31 Oct 2010 @ 10:58 PM 

Here it is, my friends: the beginning of the concise journey.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I make a quick trip down the Brown Line of the L (The El? No idea. In Boston it was the T, not the Tee.) to the classroom at Goose Island Brewpub and start to cram information into my head.

I don’t intend this to be a critique or for there to be any sort of large scale information sharing; I want to share what the experience is like. Imbibing mimes want to know.

I started this weekend in Washington DC at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. I got to have some incredible beer and beer/food tastings at the Churchkey and Birch and Barley (I can recommend their beer dinner menu – the one I had? The honey glazed duck with Aventinus alone… holy moly).

This morning, I left Alexandria (where I was staying with great friends) and hopped a plane to Chicago… on Halloween… with no costume. These are the sacrifices we make. An hour and a half after landing (hooray public transit!), I arrived at my place of stay.

One of the places to stay that Siebel suggests is a nearby hostel. I opted for it. Normally, I’m a fan of a good hotel room, but 10 days stay anywhere is pretty damn pricey, so I went for the cheap. Even then, I’m still springing for the private room here. I feel like I want a place that I can go to and escape at the end of the day.

This is my first time ever staying in a hostel, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I like it. It’s sparse and utilitarian, but I kinda enjoy it. There are always people buzzing around; always someone Skyping in the lobby or computer area. There are bicycles to rent and, thankfully, free Wi-Fi. I have a full 4-person bunk room all to myself and it’s kinda awesome. I can sleep on any one of the beds that I want. Now THAT is luxury.

My only real complaint so far is that it is fairly noisy around my room. It’s not a deal-breaker, just a fact. I have a room just off of the elevators so I can hear the groan of the cable as the elevator goes up and down and the shrill schmeep as it stops at each floor. I can hear people tromping up and down the hallway to the public bathrooms. I can hear doors opening and closing and people talking and in general pretty much everything.

I assume they can hear everything I do, as well. My room is echoey. It has great acoustics. I should rent one of the hostel guitars and try it out.

This evening I went down to Goose Island and had a quick beer and some food to make sure I knew my way there without thinking – I’m not 100% in the mornings – and on the way I noted two Starbucks, so that’ll be the bulk of the money that I’m spending this week.

On the way out of Goose Island I ran across Keith Lemcke (the Vice-President of Siebel) as he was getting the classroom ready for everything. He mentioned that I should probably get there early to stake out my place in the classroom. For my entire life, I have sat at the back of classrooms. I wonder if I should change this up and sit up front. I just might do that.

Everything gets going at 8:30 AM tomorrow. More after that… much after that.

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Categories: industry
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Nov 2010 @ 07 09 AM

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 11 Oct 2010 @ 7:58 AM 

Hooray! I was one of the lucky brewers that was able to respond quickly enough to gain entry into Round 5 of Iron Brewer. The point of Iron Brewer, in case you’re too lazy to click on the link, is that – just like Iron Chef – you are given an ingredient or ingredients that you are required to use in the recipe.

For this round, the ingredients are:

Fruit (in whatever form)
Medium Toasted Oak
Saaz Hops

This is a complex challenge.

Fruit is easy. I’ve made a lot of fruit beer, and I’ve got some good ideas of what works and how much works, so fruit – to me – is just a matter of finding flavors that I want to blend together. My only concern is that any good fruit flavor will pretty much obliterate the Saaz hops in the recipe, and if you use enough Saaz to taste the hop flavor you’re going to intrude on the fruit. That’s a tough balance.

The most difficult part of it, I think, is the oak. Oak can be both delicate and overpowering. It seems like an oxymoron, but there’s a lot of nice subtle flavor in oak, but too much or too young and all you really taste is wood. Oak requires a lot of time in aging to really mellow out the flavor and time isn’t really available in this case, since this beer is being tasted in the beginning of December. I decided to make up for this by making a really high gravity beer. Why? Because there’s so much other flavor and strength that the rest of the flavor will be able to stand up against the oak when it hasn’t completely mellowed out.

My first thought was to make an Imperial Pilsener – just 100% pilsener malt and let the rest of the ingredients define the beer. A friend suggested making a brown ale to go with fruit and then inspiration truly struck. An Imperial Pils? What was I thinking? The beer would totally get carried away in the ingredients! You need something that will be able to stand up against the combination, not just something that the ingredients will stand out in. This contest is supposed to be about making the best beer. By god, let’s make some beer.

After some deliberation, I settled on an Imperial Black Ale, with tart cherries.

A big black beer, I think, will stand up to the power of oak and promote the subtle vanilla flavors. The cherries will (hopefully) tone down the toastiness and blend together with the chocolate/espresso flavors as well as the oak. The Saaz hops? Well, there’s a ton – not enough to make a bitter beer – not with such a low alpha acid hop – but hopefully the earthy/grassy flavors show up in complement.

Without further ado:

“Black Forest” Imperial Black Ale w/ Cherries & Oak
(scaled up from a 3 gallon batch)
Target OG: 1.138 (Actual when I brewed it: 1.143 after temperature correction)
Estimated IBU: 40 – Estimated ABV: 13%

15 lbs. Marris Otter (62%)
3.3 lbs. Munich Malt (14%)
1.67 lbs Chocolate Malt (7%)
.75 lbs Black Patent Malt (3%)
.75 lbs Franco Belges Caramel Munich 60L (3%)
.75 lbs Torrified Wheat (3%)
1.67 lbs of Dark Brown Sugar (added during boil w/5 mins to go)

Mash at 150F for 75mins.
Mash Out/Sparge at 170F.


1.75 oz Saaz at 120 mins
1.75 oz Saaz at 60 mins
1.75 oz Saaz at 20 mins
1.75 oz Saaz at 5 mins

A BIG ol’ starter of Edinburgh Ale Yeast (WLP #028).

Aging in secondary on 3.3 lbs of unadulterated dried tart cherries & 5 oz. of French Oak Cubes, Medium Toast.

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Categories: homebrew
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 11 Oct 2010 @ 04 37 PM

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 01 Oct 2010 @ 1:50 PM 

Ever wondered what the Concise Brewing Course at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology is like?

Me too.

That’s why when I attend it at the beginning of November I’ll be writing a series of blog posts to tell you all about the process, what it’s like and what you can expect when you take yourself to beer school.

Anything in particular that you’re wondering about in the whole experience?

Let me know and I’ll see what I can do to offer up an opinion on the matter.

Tags Categories: industry Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 01 Oct 2010 @ 01 50 PM

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