by George De Piro
Many of you know that I am engaged in a project to open a brewpub in Albany, NY. Due to a series of annoying difficulties, the project has been slowed to a pace that is best measured using geological time scales. Despite the setbacks, we did clear a major hurdle last month: we installed the brewhouse and made a batch of wort!
Since we dont yet have our liquor license, we cant ferment on site. I therefore opted to make an inexpensive wort: 500 pounds of Briess 2-row pale malt with 2 pounds of Eroica hops, which were boiled for 60 minutes. A boring recipe, but it would serve its purpose: we just needed to ensure that everything would work as it should.
It was a cold December morning at the pub site. The sole heat source, a rather loud, gas-fired space heater (really more of a ram-jet), was turned off so that we could hear each other. Even I put on long sleeves for a little while. The activity of brewing soon warmed me up, though.
We had no electrical power to the mill so I ordered pre-crushed grain from Briess. The equipment installer (Rob Soltas) and I loaded the malt into the grain hopper. We put enough water in the mash tun to cover the false bottom and turned on the flow of water to the grain hydrator. Feeling like a kid at Christmas, I hit the switch that would start the auger that moves the crushed malt from the hopper to the hydrator. It labored intensely, moaning as it slowly turned. A few seconds later it stopped; the malt had not budged from the hopper.
After a few handy explicatives were shouted at the auger we came up with Plan B: We each grabbed a bucket and moved the 500 pounds of malt from the hopper to the mash tun, mashing-in just like a homebrewer would! After about 20 minutes we had completed mashing in. We are fortunate that the mash rakes mix the mash pretty well, or else mash-in would have been quite a bit more laborious.
The rest of the session went pretty smoothly, with the only other major problem being that the valves that control the flow of steam to the steam jackets would not close completely. This means that the mash tun, kettle, and hot liquor tank were all being constantly heated. I discovered this minor flaw when I got in the kettle to inspect it after the first step of the cleaning process. As I looked around at the shiny steel walls I realized that I was becoming uncomfortably warm.
Having no desire to be the first dish prepared at the brewpub, I made a hasty exit from the vessel! Most of the wort was put down the drain, but some of it was collected in carboys and kegs by local homebrewers. I borrowed a carboy and brought it home to ferment with some Muntons dry yeast, but the resulting beer had phenolic off-flavors. I dont know if this came from the use of chlorinated water or wild yeast, but if you saw the pub site you would not doubt that the beer got infected. The amount of dust and debris floating around the construction site is amazing. I dont know how it will ever get cleaned up!
So ended my first experience as a pro. It was a lot of fun, and not really much different from homebrewing. Once we get our liquor license, electrical power, permanent water lines, etc. I will brew a recipe intended for consumption. That will be really fun!
By Lucy Zachman
Congratulations to BR Royla who was unanimously elected club president at our December meeting!
In other news.... Commonwealth brewers Rob Mullin and Paul Sullivan were our speakers for the December meeting. Paul has been with the brewery for some time, but Rob came to Commonwealth just recently, September 21st, after more than seven years at Old Dominion Brewery in Virginia. While the first few years may have involved driving trucks and delivering kegs, Rob has certainly come a long way.
Commonwealth is located in Rockefeller Center, just south of the Christmas Tree and the Today Show studios. They have brewed some pretty good beers in the last few years, but Rob and Paul are determined to improve upon the reputation. Rob also noted that the brewery is undergoing some renovations as well as changes in brewing style and menu offerings. A new general manager and chef have started work as well.
Rob said he plans to offer two or three regular beers along with a rotating dark beer and a variety of seasonals. The breweries current dark beer offering is an Irish Stout, but Rob said, he just brewed a Schwartz beer which should be ready in the next month or so, and a Belgian strong ale will be available soon as well. A Golden is also in the regular line up, but it is being reformulated to be a bit lighter (from 12 1/2 to 10 Plato). As examples of the brewery's transitions, Rob and Paul offered us a taste of quite a few beers, ranging from just before Rob's time at the brewery to ones that they have just been brewed and are currently available.
A Pilsner offered us a sample of the last beer brewed by the former brewer Paul Saylor, along with Paul Sullivan. it contained all German Pilsner malts, Czech Saaz hops for aroma and flavor and Perle and Magnum hops for bittering. It had a slightly smoky flavor, but was quite enjoyable.
