Pleasant surprises

July 10, 2011

I wasn’t surprised that the barbecue  was top-notch at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue when we stopped by for dinner in a relatively unplanned trip to Kansas City this weekend. I’d heard good things about it and we were not disappointed. The service and food were both great at the Martin City location we hit for a little chow.

What surprised me was the waitress’s response to the, “What do you have for beer?” I tossed her as we sat down on the patio to await a table.

What she said:

“We have Boulevard Wheat, Boulevard Dry Stout, Boulevard Pale Ale, Boulevard _______ .”

(fill in a coupla blanks–I forget what all she said. And then, as if an afterthought:

“And we have Bud, Bud Light and _________.”

All too often the wait-staff lists the beers with the craft beer relegated to the role of “afterthought.” So I was impressed that this joint had its priorities straight–showcasing solid, local beers alongside its tasty victuals. I went for the stout, which was primo. From Boulevard, it seems to me, their Bully! Porter gets all the attention, but if I have a choice of the two, I go for the Dry Stout any day of the week. It’s solid–and great with the ‘cue.

Cheers, Jack Stack! I’m a fan.



Adam’s Adventures, Part 13

May 4, 2011

[This is the thirteenth 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.

This one is sorta the end of the road, though there’s a fun follow-up post on the way, and Adam promised to let us know when he lands a job–he heads for his new life in Colorado this Saturday–if you’re a brewer needing a smart young brewer to add to your team, shoot me an email and I’ll put you in touch (jwilson [AT] yahoo DOT com).]

It is too bad that the bus didn’t stop at least once for pictures on the way to Austria because the views were beautiful. Lakes, trees and the Alps speckled with country homes on the hillsides, never got a picture except in my mind.
The Austrian portion of the study tour began in Salzburg at a large brewery called Stiegl, brewing 350hl batches probably as big as any of the AB or Miller plants in the US. This brewery was only a few years old from being updated and looked great! They also had a very large gift shop and biergarten which we all thoroghly enjoyed. Stiegl also claimed to have a brewery inside a brewery, because they had about a 5hl working pilot brewery that was located inside their museum. We couldn’t spend much time in the museum because of the schedule, but it was really well put together like the Field Museum in Chicago for instance. Lunch and biers in the biergarten, of course.

We then headed across town to the Austrian Augustiner brewery (not be confused with the one in Munich). This is still owned by the monks from a different monestary and will 100 years old next year. They are still using the same equipment that they used 100 years ago, and plan to completely update and renovate for their centennial celebration. They gave us each a stein to take home and even though their beer was direct-fired and still cooled in coolships (pictured below-right), I loved their maerzen–simply fantastic! What was also amazing was that they still use primarly wood barrels for serving their beers (an empty barrel weighs around 100 lbs). Their biergarten was very old and had huge Chestnut trees (which I found out is the traditional biergarten tree) and was setup with food vendors along the perimeter where you had to pay separately at each place to get your food/beer. We had free beer but the food wasn’t. A few of the guys bought and shared a steckerlfisch (grilled whole fish on a stick) they said it tasted awesome.

After checking into our hotel, we got back on the bus and headed to Gusswerks brewpub north of Salzburg…a little taste of American Brewpubbery. (I should point out that our first brewery that we visited this day was over 500 years old, the second was 100 years old and this brewpub was exactly five years old…nifty) An entreprenuer, from Austria but who studied in Ireland, started this brewpub using borrowed money from friends and built it from the ground up. He had several lagers but also some ales including…a stout! They served us pizza appetizers and some amazing bbq ribs and semmelknodel (bread dumplings). Not surprisingly, we craftbrewer-types had 5-10 times more questions for our host compared to the big breweries that we visited; this hit close to home. Afterwards, Michael arranged for five cabs to bring us all home. As we were waiting I wandered around the grounds and found an art gallery that was still open at 11:30 p.m. and looked around. The art didn’t impress me as much as the motion-sensing projector that was mounted on the ceiling and pointed to the ground. I saw very realistic koi fish swimming around, when I walked onto the projection, I heard water noises and noticed the waves in front of my feed…the fish also reacted to me by swimming in the opposite direction. COOL! There was also popcorn popping and coffeebeans as well, but the fish were my fav. (This video <>  shows something similar, but my fish were more responsive.)

