Moving On From @BigDogsBrewing!

Hello fellow heroes!

The big news of the day is that as of last Friday afternoon, I am no longer with Big Dog’s Brewing Company. I wish my former employer all the best and look forward to collaborating with them in the future. I plan to stay heavily involved in the local beer scene so stay tuned for what I get into next!

I will certainly miss taking pictures like these:

saison

thirsty dog

I also want to extend my gratitude to Kurt Wiesner, Sergio Meza, Nick Tribulato, Dave Otto, my buddy Sam & the entire Big Dog’s Draft House staff. It was a fun 8 months where I learned a lot and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity.

The especially good news from all of this is not only that I’m quite confident in many of my brewery-related skills now, but that I can start trying to win homebrew awards again! I also look forward to getting more involved with my homebrewing brothers and sisters at SNAFU again!

I’ll be brewing 3 more Helles recipes over the next week or so and that will bring my total Helles count to 5. I might have to lager a couple of them in kegs just to get everything to fit in my freezer. I’ll be playing around and testing the limits of the style to a certain extent (I think). I’m doing one with only Pilsner malt & Honey malt and another with half a pound of rye. I’ll also try small bittering additions with hops like Citra & Galaxy (instead of the usual German hops) to see what effects that might have. I doubt they’ll all come out competition-worthy, but they’ll certainly be nice to have on my kegerator!

Alright, I’m off to get my kettle and a couple carboys cleaned up! Be well my brewing brothers and sisters!

Munich Helles Is The Mission

Hi all!

First, big thanks to everyone that came out and survived the downpour(s) at Summerfest on Saturday. We raised the bar again for best day in Draft House history, so needless to say I’m excited to try and help kill it again for Dogtoberfest.

Anyway, on Thursday I’m hoping to brew a Helles here at home. It will be both my first brew in the new place & the first lager I’ve ever brewed. I’m shooting for brewing 3 or 4 different recipes in the next couple weeks, but we’ll see what brewing life brings my way.

Assuming any of them turn out good I’ll either have a few of my certified judge friends grade them, ship them off to contests all over the country, or both. Mostly I’ll drink them.

Before I go any further I do want to acknowledge that my interest in this style was almost exclusively kindled by my good friend & brewer at Joseph James, Weston Barkley. If he weren’t a pro brewer himself I’d be tempted to stage a fake Big Dog’s Pro-Am contest just to be able to brew his Helles recipe on a large scale. And drink it on a healthy scale too. I’ve reached out to him to see if he has any interest in sharing the recipe for you fine folks.

Assuming Weston won’t come to your house and brew a Helles for you, I’ve found Mahr’s Hell to be a pretty nice (albeit not cheap) replacement.

The first book I look to whenever I want to brew a new style is Brewing Classic Styles. The second is usually Designing Great Beers. I strongly urge you to buy both books as they are very useful references and they support very worthwhile people. I’ll post a few relevant pages of both and hopefully my favorite brewcasters and my Cicerone Godfather don’t get too upset.

Here’s Jamil & John Palmer’s Helles recipe. I’ll likely brew it as is first to have a baseline:

bcs_helles

Here are Ray Daniels thoughts on the style, a couple loose recipes, & a Munich water profile:

daniels_recipes

daniels_chart

daniels_munichwater

Daniels seems to have taken a little more hop forward approach, which is something I’ll steer clear of to start with. If anything I’ll keep the bittering charge around 18 IBU & do a whirlpool or dry hop addition of something fun & fruity. Motueka comes to mind. The other thing that stands out to me is the Munich water profile that Daniels shares. A 2:1 Sulfate:Chloride ratio should make for a more dry & bitter tasting beer if anything Jamil & Palmer have taught me is true.

In one of their water shows around the 27 minute mark they discuss water profiles for Czech pils, German pils, Helles & Dortmunder Export. Helles is discussed specifically at the 33 minute mark. My notes from listening say:

Munich Helles – Med mineral content water, 50-70ppm Ca levels, now you want Chloride to dominate more than Sulfate, softer less bitter, build Ca level with more CaCl. 

