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.
On a hazy, gray and drizzly June 11, the Lady Falcons flocked to The Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills to brew a Wee Heavy, the strongest of Scottish beers. This is a rich, malty, caramel-forward beer with complex, sip-by-the-fire flavors appropriate for good friends, fine talks and late nights. Our leader was Jenna Bonney. The team included Kyrsten Beidelman, Nancy Gold, Christy Borgman, Jill Updyke, Kerry O'Rear, and me.
Brewing on the Maltose Falcons 50-gallon system is at once comforting for the familiarity yet fraught with responsibility of the excellent outcome.
Nancy Gold prompted us to share our brewing stories as we pulled out the Maris Otter (87%), crystal malt (4%), Scottish carastan (4%), honey malt (2%), melanoiden malt (2%) and chocolate pale malt (1%). Our batch size: 40 gallons. Our lunch: pizza and Big Salad. Provisions and beer were an embarrassment of riches supplied by the team. The most exciting: a blue cheese made by Nancy Gold. Long have I yearned to make cheese, and to my delight, one of the brewers, Kyrsten Beidelman, makes instruction available via Hipcooks Los Angeles. I will be signing up for classes.
One does not simply walk into a Lady Falcons brew day without bling. I was looking for the feel of a vacation and asked Nancy Gold if she could create a set of earrings evocative of the sea from her Ocean Glassworks earring collection. She put them together on the spot!
We emptied and cleaned the mash tun and the Lady Falcons set to boiling the wort. The boil was 90 minutes. At the 60 minute mark, we added 9.1 oz. of Pilgrim hops.
Thanks to Jenna's planning, we each took home five gallons of wort. Lady Face Ale Companie graciously provided fresh Chico strain yeast. To this we added WY1728 Scottish Ale yeast after oxygenating the wort. Original gravity: 1.094. Estimated final gravity: 1.026.
About one week later, my five gallons are fermenting at a cool 56.5 degrees F. Today, I begin the process of slowly raising the temperature to about 70 degrees. My friends and homebrew club members at the Society of Barley Engineers are weighing in on this phase of the fermentation, along with the Lady Falcons. Thank you to Jenna Bonney for an incredible experience, Matt Myerhoff for organizing the brew, Ladyface Ale Companie for sharing fresh yeast, and the the Home Wine, Beer and Cheesemaking Shop for an incredible brew day. And I have a very special set of earrings from Nancy Gold to commemorate the event. And this poster, which appears on our Club wall, sums it up: Alcohol is a Solution . . . to friendship and a maker community.
Wine and beer event consultant at www.lynenoella.com