Next up was a very hoppy IPA. Marettsotter pale malt and crystal malt were used and East Kent Goldings and Whitbread Golden Variety (WGV) hops were added to reach 60 BUs. The WGV, used to dry hop with 1/2 lb of hops per barrel, added a sweet floral aroma He used Fuller's ESB yeast. This beer definitely had a very fresh and herby flavor. Rob said the IPA is currently being served as a seasonal, but will be added to the regular line up soon.
A Doppel Bock, the first beer that Rob has brewed at Commonwealth, received rave reviews from many, with such comments as "nice and chewy" and "really good, reminds me of a Castel." This Doppel contains 95% Munich (Weyerman) and 5% Belgian Pilsner malt. It has quite an alcohol aroma, slightly tempered by the malty sweetness.
Paul Sullivan's popular Saison recipe was the starting point for theCommonwealth version. Paul and Rob used all Belgian malts including Cara Pils and Cara Vienna. They also used some unmalted wheat. The yeast was cultured from a Saison DuPont. Paul noted that this beer had a tough fermentation because it was difficult to recirculate the yeast. It ended up being quite dry, though, with 7.2% alcohol.
Rob closed by encouraging everyone to stop by and check out the changes under way. He also noted that he'd be happy to share some yeast if you happen to stop by with a sterilized container between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday.
That's all for this year....Health and happiness to all in 1999!
by Bill Coleman
The next day was Sunday. We had plans to go to the Museum of Ancient and Modern Art; but before that, some beer for breakfast. We walked over to the Bourse, looking for Beer Street, which was listed on the web, supposedly with a huge draft line. Alas, it was no longer there. We decided to settle for a little place called Brasserie Bourse, where I ordered my first Orval in Belgium. Imagine my surprise when it had a huge fresh hop nose like a Liberty Ale and very little Bret! Quite different from the way it comes to us in the US-however, when visiting the brewery later, I found that most connoisseurs of Orval, including our host, like the beer somewhat older than it's usually served in bars in Belgium. Warren had a Campbell's Scotch ale, which was pretty nice. Later I was to find it was actually made by the Stella Artois Brewery-and is one of their better beers, as it happens.
We went to the museum, and gawked at paintings of Brueghel the Younger and Older, Bosch, and many other impressive paintings of the Flemish school. I was sorry that the Rubens section was closed when we were there-as was the 20th century section of the Modern Museum, which meant I was also unable to check out the Magrittes. Ah, well, time for a waffle from the stand, which was much better then the one at Mort Subite.
Using our street map and web info, we headed up to the Beer Circus, but as it happens, it is not open on Sunday. We went to a nearby pub, and had several beers between the two of us: Detergems Wit (Spicy), Rodenbach (pretty much the same as we're used to in the US).
At this point, I believe, we went to the cartoon museum, and got to check out Belgian and other European comics throughout history. I was intrigued by the fact that there was little if any references to American comics. I saw one mention in the animation section, which included pictures of Mickey Mouse, and I believe, Betty Boop. Aside from that, nary a peep. I picked up a notebook to take tasting notes in a Tintin book. As it turned out, I wasn't so good about keeping notes as the trip progresses, so you'll be reading much more beer description for the first couple of days.
After eating a bit, we finally went to our first all-stops out, heavy duty, Belgian Beer bar, Chez Moeder Lambic, in the St. Gilles area of Brussels (note to travellers: the other Chez Moeder Lambic is no longer in business). We were a little early, so we had to kill some time. We went to another bar! Warren ordered Horse Ale (another nice Belgian Pale Ale, with good malt character and some hoppiness and spicy yeast notes-cost, around $1.50!) and I ordered the extremely odd Hoegarden Speciale, a seasonal beer. I didn't know what to expect, but I didn't expect what I got; it's simply a German Hefeweizen, with big banana and clove flavors, and no wit spices. Odd! It must be a reaction to the increased popularity of hefeweizen's in Germany, though I saw few if any of them in Belgium.
Finally, Chez Moeder Lambic was open. We piled in, while the bartender talked on the phone for around ten minutes, ignoring us and all the other customers who came in. It was a small bar, with many interesting bottles lining the wall. I couldn't wait to order. Finally, the bartender got off the phone and handed us and the other customers a phone-book sized beer list, with around 800 beers! The cellar must be twice the size of the bar!
