[This is the seventh installment of an ongoing series by Adam Draeger, an experienced homebrewer and engineer transitioning to the world of professional brewing through coursework at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Technology.]
One week left in Chicago and I still haven’t figured out if I’ve hit all the places that I want to visit before I’m gone.
This week we had a potpourri of instructors, some new, some repeats. Topics covered the engineering side of brewing: valves, pumps, controls, maintenance and troubleshooting, cooling, refrigerant and steam systems. We all really enjoyed Gary Troop’s enthusiastic teaching style when we showed us the ins and outs of steam systems.
My friend Dave from class used to own a Tiki bar, and he taught me some of the history of this uniquely American but South Pacific-inspired culture. This Tiki movement was born in California in the 1950s. On Monday I convinced him to take me to Trader Vic’s <http://www.tradervicschicago.com/> here in Chicago which has been around for 50 years, although it closed for a decade and reopened. It was cool to hear from Dave what parts of the restaurant were authentic and weren’t appropriate. You could get some Pacific food and the classic tropical drinks like Mai Tais and Zombies. The place was also adorned with a lot of 50 year old chainsaw Tiki statues and bamboo furniture.
On Tuesday we had our last styles tasting which were all Belgians (we were joking that since A-B is now owned by a Belgian firm, isn’t it technically considered a Belgian beer now? LOL). I was trying to find a good time to share my 100th batch of beer (120 min IPA clone from Dogfish Head) with my classmates, so I asked Lynn and Keith if they would let me tack it on the end of the tasting. We reviewed it as a class, and I didn’t even get my butt handed to me. Most everyone was impressed on how difficult it is to make a highly drinkable beer at 17 percent, so I felt pretty good from that, but they also pointed out some minor flaws that I couldn’t see on my own.
On Thursday we had our last spiked-flaws tasting that covered packaging defects like oxidation, forced aging and infections. Afterwards we had our tasting quiz (which wasn’t for credit, just for experience). We were given seven Budweisers, and we had to discern which were controls and which were spiked, and with what each was spiked. They wouldn’t tell us which or how many were controls. Even though these were spiked with three times the flavor thresholds, I had a hard time picking out what each compound was on my own (afterwards ,it was obvious). Only one person got a perfect score, and I ended getting four of seven correct, which was the class average. We found out that two people in our class are diacetyl “blind” and this is the reason that people taste in panels and not individually normally, but a really fun exercise, and now I’m really inspired to take my BJCP exam.
Randy Mosher <http://www.radicalbrewing.com/rbauthr.html> came in on Friday to give a lecture on beer and food pairings. He said the Brazilians call this “harmonizations” and I really like that phrase better too. “Pairing” implies there is only one best choice where as “harmonizes” implies there could be many different matches. (In music, you’ll play a note or chord that works, but sometimes you’ll play a “wrong” note that actually harmonizes better.) I can’t remember all of them but these stood out: IPA and blue cheese, smoked porter and smoked aged gouda, toffee and Brother Thelonious and a hoppy red rye with carrot cake. I actually didn’t like the red rye by itself but it tasted great with the cake.
We had four guys that graduated from the concise course on Friday and won’t be joining us in Germany, so we had a little cermony for them and it got loud and obnoxious. Since it was their last night out and it was my birthday, we decided to take the party to Revolution Brewing (pictured above). Mark and Roger from Pella joined us after supper and we hit two more places for a great birthday pubcrawl.
On Saturday I put together a pubcrawl based on my experiences in Chicago for my Pella homebrew club <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cspbrewers/> , which five guys made it out for. Chris also invited some friends and there were plenty of significant others around too. We started the pub crawl with three people it grew to seven and at one point 12 people and down to eight and back up to 10 at the end of the night. We started at Goose Island and had lunch at Piece Brewery, a 1/2 liter at Hofbrau Uberstein, a flight and prezel at Haymarket Brewpub, an expensive beer at the Publican, three rounds at the Map Room (everybody’s favorite) and we decided to forgo the Hopleaf because it was getting late for supper and it was REALLY out of the way. So we walked around and eventually decided to go back to Goose Island Clybourn for a 10 p.m. supper and drinks. All of us pretty much hit a wall at midnight, and we called it a night. I slept good.
This coming week we have group projects on the business side of things and some case studies that we need to present to each other on Friday. My plane also leaves next Saturday for Munich so I don’t know when I’ll be updating the blog next, I do know that I’ll have plenty of content to do so.
Adam “Basscat” Draeger