Mid Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2015 : Page 1

By Alexander D. Mitchell IV With the Crust. Oliver Breweries Head brewer Steve Jones mixes down the hard-ened “crust” atop a Ringwood-fermenting batch of the brewery’s Winter Wolves, seven days into fermentation, at the Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore, Md. PHOTO BY ALEX PHOTO BY: ALEXANDER D. MITCHELL IV By Greg Kitsock ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM INSIDE and 35% (mostly unmalted) wheat. Ten barrels n ambitious experiment in brewing is taking place were piped into the coolship. “It came in in our nation’s capital, steaming like crazy,” recalled Engert, pointing in a large, flat, steel tray to the spatter marks on the ceiling. Over the next 24 hours, the temperature dropped from on the second floor of over 200 degrees to 45, as cool night air the brewery/restaurant Bluejacket. wafted in through the open windows, carrying The vessel is called a wild yeasts and other microflora. Thus inoculated, the brew was then siphoned into “coolship,” and its large surface area permits rapid cooling of the wort after it leaves the four 60-gallon French oak barrels where it will brewkettle. It also allows for maximum See Spontaneous p. 3 exposure of the wort to the atmosphere. That’s important for Allagash brewmaster Belgium’s lambic Jason Perkins checks brewers, who the temperature of the count on airborne wort in the coolship. microorganisms to spark a spontaneous fermentation in their beer. That’s the plan at Bluejacket. On Nov. 20, beer director Greg Engert and his crew brewed their first lambic-like beer, using a traditional recipe of 65% pale and pils malt PHOTO COURTESY OF ALLAGASH BREWING CO. ingwood. Mention the word to craft beer aficionados, and you’ll get some strong reactions. Nostalgia for the early days of microbrewing in the 1980s and 1990s. Or revulsion at the “butter bombs” the yeast is said to produce. "Ringwood definitely has a reputation," says Steve Jones, brewer for the Pratt Street Ale House and Oliver Breweries in Baltimore, "and there's definitely a ‘love it or hate it' vibe around it.” Jones and Pratt Street’s owners are among the Ringwood yeast’s passionate defenders. So loyal are they that when the company began building a new brewery in the northeast part of town, they ordered 20-bbl open fermenters, in addition to more typical closed vessels, to make this unique yeast feel at home. The Ringwood strain is actually a blend of several top-fermenting yeasts that traces its origins back to the 1880s in the Hull, East Yorkshire area. It was prized for its high rates of attenuation (that is, it attacks sugars aggressively, fermenting them quickly and completely). Its fruity esters and aromas are now firmly established as "classic English ale" stereotypes in America. The hearty fermentation produces a layer of protein-crust-topped foam several inches thick, which helps to protect the beer from alien microorganisms. The speed of fermentation, allowing for rapid turnover of batches, appeals to space-constrained brewpubs. Each new batch is easily pitched with live yeast from the previous batch in the manner of sourdough yeast starters. See Ringwood p. 4 Fairy Hopmother .......................... 7 Homebrew ...................................12 Strength Matters ........................13 Maps ...................................... 14-17 Book Review................................23 Event Calendar ............................29 State by State News Virginia .............8 W. Virginia ......11 D.C. ..................18 Baltimore ........19 Maryland ........20 E. Penn ............22 C. Penn ............24 Philadelphia ...26 New Jersey .....28 Delaware ........30

Be Spontaneous!

Greg Kitsock

An ambitious experiment in brewing is taking place in our nation’s capital, in a large, flat, steel tray on the second floor of the brewery/restaurant Bluejacket.

The vessel is called a “coolship,” and its large surface area permits rapid cooling of the wort after it leaves the brewkettle. It also allows for maximum exposure of the wort to the atmosphere. That’s important for Belgium’s lambic brewers, who count on airborne microorganisms to spark a spontaneous fermentation in their beer.

That’s the plan at Bluejacket. On Nov. 20, beer director Greg Engert and his crew brewed their first lambic-like beer, using a traditional recipe of 65% pale and pils malt and 35% (mostly unmalted) wheat. Ten barrels were piped into the coolship. “It came in steaming like crazy,” recalled Engert, pointing to the spatter marks on the ceiling. Over the next 24 hours, the temperature dropped from over 200 degrees to 45, as cool night air wafted in through the open windows, carrying wild yeasts and other microflora. Thus inoculated, the brew was then siphoned into four 60-gallon French oak barrels where it will Undergo a lengthy fermentation lasting at least six months and possibly as long as 2-3 years.

