Friday, August 14, 2009

That Sure Was a Tasty Midwest

Bluegrass Brewing Company represented itself at the Great Taste of the Midwest this past weekend, sampling four of our specialty beers. The Great Taste of the Midwest, in its 23rd year, brings in about 6,000 people, eager to sample over 500 different beers from around the midwest. The event held in Madison, WI, separates itself from other festivals by requiring the brewers to pour their own beers, giving the public an opportunity to ask questions and interact with the ones who actually make the beers, not just a salesperson or brewery rep. We had a good time and learned a lot, below are some of the things we learned this year.

1. Heaven Hill is a far superior bourbon than either Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek (I know, it was news to me too)
2. It gets very hot and humid even in Wisconsin, which I thought was located in the arctic circle
3. If you smoke a cigar, the next day it feels like a monkey took a crap in your mouth.
4. Listen to the Garmin, not the person holding the Garmin
5. Chicago is the new Bermuda Triangle (don't even think about driving through it)
6. The streets in Wisconsin are not made out of Cheese, it's asphalt and concrete just like here
7. Don't take the shuttle after the festival (it is packed with sweat, beer and farts)
8. You can get a DUI on a bicycle
9. If you crap your pants in the mud, no one knows
10. Finally, the beer at BBC is pretty good stuff, of course you already knew that.

Here is some video of the festival:

Special Bonus Video from the BBC Documentary Corp.

never trust The Sober Brewer

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tragedy Strikes the BBC

I know all BBC folks will be upset to hear that Tre was injured in a horrible grain accident. Despite all of Jerry's best attempts he could not actually appear upset about the incident.

Submitted by Beau Kerley

never trust The Sober Brewer

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Transfering Lambic

Here is a video we did showing how we transfer lambic style beer from the oak barrels in which it was fermented and aged into stainless steel kegs in order to blend it with other beer and carbonate it before we put it into bottles. This was my first attempt at video editing, this particular video taking me three weeks to put together, something a third grader could probably do in five minutes, so enjoy.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Free the Hops, Alabama Beer Debate

Great video here of the Alabama legislature debating a bill lifting the ABV limit on beers sold in the state. If you want a good chuckle go to about 5:30 and listen to Alvin Holmes. Congrats Alabama, Roll Tide and all that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What The ?

Okay, so this has nothing to do with beer or brewing, but it was just about the oddest thing I've seen in a while, so I am sharing it with you right now.

I didn't even know there was a market for such a product...Oh, I guess I forgot about this guy.

Kansas University Football Coach Mark Mangino

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Sober Brewer Shows How to Use a Hopback

Here's a video of us using the hopback to make the Rye IPA. Enjoy.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beer's New Warning Label

If you have trouble reading the text, get a magnifying glass, because I can't figure out how to enlarge this picture. Yes, I'm stupid.
The Sober Brewer.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Don't Be Soured On Valentine's Day at Bluegrass Brewing Co.

Bluegrass Brewing Company is proud to intorduce the first of our Belgian Syle Lambic unveiling on Friday the 13th of February at 6:00pm. There will be music by local band Phiasco in the beer garden and local artists will be showing their wares on the stage inside. Chef Chad Harrison will be serving Drunken Prince Edward Mussels, Grilled rack of Lamb and a chocolate torte with a dark cherry reduction.

Lambics are Belgian wheat beers originating in the town of Lembeek in the Pajottenland. Traditionally fermented with airborne wild yeasts and bacteria present in the region, producing a complex acidic, sour, fruity and funky beer.

Brewed here at BBC in Dec 2007 and fermented and aged in charred American oak casks for over a year. A portion was blended with brown ale to balance the acidity and give a touch of maltiness and roasty flavors. Sweet Cherries were added to another portion giving a pleasant sweet-tart and fruity flavor. (Cherry Lambics are traditionally called Kriek or Kriekbier)

Only a handful of U.S. breweries have even attempted to brew lambics due to the risks involved in introducing wild yeasts and bacteria in the brewery. That is why these beers will only be sold in 750 ml bottles. These are the first two blends, there will be more to come.

