Friday, April 29, 2011

Making Mead - Part Five

So here we are, the final post in my little series on meadmaking. I'm not a pro, I haven't won meadmaker of the year, and I won't claim to make the best meads I've ever had. But, despite that, I've learned a lot of information over the past 1.5 years that has vastly improved our meads - and one is going to compete this June in the AHA National Homebrew Competition. I've compiled a bunch of resources here to help get you on your way, including where you can find good examples of commercial meads.

55 pounds of sweet goodness
You can buy honey at any of our local farmers’ markets, but you’re going to find that wildflower & clover are the two types of honey available locally. For varietals such as tupelo, basswood, mesquite, or orange blossom, you’re going to need to find a non-local source. (That said, when Trader Joe’s finally opens up here, you’ll be able to get Mesquite honey there.) Some of the honey providers I’ve used, and that others recommend, are:

I’ve mentioned a few key tools in these posts, but here are the links to them again. Obviously, the standard fermenter, blowoff assembly, hydrometer/refractometer, and other standard brewing tools apply here too.
  • Lees Stirrer: In addition to your fermenter, you will definitely want to pick up a lees stirrer to mix & degas your must.
  • Postal Scale: Measuring out your honey is made easy with a postal scale; I bought ours on Amazon and am completely happy with it. I also use this when shipping off beers to homebrew competitions. Sign up for a free account on UPS or FedEx’s website, and you can print out shipping labels after entering destination & weight information online. All you have to do is drop off the package with your label in an affixed pouch; no waiting in line.
  • Gram scale: I also recommend getting one of these to measure out your nutrients and yeast. It’s also really handy for measuring hops.  
  • pH Strips or Meter: pH is so important to meadmaking, you really need to measure it so that it can be adjusted as necessary. The most economical approach is with pH strips, but I recommend investing in a pH meter. You’ll need to calibrate the meter on each mead day (assuming you’re making it less frequently than every few days), so pick up some solution at the same time. Don’t forget the storage solution as well, which will keep the little probe from drying out.
  • Mead Calculator: This is such a handy tool for helping you figure out how much honey, water, and other fermentable ingredients you'll need for your batch.
Mead Resources
As I mentioned a few days ago, everyone finds their own approach. What I’ve laid out here is the method we’ve figured out by gathering information from the interwebs, attending NHC, talking to other meadmakers, reading books, and experience. I recommend checking out some other mead resources to see what others are doing and get a different perspective – as well as inspiration. Here are just a few -

Advanced Information on Mead
I'm not even going to try to describe the plethora of information on the BJCP mead page, but please check it out. There is so much good information there, it's a necessary resource for any meadmaker. From information on varietal honey to punching down fruit caps in melomels, to styles, to troubleshooting, you'd be hard-pressed not to find what you're looking for here. This is an incredible source of information on making mead.

Commercial Meads
Winner of a well-deserved gold medal
We can get a handful of meads here in Kansas & Missouri, and I've found the widest selection, all on the Missouri side, at Gomer's Midtown, Royal on 103rd, and Lukas in Martin City. They're typically located with the port & sake, but you might have to ask if you don’t see it. Some brands you're bound to see:

  • Redstone (CO) - makers of some of the best commercial mead I've had. They make a hopped mead.
  • Chaucer's (CA)
  • Pirtle (MO) - I highly recommend their blueberry & effervescent meads. The effervescent just won a gold medal for traditional sweet mead at Mazer Cup! Typically stocked in the Missouri Wine section.
  • Honeywood (OR)
  • Lurgashall (England)
  • Bunratty (Ireland)
  • Makana (S Africa) - they make a great bird's eye chili mead

There are some fantastic meaderies cropping up all over the country, though. Some of the greats include

  • B Nektar (incredible meads out of IN)
  • Rabbits Foot (CA; they make several braggots)
  • Heidrun (CA; fantastic sparkling meads using méthode champenoise)
  • New Day (IL)
  • White Winter (WI; one of my favorites)
  • Mountain Meadows (CA)

I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but that should get you started.