First, naturally occurring Saccharomyces will turn sugar into alcohol. Early tastings revealed a lot of banana notes, like a hefeweizen, reports Engert.

Next, a host of microbes, from Pediococcus bacteria to Brettanomyces, will ferment the beer to bone dryness, adding the earthy, gamey overtones that lambic drinkers look for. As of early January, brewer Josh Chapman remarked that the brew was “pretty farmhousey so far. There’s a tinge of acidity, even though a lot of sugar is left.”

When you leave so much to Mother Nature, results can vary from barrel to barrel. The only way to achieve a consistent house character is to blend the contents of different casks. Engert plans to do 3-4 lambic-style brews this year and over the next couple years envisions “hundreds of barrels, the sky’s the limit.” That will entail finding an offsite facility for storage and blending.

“Once we get a lambic base we like, we’ll be doing a lot of different things,” he promises. That includes a gueuze (a blend of young and old lambics) and a wide selection of fruited lambics.

Brewing in the Coolshack

Beach Brewing Co. In Virginia Beach, Va. Also began experimenting with spontaneous fermentation in November. “It’s not something you can hop out of bed one morning and do,” cautions head brewer/president Justin MacDonald. Six months ahead of first brew, MacDonald built an addition to his brewery that he calls the “coolshack.” It’s not simply to quarantine the wild yeasts and bacteria so they won’t infect his other beers. The idea is to allow ambient microorganisms to permeate the walls, creating a house culture that will inoculate successive batches of beer.

MacDonald used hops that he’d been aging in burlap sacks for almost three years. Aged hops lose their bitterness and aroma, but retain their preservative and antibacterial properties – not all microorganisms are welcome in the coolship! Old hops have a cheesy aroma, but a vigorous boil can dispel this.

If either Bluejacket or Beach Brewing runs into problems, they can seek advice from Jason Perkins, brewmaster for Allagash Brewing Co. In Portland, Me. Allagash has been brewing spontaneously fermented beers since 2007. The brewery has even sent its beers to the biannual Night of Great Thirst, a lambic beer festival held every two years in Eizeringen, Belgium.

Resurgam (the name comes from the motto of Portland, meaning “I shall arise again”) is a blend of old and young beers, with a complex flavor full of “leathery, tropical fruit and horse blanket notes,” according to Perkins. Red consists of the same base beer aged on locally grown raspberries for six months. Perkins substitutes Maine cherries to make Cerise.

All three are available in 375-ml bottles only at the brewery. Perkins notes that there is a very narrow window of opportunity for brewing these beers. The summer months are unsuitable because of the wild proliferation of airborne microbes, some of which could lend unpleasant off-flavors. Traditionally, Belgian lambic producers only brew from October through April.

However, Maine has much colder winters than Belgium. Perkins has found that if the mercury dips much below 25 degrees, the cold effectively sterilizes the air and “we get poor results.” That effectively limits his brewing to late October to mid-December.

A final question: what do you call these beers? Purists would argue that the term “lambic” should be limited to beers brewed in the Payottenland, a region west of Brussels. “I would never go so far as to call them ‘lambics,’” says MacDonald of his efforts. “Our beers are not lesser than lambics but different from lambics.”

Both he and Perkins use the term “coolship beer,” honoring the antique vessels that have been pressed back into service to make one of the most radical beer styles.

Postscript: On Jan. 20, Bluejacket diverted a second batch of beer into the coolship, and Engert and Chapman conducted a sampling of the first batch that was now bubbling away in used wine barrels. “It’s in its acid phase,” remarked Engert of the pale, hazy brew, “but lactic, not acetic, with some cool tannins coming through.” There was also a hint of Brett, some funky farmhouse notes in the nose.

“I’m happy with the way it’s going,” commented Engert. “We could have pulled it out and found sweet sugar wort—no fermentation at all.”

Read the full article at http://mabnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Be+Spontaneous%21/1926616/245583/article.html.

Ringwood

Alexander D. Mitchell IV

Ringwood. Mention the word to craft beer aficionados, and you’ll get some strong reactions. Nostalgia for the early days of microbrewing in the 1980s and 1990s. Or revulsion at the “butter bombs” the yeast is said to produce.