ABV 6.0%
OG 14.0
Brewed on 12-09-2007

Here is a good article on Lambics that I found on the interweb. Hope to see you at the BBC on the too one guy from Estonia.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy
The Wonders of Lambic Beer
By Aschwin de Wolf on August 3rd, 2008

If there is one beer style that can compete with wine in terms of complexity it is the lambic beer. Unfortunately, if lambic beers are known at all, it is typically because the name is also used for the sweet fruit beers that are produced by some macrobrewers. Traditional lambics, however, are rarely sweet and often quite sour. As a matter of fact, it is this sourness and spontaneous fermentation that distinguishes lambic beers from most other contemporary beer styles.

In 1996, Scientific American published an article by Jaques De Keersmacker called “The Mystery of Lambic Beer.” The blurb of the article says: “An ancient brewing technique produces a beverage so complex that it is still yielding its secrets to organic chemists.” In the article the author introduces the reader to the rich history of lambic brewing and discusses the complex organic chemistry of lambic.

Although lambic beers may be a “living anachronism” today, most beers were once brewed by exposing grains to the wild wind-borne yeasts in the area. 5000 years ago an alcoholic drink called Sikaru was made with roughly the same ingredients and proportions as traditional lambic. No hops were used in these brews. Contemporary lambic brewers do use hops, but only aged hops to preserve the beer, not to add flavor. The flavor of lambic beers solely reflects the (local) spontaneous fermentation of barley malt and unmalted wheat.

During fermentation, a variety of wind-borne and local microorganisms in the barrels convert the wort into ethanol, carbon dioxide and acids. Food scientists and organic chemists have identified a number of overlapping stages during fermentation of lambics: first, enteric bacteria and wild yeasts proliferate, followed by alcohol and carbon dioxide production by Saccharomyces. During stage three, lactic and acetic bacteria (such as Pediococcus) proliferate, giving lambic its distinctive sour taste. During the fourth stage, the dominant yeast is of the Brettanomyces genus, which is the microorganism that is associated with the distinct “farmhouse/barnyard” taste of lambic. During fermentation a film forms on the surface of the brew that prevents oxygenation and excessive proliferation of acetic bacteria. And, as if nature “intended” to create lambics, the alcohol and low pH in turn prevent the proliferation of enteric bacteria.

Although the resulting product, “straight lambic,” can be enjoyed in some local pubs in Belgium and is sometimes bottled (Lambic breweries and blenders Cantillon and De Cam have bottled aged lambic), it is usually blended with other lambics to produce gueuze (or geuze). The traditional lambic brewer blends lambic of various ages (for example 1, 2 and 3 years) to induce additional fermentation in the bottle. The resulting gueuze is sour, dry and complex. Another popular lambic style is to add whole fruits to a young lambic to induce a second fermentation. The most popular variety is Kriek, which is made by adding (sour) cherries to the lambic. Such lambics may smell sweet but the long fermentation period produces the distinct tartness, but with subtle aroma differences, of the unblended lambics or gueuzes.

Unfortunately, these traditional fruit fermented lambics often have to compete (if available at all) with beers to which fruit syrup is added to a lambic base, or even to another type of beer. Although there is a growing market for such beers, the shared use of the name “lambic” has the unfortunate effect that the traditional lambics, which require long production times (2 years or more) and reflect a unique brewing process, have to compete with such “simplistic” sweetened brews. Ironically, the increased popularity of these “lambics” have raised renewed interest in traditional lambic brewing, such as practiced by Belgian brewers and blenders like Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, De Cam, and Hanssens.

As one book says, lambics are beers beyond the influence of brewer’s yeast (hence the importance of blending to create a consistent product). The author of the article reports that researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium have identified 100 different kinds of yeast colonies, 27 colonies of acidic bacteria, and 38 colonies of of lactic bacteria in a single type of lambic. Such complexity is an exciting field of research for organic chemists and curious “molecular brewers.”

