Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blog Moved

Better late than never, it's probably time to tell you that my blog moved to our website, more than 18 months ago!

Hope to see you there.


Monday, January 17, 2011

UnderWired: How low can you go?

Yesterday we brewed what I will bluntly classify as one of the most radical NZ beers of 2010 (a title I am pretty sure will stand until Yeastie Boys release their "Rex Attitude" in a couple of months).

So what is this radical beer? A barrel aged quadrupel imperial IPA, weighing in at an IBU of 200 and abv so high you can't even measure it? No, it is quite the opposite actually. It is a 2% abv, anti-imperial ordinary IPA (I made that up, I don't even know where to begin describing the style of this beer).

The reason I think this is so radical is that I don't think it has been done to this extend in NZ before: A flavour packed, low alcohol beer, a mini IPA if you would. The most radical part is that I used 66% crystal malt, where "normal" brewing advise is to use no more than 10-20%. This should bring flavour without a lot of fermentable sugars, which in turn will give a lot of body and less alcohol. Likewise, the before mentioned "Rex Attitude" will use 100% Peated Distilling Malt, where "normal" brewing advise would be to use no more than 5%. Now that is radical brewing!

I brewed a test batch before Christmas and it turned out pretty decent. So decent that I almost finished the 20 litre keg in one weekend while working in the garden. There were a few tweaks to be made but all in all it was promising. Normally I would have brewed another test batch before going commercial but I figured I had to get this out to the public while the weather is still scorching, so I just went ahead and brewed it.

For the brewers and other geeky readers some stats are:

Original Gravity: 1.029 (about half the size of ReWired)
Finishing Gravity: Time will tell but I am hoping for 1.014 which will give 2% abv
IBU: 20 (about half of ReWired)
Hopping rate: About 9 g/L (a bit more than ReWired and about half of HopWired)
Hops: NZ Pacifica and US Athanum. I may dryhop with a bit more Pacifica and some Centennial.

The challenge I put to myself was to brew a beer under 2.5% abv (which is the excise threshold for low alcohol beer) and pack in enough flavour for it to be considered an 8 Wired beer. It should hit the taps in a few weeks and then you can see for yourself if we succeded the challenge. So far it will only be available on tap.

Oh, the name of the beer is UnderWired. This was coined by local Marlborough beer guru Geoff Griggs about a year ago, when he suggested we made a low alcohol beer of that name. I'm pretty sure he was kidding at the time, but here it is. Cheers Geoff!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Working Title: Cosmic Chaos

Last week I told you how we received 9 oak barrels and filled 2 of them with The Big Smoke, just as a trial. Next week the real fun begins:

We're brewing a huge (huge!) imperial stout. this will ferment in the stainless steel tanks over Christmas and when we get back from the holidays I will rack it into the barrels to mature for a few months.
I'm expecting it to finish off at 12-13% abv which may make it the biggest stout ever brewed in the southern hemisphere? Prove me wrong please;-) I'm not making it that strong for people to get hammered quickly (trust me, no one will be able to binge this), I'm doing it to achieve maximum flavour. That being said, I could probably keep it at 10% and still have all the flavour, but since I've never worked with wooden barrels before, I think it is wise to give the beer as much defence against any microbes that may be living in the wood. Alcohol is, of course, poisonous to yeast and bacteria.

Recipe wise this is by far the most complicated beer I've ever made:

7 different malts from 5 different countries (NZ, UK, Germany, Belgium and Australia)
3 Different hops (NZ and USA)
Jaggery (a Delicious raw sugar from India)
Fair Trade coffee (grown in South East Asia and roasted by local Marlborough roasters, CPR)
2 different yeasts (Wyeast 1272 and 1968. And possibly a third if they can't finish the job)
And of course the big unknown, the barrels.

We have received all the ingredients, except for the Jaggery which has only just been released from MAF quarantine, hopefully it will be here by Wednesday.

To be honest the recipe looks quite chaotic but as we would say in Danish "there is reason behind the madness" and I'm confident it will all come together in harmony. Therefore the working title for this beer is "Cosmic Chaos". But if that name sticks around to the bottle, it would be a first. Usually we go through a few different names during the process before we settle on one for the labels. Another noteworthy fact is that this will be our 18th batch. We were always planning on doing something special for batch number 8, but this came around so fast and we had to brew an ordinary HopWired to satisfy demand. Back then we said to each other, "We'll do something special for batch 18 instead". I think it's safe to say that, if nothing else, this will be special!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Barrels. We've got barrels!

