Sunday, November 23, 2008

November - I'm late.

Our uninterrupted spinning around the celestial star has led us to the inevitable onset of November... well, it's almost December now but I've been meaning to attend to an update since November 2nd. One hour less of Daylight and I am now returning home from work amidst the cool wet wind and darkness of a Danish winter. The arrival of this eleventh month also ushers forth two unmistakable symbols of cultural triumph and/or decadence:
1. Election Day in the US – Obama wins and brings an intimation of hope to a certain segment of the global population.
2. Julebryg (Christmas Beers) in Denmark
3. The return of Murphy to Italy (and soon, another week, back to Denmark)
And, perhaps equally unforgettable, my first Thanksgiving not spent at home in Vermont with family and friends.
I’ll spare you three lone feed subscribers the emotional ramble about Thanksgiving, or the departure of my only fellow American Brewer friend (but it's ok, I saw him last night, and he's moving back in a week...), or of how much I despise spiced Christmas Ales…

Since last entry, I have released several new beers at Nørrebro Bryghus. Our Smashing Pumpkin Tripel, 8.4% abv and gently spiced with Allspice, is now being poured at the pub. I’m really glad that I went with my gut instinct on this and added just 30 grams of spice opposed to the 120 grams suggested by Will! Whew… this should be gone by the middle of this week.

Also pouring is a new batch of Golden Spike IPA (Ander’s name choice, not mine). I declare this as the best batch yet of the mighty Spike – 85 ibus, 5.7% abv, and wonderfully drinkable. I have also just brewed a new batch of American Pale Ale with Warrior, Chinook, Simcoe, and Cascade hops – this should replace the IPA in about two weeks. 6.4 % abv and 50 Ibus.

Still aging in a barrel with three strains of Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus is a Belgian Brune… which reminds me to inform everyone (yes, ALL of YOU few!) that I have secured a location for a new barrel aging operation just across the driveway from the Bryghus. According to my measurements, it should be able to hold approximately 25 x 250 L Wine/Spirit barrels. Oh sweet heavens… still attempting to source a relatively large number of inexpensive spent wine barrels. The sooner I retrieve, the sooner I begin the project. Also, having just brewed a Belgian Dubbel (with Raisins and Figs!), wouldn’t it be wonderful to have 250L aging away in a French Wine Barrel with some Lactobacillus? These barrel aged gems will be the source of much creative effort and experimentation for me - as will they also be released to the public in small quantities, bottle conditioned, and hand labeled. Some limited edition draft, as well, and one can also predict that there will be some blending of multiple barrels...


The guest brewer day with members of the Russian Imperial Stout Project was, not surprisingly, enjoyable and inspiring. Despite two stuck mashes and 3-4 hour run-offs, we managed to hit our target gravity. After the brewday, all of us brewers and special guests sampled great versions of the Imperial Stout style – Dark Lord, Speedway, as well as an early bottling of the Amager MurpHill Bourbon Barrel Imperial Rye Porter. Lovely.

After a lovely fermentation, from 28.7 Plato to 8 Plato in just 4 days, the beer has rested for four weeks and has now spent one week in its Port and Bordeaux homes. The consensus, between Murphy, myself, and several other tasters, is that the stainless version has a certain ‘edge’ to it that is more 'characteristic' of the style than the early oaked counterparts (think Yeti vs. Oaked Yeti). Thus, this beer may forego its prolonged stay in the barrels and be packaged sooner than I had imagined. Possibly even be able to serve one 30L as a “sneak preview” on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. More to come… Does anyone have a 10 or 15L keg they would be willing to loan for a week or two?

More to come soon. I promise.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins...

Pumpkin Ale. The utterance of these three syllables is banned in most circles of beerdom. Or provokes puzzled, bewildered looks among Danes. The expression is prone to responses of moaning rejection – like suggestions of doing homework, taking out the garbage, or, worse, running for the sake of ‘exercise.’ The cause of this aversion…(which is how I feel about licorice!) this seemingly involuntary reaction and triggering of one’s gag reflex? Allspice. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. In Heavy Handed and non-rational quantities. Not so distantly removed from thoughts resembling ‘Christmas in a bottle.’ One must wonder how many brewers drink their own spiced ales? Admittedly, I am not a fan of this style – thus, when confronted with the challenge of creating a pumpkin beer for the birthday of a beer enthusiast (the first commercial pumpkin beer ever produced on Danish soil, I believe), I immediately contacted the one person that I know loves pumpkin season: Will Meyers. I think Will must brew 25 or so batches of The Great Pumpkin at Cambridge Brewing Company each Autumn. He probably even begins dreading the following year’s ‘Pumpkin Season’ before the current one has begun. “Do you have any advice for me on brewing a Pumpkin beer?” Will’s customary sense of humor could produce only one response: “Don’t.” Eventually, I was able to procure a few suggestions that would help me in my endeavor. My goal: A complex Belgian style pumpkin ale with little to no spicing.