The next morning we visited another very old brewery called Eggenberg…the brewery/castle burned down in the 1800’s and was rebuilt again. This brewery is famous for one of the highest alcohol lagers called Samichlaus. The buildings were very cool and we ended in the upper room full of deer antlers as well as boar tusks and ram horns (pictured, right), also the best freshmade brezen I have ever had served alongside their beers. I didn’t care for their other biers that much, but the 14% Samichlaus tasted great, as always (very dangerous beer because you can hardly taste the alcohol, too smooth).
We then traveled to Hopstetten brewery that was quite old, but has thwarted tradition in exchange for innovation and creative beers (still mostly lagers…give them a break for trying) They still used a huge leatherbelt driven grainmill and used the old copper kettles (as did most of the old breweries in Austria). Their main claim to fame is their steinbier. Since they are located in a region that mines a lot of granite, they have open fermentors and a lot of other things around the brewery made from huge blocks of granite. (see photo below of me in garden watering tank, the fermentors were taller and wider than this, but not as long) In addition to primary fermenting their beers in stone, they also would heat up smaller stones on the fire and put them in the fermenting beer so that caramel flavors and colors would be imparted, these rocks sat on the bottom during the whole fermentation. Most Austrian breweries served an unfiltered lager called a zwickelbier and Hopstetten called theirs kubelbier (“bucket beer” because the owner’s dad used to serve guests at parties by running down in the cellar and pull a bucket of beer from the zwickel tap for immediate consumption.) We tried the same. We also tried their maerzen (called “wedding beer” for the American market), a honey lager made with 25 percent honey (there is a large honey maker in the area), a honey bock and a barleywine. These all tasted fantastic.

We then headed to a town called Schlagl where there is also a large monestary that brews beer (the only brewing monestary still left in Austria). Half of us stayed at the monestary that night and I stayed with the other half in Schiffner’s Gasthaus. This guy named Schiffner opened a bed, breakfast, restaurant and beer bar and employs his whole family. He is a professional beer sommelier (or “cicerone” in the US). They prepared a five-course dinner (each course is served with a different beer) for us which was followed by a rare treat. There was a lot of “weird” stuff on my plate, but I tried everything and actually loved everything, it was so amazing. I have done two other three-course beer dinners before, but these were served for 1000 guests and didn’t have the extra care that was provided for our 40 person meal. I enjoyed all the food and the beers by themselves, but wasn’t convinced that each pairing was better than the parts, not that I cared.  After dinner the owner from Eggenberg brought us a 3-liter bottle of three-year-old oak-aged Samichlaus. The beer held up wonderfully. Many people stayed up until dawn partying with the Eggenberg guy since he was bringing out more bottles of crazy beers like Brewdog’s Sink the Bismark. I was still recovering from a bad cough and went straight to bed. If I was feeling a little better, I would have endulged in some of Schniffner’s 150 beer selection from around the world.

The next morning we actually just walked down to the Schlagl brewery at the monestary and had another tour. Most notable about Schlagl was that they used a kettle and lauter tun that were square and painted blue from the outside….I’m not sure what they were lined with on the inside, I sure hope it wasn’t blue paint. Even though they weren’t that big, they were the only brewery that we visited that had a CO2 recovery system. Large places like Steigl might have had one, but it wasn’t pointed out to us. Something else that was unique is that many of the breweries had water treatment before sending the treated water down the drain to the city, but in the US, we like to brag about our “green” efforts whereas the Germans/Austrians just do it as a way of life and try not to draw attention to the “waste” portions of the breweries. Afterwards we went into their restaurant cellar where they had about 10 large wooden fermentors that they cut open and put dining tables inside.
The last stop of the tour we actually headed back to Germany and on our way to Munich we stopped at Flottweg, where they make centrifuges another other “separation technology.” This company was SOOO excited to have us visit, they were giving us things and food and taking our pictures and kept reminding us how honored they were to have us visit. This was very perplexing to me because I tried to explain to the sales rep (btw, I think Austrians know better English than the Germans do) that since all of their equipment will only provide a payback after the brewery is over 100 barrels/batch, that we probably wouldn’t be purchasing their products, though they were very cool. He didn’t seem to mind and they just wanted us to know about them and what they could do.
After a short drive, the bus dropped us off at Doemens and I called up Stina to pick me because we had pre-arranged for me to stay in their apartment for the night. Stina was my wife’s foreign exchange student 12 years ago. My mother-in-law provided their contact information, and I stayed with her and her husband Thursday night. They ordered Chinese for us and we had a lot of good conversations.

