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Kenyan Woman Takes On Big Breweries

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In the tradition of the Medieval Alewives, Tabitha Karanja puts womanpower back into brewing! This BBC article describes how she started with her husband in 1997 to make fortified wine and moved to beer in 2008.

By doing that she is taking on several big brewery giants, but so far she has been successful:

“Its lager brand Summit is now so popular in the country that earlier this year Keroche opened a $29m (£19m) expansion at its brewery in the town of Naivasha, 90km (56 miles) north west of the capital Nairobi.”

(Source: BBC)

Link to the article:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32495853

A Taste Of Aloha – Cloning Kona’s Lemongrass Luau

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Introduction

Last year I went to Hawaii. For the first time. With me came my wife, my son, and my mother. Yes, my mother! My mother never wants to be  ANYWHERE other than Austria (her home), but three days into our vacation in Kona on the Big Island she said: “I could live here.” I was shocked but not surprised. Hawaii is… unique to say the least. The fauna, the flora the food the ocean, and the way of life. Coming to Kona, for me, also meant to visit the Kona brewery. My family and I patronized the excellent restaurant and the next day my wife and I took the brewery tour.

At the end of the tour I wanted to take a metal growler home with me. The growler came with a beer of my choice and I chose one I had never heard before: Lemongrass Luau.

It is a blonde ale, cloudy, light in color and body, with a restrained hop bitterness and a citrusy finish. It was just the right thing for a hot Hawaiian day. The growler soon had a disturbingly hollow ring to it and to my disappointment I could not find the beer back here in California.

So what is a brewer to do… he clones it!

First come the investigation.

Kona themselves tell you quite a bit about this beer online:

  • It is made from a simple malt bill of two row and wheat ( I guessed that from the cloudy appearance)
  • Turbinado sugar is used
  • Hawaiian Ginger adds a “pop” (what the hell is a “pop” of ginger?)
  • Hops are Williamette, Northern Brewer, Pacific Gem
  • The beer is filtered through lemongrass that is grown at brewery employees’ homes
  • ABV: 5, IBU:20

Planning

Here is my screenshot form Beersmith

Malt

For the grain bill I decided on at least 20% wheat to produce the cloudy appearance but not brew a hefeweizen. The rest is made of two row.

Hops

Since Pacific Gems are mostly bittering hops, I decided to drop them and get the bitterness from Willamette and the aroma from Northern Brewer.

Adjuncts

The amount of sugar was a guess. The body of the beer is light, but not too light. So I would add around half a pound of Turbinado and tweak that amount in future batches.

Yeast

For a blonde ale I chose White Labs WLP0001 California Ale, for a clean fermentation.

Water

Since I was using very light colored grains I added 20% distilled water to the Arrow Head Mountain spring water.

Other ingredients

The ginger was difficult. I did not remember any ginger flavor in the beer but I could have missed a subtle tone. Under no circumstance I wanted any hot taste, so I decided on 1 oz in the last 10 minutes of the boil for a batch of 2.5 gal

The lemongrass would go in the secondary. I estimated three stalks should do it.

Brewing

Mashing and Boiling

  • I heated 2 gallons of water to 154F. The mash settled at 150F and was kept at that temperature for 60 minutes.
  • The ph kept at 5.3
  • I sparged with 178F water and collected 3.7 gallons.
  • The wort was boiled with the first addition of Willamette at 60 minutes.
  • Second hop addition was the Northern Brewer at 30 minutes
  • 10 minutes before the end I added the sliced ginger in a hop sock, Fermentis yeast food, and the Turbinado sugar.
  • The last aroma hop addition was added after flameout.

Cooling, Settling, Oxygenation, Pitching

  • The wort was cooled for 30 minutes in an icebath.
  • Then it was transferred to a settling bucket for 30 minutes.
  • The original gravity seems to be lower than expected. 1.046 rather than 1.051.
  • After settling it was dribbled slowly into a 3 gallon Speidel Fermenter to oxygenate the wort
  • The WLP001 was pitched and stirred.

Icebottles will keep the fermenter between 60 and 70 F

Update Brewday +1

The wort shows signs of fermentation right away

Update Brewday +4

After 4 days of active fermentation the airlock is slowing down. I have acquired 3 stalks of Lemograss. The stalks are washed with vegetable soap , cut and put into a hopsock. I soak the hopsock for 30 seconds in a Star San solution.