I haven’t really talked about it, but Polish mead is a somewhat different beast and one I have yet to see here in the KC metro. I know you can find some in St Louis at the Wine & Cheese Place; the traditional bottles are pretty easy to spot. Polish mead typically comes in four strengths: 2:1, 1:1, 1:2, and a 1:3 honey:water ratio. Most are aged on wood for 1-4 years (some are aged up to 25 years), and contain fruit or herbs. The resulting product is a sweet but smooth and rich beverage that is notably high in alcohol. It’s definitely worth trying once (or more).

You can order from many of the meaderies directly, which is probably going to be your best bet since online wine retailers really only tend to carry Chaucer's. Since KS state law doesn't allow direct shipment of alcohol to households, you’ll need to have it sent to a location in Missouri (my house, for example).

I hope you found this information helpful and inspiring. If you’re interested in meeting and talking to other meadmakers, there are a few homebrewing clubs in the KC metro area with members who make mead: KC Bier Meisters, Lawrence Brewers Guild, ZZ Hops, and Jayhops.

Thanks for reading!

Reference - 
part one
part two
part three
part four

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Making Mead - Part Four

In the past three posts, we've gone through getting ingredients, mixing them, and going through fermentation & staggered nutrient additions + degassing. Mead fermentation should take about 3 weeks, give or take. We usually give it a month or so to get to our final gravity and let as much yeast fall out as possible. Once fermentation is done, there are a few things you can do:

- Make it sweeter
- Make it more acidic
- Make it more tannic
- Modify the flavor with additional ingredients
- Clarify the mead

Unlike beer wort, honey is pretty much completely fermentable and your mead may end up a bit dry. Unless you arrest fermentation before it finishes by racking off the yeast and adding stabilizers (an approach I don't trust at all), you'll probably want to add back a little honey to bring out some of the original honey character as well as increase the mouthfeel. If you add more honey to your brand new mead, the yeast are just going to consume it. So, you need to add stabilizers before doing anything else. 

Adding campden tablets (potassium metabisulfite.. yeah, yeah, sulfites, blah blah) will hinder any wild yeast in your new mead, as well as help prevent oxidation during transfer. At the same time, adding potassium sorbate will prevent further fermentation by hindering yeast reproduction. I recommend transferring to a new container in this step, so that you get your mead off the sediment to aid clarity. For each gallon of mead you're about to transfer, add 1 crushed campden tablet and 1/2 tsp of potassium sorbate per gallon to your new container. Then, transfer the mead, give it 1-2 days to stabilize, then add any sugary additions without concern of triggering further fermentation. 

Adding 1/2 - 1 cup of honey (half a cup at a time) to a 5-gallon batch will usually give you the sweetness you're looking for and will greatly enhance the natural honey aroma that's highly desirable in a mead. If you added fruit in primary, you could choose to add juice at this point as well. More than a cup of honey for a 5gal batch is often quite cloying, but really it's up to you. You're best off boiling 1-2 cups of water, pouring it into a sanitized bowl or pitcher, and adding the honey to the hot water. This will make the honey pourable, thin, and easily mixable. 

Once transfer is complete, top off with a blanket of CO2 if possible to prevent further oxidation. If that's not possible, you can sanitize a bunch of marbles and put them into the fermenter to decrease headspace. Or, add water. Or, transfer to a smaller container.

Creating Balance
BJCP Banquet at Summit Brewing Co
Last year at the National Homebrewers Conference, we attended the pre-conference BJCP banquet where there were tables set up with tinctures & mixtures of various mead additions. These included extracts of mint, juniper, ginger, cinnamon, rose petals, and other flavoring additions. There was also a table set up with tannin in liquid and a variety of acids (including an acid blend). We were given cups, mead on tap, and free reign to blend at will. This was one of the many eye-opening experiences I had at NHC last year. It's quite an experience to taste a good mead, add a touch of acid and tannin, and realize how much the already-good mead can improve with a bit of blending. The flavor "pops", the finish becomes cleaner, and it becomes dangerously more drinkable.

