredients will definitely come into play as we develop future recipes. We also talked about a few simple tests that we can do in the brewery to see how our beer ages. We have already been doing some of this at work, but I look forward to doing these tests with greater effectiveness when I get back.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Test Day

It looks like this will be a typical Friday post... Mentally drained, I will be keeping it short. Today's test was significantly more difficult than the others. Talking to my classmates, it sounded like several people were saying that they would be happy if they managed a passing grade. This was the first test where I wished that there were no true or false questions. It was easy to second guess answers, particularly when talking about secondary yeast metabolites. I feel like with all essay and short answers, the test would have been much less confusing.

After the test, we had a little bit of an easy day, talking about dry yeast processes, yeast DNA, and processing aids such as Irish Moss and fermenter fining agents. After the lecture, I had a good conversation with Siebel's Vice President about distilling and small business plans in the bier stube. I think this is the most beneficial part of attending Siebel... Staying after class, drinking a few beers, and talking with professors and classmates one on one. I have learned so much this week, I am mentally spent. It is time for a beer... Or 10.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Yeast Handling

After what seemed like week of brewing yeast theory, we finally got into the chapter that I was looking forward to most tody... Yeast handling pratices. Yeast handling I the one area that most craft breweries need to improve. Unfortunately, in breweries yeast handling practices are normally glossed over in favor of production speed. It is the biggest area that we have improvd on at Blue Pants in the last 6 months, and still the area of the brewery that needs the most work.

So I read this chapter several times before class today and I went into the lecture armed with questions. The professor and I wound up having a great discussion about how to harvest more yeast from the fermenter while it is still viable, concerns about our pure yeast cultures from our supplier, and he answered some of my questions about setting up a personal yeast bank. I can't wait o get to the applied brewing techniques module so I can do some lab work with a professional and learn how to put all this information to use back home.

After we finished up our last bit of lectures on yeast, we talked about how to analyze beer using equipment that is practical for craft brewer's to own and operate. The most useful for me was when we talked about how to use a spectrophotometer to analyze color and buttering units. We have a test tomorrow, and I have quite a lot of studying to get done in order to feel ready.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Yeast!

The subjects keep getting more in depth. I almost forgot to write my blog post today since I've been studying so much ever since class ended for the day. It got pretty intense talking about all the different ways that yeast produces ethanol and how yeast flocculates. One thing that I hadn't realized was that when yeast creates esters, it then will break down esters into alcohol. It was especially interesting to talk about the different secondary metabolites of yeast today since I began to make connections to how fermentation effects distilling. After talking about ester production, I began to understand a lot better why a distiller makes cuts the way they do.

For example, ethyl acetate is the main ester produced by brewer's yeast. Ethanol is the main primary metabolite of yeast and is the main thing that a distiller wants to collect from their still. Ethyl acetate evaporates at a very close temperature to alcohol and it creates a solvent like flavor. If anyone has ever seen a distillation and tasted heads, the main thing that is getting collected in the first bit of collection is ethyl acetate. So, if you can control the production of ethyl acetate in fermentation, than your "heads" will be less volume, leaving you more "hearts" or pure ethanol to collect. This same thing applies to production of "higher alcohols" (alcohols that burn your throat). These alcohols have a higher evaporation temperature, so they come out in the tails of distillation.

After the interesting discussion of yeast flavors, the class lecture began to be extremely difficult to follow. It is starting to make sense now after studying for several hours, but it was a real struggle in class trying to make sense of why Stoke's Law doesn't apply to yeast and trying to make sense of the different forces that affect the ability of yeast to settle in the fermenter.

I believe it is time for a beer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

More Yeast and American Styles Tasting

Today was a rough day. After a long day of biology yesterday, today we talked more about biochemistry of yeast. The lecture was long and dry, mostly talking about NAD and ATP and how sugars are metabolized and turned into alcohol. I spent a large portion of the day tracing cycles to try and make sense of what was going on. Luckily, I was not the only one having trouble. After the morning though, things did get much more interesting after lunch.