Bock – The Goat, The Town, And The Beer

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What’s in a Name?

Often beers were a product of local ingredients and brewing techniques, so it made perfect sense to name them after the city or region they where they were brewed: Pilsen after the town of Plzen, Schwechater, comes from the brewery in Schwechat, and so on.

Sometimes beer names are descriptive like beers with “Rauch” (German for “smoke”) or “Steam” in the name, the former describing the use of smoked malt, the latter referring to a beer style.

And sometimes one can only wonder…

“Bock” means “male goat” in German, but it also used to describe the male of other groups of animals like sheep (Schafbock) and deer (Rehbock). A fitness and exercise contraption is called “Bock” as well as the seat for a carriage driver (Kutschbock).

So where does that leave us with the name of the beer? Let’s look at the history of Bockbeer.

A Town Full Of Brewers

The city of Einbeck

The town of Einbeck is located in lower Saxony in Germany. It was awarded city rights in 1240 together with brewing rights for every citizen, with the effect that it soon sported 700 master brewers. Being a member of the Hanseatic League, beer was not only brewed for consumption of the local burghers, but also for sale in far away regions. The beer was at first top fermented, and to make it more durable for transport, it was brewed with a high gravity. The result was a heavy sweet beer that was soon drunk all over Germany, especially in Bavaria.

In 1589 The Hofbraeuhaus was founded in Munich and brewed beer according to the German Beer Law. 1614 the Wittelsbacher summoned master brewer Elias

Munich Hofbraeuhaus

Pichler from Einbeck, specifically to brew the “Ainpoeckisch Bier”. “Ainpoeck” was the way Einbeck was written and pronounced. Over time the Bavarians shortened and simplified the name of the cherished beer and “Ainpoeck” became “Ein Bock” and then only “Bock”. Written down it seems like a stretch, but when you speak German and say it out loud a few times, it is really not.

So there, Bock is really the name where the beer came from. In Bavaria the top fermenting Bock was transformed into a bottom fermenting lager that we became the beer we know and love today. It ranges in color from light to the dark and has a dominating malt character. Hop bitterness is noble and subdued, fermentation is clean.

The alcohol content is often misunderstood among homebrewers. Bock (and I am including Doppelbock here) should have a warming alcohol note. Under no circumstances should the alcohol taste overpower the malt and give it a sharp note.

Different Bocks

Today we know several versions of Bock:

Doppelbock

“Doppel” means “double” in German and refers to the higher alcohol content of the beer. Legend goes that Maximilian I. of Bavaria summoned the Paulaner monks from Italy to his realms, where they founded the monastery Neudegg ob der Au. Unaccustomed to the German climate and food, religious fasting was very difficult for this southern order. But luckily they were allowed to consume beer during fasting and the “ ainpoeckische bier” was high in nutrients. When Maximilain granted them brewing rights, the monks made the beer even maltier to enhance the satisfaction during fasting. The Doppelbock was born.

Maibock

Maibock is a light beer that was only allowed to be brewed a few weeks in April and was then drunk in May.

Eisbock

Another legend has it that a brewing apprentice in Kurbach, Germany in 1890 left a few barrels of bock out

Making Eisbock

in the open on a very cold night. Some of the water in the beer froze and the beer was thought to have spoiled. The angry master forced his apprentices to drink the “spoiled” beer and… it turned out to be delicious. Eisbock (German for “Iced Bock”) is partially frozen and the ice is taken out. Since water is removed in the process, the beer becomes more condensed and maltier.

How the Bock Helped To Save Munich

In 1632, during the 30 Year War, the Swedish King Gustav Adolf conquered Munich. This war was a bitter conflict and conquering a city usually ended in mayhem, plundering, and utter destruction. In Bohemia it had a devastating effect on the brewing industry. But all of that did not happen in Munich. Gustav Adolf wanted 300.00 Thaler to spare the city. When the citizens could only come up with a third, Gustav Adolf accepted 220 hectoliters of brown beer and several liters of bock. One wishes all conflicts could be solved with a beer.

