Nate presented some interesting information about high gravity brewing, and confirmed something I’d long suspected, that big breweries only brew about 10 worts but make about 20 beers from them by varying the dilution factor. It puts quite a strain on the yeast, and there is a high degree of oxygenation and nutrient supplementation that has to occur.
The big topics are apparently over, and the next lectures will combine 2-3 small topics in one. Today’s small topics were:
Lagers and sulfur. Because of the colder process, there tends to be more sulfur present in lagers (reason #1 why I am not huge fan of the style). By adjusting yeast strain, the VDK’s that cause the sulfur can be minimized. Or at least I hope that’s the case – it was a long hard weekend and a late night, and I will freely admit to zoning out now and again.
Hop Bitterness. Nate looked at IBU’s vs. perceived/sensory bitterness, and at the gaps between them. We also talked about the flavour & bitterness differences between hops in the boil vs. dry hopping. More aroma is perceived in dry hopped beers, which increased the perceived bitterness in the taste. Makes me wish I’d been a bit more awake for this part, as I’m fascinated by this difference between real and perceived sensory.
I will be so happy when this semester is over, and I no longer have that unshakeable feeling of impending disaster because there are too many balls in the air and surely they will come crashing down any moment.
OK, maybe a tad dramatic, but it has been a busy two weeks. They might have been less nutty if I hadn’t taken two weekends away for roller derby tournaments, but I had fun and can’t bring myself to regret them in the slightest.
So here goes, my post about catching up. I know I don’t need to because as my friend Tyler says, bloggers can blog whenever the hell they want to about whatever the hell they want to, but it will always bug me if I don’t. For expediency’s sake, I’m making this a (mostly) photo post. Sorry, classes-without-photos, you don’t make the cut this time.
Chem & Bio labs, where we learned to make selective media, and then poured many, many plates to use another time.
Home Brewing on the weekend
Tested out my new brewing equipment to make a Belgian Blonde ale with roses. The recipe was from the Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Beer Making Book, and always intrigued me. I made my own Belgian candy sugar for it, and the resulting fermentation was vigorous and fascinated Smoot. She shall now be known as my assistant brewmaster, as she followed my every move during the process.
We had a field trip to the Labatt plant in London to see a large facility in action. We were not allowed pictures inside the brewery, so alas, no Vines of bottles happily clinking along the conveyors through washing, filling, capping and packaging.
No beer club this week, but we held a special guided scotch tasting. I went to see if I could develop a taste for it, or personal descriptors that went beyond “gasoline”. I couldn’t.
A long lab in identifying the things that grew on the selective media plates from last week. An equal mix of kinda gross and kinda cool. No one knows what the spiky one in the top right was, not even the prof. Some other growths had to be re-plated to identify next week.
Back in the brewery and on the pilot side to brew and log the process for our final assessment. It was pretty cool to do the step mash for the first time, not so much to do it for an assignment.
I didn’t stay for the full beer club, but I did submit my aged sour cherry and smoked sour cherry ales for tasting. Still some slight over-carbonation issues, alas. I will make the smoked version again in a bigger batch this summer, with more cherries and a smaller proportion of the smoked malt.
We spent this lab jostling against each other in the tight quarters of the brewery as we practiced yeast rinsing (no acid) and yeast washing (with acid). During a break, I headed back to the lab to look at the plates from the week before. I learned quite a bit, not the least of which is that I still suck at trying to focus a microscope.
Ugh. Who’s bright idea was it to schedule a make-up exam at 8:30 on a Monday?!?
Oh. Wait. Nevermind.
I know I did poorly on the Sensory exam. SO much information to memorize, and I just didn’t. And OF COURSE one of the big mark questions was on the beer style that I have the biggest memory block on. Stupid Bocks. (Bocks, you know I’m kidding. You’re delicious!).
I had no idea there was going to be a tasting component to it. If I *had* known, I would not have sucked back cherry cough syrup and medicated throat lozenges a half hour before getting there. Not that it would have made much difference to the Bohemian Pilsner (BJCP style #2B, and I didn’t even have to look that up). The woman at the test centre opened it when I started writing, and poured an inch or so in a paper cup. She handed it to me an hour later when I gave her back my written portion. I have no idea if Brou Czech lager is to style or not, because all I could taste was warm, flat cardboard with a slight floral/herbal hop aroma and faint cherry cough syrup flavour undertones.
Met our new Strategic Communication prof, Matt. Seems like a good guy, and a beer lover to boot. He’ll be guiding us through the joys of writing a business plan. I made the mistake of telling him I’d written one before and no he wants to see it. I did find the file (my backups are now flawless), and it seems a sad, sparse thing. Be good to learn how to pump it up a bit.
Then it was the Bio/Chem gauntlet. I am getting better at staying on top of the content, but I don’t think there’s enough caffeine in the world to keep me sharp in the last parts of hour four. There was lots of key info as well, all about yeast cropping and hop chemistry. I will definitely be revisiting those slides to fill in the blanks from where I zoned out. Stupid brain.
My team was on the craft side today. After mashing in a batch of Campus Ale, we were distributed to various other jobs in the brewery. I spent the day looking at the keg washer and getting much better at not getting sprayed with stale beer when attaching the hoses.
First up was All About Pasteurizers in Packaging. Rob talked about the differences between a flash system (beer is pasteurized and then packaged) and a tunnel system (beer is packaged then pasteurized). I’m thinking that this is something I won’t have to worry about ever in my dream brewpub in Melbourne, but it’s good information to have.
Victor worked to catch us up in Sensory before the exam. We finished up BJCP category 18 (Belgian Strong Ales – yum!) and then moved on to categories 1 (Light Lagers), 2 (Pilsners), 4 (Dark Lagers), 6 (Light Hybrid Beer) and 7 (Amber Hybrid Beer).
I tried to explain to my taste buds that judging is not about personal likes and dislikes, but they were still most unhappy about having to move from the rich and complex flavours in Belgian Dubbels and Tripels to the significantly less complex lagers, pilsners and cream ales. I cheered them up by picking up a bottle of Westmalle Dubbel on the way home.
Today we split our team into two so we could get through the experiments quickly. Alberto, who has more of a science background than Mat and & put together, started the Gram stain lab using samples collected from the teaching brewery and grown on agar plates. This is a method to help identify microorganisms that one might find in the brewery.
While he worked on that, Mat and I did the chem lab, and made Belgian candy syrup. An error was made on my part (apparently I can’t learn unless I make mistakes. sigh.) and the temperatures were switched between our with-lye and without-lye samples. This led to the lye sample becoming very thick with a burnt-caramel odor, and the no-lye sample not achieving the colour and taste range it was supposed to.
I’ve decided that my next home brew is going to be another go at the Bourbon Dubbel and make my own Belgian candy sugar to add.
Busy. Stress filled. Sciency. Really sciency. So sciency that once I finished all the sciencing, I had to remind myself I had other courses.
And that is how I remember last week. Yes, there was Equipment (pumps and head pressure calculations) and a trip to the MBAA conference, but all I can remember is microbiology and chemistry. Which is what happens when you leave a problem set, three lab question write ups and a lab book update for each of the two science classes until the next-to-last minute.
Yeah. I was that person. The thought that goes through my head now when I think of it is, hey, let’s not do that again, ok?
While I am not keen on the work load, I have to admit I am learning more with these assessments than I would with the study, cram, panic, memory dump exam assessment. I am really liking the bio and chem components, and I’m tying more things together than I do when someone is talking at me for three or four hours. And we get to play with cool stuff, like microscopes and incubators and bunsen burners.
And stills. Which was so cool, that I hope the distillation course add-on is ready when I’m done.