Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Berliner Weiss Recipe

It's been a busy day in the backyard test lab. Woke up this morning with a serious itch to brew some beer. Mashed in a really hoppy Imperial IPA around 7:00 AM. This thing is loaded with hops and clocks in at a theoretical 240 IBUs! Should be tasty.

The early start meant we were done brewing by 12:30... but what to do with all that extra time in the day. Brew another beer of course. I hopped on my bike and picked up some grains at Brew and Grow. Now it's time to brew some Berliner Weiss. This is an interesting recipe envolving some microorganisms other than yeastto achieve a nice refreshing tartness. There are several ways to achieve the sourness in this type of beer, but we are taking it old school with a classic sour mash.

This recipe isn't for the faint of heart, however it's pretty easy to brew. Even partial mash brewers can go all grain on this one with no major  problems.

Berliner Weiss

Batch size 6 gallons
Boil size 6 gallons (we aren't boiling this one really)
IBUs = <4


5lb German Pilsner
3.5lb Malted Wheat

hops: 1oz hallertau  anything low alpha will work for this, old hops are fine too ;)
Yeast - European Ale

Since the grain bill is so small on this recipe, and we will be doing something odd to the mash, I am simply mashing this in an ordinary 6.5 gallon food-grade bucket.

Mash in the grains with 2.5 Gallons water @ 162F to reach a mash temp of 149, let rest 90min

I simply wrapped the bucket, with a lid on, with a sleeping bag, which will keep the temperature well.

After 90 minutes we will infuse 2.25 gallons of near boiling water to bring the temp up to 172, let rest 10 mins

Now's where it get's wierd!!!

I know open the bucket up and let it cool outside to 120F. Usually this is the danger zone for beer spoiling organisms, but it's these that will give us our sour notes in the finished beer. Once the mash is down to 120F I also throw in a handful or two of the same grains I mashed in with. The difference is that these haven't been pasteurized by the mash and are covered in nasty little critters that'll help achieve our sour mash.

Now we lay some plastic wrap right on top of the mash, to prevent to much aceto character from oxygen. I am going one step further here by putting a thermowell into the bucket and a heat wrap around it to maintain a 100F temp. You can do this at ambient room temp, but the warmer the better here for the lactic bacteria to really shine.

Now we are going to let this sit between 3-6 days. This going to turn nasty~!!! what you see and smell in this bucket may haunt you for years to come, but don't worry, the finished beer should help you recover. Taste this soup every day or so to see how sour you're getting... TASTE DON'T SMELL. Yoou may want to do this in the basement if you have loved ones you'd like to keep.

Once the soup is sour enough to your liking, we want to stop the acidification process, collect our acid wort, and of course ferment it.

Now add your hops to the mash... yeah the mash... don't question my authority! Now we are going to heat the mash to 172 again. You can do this in several kettles if you cant fit it into one. Carefully pour the mash into your lauter tun (cooler, false bottomed kettle, even a muslin bag in a bottling bucket) and sparge with about 2.5-3 gallons of water to collect you 6 gallons of wort.

At this point you can just go ahead cool the wort and pitch your yeast or bring the mixture to a brief 1 minute boil before cooling and pitching. Ferment around 67F and in a couple weeks your Berliner Weiss should be ready!

A couple of notes. There is a much easier way of doing this by pitching the un-mashed grains into the finished wort rather than souring the mash. This requires a lot less time and effort and the effects are very similar, we just wanted to try it the ole fashined way is all. You may also choose to only sour a portion of the mash/wort, then blend the two to achieve a nice balanced sour. We really like sour beer, so we are going gung ho... if it is indeed too sour we will brew another batch without the souring steps and blend them to our liking.

For some more info on sour mashing...

An excellent(and easier) Berliner Weiss recipe

Also Check out John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff's excellent book "Brewing Classic Styles". They have a very good Berliner weiss recipe that uses a lacto culture instead of sour mashing.

Please feel free to ask us any questions.

Gross pics sure to come;)

happy brewing. 
The Pipeworks Boys

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What goes into an experimental brew?

