Friday 27 October 2017

A visit to Het Anker brewery

An evening tour of Het Anker was the last brewery on the second day of the IBD study tour of Belgium. We had an impressively long list of places to visit to early starts and late finishes were the order of the day. After all we were here for study, not to enjoy ourselves.

Our formidable tour guide, who shows no mercy to people parked in the wrong place, started by telling us about the history of the area. Beguines were once prominent there, which gave me another strange religious group to read up on, an unexpected bonus of the tour.

The brewhouse was one of the oddest I've seen, a combination of copper vessels and a mash filter. The brewlength is 110hl.

Though the mash filter looked old:

 But then again they have been around a long time. They'd also kept some of their old kit at the brewery, including a Baudelot cooler:

Note the tray at the bottom for collecting the cooled wort Tim

 And a coolship:

 Their old maltings is now used as a whisky maturation warehouse. Belgian angels get more than the Scottish ones as the evaporation rate is 5% p.a.


Thanks to Richard Rees and Tim O'Rourke for the pictures.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

For completeness sake

Having brewed with home made malt, and had a go at chicha de muko, I needed to make sake to complete the set of ways in which booze can be made from a starchy substrate. Back when I was working at BRI we nearly got a project to make sake in the pilot brewery, but sadly the work fell through so it didn't happen.

I'd got the taste for giving it a go though, as the processes involved look fascinating. To someone used to normal brewing it all looked very complicated, but when I thought about it if you add malting to the brewing process it's just as involved.

As my local supermarket didn't sell sake rice I used risotto rice.

The first stage is to steam so rice and once it's cooled add fungal spores (Aspergillus oryzae) to it.

I wasn't sure what to look for but there did seem to be something happening.

 Here's a close up:

There was a smell similar to that of fermentation coming off the rice. After three days a definite colour change had become obvious too (the rice on the spoon is freshly cooked).

After three days the fungal rice or koji was mixed with freshly cooked rice and water and the yeast (a sake strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae) was pitched. 

It was at this point that it dawned on me how sake manages to get such a high alcohol content. It wasn't like fermenting wort, it was so thick it was more like fermenting the mash. Obvious when you think about it, but doing things is really the best way to learn. 

I left it fermenting at room temperature for two weeks. I was a little bit twitchy about this as I vaguely remembered from when I was looking at sake at work that it was fermented colder. I should have looked into this further really, as when I got back from holiday after two weeks my plans for an evening on the sake were thwarted. The fermentation smelt of acetone (nail varnish remover) and there was an unpleasant looking pellicle on the top.

I know my fellow fans of funny fermentation take great delight in posting pellicle pictures, but I'm afraid my faith is not that strong and most look ugly to me. I crudely strained out the rice... get the NEIPA of sake or nigori. 

I did have a go at drinking it, as I figured there must be a lot of alcohol in it, but I soon gave up, as with the strong solvent smell it had I'm sure I would have got a bad head.

So my sake making was not entirely successful, but I think it has potential. And in the event of the zombie apocalypse it's certainly easier than malting grains, and there are possibilities for using a similar process with other starch sources. Though as, unlike with my home malting, I didn't actually make anything drinkable more research is necessary first.

Monday 23 October 2017

A visit to Malheur brewery

Malheur brewery was the next stop on the study tour of Belgium. A more modest operation than our previous stop, by my calculations they were brewing around 8,000 hl a year.

They have a two vessels brewing system, which makes for a rather involved brewing process. They mash in in the the kettle, then transfer to the lauter, the wort then goes back to the kettle and finally the latuer is used as a hop back.

The fermentation wasn't straight forward either as they use the drauflassen system. Twenty four hours into fermentation, when the yeast is in the exponential phase, a fresh batch of oxygenated wort is added to the fermenter. The yeast must like it as they've been using it for 20 years and even for the strong beers it ferments down to a final gravity of 1-1.2°P.

