Sunday, July 24, 2011

Barrels of Fun

After a few months as head brewer of Søgaards Bryghus, things have largely calmed down and I've developed a tighter schedule and routine. My job continues to be a learning experience but, despite a stumble here and there, quality and production continue to improve. My friend Thure Harrington, who's been assisting me in the brewery for the last few weeks, finished his tenure at Søgaards on Friday so that he can resume his regular teaching job. I hate to see him go, as he's been fun to work with and enormously helpful, but our second brewer arrives in one week. This should enable us to smooth things out even more and allow me a bit more breathing room.

Thure filling a barrel with Høstmand.
After tackling a large order of Beer Here bottles going to Sweden, we now have enough room to start filling our South African Pinot Noir barrels. Earlier this week, Thure and I filled our first four barrels with Beer Here's Høstmand, a light-colored Belgian beer that will be inoculated with Brettanomyces for a nice, funky dryness. We hit a few bumps here and there, but soon had the whole batch sitting snugly in its new home. This coming week, I plan to transfer my Castlewood Old Ale to barrels as well, after which it will sit for a few months to mellow and take on some of the barrel flavors. I'm excited to see how it turns out!

Proud father of some newly-filled barrels.
The bottling line originally posed the greatest hurdle to my control of the brewery, but I now feel quite comfortable with operating it and have packaged several batches with it. Among them are Beer Here's Høst Stout (their coffee milk stout repackaged for the Swedish market) and White Cat (an American wheat beer with Nelson Sauvin hops and orange peel), Black Rooster's Hoptimizer IPA (dry-hopped with loads of Chinook and Cascade), and our own Søgaards Jomfruhumle pilsner. Coming soon is a video tour of the bottling line in action!

A day in the park with a book and a fresh bottle of Black Rooster Hoptimizer.
I won't lie: It's been a difficult journey so far, and I've been busting my hump harder than I ever have in my life. But I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, and I'm looking forward to making better beer than ever.