Monday, November 29, 2010

Cellar Series: 2009 New Glarus Golden Ale

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When we last left you with the Cellar Series, I had cracked open a 2006 Tyranena Spank Me Baby Barleywine after aging it for 2 years. Today, we've lifted the cap on a slightly younger beer - the 2009 New Glarus Golden Ale - the first beer in the R&D Series from Wisconsin stalwarts, New Glarus. At the time of its release, it was one of the finest Belgian beers on the planet, with a good strong hop presence, dry finish, and clean, crisp taste.

How has a year in the cellar treated this beer? Stored at a fairly stable 60 degrees or so (a little warm), I put the bottle in the refrigerator for a little over an hour or so before opening it. The initial temperature was around 55 degrees.

The body has mellowed considerably, while the head virtually explodes out of the tulip glass I chose for this beer. The aroma is understated, but contains glimpses of the bright hops, substantial malt, and evolving yeast presence. A year of clean pilsner malt, aged hops, and bottle conditioning have given the beer a decidedly more complex flavor. Most noticable is the drop in the hop bitterness, which has been replaced by a more flavorful approach. Combined with the yeast and graininess of the malt, there are notes of orange, citrus peel, lemon grass, raw sugar, and a slight pepperiness from the 7%+ ABV. The body has become soft and paunchy, yet retains its clean, crisp finish. The beer fills your mouth, but is not heavy or overly big.

As an overall impression, this beer continues to impress. If you have a bottle, drag it out and open it up. Drink the bottle yourself, or split with 3 or 4 people over nutty, buttery, cheeses and clean, peppery crackers. A light vegetable or chicken Risotto would pair nicely and emphasize the complexity and soft body; while a deep, rich braised beef would highlight just how light this beer actually is.

In short, a great, young beer, has gotten terrific with age. I would put this beer up against any of the finest Belgian Golden Ales. Indeed, BeerAdvocate puts it in the Top 3 for the style with Orval and Westvleteren Pale. After a year, it doesn't have the sharpness and hoppiness that the style is typically known for, and that it possessed a year ago, but it has shown grace and style in aging and creates a fine, nuanced, classy glass of beer.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five Gallons At A Time: Kvetching about Clones

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Brew Your Own is a great magazine. Ashton Lewis, an articulate and highly-educated professional brewer, answers readers' technical questions. Jamil Zainasheff, a multiple Ninkasi award-winner at the AHA National Homebrew Competition, writes about how to brew various beer styles. Chris Colby, the editor, puts brewing conventions to the test with his worldwide brewing experiments (and elegantly designs the tests to minimize the inherent procedural inconsistencies between experimenters). The editorial review board is populated with ingredient suppliers and acclaimed commercial brewers. There's a nice little table near the front that explains the magazine's recipe assumptions so you can easily adjust the published recipes to suit your brewing setup. In short, a lot of thought goes into the magazine and it shows.

However, there's one topic I've never paid much attention to: clone recipes. That changed when I saw the latest BYO cover page, which boldly proclaimed "New Recipes & New Tips from New Belgium". Think what you will about New Belgium selling beer in Wisconsin, but their understanding and application of brewing science are top-notch. When they discuss brewing practices, I listen. Turning straight to the article, I was disappointed to see a clone recipe of 1554 that would taste absolutely nothing like 1554. I'm not sure I can print the recipe without legal hassle, but anyone who's tasted both the beer and Belgian Dark Candi Syrup can attest that the syrup, or something similar, is a major ingredient in 1554. So why was I looking at an all-malt recipe?

Reading through the article, I couldn't find any mention of the brewery giving advice on the recipe (the body of the article claims that 1554 is fermented with lager yeast, but it didn't attribute the claim to the brewery itself). Translating a recipe from a commercial brewery to a home brewery is largely an uncontrolled process, but incorporating the commercial brewery's ingredients and procedures will get you a lot closer to the mark than simply guessing. I'm not suggesting that homebrewing magazines only print clone recipes with extensive professional input, but publishing which aspects of the recipes come straight from the sources would make troubleshooting a lot easier for cloning enthusiasts.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Press Release Friday: Lakefront Brewery Tours All Day Today

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Bored and checking your RSS reader while everyone else is out and about? Clicking through random websites and have nothing better to do today? Really missing work and need to get out of the house?

Get ye to Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee and take a brewery tour. The brewery is open all day on Friday and it's one of the best brewery tours you'll go on.