Fermentis Saflager W34/70 Dry Yeast – Death, Taxes, And Fermentation

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Few things are certain in life, and two of them are death and taxes. Thanks to Saflager W34/70 dry yeast from Fermentis, there is a third one. For me, this yeast never failed to show signs of fermentation within 24 hrs. I have directly pitched it and rehydrated it, and it always performed quickly and vigorously.

It is a Weihenstephan strain with an ideal fermentation temperature range from 53F to 59F, high flocculation and medium alcohol tolerance. I would recommend it primarily for malty European lagers. but there is one caveat:

Direct pitching makes using this yeast very easy, but it likes to be pitched warm 73F +/- 6F. If you want to cool the wort first and then bring it up to fermentation temperature, I would rehydrate the yeast. I did that when brewing my Traditional Bock, and the yeast started within 24hrs, but fermented not as vigorous as I have seen before.

It produces a very malty, clean flavor that you want in a European Lager. Use Mr Malty’s pitch calculator to determine how many 11.5 sachets need to be pitched.

Pure and Simple – The German Purity Law

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The Spice of Life

A tourist traveling in Belgium or Britain is greeted by a cornucopia of different styles and tastes in beer. Porters, stouts, witbiers, saisons,… the variety is remarkable. If said tourist now traveled on to Germany or Austria, he or she would find a steep decline in choice. Let’s have our hypothetical tourist sit down in a German pub and sample the beer menu. There would be Munich Helles, Bocks, Dunkles, Schwarzbier, Rauchbier,… all lagers…, and Dampfbier, Koelsch and  Hefeweizen (plus some more obscure local ale varieties). But where are the ales brewed with fruit, sugar, and other adjuncts? Where are the milk stouts, the sugar and honey in the beer? Why are there mostly lagers?.

Variety is the spice of life, or so the saying goes, and that was certainly true for the beers brewed in the Holy Roman Empire in the early 1500s. Brewers used barley, wheat, rye and all kinds of herbs and spices in their beer, and, of course, hops. Beers that were brewed were not really divided in ales and lagers yet, but there were definitely lagers brewed – inadvertently.

How do you brew a lager and not know it? Lagers need cold fermenting. Lager yeast is especially bred to ferment lager in the 50F range. In those days, brewers did not even know, what turned their wort into beer. Yeast was not bred or propagated as much as contracted, like a disease,  from other beer batches. A yeast cell was not a concept that the brewers understood or knew about, but they knew that a beer that was fermented in winter tasted different than a beer fermented in warmer months. That there were two different yeasts going to town on the wort, depending on temperature, that was a thought that would come much later. So winter produced cleaner tasting lager beers – lagers – and summer was the time of ales.

So far, so good. Until the early 1500s there were lagers and ales, some with hops, some with herbs. So who were the spoilsports who ruined this rich menu? We can point squarely to two people: Duke Wilhelm IV. and Duke Ludwig X. of Bavaria.

Duke Wilhelm IV.

A New Beer Law

In 1516,  the law propositioned to the Assembly of the Bavarian Estates in Ingolstadt reduced the ingredients in beer to hops, water and (barley) malt. it was first only used in Bavaria, but it gave the local governments the tools to enforce the regulation and slowly spread all over Germany. The driving factor behind the law (which was not called Purity Law at this time) was economy and health.

Before the rise of hops, herbs were used to brew beer, all kinds of herbs. Those herbs could be beneficial, or highly poisonous. There had been regulations through the Middle Ages in various places and cities, that attempted to regulate the use of herbs in beer, but using hops was simply safer.

Economics played a role too. Beer was such an important part of society, that it consumed a huge part of the grain production. Some grains, like wheat or rye, were necessary for providing bread to the people. The Purity Law restricted brewing to barley, to ensure that enough wheat and rye remained for baking.

So here were the main reasons why German brewers were restricted to water, hops, and malt. Over time this became the motto of the German beer industry and something of a seal of approval. “Hopfen, Wasser, Malz – Gott erhalt’s” (transl. “Hops, water, malt –  may God preserve it”) was a way to define clean tasting, long lasting quality beer. But all that does not explain the fixation on lagers. Hops, water, and malts can make a great ale as well.

