Thursday, May 5, 2011

European Brewing Tour - Week 1 Thursday

Our first stop of the day is one that craft beer enthusiasts in the states will recognize for their delicious wheat beers. Schneider Weisse! Back in the day, wheat beer was only allowed to be produced for royalty. That changed, obviously, and Schneider took advantage. They do most of their brewing with modern systems in place but they do use open fermentation which has an increased risk associated with it but also contributes to the classic flavor they want in their beers.

Above is one of the classic open fermentation vessels used by Schneider which prevents any head pressure from the CO2 during fermentation allowing for a specific estery character (think bananas). While it is not the most appetizing thing to look at, it is how all beer is made so it must be appreciated! The picture above is from a fermentation that is starting to slow down it seems.

Those are bubbles which signify a vigorous fermentation is going on.

I think that the shapes and forms that these yeast cakes take is quite interesting. It may just be me though.

So during our course we have developed a couple of inside jokes. One of them is about "mix proof valves" which we had a day long talk about in Chicago. None of us are in the market for these things as they are extremely expensive. They have become a whipping boy of sorts for more than a fair share of jokes and jibes. While they are incredibly useful, it never gets old to mock them. Above is Kyle mocking 24 of these puppies.

Thats a lot of Schneider Weisse bottles to be filled (no one would stack filled bottles outside because of temperature changes and sunlight).

After getting a tour of their facility, they took us to their amazing beer garden (you have to take the bridge over the river that runs through the middle of the brewery).

It was one of the best beer gardens we visited and we were treated like kings. We got to sample a handful of their beers including a Hopfweissen which was like a wheat IPA. All of the American contingency found this delightful as we hadn't had a very bitter beer in awhile.

Best of those is on the far right in my opinion! We were also brought an amazing meat and cheese plate that I didn't get a picture of because we finished it too fast.

Next stop we visited the craziest brewery I have ever been to in my life. There is nothing bad about it by any means. It is truly crazy and I can't really describe it without pictures.

Seems pretty normal so far, classic old kettle with a state of the art Shoko from Kaspar Schulz. From here the dwarfs take over...

Weird blue lights in the fermentation room. It is going to get more bizarre from here.

The basement of a tower on the brewery site which is the main attraction. It is like brewing meets Gaudi.

The tower!

A picture of the gardens below with the brewery in the top part. Taken from the top of the tour which stands barely below the church steeple (you cannot build a building taller than the church steeple).

The inside of the top of the tower. It was quite bizarre.

After returning to Munich because of easter weekend, we packed our rental car and headed to Nice. Maybe it was a little on the crazy side to leave at 9 PM and drive all night, but hey, we are in brewing school.

Right before we left.

And the sunrise in Nice. Thanks to Viet and Greg for driving!

Location:On the way back to Munich

European Brewing Tour - Week 1 Wednesday

I like to call it Bamburgin. Thats what we did on Wednesday. First stop was the oldest brewing equipment manufacturer in Germany and one which has a large influence in the US craft beer scene as they make systems which fit the needs of small and mid size breweries.

The only picture I got of this shop. We took a nice tour through their facilities and had a really good presentation. I know that a lot of the guys had been looking forward to visiting this place and were impressed with the attention to detail and the personal touch that the company adds to its clients. It is clear that they are not only interested in selling you a product but also in your specific needs and can help you solve very specific problems. They have been around for a very long time and for good reason! Hopefully one day I will be giving them a call as a customer.

Second stop was to the world renowned specialty malting facility at Weyermann. Weyermann can easily be described as the premier specially malting facility in Europe and it would be accurate to say that Briess is the Weyermann of the US. The different between specialty maltsters and base maltsters is the ability to create unique flavors by kilning the malts at different temperatures for different periods of times or by using malt roasting drums. The awesome caramel, chocolate, coffee, toffee, and roasted flavors attributed to certain beers are what these guys specialize in. Ohh ya, you could call it a malting castle because it is...

They do have some serious branding going on. You will see an exuberant amount of yellow and red at this place. Every employee is wearing red and yellow and virtually everything is painted red and yellow too. As with the other production facilities, we weren't allowed to take photos in most of the facility.

Bags and bags of Weyermann specialty malts!

Nice outfits gents.

They have a sexy little test batch system from Kaspar Schulz. The cool part about malt and hop producers is that they are as interested in trying things as we are. They are more than welcome to help experiment with you and show you some of the cool stuff they have done by experimentation. They are vital in recipe development as a resource and partner. They are as into making beer as brewers are and they take extreme care in preparing the malts so we can make the best beer possible.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

European Brewing Tour - Week 1 Tuesday

First stop on Tuesday was a visit to the parent company of Steineker, Krones AG. Many of you who have been on multiple brewery tours would probably recognize the name from the bottling lines. They are a major player in the production of high quality filling machines for the beverage industry. As at Steineker, no pictures were allowed inside the facility.

The plant is massive and while we didn't get to take any pictures of the production facility I did take some pictures of the early generation fillers in the museum.

They also make labelers which go well with their bottling lines (no surprise there).

A small automatic filler. There are eight filler heads on that filler, whereas today they are making fillers with upwards of 200 filler heads.

That is the top of the filler at Schneider as an example of how big they are today. I think this one was a 172 filler head from Krones.

