Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One brewers Island, One motorcyclists dream.

The conversation was preceded by two rings.

"Dieter here." I quickly thought of what to say to this mildly intimidating German accented voice. "Hi Dieter, it's Ray Dobens from road to fermentation. Uhhhh....I'm not sure if you remember who I am." I rattled off in a coffee induced staccato. "I am inTellico plains and I was wondering if I might be able to come by on Monday or Tuesday to work alongside you in your brewery." "Oh the motorcycling brewer!" he said with enthusiasm. "Yeah, I'm that guy. I am going to spend Saturday and Sunday satisfying myself on these amazing roads and then I would like to work with you. Would that be ok? You were one of the only people who I didn't already know who showed enthusiasm for my project after all. I am pretty excited to see what you are up to. Is it still going to work?" The answer was a succinct "Of course it will. Please come by Monday at 9am and we will make some beer. It's all about the beer, of course. Well...that and every thing else." My only response was "Nice! I can't wait. See you then. Goodbye."

I spent Saturday riding the eastern TN and northwestern NC roads at a spirited pace. I have been here before and the only thing left in my wake was a regret at not having the time to enjoy more of these roads. 

If you ride motorcycles on the east coast and you haven't been here you are missing out. This is the place to be. Between here and West Virginia you could turn yourself into a quivering puddle of dopamine. The roads are ultra kinky and virtually unharmed by large trucks and bad weather. One local responded to my inquiry to why the roads are so nice with this gem. "North Carolina. We spend next to nothing on education and everything else on our roads! I hope you enjoy them." I do. I would pay extra to ride here. I guess I shouldn't say that too loud or the 36 educated people on the TN/NC border will find a way to charge the rest of us to use these roads. Of course, the 40-45 mph speed limit is a little silly for this kind of road - but who follows the speed limit anyway?

The fall colors were probably the best they would be in this part of the country during my visit. I guess that makes me a leaf peeper? After a day of absorbing as much failing chlorophyll as my adrenaline riddled mind could absorb I made my way back to Tellico Plains, TN via the Cherohala. This road was constructed in the mid 1960's to join Tellico Plains, TN and Robbinsville, NC. Year round it is host to an average 20 cars and over 100 motorcyclists a day. The Cherohala is a must for any east coast traveler. Traversing peaks over 5000 feet and offering stunning views of surrounding valleys, the Cherohala offers everything from hiking and camping to mountain bike trails and some great hunting and fishing. And, if you're only here to use the pavement (like me), you will be impressed. If this one road isn't enough for you, even if you're not map or GPS savvy, you can't go wrong on any of the other surrounding roads. This area is truly a motorists dream. Check out  http://www.cherohala.com/ for more info.

Hunt's Lodge -

This place is a motorcycle travelers wet dream, They have 5 cabins with 3 bed's per cabin at a fair rate. They also offer the best rate for those who prefer a tent over a cabin. Their clean showers and bathroom facilities are a welcome relief from the sometimes foul facilities the competition offers. Lori and Jack are genuine motorcycle enthusiasts with a feel for what all riders want, offering the best service for the motorcycling public year after year. Coffee and laundry are available on site, along with many other amenities that make Hunt's Lodge the best option for absolutely any person traveling through this beautiful area. This place is run by good people looking to serve budget minded travelers with comfort in mind. The cabins are impeccable. If you paid a rate like theirs at any hotel you would be assured to walk away with a rash; with Hunt's Lodge you will walk away with a renewed faith in your fellow man. The added bonus for motorcyclists will be a conversation on local routes with Jack and Lori. They are better than any map you can buy.

The BBQ -

Since I did not grow up in the BBQ belt of America I would not be considered the best BBQ judge. I have been eating a ton of BBQ on this trip to polish my skills. I've come to a conclusion. No one really knows what good BBQ is; what is good is what you either grew up with or what is available nearby. As far as I know the best roast pig available to mankind is what my uncles slow roast in an old converted oil tank. Next to that option comes a little place in Somerville, MA that goes by the name of Redbones. Like I said I have tried other things over the course of my trip. I have been trying to disprove some people who say Redbones is not all it's cracked up to be. I'm here to tell you that it is. They hold their own against any other comer in the game. having said that, I would like to give some honorable mention to Krambonz BBQ in Tellico Plains,TN. They do a "loaded baked potato" that could cause worldwide turmoil. If only the world knew about it.