So today we decided it was finally time to brew a little beer we've been talking about for quite some time. Well, it'll be brewed in the morning, but I decided to pen the recipe today. Both myself and Gerrit come from Jewish backgrounds, and like any self respecting Jew, we love a good pastrami on rye sandwich. So we got to talking about the different elements that go into making a pastrami sandwich, from the brining spices, to the peppery crusted brisket, to the rye bread and mustard...

Could these elements somehow be combined into a beer???

Well, that's what we will set out to discover tomorrow morning.

After posting our intentions on our Facebook page, we got a couple reactions ranging from disgust to intrigue. I also received a great email from an intrigued gentlemen by the name of Adam. Below you'll find his question and my response regarding the creative process in developing such a brew.


Adam Writes

When making a new beer, such as the one that was posted on facebook earlier today, how do you know what the end result will taste like? Will it even be drinkable? Do you taste test throughout the brewing process? If so when are the best times to taste? I would think in coming up with something new you wouldn't want to waste money and product in brewing something that will ultimately get tossed out.

Thanks and curious.

Hey Adam,

Great question! Generally when formulating a recipe I use stylistic traditions to guide me. If I am brewing an English Porter, let's say, I look at the historical recipes used and take note of what grains, hops, mashing techniques are prevalent. After that I start thinking about what my end goals are i.e. do I want a roastier porter, or maybe a hoppier one. Through experience I usually have a pretty good sense of what the end result will be.

I do indeed taste throughout the brewing/fermentation process. Of course I taste my wort pre and post boil. I'll usually taste again after initial fermentation and a couple times throughout the ageing process.

Now, most of what I said gets tossed out the window when we are trying something really experimental, like the forthcoming Pastrami on Rye. To be honest, I've never brewed with most of the spices that will go into the beer.

When doing something like this I start with a solid foundation. I decided a rich malty brown ale/porter base would support the flavors I was going for. Then I changed it up a little by introducing the smoked malt and rye. I have used these grains quite often so I have a good idea of what proportions will lend some flavor without being overkill.

 Then I researched what the typical spicing is for pastrami. Working out the proportions is the tricky part. I began looking up what typical amounts are for using the various spices alone. So say when folks use about 2tsp of peppercorns in a beer to get a mild pepper taste, I at least have a baseline for the flavor threshold of that spice. I do my best to make an educated guess. I also try to undershoot it a little the first time I brew something like this, as I can always add more spice flavor in secondary or prior to bottling.

Past that, it's a bit of a craps shoot. This will be a pilot batch. I would never do something like this on a full scale batch until I was pleased with a 5 gallon version first. This thing could be terrible all said and done, but it could be awesome. Based on the first batch I can make adjustments to subsequent batches, if, of course, it seems a worthy venture.

As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I remember the first time I brewed my Belgian IPA with my partner Gerrit. I came out of the kitchen at the end of the boil with a bunch of Szechuan Peppercorns... he looked at me like I was crazy. I told him I had been researching the flavors of those particular berries (they are actually berries) and thought they'd complement the hops really well. He was quite skeptical, but in the end it turned out to be one of his favorite beers.

The Pipeworks Boys

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Windy City Brew Day!

Well it's been a while since our last brew day. With all the work and excitement around Kickstarter, we haven't had much time for what we really love, brewing! Luckily we found time yesterday to brew up a pilot batch of a recipe we've been fine tuning now for a while, our Belgian IPA.

The day started off somewhat frighteningly. With some heavy rain and 60mph gusts, the windy city was showing us what she was all about in Autumn. Luckily the rain let up by ten or so and Gerrit and myself headed out in search of some tasty ingredients to add to our kettle.

The first stop was Chicago's famous Spice House. This place is truly amazing, loaded with just about every spice you could dream of. Walking into the shop immediately fills the senses with an onslaught of aromas. If you haven't been, be sure to check it out. Our primary goal there was to get some Szechuan  peppercorns. While in the neighborhood we also picked up our great friend and fellow brewer Scott. This was a good thing, because after several weeks away from the brewhouse, there was a substantial amount of cleaning to do.

The next stop was to our local homebrew shop, Brew and Grow. Since moving this place has expanded into one of the biggest brew shops I have ever been too. They also specialize in everything for the garden, whether it be indoor or out. While there we stocked up on a couple of bags of malt and a couple new hop varieties from New Zealand, which we shall use in a future brew. We also had a chance to sample some of the fine beer that resident brewer Larry whips up when he's not helping customers with their brewing questions. The star of the day was the pumpkin ale brewed with Irish ale yeast.