Palmer isn’t very specific about what ratio should be shot for so I’ll probably shoot for 1.5 times more Chlorides than Sulfates. I’ll also use RO water directly from Big Dog’s so that whatever water profile I end up with is as close as possible to doing a 15bbl batch. I’ll likely also sparge with RO as a scientific-minded buddy of mine thinks that is the way to go. Any mineral additions meant for post-mash will go into the ‘kettle’.

It is at this juncture that I wish I were the R&D brewer for some place like White Labs or New Belgium. I’d love to try the same recipe with a ton of different yeasts, water profiles, fermentation temps, etc. We’ll see what I can get my bad self into. My freezer will only fit 3 or 4 carboys at time. It’s a hard knock life.

As I said, the first recipe I brew will be Jamil & Palmer’s:

90.9% Pilsner, 6.8% Munich, 2.3% Melanoidin. (Single infusion mash at 150 as a protein rest & various step mashing procedures would be difficult to pull off at Big Dog’s.)

Other notable grain bills are Ray Daniels’ (I’m assuming Ayinger Helles malt is close to Pilsner):

77% Pils, 10% Wheat, 10% Carapils, 3% Belgian Biscuit AND 80% Pils, 11% Carapils, 9% Munich

Daniels definitely seems to hop a touch more aggressively, as he addes 20 & 5 minute additions.

I also found a recipe on Homebrew Talk that looks interesting and the NHC site has recipes for Gold medal winning Helles recipes from ’07, ’11, & ’12.

Also, I re-listened to a little bit of the old Brewing Network Jamil Show Helles episode where Jamil & Jon Plise started discussing the merits of protein rests, carafoam, etc. A very worthwhile listen if you’re crafting your own crack at the style.

Hopefully all the resources I’ve hunted down are pretty good for pointing not only myself, but anyone else interested in brewing this style in the right direction. I personally think the style has some potential openings for some good old Americanizing with dry hopping, but that’ll come in due course.

Finally, I’ll be going with Jamil’s recommended yeast strain WLP 838 Southern German Lager for the first brew. White Labs rates it perfect for the style.

I also have WLP 830 German Lager (which rates a 2 of 4 for Helles by White Labs) and WLP 833 German Bock Lager (which rates a 4). It’d be interesting to brew the same recipe on all 3 strains, although I doubt I’ll have that level of discipline.

Well, that’s all the Helles talk I have for now. I’ll report back when I’ve started cranking out brews!

I’ll leave you with a pic of my lady Rachel AKA Penguin and our good buddy Sarah doing some solid day drinking at the new Pizza Port location in Carlsbad (which is awesome by the way).

new pizza port

Be well brewing brothers and sisters!

Long Long Overdue Update

Hello again friends!

Big time apologies to everybody that was following along and has been left hanging for forever and a day. Time flies when you’re working in a brewery, doing festivals, attending local beer events, and trying to keep your sanity.

Beyond feeling bad about not updating at all, I feel especially bad that my award-winning goals have been hampered by my guilt with regards to entering homebrewing contests. Assuming I could continue racking up awards (an iffy assumption at best), I don’t like the idea of knocking a budding homebrewer’s entry down to 2nd, 3rd, Honorable Mention, etc. I’ve got my foot in the door and plenty of confidence (according to our Head Brewer Dave), so what do I have to prove in the homebrewing realm?

With that said, I do want to start homebrewing more regularly again. I’ve got my chest freezer back in action at the house and I’m itching to make a Helles, whether professionally or at the homebrew level. Well, it will be back in action once I bottle the 4 funky homebrews I have cold crashing in it.

Before I give updates on all the sour & Brett adventures I have going in my homebrewing, I do want to update everyone on Dog Gone Saison. The last couple kegs are just getting finished off (if they haven’t been already) at Velveteen Rabbit & Public House. Although we do have one 5 gallon keg of Limoncello-soaked soft maple wood aged Dog Gone. Who knows when that strange animal will make an appearance. While I am a big fan of a lot of the honeycomb products I’ve been playing around with from Black Swan Cooperage, the Limoncello may have been a bit ambitious.

