Codex Fermentarius

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Here’s another interesting list of the The Brewer’s Ten Commandment, this one more contemporary. It was created by Kelly Ryan, my friend Luke’s assistant brewer at Epic Brewing in New Zealand. He apparently recently left to take a job at a new brewpub in Hamilton, and on his new blog, BeeRevolution, proposed the following as his Codex Fermentarius:

Codex Fermentarius

  1. Thou shalt not covet another brewers’ kegs or casks.
  2. Honour thy other brewer’s recipe choice.
  3. Rejoice to thy daughter yeast and thy mother yeast.
  4. Thy glass shalt always be full. Never half full. Never half empty.
  5. Remember thy first brew day. And keep it holy.
  6. Thou shalt not steal another brewer’s hop combination. This is hopdultery.
  7. Thou shalt not covet another brewery’s name. Or beer name. Especially if it is that of a German cyclist.
  8. Seven days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work. Thou art a brewer. Drinking is work.
  9. Taste thy water, taste thy malted grains, taste thy yeast. Don’t taste thy hop flowers.
  10. Thou shalt not drink false beverages. We know what thee are.

In the body of the text, Ryan also offered to expand the list, and invited people to suggest additional commandments. Here’s a sample of some of the ones he got so far:

  • Release not the fruits of thy labour until thou has rested (at least) upon the seventh day (to banish all traces of the unholy VDK).
  • Thou shall wasteth NO beer. Even if it is 8am.
  • Thou shalt have no other beverage before Beer. A whiskey chaser afterwards, fine, but not before.
  • Ever shalt thou have full tanks and clean lines.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s brewsheet.
  • Thou shall worship local brews, locally – only if your hair doesn’t drop out.
  • Thou shall cry over spilt beer.
  • Thou shall burp as a sign of worship.

There’s some good ones in there. What would you add?

Stop A Mate Driving Drunk: Legend

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Monday, I posted some PSA’s aiming to prevent drunk driving in rural Australia — Prevent Mate Morphosis. They used something we’re not used to seeing here in the U.S.: humor. Now here’s another great PSA, this time from New Zealand, that uses a sense of humor to get its message across without pandering or using propaganda. You might have to watch it twice to pick up the idiomatic patois but I love how straight forward it is and how they don’t make such a big deal out of everything. The friend is worried about his mate, is afraid of saying something and appearing uncool, and decides it’s worth it. His friend agrees, problem solved. Everybody’s safe. Beautiful. Bloody legend, indeed.

The Inspiration Room also has some commentary on the thinking behind the ad, which was created by the New Zealand Transportation Agency and launched last Sunday.

The Automatic Personal Brewery

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When did homebrewing become so hard that people still want to do it but are looking for ways around the actual work of the brewing? First there was Brewbot: An Automated Homebrewing Machine, by an Australian designer, and now comes WilliamsWarn: The Personal Brewery, this time from New Zealand. Is it perhaps the folks down under who are getting lazy? (And thanks to brewer Andrew Mason for the hat tip.)

So brewmaster Ian Williams and food technologist (not sure what that is) Anders Warn worked for two years to develop the WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery, which looks as much like a fancy coffee machine as anything else.
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Here’s their “story” from the website:

The WilliamsWarn Personal Brewery is the miracle that beer drinkers have been praying for. After 5000 years of brewing, the technology finally exists to allow you to brew the perfect beer. Your Personal Brewery is a breakthrough created by our brewmasters through a combination of their deep love of beer and their extensive knowledge of brewing.

In 2004, whilst Ian was working out of Denmark as an international brewing consultant and professional beer taster, he was challenged by his Uncle (a frustrated homebrewer) to invent the worlds first personal brewery. After 2 years part-time research he returned to New Zealand in 2006 and started fulltime research and development with help from his friend, Anders Warn. Finally in 2011, after several rounds of serious investment, after 100 brews and blind tastings and after many industrial prototypes, the first units and the ingredients to be used in them are ready for sale.

So after 5 years of intense development, the result is cold, perfectly carbonated, clear, commercial quality beer made in 7 days, like a modern brewery. All 78 official beer styles can be made as well as the option to develop your own.

I have to say I’m skeptical, especially watching them pour the malt syrup into the contraption. And it’s not exactly cheap, either, at $5,666 NZD (which is roughly $4,436 in American dollars). It seems like it would take quite a few 23 litre batches (about 6 gallons) before it would pay for itself. And the ingredients to make one batch is $49-52 NZD ($50 = $39 USD). So after purchasing the machine, it costs $39 per batch, getting you roughly 6 gallons of beer, or the equivalent of 2 2/3 cases of 12 oz. bottles or roughly 10 six-packs with a few bottles extra). Not including the price of the machine, the cost would be about $4 per six-pack, saving you maybe $2 for a macro brew and $4-5 per craft beer sixer. Let’s call it $4 savings per six-pack ($40 per batch) and it would take you 110 batches before you broke even.