Before we got started with the brew day, there was one more important stop. That would be lunch at Hot Doug's. If you've never been, you must seek this place out. They specialize in hand made sausages, often made with exotic meats including kangaroo, ostrich, and elk. After stocking up on encased meats, it was time to head back to the lab to brew up some magic.

Scott is always a good sport and a hard worker!
Before we got started we had to do a bit of cleaning. This meant giving the kettle a once over, cleaning out the chest freezer, and for Scott, cleaning out some old carboys that i had neglected a while back :)

After a good bit of scrubbing and sanitization we were ready to roll. We began heating our mash water and milled our grains. Once we had gotten our strike liquor (water) to the appropriate temperature we mashed in. This is where we mix the milled grain with the hot water where enzymes in the malt will convert starches to sugar that yeast will later convert to alcohol and CO2 during fermentation.

The important thing here is to mix the grains thoroughly so that there are no dry clumps which would result in missing out on some of those sought after sugars. We use an oak mash paddle that me and Gerrit made a couple of years ago. It works like a charm for this job.

 The resultant mixture looks a bit like oatmeal and smells wonderful. Once it is mixed thoroughly we let the mash sit for one hour so that the enzymes can do their work and release the sugars.

My pup Jonas guards the sweet wort during lautering.
After the hour wait is complete, we added some more hot water to the mixture to bring the temperature to 170F. This stops the enzyme activity and makes the wort (sugar water) more fluid so that it may more easily pass through the grain bed, which acts as a filter during what is called lautering.

During this time we slowly let the sweet wort flow out through the bottom of the kettle. The grains themselves are sitting on a mesh sort of filter to prevent grains from running out with the wort. We also continue to add hot water to rinse the grains further, this is called sparging.

Gerrit uses a refractometer to check the amount of sugars we've extracted into the wort.  

Beejay adding some pellet hops in a mesh bag.
 Once the wort is collected we return it to the freshly cleaned kettle. This is usually done in separate vessels, but for our purposes, one kettle is enough to serve both needs. We now bring the wort to a boil. This will serve several purposes. First it will sanitize the wort, giving the yeast a chance to develop without competing with other nasties. It will also concentrate the wort, increasing the amount of sugars within it and allowing for a stronger beer. In this case we are aiming for a beer of 6-5% ABV. Lastly it will allow resins in the hops we will add to isomarize, lending bitterness to the beer. Since this is an IPA it will be a fairly bitter beer. To accomplish this we are using a very bitter hop called Warrior.

We also add a much larger amount of aromatic hops. For this we used whole leaf hops. These will add some intense aromas and flavors to the finished beer. In this case we are using a blend of Simcoe, Centennial, Citra, and Amarillo. These hops will add flavors of citrus, pine, and some tropical fruit to the finished beer.

 Speaking of beer, we decided to enjoy a little bit of this years Nemesis from Founders. I must say this was the perfect beer to enjoy on a windy backyard brewday, especially fresh on draft ;)

Here you can see just half of the flavoring hops going into the kettle. We are really looking for a huge hop character on this one so we pulled out all the stops and tossed them in generously.
We Also added some ingredients you might not expect to find in your everyday IPA; coriander, fresh seville orange peal, and Szechuan pepper corns. You might be thinking that the peppercorns would add some undesired heat to the finished beer, but this is a common misconception. They are actually a berry and their flavor can be described as citrusy and woody. We think they make a great addition to this unusual beer.

Once the boil is complete the wort must be cooled quickly to ensure it isn't contaminated. We built a semi-fancy little setup of gizmos to accomplish this. The wort is pumped out of the kettle and through a couterflow chiller. Basically it uses channels to pass hot wort in one direction and cold water the other. This allows us to cool five and a half gallons of wort from near boiling to 75F in about five minutes. After leaving the plate chiller the wort passes by an inline oxiginating stone which pumps pure oxygen directly into the wort. This helps with yeast health and a good strong fermentation. Once the wort is in the fermenter we pitch yeast, in this case a Belgian Wit strain, give her a quick mix and lay her down for fermentation.  We also use a hydrometer to make sure that we've gotten the correct amount of sugars into the finished wort.
This particular beer will ferment at around 69F for 5-7 days after which we will add even more hops to the fermenter, which is called dry hopping. This wont add any additional bitterness, but will increase the aromatic qualities of the finished beer. After another week the beer will be cooled to 35F or so to help clear the beer. Following this cold crashing we will most likely transfer the finished beer to a keg, where we can carbonate it and serve it.

