Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cantillon Public Brew Day Part 2

Aging lambic from the P brewing season.
"There are no secrets to lambic brewing..."

This follow up to my first post of the Cantillon brew day will be mostly a list of things that came up throughout the day from conversations with Jean, trying different Cantillon beers, and anything else that came up on brewday but didn't fit well into the description of Cantillon's brewing process. And some more pictures. It's a lot less brewing information but I think it is some interesting stuff for approaching new ideas with non-standard lambics and fruit lambics.

It seems that Jean must be constantly thinking of new experiments/blends/lambic treatments because he mentioned at least 5 ideas to me that he's working on or planning. Here are some of those experiments/ideas. Hopefully this gives some ideas to lambic homebrewers for new things to do with a lambic base. I know they definitely got me thinking.

Spiderwebs on the Cantillon grain mill belt-drive.
Half en half - An old Brussels tradition, and it is exactly as it sounds. A 50/50 blend of two beers. The idea of blending beers at serving time is not new to me but I wouldn't say I've done much beer blending of any form aside from a bit of
blending similar beers at bottling to smooth out rougher characteristics and gain complexity. And I certainly would not have thought of blending lambic in the glass. But I have to say I will certainly do it in the future. Jean produced what he called his favorite blend for a fellow homebrewer/lambic enthusiast I met at the brew day named Ben to keep Ben refreshed while he shoveled out the mash tun. The blend was equal parts Fou Foune and Rose de Gambrinus. Man was it good. So good that I later made my own with Fou Foune and a pour from a bottle of Lou Pepe Framboise. The soft floral character of the apricot and the more acidic bright fruityness of the raspberry work really well together, and the balance of the two was great. I definitely think the blend was better than either of the component beers on their own. And if/when I start adding fruit to my lambic based beers, I definitely intend to blend different fruit treatments at bottling so I can have a pseudo half en half without opening two bottles at once.

The main boil kettle (left) and secondary kettle (right) with belt-driven mixers
Mash rest after adding back the pulled runnings.
Riesling lambic (barrel sample) - A dry riesling has a lot in common with a sour beer such as lambic, both being light bodied, fruity and acidic. In terms of adding a new depth to lambic, I'm not sure what riesling juice might do (I haven't tried any of the other sours out there made with riesling juice) but I can say at this point the Cantillon riesling lambic tastes great. Judging from the posting date on Cantillon's facebook page, this blend was probably made around 2 weeks before I tried it. At this point is has much of the riesling fruityness and the sweetness of partially fermented riesling (see side note below). There is a great mix of acidity from both the riesling juice and the young lambic. A touch of the 'petrol' character that rieslings sometimes have, but it was mild and definitely not off-putting.

Side note - The part of Germany where I'm currently living, Rhineland Palatinate, is the country's leading region for wine production. During harvest season there is a popular partially fermented wine called federweisser, which has a slight carbonation due to the active fermentation. You can find it in varying degrees of sweetness, from something that is hard to differentiate from grape juice to almost finished wine. I didn't know what it was the first time I saw people drinking it at little kiosks which are all over town, and it looked kind of creepy. It is hazy from the still active yeast and is a pale green color. Bottles have only a loose cover (no seal) because they are fermenting when you buy them. Anyway, I think it is reasonably pleasant and shares some major common ground with the current state of the Cantillon riesling lambic experiment.

The signs of a past active fermentation.
50N 4E - If you didn't know about this beer before, it is gueuze made form lambics aged in cognac barrels. I think this is a great combination of spirit barrels and beer. The cognac is smooth enough to blend with the lambic flavors. It adds a nice perception of sweetness softens the lambic acidity while leaving plenty of room for the lambic character to come through. Jean said the current blend, bottled in 2012, is 25% cognac barrel aged lambic and 75% normal lambic, but for the next bottling of it he plans to flip those percentages and use 75% cognac barrel aged lambic. I'm interested to see how that turns out, because at the current 25% cognac barrel aged level I think the spirit quality comes through prominantly and softens the lambic very nicely while still letting the lambic part be present. So for the homebrewer, if you were thinking of making a richer lambic with some spirit character (or if you weren't before but are now), I think cognac is a really good choice.

