Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Day After

The last day in Munich, I decided to have a walk down to the Octoberfest gardens to say thank you in my own way to the greatness of Bavaria. They had recently started setting up for Octoberfest, which I found quite symbolic to my journey. The pictures can't even remotely capture how massive these buildings were. I am disappointed I won't be there for the famous festival, but is an excuse to make a trip back.

Above is a picture from the northern entrance to the Octoberfest grounds with massive beer halls being constructed in the background. Though I hear many of the people who attend Octoberfest are tourists, I cannot underestimate the Bavarian drinking contingency out to show everyone how its done. It would definitely be a trip of a lifetime, though to be quite honest, given the choice between the two, I'd rather go to beer school.

There were about twenty of these massive buildings being erected.

While they had made significant progress, the areas still looked as if construction was in its infancy. I wish I could see it when it was complete.

Augustiner tent. If you are going, this would be the one to visit.

Queen of Bavaria. Day or night, my visits to you have been one of the highlights of my trip.

Lowenbrau lion's head. I spotted the body in a truck but couldn't get a good picture of it.

After I paid my respects to the Queen and tied up my last few things in Munich, a couple of the remaining Master Brewers and I headed to Andechts. I had waited to the last minute I guess, but looking back on it, I couldn't have gone at a better time.

The setting of Andechts and the Doppelbock, made this place such an awesome and popular beer garden.

Beer culture in Germany is definitely something I will miss. Beer in Germany is considered food and when respected, can be a wonderful part of life. These two are getting an early lesson on the greatness of enjoying beer (well actually its Radler which is a mixture of beer and lemonade).

So recovery Saturday turned into party Saturday when a certain someone thought we had been drinking liters of Doppelbock instead of half liters. This certain someone is also a medical school student, has long brown hair and happened to be the only girl with us at Andechts.

The gem of Andechts. If you are unable to read the writing on the mirror and the sink looking thing, it reads "Puke and Rally". Good thing there is a message on the mirror, reminding you to get your shit together.

Location:Munich/Andechs, Germany

Graduation - The Culmination of a Dream

We made it. For many of us it was the last day of living the dream. While we will all be entering an industry which we love, graduation day was the last official day of beer school. Twenty weeks, two continents, uncountable liters of beer and the will to make an impact on the greatest industry known to man, we all completed our journey in style. I can tell you that as in most things, it isn't the place or what you are doing, its who and where you are doing it with. I couldn't have asked for a better group of guys and gal to share this experience with. You will all hold a dear place to me in the bosom of my beer school heart. Also, a tremendous thank you to our teacher, mentor, and dear friend Michael Eder. Hopefully we made you proud. Also thanks to all the staff at Doemens Academy and Siebel Institute for making this such a great experience.

On to the festivities. Like any beer school graduation, pre-game is involved. This time, a rare release triple hopped belgian is in order. Augustiner holds a special part in this picture as well. Not only was it the only glass, but in this particular instance, it was the right one. Augustiner you never let me down.

You can also spot the Orval on the table. Belgian beer pre-game because at the Haufbraukeller there will be only the finest German Lagerbier.

A good collection of our classmates. This gives you a bit of a perspective on the size of this graduation.

I spent a significant amount of time with these three amigos over the past seven months. I will miss these men, but will be seeing them soon. Sean, Viet and Kyle congratulations on becoming Master Brewers!

Some of the guys decided to get "kitted" out (I picked it up in England) in the traditional Bavarian lederhosen. Brenner, Duncan and Chris looking sharp.

Hardy boys looking sharp in the traditional apparel. First father-son duo to become WBA Master Brewers!

Chris and Alex. You may know how to make beer Chris, but she is smarter than you. And all of us for that matter.

You can't have a beer school graduation without some Canadians ruining it. Duncan and Amy, I will be making a trip up to Canada to visit you soon!

Mike Brenner and his horn. Ohh Brenner.

As if you didn't know what would be served, proof.

Traditional as it gets I guess. I'd estimate there were roughly 300 people there.

The president of the Doemens Academy, Dr. Wolfgang Stempfl giving the opening remarks.

Vidya holding a beer the size of her upper body. I am so proud of what she has accomplished and wish her all the best in her brewing career in India. I can't wait to go visit one day.

The two most entertaining men in Bavaria, or the world, Nate and Tim. Its fair to say that any debauchery that went on started with these two. Though, when tensions were high from being surrounded by the same people for long periods of time, these two would remind us not to take life too seriously.

My greatest accomplishment.

Best in Bavaria!

After the ceremonies had finished, it was beer drinking time. This is a great group shot with Eder. He now has his Eder Liter for every Wednesday. L to R - Me, Alex, Eder, Nate, Chris, Tim, Frank.

Ohh the English contingent. You will be seeing more of these lovely people.

The crew with Klaus Ritter, the king of Chemical Technical Analysis. A legend.

The aftermath. Saturday morning was cleaning up and moving out. We saw off the gentlemen who were heading back to the states. It was quite a journey and I can't reiterated enough how much I enjoyed it with my fellow brewers. Congratulations to everyone in the program. I can't wait to make my visits around the US to your breweries and your towns. All will benefit from your knowledge and enthusiasm for brewing. Prost!