"Ringwood definitely has a reputation," says Steve Jones, brewer for the Pratt Street Ale House and Oliver Breweries in Baltimore, "and there's definitely a ‘love it or hate it' vibe around it.”

Jones and Pratt Street’s owners are among the Ringwood yeast’s passionate defenders. So loyal are they that when the company began building a new brewery in the northeast part of town, they ordered 20-bbl open fermenters, in addition to more typical closed vessels, to make this unique yeast feel at home.

The Ringwood strain is actually a blend of several top-fermenting yeasts that traces its origins back to the 1880s in the Hull, East Yorkshire area. It was prized for its high rates of attenuation (that is, it attacks sugars aggressively, fermenting them quickly and completely). Its fruity esters and aromas are now firmly established as "classic English ale" stereotypes in America.

The hearty fermentation produces a layer of protein-crust-topped foam several inches thick, which helps to protect the beer from alien microorganisms. The speed of fermentation, allowing for rapid turnover of batches, appeals to space-constrained brewpubs. Each new batch is easily pitched with live yeast from the previous batch in the manner of sourdough yeast starters

Alan Pugsley has been the Ringwood yeast’s Johnny Appleseed in North America. Pugsley learned brewing under Peter Austin, who founded the Ringwood Brewing Co. In Hampshire, England in 1978. Austin and his company marketed complete seven-barrel brewing systems— complete with his house yeast and distinctive brick-supported copper kettles—to pioneering American microbrewers in the 1980s.

Pugsley came to the U. S. in 1986 to help set up D.L. Geary Brewing Co. In Portland, ME. Over the next decade, he would install more than 70 such systems in the United States, including the now-defunct Wild Goose Brewing Co. In Cambridge, Md., one of the earliest mid-Atlantic craft breweries.

In 1992, Pugsley and Fred Forsley started Federal Jack’s Restaurant & Brew Pub in Portland, which evolved into Shipyard Brewing Co., still the home base of Ringwood yeast cultures in North America today.

One drawback of the Ringwood yeast is that it produces varying amounts of diacetyl, a chemical that in excessive amounts can leave notes of toffee, nuts, butterscotch or even buttered popcorn. This, combined with improper handling by inexperienced brewers, has led many beer snobs to disparage Ringwood beers as onedimensional and "all the same."

Maybe half of those Peter Austin systems are still around today. Survivors include AleWerks Brewing Co. In Williamsburg, Va., the Market Cross Pub in Carlisle, Pa. And The Ship Inn in Milford, NJ. A short hop along Interstate 95 in Delaware and Maryland, you’ll find three other Peter Austin breweries in close proximity to one another: Pratt Street, Red Brick Station in White Marsh, Md. Just north of Baltimore, and Stewart’s Brewing Co. In Bear, Del.

Ric Hoffman, long-time brewer at Stewart's, still works with a 1995 Austin system. He maintains, "Varying the usual parameters of temperature, oxygen rates, pitching rates, et al. Can give a nice variety of flavor in the final beer. This can vary from very English, with an earthy fruitiness and light diacetyl, to surprisingly clean and neutral if handled well.

“Fermentation times are almost always short, allowing for amazingly fast production times, sometimes as little as nine days. It is also a wonderful thing to actually be able to see your yeast at work.”

Lea Rumbolo, brewer at The Ship Inn, says, "The first rule in the brewery is 'respect the yeast.' Give it the environment it requires, keep it cozy in the appropriate temperature range, and you will have a great beer."

Jones has brewed everything from light summer ales to barleywines on the soon-tobe- retired system in the Pratt Street Ale House’s basement. “I certainly have no desire to change our house Ringwood strain."

Mike McDonald has been brewing at Red Brick Station since it opened in late 1997; he says this was the last new Peter Austin system to be built. McDonald argues, "Those who say they don't like it, don't know it!” He adds, “One could argue that any yeast, when used improperly, will produce crappy beer."

But knowing the yeast doesn't always translate to unbridled loyalty. McDonald has no plans to install open fermenters or use Ringwood yeast at his currently-abuilding Key Brewing Co. In Sparrows Point. Md.

Read the full article at http://mabnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Ringwood/1926618/245583/article.html.

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