Amphora update - In January 2012 Cantillon started experimenting with aging lambic in amphoras (and another link). The first lambic batch started in the amphoras and was aged 14 months. Jean said that he felt this batch spent too long in the amphora and became too rough and minerally. He is planning a second batch to be aged in the amphoras, but this time he plans to take 1 year old lambic from barrels and transfer it into the amphoras with a  bit of fresh lambic wort to kick start an active fermentation to protect the wort from oxygen in the transfer and amphora environment. Then the lambic will age in the amphoras for something on the order of 5-7 months. This seems to be a good compromise of getting character from longer aging without the roughness Jean was getting from extended amphora aging.

Other miscellaneous info
The boil kettles
Blending/bottling - Jean said Cantillon doesn't bottle if the lambic temperature is above 20C and that bottling usually stops around May. I know I've seen bottling in action during the summer and I've seen dates on bottles of Cantillon fruit lambics to confirm this, so I suspect that I didn't catch that he was referring only to gueuze blending/bottling. This seems to make sense. For the fruit lambics, the time he can add the fruit is dictated by harvest and bottling time is determined by when the lambic needs to be removed from the fruit, so bottling may have to take place over summer. But for gueuze the timing isn't pre-determined by harvest and maceration times, and it makes sense to save bottling for a time when the lambic is done with the microbial, and especially bacterial activity peak seen in summer (as this paper shows). I hadn't really thought of this, but it makes complete sense for the quality of the gueuze. And the overlap with brewing season provides freshly emptied barrels for new lambic to go into, though it probably also makes for a very busy winter. It seems other brewers/blenders are doing this as well, as Tilquin recently posted about the start of their blending season.

The Cantillon hop filter, complete with the magic sock.
I'll close this off with a couple more pictures of the coolship in action and an explanation of the quote at the start. It is what Jean said to me as I was thanked him for the day and all the time he spent talking to me. He there are no secrets in lambic, and that I've seen everything he does. Then he thought for a second and said,

"There is one secret to lambic... Love. Love and passion."

And from watching him brew, you can feel the serious passion he has for the making quality lambic. I enjoyed Cantillon lambics before and respect what they do and what they have done for lambic. But after seeing the process I have a whole new respect for everything that goes on there. It takes a lot to open up your brewery to hundreds of people so they can watch you brew for a day. And to brew the same base wort (nearly) every brew session while still coming up with new great ideas for the final product definitely takes passion.
More pictures of the coolship in action.

So thanks to Jean, and to all you for reading this (and the previous) post about the Cantillon brewday.



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cantillon Public Brew Day (9 November 2013) Part 1 of 2

Preface: Cantillon is one the few remaining (and probably the most well-known) traditional brewers of the spontaneously fermented lambic beer. Lambic beer is native to the Senne river valley in the area of Belgium including and around Brussels. The brewery is owned and run by the Cantillon/Van Roy families, with the brewing traditions passed down to each new generation of brewers. Jean Van Roy is currently the brewer at Cantillon, though he is now beginning to teach his son to brew. Each March and November the brewery invites the public to observe one of their brew days. On any other normal day of the year (excepting Sundays) the brewery/tasting room is open for visitors to take a self-guided tour and try the beers. But on the public brewing days you get a rare chance to see one of the more traditional brewing methods in action. In this first and rather long post, I'll run through the Cantillon brew day that I observed. In part 2 (to come later) I'll add a bit of extra info on beers I tried while there, info on unreleased Cantillon projects still in fermentation and on ideas that Jean is developing, lasting impressions from the brew day and maybe some extra pictures.