Location:Munich, Germany

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Weihenstephan - The World's Oldest Brewery and the Graduation Pre-Game

Like good brewing students, we planned the last week of brewing school around studying for exams. Also, like good brewing students, when the studying and exams were finished, we immediately made a pilgrimage to the oldest brewery in the world. Our last exam, on Tuesday, was a 30 minute microbiology practical and interview, so following that up with an extensive "industry research" session at a local brewery was a great way to celebrate the end of exams.

Weihenstephan is the world's oldest brewery and has been running since 1040. There is also a German brewing school with the same name. The brewing school is one of a few schools which make up Weihenstephan. To get there, you take the train from downtown Munich all the way out to Freising which is a wonderful little suburb of Munich.

After walking up the hill from the train station we got to the entrance of the bier garden. We didn't get a tour of the brewery but we weren't too concerned with that. We have seen many breweries in Germany and for the most part they end up being quite similar.

During our studies, we had conducted an unofficial survey on the Bavarian drinking record. Virtually everyone we met was quizzed on their "liter record" and found out that the unofficial record is held by the towering master brewer at Riegele and stands at 11 Liters. Thus, the 12 Liter challenge was born. Since the next couple days were a bit more relaxed, a few of our class mates decided they were up to the challenge!

While they went for the record, a half liter at a time, I enjoyed another charcuterie plate. I must say that I have fallen in love with shaved horse radish. The nasal clearing sensation associated with it, I find cleansing. I also really enjoy the taste of it!

This is a great shot of the group up at Freising. We were obviously loud and American, but actually managed to get some of the Germans involved with our festivities thanks to Mike Brenner, our resident tenor, who performed the WBA Master Brewer Theme Song, "Maaaaaking the Beeeeer". He clearly made an impression on the German patrons who applauded him after every outburst.

After finishing up at Freising we headed to Hofbrau Haus where one of our 12 Liter challenge contestants hit the wall and made a sneaky "Irish Exit", but not before trying to climb through the window from the inside of the Hofbrau Haus to the outside. Here I think he was addressing some concerned patrons, or thanking some fans, who knows. No harm done, it was a great laugh to end the night.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brewing at Riegele

One of our brew days was hosted by the Riegele brewery in Augsburg, Germany. Augsburg is about an hour by car northwest of Munich. We met the Brewmaster there to brew an American IPA (this one we didn't get to drink though) on their 1 barrel pilot brewing system. The best part of the day was that they left us unattended for most of the day. We were able to learn the system and make most of the decisions ourselves. It was a really fun day on an awesome setup! After we were finished brewing we took a tour of their brewery (including the cellar which they play classical music all the time for the yeast!).

There copper clad 1 barrel system. Really awesome!

Mashing in.

Vorlaufing (recirculating) by hand. Notice the fancy plastic pitchers used in this very precise exercise. This really felt like home brewing again which many of us have missed dearly over the past 7 months.

Taking a temperature reading wearing some official Riegele gear.

My homies monitoring the process. We had a great time making beer and drinking Riegele's award winning pilsner. After we finished brewing we were taken on a tour of the brewery.

Their functioning brewery, which was amazing.

Yeast management. The man in the purple shirt is the Brewmaster there and he is a huge human being and a wonderful host. The people at Riegele were truly welcoming as we were visited by the owner's son who is the most recent world champion beer sommelier. He was extremely welcoming and had great things to say about the American beer scene.

After a long day at Riegele, we returned to have drinks with some departing friends (not part of the program) and met Michael Eder (our fearless WBA leader) by chance at Wilderhurst, a small restaurant near school, and had some Uerige Altbier (which isn't on the menu - you just have to be in the know and since Michael Eder is the Master Brewer at Uerige - he is in the know). Described by some as the most sought after Altbier in the world, it lives up to its reputation.

Location:Augsburg, Germany

What have you been doing over there?

Fair warning: Get ready to get your beer nerd on. The past two months have been extremely busy. Life has been very good, standard week days start at 6:00 AM with a meat sandwich before the 8 mile bike ride to school. At school we have gotten into much more advanced theory and practical brewing analysis and technology. Combined with multiple brew days at Doemens, Riegele and Braukon, this is what I had been waiting for in brew school. The theory segments at Siebel and earlier at Doemens were the perfect base for this section of the course. But as I mentioned earlier, this is where the boys are separated from the men.

Above is the brewers palate, a grist composition of some of the pilsner malt which was malted by some of the Doemens students. The different piles are as follows: starting with the Husk at 12-2 and going counterclockwise we have - husk, coarse grits, fine grits #1, fine grits #2, grit flour, and flour in the middle.

Above is the Iodine test which we use to make sure that saccharification has taken place in the mash. Just a drop will do!

We use the Friability meter above to check on the degree of modification of the malt. It is a quick check of the malt to make sure it is to spec.

We also did a congress mash using the mill above. It is a plate mill which grinds the barley into a flour in which we make a specific mash and then do all kinds of analysis on it.

The "congress mash" kettle.

The little machine we used to identify the color of the wort produced during the congress mash.

Machine used to check the moisture content of a sample of malt.

During our brew days, we have been monitoring the pH as an additional quality control step.

Forced fermentation is the way we determine when a beer is finished fermenting.

The IPA we made fermenting away. Ohh the beauty of it! Now the IPA has been filtered (unfortunately) and bottled and we are enjoying the fruits of our labor. It is virtually impossible to find IPA in Germany, especially an American style IPA, so this is a real treat.

Hope you guys like the photos, next update will be more about other things!

Location:Munich, Germany