Friday morning we headed to a little restaurant and biergarten near Doemens for our graduation ceremony. Lynn Kruger (president of Siebel) flew in to help hand out diplomas. The presentation was very short and both Michael and Lynn gave a quick speech as well as handed us our diploma, class photo and WBA pins. We had a nice meal afterwards with Uerige Alt on mini casks with wooden taps. The dessert was by far the best – Kaiserschmarrn (gourmet pancakes with apples fried in butter, then re-fried in butter, then I think it was fried a little bit in more butter) This was the day of the big wedding across the pond and Rich decided to buy and wear this shirt for graduation as a joke to Alex, our English classmate. (pictured below) Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of me with my diploma yet; we sealed them up in cardboard tubes so they could make the journey back on the plane.
Most of the group was heading to Fruehlingfest at the Theresienweise (Oktoberfest grounds) but I had arranged another stay and didn’t really want to go out anyways. Stina’s parents, Clary and Rolfe Persson, live south of Munich and a few towns north of Aying in Hohenkirchen. They were both so hospitable. Clary did a load of laundry for me, let me call my wife, made supper, gave me biers and then next day offered to drive me to the airport. After supper we sat around the dinner table for about six hours just sharing each others company, I really enjoyed learning more about Germany, they even taught me Str8ts (a number puzzle like Sudoku). They can also see the alps from their town and were trying to describe a strong wind that they experience called a fohn. I didn’t quite understand until I wiki’d it and the American spelling helped jog my memory. I will actually be experiencing similar fohn in Denver but on the east side of the Rockies they are called Chinook winds instead. Two interesting things they told me about the Alps fohn is that (a) they will have red sand in the air that they have traced comes from the Sahara desert and (b) the effects of the wind will seemingly magnify the Alps so close you think you can touch them (about 60-100 km away in reality). I wish I could experience that because they said it isn’t wavy like heat on the road, but crystal clear. Temperature swings of 30 C hotter and then 30 C colder in the matter of hours commonly give people headaches too, apparently.
The next morning Clary suggested that we go for a bike ride to Aying, which is about 8 km south. Beautiful day and good suggestion. We stopped at the Leibhards biergarten again for one last German lager, and it was fantastic like Ayinger beers tend to be when fresh. When we got back we loaded up the car and head to the airport. Uneventful car and plane ride on Saturday, and unevent train and bus ride (Chicago to DSM) on Sunday.
Well, that’s my brewery school summed up in 13 (sometimes long) blog posts. I hope you enjoyed following along as much as enjoyed the emails and comments. Jay might have me check back with a guest post in the future, but I am intending to keep this up on my wife/family’s blog for at least the short term. The only future plans that I have right at the moment is to move out to Denver to join the rest of my immediate family (who has already stormed two weeks without me.) I’ll then begin my search for a brewery position…here’s to successful job hunting and putting my diploma to use.
[raises glass]  Prost!

Adam’s Adventures, Part 12

April 29, 2011

[This is the twelfth 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.]

Went on a beer rock star tour this week!

Well, we had a bus driver and our own hotel/hostel rooms…but no roadies to carry our luggage. [caution: this is a long post, since I have a lot to cover]

We started out at 8 a.m. and went to Freising (I mentioned before as the location of Weihenstephan) where Steinecker (now owned by Krones) is located. Steinecker makes brewing equipment. They have for over a 100 years and made the Ayinger Brewery, the Doemens Brewery, amongst thousands of others. This set the tone for most of our visits that start with a presentation about the company, history and products. This is then followed by a tour and then a light lunch…and a beer, of course.

We then went over to the HQ of Hopsteiner, the world hop supplier. They have most of Germany’s crop as well as a lot in Czech, US, China, etc. They were extremely hospitable and gave us tours of the storage facilities, the pelletizing, the unbaling, the isomerization process, the lab, the hop extract facilities, etc.

They even let us do a full evaluation of about 14 different hop varieties (you know—the fancy way you lift some hops into your hands and rub them together to release the lupulins and oils, then smell them—awesome). After all our presentations and tours they took us out for supper and beers at a semi-abandoned restaurant and biergarten. I guess this place closed down and they only open it up from time-to-time for special events/weddings. We had one waitress who successfully delivered all our beer orders and brought out a three-course meal for us; she was good.