Barrel cleaning in action at Cantillon
Brew Day: As I opened to door to the brewery just before 7:30 on a cold Brussels morning I was struck by a warm humid wave, sticky and with the tannin of oak and the citric acidity and funk of a lambic. As I stepped inside I saw this was coming from the barrel cleaning already well underway. Empty barrels which previously held lambic are blasted with hot water to rinse out the trub (yeast and other sediment which has settled out from the beer), filling the entrance way with steam and the smell of the lambic the barrels once held. After the inside of each barrels is thoroughly rinsed, the barrels are placed into what has fittingly been described as a medieval torture device by Vinnie from Russian river in his 2007 NHC talk: chains are placed into the barrel, which is still partially full of hot water, and the barrel is then spun around to more thoroughly clean the inside of the barrel. This barrel cleaning would continue throughout most of the day, and I continued into the brewery (through the barrel steam permeating most of the ground floor) to drop my bag, grab a breakfast croissant and see the brew in action. I knew I could stop back later to get my fill of lambic-scented steam pouring out of freshly emptied barrels.

Cantillon's belt-driven pump recirculating the mash.
The wood-lined cast iron mash tun, kettle 1 (behind) and kettle 2 (right).

Unfortunately I missed the first half hour or so of the brew (mashing started around 7:00) on account of the 5 am bus that I wanted to catch being a couple of minutes early. So I had to wait another hour for the next bus (I was staying a bit outside Brussels and transport into the city was limited at this time of day). I arrived part way through the mashing, and so my information on exact mash temperatures and rest times is a bit lacking. I was filled in by some fellow homebrewers and lambic beer enthusiasts on what I missed. The first mash step (48 C I was told) had been completed and now we were resting at 66 C. And the first pull of wort had been transferred into the holding vessel/smaller boil kettle, following turbid mashing procedures. Looking at my notes and comparing to other reports of Cantillon mash procedures, I seem to be missing a rather short  rest at ~58 C.

Quick break - If you are unfamiliar with a turbid mash, it is procedure for very efficiently (in the sense of extract but not time) extracting  fermentable sugars and starches from the grains used in brewing. It is significantly more complicated than a normal brewing mash and it preserves significantly more unconverted starch than modern mashing procedures. This starch is unfermentable to the Saccharomyces strains typical to brewing but the additional yeasts (such as Brettanomyces) and bacteria (mainly Pediococcus and some Lactobacillus) can access these starches.

There’s an interesting history to turbid mashing with influence from the methods of taxing brewers in Belgium used over time. In brief, turbid mashing involves pulling liquid portions of the mash to be heated in a separate vessel, stopping enzymatic activity and preserving unconverted starch from the grain. These removed portions of mash liquid are replaced by hot water to increase the temperature of the mash to the next rest temperature, which is selected based off of the desired enzymatic activity. If you’re looking for more information on turbid mashing methodogy and history, I’d recommend the book Wild Brews (a really solid resource for anyone interested in Belgian sour beers), articles from past issues Brew Your Own magazine and other bloggers such as the Mad Fermentationist and Funk Factory. Alright, back to the brew day.

Draining the mash.

Bags around the brewery suggested that Cantillon was using organic Dingemans pils malt for this batch, though I think I've seen previously Weyermann malt bags there as well. The grist was 800 kg barley malt and 400 kg unmalted wheat and had been milled the day before. Cantillon operates with a mash tun, a hot liquor tank, and two boil kettles. One kettle is larger and serves as the main boil kettle and the second is smaller and serves as the pulled mash liquor holding/heating tank as well as the supplementary boil kettle. After a 15 minute rest at 72 C, Jean started the vorlauf (draining and recirculating the mash liquor to get clear mash runnings) and transferred the early runnings to the main boil kettle.