They owner said he was the first person to have beer made champagne style, with the yeast removed after bottle conditioning. 

Sadly we didn't get to try any of it, but I can't really complain as we were well looked after.

Saturday 21 October 2017

A visit to Van Honsebrouck brewery

The Van Honsebrouck brewery is very modern, being built in 2016. The old brewery was 1.5 km away and had a capacity of 100,000 hl. The new one has a 250,000 hl capacity, which is just as well as they're enjoying 10% annual growth.

They brew top fermented beers, mixed fermented beers and spontaneously fermented beers. The sour beers are made in a separate area from the top fermented beers. 

They do 10 x 150hl brews per day, though they can brew as little as 50hl at a time for trials. Gravities range from 12 to 23°P, though the stronger beers have sugar added to achieve this.

They chose to go with a lauter tun rather than a mash filter as it is more "craft". 

The brewery has a weak wort tank for recycling the last runnings, and an energy storage tank.

They use an ultra centrifuge rather than a kieselguhr filter.

The cooled is used in Winter for approximately one month, filled with two brews at a time.

It looked as new as the rest of the brewery.  

Unsurprisingly the vat and barrel ageing part of the brewery wasn't up to Rodenbach standards! The lambics go into barrels, the mixed fermentation brews into vats for a year to 18 months. The fruit beers spend six months on fruit in maturation vessels. they have 74 fermenting vessels, most of them round bottomed. 80% of their output is keg, 20% bottled. 

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures

Friday 6 October 2017

Ingredients seminar at Thornbridge brewery.

Last month I was at Thornbridge brewery for the British Guild of Beer Writers and Brewery History Society seminar on ingredients.

We were welcomed by one of the owners, whose name escapes me. 

He owns the means of production

By the time of the first speaker I'd got my notebook and pen out so I can say with some confidence that it was Mike Cable from Wild Beer brewery next.

He'd titled his talk about all the weird and wonderful ingredients they've used "Innovation in brewing adjuncts", which shows that misunderstanding what the term adjuncts means is now common.

The list of things they've used was quite impressive:
  • Brewing liquor steeped with kombu seaweed
  • Cherry tree branches, flowers, ground pepper corns and lentils in the mash
  • Cocoa nibs, fruit juices, barrel staves, mushrooms, cockles and oysters in the boil
  • In the cellar/infusions fruit juice, fruits, cucumber, beech leaves and fig leaves
I wonder what the hit and miss rate is though? It's fun playing around with strange ingredients but not all of them are going to work. He did say fruit juice can cause problems due to pectin and prolonged fermentation.

Jenn Merrick, ex-Beavertown and due to open a new brewery soon, was next.

We heard more about brewing with fruit from her. In fruit beers customers expect to taste the fruit mentioned on the label. The aroma compounds in fruits are very similar to those found in beer (esters, higher alcohols, terpenes, etc.)

Intact and broken down fruits have different flavour compounds. You need to prepare fruit for brewing:
  • It may be better to use a puree rather than juice. 
  • Crushed skins of citrus fruits are high in oils
  • Frozen fruits have the cells broken down
  • Dried or powdered fruits are also available
The amount of fruit should be limited so it provides less than 20% of the fermentable extract or it thins the beer too much. The beer may also need to be mashed at a higher temperature or have lactose added to give it more body.

Fruits have tannins and bitterness as well as sugar, which becomes apparent post-fermentation.

Currently "breakfast juice" and "milkshake" IPAs are popular but it's hard to balance fruit and hops in really hoppy IPAs. May need to drop almost all the bittering hops and add lots of dry hops.

It's best to add fruit to the conditioning tank to avoid microbiological problems and ethanol helps solubilise flavour compounds. No heating avoids loss of aroma compounds and prevents forming a pectin gel.

Hop companies are now doing extracts of hop and fruit essential oils.

Rob Wilson from Toast Ale followed. The company was founded as part of a campaign against food waste called Feedback.