Check this bastard creation -

 I ordered mine to go and carried it safely for about 3 miles between my fat gut and my gas tank. When I arrived at Hunt's Lodge I lost focus and dropped it in the driveway. I was only about 200 yards from my picnic table at this point. I guess that 12 pack of Yuengling in my top case was weighing a little too heavily on my mind. When my loaded baked fell my first reaction was a loud curse, followed by relief that the Styrofoam container didn't break. Unfortunately I did spill the beans. No matter, I ate them from the outside of the container and inside of the bag before opening my potato carrier.

Loaded potato meet soon to be loaded brewer. That potato has about 1 oz of butter, 2.5 oz of shredded cheese, and that mess is covered with scallions,  BBQ pork, and then covered in sauce. The loaded potato is paired with some fresh slaw and, to my limitless dismay, no pickles. No Pickles! At a BBQ place? I give them a hearty middle finger for that misstep. For the flavor of the rest of the dish Krambonz gets two thumbs up. This thing was a mind bender. My suggested beer pairing is Yuengling. Not only is it the perfect beer for every situation, it is the only drinkable beer on sale in this area. Hooray for me. If that's not the food of kings I'm not sure what is.

Next stop is food coma and meat sweats.

After that comes Heinzelmannchen brewery.

........Austin pt. 3

I have to be honest here. I had no idea this brewery existed. Pete mentioned he really liked their beer. Every beer store was out of all available products. "It sells too fast!" was the reason given each time. I knew these guys must be making something exciting. I was determined to find out more. I emailed the brewery in an attempt to gain access for a day. Luck was on my side, Mike (from ABW) contacted me and welcomed me to check out the brewery.

Good luck finding this place without either local knowledge or a gps. It is tough! I got my failing gps to work just well enough to put me in the general brewery area. I then spent 20 minutes circling this industrial park. Finally I pulled over to call and get a clue and there I was. Ok. Lets see what happens at Austin Beerworks.

Show me your cans! -

Austin Beerworks is a can and keg only brewery with no current plan of doing a bottled product. This makes a lot of sense given the recent increased availability of can fillers made for small brewers. It also makes sense as a means to reduce shipping costs. Cans are very light. Cans also mean no labeler to purchase and maintain. If all that weren't enough - cans are damn cool.

When I walked in I was greeted with equal parts enthusiasm and confusion. It seems that Chance (the very tall guy)  thought I was a "Viking" brewer (as opposed to Biking). This made me a little disappointed too. I really missed a chance to travel the country dressed as a viking. Oh well, maybe next time.

This is Will. He is one of the team of 4 owners (the only one I got a good photo of?). He greeted me and urged me to hang out and grab a beer if I liked. Once again I found myself enjoying an early morning beer to ease the pain of an already easy life. I tried a Pearl Snap, a hoppy pilsner, since it is what was being canned at the moment.  It is refreshing and crisp with a little more hop focus than other craft pilsners. It was a nice surprise, and a great 10am beer. As I enjoyed my can I inspected my surroundings. There was the common clutter resulting from the current (beginning April 11 and ongoing) brewery building process. Still, this is one spotless brewery. It is nice to see the early phases of a small brewery while there are fresh traces of the work that brought it to this point. When I mentioned how many long hot hours it must have taken to get the brewery looking so clean I got a great story about a mid summers swim in the cold water tank.

Adam is another one of the owner/brewers. His normal duties are that of head cellarman. A cellarman is the person who watches over the beer in the cellar, from tank cleaning and sanitizing to filtration of conditioned beer. Brewing is not what Adam normally finds himself doing. In fact, this was the first time he had brewed on this particular system. It gave us a chance to talk about how he and the brew setup got here. Most brewers come from other careers after realizing that all other jobs are less fun than brewing beer. Adam comes to brewing from a background in forensic science. He also has a masters in criminal justice.  After working in his field of study for a few years, eventually realizing making beer is better than putting people in jail, he decided to turn his love of beer and mechanical work into a career in brewing. Adam's mechanical abilities came in handy while building Austin Beer Works. The brewhouse they are using came from Maritime Pacific Brewing in Seattle. While the brew house was in the storage lot, waiting to be sold, someone decided to steal most of the process piping. This gave Adam and the gang the chance to get to know their system and construct process piping from scratch. While working on their mash tun they noticed that it only had one outlet at the bottom. During the build of the brewery they added 3 more outlets to aid in a more even runoff. This adaptation allows them to achieve 85% brewhouse efficiency. After I mentioned how tough it is to find Austin Beerworks cans around town Adam said "We were expecting to make and sell only about 400Bbl this year, due to our quick popularity we might do just over 1000Bbl now." After trying each of their beers it is not hard to see why they are so popular. After talking for awhile longer I left Adam to his brewing and cellar work. I walked to the packaging area, something that comes naturally to me.

