Thursday, May 28, 2015

NHC 2015 - San Diego: Acid Beer Seminar + Brett Strain Tasting

We are now just 2 weeks away from National Homebrewers Conference (NHC) in San Diego. This will actually be my first conference (unfortunate timing the past years). I will be speaking this year at the conference as well. Knowing that this event is large enough that we get a lot of  homebrewers travelling to attend, I wanted to make sure I try to meet as many of you as possible that (actually are still following) share the passion of brewing sour/wild/Brett beers. Please reach out in the comments or while you are at the conference (name tags help with this).

 With that being said, I've put together my schedule for the show that is geared toward sour and wild brewing.

Wednesday, June 10 Thursday, June 11 Friday, June 12 Saturday, June 13
9:00 AM       Mastering the Art of Hop-Fu!
9:15 AM      
9:30 AM      
9:45 AM      
10:00 AM        
10:15 AM     Intro to Professional Brewing QA Taking Funky Beers from Homebrew to Pro
10:30 AM    
10:45 AM    
11:00 AM    
11:15 AM        
11:30 AM        
11:45 AM        
12:00 PM Kearny Mesa Brew Bus      
12:15 PM      
12:30 PM      
12:45 PM Practical Blending and Post Fermentation Adjustments for the Homebrewer Brewing with Coffee: Approaches & Techniques from Dry-Beaning to Home Roasting Hops: Grow and Enjoy Your Own
1:00 PM
1:15 PM
1:30 PM
1:45 PM      
2:00 PM Wild and Spontaneous Fermentation at Home Panel: Taking Homebrewing to the Pro Level, From Concept and Design Through Opening Berliner and Beyond: Sour Mashing and Its Applications
2:15 PM
2:30 PM
2:45 PM
3:00 PM      
3:15 PM   How to Brew, Blend and Maintain an Acid Beer  
3:30 PM    
3:45 PM    
4:00 PM    
4:15 PM      
4:30 PM Keynote    
4:45 PM Tasting Panel for the Eureka Brewing Great Brett Experiment  
5:00 PM  
5:15 PM    
5:30 PM      
5:45 PM      
6:00 PM     Banquet & Award Ceremony
6:15 PM    
6:30 PM    
6:45 PM      
7:00 PM   Welcome Reception & Toast featuring BA member breweries  
7:15 PM    
7:30 PM   Club Night featuring AHA member clubs
7:45 PM  
8:00 PM  
8:15 PM  
8:30 PM  
8:45 PM  
9:00 PM  
9:15 PM  
9:30 PM  
9:45 PM  
10:00 PM  
10:15 PM  
10:30 PM   Social Club
10:45 PM  
11:00 PM    
11:15 PM    
11:30 PM      
11:45 PM      
12:00 AM      

My seminar is going to be at 3:15 on Friday afternoon in the Pacific Salon. I'm quite happy with how this presentation is coming together. The focus is on practical tips to produce beer with a strong lactic acid character along with a house Brett flavor. I think there is some good original content and the process has been working well for us at  Council Brewing. We will also be serving 2 Council Brewing beers during the talk - 1. Our acid beer - which has never been poured 2. Our house Saison - Farmers Gold

I know there is already a lot going on at the conference, but I would really like to organize a time to get together and taste through the 20 Eureka Brewing Brett strains. It's been over a year since they were all tasted and over 1.5 yr since they were brewed. I figured maybe some of the other participants would be attending and we could find an area to taste through these beers. I put a tentative time on the schedule above. Please leave a comment or email me (Jeffrey.E.Crane at gmail) if you are interested. (no conference ticket needed)

During the Welcome Reception, I'll be pouring some of our Beatitude Tart Saison at the Council Brewing booth. And my plan for club night is to have some bottles of homebrew available at the QUAFF booth and likely walking around with a few. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 2: Cost

This second part in the series attempts to compare the cost for different oak aging alternatives as well as providing some resources that can be used by the homebrewer and pro brewer. I want to clarify that this is only covering cost. As a person that cares about the product they produce, cost is always evaluated separately from quality. This was more put together as a good reference to know general price points for the different alternative oak aging options.

 Cost matters (size doesn't, well not totally true wait till part 4 of the series). The table below was created based on recommendations from the manufacturer as to how much of their product is needed to be equivalent to a "new barrel". "New Barrel" refers to how much oak flavor you will get if your wine (or beer) was placed in a freshly toasted ~60 gal oak barrel. This quantity is likely too much for almost every beer style and is geared toward oak forward wine styles. The typical amounts to use in different beers styles will be discussed in Part 4: Extraction and Use.