Anyway, I’m excited to unveil the new Dog Gone Saison label! That’s right! Expect that bad boy in 22oz bombers sometime in the future! Don’t panic. It’s still going to be around 6.6% and not 9.1% as the sample label indicates.

Here are some unpaid celebrities who are also excited about Dog Gone:

Dave Otto – Big Dog’s Head Brewer

dave modeling

Sergio – Big Dog’s Director of Ops & Killer Chef:

sergio saison

Serg gets bonus points for wearing the Dog Gone shirt while presenting his Dog Gone goblet! Even if that was the one-off Citra dry hopped keg.

Mike Fischer – Brewery Volunteer, Beer Enthusiast, & General Good Guy:

mike modeling

In all seriousness though, I am contemplating some changes to Dog Gone for Version 2. If I have my way we’ll still use WLP560 Classic Saison Blend, reduce the flavor/15 minute addition of Liberty, filter/fine/long cold crash the beer this time, maintain the 6lb Citra whirlpool addition (or change it to a mix of Liberty, Citra, & Nelson), and possibly dry hop part if not all of the batch. I’m also thinking I may cut the 5.6% wheat and reduce the 2.6% honey malt in the grain bill. I know, I know. The beer was fairly successful, but I want it to be perfect. And perfect is it being the best Brett-free Saison I’ve ever had. Brett is still not yet welcome in the Big Dog’s brewery by the way. If we can’t get Liberty I may use NZ Motueka. Hell, this may be quite a different (but delicious) beer. 🙂

In other news, I did want to make sure to update all the open-ended homebrew donking around I have going on.

– The 9/15 Wit with WLP410 got hit with Brett B. It smells great but still has a pellice. That was the beer that blew the lid off its bucket and open-fermented in my living room for a night. I’m letting it continue to do its thing.

– The 6/28 Rufus Saison that was hit with a Brett B & Brett L mix is a touch thin with a good amount of horse blanket to it. I dry hopped it with 2oz Citra and plan to bottle it soon.

– The Galaxy Belgian IPA I brewed with a buddy from Australia and then later hit with Brett B was tasting and looking quite dark and oxidized. I added a vial of Flemish Ale Blend I had in the fridge just to amuse myself.

– The 6/14 Dubbel that I added all those sour & Brett dregs to over a year ago has a wonderful Jolly Pumpkin-esque nose to it. Flavor is a touch more subdued and has a hint of acetone. It’s currently cold crashing.

– The Lime Saison with limes still floating in it and Lambic Blend added 3/26 still tastes like Pinesol’s new lime flavor. I might hit it with some cherry puree just for the hell of it.

– The 3/30 13 Rye IPA (brewing pictured here with recipe borrowed & altered from my buddy Tom) with one vial Cal Ale & 2 vials Brett B Trois has some sweet maltyness, good tangy rotten pineapple & mango characteristics and recently got hit with a 6oz dry hop. Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe, & Galaxy. It’s crashing and should at least smell great.

– The 1/1 Ahtanum Saison wasn’t too bad. I just left it for too long. I dumped in a vial of Brett B.

– The 8/24 Hef that I dry hopped with Nelson and then soured on 12/3 smells great. The taste has some sweaty/meaty notes. I dry hopped it with 2oz of Citra and now it’s cold crashing.

– The 6/23 Brett C Tripel that tasted like Tijuana bathroom has been soured and has an interesting sour & burnt toast nose. The flavor is sickly sweet with a sour finish. I’ve been thinking plums might be a fun addition.

12/25 Dank Dog Saison was rather underwhelming. I don’t know if it was the quality of the Liberty & Columbus hops I had or the combo but it just wasn’t even close to what I wanted it to be. I had a few people say they liked it but there were just being nice.

The other fun thing I’ve been doing at Big Dog’s is making all the casks. The real ale/firkin/cask program has been going for a couple months now and it’s been a fun playground for me. I’ve loved getting to trying different creative firkins tapped at the Draft House every Thursday. Disaronno soaked oak on Black Lab Stout for an Embers beer pairing dinner, Dirty Dog IPA dry hopped with Citra for Khourys, and Wild Turkey American Honey soaked oak on El Perro Diablo (Belgian Golden Strong) for Firkin On Paradise’s Anniversary party this Friday 7/12 have been some of the highlights so far.

