Thursday, January 30, 2014

Brewing with Elevation 66 - Part Two

Good Morning Ladies & Gentlemen,
Tuesday night, after an “interesting” day at work, I went over to Izzy’s place (Yes, Dizzy is Izzy… I know, it was a real nom de plume worthy of the annuls of history… but I figured why mix it up anymore). In the early morning, we were to brew… but first, we had La Val’s Pizza (Berkeley Special to be exact & it’s pretty good) and then we swung by the Albany Taproom for a drink since it was next door. While sampling some of their selection, they had a “Meet the Brewers” event with E.J. Phair Brewing Company out of Pittsburg, CA (not PA). They also have a new alehouse in Concord. Well, we started chatting with their brewmaster Craig & the sales director Bill… and we basically chatted with them for about two hours. The company is fairly new (as about 90% of most craft brew places have started in the last decade or so) but they’re expanding at a fairly steady rate (again as most) and seem to have a great space (check their website) with plenty of events from comedy & open mic nights… to brewery tours paired with two-buck pints… and just a nice biergarden complete with dart boards kind of atmosphere.
Of course, most importantly, they’re nice guys willing to chat with two random beer nerds… and the beer was pretty fantastic as well. They had four selections on hand Tuesday with their Facepuncher IPA, Plankwalker Pale, Teutonic Night (Baltic Porter & my personal fave) & Shorty’s Revenge (flagship English Amber Ale) but have a few more at their location… which after the gracious hospitality we were shown by them at the taproom, we’ll definite have to check out firsthand soon. More on E.J. Phair to come, I’m sure. Heck, I think this Friday is their brewery tour with $2 pints… so maybe VERY soon. Then again, I know a few of their key guys now. Check them out.
Ready for some brewing? Let's go!!!
Wednesday, we woke up at 4 AM, grabbed a quick bite to eat (toaster waffles) and headed over to Elevation 66 Brewing Company in El Cerrito to help out on a new batch of delicious brew. Brewmasters Super Dave & Big Ben were there waiting for us, so we thanked them for their time & allowing us to be a part of this (even in a small way), and then… we sanitized. Yes, the first, last, consistent & probably most important step of beermaking is sanitization. Why? Well, because even though there’s not really any deadly bacteria that can kill you in beer (alcohol saves you from that), the last thing that you want is to drink a beer and have it be absolutely disgusting because of a little something messing with the recipe or cancelling out another chemical reaction. It’s really a delicate balance when working with beer. It’s a lot like cake… but then again, it’s really hard to f**k up when the ingredients are butter, sugar & flour in a 400 degree environment free of bacteria for about an hour… compared to when you’re dealing with wheat, barley, bitter hops, water, and using yeast which only works under perfect conditions for bacteria over VERY long periods of time. Hopefully that helps to show why they’re called BrewMASTERS!!!
Some artwork around the place...
After cleaning up things with Big Ben, we noticed that Super Dave was already well into the mashing process. Our homebrewing is on a five gallon scale… but this batch was on an over 200 gallon scale… so where we were mashing with 10-12 pounds depending on the recipe, they’re dealing with 400-500 pounds of grains. One of their fellow brewers snapped a tendon in his bicep last week & it rolled up with a curtain on him. Being a brewmaster isn’t for the faint of heart or muscle sometimes… be sure to stretch thoroughly & maybe warm up a little before messing with these large loads. While Super Dave was finishing the initial mash, Big Ben & I wheeled around some of the spent grains (about 1200 pounds of them soaking wet) that they had stored from other brews so that a local farmer could pick them up to feed to his goats & cows. When dealing with these massive amounts of grains, there’s really not much else that you can do with them. Yes, with our little batch, we took a few scoops to make a few loaves of delicious bread… but even on that scale we end up using the vast majority as compost or sharing with the local birds. Especially with small operations like Elevation 66, there’s just not space, storage or the facilities to really do anything else with the grains other than to donate them to local farmers… but it works out well for both ends.

