The Session #137 Announcement: German Wheat Beers

IMG_0953On July 6, 2018 this blog will have the pleasure of hosting The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday.   The founders of the event, Jay Brooks and Stan Hieronymous, state that it is “an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.”

The topic for July will be:  German Wheat Beers.  I would like to clarify for myself the similarities and dissimilarities of weissbeers, kristall weizen, weizen, hefeweizen, etc.  I’d love to read about the distinctions all you brewers and beer researchers know about regarding the various “styles” of weissbeer, experiences in brewing and drinking the beer, it’s history.  Yeah, whatever you’d like to say about German wheat beers will be great.

Post a link to your essay in a comment to this post or my topical post on July 6. The roundup will be posted that weekend. Thanks to everyone for participating.

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The Barrels

The barrels are on cradles in a back corner of Black Bridge Brewery by the roll up door leading to the patio.  One looks charred and beaten, the other is oakishly white and new-ish.  Both contain beers – as you would expect in a brewery.  The weathered barrel is a from a 10 year old Knob Creek whiskey and it holds the newest iteration of Katastrophic Humiliation.  The other barrel is from Desert Diamond Distillery, used for their 5 year reserve rum; the barrel now contains an aged Old Pretender.  Both barrels were carefully drilled into recently and a few ounces were released for sampling to the small group that bloomed around the barrels.

Old Pretender was brown, like a beer bottle or growler.  It’s hard to expatiate the flavors that were happening in that sample.  The rum definitely holds a presence, some commented that they tasted chocolate.  It’s a rich drink, plenty of complexity to satisfy a good beer snob.  Katastrophic is continually a brilliant beer.  The aroma from the barrel, bourbon and vanilla, will enhance it’s reputation no doubt.  It was very, very dry and a pale bronze color and I don’t remember a lot else about it.  It’s still very young and has to further mature.

Look for both at the Real Wild & Woody beer festival in Phoenix, July 28

Brew Day at Black Bridge

Supporting your local brewery can lead to great beer and brewing experiences. Recently the good folks at Black Bridge Brewery let me spend a day with them and brew K-Town, their understated and charming weissbier.

I arrived there on a Friday at approximately 8 am. Kevin was there, transferring some of their old ale into kegs for transport to an event later in the day. Hops, the the fawned-over-feline and possibly official mascot of Black Bridge, peeked around the stage shortly after my arrival to see who was present to worship him. Well, Kevin was there, so …

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A little before Tim was to arrive he called and had Kevin start up some mash water, so I followed him over to the vessels and watched him work a couple of valves and, voila, hot water started to fill up one of the tanks. Once Tim arrived with more malt we fed that into the grain mill which had been attached to the mash tun. I’m used to working with around five pounds of malt instead of fifty and I usually purchase mine already cracked and have never milled it myself. There’s nothing complicated about that step in the process, dump the bag in the hopper and let the electric drill attached to the crank do the hard work, but at least I can say I have milled grain now. I’m sure there are other aspects to it, such as determining how fine you want the barley cracked, but that was not part of this brew day.

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Once the grain was milled the hot water was transferred to the mash tun and the grains were stirred and temperature reached and …. time to wait, just like brewing at home. While waiting I got to see some new sound equipment that had been delivered and tried to help research a couple of other pieces the brewery was seeking. Around this point, Heather arrived and started going through her routine of opening up for the day.

Then it was time to sparge – rinsing the mashed grains with more hot water to extract all the sugars out of the grains. After recirculating a portion of the mash water a copper ring is attached to the mash tun. Hot water is sprinkled from this arm onto the mash and mash water is transferred to the boiling vessel.  The hot water is added via this sparge arm at the same rate the mash water is transferred into the boil kettle. It was nice to see this method, continuous sparging, in action. I’ve read about it and understood how it was supposed to work. But in my home brewing I’ve used the batch sparging method. So, in a sense, this was new for me, too.