I also got a chance to make a special firkin for my 31st birthday party thanks to our generous owner Kurt Wiesner. It was Dirty Dog IPA aged on Yellow Birch wood and it was delicious.

The Birthday Cask all loaded up:

bday cask in car

Putting the soft spile in:

soft spiling

My good buddy Matt (the newest bartender at Viola’s Tavern & Gaming) tapping the cask:

matt tapping cask

And here is an outtake of good ole fashioned cask fun with my buddy Sarah:

casking with sarah

One of the most frequent questions I get asked at Big Dog’s is “What are you doing next? What’s in the works?” It just so happens I have a few things in mind. As I’ve mentioned, I very much want to make a Munich Helles. It’s a very wonderfully drinkable beer style that should work with 100+ degree temperatures and Helles and I have a thing going on lately. Besides that, I’m itching to use Wyeast 3711 French Saison on the professional level. It’s easily my favorite yeast and I think it could make both a wonderful light Lime Saison and an awesome Farmhouse IPA with Chinook & Nelson. The boys from Jester King have been kind enough to give me plenty of good advice and the next crack I get at the plate will likely use French Saison yeast.

At this time I would really like to reiterate how great the Jester King guys are. They’ve been excellent hosts the 4 times I’ve hung out at their brewery, they emailed me uber-quickly when I asked for technical advice on yeast, and they make killer beer. They deserve only good things.

Speaking of wonderful funky beer breweries, Prairie Ales has made some crazy good beers lately that have me running around promoting them to death and wearing their t-shirts. Both Prairie Hop & Prairie Ale (the first a Citra & Simcoe dry hopped saison and the second a saison with Brett & wine yeast) are awesome beers. They satisfy the creative homebrewing animal in you. They are brewing what you would if you loved saisons and fruity American/New Zealand hops. And they’re in Oklahoma. And expanding like crazy. I imagine their team to be a bunch of bearded guys that you could take out drinking for a week straight and not get tired of them. That’s how cool they are. I will proudly be wearing my Prairie Merica shirt in the brewery tomorrow. I’ve never had it, but I know it has a metric ton of Nelson in the dry hop. And you best believe that’s good enough for me. We’re still sitting on 44lbs of Nelson waiting to rock the party big time with Big Dog’s Double Down Under DIPA.

The big news in the next few weeks is that Big Dog’s Summerfest is coming up on 7/20! We’ll have a bunch of fun easy drinking beers, but we’ll also have off the charts beers like BFM XV Saison (from Switzerland), Ichtegems Grand Cru Flemish Red, Stone Enjoy By 8-2 IPA, & Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (with Mosaic & Citra).

Not to mention all the great beers we’ll have from New Belgium Brewing. If all goes to plan we’ll have Prickly Pear Saison Aged in Peach Brandy Barrels, Cascara Quad, Feijoa Tripel, Pluot, Paardebloem, & Hop Kitchen Aramis IPA pouring at the festival. I’m very excited to try the Aramis IPA as the Aramis hop is a very intriguing lemony French hop new to the market.

I must also add that the New Belgium Beer Ranger for Las Vegas (formerly with Tenaya Creek), Karl Herrera, is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. If I had to pick one man that was responsible for the success I’ve achieved to this point in this town it would be Karl. It makes it that much easier to support a good friend when the brand he represents is making so many new and interesting beers.

While I’m thanking people in this town I also want to thank Guy Bartmess as he leaves Triple 7 and heads to Temecula, CA to help start Garage Brewing Co. Guy was one of the first people I approached in this town looking for a job and he was very open, honest, & knowledgeable. It was my interactions with Guy that kept me upbeat and hanging around for that one opportunity to come out of the blue.