Adding the pulled liquor from kettle 2 back to the mash tun.
The first mash runnings went into the main boil kettle. Unlike in typical mashes, these runnings didn't taste all that sweet. Perhaps this is because mash liquor is being removed to the second kettle and replaced by water. The first runnings were hazy and tasted very starchy and a bit like hay. The tannins and unconverted starch countered the sweetness and gave much more of a dry taste than I expected. With the first runnings drained, the mash liquor which had previously been moved to kettle 2 was added back to mash tun and left to rest with the grain for 15 minutes before also being drained into the main kettle. These runnings were more clear (perhaps from protein precipitation during heating) and were sweeter than the 1st runnings, tasting closer to standard mash runnings.

Spent grain in the Cantillon mash tun.
Sparging (rinsing the grain with water) was carried out with 88 C water. The mash runnings in the first (main) boil kettle reached a boil before the the kettle was full. At 11:30 the first kettle was full and the mash runnings were directed to kettle 2. At about 12:30 all of the mash running were collected. The remaining spent grain had even less flavor than spent grain from a typical brew. I expected it to not have much taste but I was surprised by how little was left in the grain after the mash. I didn't get the complete pre-boil volume but at 13:00 (when kettle 1 had been boiling for aver 1.5 hrs) there was about 6038L in the main boil kettle and 2545 L in the secondary kettle (the sight glasses on the kettles at Cantillon are in cm, with a spreadsheet to give volume from the height of wort).

Hops being added to the main boil kettle.
The boil at Cantillon lasts 3.5-4.5 hours, with roughly 25% of the pre-boil volume evaporation during the boil. The target final wort volume was around 7000 L. Both boil kettles are hopped with aged hops, typical of lambic production but not in more standard brewing. This brew used 2010 Tettnang whole hops, but bales of 2009 Saaz and 2011 Halltertau are also waiting in Cantillon's attic. Jean's son weighed out 15 kilos - as Jean said, he must learn to brew lambic. And as Jean jokingly suggested throughout the day, learning at this point mainly involved the generally less desirable but definitely necessary brewing tasks such as weighing out ingredients and cleaning. It was pretty cool to see the active training of the next generation potential Cantillon brewer, even if he did get stuck with all the not so exciting tasks at this stage. I'm not sure if the entirety of this 15 kilos was added to the first (and main) boil kettle or if it was split between the two. If it is the entire hopping amount, this is in a bit of disagreement with reports of around 5 grams of hops added per liter of wort (which would suggest 35 kilos for a 7000 L brew day). Perhaps I am off with the 7000 L final wort volume, but it seems to match the ~8600 L mid boil volume I saw. So maybe another amount of hops was weighed out at a different time for the second kettle and/or the hopping is not quite 5 g/L. I guess I'll have to go back with some more questions for next time. It's hard work, but someone has to do it.

The copper rings and propeller inside the boil kettle
An interesting feature of the boil kettles at Cantillon are large internal copper loops (I estimate the larger of these is on the order of 10"/25 cm in diameter) and a propeller for mixing. I'm not sure what these are for. One (the larger outer ring) seems to line up with the inlet/outlet for the kettle (outside pictured above) but I'm not sure about the inside ring, which connects to a point higher on the side of the kettle. This must be for steam heating, or something like this.

The first bit of hot wort reaches the coolship.
Wort cooling in Cantillon's coolship.
At 15:10 the boiling was done and wort was transferred to the coolship, ending the brew day. The coolship is a large shallow copper tray in the top floor of the brewery which holds the hot wort as the wort cools overnight. The coolship room has slats at the wall which are opened, allowing the evening air to enter and cool the wort. The weather in Brussels this weekend was reasonably cooperative, raining at night time but mostly not during the day. Overall though, Brussels had been very wet over the preceding weeks. To a lambic brewer, this could be influential/of concern for a couple reasons. First, higher humidity outside means less evaporation during cooling, which means a slightly lower strength wort at the start of fermentation. I'm not sure how significant an effect this has, but I've heard other lambic brewers discuss how this can influence their lambic. Additionally the native micro-organisms in the air can be stripped out, influencing the spontaneous inoculation. Fortunately for breweries such as Cantillon that have been active for some time, brewhouse-resident microbes play a dominant role in spontaneous fermentation (Cantillon has been active in its building for over 100 years, but resident populations of microbes are observed in much younger breweries). So it is likely that the native air-born population of yeast and bacteria play a much more minor role and the terroir of individual lambic breweries is more driven by the yeast and bacteria living on ceiling tiles, joists, walls and inside the barrels in which the wort ferments. This brewhouse population may have arrived over years from the surrounding environment, among other sources, but now it is established within the brewery. This brewhouse-resident microbial community inoculates the wort as it cools. Consequently, there is a belief that lambic brewers hold (and rightfully so) that building renovations and/or changing location will alter the character of the beer. As I mentioned above, this is the final step (excepting cleaning) for the brewday and the wort will sit in this coolship overnight before being transferred to barrels for fermentation.
The coolship, with open wall slats allowing the evening air of Brussels in to cool the wort.

