Berliner Weiss

image01This is a traditional German style of beer associated with the city of Berlin. It was historically brewed to be tart or sour, with a champagne like carbonation, and a very low alcohol content. Its a popular drink for all times of day.  the tartness is often balanced by the addition of sweet flavored syrups which can also add color to the beer. The popular syrups are raspberry and woodruf making for the classic line up of traffic light colors. We’ll be adding them in smaller amounts to provide a subtle flavor change rather than obvious color changes in the picture.
We brewed our version of this beer using malted barley and malted wheat in roughly equial amounts, and at the end of the mash stand we chose to sprinkle a couple of bags of acidulated malt onto the top of the grain bed. This immediately increased the acidity of the wort as we collected it, and kept the sparge water pH low to avoid extracting harsh tannins from the grain. After we collected 15 barrels of wort we boiled it without adding hops for 10 minutes. The pH was around 4.55 at that point, which is a little sour. We then cooled the wort down to 110 F and added our microbes. We chose Lactobacillus Delbrueckii  to do the work of souring the wort. We made sure to put a layer of carbon dioxide on top of the wort to exclude air. This particular organism is anaerobic which means it grows when there is no oxygen present. By 4 pm the next day the pH was down to 3.6 which is where we wanted it so we then raised the temperature of the wort to a boil and added some hops. The entire batch only received a pound and a quarter of willamette hops which aren’t even enough to provide a bitterness you can taste. We cooled and fermented the beer as a normal ale. The resulting beer is tart and refreshing, the alcohol level is only 2.87% and the carbonation is high. The beer has a bready doughy character from the barley and the wheat, the acidity is clean but there is also a citrus note, similar to lemon, lime and rhubarb.
We made a version using Elderflower cordial which added sweetness and a lovely floral note. We’ll be experimenting with various other syrups over time.

The Sunshine and Hoppiness Story

BrusselsSprouts004I’d been out of Brewing University a couple of years when I tasted a beer that made a lasting impression on me as a brewer. It was beautiful, golden colored, crystal clear, lovely firm foam on top, and presented in an elegant chalice shaped glass, embossed with the beer name and with a gold rim around the top. It had a rich bready malt character, balanced with fine noble hops and a delightful Belgian yeast character. It cost a little more than the average best bitter but it looked to all the world like it was worth the extra. A beer to celebrate with rather than merely quench one’s thirst. You would order it in a cafe in Paris or Brussels, with a bowl of steamed mussels, or steak frites and feel like you were living like a king. The beer was Stella Artois and as you can tell it made a lasting impression. Fast forward to today and the beer itself is still around, it is still presented as a luxury beer with fine glassware and elegant faucets. The beer however has changed, and now sits alongside less impressive brands with a homogenous, uninteresting flavor profiles.
When I thought about what I wanted the beer here at Drop In to be I immediately thought about the beer that such an impression on me all those years ago. My beer would share that rich, bready, malty characteIMG_3585r from German pilsner malt. It would be hopped with America’s own noble hop; Cascade from Oregon. Four different times in fact as Cascade provides a superbly clean and pleasant bitterness that fades quickly. Its flavors and aromas are interesting and free of off notes like onion, diesel, garlic and dill. so many of the new popular IPA hops present. I then chose two strains of Belgian yeast as no single strain gave me exactly what I was looking for. Its important that this beer finish dry to enhance drinkability, and encourage you to order a second. Bucking a recent trend in craft beer I filter this beer so that it always looks fantastic in a glass, particularly our very own decorated and branded chalice. the fantastic artwork was created by my cousin Mark Whitehouse, a graphic artist working in London. This is a beer designed to be served in a French Style bistro, But like every world class beer it works on many levels. If you’re thirsty it will satisfy, if you’re out with friends you’ll find it easy to drink. If you’re enjoying a meal it will complement your choice of food.

Lager Brewing

Here at Drop In we make time in the early months of the year to indulge ourselves with some lager brewing. It is possible to divide the entire beer world into either ales or lagers, based on the type of yeast used in their fermentation, although to be strictly accurate there are also beers fermented with other bacteria which should be considered. There are many different types of lager, although the majority of beer produced in the world falls into the pale yellow, carbonated, relatively flavorless, pilsner style category we’re all familiar with. The stuff they advertise during sports events on television. However the old central European styles often had a lot of flavor and were brewed with a great deal of care, and very traditional techniques, often protected with strict laws. Modern craft brewers in the United States have access to the traditional ingredients associated with the old style of brewing, including authentic malts, noble hops and original yeast strains. We’re excited to bring a German yeast strain into the brewery and use it to produce a succession of lager beers. First up is our Bohemian Pilsner, Czech Your Ego,  brewed with floor malted bohemian pilsner malt produced in Germany. We also managed to procure some truly excellent Czech Saaz. The malt provides a superb body and mouthfeel, while the hops produce a wonderfully clean bitterness and a delicate floral finish. We saved the yeast from our pilsner then used it to brew our Oh Vienna Vienna Style lager. This golden reddish amber style closely resembles Marzen or Oktoberfest from Germany and shares story about how they were developed. This beer was brewed with Pilsner malt, Vienna malt, CaraRed malt and CaraMunich malt to give it a full body, a bready malt character, light caramel flavors and a reddish hue. It is hopped using Hallertau Tradition which provides a rich, noble hop character and clean balanced bitterness. Finally we used the yeast one more time to produce our Spring Clean for the May Queen Maibock. A strong, pale lager traditionally brewed in the winter to celebrate the short spring season in Bavaria. We made this with Pilsner malt almost exclusively and used a new hop variety called Hallertau Blanc for its aroma.
Lagers, particularly pale and delicate ones. are very hard to brew well, as even the slightest flaws show up against the lighter background flavors, and the cold aging process can leave some off flavors behind. I’ve had my share of buttery lagers, or lagers that taste like corn in the past. Our friends at Trapp  are the only Vermont brewery that specializes in lager brewing and they are the experts at it. We’re big fans of our friends at Jack’s Abby who also make some interesting artisan lagers that go beyond the historical styles. We’re very excited to be drinking this beer ourselves and are happy to share it with our customers.