The next day we headed to Bamburg, pictured right. I loved this city…if I had only one city that I could re-visit again, it’s definitely this one. We found out that there are 600+ breweries in Bavaria and 300 of them are all within a one hour radius of Bamburg. Also hundreds of artisian bakeries as well. Our first stop was Krones HQ. With 10,000 workers world-wide and 5000 at the HQ (I likened it to Pella in size before the downturn), Krones is only about 50 years old but is already the highest quality beverage equipment in the world (read: expensive, too). They became famous for beer bottle fillers but have really taken off with PET bottle for filling of juice, water, etc. After presentations and tours we got to eat in their cafeteria which was about the size of my university’s dining hall. It wasn’t free for the employees but the price was about half of normal and you would have a hard time packing your own lunch for these prices. The company was really cool in other ways too, letting employees pick their own hours for instance, and I just got a sense that company cared a lot for their employees.

We next headed to a brewery owned and operated by a church called Bischofshof. It was newly revamped (by Steinecker, of course) and was about the size of Bell’s or New Glarus in volume sales. After a two-hour tour we got an early supper and more beer for tasting. Hard work, I tell you.

Bamburg is also the home of a famous brewery called Schlenkerla, which makes a Rauchbier (smoked beer), as do most of the 10 breweries in Bamburg (pop~70,000). I used to like rauchbier but drinking it fresh in Bamburg is a treat and they go down really good…I actually preferred the other local called Spezial a little better for it’s drinkability…equally as smokey though.

The next day we visited Kaspar-Schulz, who has been around for 334 years! They also make brewing equipment, but on a smaller scale and specialize in brewpubs and microbreweries systems. Some of their systems are completed covered in hand-shaped copper cladding…as some of my classmates called it…brewing equipment porn. Ha. We finished the tour with lunch in their backyard biergarten and got to try Spezial on cask.

Then I heard we were going to Weyermann Malting next…I was all like “boring, we just saw a small malthouse in the US and now we’ll see a big one, ladddy dah…” Oops, I judged it too soon; turns out this was my absolute favorite stop on the whole trip! Considerably young by German history standards (1879), they have been constantly and consistently growing. They are still family owned and operated and really know how to make a job fun and a good place to come to work. We started in their bierstuberl with presentations, then a really cool tour that took us to their brewery (the biggest one in Bamburg) they only brew one batch of dark wort that gets evaporated to make Sinamar. I’ve known about this product for some time, but didn’t realize that it was so popular (all natural barley coloring for making dark beers that still is in accordance to the Germany purity law). We then went to the R&D department where their head maltster got to experiment with all sorts of roasting, kilning and candy-making (their candy-coated caramalt was really good). They also had a professional baker’s oven for their full-time baker to experiment (yes, they employee a brewmeister and professional baker). They want to learn everything they can about the bread industry and apply it to malt and also for pairing with foods/beer, neat stuff (her experiments are given to the employees every Thursday). We saw the normal stuff like Saladin boxes, kilns and packaging and then we went to the musuem.

After that we saw the pilot brewery where another brewmeister makes small batches. These are put on draft in the bierstuberl and also bottled for the employees. About once a month the employees learn about a new style of beer (some Belgian and American) and then they get to take two cases home (if I recall this correctly). We saw their fanstore (gift shop) and I thought about buying some swag, but we had already learned we were getting some free stuff like pens and hats and pins from them already, so I withheld. Afterwards we ate cheesecake and drank beer and I met the daughter of the owners who is enrolled in Weihenstephan (so she can take over the operations). They even took a group picture so they could have us posted on the wall, what fun people and a fun company.

The last day of our Germany we visited Schneider Weiss brewery in Kelheim. This place was big—320 HL batches, and they use exclusively one yeast strain and all open fermentors. Schneider is known for being founded by the dukes and was given exclusive rights to brew wheat beer in Germany for many years (starting about 400 years ago). Eventually others were able to brew wheat beers but when lager yeast was isolated, everybody abandoned them in favor of the clear, crisp Pilsners and Helles beers…much to the chagrin of their competition. Schneider hung on and is still the leading brewery of weissbier in Germany (wheat bier makes up about 20 percent of all beer drank in Bavaria) One other cool thing they had us do was visit their bottling line museum which had a working device for filling single bottles. So they had us fill swingtop bottles, then hand-glue/apply the labels. (I opted not to take my souvenir home as it wouldn’t have traveled well.) They had a really cool biergarten on a little stream that they had us sample their seven main products (including Aventinus) as well as a meat, bread and cheese tray for snacking.