Earlier this week we received 9 american oak barrels from fellow craftbrewer Luke Nicholas of Epic Brewing Co. It is hard for me to conceal my enthusiasm, although non-beer people around me doesn't seem to understand. So let me try:
Wooden barrels are hard to work with when it comes to beer. Unlike stainless steel (which everything in the brewery is usually made of) they can't be completely sterilized, microbes will always find somewhere to hide in the porous wood. In other words, it makes brewing harder, because much more work goes into cleaning and maintaining the barrels which is why most breweries don't bother.
But of course, I am not excited because of the extra work involved but because of the opportunities the barrels provide. Barrel aging brings complexity to the beer. Tannins, vanilla flavours, micro oxidation, depth! Bourbon for example, is basically a tasteless, white spirit that has been aged in american oak barrels. Virtually all the flavour is contributed by the oak. Weather you like bourbon or not, you can imagine what the barrels can do to an already excellent beer.
Epic used the barrels for 2 batches of beer, an IPA and a Stout. Upon first examination, they don't seem to have much beer character in them. The smell is very oaky, very bourbony. I think they have a lot of life left in them and I will make sure to put them to good use. In fact, I already have: This morning I filled two of them with The Big Smoke which I will leave in there for a month or two. I've never worked with barrels before so I don't really know how long to mature the beer. Time will tell.
After that I'm planning a big imperial stout. Bigger than lasts years iStout (which by the way will return to the shelves in May). After primary fermentation in the stainless fermenters I will rack it into the barrels and leave sit until it's ready to bottle. I'm guessing 2 or 3 months should do.
I think this may be the beginning of a glorious adventure into the world of wood!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Long time no see

It has been far too long since the last blog. I apologize but life has been quite hectic: We have been finishing up a big export order for both 8 Wired and Renaissance, destined for the Shelton Brothers in the US. We also shipped 2 pallets to Better Beer Imports in Melbourne and one to Denmark where fellow contract brewer Mikkeller will distrubute to my native people.

On top of all that work, Monique gave birth to our gorgeous baby girl, Mia Sarina Eriksen, on the 23rd of September. She's behaving pretty good but obviously still consumes a lot of time. Great fun and really exciting being a parent. She's so tiny and I can't figure out how she can make noises that loud!:)

Since the last blog we also scooped a bronze, silver, gold and best in class trophy at the BrewNZ awards in August. I don't mean to neglect the awesomeness of this achievement but there's not much else more to say about it. We haven't received our judges notes yet but I am eager to see why iStout and ReWired didn't win anything.
After being a judge for the first time myself this year I realize that ReWired was probably in the wrong category. Although I call it a brown ale, it is probably too big for the style and might fit better in the porter category. Beer judging is a lot more complex than one might think and really quite fascinating.

Of other news, last week we brewed a batch of a beer I have been dreaming about for months, a beer with big malt, big hops and big drinkability. It has the malt backbone of a big amber/red ale, almost scothch ale like, and the hoppiness of an IPA. Consequently I call it an "India Red Ale" and the name is Tall Poppy. This time we are also swaying away from one of our original mantras about brewing solely with NZ hops. I just couldn't find a NZ combo that would work in this beer, without making it a red HopWired or a bigger version of Red Dwarf. So in the end I went with American Warrior, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus, and I'm really happy about the choice. The first batch will be released in kegs only and hopefully before christmas we will have labels for the second batch which will become the fourth member of our permanent range, along with ReWired, HopWired and Big smoke.

Finally, I think I told you last time that I was getting a pilot brewery from Liberty Brewing. I've been playing a lot with this and at the moment I'm doing a series of belgian inspired beers. If I'm happy with the results we might make these on a large scale in the new year. Starting with a smallish quaffer for the tap market and following up with a tripel and a quadrupel in bottles.

Until next time, and I hope it wont be this long again,


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Return of HopWired

The new batch of HopWired is out. Bottles and limited amount of kegs have been available for a few days from our distributor, BeerNZ. It'll be interesting to get some feedback on this one as it is a bit different than last year. The recipe is excactly the same but the hops are from the 2010 harvest. Hops are like any other crop (grapes would be the most obvious example), there is an element of vintage variation. In most beers this variation is hardly noticable because the hops play a secondary role as a flavour component and is mainly used for bitterness. HopWired on the other hand, is all about the hops and the vintage variation will shine through with nothing to hide behind. But you may find that there is not much difference from last year. The difference could be so small that unless you have an intimate knowledge of the hops and the beer, you may not notice the change unless you tasted it side by side with last years. I think there is a difference but hopefully I know the beer better than most... Any feedback is most welcome.

Anyways, all his talk about HopWired reminds me of a poem we received a few months ago from Tony Garstang (Masterton) and Peter Crosland (Wellington):

An Ode to HopWired:

T'was a time in New Zealand,
When good beers were few,
Then a Dane stepped ashore,
And he dreamt of a brew.