Creating Multiple Meads from One
This practice of using extracts convinced me that making metheglin (herbed mead) does not involve adding herbs or spices to the fermenter, but is better off done by creating extracts of ingredients that are then added in small amounts to the base mead. Doing this is simple - soak the desired ingredient in cheap neutral alcohol to create an extract. Then, after a couple of weeks, pour a small amount of traditional mead (2oz or so) into several containers and add varying amounts of the extract to each container with an eyedropper. Figure out which one is most appealing, scale up, and voila - you now have a different mead. Try it with clove, orange peel, chili peppers, cinnamon, vanilla, or anything else you can think of. Another idea? Make a hop tea and add that to your mead. 

Better yet, dry-hop! If you dry-hop in a keg, pick up a Sure Screen. It goes right onto the end of the dip tube and makes racking off the hops so much simpler (unless you get hop cones somehow wedged under the tube, causing the beer not to siphon through the transfer tubing, requiring you to have to scoop out and stir a bunch of hops to try to dislodge the cones and generating a huge mess and a lot of swearing - and potential oxidation - in the process. Good times.).

Clarifying Mead
There are two main processes for clarifying mead: wait several months or use a clarifying agent. We're impatient, so we clarify. Alberta from Bacchus & Barleycorn recommended Super Kleer KC one day, so I gave it a shot - and I haven't turned back since. The packet is composed of two pouches; after pouring the contents of the first pouch into your mead, you wait an hour and pour the contents of the second pouch. Give the mead a gentle swirl and wait a few days. After a week or so, your mead will be very clear. After three weeks, it'll be brilliant. I can't recommend this stuff enough and consider it a standard part of every mead batch we do.

After clarifying, package. We keg all our meads, but a lot of people will bottle them & age for as long as it lasts. Mead, like wine, will change as it ages, and almost always for the better. If you take care of fermentation and practice good sanitation, you should be able to enjoy your mead when it's less than 6 months old. The old philosophy of having to age meads for at least 2 years can get tossed out the window. 

In my next (and last) post on meads, I'll list out some of the best resources I've found for meadmaking (ingredients, tools, and information) as well as some of the better meads I've discovered - and where to find them. Unfortunately, our selection of commercial mead is relatively poor here in KC, but we're lucky to have a meadery in Weston as well as the option to have mead mail-ordered (in Missouri).

Reference - 
part one
part two
part three

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Mead - Part Three

Picking up where we left off in part two, we’ve now got two meads that are starting to ferment. Up to this point, all we’ve done is mix ingredients together. Of course, every meadmaker’s process is going to differ in some way. Some meadmakers heat their mead must on the stove, some even to the point of boiling (not to be confused with burnt mead, which is mead that is slowly boiled for several hours to develop complex caramelization). These posts are just one way to approach making mead; certainly, if you make your own, you’ll find your own approach. One thing is certain, however – a healthy fermentation is key, and there are some things you can do to promote one.

Managing your Fermentation
The first few days of fermentation are crucial to making quality mead. During this time, the yeast need a nutrient-rich and yeast-friendly environment to properly and fully ferment the sugars without creating problematic off-flavors and fusel alcohols. A lot of people will say that you have to age mead a few years before it’s even drinkable, but that’s likely because the fermentation didn’t go as well as it could have. Of course, mead does typically age extremely well, and tends to improve over time, but a fresh young mead is certainly drinkable if you make it right.

Specifically, you need to manage the following:
- Fermentation temperature (keep it in the 68-72 range)
- The pH of your must (keep it above 3.2, ideally around 3.4 - 3.6)
- Adequate FAN, vitamins, and minerals

You can check your pH levels with pH strips or a pH meter. If you have pH strips for beer, you’ll need to buy ones that are specifically intended for wine, as the pH range will go lower than the beer strips register. They should go under 3.0. We have a pH meter that we use for both mead and beer, and I love the thing. It’s kind of a pain in the ass to calibrate every time (mostly because I'm impatient), but it’s a lot more accurate and reassuring than pH strips.

