This month it was all about the beer. A slew of newness in the air. Along with some rain.
Ah April, one of my favourite months. Back in Vermont, where I grew up, it was the month that signaled the first signs of spring. The sun was out a few more hours, the snow pack begins to fade, a sprinkle of rainy winter days, and the retreating snow revealing layers of dog shit and trash… ah the memories. Everything was brown and dirty, but strangely alive, like waking up after a zombie apocalypse. Flip the globe, in NZ it is nearly the opposite, here in northland the rain comes a bit more often, the days get a bit shorter and the grass gets greener. A perfect month for reflection and planning for the year. This month we have brewed some really cool beers.
One Year Anniversary
If you have been following along and reading my dribble, you will know that this month marks the one year anniversary of me with McLeod’s. I am super proud of all we have accomplished in twelve months, and am even more excited about what is to come. Thanks everyone who has helped and encouraged me, us. Cheers to beer!
I am really loving this beer. This is our little sessionable offering.
I have been having a tough transition in finding this beers identity. We started off with a light biscuit driven malt structure and a moderate amount of hops. The hops were the star but nothing seemed to come together, I also suspect it had a hint of diacytel, considering it is a take on an Ordinary Bitter it wasn’t out of place, but a huge distraction for me. The second time we made it, this was with Jason Guerney on his podcast, we upped the malt a bit, and added in Supernova from Gladfield. That time it went to the malty side, a robust malty toast character, I chose not to filter it too, this sadly masked the hops. Not quite there. All things coming round, this time we backed off the Supernova to 4% and filtered it. Wow the hops shine and the malt structure is in perfect balance. 3.8% hoppy, malty and sessionable. Pretty happy with this beer overall. Next time we brew it, we will be putting it into bottles. It is now part of our core range.
Last year one of the first beers I designed for us was a sweet stout. The boys wanted a milk stout on offer for the colder months. The only issue for me was, the brewery I just left made a popular milk stout with coffee. Needless to say I was apprehensive about wanting to make one right away. I was new to the brewery and didn’t want anyone to make accusations about me copying their beers. I have made careful steps to deliberately make our beers distinctly different. If you see any similarities it is merely a coincidence.
Our initial recipe was loosely based on the Brewing Classic styles one, in addition we blend a couple of chocolate malts. Last year we used Black Patent malt, this year I have opted to use a small portion of Roasted Barley instead. It has a more distinct coffee note. My approach for this beer was to accentuate the layers of flavour I look for in a sweet stout. To do this I added, Tahitian vanilla, cacao nibs, dutch cocoa along with a bit of Treacle in the boil. The vanilla we used are whole pods. We split and scrape out the seeds, then chop up the pods. These are put into a muslin cloth along with the cacao nibs. These are then added to the whirlpool post boil. Tahitian vanilla has a lovely dark fruit laden aroma and a soft sweetness. The cacao nibs are chocolate before its chocolate, adding a bitter deep chocolate flavour. It doesn’t melt as quickly as chocolate, and lacks the extra oils that are usually added to shitty chocolate. These nibs just turn up the chocolate flavour a hint. The cocoa, a dutch cocoa. Rich and bold in chocolate flavour. I would never have used it, until Andrew Childs of Behemoth asked me throw a bag into one of his beers a few years back, I thought he was nuts. Until I tried it, it was really good, a dusty cocoa flavour which compliments the chocolate, it kind of lifts it a bit and adds some lovely complexity. Tucked it away to use at a later time. It works a treat and does the same here, it is simply added into the whirlpool . Next was the treacle, this sugar is essentially sucrose with a heap of maillard reaction based flavours. With the right quantities it lends a slight rum note, heavy handed it lends to black liquorice and beyond. This year we backed it off by half. I think we found the sweet spot. A sweet stout is described as an espresso with sugar. The lactose is the ‘sweetness.’ Traditional stouts are dry and roasty. This malt bill would normally make this beer bitter and dry, but the lactose, a by product of making powdered milk, and Fonterra is one of the worlds largest producers of powdered milk, they have heaps of this stuff, adds a residual sweetness. Milk sugar is unfermentable to normal brewing yeasts, so adding this to the wort will leave it sweet. Like adding a couple of cubes of sugar to your espresso. It is sublime, really pleased. Look for it in bottle and limited amount of kegs. Releases this month.