After lunch, we talked more about the practical side of yeast and yeast propagation. We discussed how to isolate yeast cells and how to grow pure yeast cultures. I have always had an idea to brew a beer using all Alabama ingredients, and after our lecture today, I feel like I have enough knowledge of the propagation procedure to grow some yeast cultures and see if I can cultivate any yeast that is living in the wild from Alabama to make this beer. I am really looking forward to actually doing some of this lab work when we get to the applied brewing techniques portion of the module.

After we were done with our main lecture for the day, we had a palate training session using American beer styles. I think my favorite beer of the day was the Lagunitas Pale Ale. It was extremely hoppy for a pale ale, and there was no mistaking that the beer was very unbalanced, but it was such a great hop flavor, the balance didn't bother me one bit. I think I'll need to seek out a few 6 packs of that beer since I don't think I've seen it back home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Intro to Yeast!

Today was a bit of a milestone for us at Siebel. We started the second module of the diploma program and we began talking about yeast. Our professor is Graeme Walker from Scotland. He is very entertaining during lectures. He seems to really enjoy making fun of anything that isn't from Scotland. He definitely knows yeast very well and he seems to enjoy teaching.

We started off with a general review of microbiology. We talked about the differences between Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes and various types of yeast. After that, we jumped into yeast morphology, yeast reproduction, and different types of beer spoiling organisms.

One of the interesting points that Dr. Walker made today came when he told us not to call beers with spoilage organisms "infected." He was very insistent that we never use that word and instead we refer to those beers as "contaminated." He placed a great deal of importance on brewery cleanliness and lab work. He even went so far as to say, "If you don't have a microscope in your brewery, I don't have much hope that your beer will be worth drinking." I think that was a wake up call for a lot of the brewers in the class. Even though I do yeast counts and viability tests, I realized after today that we should be doing a lot more work with the microscope at work than what we are doing. It is not enough to just check the brewing yeast under the microscope. When I get back home, I will be making sure to begin doing more gram staining to check for bacteria.

This part of the course is what I have been looking forward to the most and I particularly look forward to talking more about yeast harvesting, repitching, and storing. That said, I also believe that this will be the most challenging part of the program and that even with my group's long study hours, we are going to be staying up even later for the next two weeks to try to stay ahead of the professor. Speaking of studying... I believe it's time to get back to work.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Test 2 and Brewhouse Considerations

I think today might have been the hardest day to get through so far. After studying late into the night, it was very difficult to wake up this morning and get excited about taking a test. I think I did OK, but immediately after handing my test in, I realized that I made some stupid mistakes. I'm not really used to the idea of "over studying."

After the test, we discussed wort separation, cooling, and brewhouse maintenance. I would write more, but to be honest, I'm really looking forward to going out, having some deep dish pizza, beers, and sleeping in. Cheers!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day Before Test 2- Lautering, Brewing Calculations, Boiling, and Sensory Training

The days have officially run together. I suppose that isn't a surprise since for the last 2 weeks I have been talking about beer for 14+ hours per day. When I was trying to write the title for this blog post, I asked my roommates to help me remember what we went over today. We all started throwing out topics that were covered between Monday and today. Maybe part of the reason for that was because we just studied the 15 chapters of review questions that will be covered on tomorrow's test, or the act of waking up at 6:00 a.m. to study every morning before going to class at 7:00, sitting in class until 4:30, and then eating dinner while studying until 10:00 p.m. every night is starting to really wear down on us mentally. I think we all knew this course would be a challenge, but I don't any one of us knew exactly how mentally challenging this would be.

Today we started off with brewing calculations. The main formula we use in the brewery is a very simple blending formula {A(a)+B(b)=C(c)}. However, when we started getting into questions about removing beer of certain strength and replacing that volume with beer of another strength to get to the same volume with a new percentage of alcohol, most of us were feeling pretty lost. Luckily, John was patient with us and helped break it down. It felt like being back in an algebra class where you know what you are looking for, but you don't know how to find it.

We then moved on to lautering, talking about different techniques to avoid polyphenol and tannin extraction, and talking about the constituents of extract. Typically, in a brewery this whole process involves a lot of waiting and it typically takes an hour to an hour and a half... We managed to talk about it for about 3 hours.

