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Welcome To The Machine
I will begin with what is going on at the new cannery (check out the videos I took that are posted below).
In early March, I had the floor drains cut in the existing slab. After that, the concrete guys came in to put down the new slab. I continue to be amazed at how well everything is proceeding. Both of those crews were fantastic to work with, and they did a bang up job. After the floor cured, I got a beautiful layer of epoxy put down. Unlike in my current brewery, where the floor is slowly eroding, this floor will be impervious to just about everything. Just last week, we got a new coat of paint on the walls, and I got the walk-in cooler put together with the help of Jeff and Joel. The divider between the brewhouse and the self-guided tour area is built and sheet-rocked. Next week we tackle the plumbing, and hopefully the tanks will come in right on schedule mid-May. Barring any unforeseen roadblocks, we are on schedule to brew our first batches the last few days of May.
We’ve been fielding all kinds of questions about our new project, mostly about “why cans?” I answered that question logically in the last blog, in this one I’ll give my emotional reasons. For one thing, the first beer I ever drank was from a can. When I was 8 years old, one of my sisters opened a can of Genny Cream Ale for me and one of my brothers. It was a very hot summer day, and even though it tasted terrible to me, I loved the sound of the can opening. Throughout my early years, I stashed many a can of beer in my pocket before I went out to the movies with my friends. I grew up in Pittsburgh , where there is a strong blue collar mentality and lifestyle. Countless cans of Iron City poured down my throat at Pirates games. I have fond memories of these days when beer was just that, beer. There weren’t legions of beer ‘experts’ pouring their beers into glasses to be admired or picked apart. There were a bunch of people that liked to drain beers with their friends.
I want to do my part to bring some of that old-school mentality to the craft beer world. I want to be able to sit out in the yard on a hot summer day, and not end up with a glass of bug-filled skunk water. Basically I am doing it for myself. I want to be able to lay on my couch, with a can of Heady Topper in a coozie on my big, fat belly. And I want to be able to shotgun a Heady Topper. These are all dreams of mine, and soon they will all come true.
And now, on to what is happening at the pub.
The Heady Topper has kicked and I don’t know if it will be back before it is out in cans. Its next appearance might coincide with its debut. I played around with the malt bill a lot over the last three batches. For the most part, the drinkers knew nothing of these changes, but it was very interesting. I started these experiments because of the 2010/2011 barley crop coming out of England .
Last summers weather created problems with these barleys, mostly with haze forming properties. You may have noticed the increased haze in most of my beers. This problem becomes magnified when you brew a strong and highly hopped beer. There were three test batches. One of the batches was made with Maris Otter malt. I liked it well enough, but it lacked the crispness of the Pearl malt I usually use. The next batch was made with Great Western Pale Malt. This one I hated. It had hints of the “sweet” malt flavor that I find so prominent in a lot of interpretations of this style. The third batch was brewed with my usual base malt, Pearl , but I added an enzyme to the mash which breaks up beta-glucan. This beer had the best flavor, but the enzyme had no effect on the level of haze in the finished beer.
All of this playing around answered a very big question for me in this whole canning thing. What am I going to do about the level of haze in the Heady Topper when I put it in cans? Nothing. I will not change the flavor of one of my favorite beers just to conform to some idea that a beer should be clear. You put two IPA’s down in front of me, one is hazy, and one is crystal clear. I would instinctually go for the hazy beer. I have personally witnessed GREAT beers go to hell as soon as they started to filter their beer. It changes it so much, that I would rather people get some chunky sediment in their beer, than force them to drink a lifeless shadow of what it once was; a great beer.. The beer will be hazier than I would like until we get this summers crop, in late fall. So be it. I just fell in love with the British malt under all those American hops a long time ago.
I just put on a new batch of Focal Banger this past weekend. I’ve done to it what I have done to other beers like Broken Spoke; I’ve switched things up a bit. This time, instead of being a 7.2% IPA, I brewed it to be a 6.3% Pale Ale. I knocked the alcohol and the bitterness down, but kept the late hopping pretty much the same.
I did a similar thing with this years’ batch of Hellbrook. It will be released on the 22nd. I’ve changed it from a double red to an American Red. This batch is brewed entirely with German Pilsner malt, and it comes in at 7% instead of 8%. As usual, it is dry-hopped with Summit and Magnum. Crisp and bitter with a definite spicy hop character. I will be getting Whonky on tap in the next two weeks some time. The next two seasonals will be Shut The Hell Up! And Celia Saison.
I don’t know if I have ever discussed my decision to not brew a beer for 11/11/11.
I had decided that it was just getting too strong for a beer at our pub. Then I decided that was ridiculous. It will not be aged for 11 months, but it has already been brewed. I made it two weeks ago and it is going to be something else. An Imperial Stout. A portion of it will be aged for the summer in an oak barrel. All will be reunited in a serving tank for a release on November 11th, 2011. It will be called “Luscious”, and it will be exactly that. I might even fill 100 bottles of it and sell it at the pub…we’ll see.
I guess that is all I have to say for now. The next blog might not be until right before opening. Stay tuned.
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