Once the mash tun was drained it was time to clean it out while waiting for the temperature to rise in the boiling vessel. That’s right, cleaning and waiting. Just like home brewing. Oh, and of course there was some beer consumed. K-Town, in fact. I adhered to the head brewer’s pattern of drinking what was being brewed. Good call.

By this time, the doors were open and people were arriving. Tim was mingling with his customers, Heather was pouring beers, Kevin was either playing with Hops or cleaning some fermenting vessels. I think I tried to help him a little, but I may have just had another K-Town.

Speaking of hops, once the boil was reached the hops addition was measured out. I was taught the proper way to tie a string around a mesh bag. The hops, in the properly tied bag, were immersed in the boil. And then there was more waiting. Finally it was time to chill the wort and transfer it to the fermenter. After adding the yeast strain to the fermenting vessel, the wort was transferred through the plate chillers to the fermentation vessel. And we were done.

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All this is just an every day routine for brewers, like Tim (and he did keep reminding me about that).  But it was great fun for me. I was able to see some brewing methods at work that I’ve only read about.  Professional nano-brewing is like brewing at home, just on a bigger scale.  There is much waiting and relaxing and drinking.  Sure, maybe there was not pH testing of mash or water treatment or refractometers – but whatever. The end product speaks for itself.

Tim would be a good educator, by the way.  He walked me through his steps, explaining each valve and why he wanted it to do what it did, explained his motors, talked about the equipment he’d like to have and how it would change his process. While eating lunch with his friend and mentor, Jason Fuller (to whom this town owes a debt of beer gratitude), he talked about hops experiments he did and how those did or did not change the bitterness and aroma values of the final beer.  He was encouraged, during his mentoring, to question everything he reads or hears about brewing, test it, and just brew beer that is his.

I learned a thing or two I can incorporate in my brewing.  I also feel a little more invested in the product being served at Black Bridge.  In addition to all that, it was enjoyable getting to know Tim and the crew a little more.  So thanks to all for the day of brewing.  Now I wanna brew more … another beer at B3 and plenty of my own.

Get to know your local, people, you never know what cool things can happen.  And if you are new to home brewing, definitely get to Black Bridge and hang out.

P.S.  The day after the brew day above we checked fermentation on this batch.  Well, that yeast was vibrant and healthy and working away.  Can’t wait to have some of this batch of K-Town!

 

Old Pricks by Black Bridge Brewery

“They are to varying extents dark, rich and sweet, typically with suggestions of soft, curranty fruitiness and blackstrap molasses.”  – Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion

What’s new is old again.  An old ale will be on tap this weekend at Black Bridge.  It’s called Old Pricks, which is an homage, of sorts, to the prickly pear beer brewed by the women of B3.  That one is called No Pricks Allowed.  This one is brewed by the old men of B3 and they wish to release it just prior to tax day.  I’ll leave you to suss out the pun therein.

What do we look for in old ales?  They’re beers meant to be cellared, or aged.  So you would taste that time in the body.  There will be some oxidation giving it a papery, stale, sherryish flavor.  Imagine an amber or brown beer kept in a cask for several months or more.  They would pick up the quality of the wood.  Additionally, any leftover yeast would act on the beer, continuing to ferment and bequeathing a winy characteristic.   The beer family these ales reside in, mild and barley wine, are oft considered “winter beers,” so releasing during early spring is … bold, maybe?  It’s cool, to be sure, craft beer will be unleashed whenever brewers decide it is their desire.

It should be a malty, complex, stale delight.

That Smell ….
Muted and subdued.  Mostly, I could identify bread.  The pale malt comes right through in the nose.  As successive glasses warmed there was maybe a little caramel  and a slight ester character.  I want to say it was prune that I pinpointed, but I’m not that positive.  It was that kind of “dark fruit” smell, at least.

In Appearance …
Old ales should be darker beers.  Not stout level but a it should have some woody chromatics.  This has a gorgeous spectrum of red, orange and brown and possesses outstanding clarity and sports a sound ivory and tan head.