-----------START PRESS RELEASE----------------

Day After Thanksgiving Tour Extravaganza!

Celebrate your Thanksgiving with a Lakefront Brewery Tour on "Black Friday!" Not in the mood to fight the crowds at the mall? Come to Lakefront Brewery instead! Tours ALL DAY LONG! Tours start every 30 minutes on November 26th beginning at 12:30pm and ending at 8:00pm!
For complete details please see our Tours page:
http://www.lakefrontbrewery.com/details_details.html

Please note that tours are first-come, first-serve on a walk-up basis. We also have a select number of tickets available for advance online purchase for each tour. If online tickets are sold-out, please plan to arrive early for walk-up tour tickets.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Andy Klisch
Lakefront Brewery


We invite you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

http://www.facebook.com/lakefront

http://www.twitter.com/lakefront

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Interested In Selling Your Beer In Chicago?

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via Jay Brooks and his Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Surprise! Beer distributors in Chicago are corrupt. I know. You are shocked. We all are. But consider the following.

"Independent brewers say the brand-name distributors, with deep pockets and abundant supply, often resort to pay-to-play business practices that mirror the worst of Chicago politics. Sources say the big brewers and their wholesalers keep out the independents by offering cash, new tap systems, free beer and other incentives to tavern owners and retailers in exchange for taps or shelf space for mainstream brands. Some bar owners have set up separate marketing companies to take in the cash"
Pay to play works like this: you want your beer distributed by us? Then you need to give us a deal. The intriguing part is that there has become a whole secondary market for this type of graft that has resulted in marketing companies that accept the money and/or gifts to keep the money separate. So, instead of paying a bar, a distributor might pay a "Marketing Consulting Company" to market its beer; said Marketing Consulting Company just happens to be owned by the same people as the bar.

Brewers call Chicago a whores' market,” says Deb Carey, co-owner of New Glarus Brewing Co., of New Glarus, Wis., which sold draft beer in Chicago for two years in the mid-1990s. New Glarus pulled out, Ms. Carey says, because it didn't want to participate in illegal business practices such as giving away beer to get bars to carry its products.

Ms. Carey says Illinoisans constantly are urging her to sell her Spotted Cow ale here again, but she's not interested. “Everyone has a hand out and everyone wants some cash, (free) beer or a discount,” she says. “As far as I'm concerned, it's not worth the graft and hassle.”

“Small brewers can't afford to pay to play,” she adds. “I really blame the big domestic brewers for creating this mess.”
Go Deb Carey. Pull no punches. I'd be curious to know what kinds of deals Wisconsin distributors get for putting her beer on-tap here in Wisconsin. I'm not insinuating anything insidious - deals are fine as long as everyone (all of her Wisconsin distributors) gets the same deal. Where the problem happens in Illinois, and Wisconsin for that matter, is where some retailers get "better" deals than others. Look, it would be disingenuous to say that this happens only in Chicago - and one of my biggest issues with this article, and the reaction from Jay Brooks notes this fact, is that these practices are hardly limited to Chicago. Chicago just happens to be really good at it.

A spokesman for MillerCoors says the brewer takes “pride in doing our business the right way.” He adds: “Pay-to-play practices are illegal and are not accepted practices or behavior by MillerCoors or its distribution network. All MillerCoors employees are trained through ethics training annually. These practices are called out as illegal.”

In a statement, Anheuser-Busch says it “always respects and abides by the laws in all jurisdictions where it does business and believes its wholesalers do so as well.”
Thank you Marketing Department.

Complaints are rare, and few result in agency action. In the 10 years through last May, the liquor commission had issued 406 administrative fines for “of value” violations—state-wide. Rock Island led the way with 52 violations, followed by 24 in Galesburg and 23 in Moline. Chicago's total for the decade? Nine.

In one Chicago case, Snickers Bar in River North was fined $500 in 2009 for accepting a free keg refrigerator from River North Sales & Service, according to commission documents. In another case, the documents show, Fireside Restaurant & Lounge in Edgewater paid a $500 fine for accepting a free kayak from a distributor to use in a drawing in which patrons had to purchase a beer to get a raffle ticket.
What? You mean to tell me that NOBODY is complaining about getting free cash and equipment and beer? Unbelievable. Even the people getting screwed don't complain because if they did they'd never get distributed or put on-tap.

