Monday, December 29, 2008

German Brewing History

Here are a couple of links to very interesting and quite detailed web sites that delve into some rather interesting and somewhat obscure aspects of brewing culture and history in Germany.

- 3000 Year History of German Brewing : from hausfrau-brewsters/alewives to monastic breweries; from Charlemagne to the Hofbräuhaus (court brewhouse); and gruit ale to the ubiquitous but late-comer lager.

- The doctoral thesis, written by Matthias Trum, brewmaster at Schlenkerla since 2003, on the subject of "Historical depictions, guild signs and symbols of the brewing and malting handcraft" has some wonderful pictorial sources showing brewers as early as 1425. He also delves into the subject of "tapping signs," among them the hexagonal star that served as the emblem of the brewers guild.

The "History of the Felsenkeller" (Cliff Cellars), located in the village of Schwandorf, is another fascinating beer-related tale. While you'll need to read German to get the full story, there are some interesting photographs that accompany the article which are worth a look.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Memmelsdorf Brewpub and Inn

The hotel, restaurant, and brewery Drei Kronen (Three Crowns) in Memmelsdorf, about 8 miles NE of Bamberg, was the last and in some ways one of the most interesting locations we visited.

The brewhouse was relatively modern but the brewer-owner, Hans-Ludwig Straub, opted to incorporate some traditional yet unusual gear and practices in his operation.

Here you can see a copper cool ship, a large rectangular tub (~ 5'x5'x1' deep) used to cool the wort after boiling. Cool ships predate modern heat exchangers but are more characteristic of Belgian Lambic breweries.

In the wall to the left of the tub is a 12" fan that blows air across the sweet liquid to help speed th cooling. Most brewers do everything possible to minimize exposure of their product to the atmosphere and all its potential beer contaminants, but not Hans-Ludwig.

Above the coolship is a large circular copper hood that also draws air across the tub and out of the room. Definitely a very unique set up.

Another piece of equipment I'd never seen in a brewery was the pitch pump. Oak kegs, lacking a barrier to separate the beer from the wood, are treated with a tar-like substance imported from Trinidad, where natural reservoirs of this material form Pitch Lake. (pic)

The pitch is heated in the dark canister at left then pumped, using the long handle on top, to raise the goop up into the keg, where it coats the interior of the keg. Hans-Ludwig told me they re-treat all their oak kegs ("Fass") once each year.

In spite of the shock I experienced at seeing
many of my assumptions about brewing sanitation practices turned upside down, the beer served at the restaurant was pretty clean.

The great thing about traveling the world as a brewer is that there's always more to learn!

See more images related to treating barrels with pitch.

One last treat that awaited us before leaving Memmelsdorf was the grand finale of the meal, a glass of beer schnapps.

I never got the full story of whether the schnapps was distilled on site or if it was from beer made at Drei Kronen. But the bottle, the glass, and the dispensing apparatus was so cool, that I just had to include it in this entry.

Throughout this trip we ate too much and drank quite a bit too, but I never once had a hangover. Each evening we finished the night off with one or another distilled liqueur or schnapps.

Have I found the holy grail of hangover avoidance or just deluding myself about the virtues of a beverage weighing in at 15-40% ABV? I don't know for sure, but the matter definitely merits further research!

Smoked Beer in Bamberg

Located in the center of Bamberg, The Schlenkerla Pub, first mentioned in 1405 and run for 6th generations by the Trum family, is smoked beer mecca.

The delicious smoked
and Ur Bock pour freely from pitch-lined oak kegs into half-liter glasses. On the night we were there, the barkeep was working furiously to keep up with all the orders coming in. Amazing was the fact that this establishment has survived so long on essentially one style of beer.

dark wood and plaster interior were perfect complements to the mild smokey aroma of the Märzen and the slighly sweeter finish of the Bock. The beams, it is told, were painted with ox blood for protection and over time accounted for the deep dark color that nearly matches the hue of the beer.

Probably the coolest room in the house is the "Klause." Its arched ceilings date date back to 1310, when it served as a chapel in a Dominican monestary.

Now that's what I call ATMOSPHERE.

Visit their site for more photos and descriptions of the brewing and malting process.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Klostermalz Malting Operation in Frauenaurach

The Klostermalz malting facility in the Franconian town of Frauenaurach was originally a

monastery brewery built in the 1400's.