Chuck Croix of Pints Brewpub in Laughlin also deserves big time credit for training me for a solid month. Training a newbie in a professional brewery is not easy and Chuck was great at it. Chuck is both making good beer and he’s a good guy. I hope anybody that gets a chance can go down and see him and try his beer. We’ll proudly be pouring his Pilsner at Summerfest on 7/20.

Finally, I want to thank Dave Otto. He hired me as a lowly homebrewer and wasn’t even aware of my Laughlin experience. Dave Otto welcomed me into the best and oldest brewery in Las Vegas and took great care of me. I must say it’s a pleasure everyday to work with such an accomplished brewer and get to see behind the scenes on things like the recipe for War Dog Imperial IPA. I only hope that someday I can take care of Dave the way he has taken care of me.

The brewery crew (I’m in the Jester King Funk Metal shirt):

brew_crew_022113

Well, that’s all I have for now. Be well and prosper fellow brewers!

All @BigDogsBrewing All The Time: Saison, Winterfest, Holier Than Cow

Hello again my people! When I last left you there was some doubt about whether or not the Dog Gone Saison (my first pro brew) would be ready for Big Dog’s Winterfest. The following picture would lead you to believe it was ready (if you’re a pro brewer and/or think in Plato):

saison getting low

But unfortunately in the WLP560 Saison world where the beer is still cranking along at 2 Plato, it was most certainly not going to be in medal-winning form for the big festival. I was at peace with this for 3 reasons.

First, I want to start strong out of the gate as far as balancing beer quality with the reality of dealing with a business environment. I want the community to know that if I have any say, my voice will be a reliable advocate for making the best beer possible over all other concerns. If I put my brand on the line, then I’m behind it fully. I can live with people not liking my beer, but I need to know I did everything I could.

Secondly, releasing the beer when it’s ready allows us to have a separate event from Winterfest on Wednesday night! Given how much I love our little beer community and how heavily I’m invested in helping it grow, I relish getting a chance to talk to everybody about a new beer without the frantic pace of a beer festival in the way.

Finally, for the dozen or so of you that I know and were persistent I was more than happy to give you a small sample off of the fermentation tank last Saturday. Evidence of such was easy to find as there are already 5 Untappd check ins to a beer that hasn’t been released (or even cold-crashed & carbed up)! I’m sure management thinks I’m operating fast and loose, so come have 5 or 6 pints on Wednesday & leave with a growler to ease their troubled minds!

Speaking of Winterfest, it was a killer festival! I’m told it was Big Dog’s best grossing day in its entire history! I had a lot of fun and poured a ton of beer when I wasn’t busy giving exclusive 5 minute brewery tours. It was great to see so many good friends come out and have a good time.

Here’s a pic of some of the beer in the walk in pre-fest:

walk in pre fest

And here’s half of the keg & jockey box setup:

winterfest jockeys

Quite an endeavor my friends, but all a labor of love. I truly enjoyed every moment of it and can’t wait for Peace, Love & Hoppyness on 4/13!

Also, The I Love Beer Show strolled by (and heartily partook) in Winterfest. Click here for a solid 17 minutes (starting at 3:45) of your very own hero promoting Big Dog’s and being a silly beer drinking individual in general. The guys from the show were a lot of fun, definitely enjoyed the beer lineup, & I look forward to working with them in the future.

All in all, my first fest was a great time and I have to thank all of my people that came out and supported us. I look forward to sharing many pints over the years with all of you!

My quick Big Dog’s plug is that we bottled Rebel Red the other day and it should be hitting shelves all around town soon:

rebel red

Also, it’s no accident that Holier Than Cow Dry Hopped Pale #4 with Citra & Ahtanum is tapping tomorrow to (hopefully) last through Super Bowl weekend:

more holier

Ten ounces of Citra & eight of Ahtanum (plus how good it smelled when I spilled some on my shoe while transferring) says this will be the best one yet. I’m an 11 out of 10 on the excitement scale about trying it. That’s how I know it will be awesome.