John Hall, president of Chicago-based Goose Island Brewing Co., thinks authorities have higher priorities than investigating pay-to-play in Chicago bars. “When you think about all the issues in this state and city, I don't think people want to spend more money enforcing this when we don't have enough money even for education,” he says.
Man, if you can't feel the slime coming from that statement, you haven't lived in Chicago long enough.
At least a dozen distributors are licensed to operate in Chicago. But just three control two-thirds of the market: Chicago Beverage, part of the Reyes family's $12-billion-a-year holdings; River North, co-owned by Yusef and Jonathan Jackson since 1998, and City Beverage-Illinois, recently acquired by Mr. Trott, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. investment banker, through his Chicago-based BDT Capital LLC. (Anheuser-Busch retains a 30% stake.)
Yusef and Jonathan Jackson, by the way, are the children of the Reverend Jesse Jackson. You will recall that Yusef and Jonathan's brother, Jesse, Jr. was the infamous "Candidate #5" reference by Gov. Blagojovich for candidates to take President Obama's seat. Candidate #5, Jesse Jackson, Jr., offered to raise over $1Mil in campaign funds for Gov. Blagojovich if he were to be appointed Senator.

In Illinois, unlike Wisconsin, the brewer can have a stake in the distributorship. Can you imagine that City Beverage, 30% owned by A-B, really has that much interest in selling any craft beer other than Goose Island (in which A-B also has an ownership interest)? I would doubt it, too. Indeed, check this out:

Chicago Beverage now carries Sam Adams, New Belgium and local favorite Half-Acre, among other craft beers. River North and City Beverage distribute popular Goose Island in its many varieties, as well as Fuller, Brown Ale and others. Nonetheless, the upstarts claim only 5.3% of the Chicago market vs. 6.3% nationally and even more in many other big cities.
So, despite the great beer bars starting to populate Chicago, they hardly make a dent in the overall beer consumption there. And that is borne out in the "regular" bars and restaurants throughout the city where, if there is a "craft" on-tap it is Goose Island Honkers Ale and little else.

So, what does pay to play look like?
The most common approach, says a former sales manager for a national brewer who asked not to be named, is for wholesalers to give away beer or pay cash for tap lines.

A bar, for example, might “swipe” a distributor's credit card for food or a Super Bowl party without ever providing those services. Brewers and distributors might provide retailers with menus, T-shirts or other promotional items.

A craft brewer tells Crain's that Rockit Bar & Grill, with locations near Wrigley Field and in River North, wanted to charge him $3,000 to put his beer on tap. ... Five of the six beers on tap at Rockit come from River North.

In addition to the cash, the bars received numerous free kegs throughout the year for fictitious marketing events, the former employee says, adding that he personally “swiped” Chicago Beverage's credit card on several occasions for the payments.

A former employee at Bar Louie, a national chain with three locations in Chicago, tells Crain's that both MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch paid $1,000 per tap handle annually and threw in a free keg for every five sold. The former employee, who asked not to be named, says Bar Louie ran the payments through a third-party marketing company set up by its owners.
Keep in mind, this isn't necessarily just Chicago. This stuff happens all over the United States, including here in Wisconsin. Maybe it's not this endemic. Maybe it's not this obvious. But it happens.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hey Barkeep! I Hear Unpasteurized Beer Gives Me More Breast Milk

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I am a person of a certain age. And that age is about when all of your f-ing friends start to have kids. It's all fun and games until someone gets pregnant. Then the next thing you know everyone in your whole damned circle of influence has bread in the oven. Eating for Two. In the family way. Profaning Jesus and all the angels in heaven by shamelessly advertising the fact that you have HAD SEXUAL INTERCOURSE YOU TROLLOP.

Of course, beer and pregnancy are not exactly two things that go together. I've had friends, and have heard actual, real, live doctors encourage pregnant women to have a glass of wine or beer on occassion while pregnant (note: not carte-blanche to go out and get hammered every night). Heck, in just my parents' generation, it was not uncommon for women to drink and/or smoke while pregnant and I turned out OK. In other words, moderation has rarely killed too many people (born or otherwise).

But the other day I get a phone call from a friend of mine. He was clearly sheepish calling me - hesitancy in his voice, skirting the subject, etc. And this is a dude that I have known for, essentially, eternity. There is not much that this guy need to be sheepish in asking or telling me. He is my brother from another mother. Yet here he is, reduced to mawkishness by a simple request from his wife : what is a good unpasteurized beer?