What to order, what to order? I decided as my first beer to order Bachus, a Flanders Red from the Casteel Brewery. It had a nice sweet/sour balance, and at around $2.20 was a great deal! Warren ordered a Saison Regal, from the Bocq brewery, which had lots of spicy orange notes, and big hop presence. He next ordered a Saizons Quatro, a red ale with huge licorice flavors, and I had a Vichtegems, which had a very tart flavor, an extremely nice red ale. At this point, I couldn't resist the Deliriums Tremens on draft, and it was quite delicious, fresh, hoppy, and big-bodied. Warren ordered a Saison Silly, (he was definitely on a Saison kick that evening), with was both spicy and tart; most unusual.
At this point, we decided to split a 750 ml bottle of Girardin Kriek, which was our most expensive beer of the evening, at around $7.20! The bottle was covered with dust, and the beer was extremely fruity and very acidic; there was much less bret, and no fecal or other extreme funkiness in the flavors. Overall, a delicious beer.
After this, it was Aarcchotse Brune (4%), another sour red beer, which wasn't quite as distinctive as the others. Also Zottegem Grand Cru (8.4%), which was a little disappointing, though it was spicy, malty and strong.
After five and a half hours, we left, as satiated as we could be in any one bar. After I left a Salty Graffiti in the men's room (my first ever), we headed back to the hotel. What a great country! And we hadn't been to one brewery yet!
Monday, we were scheduled for our first brewery trip. We were driving to Liefman's brewery, in Oudenarde, west of Brussels. We drove out on one of the main roads, M8, and passed the Belle-Vue brewery on the way out, as well as Eylensboch, which we stopped at. There is still beer appearing under that name (I tried some a day or two later), but there seemed to be nothing going on at that building. Later I found out that the beer currently being produced under that name may well be made at De Keersmaker, the brewer of Mort Subite.
On the way, we also passed a little supermarket, and picked up a selection of good Belgian beers at ridiculous prices (around $.75-1.25 a bottle) and, for a joke, a can of Belle-Vue Kriek!
We kept driving out, and finally found a stop we couldn't miss-the Roman Brewery. I have long admired their Ename Dubbel and Tripel, and especially Roman Dubbelen (called Dubbelen Bruinen in Belgium), that uniquely bitter, malty beer, with a flavor not unlike bittersweet chocolate. Warren had sent them an e-mail, but received no response, so we made no plans to attend; but with them right in front of our faces, we had to make a stop here! We knocked at the door, and were told to wait a few minutes. Eventually, the brewer showed up, Jozef Snauwaert, who gave us a full tour of the brewery. It was a pretty big brewery, which, though it does not turn up much in Brussels, is common to see in most of the bars in the Oudenarde area. They have a full line of beers: in addition to the Ename Abbeys and Roman Dubbelen, they also have Romy Pils (a necessity if you're trying to cover a range of beers for the local bars); Roman Special; Sloeber, a Duvel-style ale; and even a line of sodas-unfortunately, during my trip, I was unable to sample a Roman Cola.
We were able to admire the attractive copper and brick boiler and mash tun, as well as the fermentation area, the bottling room, and the distribution area. When I mentioned to the brewer my preference for the Dubbelen, he told me, to my dismay, that it had been discontinued, because it was too bitter for Belgian taste! He mentioned that it appealed more to the American market, and since they are in talks for a new American importer, they may bring it back. Keep your fingers crossed, and in the meantime, try the 4-year old bottles at Mug's!
We also got to see an antique steam-powered engine (a harbinger of a later visit), which was no longer is use. Finally, the tasting room! I was eager to try Sloeber, which was a very creditable beer in the Duvel style: clean, hoppy, fresh and effervescent. The Roman special, a brown ale, was very nice. The Ename beers, fresher then we'd ever tried them before, were quite delicious. Let's hope they return to our shores. We gave the brewer an attractive Salty Dog T-shirt (only $15 each, get yours while supplies last).
