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!

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