Oak Cubes Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $/lb* $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med + 24 oz $20.00 $30.00 MoreWine
Hungarian Oak Med + 24 oz $25.00 $37.50 MoreWine
French Oak Med + 24 oz $33.00 $49.50 MoreWine
Amer. Oak med + 24 oz $6.50 $9.75 Oak Chips, Inc **
Fren. Oak med + 24 oz $8.50 $12.75 Oak Chips, Inc **
Oak Spirals Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med +  6 pack-1.5"x 9" $50.00 $50.00 The Barrel Mill
French Oak Med +  6 pack-1.5"x 9" $79.00 $79.00 The Barrel Mill
Oak Chips Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $/lb $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med + 24 oz $6.00 $9.00 MoreWine
French Oak Med + 24 oz $9.00 $13.50 MoreWine
Honeycombs Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
Multiple Wood Types Barrel Pack $55.00 $55.00 Black Swan Cooperage
Staves Segments Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
French Oak Med + 96 oz $20.00 $120.00 MoreWine
Staves Qty for "New Barrel" Flavor Cost $ $/"New Barrel" Vendor
American Oak Med +  Barrel Replica $99.00 $99.00 MoreWine
French Oak Med + Barrel Replica $124.00 $124.00 MoreWine
*Shipping not included
** Pricing may vary, must request

As I transitioned over the last year into the commercial brewing side one of my main duties was to source the equipment and supplies for our barrel program at Council Brewing. I soon realized that it was not quite as user friendly as ordering homebrew supplies. I first started looking for used wine and spirit barrels by checking the wine business used barrel classifieds. This was a good start and I still use it, but it is mostly geared toward medium to large producers. (If possible, the ideal situation is to find a local wine or spirit producer to partner with). However, several of the barrel brokers would post as well. I decided to compile their company names and list what they generally offer. This should at least help people get started and find a few contacts.

If you have any questions or any reference information for me to add please leave a comment.

Barrel Program Resources
Barrel Brokers
Company Website Racks Spirit Barrels Wine Barrels
Country Connection     X           X
Quality Wine Barrels     X           X            X
Barrels Unlimited, Inc           X            X
The Barrel Broker     X           X           X
Griffin Barrel bourbonbarrel at           X
Rocky Mountain Cooperage           X           X
Kelvin Cooperage           X
Barrel Builders           X
5 Star Barrels           X
Alasco Rubber & Plastics Corp. Dalco Duall Complete Bungs
Oak Alternatives
Oak Chips, Inc. (OCI) Oak Cubes, Segments, Chips, Staves
Barrel Mill Oak Barrels, Spirals
Oak Infusion Spiral Oak Spirals
Black Swan Cooperage Multiple Wood Honeycombs, Barrel

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 1: Background

I really enjoy oak aged and oak fermented beers. It might have something to do with my first real craft beer being a Firestone DBA. For the styles I enjoy the most (Farmhouse and sour styles), I find as an almost absolute rule that the beer is always better with some oak added. Oak adds a lot more than just flavor to beers and often adds what Brett and bacteria take away. With a caveat that you should use the proper amount and match the flavors correctly. I think of oak flavors as Belgian brewers often refer to spice additions, "The use of spices should enhance flavor notes already present, but if you can tell which spice has been used then you have added too much."

For our barrel program at Council Brewing, I wanted to decide how I was going to integrate oak into our batches. We are using almost exclusively neutral barrels, at least oak neutral, most of them still have some wine or spirit flavor remaining. This brought me to the point where I need to look at oak alternatives. I thought it would be a good idea to compile some of the work I've done lately for Council Brewing to really firm up some of my ideas on oak aging. As far as flavor, I've always had some good general ideas on what type of oak would work well in beers (i.e. med + or heavy toast American oak in clean, dark malt-forward beers and med or med + French oak in lighter, clean or funky yeast-forward beers), but I'll be writing in much more detail about specific flavors and profiles I think they match. For cost, ease of use and extraction rate, I've always used oak cubes, but have recently been exploring other options. It seemed the best idea to split this topic into 4 segments and explore each aspect in its own depth.

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 1: Background

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 2: Cost

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 3: Flavors

Exploring Oak Aging Alternatives Part 4: Extraction and Use

There is surprisingly little (useful) information available on the web (way too much generic wine speak). I have gathered together a few resources that are well put together and should give you a good basic understanding.

All About Oak and Red Wine - Written by Shea Comfort
Thee best overview on the basic components in oak and how they vary due to species (French, Hungarian and American), toast level (light, med, med +, heavy) and form (chips, cubes, segments, staves).

Firestone Walker Barrelworks Educational Posters
Covers most of  the same things as the Shea Comfort article, but is more graphic based and easier to understand based on your learning style. Even worthy of printing and hanging in your brew space.
Stage 1: The Oak
Stage 2: The Barrel
Stage 3: The Taste

It's good to be back writing again and the next part in this series should be posted in the coming weeks.
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