The last place on the list to visit was Kuchlbauer (another wheat beer brewery). Kuchlbauer is fairly small relatively but still uses a 100HL brew kettle. My uncle Bruce was going to take me to this brewery/museum when I visited him, but when I discovered that our class was visiting here later, I opted to wait. In terms of a brewery, this was very unnoteworthy in terms of beers and production, but what really put this brewery on the map is their art-loving owner and his relationship with the late Hundertwasser (a famous European artist/architech…think Frank Lloyd Wright). Shortly before his death, the brewery owner asked him to design a house for his dwarves of lore that “make his beer.” So there is this 35-meter tower (originally designed as 70 m but it can’t be taller than the church in town…) There is also a museum and the brewery has been “detailed” to match the look of the tower, so everything sort of “flows.”

After we got back on Thursday it was laundry night and “catch a few zzz’s” before getting up at 4 a.m. to catch our train to Belgium. We arrived in Brussels around 1:45 p.m. and found our hotel. The hotel was a dump and there wasn’t even anybody there to check us in for one hour. The streets were covered with garbage and everyplace smelled. We were in the shady neighborhood (read: red light district) but even the nice parts of town were extremely dirty…not like Germany at all. We explored the city and found Cantillon, as well as Delirium Tremens on the first day.

On Saturday we caught a local train to Bruge, finally a nice, clean, beautiful city in Belgium (I didn’t want to go back to Brussels). We walked around and enjoyed the good weather, found one brewpub called De Halve Maan (1/2 moon). My only complaint about Bruge (all of Belgium, in fact) is that service is slow and everything costs about twice as much…(four lunches cost us $144 euro and over three hours, I guess it made up for how cheap Czech was). On Sunday we took in more sights and found the Manneken Pis as well as Jeanneke Pis, statues that make Brussels so famous.

Easter weekend really isn’t the best time to travel Europe unless you plan on just chilling on the beach because everything except restaurants and public transportation are closed. (Forewarning anybody who had Easter travel plans to go to Europe.) As you can tell, I didn’t much enjoy Belgium (aside from Bruge) and my only positive experiences was the chocolate, the waffle I had and Hoegaarden witbier. (The rest of the Belgium beers didn’t have the magic that I thought they would).

Monday was just lunch (the cheapest menu item is usually a $9 euro bowl of soup or $10 euro Croque [fancy grilled cheese sandwich]) and waiting for our train, we did have one hiccup on our transfer to Munchen at Frankfort, but we made the best of it.

Tuesday starts out with another partial week brewery study tour of Austria.

What the heck, I never heard a Rhapsody when I was in Bohemia nor saw a Sprout when I was in Brussels…oh well, at least I can say I saw a hot dog in Frankfort. lol!

Until next time…



Adam’s Adventures, Part 11

April 26, 2011

[This is the eleventh 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.]

Last full week in Munich and except for food words, I haven’t learned any more German. I find that 90 percent of Germans know some English and especially around Hauptbaunhof (main train station). Munich is actually more safe than I expected. I found out that our hostel is in the roughest part of town, but it doesn’t scare me like sections of Chicago did.

This week we had a lot of hands-on modules. The class was split into thirds and my group started with an awesome lecture and demonstrations about draft systems. Great beer + bad draft = bad draft. (And this is a case where two negatives don’t add up to a positive either.) Tuesday we brewed another batch of wheat bier and did the calculations ourselves this time. The batch went without a hitch until it came time to cool it. Somebody had turned off the chiller for the cold water and we couldn’t chill the beer, so they pumped it into the conical instead and used the jackets to cool it. Wednesday we spent the day learning to use the kieselgur <> and depth filter. We filtered the wheat beer that we made last time, then we added speise (more wort/food) and fresh yeast. (yes, some German breweries actually use this method to get consistent products…the yeast is typically a lager yeast for bottle conditioning.) On Thursday, all 38 of us spread out throughout the bottling line and helped bottle four batches of beer. This bottling line is capable of 4000 bottles/hour, but we slowed it down to 2000. We finished in about three and a half hours! After lunch we just cleaned up and grabbed a few fresh bottles of beer and headed to the train. Each night I spent time preparing for our exam that was on Friday. They didn’t do a good job to let us know what was going to be on the exam. All we knew was it had mostly to do with brewing beer, so a lot of the students were anxious and worried about the exam.

On Thursday, we decided to go back to Ayinger <> for an evening tour. This tour rocked. There were two people from Holland who spoke little English and preferred the tour to be in German (because they spoke that, at least), but our guide did a good job to field questions from both them and our group in our respective languages. This tour lasted two hours and ended with three beers and a free bottle opener. Highly recommended. Afterwards we hit the Liebards Restaurant which is an Ayinger beerhall (owned by the family of Ayinger) and we ate and drank. I decided to have the Mega veinershnitzel along with my buddy Ziggy. This was by far the biggest thing I ever ate (pictured left). It was the size of my large plate and was seated on a bed of fries and came with a side salad. I finished it except a few fries left on my plate got the best of me.