Ah fresh hops. I talked about them last month. We released both of our fresh hop beers this month.
Forty Acre is our Paradise Pale ale augmented with fresh Nelson Sauvin cones. We augment it because I have found the fresh hops we get on their own do not have the structure to make an awesome beer. Ones I have had in the past are one dimensional and a bit grassy and boring. Oily-as typically, but lacking. I wanted ours to be a bit different and stand out in the field. I like what it does to the beer in a supporting role. This years is great, maybe a bit thin in malt structure, but a good beer. Solid hop aroma and strong bitterness. This years hops have been disappointing. I am quite convinced that the excess time to handle these hops was detrimental to the flavours and aromatics, in addition to the poor late growing conditions. This will greatly effect how we approach this beer next year. The kegs are all allocated, however look for bottles, drink quick, these beers are not meant to be stored or aged for any length of time.
5 Brett, India Pale Brett (IPB)
Big-stinky-barn-yard-laden-hop-blanket. Pretty much describes this beer. Way funkier then I had antcipated, that likely due to the choice of strains. Some of the White Labs bretts are very ‘bretty,’ I was looking for more fruit driven, then aging a bit to get to the funk level of this beer. All being said I really enjoyed it, it stood apart from all of the rest that is for sure. Quite polarising. A love hate relationship for sure. Baby poo and shit are some descriptions on social media I saw. It doesn’t bother me in the least, it was an edgy beer and like some sours, their are people out there who don’t like them. Next year it will be similar but with different bretts and hops. This year is keg only as of writing just a few kegs left.
Red Flanders Style
In building our barrel arsenal, I wanted to get a variety of traditional base style beers, then a few playful ones in the mix too. We had a blend of Brett and our farmhouse strain, it seemed a terrible idea to waste it, so I introduced them to a caramel malt laden red ale base, with heaps of oats, raw wheat and carapils. It fermented to about 1.018 then I racked it into some oak barrels, that in an other life held Marlborough Pinot Noir. The beer was tasting like sweet spice laden cherries. I am so excited about this. I pitched in a different brett and some pedio into each barrel. They will be for blending some day. Watch this space.
Fresh Unfiltered IPA’s – 802 Series
This month we brewed our first in a new series of IPA’s. All I have ever wanted to brew were fresh hoppy IPAs. When I first started home brewing I longed for John Kimmich’s fermented concoctions. Having spent years filtering his delicious brews through my liver at the Alchemist Pub in Waterbury VT. Later landing in Nelson, it left me cold turkey with out his beer. It actually started me down this career path. Thanks John!
There has been a huge amount of controversy over this as a style. Some call them Vermont IPA’s, some East Coast style, lately just Unfiltered or Hazy are taking hold.
Here is my take.
If you intend to make this type of IPA, please do me a favour. If you don’t understand, how they are made. Ie had a good one, know what healthy English yeast is, or know how to dry hop, or know how to keep oxygen out of your process(ironic eh, see below), and know the importance of cold conditioning. DO NOT MAKE THESE BEERS. They will taste terrible. They will look terrible and give a false impression to the beer drinkers of the world. Seriously. When I first tried making these, the WIPA we made at Renaissance was my first stab at these commercially. The beer sucked. US05 and oxidised do not make good fresh IPAs.
If you do know the above skills, fucking go for it, bring it on. Fresh is best.