Next, we moved on to a lecture on boiling and the various effects that occur as a result of boiling wort. We also talked about different types of boilers and the advantages and disadvantages of different boiling systems.

We ended the day with a bit of a lighter session. Keith Lemcke lead us in a sensory/palate training. All the beers we tried today were Irish, Scottish, or English styles and they were examples of classic styles. One funny thing Keith said was that the use of Peated Malt is common and accepted in Scotch Ales (I'm looking at you Jim T.). This palate training session was much more enjoyable than last week when we drank Budweiser spiked with various off flavors. Now, it is time to hit the books again as I prepare for our second test tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Adjuncts and Mashing/Lautering

Today was one of the more interesting lectures that we have had so far. Our teacher for today was John Mallett from Bell's. Our topics spanned adjunct brewing, milling, mashing, lautering, and mash filters.

One of the things that I found most interesting was that in a class of 40, most of the students being craft brewers, that we had the director of operations of one of the best breweries in America teaching us about how to use adjuncts (any source of carbohydrates in wort that doesn't come from malted barley such as corn, rice, oats, rye, wheat, etc.). It made me think back to the "I'm a Craft Brewer" video that Stone uploaded a few years ago (

The bit about "I don't use corn in my beer" and "I don't use rice in my beer" always stuck out to me as being a little bit blind to the benefits of using adjuncts in moderation. Particularly, adjuncts can be used to improve shelf stability, produce clearer beer, and yes, lighten the body of beer without adding too much flavor. It is worth noting that the best selling craft beer in Wisconsin (Spotted Cow) is brewed with a significant amount of corn. It is also worth noting that New Glarus is the 17th largest brewery in America and they only distribute in one state. I'd be willing to bet that any of the breweries featured in that video would love to have that kind of demand.

This is not to say that all beers should be brewed with corn, but rather that craft brewers should probably stop shooting themselves in the foot by saying "I will not brew with adjuncts" and rather we should be open to using all the tools available to us to make the highest quality beer possible. One of those tools could potentially be the moderate use of adjuncts. I know I personally would love for my beers to be clearer without filtering and have better shelf life. And to the point of using adjuncts to lighten the body of a beer without adding flavor: What do you think light belgian candy syrup does for Belgian Triples? I don't know of anyone that says that they will not drink Belgian Triples because they use sucrose to lighten the body of the beer without adding flavor.

After the adjuncts discussion, we moved on to milling and mashing. We began to do our first brewing calculations today when we were talking about mashing (mostly talking about the mixing formula and how to calculate flow rates using differential pressures). John was a great teacher, very animated, and very knowledgeable. Luckily, he is going to continue to teach tomorrow and it sounds like he will be back later in the program to teach another module. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Briess Tour!

Firstly today, I would like to apologize for any typos in this blog post. I am currently typing on my iPad from a bouncy bus after doing more taste testing than I would normally do.

Today was a much more fun day than anticipated. We rode up to Chilton, Wisconsin for a tour of the Briess acting facilities. I can't disclose too much about the trip because we signed a non-disclosure agreement before the tour. Apparently, maltsters are very protective of their processes. On the way up, we had 3 hours, during which most people either studied or slept. I opted to study the previous two days of curriculum. It was nice to have some alone studying time to focus on enzymes that I haven't paid attention to in the past.

When we got to Chilton, we stopped at a community college to have a lecture on specialty malts before visiting the maltster in person. I was fortunate to be in a group with the head of malting operations, so we got to go into more depth than the other groups did. It was fascinating to see the steeping vessels, germination vessels, and the kilns and roasters. We got to sample some freshly roasted caramel 120 as well as some germinating two-row.

After the tour, we had a Q&A with the Briess staff. My question pertained to malt substitutions and how closely related a blend of caramel 20 and caramel forty would be to Caramel 30...the answer was  "pretty close." However, caramel 60 and caramel 20 might not equal caramel 40. The description related to groups of caramel malts containing similar characteristic flavor with different colors. When I have more time, I look forward to making a blog post dedicated to this discussion.