Peter (Sonne), Rune (Restaurant Manager), and I spent 5 hours skinning, quartering, seeding, and julienning 70 or so kilograms of sugar pumpkins. The strategy would be to create a separate “pumpkin mash” and then add the pumpkins and the water into the lauter tun before sparging. Knowing the brewhouse all too well at this point, I was concerned with a stuck run-off and a 12 hour brewday. So, in order to ward off any evil spirits (the brewery surely seems haunted from time to time), Rune had carved a pumpkin and, on brewday, before setting foot on the platform, I lit the jack o’lantern and propositioned it to adorn the brewhouse for the duration of the brewday...

Well, the pumpkin spirit either sojourned with all of the existing tricksters, leading them astray for the day, or ravaged them into noncompliance with its haunting glow! We added 50kgs of julienned pumpkins (with a gravity reading of 5 Plato – that’s just 50 grams of sugar per liter of solution - hardly worth all of the work!) to the lauter/mash and began running off into the kettle.

Magically! It was one of the best run-offs I’ve had at Nørrebro Bryghus. A fair dosage of brown sugar. 12 IBUS of Northern Brewer. And 30 grams of Allspice. 19.4 Plato. Now, my 8.5% Pumpkin Ale is finishing up fermentation and awaiting my next dilemma: whether or not to add more spices?

This beer should go on draft during the week leading up to Halloween. It would also be perfect to place 250L into one of my barrels along with some Brettanomyces - but, I’m short on barrels. Next year, if all goes well, I’ll be brewing this with my own farm raised sugar pumpkins and some homemade maple syrup (wonder who will help me chop up all o’ those pumpkins?) And some of it will go into a barrel. I promise. Pumpkin in a barrel. Sounds wonderful. Or strange.

Monday, October 6, 2008

October: The Usurper

“The new spirit, as it becomes more conscious, is increasingly capable of transforming the moments of contemplation into one moment, into a permanent vision.”
-Piet Mondrian

The feeling of winter is beginning to scratch at the surface of my skin, looking for entrance between the over-abundance of hair follicles, and hoping to take up residence amidst the whirlwind of travel and busy-ness that is becoming of my life. Even the frigid fingers of winter are in need of a warm residence and an occupation – time away from itself and the boredom that might ensue. Fortunately for mother nature and those windy, leaf blowing tentacles, my October is the perfect vehicle for inane antics and time away from itself.

Friday the 17th of October is Russian Imperial Stout Project Day. I have invited some of my very good brewer friends here in Denmark to each submit their ideal recipe for this particular beer style. I, in turn, will then synthesize the 7 recipes into one behemothrecipe which we will all brew together on Friday. The participants are myself, Michael Murphy [from Gourmet], Mikkel Bjergsø [Mikkeller], Christian Skovdal Andersen [Ølfabrikken], Rune Lindgreen [Djaevlebryg], Jacob Storm [Amager] and Peter Sonne [Halsnaes/Nørrebro]. Although I have not yet formulated the final recipe, it appears that it will be somewhere around a 12%abv Russian Imperial Oatmeal Espresso Stout – aged in both Port and Bordeaux Barrels and combining somewhere around 15 different ingredients. More to come on this…

Sunday the 19th of October is a fundraising event called Beer Drinkers for Obama and is going to be held at the Black Swan here in Copenhagen. Thus far both Murphy and I have donated beers for the cause – Mike his APA and I a blend of an APA and a bit of oak aged barleywine.. Details here.

The following week, we’ll be releasing one of my favorite creations here thus far - Mikkel’s Monster Barleywine at Nørrebro Bryghus on Tuesday, October 21st. A beast of a beer that was a collaboration between myself and Mikkel from Mikkeller – 14+% abv, a blend that was aged in Bordeaux and Port barrels. We'll have three versions on draft: Columbus Dry Hopped Version, Port Barrel Version, and the blend. 

Wednesday, the 22nd, I fly to Turin, Italy for five days to attend the Salone Del Gusto where I will be pouring beer for the American Craft Beer booth.

Lastly, and sadly (for me), my best friend here in Denmark, Michael Murphy, will be leaving the last weekend of October to move back to Italy where he has taken a job with Birra del Borgo. It seems fitting that a going away party will ensue – as will at least one visit to Rome prior to my own departure from Denmark.

And the quote atop this entry? I found it most fitting to my current state of mind – as I’ve been reading a great deal of Ken Wilber of late and recognizing the zeitgeist-consciousness at play in the world around. On a personal level, perhaps equally integral in its own right, this spirit o’ mine is becoming more conscious and, I hope, is finally beginning to transform all of these years of contemplation and foolishness into a unified and permanent vision: Hill Farmstead. As the battle ensues with permitting and my own personal struggle to leave Europe… Thus, each entry that follows is, in part, a member of my/your/our One Moment and a vision that may continue to evolve as does our consciousness…and Hill Farmstead lurks beyond the horizon.