Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brewing Castlewod Old Ale, and the Copenhagen Beer Festival

After a satisfying brewday last Sunday, Castlewood Old Ale has been bubbling away happily. With a hefty Maris Otter malt base to give it a rich, nutty character, crystal malt and molasses to give it sweetness and complexity, and Fuggle hops to give it a balanced, earthy bitterness, it should be quite nice. Preliminary taste testing indicates it'll be quite delicious, so I'm looking forward to how it turns out. Check out the video for more!

Following a short but hectic work week at the brewery, I headed down to Copenhagen for the Copenhagen Beer Festival, organized by the Danske Ølentusiaster and featuring over 70 different exhibitors. I poured beer at the booth all three days, and while I had a bit of a rough time at the end of Thursday evening, it was a fantastic event. I met many Danish brewers for the first time, including Søren Parker Wagner of Nørrebro Bryghus and Croocked Moon, and Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeler. Many excellent beers appeared at the festival as well. Personal favorites included Fanø Bryghus Kolval, Beer Here Farligwine, and Svaneke Licorice Stout - which they even made into an ice cream with chocolate chips!

The festival in full swing.
Pouring beer at the festival!
Work at the brewery continues to be hectic, and with Ilan resuming his bike tour I'll have my hands full. But I'm training one of the workers at the brewery to assist me, and my friend Thure Harrington will work with me for the next few months until our new full-fledged assistant brewer arrives. Until next time - vi ses!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Brewing with Ilan: Jutland Smoked Porter

After spending long hours brewing beers for Søgaards Bryghus and its contracts, Ilan and I have finally seized the opportunity to brew our own recipes. A large number of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir barrels from South Africa are arriving in ten days, and the owner has given us pemission to brew two special 1000-liter batches to fill some of them.

Today, Ilan is brewing his Jutland Smoked Porter: A porter brewed with 25% Weyermann smoked malt, to be aged for at least three months in one of the Pinot Noir casks. Lots of crystal and dark malts give it a rich, robust flavor that will surely age nicely in the barrel. Although we've pushed the brewhouse to its limits, things are going smoothly. We're most of the way through the brewday right now, and so far the wort tastes spectacular. Looking forward to how this one turns out! 

Ilan getting a whiff of smoked malt. Delicious stuff!

Our brewing schedule has been slightly revised, so I will be brewing my beer this Sunday. Castlewood Old Ale will be an English old ale brewed primarily with Maris Otter pale malt, giving it a rich, nutty flavor. Crystal malt will add body and sweetness, while chocolate malt and molasses will add color and deep, complex flavors. Fuggle hops will impart an earthy bitterness to balance out the beer, and its time in the Pinot Noir cask will add roundness and oak flavors, as well as a bit of fruity, tannic character from the wine. I plan on eventually bottling some of this, as well as producing some casks to be served as real ale at the Wharf. Look for my next post in a few days to see how it gets made! In the meantime, check out Ilan's blog for more details about today's brew.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Passing the Torch

Sorry for the long delay between updates. Life in Denmark has been so hectic that I haven't had much time to write here.

The primary reason for that, of course, is that I have begun my tenure as head brewer of Søgaards Bryghus. I took over operations during the first week of May, and since then have spent most of my time at the brewery. I've experienced numerous challenges in the last few weeks, but I've risen to them and haven't let anything set me back. Kasper, the former brewer, has remained available to give me advice and help me through tough spots over the phone. Even more helpful, however, has been Ilan Klages-Mundt, who returned to Aalborg after three weeks in Copenhagen to assist me at the brewery. His experience at other breweries - especially his experience at Fanø Bryghus, which uses the same 1000-liter brewhouse as Søgaards - has given me greater insight into the workings of the brewery, and a better foundation for my future here. Juggling the day-to-day tasks of the brewery and troubleshooting operational issues have been my greatest teachers so far, though. With Ilan's help, I've done everything from operating the brewhouse manually to pasteurizing and packaging several batches of beer.

Tinkering with one of the valves on the brewhouse.
Among other beers, over the last two and a half weeks we've brewed:
  • Kama Citra, Beer Here's all-Citra hoppy brown ale
  • Ammestout, Beer Here's coffee milk stout
  • Søgaards Classic, a traditional Munich dunkel
  • Madam Weizen, the Søgaards weissbier
  • The Ale, an Irish red ale brewed for an Aalborg bar called the Irish House
The Ale and Classic also double as propagators and testbeds for our new liquid yeast program, for our ale and lager yeasts respectively. From their current 1000 liter batches, I'll be able to build up a stock of yeast that, in a few weeks, will serve to ferment most of our beers.

A fresh, healthy batch of WLP001 ale yeast.
 We've also done a boatload of packaging, including filling several of the 1000-liter serving tanks with Jomfruhumle (our pilsner) and Klosterbryg (our bock) and producing over a hundred kegs of Tia Loca, Beer Here's hybrid German/Belgian wheat beer. The bottling line is still my biggest hurdle on the packaging side, but after a long day of filling over 8000 bottles of beer - from our Fort Dansborg IPA to even more Kama Citra - I'm more comfortable than ever with our setup.

The pasteurizer in action.
Speaking of Beer Here, I finally met the owner and recipe designer, Christian Skovdal Andersen, last week. We had a few pints at the Wharf and talked shop a bit, after which we went back to the Søgaards brewery to sample and test some of his recipes in action. Following that, I finally broke out some of the homebrews I tucked away in my luggage, including Leng Black Abbey Stout (a Belgian imperial stout a bit over a year old), Citra on the Shore (an American IPA dry-hopped with Amarillo and Citra), and Ailes Grisette (a light saison with Sorachi Ace hops and lavender). I got great feedback on the homebrews, especially the IPA, which makes me quite happy. The next morning was a bit rough, though!

Sampling with (from left to right) Christian, Ilan and Thure.
It hasn't been all work work work, though. I recently moved into my own apartment, owned by one of my barmates at the Wharf, and although it's a basement unit it's still a nice place. It's also a mere ten-minute bike ride from the brewery, which makes my commute far easier. I'm still getting the place sorted out - it's amazing how much "little" stuff you have to reacquire after leaving everything behind! - but I'm comfortable there and enjoying having my own space again. The apartment is near one of Aalborg's larger parks, which is a nice spot to sit around with a book and a bottle of good beer. I've also taken the opportunity to explore Aalborg a bit more on my bike.

A nice afternoon in the park.
Some exciting stuff is coming up on the horizon, too: Next week, the owner and I are going to Copenhagen for the beer festival (Ølfestival Kobenhavn), and will be serving beer there. And this Friday, I'll be brewing my first recipe on the Søgaards brewhouse: An English old ale that will be aged in one of the Pinot Noir barrels arriving soon at the brewery. Stay tuned for more updates soon!