Finally, my Little Spoon, Weston Barkley had a birthday recently. As many of you may know he is my brewer from another mother and I would eagerly lie in traffic for the big guy. While silly, I thought everybody might enjoy a couple pics from his bday evening:

spoons1

For some reason a second take was necessary:

spoons2

Regardless, if you’re a friend of mine then trust me when I say you’re a friend of his and vice versa. He’s killing it for Joseph James right now as evidenced by their new beers like Citra Rye Pale, started a new blog, and is probably the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s also helped me out time and time again as far as homebrewing, needing a ride home, & just being a rock solid cat I can count on. Show Weston love and buy him beer whenever you see him. He deserves it.

I also want to thank this beautiful Las Vegas beer community as a whole again. I can’t thank everybody enough and really look forward to hanging out Wednesday night.

Proost y’all!

My First Pro Brew and Updates On @BigDogsBrewing Life

Hello once again friends! My apologies for the infrequent updates. I’m often wiped after a day in the brewery. My body must still be adjusting to having to actually physically work for a living.

The obvious update that I’ve been putting off is letting everyone know how the Dog Gone Saison brew day went. It should come as no surprise that the ever ballsy Dave Otto and his trusty Head Keg Washer slash Saison Aficionado would knock it out without a hitch. No stuck mash with the rye & wheat. Hit our targets. A little dextrose in the open grant never hurt anybody. Good times were had.

Here’s the most gorgeous mash I’ve ever seen. And likely will ever see:

dog gone mash

Here’s me adding my bittering addition of Liberty hops:

liberty addition

Here’s a pic of the Citra bag before I broke into it for the flameout addition. As you can see I tend to add a little flair to the brewery:

citra bag

Anyway, January 9th was a wonderful day and all was right with the world. The next day I walked into the brewery and found this:

saison yeastsplosion

My little yeast crew was rocking the party! I was such a proud father! All was well.

However, as of yesterday we were only down to 3.6 Plato (1.014). Dog Gone has cranked along consistently for 11 days now and we need to have it ready for Big Dog’s Winterfest on Saturday. It’s going to be tight. Everybody keep Dog Gone Saison in your thoughts and prayers as it ferments its way through these difficult and rushed times.

The good news is I think it tastes great whenever I pull a sample off the tank. Banana, bubblegum, heavy spice, melon, & earthiness stage a friendly assault on my pallet. It’s young, it’s Belgian, and it takes its sweet time.

In other news, it turns out I’m not the only beer lover that would like to see Nelson Sauvin hops in the Holy Cow Pale Ale. We blew the keg in a little over 3 days. Here’s the aftermath of getting the hops out of the keg:

holier aftermath

Here’s the next version with a half pound of Citra & half pound of Cascade getting loaded up:

holier 2

And I’m proud to announce it’s serving beautifully at the Draft House as of Saturday morning:

holy cow

I’m sure you’re itching to know how the pilot program at Big Dog’s is progressing as well. The semi-good news is the first batch has been kegged:

bitter sweet

As you can see What’s My Name Dog has been re-named Bitter Sweet Dog. It was going to be called Bitter As Balls because that was Dave’s first reaction when he tried a sample, but it also crapped out at 1.021 and carries a legit amount of front end sweetness. I would describe the flavor ride as: smells great, tastes a little sweet, and holy crap that’s a lingering bitterness. We’re on the fence about serving it at Winterfest.

In the pilot program’s defense, here’s a shot of the ceiling falling in on it after a pipe in the ceiling froze:

attack on pilot batch

Massive office damage due to freezing conditions is enough for me to excuse any wrongdoing on my part for not making a killer DIPA. Speaking of disastrous pilot brews, Clyde and I had a little trouble with our Imperial Red Hydrant yesterday. If it turns out delicious then we meant to do a 4 hour boil. Otherwise it’s a prime candidate for turning into a Flanders sour project.

In other news, my homebrew saisons Dank Dog & Dog Gone Ahtanum seemed to have reached their terminal resting places at 1.013 & 1.014 respectively. A little high, but we’ll see how they taste when I bottle them up this week.

I also want to give a shout out to Iron Fist Brewing in Vista, CA. Their head brewer Chris Klein dropped in and hooked us up with a case of beer goodness, shirts, stickers, etc. Good dude, good beer, and definitely worth checking out. The Hop Dog 500 forklift is proudly rocking an Iron Fist sticker and we’re happy to show love to another small & innovative brewery.