What we have here is a two head can filler. When operated by Chance, Colin and Tom it can pump out a whopping 8 cans per minute. The cans are purged, filled, and then lidded. This is a slow process, one which is done 4 to 5 days a week at ABW.  I joined the guys for my remaining 3 or 4 hours of time. We spent a fair amount of time examining why I wasn't a viking, and just how disappointing that was for everyone. We also did the normal dirty brewer talk with many fantastic "show me your - and give it to me in the - can references." I am sure this makes sense to everyone?

My time at ABW could have been far more informative for me (and you) had I asked more questions. Instead, I opted to hang out with the packaging guys in an effort to gain understanding of what it takes to can beer all day. I have never used a can filler; I was intrigued by the operation of this relatively simple machine. The first step is taking two cans from the pallet of cans. Then the first man in line lifts the cans to meet the fill tubes. The fill tubes purge the can with co2 with a timer based system. The cans are then filled from the bottom up with beer. Following filling a lid is dropped on the can. That lid is then crimped on by what can be described as a can opener without the slicer. Once the cans are filled they are placed in a water bath. The water bath rinses the exterior of the can; if the can floats at too high a level in the water it is a short fill and is culled from the group.

The good cans are linked together using the re-useable type 6 pack holders. ABW is trying to implement a system to get the consumer to return these to the brewery. The cans are placed in a tray and stacked on a pallet.

The next step comes when you buy this beer and are struck dumb with wonder and ask "How is this beer so good?"
I think the answer in that lies partially in the diverse backgrounds of the 4 person team that started the brewery.  The rest comes from a brewery wide love of beer and a desire to be the best at what they are doing.

When I was about ready to leave I tried a fresh Fire Eagle IPA. As I sipped my can I noticed this awesome propaganda art near the loading dock. Damn right Screeeeeeeee! With and IPA of this caliber ABW are sure to be very successful.

"What the shit is a Fire Eagle?" you ask. Better not to wonder. Fire Eagles are known to be telepathic and will find and incinerate whoever thinks of them. Luckily for us the brewers at Austin Beerworks take risks. They gathered mental energy and bravely dreamed of a mature Fire Eagle, and act which will summon the bird to the home of the dreamer. The team, dressed in fireproof dreamsuits, then captured and sedated the specimen. After distilling this rare creatures essence to its basest elements they released him and set forth on a taste research mission. After months of hard work they came to the conclusion that Fire Eagles are dangerously delicious! One of the research panel is currently in flavor rehab due to a severe addiction to taste. A few months after releasing the Fire Eagle the bird returned and demanded to be shown some respect as payment for the injustices it was made to suffer. This led the brewers of Austin Beerworks to create a beer that would pay homage to the Fire Eagle for generations to come. This IPA is bold and in your face. The hops come close to setting your tongue aflame just as the malt swoops in to save the day. This IPA is one that I would be willing to ride back to Austin for. Austin Beerworks  make a claim they are brewers hell bent on excellence. I would have to say that they are demonstrating that quite effectively. 

Best of luck  to Austin Beerworks. Thanks for a great day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

May your road be long and free of Cars.

Today the sport of Motorcycling lost a rising star and ambassador to a fatal crash.

At 24 years old Marco Simoncelli was just approaching the end of what should have been the first third of his life yet he already had achieved something most die hard motorcycle enthusiasts spend a lifetime only dreaming of - a 250 GP title. Today, as Marco was working towards the goal of eventually winning a world title in the premier MotoGP class, he met an early end. I will remember Marco as a particularly inspiring fellow rider. His smile and lighthearted, self deprecating statements to the press after repeatedly testing, and finding, the limit of his bikes abilities was a powerful statement to fans that he was having a good time; that he would not have his spirit dampened by something so trivial as a slide across the gravel trap. Marco had the heart of a champion and would have surely made the next step if given more time. At this brave athletes passing the entire motorcycling community has lost a friend and the world has lost positive energy. Goodbye Marco. Thank you for all of the smiles.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Many Wonders of Austin Pt. 2

What a great city Austin is! I mean, are you kidding me? This place exists on a plane that no place should be allowed to exist on. Every single person is chilled out and there are tacos for breakfast. Throw in the added bonus of a constant supply of terrific local beers and a vibrant music scene and you have a winner. If you need more than that I suggest you kill yourself, because you will never, ever be happy.