"So," I posit, "why do you care if the beer is unpasteurized?"

"Well," he goes on, "[insert friend's wife's name here] was told that drinking unpasteurized beer aids in breast milk production."

"Um." Awkward. I gave him the name of a few local breweries likely to not pasteurize their beer and hung up. I quickly related this story to Mrs. MBR who quickly said "horseshit" or something similar.

So, here we are. At the precipice of research. Does drinking unpasteurized beer aid in breast milk production? I have to admit, I never saw this coming.

On April 20, 1862 Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard wrote completed the first tests on pasteurization. [ed note: that is really weird. Aside from the "haha 4-20" jokes, April 20 happens to be this friend's birthday.] Pasteurization was predicated on germ theory. Germ theory says that many illnesses and phenomenon such as the spoiling of beer, wine, and milk were caused by the growth of micro-organisms. These micro-organisms are not particularly tolerant of heat.

The process of pasteurization is fairly simple: heat the thing up very quickly for a specific period of time then cool it very quickly. We pasteurize dozens of things: milk, beer, wine, eggs, maple syrup, orange juice, just to name a few. Its effect is to neutralize (kill) a number of organisms that lead to illness and the spoliation of products.

Most larger-scale breweries (i.e., above about 10,000 bbls or so) pasteurize their beer because it aids in shelf-stabliziation. Most smaller breweries do not - most breweries that bottle-condition their beer do not - and some larger breweries do, and re-introduce new yeast after pasteurization. For many small breweries, they simply do not have the cash to spend on pasteurization equipment.

Pasteurization has saved the world from diseases that raged in the 1860s like diptheria, salmonella, strep, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and listeriosis. All bad, nasty things that the world is better off for taming, right? Definitely, all things that we would want to prevent from getting into a baby's system through breast milk, right?

Like anything in our god-forsaken universe, pasteurization is not without debate. According to the Campaign for Real Milk, pasteurization destroys destroys nutrients and immune system components found in milk. For example, Vitamin A is degraded, and other proteins and enzymes are denatured. Numerous studies have shown that pasteurized breast milk is not as healthy for newborns as the stuff straight from the tap. Of course, it's much harder to get a hold of donated breasts than donated breast milk. If you happen to find someone willing to donate their breasts, please let me know.

So, that's, in a terribly lax and general way, the debate about pasteurization. What about pasteurized beer? What the heck does unpasteurized beer have to do with producing healthier breast milk?

After researching this article, I assure you Google has all the wrong impressions about me and my purchasing habits. Nonetheless, online baby sites such as iVillage and Babycenter.com have some rumor-based recommendations. iVillage says "An ingredient in beer has been shown to increase maternal prolactin levels, but this is with non-alcoholic beers as well (DeRosa et al. 1981). There is a lot more involved in establishing an abundant milk supply than merely increasing a mother's prolactin level." Rather unhelpful.

A commenter at Babycenter has this bit of wisdom: "I have owned a natural food store for 20 years and nursed 3 babies. It is the hops plant that flavors the beer that acts as a galactagogue - a term that means 'encouraging abundant breast milk.' Hops can be used as a tea as can raspberry leaves, stinging nettle, oatstraw, and red clover blossoms OR hops can be taken as an additive free, stronger hops flavored beer like a stout and low alcohol or alcohol free beer can be sourced. Hops is calming, inducing sleep and is a natural carminative (reducing cramping and colic as it relaxes the digestive system as well) so is especially good before nighttime feedings." Very authoritative.

Childfun.com gets us in the right direction, though: "Beer is preferable to other alcoholic drinks, because it contains vitamin B, which helps prevent dehydration. You might want to ask your doctor about taking extra vitamin B if you want to drink other drinks. ... It's best to drink unpasteurized and unfiltered beer. Unpasteurized beer contains live yeast, which manufactures more vitamin B, and helps prevent dehydration."

So, under this theory, beer yeast produces Vitamin B and prevents dehydration. University of Maryland has something to say about the nutritional value of brewers yeast: "Brewer's yeast is often used as a source of B-complex vitamins, chromium, and selenium. The B-complex vitamins in brewer's yeast include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folic acid), and H or B7 (biotin). These vitamins help break down carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, which provide the body with energy. They also support the nervous system, help maintain the muscles used for digestion, and keep skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and liver healthy. However, brewer's yeast does not contain vitamin B12, an essential vitamin found in meat and dairy products; vegetarians sometimes take brewer's yeast mistakenly believing that it provides B12, which can be lacking in their diet."