Fresh Unfiltered IPA
Know this though…
Vermont is a protected brand. Meaning that if you use ‘Vermont’ in the name of your product, it has to have been made in Vermont, and contain a majority of Vermont ingredients. If you try to use the name outside of Vermont you will be promptly gifted with a letter from the Attorney Generals office, politely asking you to remove ‘Vermont,’ from any of your labelling and marketing materials. Vermont stands for quality, the people that live there, well most, care deeply about their sense of place in the world and work tirelessly to create artisan and value added products and stand up for what they believe in. They are explempary in their markets. Beer being one of them. I was a chef and distributor of Vermont products for many years. Don’t use Vermont please, it is disrespectful and illegal.
North East, New England, isn’t any better, if you haven’t been to the North East/New England and or tried these beers, why would you try and call one your making one. Seems weird. Sure I have never been to Germany and we make a Lager, but I have drank lots of German Lagers, enough to understand the beers.
John Kimmich did not invent the fresh unfiltered IPA. It had been around for a long time. What he did do though is bring them to a new level, and he made them so fucking delicious that everyone wanted to have one, and every brewer now wants to make one. I have immense respect for the Kimmich’s and their business, they are the Guinness family of modern day Vermont. Seriously amazing people and beers. We can all learn from them.
The haze craze has taken hold and some breweries in the states have been making premium examples of unfiltered fresh IPAs. Maine Brewing, Trillium, Lawsons Finest, Fiddlehead, Tree House, just to name a few.
So I too have sought out to make our own delicious versions. 802 is the telephone area code from Vermont. We have always referred to VT as the ‘802’. A nod to my heritage. Our 802 Series Begins…
I struggled as a home brewer and tried all of the ideas behind making them hazy. Low floc yeast, oats, wheat, hops etc…
Years later I have found the answers, after that batch at Renaissance. If you are trying to make a ‘Hazy IPA,’ you’re going about it all wrong. It is not the focus to be cloudy. It is but a by-product of the ingredients and methods you use to achieve the flavours that you want.
I like moderately bitter, hoppy beers, with a focus on balance of malt sweetness and bitterness with a lush mouth feel. So we add fuck loads of hops in the whirlpool and dry hop using a few different techniques. I am still working on getting the right base malt that will work for most of our beers. As of late, I am feeling they are thinning out a bit too much over time. So have gone back to solid English malts.
Our house ale strain has good attenuation and lovely fruity esters. We also use a bit of wheat in our beers because I feel it adds extra body and mouthfeel.
As a point, when I started we did some unfiltered versions of our Double IPA and our Pale ale. We simply pulled them from the fermenter early or fresh. Since then we have become busier and are struggling to meet production demands, we have resorted to finings. These finings have to be filtered out. It has caused to much hassle to use hazy ones. They are typically under carbonated prior to the finings being added too, which makes it all the more challenging.
With another new fermenter on the way, we have four 10HL tanks that I can ‘play’ with. So this gave me the chance to have some fun.
We have bought a whole heap of 20kg boxes of hops, from all over the world. Experimental and odd varieties that I haven’t used before. I am excited to start offering a fresh unfiltered IPA every month. Each month we will release a new keg only version of a new IPA, Pale ale or what ever hoppy concoction I can come up with, I am super excited.
The first one is a Mosaic and Citra IPA, a stellar and popular hop combo. 6.8% Hoppy as fuck. Release in May. In June we will have a Black I(B)A,? and then a July version with likely be a 9% Double IPA. I am super excited and can’t wait to drink and share them with you. After tasting this first one in tank, I believe it may be one of the best beers we have ever made, to date.
If you are a bar or retail these beers will never be bottled. We may look at canning the best of the best next year, but for the time being they will be limited release 50 Liter kegs, with an odd 30 depending on yields. 14 kegs a batch, so they will disappear. Pre order required. for those outside of our delivery area, multi-keg orders are required for delivery.