It has been operated as a malting facility by the same family for the past five generations They produce a wide range of specialty malts, including organic varieties, for a host of breweries in the region.

Their biggest customer, the Munich-based brewer Augustiner Brau, is considering entering into a partnership with Klostermalz that would guarantee their pricing and allow the malting facility to modernize its operations at a new facility in the nearby town of Erlangen

We had the good fortune to get a tour of the plant by maltster and owner Stephan Bergler (far right), a graduate of the Weihenstephan brewing university.

Afterwards we sampled the fine food and beverages at a
pub in Erlangen called Alter Simpl.

Click on the photo to check out the .5 liter "mug club" glasses with pewter lids hanging on the wall above us and left.

Here they serve the regional specialty, Nürnberger "bratwuerstla." These delicious fingerling-sized sausages were served with either potato salad or sauerkraut. The beer in the ceramic mugs was a Keller Beer from Kitzmann, Erlangen's largest brewery. The heart-shaped platters are also something you find only in this region of Franconia.

The whole experience --- the wooden plank walls, the raucous locals, the jovial owner, the snow falling outside, the engaging converstation with a brewmaster-maltster, all accompanied with good food and drink --- made this stop a real highlight of the trip.

Hundertwasser Tower at Kuchlbauer Brewery

If you should ever find yourself in the town of Abensberg, don't miss the Kuchlbauer Weissbier brewery, where they're building a 35 meter (114 feet) tower designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Contact them for tour info and experience the wheat beer culture of lower Bavaria.

Tel.: +49 (0)9443 9101-0

German Beer and German Food

German beer goes really well with German food.
Go figure!

} Helles beer served with red cabbage and stuffed pork rump.

{ Duck and pan-fried potatoes, potato dumpling served alongside a half liter of dark wheat beer.

{ Weisswuerst with Weizenbier, sweet mustard and pretzels. Breakfast of Bavarians!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Underground Beer Caves of Schwandorf

One of the most interesting stops on this trip was to t
he caves under the town of Schwandorf, which date back to around the year 1500.

They were originally carved out of sandstone to take advantage of the naturally lower temperatures below ground. This made it possible for brewers in the area to make lager beer.

Starting in the 1600's, the growing popularity of lager beer meant beer from the Schwandorf cellars could be "exported" to the nearby towns of Regensburg and Nabburg.

As many as 80 cellar rooms existed by the mid 1800's to serve the needs of private breweries in the area. In 1945 the caves served as bunkers during air raids on the town, where thousands of Schwandorf residents took shelter.

Wooden fermetation vessels rested on the raised platforms in order that beer from the vats could be gravity filled into kegs (Fass) and transported to pubs and inns in Schwandorf and the surrounding area.

Read a history of the "Felsenkeller." (in German)

A Visit to Hallertau Hop Region

While in the Holledau (Hallertau) region, we visited Andreas
Schlachtbauer, a young German hop grower who had visited Yakima and Seattle during the summer of 2008 as part of a scholarship program. Parts of Andreas' farm house were constructed in the early 1500's, but much of the equipment is quite new. The machine used to pack the 60 kilogram (~130 pounds) bales shown here is operated by Andreas'
mother during the fall harvest.

The family grows Hallertau, Magnum, and Select hops on their farm near Aiglsbach, approximately 60km (37 miles) south east of Nuremberg.

Here's a short video of the drive through hops fields near Aiglsbach.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Brewing History in Bad Tölz

Yesterday we visited a Christmas Market in the
town of Bad Tölz, located about 45 kilometers directly south of Munich. The town has some interesting brewing history along with a cozy pedestrian zone, wonderful food and good beer too.

The brewery Oberkerschbräu, located at the corner of Marktstrasse and Kirchgasse, dates back to the year 1795, but documents exist which trace brewing on the same site back to as early as 1476.

Bad Tölz, located on the Isar River, which also flows north through Munich, was an important transportation center. Wood from the nearby forests found its way to the city by way of rafts, called Flössen, made of large tree trunks bound together that could bear heavy loads on the trip north atop the waters of the Isar river bound for Munich.

Beer was one of the other importa
nt wares that made its way to Munich. Since brewing between April 23rd and September 29 was forbidden in the region's largest city, beer stored in cool lagering cellars in Bad Tölz was loaded onto the Flöss rafts to quench the summertime thirst of the city's many residents.

t would appear from another historic photo that the River Isar was also used to transport parts of copper brewing vessels.