Finally, Livestrong provides a good summary: "There is no scientific evidence to support the notion that brewer's yeast stimulates breast milk production. Kelly Bonyata considers brewer's yeast to be of 'questionable' efficacy when it is used by nursing women. However, Bonyata notes that it is generally safe and a good source of necessary nutrients for nursing mothers. Other natural galactagogues, such as fenugreek and fennel, may be more effctive alternatives."

In other words, yeast in beer is not terribly effective and there are better ways to get your milk flowing. But, if you're going to drink, it might as well be moderate levels of unpasteurized beer. So, who will be the first craft brewery to use that as their tagline?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Innovating Tradition

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Perhaps for good reason, Wisconsin is the Land of Lagers. Our craft (and macro, for that matter) reputation began with Sprecher and Capital and Leinenkugels. Our tradition is steeped in Miller, Pabst, and Old Style. Our new breweries are kicking out some of the best bocks, dopplebocks, eisbocks, and kolschs made in this country (or any country).

So, it should come as no surprise when a brewery releases a whole series of lagers. Well, what if those lagers are treated like ales? Hopped to the gills, with a single strain of hops? What if the lager uses wet hop?

We're all familiar with single hop IPAs. Mikkeller has a whole slew of them. But what about single hop lagers? Personally, I've never heard of a single brewery doing a single-hop lager. Until last Thursday when Dave Anderson, of Dave's BrewFarm, posted to Facebook that he was brewing up the first of a series of single-hop lagers. The recipe is all-new (not merely a hoppy Select), and its unknown yet whether the beers will end up in bottles. For now, you'll just have to drive out to the Labrewatory in Wilson, Wisconsin, about halfway between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities. First up is the citrusy tastiness of Amarillo. Yesterday he announced that the next in the series would be the pine and resin Simcoe. If you want a say in what comes next, go check out his Facebook site and let him know. Personally, I'm pulling for East Kent Goldings or Perle.

From the other corner of the state comes the latest release of Local Acre from Lakefront. Last year's was a nice, strong lager that put the focus clearly on the Wisconsin-grown 6-row Lacy barley. This year's recipe is tweaked to take advantage of the hop harvest and the nearby hop fields. On-tap at various locations and in bottles around the state, the hops are big and bright and oily. While the oiliness and mouthfeel of the fresh hops somewhat masks the softness and subtlety of the malt, it is a big change from last year that is a wonderful beer in its own right. It is great to see Lakefront using the Local Acre name to house a beer made with 100% Wisconsin ingredients. And, in the process, innovating in style with a fresh hop lager.

[editor's update: completely forgot to mention Capital's lagers - HopBock, and Tett - in the first case a hop(pier) bock, and in the second a dry-hopped dopplebock]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Five Gallons At A Time: Malt Extract vs. Water

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Malt extract brewers: after adding extract to your kettle, do you often find that your volume is too big and your gravity is too low? The reason why is because malt extracts contribute volume in addition to gravity. The good news is that you can compensate for it without math. You just need to heat less water than you normally would, dissolve your extract and top up the kettle with water until you reach your target volume. Done! That said, there are times when it's helpful to know your water volume. For example, if you want to treat your water.

In the case of extract beers, the solution is pretty simple. If you use dry malt extract, you can assume it adds 0.075 gallons per pound. If you use liquid malt extract, you can assume it adds 0.084 gallons per pound. The only complication is that your pre-boil wort volume will probably be measured hot while your water volume will probably be measured cold, and water expands when it's heated. To calculate the hypothetical cold volume of your pre-boil wort, you can use the following formula:

Cold Wort Volume = Hot Wort Volume x Hot Water Density / Cold Water Density

The density of tap water is around 8.33 lbs/gal and, if you stir your malt extract into near-boiling water, you can assume the hot water density will be 8.04 lbs/gal. From there, you can calculate your required water volume by plugging in your cold wort volume into the following equation:

Required Water Volume = Cold Wort Volume - (Malt Extract Volume Contribution x Malt Extract Weight)

It's not difficult at all, but we should drive the point home with an example. Let's assume your target pre-boil volume is 6.9 gallons and you'll be using 6.3 lbs of dry malt extract. Here's your required water volume in two easy steps:

Cold Wort Volume = 6.9 gal x (8.04 lbs/gal) / (8.33 lbs/gal) = 6.7 gal
Required Water Volume = 6.7 gal - 0.075 gal/lb x 6.3 lbs = 6.2 gal

Speaking of water treatments, I've read that malt extract batches should be brewed with distilled or RO water because water minerals survive the malt extract production. However, I've never seen any quantitative data to support the claim. Do extract manufacturers treat their water supplies to achieve optimal mash pHs? Are certain minerals retained more efficiently than others? If you're an extract brewer who's willing to measure your pre-boil pHs and provide some basic data on your recipes (brewing with untreated tap water is fine), give me a holler at the email address in my profile. If I learn anything useful, I'll done post it to this here weblog.

---------- This line separates the practical stuff from the geeky stuff ----------

Calculating the required water volume was pretty easy, but I had to figure out the malt extract volume contributions myself. Hey, maybe this website will become the go-to the place for people look up those values! That would be super cool. Anyway, I'm going to show you how I arrived at those numbers so you can figure out the impact of any adjunct on your required water volume. Here's a quick outline of the process:

-Figure out your ingredient yield.
-Calculate your the cold volume of your pre-boil wort.
-Calculate the total mass of your wort.
-Convert the target specific gravity of your wort to degrees Plato.
-Calculate the required mass of your ingredient.
-Calculate the required mass of water.
-Convert the required water mass to a volume.
-Calculate the volume contribution of your ingredient.

To illustrate the calculations, let's assume your target pre-boil volume is still 6.9 gallons. Instead of assuming a weight of malt extract, though, let's assume your target pre-boil gravity is 1.042 and you'll be using a dried malt extract called Briess CBW Pilsen Light.

Yield is the percentage of an ingredient's weight that contributes to wort gravity. Differences in yield are the reason why dried malt extracts result in higher wort gravities than equivalent weights of liquid malt extract (liquid malt extracts have more water than dry malt extracts, which contributes to weight but not gravity). There are a number of ways to figure out your ingredient yield. Sometimes you can look it up on the manufacturer's website. Often, you'll find data for a similar ingredient and decide it's close enough. Occasionally, you'll need to make a sample solution and do some math. In the case of our example, Briess provides a table that results in a yield of 97%*.

Figuring out your cold pre-boil wort volume is exactly the same as our earlier example. It's 6.7 gallons.

Since specific gravity is defined as density divided by the density of water, and density is defined as mass divided by volume, you can figure out the mass of your wort as follows:

Wort Mass = Specific Gravity x Cold Water Density x Cold Wort Volume = 1.042 x 8.33 lbs/gal x 6.7 gal = 58.2 lbs

If you have a problem with lbs as a unit of mass, feel free to use the gravitational acceleration at your local altitude to convert your known weights to slugs and back. I'll be drinking beer and laughing at you. Either way, the next step is to convert your target specific gravity to degrees Plato with the following equation (if you want to know why the conversion is different than other formulas you may have encountered, you can read my long-winded explanation here):

GP = ((116.716 x SG - 569.851) x SG + 1048.046) x SG - 594.914 = ((116.716 x 1.042 - 569.851) x 1.042 + 1048.046) x 1.042 - 594.914 = 10.5 P

Degrees Plato, the unit of gravity used by many commercial brewers in the US, is the mass percentage of dissolved sugar in wort. If you know the mass of your wort and the percentage of that mass that comes from dissolved sugar, you can figure out the total mass of dissolved sugar. The total mass of dissolved sugar is commonly called 'extract', which is easy to confuse with 'malt extract'. When a brewer says 'extract' and it's not obvious they're referring to an ingredient, they're probably talking about the mass of dissolved sugar. Once you know how much extract your wort should have, you can use your ingredient yield to figure out the required mass of your ingredient. After subtracting your ingredient mass from your wort mass, you'll be left with the mass of your water. Here are the calculations for extract, ingredient mass and water mass:

Extract = (GP/100) x Wort Mass = (10.5 P / 100) x 58.2 lbs = 6.1 lbs
Malt Extract Mass = Extract / (Yield/100) = 6.1 lbs / (97/100) = 6.3 lbs
Water Mass = Wort Mass - Malt Extract Mass = 58.2 lbs - 6.3 lbs = 51.9 lbs

Rearranging the definition of density will allow you to calculate your required water volume:

Required Water Volume = Mass / Density = 51.9 lbs / (8.33 lbs/gal) = 6.2 gal

To figure out how much volume the malt extract adds per pound, I subtracted the water volume from the cold wort volume and divided it by the mass of malt extract:

Malt Extract Volume Contribution = (6.7 gal - 6.2 gal) / 6.3 lbs = 0.079 gal/lb

Finally, I repeated the calculation for a wide range of target gravities to verify that it remained constant. But I used 0.075 gal/lb in the earlier example, right? It's true! The difference was caused by rounding errors that don't occur when you automate your calculations in a spreadsheet. For example, it would have been silly of me to claim your malt extract mass was 6.2812 lbs and your water volume was 6.2275 gallons. If you want to do the easy water calculations, 0.075 gal/lb is the number to use.

*Ingredient manufacturers often report their yields as either (a) the specific gravity of 1 gallon of wort made with 1 lb of the ingredient or (b) the weight of the ingredient, in lbs, required to make 1 gallon of wort at a certain specific gravity. In either case, Yield (% wt) = 100000*(SG-1)/Wt/46.2.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Not-So-Long Downhill Run Of Stone Brewing Co In Wisconsin

29 comments
BeerNews.org is reporting that Stone Brewing Company will be exiting the state due to, well, let's be honest, lack of interest. To quote a Stone rep: "WI: We are exiting the state due to challenges in keeping a volume flow that would ensure frequent shipments of fresh beer."

On the other hand, Stone is looking at getting into Minnesota: "MN: Indeed, we are researching the market and talking about potential with some folks." So, our loss is their gain, I guess.

I'm somewhat conflicted about this news. I mean the bad news is that one of the best, and one of my favorite, breweries in the country will no longer be available. The good news is that product won't be sitting on the shelves and we won't have to suffer with half-assed product support from a company that doesn't care about our market. Towards the end here, we were barely getting seasonal releases, we didn't get any Vertical Epic or Anniversary releases. Conversations with retailers in the Madison area reveals that a Stone rep hadn't been through in probably close to a year or more. Moreover, the distributor (GenBev here in Madison) wasn't pushing it (favoring to foist Supper Club on us instead) and general consumers weren't demanding it.

The other thing this means is that Wisconsin breweries are doing a good job of selling in the state. Consumers are foregoing out-of-state breweries for quality offerings from O'So, Furthermore, Central Waters, Lakefront, and Pearl Street - not to mention Capital and New Glarus. Stone is only the most high profile of a number of breweries that have tested the water here in Wisconsin, just to turn tail and leave - Steamworks comes to mind.

So, one of my favorite deals in the city - Double Bastard on tap at Jordan's at Happy Hour for $3 a glass - is going away. A shame. Guess I'll to pick some up in Minnesota or Illinois when I'm there.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Gallons At A Time: Compensating for Yeast Starters

6 comments
If you're a homebrewer who uses liquid yeast from Wyeast or White Labs, one of the steps you can take to ensure healthy fermentations is to make properly-sized yeast starters. In general, the size of your starter will be proportional to the gravity of the beer you're brewing. The Mr. Malty Pitching Rate Calculator will do the math for you.

A drawback of yeast starters is that they dilute your original gravity and hop bitterness. Thankfully, it's easy to compensate for a yeast starter in your recipe*. Let's say that you want to brew a 5 gallon batch with an original gravity of 1.060 and hop bitterness of 60 IBU. If you typically lose a half gallon of wort in your fermenter, your total fermentation volume should be 5.5 gallons. According to the pitching rate calculator (with the drop-down menu set at "Simple with O2 at Start"), you should make a 2-liter yeast starter. Because one gallon equals 3.785 liters, your yeast starter will be (2 liters)/(3.785 liters/gallon) = 0.5 gallons. To calculate the volume of your main batch that should end up in your fermenter, subtract the yeast starter volume from the total fermentation volume. The resulting value is 5.5 gallons - 0.5 gallons = 5 gallons. If you lose half a gallon between your kettle (measured hot) and fermenter (measured cold), your post-boil volume (measured hot) should be 5.5 gallons.