Prohibition

The second part of this story is one of prohibition. Brewers and consumers were aware that beers brewed in summer could not be as well preserved as beers brewed in winter. Higher temperatures caused not only a different fermentation process, but also contributed to bacterial infections and sour beers. The second and knockout punch to beer variety came in 1553 when in Bavaria summer brewing was outlawed. Beer had to be brewed in the cooler season and stored cool in caves for summer drinking. Continuous practice  of this isolated the lager strain of the yeast, and specialized it for cold brewing.

While these revolutions were born in Bavaria, they slowly made their way through all Germany. This was hampered by the political situation at that time that saw Germany not as a unified country, but a quilt of little independent kingdoms and and duchies, all united under the name of Holy Roman Empire. What was good for the towns of one duchy, was not the law for the towns of the neighbouring duchy, and so the law had to make it’s way from town to town and guild to guild, aggravated by the fact that brewers had to find other work in summer, when brewing was forbidden.

And then, how else could it be, the tension of the chain became slack. In a few places, brewing with wheat was allowed again, coriander and cumin snuck into the wort. In the late 19th century a new Beer law was put in place in Bavaria to bring the recipes back to the old standard hops, water, and (barley) malt. Other parts of Germany allowed top fermenting beers with sugar and other  malts, but Bavaria stayed the course.

Keeping It Pure

In 1918, the beer law became the “Purity Law” (Reinheitsgebot) in Bavaria for purely economical reasons. Bavaria was defending its beer industry against beer brewed with sugar from other parts of Germany. Later, in the European Union, this “Reinheitsgebot” was adopted in other parts of Germany to indicate that their beer was more pure than the beer imported from other countries in the European Union. This, of course, had the effect that more and more breweries in Germany that had used sugar, had to adhere to the ingredients “hops, water, and malt” again.

And so the Purity Law created an isolating zone around Germany and Austria that fended off everything that strayed from the beaten path. 1987 the breach occurred. Other countries in the European Union were  bringing in lawsuits for not being able to export their beers to Germany and Austria and call them “beer”. This started to serious chip away at the Purity Law. Today, the Purity Law only regulates the production of bottom fermenting beer in Germany. Bottom fermenting beer to be sold in Germany has to be produced with hops, water ,and malt, but can deviate when it is produced for export. Other countries shipping their beer to Germany are not bound by this law.

And the law lives on. It has continued to be a trademark of German and Austrian Lager breweries and countless commercials and billboards try to drive home the fact that hops, water, and malt is all that a beer needs. Today the market is opening up. Free trade is bringing new tastes, and even established breweries cannot help but notice that the consumers are thirsty for more than the old standard lager. I was very surprised when I found the first Shandy (Radler) produced by a beer company that I only knew for lager beers, but I am happy that variety is making a comeback.

The Trouble With Trub

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Many homebrewers know this scenario:

The wort is in the settling tank and solids are precipitating out and sinking to the bottom. The layer on the bottom becomes thicker and thicker and one starts to calculate how much product will be lost when the wort is transferred.

And then then the spout is opened and the  liquid level drops and drops until it reaches the layer and the wort becomes cloudy. Yet it takes some self discipline to close the spout and leave the rest of the wort in the settling tank.

Enter the Sediment Blocker Spigot (bought at www.morebeer.com). It’s inlet screw has a half moon opening. The lower (closed) half is supposed to hold back the trub and only the clear liquid passes through the (open) upper half. So far the theory.

 

How does it perform?

I used the Sediment Blocker Spigot recently when I brewed my Traditional Bock. The sediment layer was 1.5 inches thick and I was curious how far I would be able to to decant the wort off the trub.

Installation was a breeze. The spout uses the standard bucket holes. Caveat –  it only comes with one rubber grommet. I was not quite clear if I should install it on the inside or outside, so I poached a grommet off another spout and installed one inside and one outside.

The spigot performed beautifully.

I decanted the wort off the sediment until only an imperceptible layer above the trub was left. The wort stayed clear until almost the very end. However, I could imagine that the performance depends on the thickness of the trub layer –  the thicker the trub, the more useful the spigot should be.

Brewing a Traditional Bock

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Introduction

My brewing setup

Bock is one of those beers that I could drink year round. There are definitely beers that adhere to certain seasons: a light summer ale for a hot day, a thick stout for a winter evening, and so on. Bock, in its big maltiness, is like a celebration, whenever it might take place. Whenever somebody brings a bock to a get together, there is no question what is to be expected: a intense malty flavor with an enhanced level of alcohol.