I feel that I also should mention that much of my week will be consumed by Big Dog’s Winterfest preparations. We should have a pretty awesome and large lineup of good beer and good times can be had by all from 2-9 pm on Saturday January 26th. I’ll likely be working and not partaking too heavily, but please feel free to say hi. Shaved head, unkempt beard, big smile, 6 foot, 260 pounds. You can’t miss me.

Finally, I want to send out a big thank you to the Las Vegas craft beer community that has made me feel wholeheartedly embraced in my short time here.

I’m all about working to create an even better community and everybody I meet seems on board. From my fellow homebrewers, to our bottling volunteers, to my friends at Hooked On Hops, to the guys that come out and support me and try our wild dry hopped beers just because I ask them to. I just want to say that you guys are invaluable to me and a couple of you know first hand that if you need anything I’m a shirt off my back kind of guy. 🙂

Be well and recruit a DD y’all. Hero out.

@BigDogsBrewing Dog Gone Saison and exclusive Nelson dry hopped Pale

Hello my fellow brewing heroes!

The big news of the day is that I should be brewing up my first 15 bbl (472.5 gallon) pro batch this Tuesday! Hopefully the yeast shows up from White Labs tomorrow. My homegirl Sarah has assured me it will. She also managed to bump up delivery time on my specialty WLP 560 Classic Saison Blend from 1/21 to 1/7. She must owe somebody in the lab a favor now.

Regardless, White Labs is great. I love how much they support The Brewing Network, how good they are to our local homebrew stores like U Bottle It, and I think in general they’re top notch. If they had a Wyeast 3711 French Saison equivalent we could be exclusive.

White Labs loving aside, it’s both exciting and a little nerve-racking to formulate a recipe for a nearly 500 gallon batch. I tend to try new things rather aggressively at home because I know the world will not crumble if the batch doesn’t work out. At 100 times the scale, I find myself wanting to play it a little safer.

For recipe formulation help I’ve been drinking Saison Dupont, North Coast Le Merle, and Clyde & I’s Pumpkin Saison this evening. I’ve deduced a beer shouldn’t be in green bottles and I don’t particularly like Caramunich in a Saison. Also that Clyde and I make delicious beer. All things I knew before.

Anyway, barring any objections I’ve settled on a starting gravity of 1.057 with 2-row, Vienna, Red Wheat, Rye, Honey Malt, & Corn Sugar. The hops are tentatively scheduled to be Liberty, Ahtanum, & Citra. I may have to get down on both knees and beg to get the Citra addition approved. I’ll also have to break into my freshly acquired 11lb brick of Liberty and make sure it rocks the party like I rock the party.

In other Saison news, 12/25 Dank Dog is at 1.013 and 1/1 Ahtanum Dog Gone is at 1.020. The fact that Dank Dog got down to 1.015 in 5 days made me uber confident about the turnaround time of my choice of 560 Saison yeast. Now I’m slightly nervous that I probably need 4 or 5 more points out of it when it’s 12 days in. Fortunately we oxygenate and pitch super fresh with the correct quantity of yeast on the pro level. The for real Dog Gone 560 Saison should finish out in time for it’s January 26th launch. Fingers crossed. 😀

Meanwhile, I’ve picked out a badass lineup of kegs & bottles for Big Dog’s Winterfest on January 26th. If trying my new beer isn’t enough for you, the crazy high Beer Advocate ratings of every monster beer we’re bringing in should seal the deal. I would challenge any beer lover to show up at Winterfest and complain about the quality of the lineup. We’re looking to absolutely crush it these days at Big Dog’s.