There was a lot of time during the mashing & boiling process where we were waiting for the massive amounts of liquid to heat up to proper temperatures… and during that time, we basically sipped a few brews (YES, it was a little after 7 AM… but we figured that given when we started, it was basically noon) and talked about how the company started, issues they face with space & layout of the building, limited supply versus growing demand, the lack of availability for various ingredients due to the BOOM of Craft Beer and their relative size (many of same things discussed with EJ Phair the night before), how they became Brewmasters, homebrew tips & tricks of the trade, events that they’ve been a part of, what they liked about them, what aspects of the events’ planning were seriously lacking, all different kinds of things, and of course we included the usual getting to know you chit chat & daily observations. Just a pair of great guys who seemed pretty happy to have us around… and frankly, we had a fantastic time helping out, even if only a little bit.
Unfortunately, due to my day job & Izzy’s first week back at school, we had to leave a little after 10 AM to grab some lunch before heading back into the City about a 40 minute BART ride away. This was right around the point where the hour-long boil & hop addition had just taken place & finished, so now they were running the hot wort through their plate chillers and into the fermentation tanks… which apparently is a rather timely process as well (there’s a lot of “Hurry up & wait” to the process as you know, but especially on a large scale) but we definitely plan on coming back and helping some more. This was my first time & Izzy’s second… so yeah, we didn’t do much this time… but apparently as we help out more & become more familiar with the process… they’ll trust us to do a little more, which makes perfect sense. This time around is was mostly sanitization and linking hoses and stuff like that… but a few times down the road, maybe we’ll be adding the grains… or mixing the mash… or adding the hops… or scooping out the spent grains… or testing the beer after fermentation to make sure that it’s ready or going along smoothly… or whatever. Obviously there’s a LOT to learn about the process, but we’re willing to learn.
So another HUGE THANKS to Super Dave & Big Ben at Elevation 66 for letting us get in the way & do a little grunt work for them… but mostly just being cool cats & shooting the sh*t with us before the sun came up. Also, a big thank you to Craig & Bill with E.J. Phair for hanging with us Tuesday night & I’m sure that we’ll see you shortly in Pittsburg and/or Concord. Go patronize these estblishments at your earliest convenience!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Beer & Bacon Day

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Well, Saturday was our first official Beer & Bacon Day at the apartment. In the past we had a few Bacon Days… and drinks are always readily available… but this was our first joint venture with our own Homebrew as a featured player. Why now? Well, Wednesday January 22nd was the 453rd birthday of Sir Francis Bacon… former Lord Chancellor of England… and an accomplished philosopher, statesman, scientist, and author who’s probably best known for his work in helping to establish the Scientific Method. Don’t worry, Kevin Bacon’s birthday is in July (probably when our next one will be) and National Bacon Day is during Labor Day Weekend… so there are other reasons for such events even if they’re not directly related to each other. Basically, Dizzy & I like to cook delicious things and make beer… and Bacon is probably our favorite food that isn’t on the endangered species list (I assume Panda taste like meaty pumpkin pie… and that’s why they’re almost extinct) so we like to have a gathering of friends & family, make some delicious dishes, and now… we’ve included our incredible homebrew options as well.
Now, I want to say from the get-go… that basically everybody that attended was Dizzy’s family & friends because… all my family is back in Utah… and apparently I have no friends here in the Bay Area besides those I’ve acquired through my association with her… but hey, it’s all good… they’re great peeps. Guests started arriving around 3 PM… which was perfect because we had food ready & waiting for them… BEHOLD!!!
Drink Menu:
·         Irish Red Ale
·         Pumpkin Ale
·         Bavarian Hefeweizen
·         Nut Brown Ale
·         Honey Root Beer
·         Adam Carolla’s Mangria (both red & white peach)
Food Menu:
·         Bacon-wrapped chicken breast rolled in brown sugar & Cajun seasoning
·         Bacon-wrapped cheddar jalapeno poppers
·         Bacon fried in pumpkin pancake batter
·         Bacon Turtle Brownies
·         Spent Grain Bread (a HUGE hit)
·         Bacon Quiche (two kinds)
·         Bacon Pecan Brittle

We also made some sourdough & bacon grilled cheese...
and blue cheese or cheddar for the melty goodness...

The guests came in waves… first was Dizzy’s aunts and they brought a few quiches with bacon in them… and then a few of her friends from Sacramento showed up… and then as the evening progressed, some of her coworkers stopped by after their shifts. It started with talking about the food, and a few times we answered questions about the homebrewing process and the differences between the different beers… and basically why they were so much better than they were expecting… even showing off our batches that were almost ready for bottling (Mead & Porter) and our newest batch (Winter Warmer) that were off to the side in the living room. They seemed really interested (or at least feigned it well) and REALLY liked the beer. They tried everything… and I think our biggest hits were the Pumpkin Ale and the Hefeweizen. Now that the Hef has aged a bit, it may actually be a Dunkelweizen. We may have been sent the darker malt extract, because it tastes more like one & is still pretty dark for a hefeweizen. Regardless, it’s pretty delicious now.
Preparing for the next event...

