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.