Inspired by Derek Springer's quest for the ultimate Vienna Lager www.fivebladesbrewing.com/geburtstagsparty-traditional-vienna/, I challenged the Maltose Falcons, and they answered. The Crew: Tom (Jedi Master) Sisolak, Art (The Truth is Out There) Fitzsimmons, Michael (Our Final Hope) Covarrubias, and the Get 'Er Done brew team of Andrew McGrory and Mike Robinson. I have to tell you, if I had to battle Hell on Earth, the skills on this team would offer me intriguing possibilities. The Wednesday prior, I met with Kent Fletcher, who designed this storied 50-gallon HERMS system (and wrote the manual). Kent sported a Maltose Falcons tat that I much admired.
We proceeded to pull together the brew at 8:00 a.m. sharp on 27 August. Let's open the kimono right now: I spent sleepless nights wondering how I was going to lead the team on this amazing Falcons system. The recipe and technical advice from Derek was the inspiration, and I had enjoyed his tasty versions at our Society of Barley Engineers meetings in Vista, CA. Even though this promised to be a white-knuckle ride, I was fascinated by the story of this style and was compelled to brew it.
Fun fact: The Vienna Lager was the outcome of espionage by Anton Dreher of Vienna, who joined Gabriel Sedlmayr from Munich to travel to Burton upon Trent. Together, they squirreled away wort and yeast in a hollowed-out walking stick to analyze the "English method" of making beer. A couple of years later, Anton created the Vienna Lager at Klein-Schwechat Brewery; Gabriel created the Märzen at Spaten. And that is the provenance of Earth's amber lagers. Knowing this kind of thing, wouldn't you be compelled to brew it too? Read about this style in Jeff Alworth's Beer Bible: www.amazon.com/Beer-Bible-Jeff-Alworth/dp/0761168117.
It's only with the support of Derek, Kent, Tom and Art that we were able to pull this one off. Advice and practical assistance from Falcons' Matt Myerhoff and Drew Beechum were key to making this brew A Thing.
Andrew and Mike began brewing together a few months ago. The Dynamic Duo dove into the project every step of the way, including the dough-in. As in almost every brew day, we improvised on ingredients. The all Weyermann grain bill: 96.4% Vienna Malt; 2.4% Melanoidin and 1.2% Carafa III.
Tom measured the hops: 10.25 oz Perle for the 60-minute addition; 6 oz Hallertauer for the 10-minute. He also served as Budget Master, which provided much needed discipline and rigor to our unruly but earnest team. Between you and me, Sean at the Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop offered knowledgeable and patient support throughout the brew. If you are looking for the Best Homebrew Shop in Town, shop here and shop often (or your local shop -- support the independents).
If you are wondering about the yeast, Tom, Art, Michael and I went with Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager; Andrew and Mike chose ale yeasts to accommodate the crazy warm weather that has become the new norm in Los Angeles (thanks, Global Warming).
Spent grain went to use, from feeding livestock to making bread.
As a female brewer and Canadian soupmaker, I was inclined to stir the wort during the boil from time to time. The men admitted they had not witnessed this on prior brew days. I used this opportunity to discuss stratification and hot pockets, which they agreed made sense. (When brewing with the Lady Falcons, stirring is de rigueur. Woman = stirring things up. You know you like it!)
The Dynamic Duo confirmed that our original gravity of 1.049 was right on target. You know that the Vienna Lager is a key beer style of Mexico, right? This style came to Mexico in the 1860's when France briefly ruled there. The French embedded an Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian, as "Mexican Emperor." Unfortunately for Ferdinand, he was executed three years later, but the Austrian brewers he had brought over to Mexico continued brewing the style. (Who on Earth would kill a brewer?!) The tradition lives on in Mexico, and not so much in Vienna. Sam Adams Boston Lager made the style popular in the U.S. (Thanks again, Jeff Alworth, for the intel.)
The ground temperature water was too hot for pitching the yeast, in spite of our cooling efforts. We agreed to pitch at home in cooler climes. It was a fantastic day and, right now, we are all reporting in on our progress. In this heat and high humidity, I am thankful for temperature control, but even much more thankful for a terrific brew and technical support team. Thank you, especially, to Derek Springer for the inspiration.
I woke up early on January 15 to meet up with several members of my homebrew club, the Maltose Falcons, at The Home Beer, Wine and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills. Our mission: brew Falconsclaws, our version of Samichlaus, a dark Swiss lager that, at 14%, was once the world's strongest beer produced by Hürlimann Brewery in Zürich. The team: Drew Beechum (captain), Jim Meyer, Donovan Nebreklievski, Craig Shapland, Tom Sisolak, Matt Trumbo, and me.
Drew Beechum (foreground) orchestrated this Falcons brew day. I first met Drew in the summer of 2015 at the National Homebrewer's Conference in San Diego. He and Denny Conn are the authors of one of my favorite homebrew books, Experimental Homebrewing, Mad Science in the Pursuit of Great Beer.
Drew offered us various hop choices and, by popular vote, we selected Hallertauer Mittelfruh hops in addition to Magnum bittering hops. We used 70 lbs. of Weyermann Pilsner malt, 70 lbs. of Weyermann Munich malt, and 0.75 lb. of Weyermann Carafa III Special malt; we mashed in at 150 degrees F for 60 minutes.