Skele-Pig watches over the food & accepts your donations...

"... cuz I'm fly... that's why..."


We also played board games like Toc Toc Woodsman (kind of like Jenga, but with an axe chopping down a tree), Avalon (a King Arthur based game of strategy) & Cards Against Humanity (R-Rated Apples to Apples if you haven’t heard of it), all of which were hits & helped to keep everybody entertained… and let’s face it, the drinks helped.
The last guests departed a little after midnight… and we had gone through about four pounds of bacon, two pounds of chicken, a 40-pack of jalapeno poppers, over a case of homebrews, and various other ingredients… but well worth it. We had a FANTASTIC Saturday night with great people… and we also have some HUGE fans of our offerings so it’s good feedback to carry into our next batches and beyond. Maybe our next stop will be offering to the SF Homebrewing Guild so that they can critique our beers. I’m excited about that prospect. They could definitely help us take our “hobby” to the next level to make sure that we’re making fantastic product… and not just stuff that we think is awesome because we made it & our friends won’t tell us that it sucks… but I doubt that’s the case. It’s really good.
Stay tuned for other big things this week… we have new batches to bottle, transfer and/or start anew… there’s the possibility of another Brew Day at Elevation 66… and just a host of other things coming your way thanks to our borderline obsession with things beer-related. There’s also a visit this week from friend of the blog Jackie D… and SF Beer Week is just around the corner. So much going on!!! Have a great day everybody!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brewing with Elevation 66

So Last week I, Izzy, Had the wonderful opportunity to brew with the brew masters over at Elevation 66! How did this happen? What did I do? Well, here it is, and sorry, no pictures.

Im currently job hunting (master brewers need some help? lol) So I took my cute little resume up to my local brewery. I tryied to stop by around Noon, hoping to just catch a bar manager or something but I happened upon the Brew Master Dave. He informed me they were not hiring, but if I was interested, I could come in at 5 am and help them brew. Of course I will!! So that Wed, I arrived, its amazing how quiet it as at that time. Also it was weirdly warm, hello global warming. I was greeted by a surprised Dave and some of the other brew employees. They were all super nice, and I was so over whelmed Ive forgotten almost everyones names. I was informed we would be making a Double Rye-PA in collaboration with Coastal Brewing, Cool!

We started out sanitizing equipment, and hooking up hoses and other cool things.The brew masters started loading grain and sparging, while myself and 2 other guys were cleaning fermentors, and then we were asked to transfer yeast from the Kolsch tank to the clean fermentor. I watched the two guys i was shadowing hooked up more hoses and little viewing tanks to the hoses to transfer the yeast. the cool little viewing thing let us watch as the liquid yeast turned to beer so we knew when to turn off pumps and unhook equipment.

After less then 2 hours everything was clean and ready, so we just had to wait for the sparge (running the hot water through the grains to get sugar water). We enjoyed a little beverage while waiting, which was also odd at about 630 am. but hey, its all good. We talked beer and they discussed their upcoming employee BBQ. After about an hour of waiting the Sparge was finally done and we began the boil. We tested the sugar water for its specific gravity and started adding hops. So many hops in this batch! The boil lasted an hour, and they brew masters added all the hops which i watched on. There was a lot of foam, and they used a hose to keep it down, neat!!

After the boil they cooled the wort by running it through a plate chiller, which dropped it from 180 degrees to a chilly 65. We measures the specific gravity again, and they brew masters were thinking this beer is going to be about 11%! Nice big beer. We transfered the beer to the prepared fermentor with all the hoses we had cleaned earlier. Next we shoveled the spent grains out of the mash ton, and filled 5 garbage cans with mash! Lucky for me it was the day a local goat and pig farmer picked it up for his animals! He showed up just as we finished shoveling out the 200+ lbs of wet grains and we loaded it into his trailer. The guys hosed out the boil kettle and cleaned now it was almost 1 in the after noon so i bid them farewell until next time and headed home to get ready for my other job.