Next stop was the Bischofshof Brewery which had a lot of the toys from Steineker and Krones on show! To tour the manufacturing plants then go see the products in use at the brewery gave us a chance to see how it all falls into place.

Mash vessels and mash cooker at Bischofshof. All of the brewing vessels were produced by Steineker.

The rest of the brewhouse.

To all the beer nerds, ya thats a Pegasus and ya its sexy.

Ohh and they had a robot arm depalletizing kegs. This thing was awesome! If I can figure out how to upload video onto the ipad, I will share the video I have of this thing.

After beer and ham loaf at Bischofshof we headed to Bamburg, home of the famed smoked beers for a birthday dinner and night of drinking. A shot of the boys, sans Viet who took the picture. While it was my birthday, the festive nature of Bamburg on a Tuesday night was probably concentrated with this group. A long day in Bamburg awaited on Wednesday so we kicked it pretty early.

There you go Viet. I must say that 26 couldn't have started out better and I shared it with some awesome brewing guys. Thanks for all the birthday wishes from back home!


European Brewing Tour - Week 1 Monday

First stop on the tour was a visit to the Steineker plant in Freising, Germany.

Above is the only picture that I took at Steineker. At most of the manufacturing places, pictures were not allowed because of the equipment and processes they use are considered trade secrets. It was interesting to tour the facilities and witness the brilliance of German engineering first hand. It is quite impressive to see some of the vessels they are putting out there, from mid size brewing vessels to the big boys. As many of you know, nearly all modern day brewing vessels are made of stainless steel, which I prefer to copper in terms of aesthetics, so walking through these factories was right up my alley.

The next stop on Monday was to the Hopsteiner plants in the Hallertau region of Bavaria which is one of the most famous hop growing regions in the world! In this region, most of the hops are grown by locals with no massive hop farms like you would see in Yakima. As you drive down the road, there are literally hundreds of hop fields which are independently owned and operated. They also don't have "elevators" which means they do the picking and drying and storing all themselves and then sell the hop cones to a company like Hopsteiner directly.

A few pictures from the bus of the hop fields throughout the Hallertau.

At the first facility we visited was their hop pellet production facility. The amount of green paint that went into making this place is kind of absurd. I ended up taking so many pictures of the green machinery for a close friend of mine.

Hop dust and some waste pellets from the pelletizer (pictured below).

I am not kidding when I say that every piece of machinery in this place was green.

Two awesome sieves.

Bailed hops going in for processing.

Just two homies and some hops. The place matched my shoes and shirt quite well. It was like St. Patrick's day decorations all year round.

Even the machine used to cool the hops down was green!

More green stuff.

In the other part of their plant, they have a CO2 extraction facility and even that stuff is green. Those machines are amazing and I think they are the only ones in Germany.

A bowl full of hop extracts. This is from the ethanol extraction plant at the Hopsteiner plant.

At the end of the presentation we got to sample a bunch of different kinds of hops. All of these varieties are grown in the Hallertau so we didn't get to sample any of the American varieties which they grow in Yakima valley. My favorite ended up being Aurora which is a variety I have never heard of before!

They also have a state of the art storage facility which is run by a computer system and a robot which stores all of the hops in a massive (green) warehouse which is kept at low oxygen atmosphere and a cold temperature. Automation in all of its glory.

After the tour of their facilities, they generously wined and dined us. It was a delicious, traditional Bavarian meal with some beer which uses their hops.

What an end to the first day.


My Sincerest Apologies

For those who follow this regularly and haven't seen an update in roughly three weeks, I apologize. It would seem that a hour break to write an update for your family and friends would be a pretty achievable task, but I assure you, it has been much more difficult than that. The past three weeks have passed in the blink of an eye. Now that nearly all of my classmates have returned to the states and I am not on any schedule, I have the chance to share some of the things I have been doing.

Friday, April 15, 2011 we took our essay style final exam so most of the week was dedicated to studying for that. One thing that I am thankful for is that I put a lot of time into studying during my stay in Chicago so it was more of a review than anything.

Earlier in the week we brewed a batch according to a spec which I believe was set by a customer of Doemens for research purposes. It is pretty cool to be doing research brewing!

Above is the inside of our mash tun. The four vessel system we use at school was fabricated by Steinecker which is part of the AG Krones group, one of the premier bottling and brewhouse manufacturers.

A good size sight glass (pictured above) is used to ensure the lauter bed is effectively filtering the wort from the grains.

All of the brewhouse equipment is fitted with special site glasses, allowing for easy visualization of the process.

The inside of our wort kettle is pictured above. The other really awesome part about working on this system is that it is run almost fully automatic. The brew day that week, I was able to get a lot of experience using the Siemens system (even though everything is in German) which I was really excited about.

The week finished up with bottling in which I ran the "cellar" portion along with Viet, Nolan and Shaun. We spent the day ensuring that beer was flowing to the filler and notifying the line when we were changing beers. We also spent a lot of time cleaning which I enjoyed.

The weekend was full of partying in celebration of our completion of the class portion of the program. On Saturday we went to Dachau, which was probably the most depressing place I have been. Monday, April 18th, started the European brewing tour, so we packed and moved out of the Euro Youth to catch our bus at 7AM.

Location:Munich, Germany