This week was wet and cold and so we didn’t do much stuff outside, except for Monday afternoon. Since our professor had other commitments in the afternoon we actually got out of school on Monday at 1p.m. So I went down to the Viktualienmarkt in downtown Munich for shopping. I found mead, cheese, Oktoberfest shoes and vest. I also had bought some stuff for my daughters.

One night (that was cold and drippy) my Colombian roommate, Adrian, dragged me out to get a beer. Since he was buying, I gave in. We went to the Augustiner Keller <> which was highly recommended by our classmates. When we got inside, the guy pointed to a really small set of spiral stairs that took us about three stories down and into the old cellaring caves. These have been redone and look very new as seen by the picture, but was very cool, nonetheless. When we were done we headed back towards the stairs and found the elevator instead. Sweet.

Friday morning was our final exam. It was five essays that we got to pick out of seven and we had three hours to complete it. I was more anxious for this exam than I would have expected (UWP was a long time ago), but I feel I did well. Michael, who is taking us on our study tour the next two weeks will be grading our exams during this time, so we’ll find out how we did at the end of our study tour…we are all relieved that it is over.

Friday afternoon five of us got on an international train for Prague, Czech Republic. We got there around 11 p.m. and the taxi guys were trying to get five times the recommended price that we studied about, so we walked to our hostel instead (two km) and got there around midnight. The Czech Inn (get it? check inn?) was really well run and had lots of showers, bathrooms, towels, Internet, free maps and everybody spoke English…again, highly recommended. Praha (as the Czech call it) is a beautiful hilly city, and also cheap, as long as you aren’t in a touristy part of town. Pictured right, our bill shows us paying over $1000 crown for a meal…that was like $10 Euro a piece for three rounds of beer and food. Most 1/2 liters were about $1 US (awesome compared to the $4-5 US for each beer in Munich). The pictures cannot capture it like some of the postcards I snagged did (yes, Erin, I got you more postcards). We found the faux Eifel tower, Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle and the John Lennon wall. We also accidentally stumbled upon two brewpubs as well on Saturday. The beer was cheap it was only $30 for each 1/2 liter (well, czech crowns actually and that’s about $1.45 in US$). On Sunday we hit Old Town (which had lots of food vendors, musicians, artists, etc). Then we found two more brewpubs and a beer garten (with awesome Zlatopramen 11° <> Plato beer) before heading on the train back to Munich.

This week we begin our study tour in Germany via group bus and led by Doemens instructor Michael Eder…the big German, will have way too many pics and stories to tell, but will do my best to summarize.



Adam’s Adventures, Part 10

April 15, 2011

[This is the tenth 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.]