For their beer a third of the mash is fresh surplus bread. The company is based on the following principles:
  1. Make fantastic craft beer
  2. Use as much bread as possible
  3. Communicate about food waste accessibly
  4. Donate 100% of the profits to Feedback
  5. "To change the world you have to throw a better party than the people and corporations fucking the world up".

They get the bread for free from sandwich companies and currently use a tonne a months. 

Some light refreshment followed in the form of a beer tasting with the Thornbridge head brewer Rob Lovatt.

Coritani at 7.4% ABV was labelled an Imperial English IPA and described as "Timothy Taylor Landlord" on steroids. It was made with Maris otter pale malt, crystal and Munich malts, Savinjski golding hops and a Yorkshire ale yeast.

Very nice it was too. Then it was Days of Creation, a sour red ale flavoured with raspberries. No hops were used at all in making it so the lactic acid bacteria can grow (the background bitterness beers pick up from the brewery give it 6 IBUs!). The beer was fermented as normal, then centrifuged and put in French wine barrels to which Pediococcus and Lactobacillus were added, and three months later three strains of Brettanomyces and fruit. The barrels are kept at greater than 15°C, but not too hot or Acetobacter growth is encouraged. Humidity is keep high to keep down evaporative losses (topping up barrels disturbs the pellicle).

The day having been started by a member of the capitalist class next was had an aristocrat: Prince Luitpold of Bavaria.

He also owns the means of production

His family ruled Bavaria for 738 years and had a monopoly on wheat beer for 200 years. The origins of the Oktoberfest are as a wedding party for one of his relatives. He owns a brewery and they brew to the reinheitsgebot and he passed round a book from shortly after it was written which details it.

I hope these are the right pages

He made that case that beer is made from water, malt and hops, and it's possible to make drinks with other ingredients but they are not beer. He'd brought some beer too, and I see from my notes there was an unfiltered lager with a bitterness of 22 IBU and Hallertau aroma hops. I seem to remember there was a wheat beer too but I have no notes on that.

I think it was lunch after that, as the next page in my notebook is my scribbled notes for the discussion panel I was on later.

Things resumed with Scott Williams from Williams brothers.

They've been making heather ale since 1987, the recipe based on ones used by various home brewers. Bell and ling heather are used, which flower for three months. Bog myrtle is also used which adds bitterness and astringency. All are added to the boil. Heather ale was written about by the Romans, and may be the origin of Asterix's magical potion!

Their spruce beer is based a viking recipe. Spruce needs to be new growth but pine is much easier to harvest.

Their elderberry beer is based on an old Welsh recipe and also contains bog myrtle.

They also do a beer with gooseberries.

The cask version of their heather beer has some hops added to extend its shelf life. The recipes are true to their historic nature but commercially drinkable, and "normal" beers help pay the mortgage (their Joker is the best selling premium bottled ale in Scotland). We got give an comic about the heather ale legend. I know a lot of beers have creations myths, but I think it is fair to say that this one does have a proper legend.

Carl Heron was crisp malt next to talk about adjuncts. Unfortunately I seem to have missed getting a picture of him so have a picture of Thornbridge brewery instead

Not quite up to Donnington standards
Now back to the adjuncts. Hammer milled raw wheat or barley can be used to make up to 20% of the grist in a lauter tun or mash filter (though it wouldn't work in a mash tun). Exogenous enzymes are still needed.

Maize needs to be cooked at 85°C with some barley malt. Rice is cooked at 75°C for 45 minutes.

Micronised grains are 'popped' and the cellular structure is disrupted by subjecting them to infra red light for 45-60 seconds. The "micro" comes from the wavelength of infra red light used (1.8-3.4 micrometres).

Flaked maize is torrified first and can be used to to 20% of the grist (more is high diastatic power malt is used). It give 328 litre degrees per kg (LDK) of extract and has a colour of 1.3 EBC and a maximum moisture of 8.5%.

