Here we are again, another month has slipped past ever so quickly. We have gotten to the other side of our yeast issues, launched the Free Ride nation wide, did our first podcast with Jason Guerney, made heaps more beer and released a couple of new ones. So…
Your a Heathen…
This month seemed to just be an extension of November really, the blur of brewing and the general business of each day made the time pass way to fast. We started out the month brewing another batch of Heathen. Our take on an Ordinary Bitter, BJCP Guidelines, the last one was a huge hit, so I was excited to brew this one again. I wanted a bit more English malt character in this batch, so along with Marris Otter I added in a little Super Nova from Gladfield, one of their latest malts. It has a rich bready and toasty character, but without any harsh burnt qualities. Perfect I figured, to beef up the malt structure.
During the remake of this one a new friend of ours Jason Guerney dropped in to record a new episode for his Podcast. He has been doing interviews and brew days with some of the areas breweries, and we were lucky enough to have him ask to come along. I was pretty excited about this as I have become a fan of podcasts lately, listening to Joe Rogan and Dan Carlin on my daily commute. I really enjoy the open forum of the conversational flow that takes place, and the variety of intriguing discussions is a great way to pass the hour drive each day. So being invited to participate in one was really exciting. The episode was posted for download on December 23rd.
It was a great day and we talked about heaps of topics. Thanks again Jason for the opportunity. My apologies to everyone who listens in advance. However, try this when you listen, for a simple game, drink every time I say ‘Uhm.’ It should amount to a huge amount of beer. I never realised I said it so much till I listened in. Still came out really good and was a fun day. The beer has been re-released and is drinking great. It is different then the last, the malt is really good, but the hops are not shining as they did last time. I chose not to filter it as it cleared quickly in tank. However this has muddled the hop aroma and flavour somewhat. I will have to bump up the hopping next time to compensate. Still drinking lovely. A perfect beer for summer really. We will be adding it to our core range in the fall, likely March/April 2017.
Free Ride Double Red IPA
The following weekend we launched the Free Ride nationwide. As I spoke of previously we had to launch the Christchurch and Auckland ones at the same time. Not as easy to visit all of the bars as it is in walkable Welly but we mapped it out and managed to visit all of the outlets. Again a huge thank you to Tahi Bar, The Beer Spot, My Bar, Brewers Co-Operative, and the Lumsden. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the beer. Minus a few stupid comments on Untapped, we were happy with the results. All up we should see a donation of around $3500 to West Pac.
The night of the launch I was lucky enough to be able to pick up my dad from the airport too. He flew down for about ten days to visit from Arizona. The last time I saw him was when I was laid up in the hospital last year. It was a horrible time and I am sad he had to see me in that place. This time we had a blast. I showed him around the brewery and caught him up on the NZ brewing scene. He is a huge car guy, and loves racing, so I took him down to Hampton Downs and we did 4 sessions in the Go-carts. These are by far the fastest go carts I have driven. It was an absolute fucking blast. He schooled me on the first heat, as I was trying to take motorcycle lines, he nearly lapped me! Then I followed him on the next lap and saw his lines. Then is was game on. Really close we ended up tying 2-2 for best lap times. It started to rain during the 3rd session and through the 4th. It made it a bit more exciting, drifting was now part of the strategy and loss of front end steering. Soaking wet and grins from ear to ear we made the trek home, giggling with school boy excitement the whole way. A huge highlight of the week. Other then that we just spent some serious quality time together, unlike any time we have ever had before. Times like these make me realise how short life is and how important family is. He flew back on the 19th. A brief but amazing trip. My partner Monica is also away, and off visiting her family in California. She hasn’t been able to return for a visit since we moved here in 2009, far too long, and she has been having a blast. She has quite a collection of beers for me to try when she gets back. I can’t wait.
Found The Barrels
The barrels finally were found. I mentioned last month we had some old wine barrels being shipped up to us from Blenheim. Toll finally located the container, so my dad and I went to collect them. What a fucking adventure. They lost the container again, on the day we arrived to collect it! Apparently it had been sitting in the end of the main warehouse for three weeks and they got sick of looking at it, so they moved it. No one bothered to tell the appropriate people, so we spent a couple hours driving around the yard looking for the numbers on the side. After locating it, we strapped them to a huge trailer and hauled them to Waipu, two trips was all it took. I have begun prepping them to be filled in the coming months.
What to do with an old Wine Barrel
In my experience this is how to inspect and prep barrels for beer.
First you want to examine the barrel, look for any cracks or major damage. Inspect around the bung hole. Look for cracks and general wear. Cracks will make it difficult to get the beer out later, as it won’t make a good seal for the bull dog*. Shine a flashlight inside, it is difficult to see in, but move around and you will be able to see the bottom and lower sides. It should be clean, no mould or liquids. Unless you have just received freshly emptied barrels. For these, just add the wort or beer directly. If not the next step is to smell, careful as their is likely residual sulphites in the barrel. Allow it to gas off for a bit then take a quick sniff. This will tell you the general state of the barrel. Try to identify any acetic aromas, vinegar or acetone, nail polish. If so just set it aside, you can always make vinegar in it. Or a planter box. It should smell like wine and/ or oak. Musty mouldy aromas are bad news, once these get into the pours of the wood it is very unlikely the barrel can be used.
