Monday, June 6, 2011

Stein Brew June 4th, 2011

Over the weekend, Marygrace and I took a trip down to Ellicottville.  Although the thunderstorms were pretty incredible on the way down there, they were not all that pleasant when standing out in them trying to brew beer.  (Thank God they sopped since as I later found out, I would have been killed if they had lasted much longer.)  All in all though, it was a great experience,  got to sample quite a few homebrews and Ellicottville beers that we don't typically get near us, and I got to learn quite a bit from some veteran homebrewers.

The stein brew the way that it is done in Ellicottville is pretty straight foreword.  Mash and sparge a beer as you typically would on a brew day, then when it is time to boil, then comes the fun.  We arrived shortly after noon and the days events were just getting under way.  Since it was raining, the homebrewers had to be a bit innovative in order to keep the fire going:

When the rocks get hot enough (they start to fracture apart since they were using don't want to use anything like shale or slate since they will explode rather than fracture) and the sparge has completed, the hot stones are loaded into metal baskets attached to planks by a chain.  The board is then spun around a few times to wrap the chain and raise the basket, then its off to the brew kettle!

The stones (some of them literally red hot) are lowered into the boiling wort and sit there for about 10 to 15 minutes (until all of the heat has been released to the wort).  They are then removed and the process is repeated about 15 times in total.  Although these stones help along with the boil (they still use their primary heat source in the process) one of the great attributes that they are supposed to impart on the beer is carmelization of the wort.  Apart from these few differences, the process is just like any other: add hops and whatever other flavorings.  In this case, they used spruce, cascade hops, and if I recall correctly, Mt. Hood.  Here are some shots of the 35 lbs of spruce that were used during the boil:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the great things that we got to do at the brewery was to taste quite a few of the different beers that not only the Ellicottville Brewery has to offer, but some of the homebrewers as well.  From Ellicottville, we got to try 16, Mow Master, Black Hops, two different Oktoberfests, and a Cherry Chocolate Stout.  All of them were so unique and different, but one of my favorites was definitely the Cherry Chocolate Stout, and when we go back in two months to try the stein brew, I will have to get a growler if it is still available for another adventure in beer ice cream.  From the homebrewers, there was an English Mild and a Belgian Christmas Saison that was the Buffalo Brew Fest BIS from 1996, and although the English Mild was a solid beer, all I have to say about the Belgian is wow, and I never though a beer could age that well.  It was smooth with hints of raisin with spices and was almost reminiscent of a sherry.  It was a deep rich dark color with only minimal carbonation.  I will be bringing some of my own homebrew for the next stein brew in October.  We well see how it holds up.

My list of three take-aways from this outing:
  1. Do not let American Homebrewers Association membership expire.
  2. Bring homebrew for the fall stein brew.
  3. Remember to bring a stein to drink out of next time (it is a stein brew after all)

Primary: Honey Dunkelweisen
Secondary: Hefeweisen 2 (Honeyweisen), Honey Toasted Oat Brown Ale, Wedding IPA
Total for 2011: 53 Gallons

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