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.