De Keersmaecker ends his article as follows:

“Lambic’s future rests with adventurous beer lovers and that small but enthusiastic segment of the population that goes out of its way to sample traditional ethnic foods. Lately this group seems to be expanding as more people pass up processed foods in favor of the old staples: fine cheeses, hearty breads, wines, abbey beers and real ales. Who knows? If the trend continues, lambic may be around for another 500 years.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Green Gold Rush

I have decided I want to be a farmer! I heard on the news that farming is a good profession, I use products grown on farms, I see with my own eyes farmers driving nice vehicles. It's obviously an easy way to make a living. Why haven't I thought of this before. So I called up a farmer to see what, if anything, I need to do to get into the farming business (I called early in the morning because I wanted to get stared right away and we know farmers rise early) The farmer I called asked me what I wanted to farm, I said, whatever is easiest and makes the most money. He then asked how much land I had available for planting, I told him, my whole backyard, and finally he asked about machinery for planting and harvesting, I answered I have a shovel and my wife's '98 Saturn and I'm rarin' to put it to work. After he called me a idiot and hung up on me I said to myself, "Self, maybe this farming thing has a lot more to it than I thought, perhaps I'll continue doing what I know and leave the farming to the farmers."

This is good advice for those farmers who have been calling me asking about growing hops. I don't grow hops I use them, I don't know the first thing about growing a hop. So stop calling me and call a hop grower. I know that last years Global Hop Crisis sent hop prices skyrocketing and thus has enticed farmers into looking for a quick buck by planting a few acres of this beer ingredient. But perhaps these farmers don't have the first clue what they are getting into. Greg Kitsock wrote an article in the Dec. 2008 New Brewer titled Green Gold Rush: Shortages Spawn New Crop of Hop Farmers in which he outlined some of the challenges of growing hops. Kitsock writes,

"They've got gold dust in their eyes," says Ralph Olson the the would-be hop farmers who phone (once a day, on the average) to pump him for information on humulus lupulus. Some of them are profoundly ignorant about the plant. "They think hops grow on bushes, or in clusters like grapes."
Olsen is a 30 year veteran of the industry and general manager/owner of Hopunion a Yakima, Wash. based supplier for the craft brewing industry. "Not to be discouraging, but I don't give them a very good chance," he says of recent attempts to grow hops commercially outside the Pacific Northwest.
"If you want to grow a few vines for educational purposes or so you can make a wet hop beer, that's a good deal. Otherwise, it becomes difficult."
Some popular hops, like Simcoe, Amarillo and Palisade, are proprietary strains. The companies that own them invested millions into their development and aren't going to willingly share their rootstock. Hops, like wine grapes are sensitive to the terroir, they might not adjust well to the local soil and climate. Sierra Nevada's Manley notes that the brewery once grew Mount Hood, but "it didn't work out; they'd have beautiful cones and no acid."
Hops are also subject to the withering blast of a variety of pests, from fungal diseases like powdery and downy mildew to insect invaders like aphid and spider mites. The chemicals used to treat the vines are closely regulated state by state. Fungicides and insecticides available in Washington or Oregon might be banned elsewhere. Regarding organic growing method, Olson is cynical, "I've helped people start a few fields; they last three to four years, and then something comes in and nails them."
Large hop farms automate the harvest process to the greatest degree possible. They use a top-cutters and a bottom-cutters mounted on tractors to wrest the vines from the trellises. Next, the vines are fed into the hop-picker, a backyard-sized piece of machinery that knocks loose the cones while screening out the leaves and stems. A basic picker costs $750,000, reports Olsen.
The freshly picked hops are next heated in kilns to reduce the moisture content form 80% to under 10%. Building a kiln will add "another million or so" to your bill, notes Olson. That doesn't even get into the costs of baling and pelletizing them.
Hop prices, Olson concludes, can fluctuate greatly. This year, he estimates, 9,000 more acres were sown with hops. Add that to the 33,000 acres already producing hops and there could be a glut, not a shortage, in a few years. He foresees a downward trend in hop prices starting this year and lasting three to four years before prices stabilize.
Hop farming isn't for the faint of heart, Olson suggests. "when I stared in 1978, there were 225 grower. There are 50-60 growers today." Olson pegs the start up cost of a commercially viable hopyard as $4-10 million. He can't name a single successful hop farm outside Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
So, to all you would be hop farmers, go ahead and do what you will, but I would continue with what I know and let the hop farmers grow the hops.

never trust The Sober Brewer
Jerry Gnagy