We are on our way back to Chicago now, with a few coolers of beer to keep us entertained on the way back home. Cheers!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Malting Enzymes and Mash Techniques

After an awesome weekend, we were back at class this morning. We started out finding out our grades for the week (I felt pretty good to get a 97%) and reviewing our quiz questions. To our surprise, our instructor for today was Ray Daniels, author of Designing Great Beers. If you are a home brewer and you don't own this book, you are missing out.

Ray was a great teacher, lecturing on mash enzymes and mashing techniques. He made it very clear to us today that we do not make beer, but rather we manufacture wort... Yeast makes beer. We talked a lot about how starches and protein are built and how enzymes break them down. We discussed advantages and disadvantages to different types of mashing (single infusion, double decoction, triple decoction, etc.) and we touched on how you can get the advantages of triple decoctions while doing a single infusion by altering your recipes. Hopefully, we will get another chance to learn from Ray when we talk more about recipe development in a few weeks. For now, the class is excited about our field trip tomorrow to Briess and then we have John Mallet set to be our teacher for the rest of the week.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Day 5- First Test and Water Chemistry

Last night and this morning really have blurred together at this point in the day. Today we had our first test, and although I felt really well prepared, I was also very nervous. Talking to my classmates, it appears that I am not the only one that only slept for a few hours last night. I stayed up as late as I could handle last night, and then woke up about three hours before the test and resumed studying. The test did wind up being about what was expected... 35 questions, mostly fill in the blank with a few short answers. Getting the first test out of the way was a huge relief for all of us.

After the test, we jumped right back in to lectures on water chemistry. From what I understand, Ray Daniels normally teaches this portion, but he is teaching us in a few weeks about mash chemistry, so Mike Babb volunteered to teach the water chemistry portion. Mike is very obviously passionate about brewing and teaching. I do think with most other teachers, the class would have been asleep by the end of the morning lecture. Even with Mike, I still did see a few people nodding off a bit (or as Tony with the Moustache puts it: Bobbing for Dicks).

Mike did show us some real world problems that he has encountered with brewing water before and showed us how he fixed them. We talked a lot about brewing salts, using historical brewing areas as examples for different types of water. We looked at Burton-Upon-Trent, Munich, and Pilsen. I'm looking forward to taking a night off from studying and going to the Map Room here in Chicago with classmates.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Day 4- Hops!!!

Today was BY FAR the most fun and interesting day we have had. Talking to my classmates, this seems to be the way that everyone felt. We began talking about my personal favorite raw material: hops.

Our teacher for today and tomorrow was Mike Babb from Kalsec. For those not familiar with Kalsec products, they are the makers of advanced hop products, such as hop extracts. The extracts that they have developed have different qualities that brewers require in beer. Some of them are purely for aroma, while others are for bitterness. The benefit of the hop extracts is that they have the ability to be stored for much longer times without deteriorating than traditional hopping methods (pellets and whole leaf). In addition, they can be made to be light proof (say goodbye to skunked beers in clear bottles), and they can be added after fermentation to fine tune bitterness, flavor, and aroma.

In addition to talking about hop products, we discussed how hops are pelletized, how to store hops, and the different chemical reactions that occur when acids are isomerized in wort. We also talked about off-aromas in hops that can let us know when our hops are know longer suitable for brewing (the main one that people can easily smell is the old cheese aroma sometimes found in oxidized hops) and at the end of the day we did a "hand rub" evaluation.

The idea behind the hand rub is that you grab a handful of hops, rub them together in between your palms to create friction and release aromas, and smell the hops to try to detect any "off" aromas. We did the test with Citra (Very citrusy and floral), Pallisade (my favorite of the group, it had a unique apricot aroma), Crystal (very noticeably oxidized), Liberty (earthy and perfume like), Simcoe (Piney and White Grapefruit, obviously it was a high quality crop as there was absolutely no "Cat Pee" aroma) and German Hallertau (Spicy, Earthy, and also oxidized). 