Thanks for reading and hopefully you learned something about lambic and/or Cantillon's brew process. Look for part 2 (info on beers I tried while there, unreleased Cantillon projects still in fermentation and ideas that Jean is developing, and lasting impressions from the brewday and more pictures) in the coming week.

Postscript: I've tried to write this to a more general audience and define some brewing terms that would be familiar to many brewers but not necessarily everyone else. And I tried to strike a balance between people well versed in lambic brewing and those that did not previously know of the style.

I talk about Cantillon and other lambic brewers and blenders a bit more in this 2016 post about visiting lambic  producers.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Corking your homebrew

After promising few, if any, early posts on actual homebrewing process and recipes, here's a bit of my process. I know there are already some resources out there for folks who are interested in bottling their beers with a cork and cage, but here’s a pretty good rundown of my method. Hope it helps if this is something you are interested in doing.

Why would I want to cork and cage a beer? If you’re already sold on the desire to cork, you can skip down to the equipment section. For me there is one main reason – the ability to cork and cage a beer solved my never-ending search for enough high pressure (thicker glass) bottles. Bottle conditioning saisons and other high carbonation beers in normal beer bottles makes me nervous, especially when involving Brettanomyces and other higher attenuation and slow growing microbes that could slowly increase the CO2 level in a beer over time. I’ve never had any bottle bombs but I’d much rather put high carbonation beers into high pressure bottles. I had been collecting Belgian 330 mL bottles and the miscellaneous ‘normal’ cap size (26mm) 750 mL bottles (some of Upright’s beers, Jolly Pumpkin, Anchorage, Logsdon, etc.). However I've noticed with the thicker lip on these bottles that even though they are a normal cap size, I’d often get a bottle that I wouldn’t fully trust the seal of the cap and sometimes I would have to undo and re-cap bottles a couple times to get a proper closure. Corking solves this problem and I never doubt that a bottle is properly sealed.

In addition, I think it looks really good. To some folks it might not be worth it (~$0.35/closure, versus a couple of cents for a normal cap), and maybe if I had an inexhaustible supply of high pressure capped bottles and I never had any doubts with the seal, I wouldn’t C&C bottles. But since neither of those are the case I’m happy to cork. And I do like the way it looks. When giving beers to friends, it makes your homebrew look that much more professional. It shows that you really take pride in brewing and care about presenting your beer well. Alright, that’s probably enough rambling on why I like corking… On to the process.

Equipment: I have an Italian floor corker that was given to me by my friend Dave in my local homebrewing club (BrewVIC). I've seen the Colonna corker/capper in action and I would definitely recommend going for a step up to the Italian corker. You'll notice the standard #7 bung on the corker, but think any size bung will do, and the hole for the airlock fits perfectly with the corker. My corks and cages are from morebeer.com. For a while I has using cages from my local homebrew shop but the wire was thinner gauge and was more likely to break while I was putting the cage on or taking it off. They also didn’t quite fit right, requiring me to hand-bend the tops for each cage, so I went back to the morebeer cages. The other tools/equipment I keep around when corking are a screwdriver for twisting the cage on and a large cookbook as a spacer (this will make more sense in a bit). The book idea was prompted by a piece of wood that my good friend Dylan used in his set up, and pretty much any solid spacer of about the right thickness will do.