Flaked rice micronised first, has 305 LDK of extract, negligable colour and a maximum moisture of 8.5%. Its neutral flavour can accentuate hops in beer. It can also  be used to to 20% of the grist (more is high diastatic power malt is used).

Flaked oats (micronised) give 292 LDK, 1.2 EBC and have up to 11% moisture. They be used up to make up 15% of the grist. They are high in glucans so improve mouthfeel and head retention.

Torrified cereals are subjected to intense heat by passing through a fluidised bed of hot air (750-780°C) for 30-40 seconds. The cell walls break down and the grain expands.

Torrified wheat has 310 LDK, 2.5-4.5 EBC and max. moisture 10%. It's usually used as 7% of the grist to aid head retention. It can replace raw wheat in wheat beers. It tends to give head positive proteins, but not haze positive proteins.

Flaked barley is torrified first. It has 308 LDK, 2.5-4 EBC and max. moisture 10%. It give a bit of an astringent bite to beer and aids head retention.

After that it was the discussion panel, and as I was at the time brewing to the Marx Beer Purity Law I made the case for pure beer. I was supposed to have the prince in support but he'd have to leave early. I basically said that most of the novel ingredients used were gimmicky rather than innovative, and the beers that you'll go back to for more are made with standard ingredients. My opposition were Rob Lovatt, who actually seemed to agree with me, and Jenn Merrick, who was prepared to accept the prince's point that some drinks shouldn't be called beer. So the discussion went rather well for me. I still lost the vote at the end though.

After that the business was over so it was back on the coach to the stately home and a chance to see the original Thornbridge brewery.


Then it was off to Froggatt for some climbing for me, sadly it was a bit of a wash out.

Monday 2 October 2017

A visit to Rodenbach brewery

Day two of the IBD study tour kicked off with a visit to Rodenbach brewery. This was the one I'd really been looking forward to. Like porter brewers of old they still have masses of oak vats they mature beer in for two years.

We got to see the vats, lots of vats: 294 in total. But we didn't get to see the new brewhouse, which is a shame. They have a Muera mash filter and brew four to 12 brews a day, with a brewlength of 250hl. 17% maize is used in the grist, the malts being Pilsner, Munich, Vienna and cara. The grist is hammer milled in a wet mill. The mash kettle starts at 53°C for the malt, and the maize first goes into a  cereal cooker at 90°C. When the maize is added to the mash the temperature rises to 63°C and it is then stepped up to 73°C and finally 78°C for mashing out. Hops are added to 10 IBU (mainly for foam stability) at the start of the one hour boil.

In the Fermentation Vessels (750hl of wort in 1000hl cylindroconical FVs) yeast and lactic acid bacteria are added and fermentation is carried out at 21°C for four days before chilling. The beer then goes to horizontal maturation vessels for five weeks at 15°C.

Young beer can be sent to vats for maturation or used for blending.

They used their own maltings until 1975 and we had a look round that.

As well as seeing the old brewery. 

Then it was on to the vats:

It was like being in a Barnard drawing (though the Rodenbach vats are covered):

Thanks to Geoff Latham for the picture

The vats range from 120 to 650hl in size and they have over 12 million litres in maturation. The vats are steamed lightly after two years as the want to preserve the microflora (Brettanomyces and Pediococcus). Old beer is also mixed with young beer on each fill.

When vats are ready for blending after two years ten vats are blended at a time. Gas chromatography is used to measure fruity esters (ethyl lactate and ethyl acetate), and the taste is also assessed. Classic Rodenbach has 1/4 aged beer, Grand Cru 2/3 and Vintage is 100% aged. Some beers have fruit added (sour cherries, cranberries and raspberries) for six months after the beer has matured for two years.

The trip ended, as it should, with a tasting.

 Though it's not to everyone's taste I am rather fond of the Grand Cru so I did well at this tasting. 

Thanks to Richard Rees for the pictures of Rodenbach