If you need to increase your pH, which is often the case because honey is moderately acidic, you can add Calcium Carbonate (CaCo3) or Potassium Hydroxide (KOH). We use KOH because it does not leave behind carbonate, which can leave behind a chalky, salty taste. We create a 2M KOH solution at home (I bought our KOH at Essential Depot) and add the solution in 10ml increments to our 5 gallon batches. Pick up an infant syringe at a pharmacy to easily measure out 10ml (it’s also a great tool for measuring out Star San or Iodophor – 6ml per gallon of water for a properly-diluted sanitizing solution). Wear gloves when you mix & measure this, as it will actually break down the lipids in your skin. Ew.

Degassing Mead
You’ll also need more DAP and Fermaid-K during fermentation, and will add these to the fermenting mead along with your pH adjustments. I learned the hard way, though, that adding these dry powders provides thousands of nucleation sites when added to the mead, causing the well-known mead volcano. You could do a 5-gallon batch in a 20-gallon bucket so that the foam doesn’t spill over the top. Or, you could degas your mead.

You, too, can have your own homemade volcano
Degassing basically removes CO2 from solution through rapid agitation of the must. Guess what we use – yep, the handy dandy lees stirrer. Some people use a whisk, others use brewing spoons, but I’m not that interested in getting a workout when I do my nutrient additions, so I use the lazy method. Sanitize the lees stirrer and the neck of your carboy and whirr away. I usually whisk for about 5-8 minutes and sometimes have to stop to avoid a mead volcano. A lot of CO2 is removed in this process and will allow you to safely add your nutrients without making a mess. Amateur video ahead... 

There’s another upside to degassing, though, and that is to lessen strain on the yeast. I’ve read that you need to degas your must because CO2 levels can become toxic to your yeast, but I’ve also read that it’s nearly impossible to get enough CO2 to a level of actual yeast toxicity. What it will do is help keep your fermentation chugging along, and remove CO2 early on so that you get a still mead more quickly than just letting it sit/age for months. 

We use the Curt Stock fermentation schedule, which requires 8 days of fermentation care as follows:
Day 0: make the mead, adding 4.5g Fermaid-K and 2g DAP.
Days 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8: Degas only
Days 2, 4, and 6: Degas, then add 4.5g Fermaid K, 2g DAP, and 10ml KOH

That's it. More involved than most beer, but still extremely easy.

Next up, post-fermentation!

Reference - 
part one
part two

Monday, April 25, 2011

Making Mead - Part Two

In my prior post, I talked about the two primary facets of meadmaking that I think contribute the most to making a good-tasting mead: yeast health and suitable honey. Of course, sanitation and proper care go without saying. This post gets into the pre-fermentation details. Most of this information is a result of attending NHC sessions last year, reading Ken Schramm's book, and going through Kris England & Curt Stock's presentation from the 2008 NHC.

A couple of weekends ago, John and I threw together three batches of mead in one afternoon – two fruit meads (melomels) and one traditional. It's so easy to put together, it's almost silly to do just one batch at a time. The most frustrating and time-consuming part of that day’s session was that our honey was fully crystalized and it took about 2 hours – and a lot of boiling-hot water – to get it to a pourable consistency (and even then, “pourable” is an overstatement; it was more like “soft enough to squeeze through the narrow neck of a gallon jug”). It’s worth noting that Tupelo & White Sage won’t likely crystalize at room temperature; in my experience (and I’m not alone), tupelo makes better-tasting mead than white sage, but sage can be a great base for fruit & spice meads as it’s quite neutral.

Weighing the honey on a postal scale
I had added a gallon of water to the carboy prior to adding honey
(the rest of the water got added once I finished with all the honey)

First, Devise a Recipe
I like using the mead calculator on You can determine how much honey, juice, fruit, water, and other ingredients you need to achieve your desired mead. By playing around with quantity of honey & other fermentables while keeping the target volume the same, I can come up with amounts of ingredients to achieve my desired starting gravity. 

