Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Could Go Wrong?

It's Wednesday morning, and the piece of paper taped to the wall above my desk says "Note to Publican - Clean Lines". So that's what I'm doing. A good day for it, though, as we are putting on some new beers and trying to squeeze in cask 7 of Tanninbomb, which is reaching five months of age. The scheduling at the pumps can be non-trivial at times. I had hoped to have three new and interesting casks on for today, Wednesday, but had a busy weekend and had to shuffle in another cask of Union Dew that got drained rapidly and unexpectedly.

"Because We Can", the 2010 KLCC Microbrew Festival Collabrewation Beer, had some issues. I wrote about it in the early stages, but there had been some worry lines on the brewer's forehead and a slight quickening of blood pressure for a few days in the process. In short, it got "stuck" in the fermenter. The yeast was from a quart jar of the Belgian WY3522 Ardennes that was harvested from Oakshire, and hindsight now strongly suggests that I underpitched. It took a week to go from 1.068 to 1.053, and then it just sat there, despondent and uncaring. My solution was to mix up a quick starter of Nottingham and give it a pitch. Two days later it was happily humming along. At 1.015 I shut it down and then casked it up a few days later. A very difficult yeast to handle, and hard to interpret as for when to stop the fermentation. The skin remained a solid brown crust, unlike the dry English strains that break up into foamy islands. Someday, as I begin to use more strains of yeast, I should post here a study of krausen. How geeky is that?

Last night I completed the venting and tapping. It remained a bit on the lively side for a day, and I had to keep checking it every couple of hours. The first draw from the tap was declared delicious. So was the second. And so forth... And so on... I do believe that the Nottingham dried it out a bit, as I had heard that the Ardennes can (if one is not careful) produce overly malty beers. The estery Belgian quality is still there, though, in the nose as well as the palette. I had hoped that more of the Sterling and Ahtanum hops would come out from the dry hopping, but we'll see what happens as it continues to mature.

The lines are just about clean now. All six pumps will be pouring, in anticipation of a festival weekend and hopefully a steady influx of skiers and other outdoor types, eager to tuck into a unique lineup of cask and keg beers. We'll be pouring:

  • Something Light - Session Bitter - ABV 4.1%

  • Baba O'Rye'ly - D'Rye Hopped Rye Special Bitter - ABV 5.2%

  • Union Dew - I.P.A. - ABV 6.1%

  • Because We Can - Belgian Cascadian Dark - ABV 6.8%

  • Reporter (Block 15) - Brown Porter - ABV 5.5%

  • Frost on the Bumpkin - 7-Grain Winter Stout - ABV 6.6%

Tanninbomb is ready to go on when the Reporter goes off (it's close), but can be gravity dispensed if you are desperate.

Tomorrow I load up the aging, decrepit JEEP for the festival, where the weirdo Belgian Cascadian tipple can be compared with 10 other local breweries. See you at the pub. And the festival.

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Historical Moment

Or is that "A" Historical Moment? There appears to be a hole in my grammar knowledge.

I had reported earlier that Block 15 in Corvallis has installed a beer engine and the related bits and pieces down in the cellar and has started producing real cask ale. I had delivered four of our casks up there a few weeks ago, and yesterday was my chance to retrieve some of those casks filled with Block 15 ale. Three of the four came back with me, one of which was ready for stillage.

The cask of Reporter went on stillage in the afternoon. And in the evening my frontside was bathed in the eruption produced by the introduction of the spile into the shive. This little problem was mitigated by an overnight venting, and all was well by noon today.

I'm excited, for the first time that I know of in the history of modern brewing in Oregon, that a successful cask swap has been completed, and the Brewers Union beer engine array now has a guest cask, drawn as shown by the capable hands of Ben the Extraordinary Barkeep. I'm not much of a brown ale fan, but this batch is tasty, with suggestions that someone has thrown some smoked malt into the bargain. I hope Block 15 doesn't mind me designing a pump clip for their beer. See you at the pub.