With a brew to be made,
He hopped and he wired.
It was bursting with the flavour,
The Dane was afired.

He focused on flavour,
He focused on hops,
The ale was pale,
And the taste it was tops.

The pundits they claimed,
It was lime on the nose,
And besotted old soaks
Did break into prose.

With ales on board,
They raved and they gushed,
Keyboards sang praise,
Till they made the Dane blush.
So let's raise an honoured glass To a beer you just cannot pass.
To the roaming Dane all hail
Accolations to this great pale ale.

I think it's safe to say that Tony and Peter like the beer and they have since written even more poetry that politely commented on the non-availability of their favorite beer. Lads, now it's back and a dozen is headed your way in return for your poetic praise. Thank you very much, you make me blush.

On a sidenote, Beervana is now less than 3 weeks away. It'll be a blast so get your tickets now. It will also be the only chance to try our festive brew, The big Hangi. This is a remix of our Big Smoke porter, but instead of Beechwood smoked malt we used maunka smoked kumara. It is very smokey and quite tasty if I may say so myself. The observant reader will notice there is no mention of the other festive brew, Feijoafied. This one didn't make the cut, the Feijoa was just too sour and the flavour didn't really mingle all that well with the HopWired base. Oh well, you win some and you loose some. Fruit beers have never really been my cuppa tea anyways.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Festive Brews

For this blog, I had planned to explain the brewing process so everybody would have a chance to understand what I talk about when I use words like “mashing “, “lautering” and so forth. However, I realised that there are plenty of descriptions like this out there on the internet. Who am I to think I can explain it better than the world’s biggest know-it-all, Wikipedia:

If you are interested you can read the article or just refer back to it if I use terms you are not familiar with. I am also more than happy to answer any questions people might have, so don't be shy.

So, instead of spending time on that I will tell you a bit about our festive brews for this years BrewNZ awards.
First of all, BrewNZ is the biggest beer competition in New Zealand. It attracts hundreds of entries from all over the world. In my view it is the most prestigious competition in the Southern Hemisphere. The 10 days of competition and celebration culminates with Beervana, THE beer event of the year. It is organised by The Brewers Guild of New Zealand, which I am currently an executive member of.
Apart from all the standard categories (Pilsner, pale ale, stout, porter etc) every year there is a themed ‘festive brew’ category. This category is a great excuse for the brewers to make something wacky, using ingredients they normally wouldn’t. This year the theme is ‘Let’s go native!’. Every entry in this category must have a significant native/unique ingredient. Anything that was in NZ before mankind is considered native. Unique NZ ingredients are things like Kumara, Kiwi fruit and Feijoa that although imported by mankind, is pretty unique to NZ.
For the past 2 weeks I have been working on 2 beers to go in this category. That is not to say that they will both go in the competition, I will only enter them if they turn out good.

The first beer is Festivus 2010 – The Big Hāngi
As the alert reader may have noticed this sounds awfully similar to The Big Smoke and that is no coincidence. The recipe is exactly the same the only difference is that instead of beechwood smoked malt from Germany, I used manuka smoked kumara, cooked in our back yard. Ideally I would have dug a hole in the ground and made a real Hāngi, but running short of time (and the ground being rather stiff this time of year) I borrowed a ‘Keg- Hāngi’ from Brian at Renaissance. Using this I smoked the living daylights out of 9 kg of purple kumara for 3 hours. Then I mashed them up (this smoked kumara mash was out of this world!) and added them to the mash (the barley mash, if confused, refer to Wikipedia above:-) and brewed the beer as usual.
The beer is still fermenting, but judging by the samples I have taken, it is really smokey. Much more so than Big Smoke and the manuka is quite different from the beechwood.

The second beer is Festivus 2010 - Feijoafied
This one has been a bit easier to brew, coming up with a name was harder... It’s simply HopWired, taken out of a commercial sized batch, refermented with 20 liters of Feijoa juice. Tasting it out of fermentation it is, shall we say, interesting... It’s kinda funky but that will probably clear out after fermentation. It’s also quite sour from the Feijoas and this kinda clashes with the bitterness of the beer. My idea was that the Feijoa will add another fruity dimension to an already very fruity beer and that seems to be working. The sourness should also add to the perception of fruitiness. Hopefully a bit of age will make it more integrated and smooth out the edges, but I don’t have much experience in fruit beers so it is hard to say...

I have only made 50 liters of each of these beers. That is just one keg. A couple of liters will go to the judges and the rest will be served for the public at Beervana. If they are good that is, no matter how festive, we wont dish out bad beer...

See you all at Beervana!