It was an amazing adventure, and I cant WAIT to do it again!! and maybe take $teve with me!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter Warmer & Honey Root Beer

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
First & foremost, I wanted to show some of the logo ideas that we're going with thus far... and I'm really liking the "Dilophosaur" (unless you're a dinosaur nerd like me) on the left hand side... 
Saturday was a Brew Day!!! Dizzy & I woke up, none of the roommates were around… so we decided to start up our next batch of delicious brew…
The Winter Warmer
Basically it appears to be a bit of a brown ale with darker grains so that it’s primarily for sipping by the fireplace & warming the cockles of your heart while you enjoy family time. Of course, because none of the roommates were around mid-day on a Saturday and it was a perfect time to do it… they immediately showed up as soon as all of the stuff was getting sanitized in the kitchen. Oh well… it happens… and luckily they didn’t really need the kitchen other than to warm a few things up for lunch, etc. Yes… it’d be nice to have a garage or something to do the homebrewing in… but you work with what you have… and frankly, it’s not a bad situation at all. Maybe it’s just that I worry too much about being in my roommates’ ways… but I’ll get over it. They know how it goes. Anyway… we started with sanitizing the equipment… and then sparging out those delicious sugars for our wort…

Sparge the first bit... then put it back in so you get the good stuff...

Spent grains make good fertilizer...
even though we really don't care...
I'm guessing the birds don't mind

Add the hops...

Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize...

Now, we’re beginners with the mash-tun… and apparently we have a little learning to do. See… apparently what happens if that you have to make sure that you have enough water to sparge out all the goodies. If you’re making 5 gallons, then you’d think 5 gallons would be enough… and you’d be WRONG!!! The grains that you’re pulling the sugars from are all dried out, cracked to expose their innards, so you really have to calculate the amount of water that you use to get a desired amount of liquid through there. The dried grains will obviously rehydrate with the addition of the hot waters, some of the gelatinous qualities act up and basically, depending on the amount of grains used (in this case, about 12 pounds) we should’ve used somewhere in the range of 8-9 gallons of hot water for the total sparge to get the desired 5 gallons.
However, we didn’t really do a lot of calculations beforehand… so I think we only used about 7-8 gallons of sparge water… so we only ended up with about 3.5 gallons of wort when it was all said and done. Take into account the evaporation from the hour-long boil for the hops… and we basically ended up with three gallons of Winter Warmer for the primary fermenter. Not a complete loss obviously… but definitely could’ve used an extra two gallons. Rookie mistake that we’ll certainly learn from… and that’s why you live… so that you can learn.


From this point, the process will still basically be the same despite the lower amount of wort. We still add yeast, primary fermenting, secondary fermenting, bottling, and it should be ready in about six weeks. The best part about learning of this now… is that we’ll definitely have enough water ready for our next batch… which is our Oktoberfest batch… which I’m personally really excited about because I LOVE German biers. Also, we got a little bored trying to cool the hot wort as fast as possible... so we decided to take some pictures of melting ice like we're filming a glacier documentary like "Chasing Ice" and here are the results...

Another added bonus of the mashing & sparging… is that we then have a few pounds of extra “spent” well-hydrated grains that we can use for things like making bread. With just a few eggs, some flour, olive oil, etc. We took some of those grains that we would’ve just given away or thrown on the lawn as compost… and turned them into delicious high-fiber bread for… well, anything bread is used for. Sandwiches, snacks, soaking up beer, whatever. It’s really good stuff… and you can even dress it up more if you like by adding raisins and other things that people unnecessarily add to good old fashioned bread.

Honey Root Beer
Since we had the stuff out, we also decided to make a batch of Honey Root Beer. What makes it Honey Root Beer? Well, we used some delicious honey as the sugar instead of standard cane or corn sugar in the recipe. Here are some pictures before the process… honey on the bottom, extract & water on top...
This batch should be ready in a week which is perfect for our Bacon & Beer Day Celebration this Saturday!!! You know, a magnificent alternative for those who don’t want to have a bunch of homebrews, may not be of age (though I don’t know why they’d be hanging out with us), or just to try a twist on a classic. We’ll keep you posted.
Monday, we celebrated Martin Luther King Day by going to downtown Santa Rosa to try out a delicious sampler of beer at Russian River Brewing Company. During last weekend’s adventure, we didn’t really have suitable time to experience it… but we did this time. They were still pretty busy despite being just after noon when we arrived… but we got some Drew Bites (like a little pepperoni & peppercini pizza cut into little bites) and THIS SAMPLER!!!

There was also this car parked nearby...
Bay Area... it's what we do...

The beer was magnificent! We highly recommend it! The service was a little slow… but they were really busy, still pretty nice though. I just kinda had to make things happen to get the order in, get a check, and to help out… I even went & got my own drinks at the bar. I’m cool with it… but you just may not be expecting it.
Have a great day everybody!!! We’ll see you next weekend with a report on our Bacon & Beer Day Celebration!!!