On my ride across the desolate, and beautiful, wastes of west Texas I though about what Austin really means to me. I came up with no answer of consequence. At the time it was just a compulsory stop in a string of places that I have always wanted to see. I have always believed that if one travels through the US that they would be stupid to skip Austin. This is a belief that has no concrete logical basis. Austin holds no meaning to me; even after visiting, the history and culture remain a relative mystery to me. If you ask me 25 years from now why Austin holds a special place in my heart I will look to the horizon, drift off into a thousand yard stare, and forget to answer your question. It is just neat for the sake of being neat and that is enough for me.

shaved ice - you're going to need it in this heat.
My host in Austin was a man named Pete. Pete is a kind person from another place who found himself here after college and has been here for over 15 years. If you look around town you will see this "I'm from somewhere else" as a recurring theme. Maybe the reason I like Austin so much springs from my distaste of hearing "I was born and raised here" uttered as a point of pride. People who come from elsewhere are what this country is built on; I challenge you to examine the best cities in the America, chances are they are loaded with people from somewhere else. From the food to the attitude, people from outside are the thing that make us who we are. As an added bonus outsiders have recently caused the development of thumbs in the people of Tennessee (adapted or stolen from Bill Hicks - RIP). So, next time you find yourself slipping into the tired anti-immigration rant, do a 180 and thank them instead. They are the only thing that will save you from a life of eating hamburger helper and eventually relying on family members as breeding partners.

I called Pete from right next to that shaved ice box. I was directed across town to the building that houses The Yellow Bike project. Check it out. Make a donation. When I arrived what I saw was enlightening. A room full of new and veteran cycling enthusiasts working to make sure no frame goes to waste. The yellow bike project is a non profit organization that helps you learn to build or fix your own bike. They provide the tools and support - you provide the desire and willingness to learn. The idea is to remove cars from the city and make bikes the default rather than the exception. As someone who burns gas in order to gain smiles I hope they let me keep my motorcycle.

I'm sure they will. I hung around the bike shop for awhile examining the culture. The crowd of industrious bike enthusiasts made me want to start a motorcycle shop with the same goals. After seeing this place it seems so feasible. Eventually I mentioned to Pete that I was in need of a good meal. I had far too little food today, and far too much coffee. I was shot. East Side Pies had the solution. I ordered a Bacon (the great enhancement), mushroom, gorganzola, and spinach pizza. It is drastically overpriced but terrific. Pizza is supposed to be poor people food; $21 is not poor people pricing. I wish that the rest of the country (i.e. not the east coast) would figure out that making an outstanding pizza does not mean you can over charge. I can't say enough how great this pizza was. I guess that's the point.

Next step - Eat Pizza and drink beers. Pete and I hung out for quite a few hours on the porch of his tower. That's right, he has a tower! I failed to take pictures of this overt display of prowess; I guess I was too taken by the audacity of a man with the courage to finally build himself a tower so that he may watch over his people.

 I pee on my bike as often as I am able. This is an animal demonstration of power over an object. It makes a concrete statement. It means "I control you and mark you as my own". i feel like it might keep wildlife from approaching my bike. I park my bike next to my tent to dissuade wildlife from coming too near. It doesn't work I guess. This cat is rubbing against the spot that is most urinated upon. Maybe it smells a fundamental defect in the works? On Tuesday I dedicated myself to contacting breweries and doing maintenance on my bike. After my shock replacement my gas mileage improved but I knew, after 10,000 miles my air filter must be coated in muck. The air filter is located under the fuel tank.
nasty air filter!

