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Posted in Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2011 by calgarybeerdrinkers

As the weather begins to get cooler, and leaves change colour and fall to the ground, so to do our choices in beer change. It’s that perfect moment in time, between hefeweizen and barley wine season to enjoy a nice glass of some seasonal beer offering. Autumn represents the harvest and transformation. The fruits and vegetables are picked and transformed into something great, and the trees begin to change in preparation for winter. The beers that our breweries release are also changing. This is the time of the year when Oktoberfest beers are released from the great and historic brewers of Munich, Marzens from Europe and North America, and Pumpkin ale, an American classic and favorite of craft brewers. The next couple of months are the only opportunity (until next year) to sample these beers, so please make the most of them while they are in season!

Oktoberfest originated in 1810 in Munich, as a way to celebrate the marriage of the prince. It has since become the most famous beer festival in the world. There are strict regulations in Germany and in the European Union ,to which beers are permitted to use the Oktoberfest designation. Those breweries that are permitted to do so are Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Augustinerbrau, all of which lie inside the Munich city limits. No other beers in Europe are permitted to use the term Oktoberfest for their beers, although North American brewers have ignored this tradition and termed their autumn seasonals, Oktoberfest (or Octoberfest). True Oktoberfest brews in recent years have been golden coloured, slightly sweet, malty brews. They also tend to be on the mild side, making them easy drinking beers. The North American counterpart also seems to be a fairly mild, easy drinking beer.

Marzen is a German beer style that also has its origins in Munich’s Oktoberfest. This lager was introduced by Spaten in 1841. It is very similar to Oktoberfest beer in that it is malty and mild on the bitter end. Today it is brewed to a golden amber colour, although historically they were much darker, almost brown. North American micro-breweries tend to favour the fuller historic style marzen. Some North American brewers also stray from tradition and brew marzen as an ale, rather than a lager. Whats with Americans always doing whatever they want?

What is a better feeling than biting into a slice of sweet and spicy pumpkin pie, after an ample Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner? And really whats better than beer? Put those two warm fuzzies together and you have got pumpkin ale! Pumpkin ale is not a new concept. It was actually invented in the 1700’s, by British colonists in America, as pumpkin is not native to Europe. The method in which these pumpkin ales are brewed is varied but all contain pumpkin in some way, shape or form and most contain warm autumn, “pumpkin pie” spices. Some brewers use raw pumpkin, some roast it, others use puree or just the juice. As the method of production varies tremendously so do the flavours, which range from heavily spiced malty ales to lighter ales with light pumpkin and spice notes. A pumpkin ales is a great way to end a holiday feast or to simply enjoy on its own while avoiding trick-or-treaters, with your lights off, hiding in the basement.

The point being, this is a great time of the year to go out there and pour something different into your beer glass. Keep warm, drink some beer, cheers!



Posted in Articles, Brewing with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by calgarybeerdrinkers

Now we’re on to the fun part, the cooking. I’ve got all my equipment thoroughly sanitized and ready to go, cleared my work station and sanitized it as well, and I’ve washed my hands well.

The first step is to bring some of the water we’re working with to a boil. This recipe calls for 21 Litres of water, but boiling all that is just not feasible. I have an 18l stock pot, so I boiled 11 litres of the brewing spring water and will add the rest in the fermenter. Add the malt extract to the water and stir vigorously to dissolve, the malt is what gives the beer colour and sweetness.

Be sure to stir the malt constantly, it is very dense and can settle at the bottom of your pot and scorch, which would make a very unpleasant beer indeed! The 10+ Litres of water may take some time to boil, so responsibly enjoy a beer now while you wait. Once at a boil, ensure the foam build up doesn’t cover the liquid and seal it off from oxygen. I added our wonderfully smelling hops to the mix and let that boil for 45 min, this mixture of malt, water and hops is known as the wort.

It was at this point that I realized one pot, despite its large size, would just not be enough. I had to take out another pot and split the wort.

After the 45 min, in which time another beer was responsibly enjoyed, of rapid, controlled boiling, it’s time to add the final ingredients. The wort is taken off the heat and the Irish moss(an ingredient used to clarify the beer), yeast nutrient(exactly what it sounds like) and the molasses(provides flavour, colour and food for the yeast) are all added and stirred in.

Again be sure to stir constantly, the molasses can scorch on the bottom of the pot. Unfortunately this last stage of the brewing and fermenting is where I missed out on some picture opportunities,as I found out by brewing beer alone it proved quite difficult to pour, stir and take pictures at the same time, as well as racking the beer and holding the strainer. Next time, and for you at home, be sure to add assistant to your equipment or ingredient list.

Once it comes back up to a boil, the second dose of hops is added and left to boil for 15min. This second dose develops the characteristic bitterness of the beer. At this point you’ll definitely be noticing the wonderful colour of the beer, a rich deep amber colour, and the wonderful aroma of the malt and hops.

After the 15 min rolling boil, and maybe another beer was responsibly shotgunned – probably not though, it’s time to cool off the beer. There exists a certain beer brewing piece of equipment known as a wort chiller, a coiling piece of copper tubbing that’s wrapped around the container of the wort and has cold water pumped through it, it’s probably the best way to do this. But not having the finances to afford such a device the bath tub was my best bet.

The wort is strained and siphoned into the plastic tub then into the bathtub it goes, with plenty of cold water and ice and some comforting bath time toys. I had bought 4 bags of ice and had one already at home, as well as dumped two full ice cube trays into the water, this wasn’t nearly enough and I had to head out to the convenience store down the street for four more bags!

When the beer reaches the optimal temperature for the yeast(this beer was 75F it varies depending on the strain) it was time to get it in the primary fermenter. I siphoned it again with the auto-siphon and hose, right into my 23L plastic carboy. The yeast was pitched directly into the carboy and stirred in. The airlock and rubber stopper were put in place and moved the whole thing into a coolish dark place to allow to ferment for one week. Be sure you keep your beer in a dark place! Or cover it, light will oxidize the beer and give it off flavours.

Stage one done, check back again soon for part 3, secondary fermentation.