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Tap handles at New Holland Brewing
Tap handles at New Holland Brewing

NHC 2014 – lagers, make a living in beer & using barrels

Following on from our previous article covering the seminars we attended on Day 1 at NHC 2014, the 3 seminars attended on Friday June 13 were:

  1. Long Live Lagers by  Jason Oliver & Warren Haskell.
  2. Can You Make a Living in Beer? by Ray Daniels.
  3. Using Spirits Barrels and Blending Sour Ales in Wood by  Brett Vanderkamp & Jason Salas.

In addition to the above we also attended the AHA Members Meeting.

Long Live Lagers

This seminar will present an overview of brewing lager styles, from light and crisp to dark and heavy. It will take professional lager brewing practices and translate them into practical methods for the average homebrewer. Lagers, more than any other beer style, require the brewer to pay attention to the details, from recipe creation, to brewing practices, to fermentation time and temperature, and storage practices. This seminar will help you make the leap into lager brewing, offering concise, practical methods and practices for achieving quality lager. Topics will include styles, recipe formulation, yeast, fermentation control, storage and equipment needs, and diverse lager styles will be sampled.

Lagers have mass market appeal for beer drinkers, but what many people do not realize is that not all lagers are the yellow fizzy products brewed by the Macro beer companies.

Long Live Lagers
Long Live Lagers:
– Warren Haskell (center)
– Jason Oliver (right)

Our speakers work for Devils Backbone Brewing and passed around a sample of their Vienna Lager. This beer uses the following step mash which produces a more in-depth flavor compared to using an infusion mash:

  • 122 – 126F Protein rest / mash-in
  • 144 – 155F Beta rest
  • 159 – 162F Alpha rest
  • 168 – 172F Mash-out

The speakers suggested avoiding HSA (Hot Side Aeration) in order to minimise Acetaldehyde which gives a cidery or green-apple off-flavor. One way of achieving this is to run-off from the Mash Tun into the Boil Kettle bottom-up with a long hose.

Another piece of advice is to ensure a vigorous boil to drive off DMS (DiMethyl Sulfide) which can give a banana-like off-flavor. A vigorous boil will also help precipitate proteins than can cause haziness in a beer. An old German rule of thumb regarding boiling is:

  • 90 minute boil for pale beers.
  • 120 minute boil for dark beers.

Boil overs can be a hazard for homebrewers when trying to achieve a vigorous boil so an over-sized kettle can help with this e.g. 8-10 gallon pot for 5 gallon batches and at the same time generate plenty of ‘Hot Break’ which solidifies the proteins and helps them drop out at the end of the boil and not end up in the fermentation wort. As an aside expect 8-10% evaporation rates to be achieved in the boil and plan accordingly with pre-boil volumes.

Once the boil is complete the wort should be cooled as quick as possible to reduce DMS, 45 minutes or less is preferable. This also helps reduce the risk of potential contamination that can occur between 80-140F. For lagers the aim is to get the wort temperature down to 50-55F and during the summer, or in mild climates, this may require the use of a pre-chiller to cool the tap water before it goes through the main chiller.

Yeast should be pitched 2-4F below fermentation temperature to allow for the rise that occurs due to the heat that the fermenting yeast will generate.

A second sample of a Devils Backbone Brewing beer was passed around, this time it was their Schwartz Bier (aka Black Lager).

When pitching yeast, or a yeast starter, it is best to let them acclimatize to the fermentation temperature first which promotes a cleaner ester formation and lager character i.e. if you plan to ferment at 50F then cool the yeast or starter to this temperature then pitch.

Concerning volumes of yeast needed to ferment lagers the speakers suggest 3 times the normal amount used for ales and it is better to pitch too much than too little.

Fermentation should be carried out for 10+ days at 50F and raised 2F two-thirds the way through the fermentation so that the yeast can clean-up any bi-products put out at the beginning of the fermentation.

The wort should then be reduced by 2F per day until 42F and then transfer the beer off the trub and follow this by a cold crash to 30-34F. Lagering should be carried out for 2+ weeks (ideally 4 weeks) at 28-34F.

In order to have the right temperature in the wort it was suggested that a probe be taped to the side of the fermenter and insulated rather than be placed in the center of the wort. The reason for this is that if the center of the wort is around freezing then the liquid at the edge could freeze.

A dual temperature controller is preferable to control both a heat and cooling source as this allows for automatic correction if the ambient temperature outside rises or falls. If a freezer is being used as a fermentation chamber then a fan inside it can help move the air around to help ensure an even and constant temperature.

A third sample was passed around which was the East West IPL (Imperial Pale Lager) – a collaboration between Devils Backbone Brewing and Green Flash Brewing. The framework for this beer was based on a Helles Bock with IPA levels of hopping.

Can You Make a Living in Beer?

Join Ray Daniels for a discussion of possible job and business opportunities in the beer sector and his take on their prospects for their success. Tapping his knowledge and lessons learned as director of the Cicerone Certification Program®, a co-owner of Revolution Brewing, and instructor of the Siebel Institute course on starting a brewery, Ray will pass along tips for what it takes to succeed in beer-related businesses and entrepreneurial ventures.

Ray was keen to point out from the outset that working in a brewery is NOT “homebrew but bigger”! Working in a brewery means making the same recipes over and over plus involves lots of cleaning, safety aspects, and paperwork.