This necessitates a complete removal of the front plastics of my bike. It is not a very difficult process if you don't panic. It is quite peaceful actually. I had some breakfast tacos and did some laundry while completing this job. I also sent off some emails and made some phone calls. I basically did everything but pay close attention. This is something that will always result in slipshod motorcycle maintenance work. You must maintain a strict focus on your work if you want to do something right. I have always been told this in one way or another. I continue to disobey the suggestions passed down to me, thinking I might be able to do it my own way. I hold out hope that this approach might eventually work. It didn't this time though. In an effort to keep the insidious Austin dust out of my air intake while my cleaned and re-oiled air filter was out I packed rags in the air intakes. I then took a jaunt over to Barton Springs with Pete. Barton Springs is a natural pool within the city limits. It is a definitive, must see spot on any visit to Austin. The pool is fed by a spring which keeps the water at about 68 degrees year round. This spot, in addition to being a top optional place for female bathers, is also the habitat of an endangered salamander species. I declined to swim due to recently developed aversion to slimy, weed filled swimming areas. Instead I chose to read a book on the shores of the pool while Pete did some swimming. When we returned to Pete's tower I decided to finish my bike work. I forgot about the rags in my air intakes as I put the bike back together. This caused some trouble the next day, but no damage. Good for me.

The night before, over beers, Pete alerted me to the fact that he had a nightly raccoon visitor. I was pretty excited to see if he showed up with a stranger in town. He did. Tuesday night I actually had my camera to capture the adolescent raccoon. He showed up around 10pm as we were having a conversation about whatever it was we discussed. I was at the ready with my camera. I probably took an excessive amount of pictures given the situation. This raccoon is socialized for better or worse. He lives in a city, making him very familiar with people. He continually walked up to our feet for a sniff. It made for some neat pictures.

Some strange faces, a foot sniff/gnawing. Additional shoe inspection elicits terror and a rapid retreat.
I am well aware of the dangers to myself, and the animal of contact like this. We at no time initiated the contact. We also did not make an attempt to threaten this animal. This is a raccoon living in an urban environment. While it is a wild animal, it is also conditioned to understand that humans are here. I am comfortable with the level of interaction we had throughout this experience. Any contact that happened was at the animals leisure. Every attempt was made to dissuade him without harming him (abrupt movements etc...). If this is offensive to anyone I am sorry.

After the raccoon lost interest in us and wandered off to his next stop for the night Pete and I talked and drank for a few hours. After a couple of hours it was time to sleep in preparation for the day to come. A day where I would realize that my motorcycle maintenance skills could use some work.

The next couple days in Austin offered a dizzying array of BBQ, tacos, and beers. As Pete showed me his city I found out that I love Austin. It is a world class city. There will be a Formula 1 race there next year (and hopefully for years to come). There will also be a MotoGP race there in 2013. There will always be music in Austin as long as Humans inhabit it. If you have money to travel I suggest Austin. It will be a rewarding experience for someone with the proper mind set. Don't feed the wildlife.

The Many Wonders of Austin, TX pt.1

Independence Brewing co. is doing good things. When Amy and Rob Cartwright started this brewery 7 years ago there had been many brew pub closures and no new additions to the Austin brewery scene in a decade. Of course all of the brew pub closures made getting funding from banks pretty tough. During a year of failing to acquire a loan they had been networking heavily and managed to find investors instead. Even with investors Independence opened on a shoestring budget; this tight budget meant Rob would be responsible for building most of the brewery. Since employees are expensive to keep Rob and Amy did all of the bottling and keg filling on their own for the first 2 years. Texas gives brewers producing up to 70,000 barrels self distribution rights, Independence took advantage of this from the start . Self distribution is both a blessing and a curse. Rob and Amy can deal directly with their customers. However, being a small company with no budget to hire sales staff, Amy used all of her "free" time selling and  distributing Independence beers. At one point Amy noted "The first 10 - 20 accounts are really exciting! Then you all of a sudden have 100 and there are some serious challenges in serving them all adequately. The extra accounts make the balancing act between draft and bottle sales even tougher." To relieve the pressure of having to deal with the challenge of sales Independence added a sales staff in the last year.

On Distribution -

After having some early success with Central Market Stores, and finding that there was a strong sales opportunity for Independence beer in Dallas and Fort Worth, Independence began a short lived agreement with a distribution company. When this deal went sour due to the distributor not keeping their end of the bargain Independence made a decision to end the agreement. This left them in a situation where they had to entirely pull out of the new outside markets for at least 90 days (90 days turned into an indefinite withdrawal). They made the best of this turn of events and decided to focus extra hard on serving Austin and the 7 surrounding counties. They now use Brown Distribution to help them cover this area. This local focus, and very solid beers, have helped create rapid growth; Independence has doubled output from 2500 to 5000 Bbl this year alone. This growth, along with the ability to continually make new beers is a source of pride for Rob and Amy.  Growth comes with it's own set of challenges - there is an unfortunate precedent among some beer drinkers to assume that if a beer is easy to find, even if it hasn't changed at all, that it is made by sell outs or a huge brewery.

