Friday, July 31, 2009

Of yeast and NABC brewing locations, with Haggis Laddie and Tafel thoughts included.

In general daily terms, beers brewed by NABC fall into three categories epending on the type of yeast used: London, California Common (for lagers) and Belgian Saison.

Broadly speaking, now that the 15bbl/30bbl Bank Street Brewhouse is up and running, the London yeast primarily will be employed downtown to brew the core portfolio of ales for distribution: Beak’s, Elector, 15-B and Hoptimus.

Lagers (Mt. Lee, Kaiser, Abzug, et al) and Belgians (Tunnel Vision, Tafel, Saisons) will be brewed at the original 4bbl/8bbl garage brewhouse off Grant Line Road.

Expect there to be exceptions, as the new yeast propagator at BSB makes it possible to grow any yeast efficiently and quickly and use it at either location, but on a day to day basis, the preceding constitutes the game plan.

Dave Pierce and Jesse Williams work at BSB, and Jared Williamson is at Grant Line. These are their primary workplaces, but there’ll be much movement between the sites, as well as the opportunity for fun and creativity once the routine is established. Until then -- and it will take some time -- we're trying to nail down schedules and rotations.

Today is the first BSB brew day of two (plus Saturday) designed so that we can have a fermenter filled with Hoptimus by the end of the day tomorrow. 15-barrel batches of Beak’s and Elector were brewed Wednesday and yesterday, and a like sized batch of 15-B comes Sunday. We’ll have 75 barrels of ale in the process of fermenting by Monday, and if this doesn’t seem like much, consider that the previous yearly high of brewing at Grant Line was just beneath 500 barrels.

Jared will be improving on that 500 bbl figure at Grant Line this year, and two of his garage brewery selections currently are on draft at Bank Street: Haggis Laddie Celtic Red and Tafel.

I mention the former with slight trepidation, as it’s Friday and the sole keg we have to sample has already been on tap for four days. It’s intended as standard, quaffing Irish-style red ale (London house yeast) and was brewed specifically for the upcoming Kentuckiana Celtic Fest on New Albany’s riverfront on August 22, hence the “Celtic” designation. A keg was surreptitiously tapped at BSB to gather customer feedback, which has been good so far. We doubt that it will become a staple, although it is hoped that the Celtic Fest will return next year, and if so, I’m sure we’ll do it again then.

The Tafel, which is on tap at both NABC locations, was for formulated by Dave as an exercise in (a) low gravity brewing for the session beer series, and (b) as a way to keep the Saison yeast working until there’s time for Jared to brew more Belgians along these lines. The word “tafel” means “table” in the Dutch, Flemish and German languages, and so it is table beer, unapologetically so. It is of characteristic Belgian flavor, quite mild with fruity spiciness, and suitable for more than one.

Here are a few of Jared’s comments, which illustrate what we learned about the yeast along the way to Tafel.

The Saison yeast worked very slowly on the Tafel, nearly 3 weeks, but I started fermentation near 72 degrees and then turned it up to 80 to finish. The Tunnel Vision I brewed last week began at 78 degrees and is already at 1020 and still rocking. If I can consistently get the results attained this week we can hold off (a different Belgian yeast strain) until higher gravity Belgians need a stronger strain later in the fall. I have several beers in the works to try with the Saison in the coming weeks/months.

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