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30 Oct

Ya sure, dontcha know.

This is one of the first greetings I received when arriving in Fargo, North Dakota this past Saturday (in jest, of course). This weekend I had the honor of being asked to speak at the annual Hoppy Halloween Challenge, hosted by the local Prairie Homebrew Companions. I was invited to attend by Susan Ruud, also of the AHA Governing Committee, whom I had the recent pleasure of judging with at the recent Great American Beer Festival. When Susan picked me up from the airport in Fargo, the snow had just started coming down…just for me.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with this particular competition, it’s centered around Halloween. While all of the familiar beer categories are judged, they also have some additional categories that are based around the them, each beer delivered to the judges complete with an elaborate presentation and the audience watching. Attendees to the banquet also dressed in costume, and I’m embarrassed to say, I failed to pack one. If you know me at all, you know how much I love costumes. Medals were awarded, which were attached to hand-made lanyards, by club member Vince, also Halloween themed (this year specifically, was mummies). As the evening wore on, I was able to taste many excellent beers – both homebrew and commercial. I was having such a fine time, that I stayed up with the group until the wee hours of the morning when I finally stumbled down the hall to my room for some much-needed sleep.

The following day, Susan organized a brew day at Eric’s house, another club member. We were joined by several others throughout the day, and brewed a 20 gallon batch of Belgian Dark Strong on Eric’s all electric brew system, which he built himself. We intended to split this batch into four, so I had shipped ahead some yeast – WLP500, WLP515, WLP530, and WLP545 – so some starters could be made. I have to admit, I didn’t do much to assist with the brewing, but it doesn’t seem right to come between a man and his brew system (unless he asks of course!). I did handle the yeast though, as you might have guessed.


Steve, Eric, Dick



Me, with my lil babies!

All in all, it was a really enjoyable weekend. I came away with a suitcase full of fun beer-related souvenirs. I had the chance to visit a new city, drink some great beer, brew some beer and best of all, I had the fortune to meet and spend time with some really great folks – Susan, Tom and Nancy (who you may know, since they were recently crowned President of Brews), Eric, Dick, Steve, Karl, Vince, Tony, Mike and Carla, Paul and Amy (best costumes of the competition), Ellen the Biology professor at Moorehead State, and so many others (I apologize for not remembering everyone’s name, I really did try). Thank you Fargo and thank you Prairie Homebrew Companions for such great hospitality!!

It’s safe to say, I’ll be baaack!


Plans for the Flanders

23 Oct

Back in March, I decided to brew a Flanders Brown.  I knew it would be some time before the beer would even be servable, so I wanted to plan ahead.  In keeping with our White Labs tasting room tradition, I split the batch and used four different Brettanomyces strains.  And I did two different batches, with the intention of doing a second comparison of Brettanomyces in primary fermentation vs. Brettanomyces in secondary fermentation.  For the trials of Brett in secondary, I used WLP550 – Belgian Ale Yeast as the primary fermenting yeast and I added the Brett after I had reached about 70% attenuation.  For the Brettanomcyes, I used:

WLP644 – B. bruxellensis trois (our new strain this year)

WLP645 – B. claussenii (the pineapple)

WLP650 – B. bruxellensis (the classic)

WLP653 – B. lambicus (the horsey, cherry pie)

To get a little added complexity to the beer, I added some oak chips, although I think I could have done a bit more here.  Hope you get to come by and try the 8 beers – we’ll have a special release tapping on Friday, November 9th of San Diego Beer Week!  I hope you enjoy!

Here’s to bugs 

White Labs Brewing the White House Beer

8 Oct

After seeing the news story about the White House brewing beer at home, we were struck by the fact they were A) homebrewing (how cool is that?) B) using dry yeast C) using a yeast made outside of the USA.  I guess they don’t know there are companies in this country that specialize in making liquid yeast cultures for beer, and in particular, one that is named WHITE Labs 🙂

As such, we decided it would be fun to clone this recipe, dry yeast and all.  Of course we couldn’t resist turning it into one of our tasting room experiments, so a couple of weeks ago, I brewed 2 batches of the White House Honey Ale (all-grain) on our brew sculpture.  I split up these up and used four different yeast strains – Windsor dry yeast (which the original recipe used),WLP001 California Ale Yeast, WLP005 British Ale Yeast, WLP039 East Midlands Yeast.  

I started the first batch at 8am on a Friday, then realized I forgot to pick up any Biscuit Malt, which was part of the recipe!  I had to make do for this one and go and get some Biscuit for the second brew.  Oops!  But I guess sometimes that kind of stuff happens and I just had to go with it.  On another note, it seems all of San Diego homebrew shops are out of honey, a key piece of this beer.  I went to three different shops and bought out everything I could find.  The beer will be brewed again this week, but not by me.  So not only will it be fun to see how the different yeasts do, but different brewers.

