Vol. 3 No. 5
Last month's meeting was shared by few members. I guess everyone waited until the last minute to file their taxes. At the meeting, we prepared for our big Belgian Homebrew contest that took place that Saturday. Our mission was to taste a variety of Belgian beers that are not included in the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) guidelines. Those of you who did show up enjoyed Saison du Pont, Rodenbach Grand Cru, and others. We hope to see more of you at Hallo Berlin on Wednesday, May 8th. Due to popular demand, page 2 of this newsletter is being reprinted from June 1994. The topic: Yeast culturing.
Next Month's Meeting will be held at Hallo Berlin, that little German restaurant with the best wursts. The prices are very reasonable. It's located at 402 West 51st Street, off of 9th Avenue (phone 212-541-6248). We were working on a guest speaker at press time. If you need directions, please call Hop, skip and a Brew.
Yeast is a micro-organism; fermenting beer is basically a controlled infection. One of my great pleasures in homebrewing has been to learn by hands-on yeast handling just how powerful beer yeast is; a tiny millimeter-wide point of yeast can grow in only a few days to a size necessary to ferment five gallons of beer!
But I'm jumping ahead. The simplest way to get familiar with yeast handling is by repitching from batch to batch. That was my own first experience with real yeast handling, and it has worked very well. Repitching is simply reusing the yeast in the bottom of a primary fermenter from one batch to the next. It easily compensates for the higher price of liquid yeast, giving you another reason to use liquid. You can easily repitch the same yeast five or six times.
Repitching is very simple: when getting ready to rack your primary fermenter (either for transfer to secondary or for bottling a single-step fermentation a single-step fermentation), simply prepare a mason jar (two liter size is good) by sanitizing it with a bleach and water solution for at least fifteen minutes. To ease the transfer, you may also want to sanitize a large funnel at the same time. If you are bottling, cover the fermenter with its lid after you have racked the beer, and get back to it when you are done bottling.
Having racked the beer, you will see at the bottom of your fermenter an intense-smelling mixture of yeast and beer. Carefully pour some of the beer off the top, into a bowl that is handy. This you will throw out when done. Then shake the fermenter, to mix up what is left as much as possible, and simply pour the yeasty sludge from the bottom of the fermenter into the sanitized mason jar, either with or without a funnel, as you choose. Hopefully, you can fit all of it in the jar. You want the yeast to be able to ferment slightly, so put a piece of plastic wrap between the lid and the jar, and tighten the jar enough to stay on firmly, but not totally air-tight. Then keep the jar in your refrigerator. If you make your next batch of beer within two weeks then handling the yeast for the next batch is amazingly easy. You will notice at this point that there will be in the jar a level of beer floating over a thicker layer of yeast. When your wort for the new batch has been cooled to pitching temperatures, open the mason jar, take off the plastic wrap, and wipe the rim of the jar with a cotton ball or swab soaked in high-alcohol vodka. With a lighter, flame the rim of the jar, to burn off any bacteria. Be careful not to throw too much vodka around-you don't want to burn your hand off!
Having sanitized the rim, carefully pour off the beer from the top of the yeast. It might be a good idea to have a bowl handy for this. Then, quickly pour the yeast into the fermenter. You only need about one-half cup of slurry for a regular ale, about one cup for high gravity (over 1065) ales or lagers. If you have a lot more slurry than this in your jar, you may want to measure out the proper quantity in a sanitized measuring cup, and then pitch. If you have less, don't worry; you'll still be starting out your fermentation with a lot more yeast then you had when you pitched the first batch. (Just remember next time to try to pour more beer off the yeast at the bottom of the fermenter before you pour it into the jar; that way you will have more slurry next time.)
This is the main advantage of repitching yeast; you will start with a lot of yeast, which will result in a quick fermentation, and less possibility of contamination.
This method will work perfectly if you are ready to make a new beer within two weeks. If you waited longer , you have to take another step to insure the vitality of the yeast: rousing it with fresh extract.
Get another mason jar, this one a one-liter size, and fill it with a water-and bleach sanitizing solution. Set it aside. Meanwhile, mix three cups of water and one-third cup of pale dry malt extract in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Boil it for twenty minutes. Pour the water out of the mason jar, rinse it quickly, and pour in the extract. After the twenty-minute boil, you should have about 250-400 milliliters of sterile wort. Sea it tightly, and let it cool in the refrigerator.