All about the Beer -

Independence is not a trend chasing brewery. Their focus is aimed toward crafting solid sessionable beers that can be enjoyed by a large cross section beer lovers. This is an excellent business model which is practiced by most breweries. You must sell beer in order to continue to make beer. This model allows for plenty of adventurous brewing. After all, brewers don't want to make, and drink, the same beer all of the time. This year Independence added a specialty line of beers named "brewluminati". This series of beers, released at a current rate of about one per month, will be focused on the most unique beers the brewers can think up. This line of one off beers is sure to impress the fringes of craft beer society. To keep up to date on availability both year round and seasonally check the Independence website. I highly recommend the Stash IPA, which is available year-round. This IPA offers up a complex hop character that builds and intensifies with each sip. The finish is refreshingly palette cleansing, almost to the point of being deceptive. I found myself sucked into an existential crisis as my mind and tongue struggled to agree on what they were processing. The only way to bridge the gap is to take another sip. I think that is the mark of a classic IPA. Cheers to the Independence brewers for making such a cool beer.

Working at Independence -

The brewery was pretty hard for me to find. My GPS is being a real pain in the ass. I guess after 3.5 years of hard use it's finally time for it to be replaced. This recently developing GPS problem has left me relying more on my pitiful navigational skills (which were great before GPS!). I finally found the brewery around 9:30am. When I called the day before Amy said she was sure the brewers would be happy to have an experienced volunteer for once. I strolled in, hoping that was the case.

The keg cleaning set up.
I was greeted by Rob and quickly made an attempt to blend in. After a brief awkward period of standing in the way, I met a brewer named David. David poured me a nice 8 am pint of Stash IPA. After discussing the beers attributes I mentioned that I was an experienced brewer. David then introduced me to Gonzalo. Gonzalo was in a position where he had to filter beer, wash kegs, and then fill those kegs. He was very busy. Upon meeting me and being alerted to my intent Gonzalo said he would love to show me the ropes of keg washing, a task which a machine has always done for me. After a 10 minute tutorial I was happily in a groove washing kegs and generally enjoying life. The first thing that struck me about Independence was the constant supply of good music on the stereo. This should come as no surprise, Austin is a very musical cit. Gonzalo and I talked about his musical aspirations and bands he is in. We also discovered that we share a taste for punk rock. This made for a nice afternoon of listening and working. The only snag came in the middle of the day when I smashed my leg on a pallet and had a few agonizing minutes contemplating why I am unable to walk after so many years of practice. The crew at Independence works well as a unit and was very pleasant to share time with.

Washing kegs is pretty simple. They need to be rinsed with hot water, then the kegs need to have a caustic solution circulated through them for 10 minutes or so. Following the cleaning they are hot rinsed again and then sanitized and filled with co2. While I worked on this keg cleaning Gonzalo took care of filtration and other tasks. Eventually David asked if I would help him rake spent mash from the mash tun. Of course I would! After the shoveling I returned to keg cleaning. It was a blast to actually work for a day. Being useful is a good feeling. Of course I wish I could have done more, but I feel like the day was a great success. Cleaning kegs gave me time to be free from thought.

This zen like state led me to consider something. How it is that I have come this far in the trip and not given even a passage to the explanation of the brewing process?
I have assumed only people I know are reading this blog. As most of the people i know are brewers I decided not to explain brewing. That was a poor decision and I have undecided it.

Let's see you create something! -

The first step in making beer is acquiring a crippling desire to spend, but never make, money. The second step is coming to the realizing that you are now a slave to yeast. The yeast must be served a sugar rich solution (wort) which is free of contamination and full of oxygen. So, you ask, why not just feed this yeast some aerated sugar water and be done with it? That wouldn't be beer - that's why.


Beer is the successful, controlled combination of 4 ingredients - Water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The process of wort production is the first step in batch production. Wort is created when crushed malted barley and hot (not boiling) water are combined. This step is called "mashing". The mash step serves to break complex sugars down into simpler sugars. These simple sugars are more easily consumed by the yeast cells. The mash is also the point at which the color of your beer is determined. There are many colors and flavors of malt. Pale malt, with it's high diastatic (or fermentable sugar creation) power, will normally be the base for a beer. To add color to your beer you will use additional malts. These additional malts range in color from light straw colored all the way to black. If you desire an amber to reddish beer you could use some crystal, caramel, or a tiny amount of roasted malt. If you want a dark beer you will need to use dark malt. Get the picture? OK. This mash will sit for 45 minutes as enzymes work at breaking down the complex sugar chains, a process called conversion. Once conversion is complete the mash is heated up to 170 degrees. This heating reduces the viscosity of the wort surrounding the malt, it also halts conversion. We will now separate the wort from the grain.