While we have brewed  versions of this in the past, this is by far the hoppiest iteration to date. We are really looking forward to the play of flavors between the different ingredients. We hope we will be able to share this one with you when it's all done ;)

P.S. To all those well versed in the practices of brewing. Forgive my long winded  descriptions of the brewing process. Since this is our first brewday recap I thought I'd give some extra info for those that don't know about the ins and outs of the brewing process. In the future I will be a little more straight forward with highlights and such, I swear!

Feel free to ask any questions and I'll try to answer em ASAP!

Beejay and the Pipeworks team.

You can check out more photos from our brewday here...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's in a name?

So we get this question a lot. Why the name Pipeworks?

It all started Belgium. The morning the Urbain had picked us up from the airport we ending up heading to the Netherlands to do some business with an exporter there. On this drive he told us that we would be brewing a collaborative brew with himself and Alvinne, complete with our own labels. This beer would later become Pipedream. Of course we were extremely excited and it wasn't until a few days later that we realized that we'd need some sort of name for our brewery to go with De Struises and Alvinne.

Up until this point we had toyed with several ideas, which we liked but realize didn't have the potential for longevity or a diversity of styles (artistically for than beer wise). We wanted a name that didn't pigeon hole us into a particular label art style or anything like that. So the brainstorming began.
While driving to Decca, the brewery where De Struise often brews, I for some reason spit out the name Pipeworks. Urbain thought it sounded pretty catchy and we starter joking about "Stove Pipe Smoked Porter", "Copper Pipe Pale", and "Warp Pipe Whit".

But are a couple of silly plumbing related beer names enough to commit to naming a beer company Pipeworks?

Well the story goes a little further. While Gerrit was in college and living in the dorms at an unnamed college. A little prank got a little out of control. I don't really have all the details, but I can tell you it involved an overflowing toilet on the 17th floor of the dorm building and some massive flooding. Since then Gerrit has gained the moniker the 17th floor plumber. So when westarted talking out the name hit seemed to have a great deal to do with us after all.
Oh right and of course there are quite a few pipes involved in your average brewery ;)

So while most of the silly plumbing references have since been forgotten, though we may resurrect one or two, the name has stuck.

We are Pipeworks!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A couple updates...

If you haven't been over to www.pipeworksbrewing.com  in a while, now's a good time to check it out. I've been hard at work redesigning the entire look of the site and adding some much needed content as well. I'm still not completely finished, but it's coming along nicely. It has been a bit of a battle figuring out how to get stuff done using Joomla, but I think in the end it will work out fine until we have some budget for a real web designer.

I can't wait not to have to do this myself anymore = )

In other news, we were working on the kickstarter video last night and it's coming together very nicely. The bulk of the editing is done now. We just need our audio clown to go through and clean it up and add the sound effects. We should be debuting the video and the kickstarter project early next week!

We are also looking forward to our newest batch of abduction, which has been ageing for several months now on oak. Stay tuned for chances to get a taste of this delicious heavy hitter during the winter months!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The battle Vs. the interweb continues...

Well, since we made progress on getting the blog together, we decided to keep up our battle with the internet kingdom. What does this mean? Well it means Beejay is finally redoing the website! It only took him a year and a half to get on it, but hey, he's a busy boy.

We are hoping to have the website up and completely functioning and content filled within the week. Until then you can feel free to pop over there and see how progress is coming along.

Let us know what you think!


The Pipeworks Crew

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In the beginning there was blog...

... and so it began, the official Pipeworks blog!

Well, for those of you that have been following our journey over the past couple of years, you know that we have been having a hard time keeping everyone updated on our progress and general Pipeworks news. Well we have finally started an official blog. Here you will find regular updates on our progress, news about upcoming events, and random stuff we deem worthy of your viewing pleasure.

So, with that being said, let the blogging begin!

The Pipeworks Team