The day before you're ready to make the beer, remove your two mason jars from the refrigerator. Again sanitizing with the alcohol and cotton swabs, carefully pour off the old beer from the yeast, and then pour the cooled extract onto the yeast slurry. Cover the jar with aluminum foil, to allow the gas to escape, and loosely screw on lid. Store in a dark place overnight, at around 70 degrees, swirl the jar around periodically to aerate the yeast.
The next day, you should see bubbling on the top of the yeast: this means it is ready to pitch. Again, as long as you sanitize properly, you should have a quick starting fermentation. I have successfully roused and repitched yeast that was sitting in my refrigerator for eight months. Repitching yeast will allow you to get your money's worth out of more expensive liquid yeasts, and it will give you consistent results. More importantly, it will allow to become comfortable with handling yeasts, which will in turn allow you to progress to the next steps in advanced yeast handling: culturing from bottle-conditioned beers, and maintaining a yeast bank.
More on this in the next issue!
Our first AHA-sanctioned homebrew competition was a huge success. Even with the late start and some confusion in the beginning, the tasting ran smoothly. If you arrived early there were bagels, coffee, and orange juice for breakfast. Once we were settled, it was on to tasting!
There were six categories which contained seventeen subcategories. The most popular categories were Belgian ales and Abbey style ales. Each category contained at least six entries and overall we received 75 beers. This is pretty impressive considering it was our first competition and we got limited exposure.
Everyone who came was put into service as either a judge, apprentice judge, steward, or organizer. The judging began around 11 a.m. and best of show winners were announced during dinner around 4 p.m.
The winners were: First Place /Best of Show.: Paul Sullivan (Chocolate Raspberry Red Ale); Second Place/ B.O.S.: Francois Espourteille (Gueuze); Third Place/B.O.S.: Craig Toms (Abbey Special). Each best of show winner received a dinner for two at Cafe Centro, Mug's Ale House, and Waterfront Ale House, respectively, along with a large bottle of Belgian ale. Since Francois and Craig are from out of town, they received substitute prizes. All first, second, and third place beers in each category won glasses, coupons for beer, coasters and an all-important ribbon. Prizes were donated by Thrifty American, B.B.I. Importers, Belukus Importers, Merchant du Vin, Vanberg and DeWulf, Thames America, Stoudts Brewery, and Heartland Brewery. Other sponsors include B. United International, Zip City Brewing Co., Hop, Skip, and a Brew, and The Malted Barley Appreciation Society. After the contest it was on to dinner! A Belgian menu was prepared by Mug's Ale House chef. Both the appetizer and entrees were prepared with Belgian beer and dessert was a delicious cheese cake. Many new Belgian beers that we tasted were provided by B. United International and Thames America. On behalf of The Club, Warren, Bill, Marie, and I would like to thank all our sponsors. But more importantly, we must all thank the people who put it all together: Eddie, owner of Mug's, for the use of his bar and staff, all the stewards for helping out the judges, all the judges (especially John Naegele, for his last minute organizing), Bill Coleman for his guidelines on styles and insight on Belgian beer, Marie Simpson for logging entries, making lists and labels and making sure we did not forget anything, and last, but not least, Warren Becker for his tireless effort in procuring all on the many prizes and sponsors. He's making this contest and The Club the best this city, state, alas, the world, has to offer! We're very lucky to call him our President.
When all of Germany was switching to lager style beers, Dusseldorf (and the surrounding area) decided to stay with the old (Alt) tradition of ale brewing.
The beer is similar to an American style of beer called "Steam" beer. The color is amber to light brown. The bitterness level is medium to high, but is balanced with a medium maltiness. The beers are primary fermented warm, but then aged at cold temperatures. The fruitiness of the high temperature ferment is subdued because of the long lagering.
If you enjoy the taste of hops, then this is a beer for you. And with only 4 - 4.5% alcohol, you can have more than one. If you were one of the fortunate few to attend our March meeting, you got to "taste" Zum Uerige, a four star Altbier. The extreme bitterness leaves a "skid mark" down your throat.
Brewing an Alt can be very easy, whether you use extract or all grain. Just make sure you use a good German Ale yeast. Wyeast German Ale, European Ale, or Kolsch, all work well.
3 lbs. Light Liquid Malt Extract 1 oz. Chocolate Malt = lb. 60L Crystal Malt 2 ozs. German Hallertau 2.9% (60 min.) = oz. Northern Brewer 8.4% (60 min.) 1 oz. Tettnanger 3.4% (45 min.) 1 oz. German Hallertau 2.9% (45 min.) 1 oz. Saaz 3.5% (15 min.) 1 oz. Styrian Goldings 4.5% (15 min.)