Process: This corker isn’t designed for the most elegant process with Champagne and/or Belgian high pressure bottles because like most corkers it isn’t set up to leave some of the cork sticking out. But on a homebrew scale this is a pretty easy problem to get around. Sanitizing bottles works the same as you would do for normal bottling. I use starsan and a bit of foil over the top so I can shake them and keep dust out. I let my bottles dry in a tote with holes drilled in the top to hold bottles. This is another idea I’ve adopted from Dylan and I seriously recommend it. It cost me about $5 and 1 hour to set up (all you need is a hole saw and a drill, and maybe sandpaper to smooth the edges), and it works really well.

I put the full bottle in the corker with a book between the and the spring-loaded bottom holder. I spray the cork quickly with star san before putting it in the corker. This may or may not be important (or advisable), but I don't notice any problems with it and it makes me feel better about the cork. Once you start to lower the arm to cork a bottle, the bottom bottle holder is locked in place, which will be important when it comes to leaving some cork sticking out. And also, remove the foil! I've forgotten to remove the foil at this step and that's a real bummer.

Lower the arm until the bung reaches the the cork compressor. You'll notice the active depth of the cork pushing rod is adjustable and after a bit of trial and error you'll figure out what amount of external cork works best for you. I don't have a measurement for what I leave, but see the picture and description below. Then I raise the arm enough to remove the bung, but don't raise it all the way (this is important) and I remove the book. With the arm partially lowered the spring-loaded bottom will stay in place, giving you enough room to push the rest of the cork through while lowering the bottle.
Example of my level of external cork

Alright, so now we have the corking part of corking and caging done. On to the caging. One of the first things I noticed when comparing my early attempts to commercial cork and caged beers is that my corks didn't have the nice mushroom shaping. Part of this was likely due to the cork being in the bottle for a shorter time, but not vertically compressing the top part of the cork plays into it as well. So I started leaving a bit more cork sticking out. This also helped a great deal with removing the cork from the bottle. You may feel kind of like a fool when you excitedly show your friends your cork and caged homebrew, then spend forever trying to get the cork out and finally give up and use a corkscrew. Pushing the corks too far into the bottle proved to be the main culprit here (but increasing carbonation also helps when removing corks), so leaving more cork sticking out of the bottle helps in two ways. I leave enough cork out that the cage won't quite reach down below the lip of the bottle without vertically compacting the cork.

With the cage on the bottle, I pull the bottom cage loop out to the side while shaping the legs so they are where I want them to sit on the final bottle. You can adjust a bit later but it is easier to adjust them at this point. Then while pushing down with a pretty good amount of force with one hand, I twist the bottom cage wire clockwise in half turns while pulling the wire away from the bottle the whole time. Note for the vertical pressure part - in this interview with the Brewing Network (15 January 2006) at ~1 hour and 18 minutes in, Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River starts talking about corking his bottles. They have a corking machine that mushrooms the corks for his normal bottles; however he has to cork the large format bottles by hand. In order to mushroom the cork for the 3L bottles, he pushes on the cork with a piece of wood under his entire body weight. So this vertical pressure helps the cork mushroom, also getting the cage low enough for it to sit under the lip of the bottle. Pulling the cage out while twisting helps the loops form cleanly. This looks better and it increases your chances of not breaking the wire while removing it. Generally I've heard recommendations of 6x1/2 turns. I kind of play it by ear and if the cage is still a bit loose I may do an extra 1/2 turn, or if I didn't twist the loops very cleanly I may only have 5. But too many and the wire may snap. Finally, bend the loop up out of the way and you're done!

My first couple runs were a bit more rough, with corks going a bit too far into the bottles and poor wire twisting causing some cage bottom wires to snap while I was removing the cages. But after a bit of practice and some cork depth adjustments you should have the process running smoothly.