After the hand rub, we were done for the day and most of the class gathered in the Bierstube. While there, we had the opportunity to taste hop extracts and see their effect on finished beer. I added a small amount of 4 different extracts to samples of a Kolsch (Reisdorf). The hop extracts tasted surprisingly like what you would expect hop pellets to taste like. We had a dry hop example, a bitterness example, and a hop flavor aroma. The flavor and aroma were dead on for what you would think hops added to a boil or fermenter would taste like, while the bitter extract tasted very clean and didn't leave a lingering bitterness on the tongue.

We have our first test coming up tomorrow morning, so it is time to hit the books. I anticipate a late night of studying.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beer Review- Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale

Bottled on Date: 12/11/13
I'm excited to try this beer after Jim Trollinger told me about it a few months ago.

From Firestone Walker's website: "Our flagship brew highlights barrel-fermented batches from our patented Firestone Union blended with beer fermented in stainless steel.  It opens with a biscuity toasted malt aroma and a hint of oak and vanilla.  Pale malts create a smooth malty middle with ribbons of caramel, English toffee and toasted oak.  A tribute to English pales traditionally fermented in cask."

Appearance: Brilliantly clear, Dark Copper Color, One finger head, off white, with good retention/lacing. It would be very difficult to find a prettier beer than this.

Aroma: Slightly nutty aroma, a little bit of breadiness, and maybe a slight oak aroma, followed by slightly woody, earthy hop aroma.

Taste: Biscuit malt, slight caramel, balanced by hoppy bitterness, and fading to an oaky, toast, and vanilla flavor. I'm thinking the toast flavor/aroma is related to the use of chocolate malt in this beer. Really a pretty complex development of flavors. The bitterness is the last taste, but it does not linger, and finishes very clean. Possibly the most well-balanced beer I've ever had.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium-high carbonation.

Overall: Probably the best Bitter I've ever had. I'm regretting only buying two bottles of this. Due to its balance and clean finish, I find it to be very drinkable. It's really probably a good thing now that I think about it that I only have two bottles on hand. It might be hard to stop grabbing bottles out of the fridge if I had a full six pack.

Day 3- Specialty Malts & Sensory Evalutation

Today was by far the most fun day so far. I woke up still feeling pretty overwhelmed from yesterday, but we did an extended review to start class today. Once again, I surprised myself with how much I had actually learned. I think at the end of these long days, my brain just has so many different thoughts that I can't think of any one specific thing that I've learned.

After the review, we got into specialty malting. It was a nice discussion about how two specialty malts from different maltsters are actually very different, not only in flavor, color and aroma, but also in the way that they are produced. It's common to hear people say that Caramel and Crystal malts are the same thing. What we were taught today though is that crystal malts are kilned at higher temperatures for shorter amounts of time in order to reach the same lovibond (color) as caramel malts, which are kilned at lower temperatures for longer amounts of time. We'll get more in depth with this when we tour Briess Malting on Tuesday, but the general consensus is that crystal malts will tend to have a more pronounced, harder taste than the equivalent caramel malts.

After lunch was the fun part of the day. We moved on to our first sensory evaluation course of the day. During the lecture, we poured 2 ounce samples of Budweiser beers that had been spiked with various compounds that are considered off flavors from raw materials. Amongst them, we had D.M.S. (tastes like cream corn), overly bitter (25 IBU's added to Budweiser which is typically 8 IBU's), skunked (self explanatory), and others which were all pretty disgusting. The idea with the training is that it can help us to identify off flavors in our own breweries and determine where they come from. It gets me excited to bring some of this knowledge back to Blue Pants and train a tasting panel. Some people are more sensitive to certain off flavors than other people, so it is important to have a full panel, with ratings for each member to know how good each individual is at identifying the various off flavors.

After class, we had some rare free time so my roommates and I made the trip to Binny's. Binny's is an awesome bottle shop with some great prices. I picked up 20 beers to start doing daily reviews. In the future, I may have to be a bit more conservative... Carrying a heavy box of beer on a bus was not as good of an idea as I thought it would be when I made the purchase.