Good weather=open bier gartensAs you can see by the collage of mugshots (get it, “mug” shots?, I crack myself up) I frequented a lot of bier gartens this week. The two warmest days we made it to the English Garten which is HUGE and also hosts a lake, lots of trails and bier gartens. I didn’t bring any shorts with me because I had researched the weather conditions for this month and, get this, the web was wrong! So I went looking for a pair of shorts. Germans must never wear shorts or something, I could find a pair of lederhosen for $99, but shorts, I had to pay 25 Euro, which was the cheapest pair I could find. At least I got good use of them this week as most days got to the 70’s F or at least upper 60’s F.
I found a brewpub in Munich. I visited Unions Brau Keller. The copper kettle and system was old and wicked cool looking. The beer wasn’t as pure as the big breweries’ Helles, Dunkel, Bock, etc, but it was cool to drink it in the ambiance of a brewpub/keller (basement).  I bumped into a flight attendant from Sully, Iowa (merely 16 miles from Pella, Iowa)  when I was dining here.
This week at school we covered a lot of topics like chemical analysis, yeast flavors, brewing operations, acidifying mashes and studied the German Reinheitsgebot (which is a lot more complicated than saying just malt, water, hops and yeast, btw) To give you an idea: hops cannot be used after boiling, so no dry hopping. But minerals and bacteria can be used to treat the water ahead of time. Rye and Wheat can be used with top-fermenting yeast, but not with bottom-fermenting yeast. Apparently there are dozens of loopholes but functionally, it is very restrictive and the brewers at Doemens wish it was opened up for more innovation. Before 1987, only beer that was made according to the Reinheitsgebot could be sold in Germany. That means that Belgian beers weren’t allowed to be sold here, nor most American beer. The European states complained, and they passed a law  that allowed beer to be brought into the country, but if it is made in Germany it still needs to follow  the purity law. The country wasn’t (and still isn’t) ready for it; you have to look extra hard to find any beer that isn’t German, Austrian or Czech here. The distributors do not want to chance that they’ll sell these other beers, and most Germans would be too set in tradition to try them so there isn’t much available. I saw a Guinness the other day, that’s like finding a four-leaf clover!
Styles tastings this week covered the history, brew techniques and flavor profiles for ales: Kolsch, Alt, Weiss, Dunkelweiss, Berliner Weiss and Kristallweiss.
We had a group project that split the class into four groups. Our group needed to describe our fictional brewery and our flagship lager and how it was microbiologically stable. Then we needed to describe our “functional beverage” which is like an alcoholic drink that provides something else (eg. caffeine) as a benefit to consumers. We chose a milk lager that would be rich in vitamins and chemicals so it provided retardants for hangovers and tryptophan causing sleepiness so you can “sleep it off.” Totally ridiculus, but our group had fun putting together our presentation. I think we called it Drunken Cow Sleepytime Milk Lager. We then had to make changes to the product such that it would be microbiologically more stable. After two days, we presented and the instructor told us that it wouldn’t be graded, but if it were, all four groups would have gotten A’s.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, our product was made according to the Bovineheitsgebot.
On Thursday we had an in depth tour of all the equipment in the filling room. We will be bottling our wheat beer that we made last week this coming Thursday (16 days later) and so this was a way to introduce us to the equipment that we’ll be using and subsequently cleaning.
This weekend was pretty awesome for checking out new places. A bunch of us took the train to Aying after school on Friday and walked into the Ayinger Brewery (pictured above in my new shorts). They were closed but the receptionist let us walk around a bit. It was a very new facility, modernized and very clean.  Afterwards we walked into the center of town and found a bier garten that sold only Ayinger and relaxed in the sun.
On Saturday, Cade (from Birmingham, Ala.) and I rode the train up to Freising  to visit the historic Weihenstephan monestary, brewing school and brewery. It was on the top of this ridge that overlooked the town of Freising and was really gorgeous. There were flower and tree gartens all around and a bier garten, of course. I tried a barley schnapps (distilled barley liquor. It was sweet, not dry like a whiskey).
We then visited the original Paulaner brewery which is still brewing on a pub level. Afterwards we headed to another Paulaner biergarten where they held Starkbierfest, which was a large biergarten and fest hall. Starkbier is another word for “strong beer”, which is what they call their doppelbocks. A liter of Salvator is all I needed. Wow, this was like a mini-Oktoberfest, but in contrast, 90 percent of everybody was dressed up…I regret not bringing my lederhosen now. There was a 14-piece band that really got the crowd going inside the hall, and outside the temp was perfect and there was plenty of Gemutlichkeit going around.
On Sunday, Cade and I took an another train up to Dachau which is the site of the very first concentration camp in 1933. This was preserved and turned into a free museum for anybody to walk the grounds. All the placards were in at least German and English, but sometimes in six different languages. We hit everything pretty fast but still spent nearly three hours walking the grounds and reading the literature. Very interesting and I appreciated the fact that this was put together by Germans…they respectfully tried to give the history of everything that happened even though it was pretty much self-damning. I suppose a parallelism would be the Americans and slave-trading though.
Will have to put more effort into studying this week as our written essay final will be this coming Friday. If we pass this, we’ll receive our brewing diplomas!

Adam’s Adventures, Part 9

April 11, 2011

[This is the ninth 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.]

Munchen. Munich.

This week was full of a lot and I don’t have enough room to share it all here. I think I may include more pictures this time and less narration.

There are a lot of big breweries in Munchen including: Spaten, Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr, Augustiner, Lowenbrau and Hofbrau. We have been to several of the Augustiner Brauhaus’s as well as Lowenbrau (pictured right) and the most famous Hofbrau Haus, of course (pictured below). The beer at these places is quite expensive around 8 Euro or $11 for a mass krug (liter). We did find a local grocery that has cheap beer in PET bottles and even sells pre-mixed Radler. (see pic, 0.25 euro deposit per bottle!) Radler is beer (lager/weiss) and lemonade mixed together and is quite popular in Germany because you can drink several without getting tipsy.