Brewing a bock is almost a meditation for me. Everything is slowed down. The high amount of grain takes time to heat, mash, sparge and the wort is noticeably sweeter than the worts of other beers. A bock is a celebration of malt and hops, a slow, yet very drinkable reminder of past brewing practices. What it is not, is a race for ABVs. The alcohol should lend a warming note to the beer, and never turn the bock into rocket fuel.

I am following the recipe for Traditional Bock from Jamil Zainasheff in Brew Your Own. Wherever I deviated from the recipe I have made a note.

Planning

Malt

The majority of a bock is Munich malt, with Pilsner making up the rest and some specialty grains thrown into the mix to enhance the malt flavor.  German malts are, of course, the preference here.

Water

Here it gets tricky. For darker beers, water with a higher mineral content and higher alkalinity is preferable. I have decided to forego bottled water and use our tap water, for which I have a water report. The numbers give me some estimates what to expect.

Hops

Bittering is a background note. Hallertau Mittelfrueh is preferred. Jamil’s recipe uses Magnum hops and I use that in my recipe as well. Jamil’s recipe is formulated to 23 IBUs. I have raised the number to 24 IBUs.

Yeast

There are many liquid yeasts that produce malty beers. I don’t have time to do a yeasts starter and do not want to go through the expense to pitch six vials of liquid yeast instead. The answer is my good old dry yeast workhorse Fermentis W34/70 Lager yeast. According to Mr Malty’s pitching rate calculator (http://www.mrmalty.com/calc/calc.html) I need 2.7 satchets.

Recipe

I am using beersmith for this recipe. When I put in Jamil’s numbers, it put the OG way over the top of the recommended number to 1.076. I reduced the grain bill a bill to match 1.073.

The screenshot above shows the values in beersmith. I am on the higher end of ABV, and the lower end of the color range.

The mash schedule follows Jamil’s single infusion mash of 155F, but I will add a decoction at the end for some color and flavor additions.

  1. 163F for dough-in to target 155F – hold 75 min
  2. Decoction of a third of the mash – boil for 20 min
  3. Add back decoction and raise slowly to 168F for mashout

Brewing

I am using a 10 gal Blichmann Boilermaker as mashtun with a false bottom. The boiling kettle is 8 gallons.

Mashing

I prepare the tap water by dissolving a campden tablet in 9 gal of water to disperse the Chlorine.

  1. Mash water is heated to 163F, dough in lowers the temperature to 157F, and soon to 155F.
  2. The first pH reading comes to 5.0. I am targeting between 5.3 and 5.5 pH. Over the entire mash I keep adding Calcium carbonate to the mash in small quantities –  31 grams in all. The pH will not rise and will remain at 5.0
  3. After 75 minutes I pull the decoction – one third of the thick mash.

    The decoction

  4. I boil the decoction for 20 minutes and add it back to the main mash.
  5. Slowly the temperature is raised to 168 for mashout.

Sparging

After a vorlauf to set the grainbed, I sparge with 4 gallons of 175F water until I collect 6.7 gal of wort. The pH of the wort is 5.3 at the end of collection. The pre-boil gravity is 1.057, one point over the beersmith prediction.

Boiling

The boil time is 90 min. After 30 minutes I add the Magnum hop pellets. It is the only hop addition. 15 min before the end of boil I add the Irish moss, at the 10 minute mark one capsule of Servomyces yeast nutrient.

After boiling the wort has a nice, golden honey color

Chilling, Settling, Aerating

The wort is chilled for one hour in an icebath to 64F and then transferred to a settling tank.

The icebath

After one hour in the tank a thick layer of solids have precipitated out of the wort. I slowly dribble the wort into a plastic carboy to aerate it.

Aeration

Pitching

Three sachets (11.5g a piece) of W34/70 are rehydrated at 76F and pitched. The carboy is placed in a fermentation cooler bag and held at 50F-55F

Update Brew Day +1

Signs of fermentation are visible on the surface.

Update Brew Day +2

The bubbler on the carboy has started moving

Update Brew Day +3

The wort is fermenting vigorously

Update Brew Day +6

The fermentation is slowing considerably. I am raising the temperature to 61 for d-rest.

Update Brew Day +9

Fermentation has stopped. Im lowering the temperature into the 50ies.

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