To know where your starting gravities should land, you can look at the BJCP’s guidelines for hydromel (light), standard, and sack (strong) meads. For instance, for the pyment I knew I wanted a mead that would be at the upper end of the standard-strength range (around 14% ABV). To know how much honey to use with 4 pounds of grape concentrate (which I know is 68 Brix), I added this in the calculator as a 2nd ingredient with 68% sugar content. With 12 pounds of honey, this brought me to just under the top of the standard category. Perfect! 

I'll pick two of the three recipes we did - one melomel (the pyment) and one traditional. Both are 5-gallon batches.

Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients
For the Traditional Mead (OG 1.115):
16 pounds of Orange Blossom honey
4 gallons of drinking water from Hy-Vee
1 tsp of Calcium Chloride to provide calcium to the must & aid fermentation
4.5g of Fermaid-K for yeast nutrition
2g of DAP as a source of nitrogen

For the pyment (melomel made with grapes) (OG 1.111):
12 pounds of Orange Blossom honey
4 pounds of Beaujolais grape concentrate (Alexander's brand, 68 Brix)
4 gallons of drinking water from Hy-Vee
1 tsp of Calcium Chloride to provide calcium to the must & aid fermentation
4.5g of Fermaid-K for yeast nutrition
2g of DAP as a source of nitrogen

Step 2:  Assemble the must
Put the water and any juices & herbs into the fermenter, then add your honey. The easiest way to measure your honey is by weight – we put our carboy on a postal scale then pour the honey into the carboy until the desired weight is achieved. Once all ingredients are in there (except for maybe a gallon or two of water), you get to the fun part:  mixing.
Before mixing

I don’t recommend doing this without a lees stirrer. I’ve done it a few times without one, and can’t believe it took me 3 batches to finally pick one up. Stirring honey into water by hand is not fun. So, do yourself a favor and get one (and a drill if you don’t have one already).
The business end of a lees stirrer
The little "wings" fan out when the stirrer is in rotation.
The wand end of the lees stirrer just goes right into your drill – sanitize it, hook it up to your drill, put it into your fermenter, and whirr away. Be careful not to scratch the bottom or sides of your plastic container. In a few minutes, your honey should be completely blended into the honey. Add the Calcium Chloride, DAP, and Fermaid-K, mix lightly, then cover your fermenter (with foil, a cap, or a lid) and go prepare your yeast.
After mixing

Step 3:  Prepare your yeast
If you’re using dry yeast, you need to rehydrate it. Sprinkling it directly onto the must can cause slow fermentation because you can end up with clumped-up yeast cells, preventing all of the cells from rehydrating and contributing to fermentation. Rehydrating with Go-Ferm will kick-start your fermentation by providing your yeasties with nutrients while they go back to their full & proper shape. Obviously, if you’re using liquid yeast, skip this step.

Fermaid-K, DAP, and Go-Ferm for happy yeast
You'll need a lot of this.

Boil some water and pour it into small containers (we use small coffee mugs, but any small container will do). You don’t need a lot of water – maybe 2/3 of a cup at most. Cover the small containers with foil and let them cool to 115 degrees (be sure to sanitize your thermometer every time you check the water temp). Once you get to 115F, add the Go-Ferm. Cover your containers again and let the Go-Ferm sit in the water while it continutes to cool to about 105F. Once you hit 105, add the yeast and let it rehydrate for about 15-30 minutes. After that time has passed (or if you’re using liquid yeast), pitch your yeast, hook up a sanitized blow-off assembly, place your fermenter in a dark place that’s about 68-72F, and you’re done!

Until tomorrow

reference - Part One

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making Mead - Part One

I first wrote about mead a while back (wow, was it really 2 summers ago?) and have continued to learn quite a bit since then. I wrote about making a basic mead, which included mixing honey, water, and nutrients over 3 days ("staggered nutrient additions"). Since then, we've learned a few more details to help make even better mead. In short:

- Yeast health is key
- Your choice of honey matters
- Did I mention yeast health?

Making mead, as mentioned, is essentially mixing honey & water together, then pitching yeast and letting fermentation take its course. No boiling is needed (though some people do boil the must), so preparation is extremely simple. Getting the honey & water mixed together is the hardest part of "brew day". But really the difficulty comes into play once the yeast is pitched.