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Ian Williams and Anders Warn with their Personal Brewery.

Watch the video to get a better idea of what it’s all about and how it works. What do you think? Am I crazy, or are these contraptions a bad idea that subvert the very idea of what it means to be a homebrewer? Throughout the press materials for the Personal Brewery, they talk about how it was just too hard to homebrew and the founder’s uncle wanted a simpler way to keep making beer at home. But I can’t help but wonder. Maybe his uncle should have given up and just bought beer from professionals. Does making beer using a machine that does all the work still constitute homebrewing? Certainly many of the bigger brewery’s systems are automated at various stages in the process. But I tend to think of homebrewing as a learning experience, where you learn to be a better brewer by doing, by putting in the time and the hard work. These homebrewing systems seem designed for a lazy person who wants to call themselves a “homebrewer” but without putting in any of the effort. An automatic personal brewery seems less like a hobby and more like having yet another kitchen gadget just to impress your friends. Though it’s hard not to be impressed with the engineering of it, and it is a beautiful looking machine. What do you think?

Epic Stops In San Francisco

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My friend Luke Nicholas, the founder and brewer for New Zealand’s Epic Beer, was in town on Monday for a couple of days, before flying to Delaware to do a collaboration brew with Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head. I met up with him at 21st Amendment for a quick drink and to try two of his new beers.

The first, a stout, was also a collaboration between the Thornbridge Brewery in the UK. Rich and chocolately, it was a very nice stout. The second, Oaked Aged Armageddon IPA, is Luke’s regular IPA, but aged on lightly toasted oak. It uses all American hops: Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Simcoe. At 66 IBUs it’s a big, hoppy, floral IPA. But for New Zealand — whose mainstream lagers are even lighter than our mainstream lagers — it’s so huge it’s … well, epic. But the toasted oak adds a nice dimension that’s subtle but a welcome addition.

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Luke and Zambo.

Also, new head 21A head brewer Zambo was just tapping their most recent creation, a Belgian-style IPA, similar to the Belgian Pale Ale they did last year, but hoppier, of course.

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Me and Luke outside 21A.

Session #28: Thinking & Drinking Globally

Today is National Doughnut Day, among other things, and time once again for The Session, in fact our 28th such outing. This time our host is Brian Yaeger, who writes at Red, White & Brew. His chosen topic is “Think/Drink Globally,” which he described as follows:

In honor of Global Craft Beer Forever, I propose everyone writes about the farthest brewery (including brewpubs) you have visited and specifically the best beer you had there. Again, not your favorite or any old brewery you’ve been to, but the one that is the longest haul away, be it by airplane, car, ferry, rickshaw, whatever. (If you blog about beer but have never been to a House of Brewing, get on it!)

Then, the last part, since this exercise gives us an excuse to drink beer, do one of the following:

  1. if you brought home a bottle while visiting the brewery and have it secreted away, crack it open.
  2. if you don’t have any left from that visit but the particular beer is available where you live (or if not your fave from said brewery, another brand from it), go get one.
  3. otherwise, find a local beer of the same style and do a little compare and contrast.

Well it certainly isn’t to hard to figure out the farthest place I’ve traveled so far for a beer was to New Zealand. The whole family went there for two weeks last year around this same time, plus my in-laws, too. We had a great time, and stayed most of the time in a beach house north of Auckland in the middle of nowhere. And since a lot of New Zealand feels like the middle of nowhere, that’s really saying something. We explored caves, went on hikes, lounged at the beach and tried our damnedest not to hit anything driving on the wrong (for us) side of the road. There were sheep everywhere and the joke is that there are more of them than people in New Zealand, and it’s not hard to believe.

The last few days were spent in the capital city of Auckland, where there was more beer, I’m happy to say. Though, sadly, only a minority was actually worth drinking. I did an article on beer in New Zealand for All About Beer. There were several decent breweries, the best I tried were from Emerson, Epic, Galbraith, and Hallertau.

