In this issue:
by Warren Becker
Our club had another great meeting outside in the beer garden at Mug's Ale House. The weather this summer has been phenomenal, and the night of our meeting was no exception.
The guest speakers at our August Meeting were Highlander's brewer, Luca, and their cellarman, Nick. Highlander opened in June of this year, and has enjoyed raving reviews from various beer publications. Located at the previous site of Joe King's Rathskeller, and Fat Tuesday's (Third Avenue between 17th and 18th streets In Manhattan), Highlander has a terrific ambiance, with a cathedral ceiling, a fine wood carved bar, and a soon to open beer cellar for private tastings.
Luca told us about his vast brewing experience from the Shipyard Brewery in Maine. Highlander presented Luca with the opportunity to brew real cask conditioned ales with a trained cellarman. He informed our club that soon they will have the brewery completed, and that he will no longer have to trek up Syracuse to the Middle Ages Brewery, where he currently brews every week. Luca is excited about expanding, and refining the current line-up when the brewing moves to the Highlander.
Nick then educated our group about the training needed to be a cellarman. He discussed the importance of proper temperature storage for both yeast and the ales, and how you must "read" the beer is how it's developing, so that it reaches its peak when tapped. Nick learn learned this skill back in England, where served as an apprentice cellarman.
Our club would like to thank Luca, Nick, and Stuart (who could not attend) for bringing samples of their 80 Shilling Ale. What a treat! This ale is full- bodied, very smooth, and has a delicious malt sweetness that is beguiling. Highlander's other beers, available both as cask conditioned and keg conditioned, are the HSB (their extra special bitter) and the Sledgehammer Stout (a traditional, full bodied, dry stout).
It was announced at the meeting that Jim Simpson was close to being a finalist (again!) in the 1997 Boston Beer Company's Worldwide Homebrew Contest, if not for the fact it was a American Pale Ale, the same category he won in last year's contest. The meeting concluded with plenty of great homebrews brought by our members. Many thanks to Eddie at Mugs for his hospitality for turning over his beer garden to us for this meeting.
This Month's Meeting is once again at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, on Wednesday, September 11, 7:30 PM. Our guest speaker is Paul Sayler, Brewer at the Commonwealth Brewing Company, in Manhattan! Hope to see you at the meeting!
by Jim Simpson
My first impression of Brussels was a bit fuzzy. We arrived at 8:30 AM local time, which felt like 2:30 NY time. The flight was bumpy, so we didn't sleep much. Upon arrival, I was thrust into driving a manual car on streets that were unfamiliar and with names that did not correspond with any map provided by Hertz. Needless to say, I got lost trying to find the hotel. When we finally found it, it was close to 12:00. We checked in and our room was gorgeous. Instead of sleeping, we walked around the City (like zombies) and found a place to eat and then took a bus tour of the city. Our hotel was literally around the corner from The Grand Place or Grote Market which is the "heart" of the city. We found a restaurant which had a nice beer list. I ordered a crock of Belle Vue Lambic and Iggy had the Kriek. Now I've been told that straight Lambic is supposed to be extremely sour and flat. It was definitely flat but the sweetness overpowered any sourness. It didn't have the characteristic horsey, leathery taste that I know and love. The Kriek was a little better. The high carbonation cut some of the sweetness. I found out later that Bell Vue ages their lambics a full three months!, instead of the traditional 1 to 3 years. At this point we were extremely tired, but we took the bus tour anyway. After the tour we wandered around aimlessly and found a nice cafe. I tried Tongelo, an abbey beer resembling a Dubbel, on draft. The aroma was fruity resembling raisins and plums. The taste was somewhat spicy (clove) with fruit and caramel malt. The hops play a small role, providing some dryness to the finish. By 9:00 PM we finally got some sleep. We had been awake for well over 24 hours.
The next three days were spent site seeing and cafe hopping. Each beer list had to be carefully scrutinized so as not to have the same beer twice. Two cafes that stand out were Falstaff and Cirio's. If you've read Michael Jackson's Great Beers of Belgium, he describes them in detail. They didn't have an extensive list, but they were impressive.
We had Westmalle Dubbel and Trippel. The Dubbel has a beautiful bouquet of malt and fruit and the same is in the taste with additional spicy-nutty flavors. The trippel has a more spicy-alcohol floral nose. The bitterness is mild and there is some hop flavor which dries out the finish.
Rochefort, another Trappist brewery, not available in the U.S., comes in two strengths based on Belgium's old style of degrees Plato. The 80 is any extremely malty brew. The yeast strain gives off a uniquely spicy aroma and flavor. Hops are only in the background. The 100 is once again a very malty beer. It is extremely sweet with just enough alcohol to dry out the finish. Other beers included Hoegarden's Verboten Vruct (Forbidden Fruit) malty and alcoholic and Aerts 1900.
While in Brussels we visited the Gueuze Museum, which is the Cantillion Brewery. If you've heard any stories about Lambic breweries being dirty, musty and full of spider webs they are all true. The tour is unguided, but a pamphlet provides information on each room. I ventured into the attic where the beer is pumped and let to cool in a shallow copper pan (coolship). The roof tiles have gaps in them to let the air in from outside to insure proper inoculation. Old used barrels are stored in the attic along with the open bags of old aged hops. Dust and dirt is everywhere! The mash tun and kettle are at least 70 years old, but they make one of the best Gueuzes.