Beyond crushing it, I do have some fun things that have happened around the brewery. One thing that I thought was crazy was one of our big 30 bbl fermentation tanks kept cooling even after being shut off. This is Sam spraying the solenoid that he suspects is frozen, with hot water:

malfunctioning tanks

Here’s the pilot batch of What’s My Name DIPA cozy in its chest freezer & converted keg fermentor:

pilot

And here’s the pile of NZ hops – 8oz Nelson Sauvin & 2.5oz Riwaka as they were waiting to be loaded into a keg of Holy Cow Original Pale Ale:

nelson dh

It turns out breaking open a keg and loading a big pile of hops into it is much harder than one realizes. This picture just barely sums up the difficulties:

dry hop keg

Finally, my humbling story for the day is one of magic and beer on the walk in cooler ceiling. One of our older beer pumps went bad so I was tasked with changing it out. I was pretty successful in the entire endeavor of changing out the pump and was quite pleased with myself.

However, I went to pour the air through the tap and nothing was coming out. I went back to the cooler. Oops, I had the inputs to the beer pump switched. Let me just switch those….holy crap there’s beer everywhere! I was on top of everything except unhooking the coupler from the keg. Fun times. Here’s Sierra Nevada Torpedo dripping from the ceiling:

torpedo on ceiling

Funnier still was the fact that nobody seemed too concerned about the situation. So I hosed off the ceiling and walls and mopped up as best I could. It was the end of the day so I left this note:

note

I’ve heard no complaints so far. So we move on! The hush hush news about the pilot system is we’re considering an Imperial Red Hydrant English Brown Ale & a Belgo Dirty Dog IPA. Never mind the fun collaborations we’re looking to do with the various members of the beer community.

Speaking of the beer community and collaborations, Hooked On Hops is doing fun things with videos & having non-craft beer ladies (blasted on wine) review popular beers! You can find the 3rd edition of those good times here.

Alright, the humble hero is out.

Proost y’all!

Pilot program is flying, Dank Dog update, and I got engaged!

Hi my brewing brothers and sisters!

I’m proud to say the first totally unplanned and off the cuff 12 gallon pilot batch at Big Dog’s has been brewed! Clyde brought the Sabco in, we picked up my chest freezer for fermenting, and on the path to brewing glory we were!

sabco with pro tools

One of the great things about homebrewing in a pro brewery is there is no shortage of handy tools to troubleshoot things like forgotten hop bags or a stuck mash.

Anyway, the batch we brewed is tentatively named What’s My Name Dog. It consists of a relatively clean base of 2-row, C-70, & Munich 10 and was viciously bombarded with over a pound of hops. I feel pretty safe posting the hop schedule since nobody will ever be able to round up this collection of hops again, including us.

whatsmynamedoghops

If for some reason you don’t see this monstrosity pouring on tap at the Draft House or at our Winterfest event on January 26th, it’s because it turned out subpar…or was so great that we drank it all ourselves.

In other news, Dank Dog Saison (a homebrew adventure) is down to 1.015 in 5 days and just got hit with a healthy dose of Columbus & Liberty dry hops. As you can see it’s rocking out with its heat belt.

dank dog

I tried mashing without a bag and then pouring the entire mash into a bottling bucket with the bag in it. I was hoping to up my efficiency a little, but only came in at around 68%.

sparge

Oh, and I got a new chest freezer! Although it’s currently being used in the pilot program, so it’s no longer full of delicious homebrew as pictured.

freezer

I’ve got starter wort cooling as we speak to whip up another batch on WLP 560 Classic Saison, so that’ll either be a New Year’s Eve or Day misadventure. Hopefully U Bottle It will be open when I get off work.

The other big brewery news is that we bottled Red Hydrant & Dirty Dog IPA on Wednesday for a launch at Sam’s Club. I only have one pic of the aftermath from that hectic day. HUGE thanks to Weston Barkley of Joseph James for coming and helping!

bottling mess

Otherwise the big news of the week is that my girlfriend and I got engaged! The wedding is likely a little ways off (when we can afford it), but we are happy and healthy and loving life! Here was the scene I came home to on Thursday:

rachel proposal

Good times indeed! Alright, I leave you with a couple pics of other random brewery life like my buddies at Joseph James graining out:

wes and justin

Our head brewer Dave Otto playing the drums:

dave drums

And Sam’s lovely collection of beer excrement on the floor:

yummy

Be well and prosper y’all!