Of those four, I spent the most time at Hallertau, as they also sell bottled beers and owner Stephen Plowman and Luke Nicholas (who brews the Epic Beer line) and I opened a couple dozen ebers so I could get a good cross section of the islands’ beer. Here’s what I wrote about the place in All About Beer:

Near the edge of the city limits, in Riverhead, is Galbraith’s polar opposite, the Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant. Opened just three years ago by Stephen Plowman, the restaurant is thoroughly modern in both décor and cuisine, with an emphasis on local ingredients wherever possible. The menu includes esoteric fare as well as new takes on traditional dishes, and everything tastes homemade and delicious. The brewing equipment, though much less modern, and looking as if designed by MacGyver, still manages to create some terrific beers. Plowman makes an interesting range of beers, and likes to play around with his seasonals. His regular beers include a Kölsch-style ale, an American pale ale, an Irish red and a German-style Schwarzbier. His seasonal offerings have included an Imperial IPA (big, hoppy beers are a veritable rarity in New Zealand), a Belgian-style Tripel and a Saison flavored with Manuka tips, a local shrub sometimes also called a tea tree.

But by far my favorite of his beers was an experimental beer he was making, and I bought a couple bottles of it to bring home and age. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

But Plowman’s most ambitious beer may also be his best. His Porter Noir is a barrel-aged beer, which may be the first beer in New Zealand to use Brettanomyces. He brewed a strong Porter (6.6% abv) and aged it in local Pinot Noir barrels for four months before bottling. In the bottle, Brettanomyces was added and left to condition for another six months, before being released for purchase. It’s a wonderful beer, with rich, complex flavors of thick figs, raisins and the like, with strong Brett horse stable character. I can’t say for sure whether or not the people of New Zealand are ready for a beer so vastly different from their popular, but insipid, draught style. But ready or not, here it comes.

The second time I tried it, with Vinnie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, here’s what I found:

Dark in color and a very thick tan head. The nose was marked by characteristic barnyard aromas with just a touch of malty sweetness. The nose was slightly less pungent than the sample I had in New Zealand, but Vinnie and I both declared it to be quite tasty. The Brett character married quite nicely with the nutty, malty porter flavors.

So let’s see what a year has done to it. The Bretty barnyard is still there, possibly even stronger, at least as I remember it. It’s still very malty but seems more complex to me as well, with all sorts of aroma and tastes mixing about on the nose and on the tongue. Dark fruit and some spiciness predominate, but there’s more there, too. I don’t know if Plowman is making new batches of this beer, but I certainly hope so, it’s definitely one of the most adventuresome being made in New Zealand.

I realized that I never posted photos from the New Zealand trip because I was saving them for the All About Beer article, but it’s been a year now, so I think it’s okay to post some of them now. So here’s a gallery of beer-related photos and also some non-beer related photos, in case you’re curious about what else we saw when we were there. [Note: the photos have no captions because I didn’t have time to put them in before leaving for Monterey. I’ll try and put them in Sunday after we get back, so check back Monday if you want to have more information about what’s in the photos.]

A Tale of Two Bretts

russian-river hallertau-nz
My first beer stop after recovering from my trip to New Zealand was to head up to Russian River Brewing. It was not because I was craving hops after two weeks mostly without them — although I was — but for another reason related instead to Brettanomyces. One of the most interesting beers I sampled in New Zealand, at Hallertau Brewbar near Auckland, was called Porter Noir, an English-style porter aged in local pinot noir barrels for four months which then spent six more months bottle conditioning with additional Brettanomyces. I brought back two bottles with me, but unfortunately one of them was damaged during the flight. It didn’t break but developed a small leak. Some of the beer seeped out but happily stayed inside the Ziplock bag I had packed it in. So I knew I had to drink it pretty quickly before it went flat.

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So I stopped by Russian River’s new production brewery to open it for Vinnie Cilurzo, figuring he’d appreciate trying another Brett beer. The place looked quite a bit different then when I was there less than three weeks before. For one thing, all the construction equipment and spare parts were gone, making it look much larger inside and out. Vinnie also showed me the sixty barrels of the Consecration — the first beer brewed at the new brewery — aging in the barrel room. Most already have the Zante Currants added, but a few are still waiting for them. The beer will age for at least nine months before being released.

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The first batch of Pliny the Elder in the fermenter, waiting to be bottled in early July.

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So we opened the Hallertau Porter Noir. Although it had lost a few inches of beer from the neck, it was still quite well-carbonated. All of the bottles at this point are from Batch 001, but this one was from Barrel #99081 and was bottled on November 10, 2007. It was 6.6% abv. Dark in color and a very thick tan head. The nose was marked by characteristic barnyard aromas with just a touch of malty sweetness. The nose was slightly less pungent than the sample I had in New Zealand, but Vinnie and I both declared it to be quite tasty. The Brett character married quite nicely with the nutty, malty porter flavors.

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At the original tasting of this beer at Hallertau Brewbar last week in New Zealand. On the left is my host, Luke Nicholas — who owns Epic Beer and is also VP of the recently formed New Zealand Brewers Guild — and, on the right, Stephen Plowman, owner/brewer of Hallertau Brewbar & Restaurant.