Not far from the center of the old town in Bad Tölz stands the most recent addition to the town's landscape, the Beer Tempel, with one of the most amazing interiors.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Travels in Germany : 2008

Our Head Brewer, Doug Hindman, is visiting relatives in Bavaria in early December, taking in the local sites, sounds, and, of course, some of the local beer culture. Check back for updates on his trip north from Munich to Franconia, considered by many to be Germany's "Beervana," with over 300 operating breweries in an area barely twice the size of Rhode Island (8,800 sq. mi.).

Here are a few photos from a visit on Dec. 3 to the Griesbräu brewpub in Murnau, Germany, located about 60 kilometers SW of Munich.

The brewers here brewed a nice Weihnachts (Xmas) Weizenbock as their seasonal beer that went very well with the "Brez'n."

The Ur Dunkel was good too, a bit sweeter than the Weizenbock but quite delicious and perfectly paired with potato salad and red cabbage.

The pub had two really interesting features: a "Bierbrunnen" (beer fountain) and a "Fass" delivered to the patrons' table.

The "Bierbrunnen" is a tap on the wall that customers can use to freely re-fill their glasses whenever they get thirsty. This works great for gatherings of large groups, since they can purchase the 25L (6.6 gallon) keg in advance and help themselves to more beer throughout the evening. Besides that, the presentation of the tap on the wall was very tastefully done.

The other table service option offered at Griesbräu was a 10L "Fass" or 2.6 gallon keg of Keller (cask-conditioned) beer delivered to the table.

A staff person from the brewery, together with a guest, taps the keg with a mallet and patrons can then pour direcly from the tap at their leisure. This seemed to really amuse those at the lucky table and provided a great opportunity to talk about the particular style of beer being served (in this case a Helles) and how cask-conditioning or kellerbier differs from normal beer.

So far on this trip we've tasted, in addition to Griesbräu beers, Paulaner Hell, Augustinerbräu Weizen and Dunkel, Erdinger Dunkel Weizen, Max Josef Jubiläums Export, and Reutberger Hellesbock.

Still to come are Erdinger Urweisse and Reutberger Kloster Biere Export Dunkel along with visits to Lammsbräu, an organic brewery in Neumarkt, Tölz Biertempel, a hop farm near Neustadt, and a malt house in Erlangen.

As a brewer, you've just got to love this country!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Certified Organic Beers Brewed in Burien now at Pizza Fusion

Back in July 2008 we
secured organic certification for eight house-brewed beers at our Burien Brewhouse. With that we became the first brewery in King County to brew certified organic beer.

As a result we've landed one of our first wholesale accounts at the brand new Pizza Fusion on 12th Avenue on Capitol Hill in Seattle.

Read about what the Seattle Times had to say about our achievement in an August 1, 2008 article.

We're awaiting final inspection of our West Seattle facility, which should be complete by the end of the year. We'll post an update here when the final paperwork comes through.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Barrel-Aged Beers from Burien

In 2008 we acquired two French oak barrels inoculated with two different strains of Brettanomyces, reputedly from Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa, California by way of Arlen Harris, then brewer at Rogue's pub in Issaquah, WA.

We filled one barrel with our Red von Boorian and the other with the last remaining kegs of our Blonde von Boorian. These each aged for one year in the cellars of our Burien pub. We transferred them into kegs back in September 2008 and have begun the carbonation process in preparation for releasing them to our patrons.

A blending of the two Brett beers made its draught debut at the WABL 3rd Anniversary Party earlier this month. The next unveiling will be at the Brouwer's Big Wood Festival, which begins December 4 at their pub in Fremont.

Alongside the Blended Brett Beer we'll pour our latest barrel-aged creation, a keg of Burien 1st Birthday Baltic Porter, brewed in February 2008 and aged in a 2003 Syrah barrel acquired from DeLille Cellars in Woodinville. The resulting beer has an added depth from the wine and noticeable oak notes, without over-powering the palette with vanilla.

After emptying out the Baltic Porter we refilled the Syrah barrel with a batch of barley wine we brewed back in August 2008 in preparation for the 2009 Pro-Am competition at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. Look for this beer to be released sometime in the Spring of 2009.