When you are about a week away from filling them, rinse them with cold water to get any dust and foreign materials out, a simple hose spray and roll them upside down on the racks, bung facing the ground. Then upright them and fill with hot water. Allow this to soak for 2-3 days. Then empty and repeat. This is too get the staves to absorb moisture so they don’t leak, and to rinse out any residual sulphites. If you intend to add Brett or bacteria you will need to get the sulphites out, they will inhibit their growth and slow or halt their fermentation. Once rinsed you can simply add the beer or add spirits or wine to ‘season’ the barrel. Once filled we grow up an appropriate starter culture, and when we have enough cells to pitch for a healthy ferment we will add them to the designated barrels. Log the numbers and take notes of all of the additions to the brew log. Then patiently wait for the results. A great tip I learned from Vinnie at Russian River Brewing in California is to use a stainless steel nail as a sample port. Simply drill a hole one size smaller then your nail, then tap the nail in. You can then safely pull samples without removing the bung and getting a heap of oxygen into your beer. The nails are hard to find but look for smooth ones, not decking nails. You need to be able to easily push them in and out. Place these on the end of the head towards the bottom, but just up high that you don’t pull the yeast and trub from the bottom of the barrel. We hose our barrels off after we fill them to keep the flies away, then tuck them away into a cool area out of direct sunlight and wait about a year. Ours will need to be topped up 1-2 times a year. We try to use the same type of beer. We can either sacrifice a barrel or use fresh beer.
Our collection is now 40 barrels. 10 are full and I have plans for the rest so watch this space.
Christmas wind up has been mental. Out of Lager again. 6000 litres disappeared in just about a week, and now five more weeks for the next batch to be ready.
Great Migration Blues
Bad news on the Great Migration, as I told the boys, the boat has sank. Sadly we are having to dump the latest batch. It was the last beer with that stressed yeast and we applied all of the tricks I mentioned previously. It finally hit terminal gravity, but failed its diacytel test a couple of times. The lengthy conditioning time, stripped all of the hop character and it just fell flabby and lifeless. I am putting some into barrels and will add fruit and brett, and see what we can make of it, but the rest is going down the drain. A sad day, but I couldn’t stand behind the beer as it tasted. We have brewed another batch and it is on track to be in bottle by the 10th. It is one step closer to being the beer I want, I have added some NZ Chinook and lifted the hop character quite a bit. I am excited to taste the results.
The White IPA has been released. I am really loving this beer. An over the top hoppy Belgian Wit. We added some passionfruit pulp to the whirlpool and fermenter. It gives it this underlying fruitiness that plays really well with the Riwaka and Willamette hops. The yeast pulls it all together and gives it this silky mouth feel. Refreshing and delicious. Likely to become a regular seasonal, even in bottles in the new year. White Sand, we used the name of a beer they had made before. Which was, frankly a horrible ale with coriander added. Sorry for any confusion out there when folks try this for the second time. It is night and day different. Next time we make this beer we are leaving out the passionfruit. The flavour and aroma dissipated within the two weeks of conditioning. I presume the ferocious yeast we use simply ate all of the fructose and left little else. If you dig you can still pick up some aromas. It also excentuates the bitterness a bit. Without it next time it should be a bit softer and allow the hops a bit more stage presence.
Alone in The Brewery
On top of all of this I lost my assistant brewer to the kitchen for just over two weeks. So I am doing everything. It has been awesome. My acclimating to my new position up here has been a steady one. When I first started I was unable to most of the day to day tasks due to my physical state. Over the past eight months I have been getting healthier and stronger so getting back into it has been great. All the while I have been slowly tweaking process and adding steps, changing suppliers and revamping our recipes. Having the time to go over every step from receiving to shipping and everything in between has allowed me to identify more ways to be efficient and organised, as well as identify more areas we can improve the quality of our beers. That and play with the barrels.
I grew up four bretts for the barrels along with some lacto for an up and coming sour. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love brett. I have made a resolution this year to make more brett beers. Help me achieve my resolution!
The Barn is heaving this time of year, it is always great to see new faces, and hear about people loving our beers. Expect unusually long waits this time of year to get seated.
Another month comes to an end. Lot’s done, cleaned and brewed. This next year is sure to be more of the same. Snapshot of next month. New bottling machine installed, along with some long overdo pipework. Brewed a Saison, Kolsch style and started a mix fermentation of our Farmhouse Strain with Brett B and lacto. Brewing heaps and trying to get stock levels back up to a comfortable range. Great Kiwi Beer Fest and making beer with Twisted Hop Brewery.
Cheers and beers,
Thanks for reading