You can figure out the target gravity and bitterness of your main batch by rearranging the mixing formula:

Aa + Bb = Cc -> a = (Cc - Bb)/A

Capital letters represent volumes and lowercase letters represent either specific gravities or IBUs. A/a represents the main batch, B/b represents the yeast starter and C/c represents the combined "wort" in the fermenter (the formula treats the yeast starter as an unfermented liquid, which is necessary to determine the effective original gravity of the beer). Assuming your yeast starter will have no hop bitterness and a specific gravity of 1.040, the target gravity and hop bitterness of your main batch can be calculated like this:

OG = (5.5 gallons x 1.060 - 0.5 gallons x 1.040)/5 gallons = 1.062
Hop Bitterness = (5.5 gallons x 60 - 0.5 gallons x 0)/5 gallons = 66 IBU

When you plug the new numbers into your recipe software, your grain and hop bills should automatically be adjusted. To maintain a consistent color and flavor, I recommend tweaking your percentages of specialty malts and flavor/aroma hops so their weights remain the same. That way, your yeast starter simply replaces some of your base malt and the IBU correction is achieved in your bittering hop addition.

*Geeks: the most accurate way to do this is by calculating the total masses and extract masses of the two known quantities, and then using the relationship between specific gravity and degrees Plato to calculate the volume and gravity of the third quantity. However, for low-gravity liquids such as wort and yeast starters, the the simplified method described above will result in smaller margins of error than your measurement methods can detect. Where mass analysis becomes essential is for post-lauter additions of high-gravity liquids (e.g. honey) and solid adjuncts (e.g. corn sugar).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More Writers for MBR

3 comments
Again, I apologize. This has been weird posting week here at MBR. Hopefully that will be changing soon as I have another very exciting announcement to make.

MBR is getting more writers! So, please put your hands together for Joe Walts and Robyn Klinge.

You already know Joe. He's a professional brewer currently working at Madison's Ale Asylum; he's also worked at JT Whitneys (in Madison), Otter Creek (in Vermont), and Fox River Brewing Company. You got to know him on MBR from his days trying to start up RePublic Brewpub. That project got so far as to have a space reserved out in Sun Prairie before falling apart due to lack of funding. Joe is also a regular commenter on MBR. Because of his position at Ale Asylum, Joe won't be writing about the industry, but, rather, will be bringing his knowledge of brewing to you in some technical pieces on homebrewing and commercial brewing. Brewing is partly science and partly art and few people understand and have a love for the science of it better than Joe. So, dig out the chemistry and biology books, track down a turkey fryer and 7 gallon carboy, and come along for the ride.

You probably already know Robyn, too. If you've had a beer in the city of Madison, there is a very good chance it was served to you by Robyn. At one point she could spotted in Ale Asylum, The Mason, and Vintage Brewing. Interestingly, she brings a background much like my own - working in IT (or at least for an IT company) before dumping it for bigger, better, less lucrative work in a more interesting field. Few people get along with more people in the industry than Robyn - it is impossible not to like her and spill your guts to her. And she will drink circles around you. She also travels. A lot. To really cool, interesting, beer-related places for beer-related reasons. [ed note: no, you pervert, I did not say "she gets around"] She'll bring a great voice to Madison Beer Review and her travel experiences will open up MBR to the bigger world of beer around us.

So, please welcome both of them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Audience Participation: What Are You Drinking?

11 comments
I have to admit, I've been a very bad beer blogger lately. Not only have my posts been sporadic and inconsistent, they've had little do actually do with beer. Part of the reason is that work is consuming more of my life than I'm consuming beer. And I had a ridiculous cold.

Frankly, I haven't been drinking much beer lately. Bought a six pack of Louie's Reserve (OK, I lied, in the interest of full disclosure, I was actually given a six-pack of Louie's Reserve, courtesy of Star Liquor when I went in and bought 3 cases of beer to donate to the Olbrich Crackle event for their drawing). I had a couple of beers at The Malt House the other day (Red Eye Scarlet 7 and Goose Island Minx). I went to the Furthermore Shitty Barn Party (Hopperbolic, mostly, with a few of the guest brews thrown in) and Mrs. MBR bought a six-pack of Fallen Apple and Guinness. And, that, for the most part, has been the extent of my beer drinking for the better part of a month. Relatively boring.

Except for the Minx and the Hopperbolic everything is pretty standard stuff. The Minx was actually really good and sparked an interesting discussion about Goose Island - the brewery that everyone wants to hate, but their beer is just too damned tasty.

So, what have you been drinking? Feel free to just post a brief note - don't need to provide commentary, if you don't want. I'm curious. What are you drinking?