We’ll have the beers on tap starting the week of October 22nd – and we want you to come by the tasting room, try them, and vote for your favorite.  Decision 2012!  We’ll take votes up until election day, and reveal the results on election night, November 6th.  Hope to see you there!

Data for Olive Oil vs. Aeration Experiment

30 Aug

Here is the fermentation comparison data for the olive oil experiment a few months back:

Comparative Sample Report – Olive Oil Experiment

Adventures in Denmark

21 Aug

There are more breweries in the country of Denmark than you can even count.  They range from very small, farm-style breweries, to large production breweries like Carlsberg Brewery, where the original pure yeast culture was created.  When you’re trying to visit with brewers there, this can be a big challenge.

We started off instead by preparing a short yeast seminar, hosted by Vestfyn Brewery at the university in Fyn, the island just West of Copenhagen.  The attendees consisted of breweries from this region, of which most had been part of their local Innovation Project where they collected and isolated some native strains for fermentation.  Many of these breweries are quite small, and I am sure there was a bit of a challenge with communicating technical information about yeast.  It was an interesting afternoon, and I hope, beneficial to the breweries that attended.  We look forward to working with them more.


On the way back to Copenhagen, we stopped at Orbaek Bryggeri, established in the Fyn countryside in 1906 as a small farmstead providing malted barley to local businesses.  They began brewing beer and the original malting house and brewery is still there.  While the malting operations have ceased, the original brewing equipment is still used to this day for some of their specialty beers.  These days, they are also a modern brewery and distillery. It was such a great visit that was out of the way, but well worth the trip.  It was a lot of tradition mixed with modernization.

Image   Image   Image


Back in Copenhagen, we had a fantastic meeting with Nordic Food Labs and Noma.  If any of you are familiar with food trends, you’ll know that Noma is a world-renowned restaurant featuring the best and latest in molecular gastronomy and are at the forefront of food innovation.  We were so privileged to meet their top chefs, including head chef, Rene Redzepi.  I mean, I read about these guys in magazines (and hopefully they are not reading this now because I would sound so embarrasing)  No, we were not able to get a table there 🙂  The Nordic Food Lab is situated on a house boat, of all places, in the harbor next to the restaurant.  In their food lab, they are working on various projects related to food fermentation, which is where we come in.  I don’t want to give away too much, but suffice it to say that this was one of the best, most interesting, most exhilarating meetings we’ve ever engaged in.  For me, it brings together one of my other favorite things – food (the other obviously being beer!).


Back home in sunny (and hot and humid) San Diego, I am so thrilled at this opportunity to visit Denmark and I already look forward to the next one.


An afternoon in Sweden

13 Aug

I am in the middle of a twelve-day trip to Denmark, but had decided to take a day trip to Malmo, Sweden, which is a 20 minute train ride from Copenhagen.  The main purpose of the trip was to visit Malmo Bryghus and an email acquaintance of mine who is a brewer there, Thomas Fransson.  Thomas also hosts Swedish Brewing Radio, so he was able to get together a group of start-up brewers and homebrewers for some yeast education.  

After the first day of cold and some drizzle in Copenhagen, I was happy to see that Saturday afternoon for our venture out to Sweden, it was beautiful and sunny.  I brought the family (Glen and Ada) and Thomas met us at the train station in Malmo with his family (My and 4-year old Otto).  We had a short walk to their apartment courtyard for lunch, which happens to be conveniently located across the street from Malmo Bryghus.  Thomas treated us to a very interesting homebrew, a Saison-style beer with Thai basil.  It was immensely refreshing to me, with just a hint of Thai basil, which is one herb that I absolutely adore.

We had a group of about 20 people for the meeting and I talked about yeast handling, storage, and answered questions.  Afterwards, we went to a local restaurant for dinner with some house-made charcuterie, Swedish-style ribs, and a fantastic cheese plate.  It was a great cap to a great afternoon.  In talking with the brewers in attendance, it is always fun to see how differently people are doing things but all with a common cause – making great beer.  The beers I had in Malmo were all quite good and I am sure they will continue to get even better.  I am amazed to see the passion in this group and really looking forward to the exciting growth that will surely happen in this country in the craft beer movement.  Perhaps you will hear me on Swedish Brewing Radio in the near future.  If you do, please pardon my Swedish 🙂

I am very happy that I was able to make this trip and it really just serves to remind me how much I love what I do.