Barley Wine

imgresThis is a historical beer style so called because its a beer that approaches the alcohol levels traditionally found in wine. My early mentor John Wilmot was head brewer at Whitbreads when he retired and he would drink a bottle of Gold Label Barley Wine every day. The bottle was small and he was 85 so he didn’t care. This style is notoriously hard to brew as it pushes the limits of both the brewing equipment and the yeast. First there is the question of whether all of the grain you need to make a beer this strong will fit in the mashing vessel. The wort collection takes a very long time to make sure you extract all of the sugars, and you end up leaving behind enough goodness in the grain to brew another beer from it if you wanted to. Generally you add some sugar to the boiling wort to increase the strength even more. The efficiency of utilization of hops is another issue. Normally we recover close to 40% of the potential bittering from the hops we use in a boil, but for barley wine this drops to 18%. The yeast we ferment with is somewhat shocked to find itself immersed in wort so strong. It struggles to adjust and then starts to grow very fast. We have to carefully control the temperature or the beer will end up with a lot of boozy alcohol heat and very fruity flavors. At the end of the day the beer is harder to clarify. We used 1760 lbs of grain in Drop In’s version of this style. Thus we discovered exactly how much grain our mash vessel can safely hold. Its 1759 lbs. We added 100 lb of sugar to the kettle and achieved a starting S.G. of 1.101. We boiled with 33lbs of hops including Chinook, Cascade and Centennial. The target IBUs was 100 and the beer fermented all the way down to 1.010. That means an ABV of 12.0%. We dry hopped the beer with 18lbs of a mixture of Chinook, Centennial and Cascade. Tick, Tick, Tick Boom is a huge strong, explosion of flavor. Big bitterness and lovely hop flavor and aroma.

We’ll be packaging it in keg, selling it out of our tasting room in growlers and and 500ml flip top presentation bottles.

Turbidity

Some thoughts on the issue of turbidity

Two main causes in beer.

  • Yeast left behind in the beer deliberately by the brewer. This is caused by not filtering or fining the beer which is the traditional method by which brewers present a clear product. The residual yeast will settle to the bottom of the container over time. This can cause the entire yeast content of the container to be dispensed in a couple of glasses making for an unpleasant drinking experience for the unlucky customer, and an inconsistent one for everyone else.
  • Haze caused by the complex formed by oxidized tannins and protein in the beer. Again the brewer has traditionally removed this with cold filtration, or treatment with selective adsorbtion agents. Small soluble tannins, or proanthocyanogens, arrive in beer via the malt husk or via hops. A lot of new brewers are looking to push past the boundaries of what have traditionally been acceptable levels of hopping, as a selection of enthusiastic customers has demanded a more challenging beer drinking experience. New varieties of hop with aggressive aromas are being added to beers in amounts never before seen, resulting is beers with a haze that cannot be removed without using exhaustive methods.

Clarification

IMG_1126Brewers can remove yeast and precipitated haze particles using a number of methods. The oldest method was to chill the beer then wait…. a very long time it turns out. Filtration can be used to remove yeast and haze, along with contaminating bacteria that will cause the beer to sour. English brewers make and sell cask conditioned beer, a beer that has undergone a secondary maturation in the barrel from which it is served. This beer is clarified with the use of a fining agent, historically isinglass, which causes the yeast to sediment out more quickly, and since the beer is not served “cold” chill haze is not an issue. There are a number of brewers brewing beers dry hopped with a large charge of aroma hops, and they are able to achieve good clarity. These brewers employ centrifuges, diatomaceous earth filtration, sheet filtration, and fining agents to achieve clarity without sacrificing intense hop aroma and flavor. It’s also fair to say there are others who lack the equipment or ability to present an intensely hoppy beer and to have it clear. Then there are those who feel that delivering an undiluted, overwhelming hop experience is their intent, and who refuse to compromise that experience in return for clarity. They have done a good job in selling the public that clarity is unimportant in a beer, and have been successful in motivating a vocal group of fans to spread that message. Brewers who don’t filter take on the added risk that not filtering beer brings. Such as the risk of souring due to contamination, off flavors from yeast autolysis, and buttery off flavors from dirty draft lines. Provided the beer is sold and consumed very quickly those should not be an issue, so the education process that already turns fans into advocates must also include the message about the imperative of freshness.