Day 2

After the intensity of the course on the first day, I began to feel a bit nervous about how difficult this program would be. It was very reassuring to get to the morning review of the previous day and find that I could in fact answer the questions poised by the professor. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of information that I had been able to retain from the previous day's cram session. After a one hour review, we jumped right in with day two. Topics include: Steeping, Germinating, Biochemisty of Malting (Wishing I had paid more attention in college), and Kilning.

The lecture followed the same pattern as the day before. Right when I felt comfortable with the ease of the subject, our professor ramped up the difficulty... This time I was prepared for it though (It's not like we could talk about barley sitting in water for 2 straight hours without encountering some more advanced science). We discussed the different types of vessels used for steeping, the metabolic processes that occur during steeping barley, the Citric Acid Cycle, the effects of temperature/time on water uptake and germination, and about 4 hours worth of lecture on enzymes (alpha-amylase, beta-amylase, and beta limit dextrinase) and how they break down starches into sugars.

8 hours of studying later and it was time for bed. 6 hours later, we were ready to wake up and go back to class.

First Day of School!

This entry is a few days late, so I'm playing catch up... I should be up to date after today.

DAY ONE- Gone are the days when I would walk outside, take pictures on the front step of my parent's house, get on a bus, and anxiously await my mom's first day of school cake. When I woke up on an air mattress this morning, it took a few minutes to realize that I was in Chicago, rooming with 5 other guys in an apartment right next to Wrigley Field, it was 13 degrees outside, and that I would be beginning the most intense classes that a brewer can imagine, beginning today. The 6 of us talked about what we were expecting from the program, and to be honest, none of us really knew what it was that we were expecting. We were all somewhat nervous and anxious, but most of all we were excited to get to class and find out what the class would be like. After a 15 minute train ride and a 20 minute walk across icy sidewalks, we arrived at the campus.

The course began with an introduction of our professors, followed by an introduction of all the students. There are about 40 of us for now, though a few will be done after doing the 6 week Associates of Brewing Technology program. We have brewers from breweries of all sizes and even a few homebrewers that are looking to get a foot in the door to the craft brewing industry. 

After introductions, we jumped right in to course material. For the first day, we covered the history of barley, where barley is grown, disease concerns for barley, and barley structure and morphology. For the first three hours leading up to lunch, we seemed to breeze right through the lecture. We discussed the region where barley was first cultivated (The region known as the Fertile Crescent in the Near East), where U.S. barley is grown (North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Idaho primarily) and the world production of barley.

During our lunch hour we got comfortable in the student's only Bierstube. We have a room where students can gather for lunch, hanging out, and, naturally, beer tastings (samples are kept to a minimum at lunch as we still have 3 hours of lecture after lunch each day). Everyone was in good spirits thinking that the first hours of lecture were easy to understand, and we had learned some interesting information.

After lunch, we got right back to the lecture. The difficulty level shot up immediately after lunch. As we began to talk about the structure of barley, morphology, and barley breeding. We discussed in greater detail the challenges of growing barley, how various diseases effect barley, crop rotation, and barley evaluation. It was immediately apparent that weeknights would be dedicated to intense studying at the apartment. At the end of a brain frying lecture, the class gathered for a quick beer before heading home. I was glad to find out that I was not the only one feeling a little lost at the end of the first day. By 11:00 that night, after studying for 4 hours with my roommates, we were all feeling pretty good about the material we had covered. We realized that if we want to really absorb the insane amount of information we are having thrown at us, we would need to get ahead in reading and note taking, and be prepared with questions before new lectures. It's looking like a long 12 weeks of studying ahead!

Siebel Intro

In May 2012, I was hired by the Blue Pants Brewery. Since that day, I have been trying to further my career in brewing at Blue Pants. This quest has brought me to the Siebel Institute of Technology where I am attending the World Brewing Academy International Diploma Program. Over the next couple of weeks, I will try to keep up with an account of all the experiences that the program provides. I look forward to making a detailed account of what we learn, the beers we drink, the places we go, and the things we see. Stay tuned. Cheers!