The batch size was 29 gallons, produced on the club's 50-gallon system. The boil time was 90 minutes with an original gravity of 1.137. The team pitched in to cover the cost of ingredients and we each walked away with five gallons of wort and fast-beating hearts. Drew instructed us to "pray and wait one year before serving" as the original Samichlaus lager was brewed each year for the Christmas holidays. I don't doubt that every one of us prayed for a vigorous and successful fermentation. As for the one year wait? No.
I cooled the liquid to 45 degrees, pumped in pure oxygen, and pitched SafLager S-189 yeast. When I awoke the next morning, the airlock was burbling like nobody's business and it did feel like Christmas!
On March 24, the beer reached a final gravity of 1.025 (target was 1.020). I performed a closed transfer of the beer from the fermenter to a keg and lagered the beer at 35 degrees F. A few weeks later, I carbonated with C02 and placed the finished beer into the kegerator for dispensing. I had a number of firsts on this brew: first lager (25 ales and ciders up to this point); first use of an Ss Brewing Technologies fermenter (love it); first use of a kegerator; first use of a keg; first experience with C02 carbonation (glad to leave bottle conditioning behind); and first use of a dry yeast. The entire process was a white knuckles thrill. As for the taste, Christmas came early this year in Los Angeles. Cheers and thank you to Drew, our great Falcons brewing team, and the world-class Home Beer, Wine and Cheesemaking Shop.
HomeBrewTalk has published "Beer Sensations: What's in Your Beer, Beyond Flavor?" The accompanying article provides additional information on the non-flavor aspects of beer: astringency, body, carbonation, finish and temperature. See the story.
HomeBrewTalk has published "Tasting Beer: A Primer to Share with Your Wine-Loving Friends." The accompanying article provides an inside look at being a member of the vibrant and generous homebrew community. See the story.
Neva Parker of White Labs, Ryan Sather of Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, and a conversation with master brewer Bob Mac Kay led to publishing this article on how wily Yeast is planning world domination, published today on HomeBrewTalk. What are you doing to prepare? Is our fate in the hands of gamers?
I used two brewing techniques for squeezing the most aroma and flavor from the hops of this American pale ale: first wort hopping and late wort hopping. First wort hops were added to the kettle immediately after mashing. The balance of the hops were added at 20, 15, 10, 5, 2, and 0 minutes of a 60-minute boil. The hops: Amarillo, Tomahawk, and Simcoe, supported by a rich, malty backbone featuring Maris Otter and Vienna malts. The use of reverse osmosis (RO) water will help me create a clean, refreshing beer to enjoy on these hot post-summer days.
Small batch brewing provides the opportunity to use your vial or smack pack of yeast to create more than one beverage -- in this case, an ale and a cider. Why not use the small batch opportunity to go with a theme (or craze, if you're especially ardent): Belgian Tripel or Octoberfest or . . . the possibilities are endless. Below is a glimpse of the Glow-Throated Belgian Tripel ale that I made on day one and the Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" hard cider that I made on day three. The ale and cider share Wyeast Trappist High Gravity 3787 yeast, along with table sugar, on the list of ingredients. For the cider, I used Trader Joe's flash pasteurized, unfiltered apple juice (find it in the refrigerated section). For those who asked about my cider ingredients: I plan to add a tincture of hand-picked pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, and cinnamon in secondary fermentation to evoke the aroma and flavor of a Belgian Tripel. The ale will rely solely on the yeast for its spicy, fruity character. It makes me purr to think about doing a side-by-side tasting once I get these babies bottled.
Big ciders beguile you to slow down and reflect upon what's good in your life. When sipping an apple wine such as this one will be, I think of my mother and how much she enjoys her brandy at the end of a harrowing day in the entrepreneurial life she shares with my dad. When I made a Belgian Tripel ale a few days ago, I thought it would be fun to concoct a hard cider with a similar vibe. Thus, Royal SunAngel "Belgian Tripel" was born. I placed this baby in the fermentation chamber and active fermentation kicked in within an hour. Hang onto your hat, Peter -- this is a live one!
I realize only now that the saisons I have been brewing were the gateway to the Glow-Throated Belgian Tripel. My first plan of attack was to do market research -- drinking iconic Tripels brewed by the great and lesser masters. And I did some reading up. The drinking was more fun.
As any Dutiful Daughter of Brewing will tell you, there is a heady excitement around researching, via tasting and other means, the beers you plan to brew. To that end, I was forced by Best Practices to explore the Belgian Tripel, which is scheduled to be brewed this week. Peter and I bellied up to the bar at Wurstküche in Venice, California, for the tasting, and ordered up some heavenly sausages, which we slathered with brown mustard, caramelized onions, and sweet peppers. The double-dipped Belgian fries weren't bad either. Life is rough in Los Angeles, where adventurous eating and drinking habits mean a trip to the gym five days a week. Our tasting included Westmalle Tripel, Gouden Carolus, and Chimay White. We plan a return trip to continue the tasting in earnest; a woman's work is never done, and it doesn't hurt to have a buddy who is happy to compare notes with you.
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