After the tour they let you taste their products. I asked for a taste of Lambic straight from the cask and got a strange look. They obliged my request and before I tasted it I took a yeast sample. The aroma reminded me of dough or bread (diacetyl) with some lactic sourness. The taste was amazing. The sourness was very refreshing and along with some fruitiness had a nice balance. The Gueuze, Kriek and Framboise were more refined. Gone were the overwhelming breadiness. The horsey-sweety-sourness struck a nice balance. All three were extremely dry and not sweet at all. The fruit flavored ones had more color than fruit flavor, which is how I prefer it.
After buying as much junk as we could carry we got in the car and it wouldn't start. We were stranded for 2 hours before we got a new car and drove back to the hotel. We had to leave the next day to go to Amsterdam. So I surprised Iggy and planned a side trip to Westmalle.
NEXT MONTH - Westmalle Brewery, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and back to Brussels.
Entire series can be found at Beer Drinker's Paradise.
By Bill Coleman
The last chapter of series returns to subject of Part 2, using the yeast from bottle-conditioned beer to ferment homebrew. This time, we are using tools acquired in the Yeast Culturing Kit, the subject of Part 3, to create a cleaner and safer source of yeast to brew with.
The Brewers Resource Yeast Culturing Kit, described in some detail in the previous chapter, includes petri dishes, and this important addition allows for better culturing from a bottle. The petri dishes consist of a wort medium mixed with agar.
When attempting to culture the yeast from a bottle-conditioned beer, you take several steps. First, prepare your sanitized working area. Then the bottle is opened, and the beer is poured off. After this, you flame the neck of the bottle, as before, and pour about a teaspoon of slurry from the bottom of the bottle into one of the Super Starter� tubes that I discussed in the previous chapter. Just as in using a yeast culture from a slant, you will keep the Super Starter� in the dark, at 60-75, for several days. Leave the tube slightly loose, so air can be expelled. Periodically, you will check on the starter, tightening it, and shaking it to aerate it.It will take several days to rouse the yeast, as it has been dormant for some time; you may not see much yeast in the flask. If there is no sediment after five days, you can assume the yeast is dead. But if there is a small amount, you can prepare to plate it out.
You will sanitize your work area again, and prepare your flame source. You will need the sterile loop, the Super Starter�, and one of the petri dishes. You sterilize the loop in the flame, then open the Super Starter� tube, flaming the lid as you do so. Dip the loop in the starter, picking up some yeast cells as you do so. Open the petri dish, and swirl the loop on the agar on the plate in a zig-zag pattern that you follow from a sheet of paper that is under the petri dish. Quickly close the dish, and burn off any remaining yeast on the loop in the flame.
Next, you turn the petri dish lightly, open it again, and swirl the loop against the agar again. You repeat this two more times. The point to this is that you are spreading the yeast that you have placed on the dish farther and farther out. The reason for this will be clear in a moment.
After you are done, place the petri dish in a dark, warm spot for a few days. By the third day, you should have visible yeast on the dish. They look like grayish-white clumps. You can tell how pure the yeast is just by looking at it, and you can tell if there are any bacteria, because it will not look like yeast on a petri dish. It looks like mold, or it has a "furry" appearance. Where you have spread the yeast out, you should have growths from isolated yeast cells, in the form of small "dots" of yeast. These single-cell yeast growths are will be a pure source of yeast.
This it what you will use for your next batch of beer. When they are ready, the yeast cells are retrieved from the petri dish using the sterile loop, again in a sanitized work area, with a flame source. The yeast is placed on a slant for future use and storage, or in a Super Starter� for immediately preparing your next batch of beer. I recommend using the slant; if the yeast is worth using once, it will probably be worth using again.
In this way, you get to separate clean yeast cultures without throwing them into five gallons of wort. I'm sure you can see the advantage of this! If the yeast turns out to be no good, there will be no wasted batches, merely some wasted time and a wasted petri dish. Also, the yeast you choose, as it is isolated from a single cell, will be purer, and healthier than anything you could ferment straight from the dregs of the bottle.
The thing that should be remembered is that you will not be able to isolate every yeast in every bottle of bottle-conditioned beer you find. Some will be dead; others will be badly-infected. But using this method, you will get the best results with whatever viable yeast that you are able to find. I have had spectacular results with this method myself; one of my best yeasts, which I now maintain on slants, was cultured in this manner-I've fermented fifteen gallons with it so far. I have also failed in several attempts, because the yeast was inadequate; these cultures were disposed of before reaching pitching stage. I always found it worth the effort, and I never made a bad batch from yeast cultured in this manner.
That about does it. With the information you have gotten from this series, I hope that you can see that culturing yeast is not as intimidating or technical as you might have thought, and that it is a process to pursue in the interest of making better homebrews.
Entire series can be found at Yeast Culturing.
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Brooklyn, NY (Cobble Hill)
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