Feb 2015 edit (see below as this is outdated):
I had to edit this post to include an excellent trick that I picked up from my friend Jeffery (the same one with whom I have this 60 gallon barrel) regarding mushrooming the corks. He pointed out that a bench capper does a really good job of this, simply push down on the cork with the capper for a few seconds. This will then hold its form long enough to cage. That means when you're twisting the cage you don't have to push down so hard (saving some sore palms, and I also had this fear that one day the neck would crack from the pressure while mushrooming the cork with my hand  leading to serious injury, and this prevents that as well) and you can focus on setting the cage and twisting it well. It looks better and is easier this way.

The finished product
Mushrooming with cage in place

Oct 2015 edit: I've been meaning to update this for a while. I only separated the mushrooming and caging for a short time. It is much easier to place the cage on and then mushroom with the bench capper as described above. Then I hold the bench capper arn down with my left shoulder/armpit and I have both hands free to orient the cage and twist the wire. This is the best way I've found to far to get a good looking finish and make sure the cork is properly mushroomed and the cage is properly in place.

Also, now I typically don't use the book and simply depress the pedestal with my foot after putting the cork into the bottle. And finally, I've gradually been leaving more and more cork out. Some day I should take a measurement, but the cage regularly reaches to around the middle or base of the upper lip of the bottle but not to the second cage lip without cork compression.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First Post: About me and introduction to the blog

I figured I’d start off with a bit of information about myself and why I chose to start this blog. Don’t worry; actual beer info is soon to follow…

Drie Fonteinen geuze at the brewery restaurant.
I’ve thought of starting up a blog for a while now but was always worried I wouldn’t be able to come up with material frequently enough to make it worthwhile. Well, now I’m in a couple months into a 7 month term as a visiting research student in Mainz, Germany. I won’t be brewing while I’m here so that means I’ll need to find other brewing-related pursuits to fill this brewing void, giving me a perfect opportunity to try a blog out.

As a PhD student studying the chemistry of the ocean, I tend to take a scientific approach to brewing. I grew up in Seattle and my brewing days began six or so years ago in Northern California. Much of my early beer and brewing education was shaped by brewers in the northwest and northern California. Following a couple trips to Belgium (and many trips to Russian River) I became hooked on Belgian brewing traditions, especially saison and lambic/g(u)euze brewing.

Lambic/gueuze at Cantillon in a traditional lambic basket
At the start of this blog, my temporary position in Germany means that I probably won’t be contributing a whole lot of recipes, comments from brewdays, etc., but I’ll try to put in a bit of stuff from old batches that I think are noteworthy. In place of brewing I’ll be doing plenty of ‘field work’. So the beginnings of the blog will probably be more inspired by what I learn about brewing while abroad from travels, new beers and what I’m reading (with a healthy, or perhaps unhealthy, number of scientific papers) about brewing.

I’d also like to take a bit of time here to acknowledge some of the folks who have been a big inspiration to me in brewing. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, and I’ll keep it to the brewers that I’ve had a chance to meet personally and talk to: Chad Yakobson at Crooked Stave in Denver Co, Clay Potter at Moon Under Water in Victoria BC, Alex Granum at Upright in Portland Or, Armand Debelder at Drie Fonteinen, and Jean Van Roy at Cantillon. All of these brewers have an inspiring enthusiasm for their craft and an eagerness to share their knowledge.

At one of my favorites: the Dupont Brewery in 2011.
 Finally, I’d like acknowledge a couple of blogs. Although I haven’t had a chance to meet these folks, the information they share has had a huge impact in my brewing progression. First and foremost the Mad Fermentationist, whose blog has helped me improve my brewing substantially. Embrace the Funk has given me some great insight into what some of the leading commercial funky beer brewers are doing and podcasts  such as The Sour Hour and Belgian Smaak have given me the opportunity to learn from countless folks in the industry and a wide range of homeberwers.

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the blog. Happy brewing.


(Podcasts updated Oct 2017)