Monday, May 30, 2011

Graduation #1 (of 2)

So it all started roughly 12 weeks ago in snow covered Chicago. While a some of the guys (and gal) knew each other before hand, it is safe to say that we all made lasting friendships during our journey. The culmination of 7 weeks of intense classwork in Chicago, paired with the practical segments and also intense classwork at Doemens, and the European Brewing Tour we had finally arrived at, for some, the halfway point and for others, the end. It is for certain that many of us will be in touch for the rest of our lives as we share setbacks and successes (hopefully more successes than setbacks).

We had a nice lunch at a small restaurant near Doemens and Lyn Kruger made the trek to Germany to deliver our certificates. Our fearless WBA president, Michael Eder, had some beer from his brewery on hand for the celebrations.

Nice little setting right by the small river that runs through Grafelfing.

It wasn't really a place for pictures as it was a time to gather and celebrate what we had accomplished.

Lucky that this man won't be going anywhere and we will be spending the next two months together for the Master Brewer Program. All in all, there are eight of us remaining for the Master's program and we will be joined by twelve new faces. I am sure there are some amazing times to be had.

Thanks to social networking we have been able to keep in touch and many of our peers have already gotten jobs with some great breweries! It is going to be interesting to see where these talented individuals go in life. Thankfully the students are pretty evenly distributed all over the U.S. so road trips and great beer await!

Location:Grafelfing, Germany

European Brewing Tour - Week 2 Thursday

The last day of our brewing tour included a stop at the Schlagl brewery in the same town which we had the beer dinner. This was nice because we were able to sleep in a bit. I ended up not having a hangover at all the next day which was nice. Some of my friends were not so lucky.

We were able to see some traditional techniques that I have never seen before at this brewery.

This is actually a picture of the boil kettle which is a kind of bizarre setup. The heating surface is the slanted side of the vessel which causes some interesting convection. In the end, there is a pretty good reason this is the only one which we saw but it goes to show you that there is certainly more than one way to skin a cat.

They also had really cool CO2 recovery system which we had never seen before.

This is actually a non-operating portion of the brewery which they hope to recondition and use for small batches, as a pilot brewery of sorts. That sounded like a pretty awesome idea to all of us and if they needed a brewer to come work in the "pilot" brewery that many of us would jump at the idea.

They had a van outside, as we were heading down to the bier hall to try their beers, and were moving loads of papers from the van to a storage room.

In their restaurant/bier hall, they had some really cool tables set up inside some giant wooden barrels. The picture is a bit dark but the idea is really cool.

Our last stop was at the Flottweg company which is known for making centrifuges. It was another place where we weren't allowed to take pictures but it was pretty amazing to see the process. We had one last snack of Leberkase and soft pretzels before making the trek back to Munich. This raps up the European Brewing Tour.


European Brewing Tour - Week 2 Wednesday

Wednesday could be described by many a brewer as one of the best days life could gift a man/woman. First stop was at the Schloss Eggenberg Brewery home of the acclaimed Samichlaus (more on that later). With a rich history for producing for producing some amazing beers, this was a stop everyone in our class had been looking forward to.

For the most part, the tour ran like many other of our tours. The brewery had its own hop garden which was relatively small and clearly not their main source for their beer but really cool nonetheless. The coolest part of this brewery will be explained later on in the day. I'll leave with you with a sample for right now:

The next stop on our tour was this amazing craft brewery in the middle of beautiful Austrian farmland called Brauerei Hofstetten. This was one of the places which we visited that was truly in tune with many American craft brewer's desire to experiment. Among the traditional techniques which were employed by this brewery was a very traditional mill which, when turned on, kind of sounded like it was going to bring the house down.

That is one classy mill. The classic copper brewing vessels fit the ambience of this rustic craft brewery.

One of the most amazing things that the brewers at Hofstetten were doing was they were fermenting in medium sized granite fermenters. After the wort was cooled and transferred to the open fermenters, they added glowing hot rocks, which had been warming over a grill, to the fermenters to caramelize some of the sugars which would give the beer its characteristic taste. The process has been used by some big breweries like Dogfish Head in their Sah'tea.

That shot captures the process even better than I though (look at the pictures on the wall). Some other awesome stuff that they are doing is creating an icebock (freeze distillation) and some barrel aging. The brewery doesn't have a restaurant or anything attached to it, just a beer garden and a great little bar. This one place inspired many different ideas which I hope to utilize in my own brewery one day.

We did get a chance to try nearly all of their beers and played a little soccer outside. One thing that we did get a chance to try was the "bucket beer" which will be explained in pictures below.

"Filling the bucket" - straight out of the aging vessel.

Getting ready to "experience" the bucket beer. I can't say enough about how nice the guys were at this place. The brewers were very open with their processes and excited to talk to us. We did get a little taste of their beer schnapps as well which was awesome.

After the juggling circle ended and we were full on beer, we thanked the brewers and owners for the amazing tour and samples and left for our final stop of the day, and one of the most anticipated. The Bierkulinarium awaited.

We were greeted by the famed World Champion Beer Sommelier, Karl Schiffner. The Biergasthaus is a hotel and a restaurant which we would stay in and have an amazing beer dinner. The five course meal had a beer and food pairing with each course and then to finish it all off we would have a special "digestif".

The view from the window of our hotel. The amazing rolling hills in the Austrian countryside. It reminded me very much of spring in Virginia.

The menu.

The beer pairings.

The table is set. Lets get to it!

Course 1: Asparagus with Aper-Ale. The asparagus was prepared cold and was absolutely delicious.

Course 2: Garlic Soup with Uerige Alt. I could have had ten servings of this soup. It was absolutely delicious and the pairing with the alt was delicious.

Course 3: Fried Salmon-Trout with Saffron-Risotto paired with Hofstettner Honigbier. One thing I can definitely say about all of the dishes and pairings. They were amazing.

Course 4: Roasted Beef with paprika sauce and fried potatoes paired with Champion Bitter. This was my favorite pairing and overall dish.

Course 5: Dessert - Sherbert from Dandelion-Honey paired with a heated bock. In the picture the bock has yet to be heated.

The bock is being heated. Karl is dipping a red hot poker into the beer which causes the remaining sugars to caramelize and makes the beer taste like a marshmallow. The theory is that it is an age old practice that was used by the iron workers to heat up the beer.

Course 6: Samichlaus!

Karl addressing our special guest who turned out to be one of the owners of the Eggenberg brewery which we visited earlier that day. It turned out to be a real treat because by this point things had loosened and we had all started to congregate around the massive bottle of Samichlaus. I think this bottle was the 3.5 Liter bottle.

The three legends. Karl is on the right, the owner of Eggenberg in the middle, and Michael Eder on the left. All three very good friends and all three stayed up far later than I drinking amazing beers well into the early hours of the morning. We did get a treat from the owner of Eggenberg which I was very interested to try.

He brought in a bottle of his distilled Samichlaus. The bottle came in full and left empty. It tasted like beer whiskey. A couple more vintages of Samichlaus came out and by that time, it was time for bed.

Location:More Austria