Black Toffee and Rye Sour
On a whim, and since we had a funky tank from the 5 brett and some more of this delicious farmhouse blend, I decided to make another beer. I was about to brew another of the Red Flanders but realised I wanted a different one that would hold up to some dark fruits. Wine grapes and dried yumminess, figs etc…
I had a heap of Toffee Malt from Gladfield, it is a super sweet, candied malt. The toffee character usually comes through well. Then we used some of their Rye malt as well. A base of Pilsner, and a bit of unmalted grains for long barrel aging. We now have red, brown, pale, and some other sours. I figured a black or dark was in order. Heavy doses of soft dark malts round this one out. We racked it into the fermenter at 40c then pitched White Labs lacto Brevis. We lowered the PH to 4.6 prior to pitch. This helps fend off any nasties that might take hold early. After 2-3 days and a nice drop in PH we will pitched our slurry and primary fermented it down to 1.018 ish. Then we racked it into six former Pinot barrels for the main event.
I turned 44 this month. Time moves faster and faster each year. We all have some regrets and things we wished we could have done better. I do. It is a continuing struggle to look forward and focus on the future. I am very grateful for the support I have gotten and encouragement, over these past couple years especially. I am still recovering and dealing with the residual scars physically and mentally . Some days are easier then others, some feel like climbing Everest. I am so proud to be part of a great industry in this little country. Cheers
On that wonderful day I had an opportunity of being part of an other one of the wicked cool Jason Guerney Pod Casts, and not just because of his name. This one was on Fresh Hops, with Sam Williamson of Sawmill and Soren Eriksen from 8 Wired. A fun talk over some beers at Tahi bar. Check it out.
Social Media Etiquette
A friend called me out on a sentence from last months blog. It was a little thing, but left me a bit sad. Let me explain. I am not a writer, I do not claim to be. I am just a guy trying to follow a hobby and a career. Part of me following this dream and path is learning from what I am doing. These, my experiences, and what I see others doing is my inspiration. This blog is a journal for me. You just get to follow along. For good or bad. I see things and experience things. My perspective is the only perspective I know, I can only empathise or seek to understand someone elses perspective. I am not a good editor. I don’t have any one proof read these. Please don’t take things I say in this too seriously.
Personally if I truly have an issue or concern with something anyone has said or done or written, I will contact them directly, not on social media. If I contact you and you’re a right prick about it, well that’s different. I don’t take too much seriously except our beer and maintaining a standard of professionalism around our business.
So my friend commented about something I had written, and in re-reading it I saw how it could have been misinterpreted. I have a tendency to run on in my sentences, and bounce all over the place. The beauty of Word Press is you can constantly edit. He and I spoke and we are still friends.
So if you have an issue with something I write or say, contact me first, privately. Having been the recipient of this type of passive aggressive bullying (see previous blog), addressing these things privately can have a much better and more positive outcome if handled with respect. Using social media to bash or bully is down right shitty and cowardly.
I have been tasting some of our stock of the recent batches we sent on the back of the New World order, and noticing some serious oxidation and loss of hop character in a few bottles. All of the bottles out in the market currently are a mix of several batches. I found a loose nut on a valve above the fill head on our bottling machine. We had been getting excessive runs of 1 fill head not filling properly and suspect this was the issue. The other niggling thing is the malt structure. I have noticed a note of fusels in the aroma, and a poor finish. This is not consistent with the beer before packaging. If any one has a serious concern or is unhappy with a beer, please contact me and I will send a suitable replacement. The o2 levels in tank post filter were excellent. This brings me to a few other things to review. I am changing microns on our filters to see if we can get better efficiency, less back flushes, as well as get bigger co2 lines for the bottling machine to increase flow to the heads. We have applied loctite to all of the loose fittings to assure the nuts do not come loose. We have also extended the duration of co2 for each purge cycle and increased the vacuum time. Monitoring our results as we go, i’ll keep you posted to see where the best results are from. Another batch is on the way, let’s see if we can nail this one. My sincerest apologies if you ended up with a less then delicious product.
Geoff and I go on tour. Wellies and ChCh look out!
We brew a Black IPA, an Oyster Gose(yep finally getting on that band wagon), and find out about the rumors of whiskey and oak. Coming soon oxygen part 2, seems only fitting. Also FAN and how it can effect beer…