Yeast Health
Honey is extremely nutrient-poor, so yeast struggles to ferment the sugars. Additionally, FAN (Free Amino Nitrogen) is quite low in mead must, unlike most beer wort. Meadmakers therefore need to add a source of nitrogen in addition to other yeast nutrients. Nitrogen is typically added to must in the form of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP), which is commonly available at a homebrew retailer. Other nutrients to promote yeast growth are found in nutrient blends such as Fermaid K. It's composed of fatty amino acids, vitamins like thiamin & biotin, and various minerals. Like DAP, Fermaid-K is something you can easily buy at a homebrew supply shop.

How about the yeast itself? We typically use dried yeast from Lalvin, but have used Wyeast liquid yeast as well. I really like Lalvin 71B and D-47, but I think it's important to read through a yeast's characteristics and find one that suits your goal well. Lalvin posts all their yeast profiles online. This chart will give you a good overview of the yeast characteristics.

If you are using dry yeast, use a yeast nutrient during rehydration to assist mineral & amino acid uptake. We use Lallemand's "Go-Ferm" product which is, again, available at homebrew supply retailers.

Choice of Honey
When we first started making mead, I was picking up local honey at farmers' markets. The resulting meads were good, but not as good as the ones I was tasting at competitions. I attended a mead session at NHC last year where we tasted raw honey next to resulting mead. What that made me realize was that honeys have their own unique flavors which carry over into the final product; it helped me to understand why a lot of successful meadmakers turn to tupelo and orange blossom honeys again & again.

I found a bunch of honey suppliers online (MillersDraper Bee, Bee Folks, Northern Brewer) and ordered small containers of tupelo & orange blossom honeys from each. John and I tasted them side-by-side to determine our favorites and ordered those in bulk. I found that the Northern Brewer Orange Blossom was the best citrusy-tasting honey of our selections (we ordered 5 gallons of it), while Bee Folks had the most amazing floral Orange Blossom honey. Bee Folks' tupelo honey is wonderful and creamy and will be our choice for ordering tupelo in bulk.

Bee Folks also offers a ton of varietal honeys, many of which would be great for mead. Blueberry, almond, avocado, and even killer bee honey. I got to taste some killer bee mead at this year's Upper Mississippi Mashout and it was interesting... spicy, peppery, and not my favorite. But worth trying for sure. I can't recommend enough just buying a bunch of small containers of honey from various suppliers and finding out which ones you like best. Your mead will reflect the nuances of the honey you use, so it's incredibly important to select honey that is high quality and tastes good.

So there's your prep work and some stuff to think about. In the next post, I'll talk about actually making mead.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No Flash in the Pan

We've had a lot of west coast breweries come to town the past three years, Stone being one of the latest. Lagunitas, Moylans, Ballast Point... Deschutes will be making its arrival soon, but there's no appearance I'm looking forward to more than Green Flash - and I'm not talking about the split-second optical phenomenon. This one will hopefully be in Missouri to stay.

I'll never forget my first Green Flash Experience. I was in Richmond, VA, for work and was catching up on some workflow diagrams at the bar. It was "glass night" (buy the beer, keep the glass) for Magic Hat Lucky Kat IPA. I'd never had a Magic Hat beer at the time, and was excited to try its IPA. Ordered one up and was pleased but not thrilled about it. I do still have the glass though - a standard 16oz pint glass that pretty much sums up the beer - not bad, not exciting, and pretty much is what it's supposed to be. (I know, you're thinking, "where can I get this incredible beer??")

I wanted another IPA and was having a hard time deciding between a Moylander and something else. The bartender asked if I'd ever had the Green Flash West Coast IPA. Skeptical, I asked if it was any good. He said, "do you like hoppy?" Yes, I replied. Little did I realize he was asking, "do you like HOPPY?"