Now it was time to go on the road again, off the Liefman's. We had to turn slightly north to Oudenarde. We drove around, slightly lost, asking directions every few blocks, and finally found the area. We drove past a bar that had Liefman's signs, and they directed us to the brewery. Unfortunately, there was a lot of road construction going on that day, and along with the rain, meant that we had to tromp through a huge muddy trough to get the brewery. But what's a little mud when there's beer to be had? Anyway, we made it through, and reached the brewery.
Actually, the name brewery to describe Liefman's, is at this point, something of a misnomer. They actually stopped making beer there several years ago; now the wort is brewed at the Riva brewery, which owns Liefman's, and it is then shipped to the brewery in sterile containers, to be inoculated with yeast at Liefman's, and then aged for the significant time it takes to make Goudenband. Our host, Philip, who I previously met at D.B.A.'s some time ago, showed us the original brewing equipment, which is being kept and maintained as a museum, and described the process used to make the beer in the old days. There were severe quality control problems with the equipment, which took around a day and a half to brew a batch of beer, because of equipment problems. Many of you may have read Michael Jackson's account of how they would boil the beer overnight. Well, that was largely due to the fact that the heating element in the brew pot was so inadequate (I little heat element in the center of the pot, not unlike those brew-heat pots sold in homebrew supply houses), that it probably took that long to reach a boil! And I thought my stove was slow!
We were able to checkout the coolships, which were used to allow the wort to be cooled and also inoculated with local micro flora before the yeast is pitched. That is no longer done, and you would expect the beer to be a lot less sour as a result, but it appears to not be the case. Anyway, we also learned that the yeast used is never recultured-it has not been recultured in the memory of anyone at the brewery! They keep pulling it from finished batches, occasionally acid-washing it if the micro flora get too extreme, and repitching it! No wonder it's still so sour.
We were also privileged to go to the cellar, where they were selling bottles of 1987 Goudenband for $3.00 each! What a deal! I remember having it at D.B.A.'s when our host visited there several months ago, so I picked up some for my cellar. I'll let you know how they taste.
After a marvelous sampling of the Goudenband and the regular Liefman's brown, we headed back to Brussels. On the way back, we got slightly lost because of a traffic problem right outside the city. However, we finally made it back, and when on a Brussels pub crawl.
Our first stop was a bizarre, touristy but amusing place called the Coffin. The place was lit by ultraviolet light, the tables were shaped like coffins, and when you ordered Duvel (at $7.50 a glass, definitely the most expensive place we were in while in Belgium) they served it to you, not in the correct Duvel glass, but in these skull shaped crockery glass, that were so textured on the inside as to cause the glass to foam continuously while it sat on your coffin table. Very amusing!
Next stop was Halloween, which is more of an upscale version of Burp Castle, with waiters dressed as monks, but somewhat fancier decorations. I had, appropriately, my first Westmalle Tripel of the trip. Warren had a Kwak.
The first two stops were recommended by Nassur of the Biere Artisanes store, on his web page, as was the third, but it was a much more serious beer bar. The place was called Porte Noir, and it was an amazing place. Their was some really amazing beers there. We started off with a Brigand and a Piratt on draft. Both were very strong ales. After that...notes get a little vague.
After 2 beers each at that place, we headed up to the Beer Circus, which was open this time. We checked out an amazing beer list, including quite a few vintage beers, including a lambic from the Eylensboch, 1993! Unfortunately, I was not taking notes on this night, some my recollections are a bit vague. Plus I blacked out! Oh well, we had around 3 beer each at this place, and got a car ride home. That much I remember.
Continued in the Next Issue...
Be the first on your block to have the latest edition of the Malted Barley T-Shirt. It comes in gray with a small picture of Salty in the "Yo Brooklyn" mode and a logo on the front, and then, on the back, is a complete, tabloid-sized reproduction of the off-flavor comic strip used in our competition in February. The shirt is only $15 ($25 for 2) if you pick it up at a meeting or a Hop, Skip and Brew. Otherwise, order it via the mail (add $5 for postage & handling, from Hop Skip and Brew, 50-07 Metropolitan Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens, NY.
The Next Meeting of The Malted Barley Appreciation Society will be on Wednesday, January 13, at 8:30 p.m. We are expecting Jeff Browning of the Longshore Brewery in Garden City, L.I! As usual, the meeting will be held at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, which will be serving 2 of the beers on handpump. And, as always, there should be lots of good homebrew. See you there!
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