Well, first and foremost we have to give a big shout out to Steve from Oliver Ales for agreeing to work with us on this brew and for letting us crash his brew day. Man, that was lots of fun. They make some amazing beers up there and every time you find yourself in Baltimore the Pratt Street Ale House should be your first stop.
On to the brew day! Our name for this beer is “Draft Punk”. We entered the brewery a little before 7:00am to the sounds of Daft Punk playing on the stereo with Steve and Derek prepping for the brew. We had determined that the beer was going to be an American IPA, around 6.5% abv and dry hopped with whole leaf cascade hops. Steve’s recipe had a healthy dose of pale ale malt, some wheat for head retention, and a bit of crystal malt for color. Altogether a whopping 480 lbs of grain! That makes your homebrew seem like small potatoes!
We started in the grain room, preparing the grain to run through the mill. We used a combination of Canadian and English malt. We chopped open the bags and loaded up the grain mill. This was the first of many instances of heavy lifting and hard work throughout our day. For those of you out there that think brewing is all fun and games, think again!
After we loaded the mill with grains, we went down to the brew floor and prepared the mash tun by starting to run some hot water into the tank. The grain is then milled and dumped directly into the mash tun along with hot liquor (water). It smelled like delicious bread baking or sweet oatmeal. We were all getting pretty hungry! You can see Dave mixing the grains and liquor.
The mash then sat for 60 minutes, covered, to start the starch and enzyme conversion. Our target mash temperature was 153 degrees and master brewer Steve had no problem hitting that temp. After an hour, we recirculated the wort and then began draining it into the brew kettle. While the wort drained into the brew kettle, we sparged with more hot water to rinse any additional sugars and extracts off of the grain.
The water is drained into the brew kettle at approximately the same rate that the sparge water in sprayed into the mash tun. This provides a nice even flow and doesn’t disrupt the grain bed. The total sparge process took about three hours, so patience (and a few pints) were key here. But the wait is well worth it. Here’s a look at their boil kettle. Good looking, huh?!
At this point, the brew kettle is fired up, and once the wort starts to boil, the first hop addition is dropped in. The first hop addition adds bitterness to the beer. To make a long and complicated process short and easy, the bitter compounds and oils in the hop plant need 45 minutes to an hour to be extracted. So if you want bitterness, you need to add your hops early on in the boil process. You can see Dave adding Chinook pellet hops to the kettle in the picture below.
We waited 30 minutes and then added the second hop addition. The second batch of hops, which usually comes in around the 30 minute mark, adds hop flavor. Thirty minutes is enough time to extract the flavor of the hop, but not enough time to extract too much bitterness. The goal here was to have Cascade hops provide the predominate hop flavor in the beer. Cascades are best known for their use in Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Mmmmmmm. Look at how nice those look!
After 60 minutes in the boil kettle, the wort is circulated, then run through the hopback with some more fresh hops. The hopback is basically just a large stainless steel tank full of fresh, whole leaf hops. The process of running the wort through these fresh hops really allows you to extract a lot of the hop aromas.
It provides a really fresh and fragrant addition to the beer. After making its way through the hopback, the wort moves into the fermentation tanks.
The yeast is pitched and within the next 24 hours, fermentation will begin! Fermentation will continue for 3 -5 days, after which the beer will sit in the tanks for conditioning for another few days. During the conditioning period, we’ll add a few more pounds of cascade hops for “dry hopping” that will continue to increase the hop aroma.
Finally, the beer will be transferred to a different tank, carbonated, and filled into kegs.
So there you have it! Thanks again to Steve, the force behind Oliver Ales, and his assistant brewer, Derek, for brewing with us and letting us bother them all day. Stay tuned for details on our May 16th release party.