And there it appeared before me, in all its grapefruity, piney, resiny splendor, the bitter liquid from San Diego, California that encapsulates all that defines a "West Coast" IPA. Simcoe, Columbus, and Cascade are quickly becoming my favorite hop combo for IPAs. Toss some Centennial in there, and you get WCIPA. Yeah, I know it's not Pliny the Elder (not fair, that's a double IPA), but it's awfully damn close.

And, soon, much easier to get. I learned back in January that Green Flash would begin distribution to Missouri starting this coming summer. I'd say that little tidbit made my day, but I'm actually still excited about it. It made my winter, my spring, and will probably make my summer as well. They make several beers, including a Hop Head Red, which I also love, and a Belgian IPA named Le Freak. Lest you think they only do IPAs, they make several other styles including a Saison and a Belgian Strong Dark.

WCIPA is a fantastic beer that is something to experience and hold as a benchmark for others. This beer is IPA. And will be in Missouri this summer.

Specs -
95 IBUs
7% ABV
OG: 1.070ish
FG: 1.015ish

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Collaboration to make you say Dankeschön

Those of you who have ever driven into Lawrence KS probably know that it has a sister city:  Eutin, Germany (pronounced OY-tin). Eutin's in the very north of Germany, not too far south of Denmark, and is a popular tourist destinations for the Danes. Like Lawrence, it's a hilly city in the middle of flat land. Unlike Lawrence, it has a castle. We need more castles.

This weekend, Free State celebrates its sisterhood with a collaboration beer made with the brewers of Brauhaus Eutin.
We’ve teamed up with the brewers in our sister city of Eutin, Germany to brew a collaborative beer to celebrate the musical and cultural exchanges coming this summer with Lawrence and Eutin residents. On Sunday evening, April 17th, we’ll host an entourage of Eutin guests at Free State, and celebrate the continued success of this sister city effort.  We’ll tap the first keg of Eutin St. Michaelis "Tafelbier" (unfiltered amber lager) at 7:30. Come welcome our Eutin guests!
The Eutin Brewery's Tafelbier is served at the Brauhaus Eutin under their St Michaelis brand, and is approximately 5.5% ABV. It's light, sweet, and not that hoppy in Germany; we'll see how the collaboration version compares. This is probably one of the more unique and clever collaborations I've seen recently. Unfiltered German amber lager made via a collaborative effort by Germans (who make it for a living) and one of the best breweries in the region? Yes, please.

Again, that's this Sunday (April 17th) at 7:30pm in Free State's brewpub on Mass. See you there!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Maibocks are Coming

It's that time of year again, when the Maibocks start appearing on shelves and tap handles. We got a preview of this spring seasonal out in Lawrence, when Free State was pouring its Kansas anniversary beer, K-150. It's gone now, I believe, but hopefully you were able to get some while they had it.

Next week, Gordon Biersch will start pouring its Maibock seasonal on Wednesday at 5:30pm. It is accompanied by its Pacific Rim menu, which we also saw last year. I'm not really sure where this association between maibock and banana spring rolls comes from, but I don't go there for the food anyway. Note to American Homebrewers Association members - Gordon Biersch participates in the AHA pub discount program. Get $3 off any food order over $10 when you show your membership card.

And starting this month, we'll be seeing Boulevard's Maibock, Boss Tom, on shelves and tap handles. I really enjoyed this one last year, and look forward to it again. I was going to say that this is my favorite Boulevard seasonal in the non-smokestack lineup, but then I remembered Nutcracker. So, 2nd favorite. It's close. You can already get this on tap at Flying Saucer, and I'm sure other venues have it available as well - or will, very soon.

Some quick stats on Maibock - it's a lager in the bock family, and pale malt flavor dominates the flavor profile. You won't find the high presence of toasty malt here like you will in a traditional bock, or the rich caramelly flavors of a doppelbock. While hop flavor won't be too high, maibock definitely has more hop bitterness & spiciness than the other bocks.

OG is in the 1.060s - 1.070s with IBUs hanging out in the high 20s and low 30s. ABV should be in the mid 6% range. Clean, crisp, malty, but more bitter than the other members of the bock family, it's a great transition from the malt-dominant beers we love in winter to the hoppy, crisp, refreshing beers of summer.