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But the Taste …
Strong malt sweetness.  Not overpoweringly so.  Also a dry-ish finish.  The oxidation, the staleness I sought was a specter in the aftertaste.  I’d like to see that more pronounced, but that’s a subjective wish, isn’t it?   The body does seem a bit light.  Aging for extended periods can produce such an effect so in that regard, well done.  It was only aged for 3-4 months, maybe some ruggedness will appear.  If not, it does have a slight creamy mouthfeel that is pleasant and at 6.6% abv it does produce a warming alcoholic effect.

In Conclusion …
Another corking entry to the B3 taplist.  It was only aged a few months, so I really want to see what this will be like when it gets a good amount of age on it in the keg but I really enjoy it now, too.  It’s reminiscent of 80 Shilling, neither aggressive or assertive.  Perhaps you remember the bready goodness of Oktoberfest; Old Pricks is like that, darker in overall tone, color and flavor.  B3 has done an altbier in the past to which this might be similar.  I could only find this note about that beer:  “It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty.”  Old Pricks is just as tasty.  But it resembles some of the barley wines, mostly, though heavier in mouthfeel and not quite as hefty in alcohol.

History indicates an old ale should be nurtured quietly in the glass, near a fire and steeped in quiet conversation or contemplation.  Old Pricks has that character.  It adds to the pub culture engendered at Black Bridge, not requiring in depth analysis to enjoy but not fearing it either.

 

New Beer’s Eve – The Day Before National Beer Day.

April 7th is the anniversary of the day legislation, the Cullen-Harrison Act, allowed alcohol to be legally sold again in the United States.  Later that year, the twenty-first amendment was ratified and Prohibition repealed.  April 7 has become known as National Beer Day (because we know that beer is the most important of the Alcohols).  Therefore, the day prior, April 6th, is affectionately known as New Beer’s Eve.  That’s today.  Since beer is the focus of National Beer Day let it be the drink over which you meditate.

Alcohol is certainly abused and this has contributed to tragedy – household penury, domestic violence, major health problems, fatalities.  Concern over these abuses contributed to the zealotry of the temperance movements in the early 1900’s and to Prohibition.  Banning a substance, however, does not necessarily excise the problems since the actual underlying causal problem remains.  In fact, such action can lead to other serious problems or makes the object of the ban more tempting and therefore actually promotes what is trying to be stopped.  Prohibition resulted in increased illegal consumption of alcohol, organized crime, feelings of discrimination toward ethnic groups, and reduced tax income for government and other social and legal concerns.

Individual moral stands are products of the context of a person’s life and personality architecture.  They can drive a person to live an honest and rewarding life.  When people become moralists, attempting to enforce their personal code and strictures on those around you, problems seem to arise.  There can be discussions, dialogue with friends, and even family, about your codes; talk, express, listen.  In the end, though, each person has to make their own decisions about things.

Granted, the code we live by should not incur harm to those around us.  The issues noted above which stalk the culture of alcohol do harm.  Those actions need to be addressed, considered, curtailed.  Banning alcohol, unfortunately, did not stop any of that, nor did it cure alcoholism.  If it had, well, it would have been worth the experiment.  But those are, for now, a perennial problem, faced by generation after generation.  Take a moment to examine your own proclivities.  If you, or family and friends, note an imbalance take whatever action is necessary to slay that particular dragon.

Personally, I think the loss of tax revenue was the biggest driver for repeal of Prohibition.  It seems that the best way to make your voice heard in this country is to speak with your Money.  Mammon is alive and well and influential.  Taxation of liquor is a source of irritation for brewers and bar owners.  It can be a big hurdle for new owners.

 

There are more breweries in the US now than there were pre-Prohibition.  There are two to choose from in Kingman, Black Bridge and Rickety Cricket.  The brewers there will be happy to talk to you about their beers and their tax struggles.  It’s a nice spring day, maybe a little windy, just right for a K-Town Weiss over at Black Bridge.  There’s a couple of wheat’s on tap at Rickety Cricket as well.

Cheers as always.