Cicerone Director Ray Daniels
Cicerone Director Ray Daniels (left)

With the current popularity of Craft Beer lots of people want to work in the brewing industry so the pay is generally low e.g. an Assistant Brewer gets $18-22k and a Head Brewer gets $40-75k.

Working at a brewery involves, long, erratic and weekend hours plus whilst wearing brewery clothing such as t-shirts and hats you represent the brand so must behave accordingly when in public.

Getting a job involves:

  • Getting noticed in amongst an avalanche of resumes.
  • Getting through demanding interviews.
  • Being able to demonstrate the ability to perform e.g. in a trial period, or a previous industrial or physical job.

One effective way of getting noticed is by volunteering and learning e.g. follow a course, gain certification such as TIPS/BASSETT, Cicerone etc. In general beer people like to hire beer people and someone they know.

To be in the beer business you don’t just have to work for a brewery, there are plenty of other opportunities such as distributors, retailers, event organizers, publishers, suppliers, tour guides and more.

You can always apply your existing skills to the beer industry e.g. if you are in Sales & Marketing then look for this type of position. You may need to perform multiple jobs or roles rather than one clearly defined post e.g. teacher, writer, event organizer.

Running a brewery is hard work and needs lots of knowledge, also there is heavy regulation at the Federal, State and Local levels. Also opening and running a brewery takes a lot of money, the same goes for expansion.

It is important to understand:

  • Working capital – there is a delay between selling the beer and getting paid for it (depending on the country or state).
  • Contingency fund – if something goes wrong, it may take money to get it fixed otherwise you have nothing to sell.
  • Keg float – as a brewery expands its reach market wise, and volume of beer being sold, the number of spare kegs to fill and have on-hand increases.

Assess your personal assets to see if running a brewery is right for you:

  • Intellect
  • Experience
  • Work ethic
  • People skills & charm

Examine the options for working in a brewery:

  • Do it for someone else first.
  • Do it on a small scale first to check viability e.g. Nano.
  • Do it on a part-time basis at the start so your existing job provides an income stream whilst getting up and running.

Using Spirits Barrels and Blending Sour Ales in Wood

New Holland Brewing Company founder Brett Vanderkamp will discuss his history with barrel aging and the development of New Holland’s signature barrel-aged beer, Dragon’s Milk. Drawing upon his experience as a distiller and founder of New Holland Artisan Spirits, Brett will also discuss the many uses of spirits barrels and their differences and intricacies. This seminar will also examine current tactics for blending wood-aged beer and how to properly blend sour ales aged in wood.

To begin this session Dragon’s Milk by New Holland Brewing was handed around.

Tap handles at New Holland Brewing
Tap handles at
New Holland Brewing

The brewery was opened in 1997 and started barrel-aging their beers in 1999. They have approximately 1275 barrels for the Dragon’s Milk program. In recent years there has been a shortage of barrels due to the lack of supply primarily caused by the 2008 credit crisis.

Dragon’s Milk is a blend of 50% from first use barrels and 50% from second use barrels. Blending helps cut down the alcohol heat in the beer. Flavors imparted from the first use barrels include; bourbon, vanilla, oak, chocolate, dark fruit, and alcohol burn. The second use barrels changes these flavors.

1-2% ABV is added to the beer from the alcohol within the barrel and absorbed in the staves.

Variables to consider when making barrel-aged beers include:

  • Temperature – this is generally 47-50F. If on the low side then this slows the development of the beer. Controlling the temperature improves consistency.
  • Surface area – the size of the barrel has an effect e.g. the smaller the barrel the more oak character is imparted into the beer. New Holland uses 15, 25 & 53 gallon barrels.
  • Time – this impacts the flavors imparted into the beer.
  • Beer makeup – the level of hop bitterness, ABV etc have an effect on the final beer and how barrel-aging impacts it.

The barrels also come with some lactic mould so keeping them at low temperatures prior to and between uses helps stop the bacteria from budding. Warm temperatures when barrel-aging in smaller casks tends to give more off-flavors in the beer which is most likely due to the larger surface area being exposed to the ambient air.

For their sour program, New Holland have 6 Fuders from the Champagne area of France. The speakers stressed the need to pre-plan the brewing of sour beers:

  • Idea – what is desired e.g. sourness, funk, complexity.
  • Micro needs – for the growth of bacteria.
  • Options – always give yourself options if you are planning on blending beers.

When blending do an initial set of trial versions then have a tasting panel choose which one is best before doing a full blend.

New Holland use their spent barrels, which are ones that have had their bourbon or whisky flavors stripped from them, for their sour program.

AHA Members Meeting

AHA Members Meeting
AHA Members Meeting:
– Jake Keeler (left)
– Gary Glass (right)

Each year there is an hour long session for members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA), the AHA staff and the GC (Governing Committee) to meet and discuss progress over the previous year such as the financial status of the organization, changes in staffing and committee members and also any issues encountered.

Key talking points included:

  • National Homebrew Competition – registration and limitation of entries per person, management of the first round in the regions, possible changes to the online systems used.
  • National Homebrewers Conference – registration process and limitations such as no social packages, members-only, and the lottery system. Improvements for next year to consider and potential locations were also discussed.

These discussions were valuable and interesting, one point to raise is that the turnout as a percentage of people attending the conference is rather low – it would be good to see more people being present.

In our next article we will cover more seminars that we attended on Day 3 at NHC 2014. If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to leave them below.

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