Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Hops

With the explosion of craft breweries in the past few years the hop market has become very tight. Unless you are contracting your hops a few years out you may be out of luck. This is especially true of some of the ‘hot’ hops such as Amarillo, Citra, and Sorachi Ace. Seeing the writing on the wall early last year, we contracted for hops I’ve wanted to play with. These include Nelson Sauvin, Amarillo, Sorachi Ace, and Galaxy. We made our first batch of Saison using Nelson Sauvin hops two weeks ago. This is an extremely pale Saison fermented with 10% Muscat grape must. This should be out in April.

Of course, necessity is the mother of invention. Not having access to some popular hops in the short term forces you to dig deeper into the hop varieties to find the hidden gems. We will be making some single hop beers in the next year to test out some newer varieties that look very promising. These include Australian Summer and New Zealand Moteuka. There are a few new German varieties I have yet to see available including Mandarina Bavaria, Hallertau Blanc, and Hüll Melon. I was able to smell the Hüll Melon at the Craft Brewers Conference and it has a distinct cantaloupe aroma. I may be able to get a small amount to try, stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Barrel Cellar Tour

I’ve gotten many questions lately about what we have going on in our barrels and how we prepare our barrels before use, so I figured I would give a rundown of the projects we have in the works and our procedures. I have to thank Peter Bouckaert, Lauren Salazar, and Eric Salazar of New Belgium for all their help and info they provided. A lot of procedures, information, and even some of our barrels came from them.

Over the past year or so we have grown our barrel collection quite a bit with the barrels falling into two general categories. The first are wine and spirit barrels that are for post-fermentation aging. The second are the sour program barrels that are inoculated with various organisms including brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. As the wine and spirit barrels become more neutral they move to the sour program.

The wine and spirit barrels are used for infusing the beer with the aromas and flavors of what was previously in them along with the characteristics of the type and toast of the wood. These barrels are purchased through a broker when they are freshly emptied and given a quick hot water rinse before filling. Currently, we have four Rum barrels and one Cognac barrel aging Deceit and a number of Bourbon barrels aging Dark Prophet (which is currently being released). We aren’t sure at this point what will go into these Bourbon barrels after the Dark Prophet release but I’m leaning toward a Quadrupel.

Of the sour program barrels, most are aging a Belgian Oud Bruin that is coming along quite nicely. Some of the Oud Bruin is in red wine barrels inoculated by us in primary fermentation before transfer. The rest came from New Belgium and are Bourbon barrels that were used in their sour program. We also have some Leopold Bros Peach Whiskey barrels that were used by New Belgium and inoculated with brettanomyces and lactobacillus but still had quite a bit of character from the Peach Whiskey. In these we are aging Tropic King and they may get a dose of peaches at some point in the future.

Before we use barrels in the sour program we partially disassembled the barrels to remove the char or wine stone from the inner surface so the souring organisms have good contact with the wood. This involves loosening the hoops to pull the heads and scraping the staves and heads. At that point they are reassembled, the hoops are tightened, and then filled with hot water to swell before being emptied.

As far as releases from the barrels, there are no timelines set and quantities will be quite limited so don’t expect to see them go much further than our taproom.

Recently we did a beer dinner organized by Be Local and were paired up with Brent Lewis, Executive Chef at El Monte Grille and Lounge in Fort Collins, to come up with a pairing for one of the courses. We chose Brent’s Ancho Pumpkin Bisque to pair with Tropic King. We both felt the creaminess and subtle spice of the Bisque complemented the fruity effervescence of the beer. Thank you Brent for sharing your recipe!

Ancho Pumpkin Bisque:
2 cups heavy Cream
½ gallon Milk
1 C Roasted pumpkins
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla
1 ea Ancho chili roasted
½ fl oz Mexican Crema

Cut pumpkins in ½ and scrape the seeds out, place upside-down on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and roast until soft (about 1 hour and 10 min) in a 350 degree oven.  Let the pumpkins cool so that they can be handled but still warm, scrape the “meat” out and discard the skin. Toast the Ancho chilis on the stove top  then place in a heave bottomed pot with the cream and milk, bring to a boil then add everything else, Bring back to a boil then blend everything together.

To serve:
Place in a cup or bowl, “lace” crema over soup and finish with a shake of dried and ground Ancho chili.

Yield: 2 Qts

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gordon and Carolee’s Visit to De Dolle Brouwers

Another highlight from our trip to Belgium was our stop at De Dolle Brouwers. I’ve been a fan of Kris Herteleer’s beer since I first started homebrewing and although this was my second time visiting, it was my first time touring their brewhouse. The tours are given by Kriis’ ninety year old mother who is sharp as a tack.

The building had been a brewery for 150 years when Kris started De Dolle Brouwers in the 1980s with his brother. The brewery is as traditional as it gets with a copper coolship and fermentation squares. The only stainless steel in the brewery is the wort chiller only because the original one had a leak and could not be repaired.

During the tour we met some other Americans and it wasn’t until later that I found out it was the crew from Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont. After the main tour Kris showed all of us the barrel cellar where we got a chance to sample some barrels. We also got to see the modern bottling line that had just packaged the most recent batch of Stille Nacht. Kris pulled some yet-to-be-carbonated bottles and some older vintages of Stille Nacht for us to sample and compare.

This is my version of Carbonade Flamande. It’s kind of an amalgamation of various recipes I’ve tried over the years. Traditionally, this beef stew contains just beef but feel free to add vegetables such as carrots and potatoes if you wish. This would pair nicely with De Dolles Brouwers’ Oerbier.

Carbonade Flamande
3lb. beef chuck cut into cubes and floured
500ml dark Belgian ale (Belgian Dubbel works great)
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tbs. peanut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 C. chicken stock
2 Tbs. tomato paste
4 oz. pitted prunes, chopped
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. brown sugar
½ C. applesauce
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme

Marinade beef in beer overnight in the refrigerator. Strain beef reserving marinade. Place marinade in slow cooker. Pat beef dry and flour. Fry bacon in a large skillet. When done, strain from fat and place in slow cooker. Add peanut oil to skillet. Add beef and fry until browned. Remove meat from skillet and place in slow cooker. Add onions and garlic to skillet (add more peanut oil if needed) and sweat until translucent. Add to slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients to slow cooker. Heat on high for an hour then turn to low and cook for 3 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.