Doemens is actually in a suburb called Grafeling and which we commute by train which takes 20 minutes and another 13 minutes to walk. It is much larger than Siebel and some days there will be 25 staff and 200 students there. Doemans building has a 6 hl brewhaus, small malthouse, full bottling/kegging, fermentation (see pic of 9 mini horizonal fermentors & open fermentation), filtering, laboratories, classrooms on site. Also a cafeteria with really good food that we can purchase daily.

We had a full week of content and they like to mix it up a lot here. Nearly daily we are doing a styles tasting, but in a much more detailed format that covers: history, characteristics, how to make that particular style and other important information for understanding it, then we taste. On Tuesday we split the class and my half went to the third floor for microscopy. We looked at nearly two dozen different yeasts and bacteria that were pre-grown on agar. We got to prepare our own slides which was good practice. Pictured left, you can see yeast that was grown and deliberately stressed so that it started to sporelate (4 acrospores circled in red…can you believe this pic was taken with an iphone looking down the gullet of  microscope…luck shot!). The microscopes we were using we wicked cool, but probably way too expensive, I had a lot of fun preparing, smelling and viewing the cultures. Megaspherea and E. Coli were probably my least favorite to smell (vomit/rotten feet and feces, respectfully).

On Wednesday our groups switched roles, so we got our turn at brewing a German Hefeweizen. The system was nearly fully automated, so with the exception of putting the grains and hops in, and turning one or two valves, most of the valves and all the heat and pumps was controlled via the computer console. This setup is mostly for teaching brewers how to control the BIG systems and they just have it all the same on a small scale. The only thing that went wrong was the mash mixer stopped working and the expert was on vacation that day, so I got to scoop out the lauter tun by hand. We then ran out of empty tubs, so Andy and I (our instructor) went one mile down the road to feed a dozen cows at a small farm in the city…yes, in the city, then I could re-use the empty tubs.

Thursday and Friday had more lectures on styles and tasting as well as chemical analysis and yeast flavor contributions. After class on Friday I bought a train ticket and headed up to see my uncle and family up near Meitingen, Germany.

Friday night we just ate supper and hung out at my uncles motorcycle clubhouse. On Saturday I had asked if there were any local breweries we could visit, there was one nearby in Wertingen called Schwanenbrau (Swan Brew). Braumeister Carry is a 4th generation brewer that graduated from Doemens Institute back in 1980 and he took over the brewery from his father that has existed since 1416 (their family bought the brewery in 1880). It is a 100 hl (~80 barrels) brewery but the demand has been shrinking and he only brews about 17 batches a year now.  He also had a small museum setup that he created from items that he found around the brewery.  This was really cool too, he explained to me the process of wooden casks  (pictured below) from a first-hand experience…anytime I’ve asked questions in America about this practice, little is known, but in Germany they still use actually wooden casks each year at Oktoberfest.

On Sunday I had four meals before 4 p.m. Pancakes for first breakfast. Weisswurst, brezen and Pils for second breakfast (we went to neighboring town that had a motorcycle shop and was having a spring fling to stir up business for the cycling season). We went to my uncle’s in-laws (who live in the same town as he) for bier and braun (we had cakes). Then we had an early supper at 3:30 p.m. that was kartoffel (potato salad) and home rotissare chicken. It was all good, I didn’t eat much for supper, just snacks and more bier of course. I suppose a third of my daily calories might come from bier. I definitely need to start a diet when I get back to the states. Until then I will enjoy the food and beverage while I can.

Beer pairings for regular folks, Part 1

March 1, 2011

This is the first in an occasional series on how “regular folks” can integrate craft beer into their “culinary” endeavors.

Who doesn’t love a chili dog? Don’t answer that; I’ve run up against a handful of snobs that fail to appreciate this most basic of gut fillers. At first glance, the beer-thoughts on a chili dog turn to fizzy yellow beers sold for outrageous prices at baseball stadiums.

I call that a misappropriation of funds. Take that same dog-and-beer cash, sink it into a sixer of a good brown ale and toss a few frankfurters on the grill, top with some canned chili and enjoy. The grill-love will work nicely with the malty nuances of a brown ale, while the hop-kisses will cut through some of the body and fat involved in that bunned vixen.

Pictured is my homebrewed Shamalamadingdong American Brown Ale, but you might also eat your dog with a Brooklyn Brown Ale, Big Sky Moose Drool or Surly Bender.