Lautering -

Lautering is the process used to separate clear wort from the mash bed. This process is actually 3 wrapped into one. The first is mash out, or heating and transferring your mash to your lauter tun. The lauter tun has a screened false bottom. The second step is a recirculation period in which the wort is repeatedly filtered through the mash bed, with it's torturous path of barley husks. This recirculation also sets, or slightly compresses, the mash bed so that the wort running into your kettle will remain clear. That brings us to step three - sparging. Sparging is the process of dousing your recirculated mash bed with 170 degree water in an effort to push the sweet wort through the mash into the kettle. You see, during the mashing process the water that was originally added became super saturated with sugars - making it more dense. The water, if added gently enough (see picture), will simply float on the surface of the more dense wort and force it through the mash and eventually the bottom of the lauter tun. This leaves the spent grain behind; the wort is now in the Kettle.

The Kettle -

The kettle is where the wort will be boiled to sterilize it. The kettle is also where the brewer will add hops. Hops, often referred to as the spice in beer, are a flowering plant in the cannabis family (but lacking psychotropic effects).  Without hops beer would be far less pleasant to drink. At the base of each hop leaf there lies a gland containing bitter oils. This is called a lupulin gland. The resins in the bitter oil of the hops also act as a natural preservative in the beer. You may add as many or as few hops as you like. Or you could add virtually none and rely on a marketing team to sell people the idea that you do, something I would love to see a home brewer try. In our imaginary beer we will add hops twice. The first addition will be at the beginning of the boil. This addition will leave behind only bitterness. The aromatic oils in the hop are volatile and will boil off after ten minutes. The second hop addition will be made with 5 minutes remaining in the boil. This addition serves to add hop aroma that will compliment the bitterness left by the first addition.

The Chilling -

If I douse you in boiling liquids you will die. You're very much like yeast in that respect. In an effort to help your yeast live you will need to chill your wort.  The aim is to chill the wort as rapidly as possible so that it may be aerated and mixed with yeast. This will give the yeast the optimum grounds in which to reproduce and create alcohol. The faster you chill your wort the less chance there is for bacterial contaminates to spoil the game for the yeast. This will make your beer better. Buy (or make) a chiller. Use it. Keep it clean and sanitized.

Aeration - You're beer will be no good if you don't aerate your wort after chilling. Don't skip this step. Aeration is the introduction of oxygen into your chilled wort. Yeast needs oxygen to begin it's life cycle.

Yeast -

Consider how many species of dog there are in the world today. Now replace the word dog with the word yeast and double the number you thought of. That will give you an idea of how many varieties of yeast are available to brewers. There are both Lager and Ale yeasts. Lager yeast functions best at 45 - 55 degrees, it is also slower to finish it's consumption of sugars. Ale yeast acts best at 70 degrees and can fully ferment beer in as little as 5 days. The yeast you choose will have a large impact on the beer you end up with. If you brew the same beer identically over ten instances with yeast being the only variable, you will have ten different beers. Regardless of the yeast you choose it is good to know that the yeast is a single celled organism that eats sugar, reproduces rapidly, and produces alcohol and Co2. You can choose your yeast with the utmost care but if you are not clean and sanitary in your brewing practices you should know that there are wild yeasts out there that will spoil your beer. Care must be taken to ensure that this does not happen.

Fermentation - Fermentation in brewing is the process of converting sugars into alcohol using yeast. There is a lot more to fermentation; since this is an overview, and I have no chemistry background, I will not attempt to demystify if for you. Once fermentation is over (again, this depends on which yeast you use) it is time to filter and package.

Filtration -

Filtration is the clarification of beer by the removal of yeast and protein. Filtration is optional in brewing.

Packaging -

Keg, can, or bottle? You need a place to put your beer after fermentation. This choice is yours. just make sure to follow sanitary procedures during this step to ensure your packaged beer is not harmed during this step.

Now Drink!

I would like to thank Independence brewing co. for an awesome time.