@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!

My First Week @BigDogsBrewing and Other Homebrewing Fun

Hello brewing friends! I thought it might be nice to post an update on how my first 3 days of working at Big Dogs have been, not to mention my other brewing misadventures.

First I must include that today’s liquid inspiration is Sierra Nevada & Russian River’s Brux. This is my 3rd time having it and the last 2 times this ‘domesticated wild ale’ has been pretty nice. I was driven to try it again by comments made on the most recent Brewing Network Sunday Session. While they were answering a listener’s question I found out the primary yeast is Wyeast 3711 French Saison (also known as one of my absolute favorites) and it’s bottled with Brett B & Safbrew T58 (a spicy Belgian-style dry yeast). Not only did knowing all of the above warrant another crack at it, but I’d imagine it’s not the worst beer in the world to harvest dregs from. At any rate, it’s a lovely beer and worth the $16 to give it a try.

This week I worked roughly three 7 hour days in the brewery at Big Dogs and let me say that so far it has been a pleasure. Everybody has been very friendly and willing to help. Sam, the Packaging Director, gets a special shout out for having infinite patience with me as I get my bearings.

Monday was all out keg cleaning day. Thankfully, Big Dogs has a wonderful automated machine so the real trick is just listening for the cleaning cycle to be done while you’re cleaning other things (like the tops of kegs). This task can be slightly more difficult when your head brewer decides he’s going to jam out on his drum set for 20 minutes, but it’s all good in the hood. You can’t have a keg parade without a band.

I didn’t count the number of kegs I ran through, but I pretty much hit it hard from 9am to 3pm without stopping for lunch. We did blow a hose off and shoot caustic cleaning solution everywhere before I got started, which I thought was a fitting introduction to the brewing world. I’ve found that we use some pretty nasty chemicals on the professional side and caution is the name of the game.

On Tuesday morning I tried to assist Sam with filtering the Leglifter Light, which mostly involved peppering him with questions and occasionally closing a valve or two. Below are our various filters.

The rest of the day was filled with odds and ends things like cleaning out the mill room, moving some kegs in cold storage, other random cleaning, etc.

Wednesday was when the powers that be decided to sick me on cleaning the bar’s draught lines. Not only did I unhook serving tanks and push cleaning & sanitizing solution through all the lines, but they also had me break down all the Perlick faucets and scrub the gunk out of them. Breaking down & scrubbing the faucets made me laugh because that was the filmed demonstration on the Cicerone exam. Needless to say, I could up my score on that portion of the test considerably now.

I managed to get through cleaning the lines on 3 of the 8 serving tanks and then it was time to ‘grain out’, also known as the special bonding (and back building) rendezvous between Assistant Brewer and mash tun. I’ve found Big Dogs to have the most enjoyable mash tun for graining out (of the 3 I’ve done) because it doesn’t have any rakes in the way. They also have the nicest tools for getting the job done. I wouldn’t trade their hoe for the world.

Anyway, the batch I was graining out was Balls Of Holly which I’m told is a local favorite in the way of holiday seasonals. All the dates that went into the mash (by way of the open grant) weren’t nearly as bad to get out as I expected them to be. All in all, it was a good day. Oh, and I got insta-trained on the forklift (AKA The Hop Dog 500). The Hop Dog can be a little temperamental about how its wheels are pointed and its steering can get a little loose, but I could tell that we’ll be friends. We’ll quite likely cause some minor damage together from time to time, but no sense crying over unspilled milk.

As for my homebrewing, I’ve decided to launch 2 R&D projects that will hopefully someday be on tap at Big Dogs. I mentioned Dank Dog – the heavy Columbus Saison in my last post, but I’ve also decided to develop Clean Dog IPA (a lighter fruity answer to Big Dogs Dirty Dog IPA). The rough draft recipe for Dank Dog has been drawn up (50% 2-row, 25% pilsner, 12.5% vienna, 8.3% rye, 4.2% honey malt) and now I’m just waiting for the hops (Liberty & Columbus) to show up from Yakima Valley Hops. I also need to figure out how I’m going to ferment the beer warm enough.

Clean Dog IPA, on the other hand, got brewed today in its first iteration. The grain bill is 73% 2-row, 17.4% Vienna, 4.4% Carapils, 3.5% Crystal 15, and 1.7% Crystal 40. The hops are US Magnum for bittering, Liberty & Bravo for flavor and Bravo & Centennial at flameout. Given that the color came out rather dark & my efficiency was supposedly 58%, I’m wondering if the mill at the homebrew store wasn’t set quite right. I’ll have to investigate in the coming days.

My other recent brewing endeavor was a Pumpkin Saison at Clyde’s place on his badass Sabco.

He gets the lion’s share of the credit if the beer turns out incredible, but we did use my huge surplus of UK Pearl malt as the base. I believe he got the recipe and tips for dealing with the pumpkin on this Brewing Network Sunday Session. Putting the roasted pumpkin in a bag seemed to be the way to go.

Well, that’s all for now. Be well and prosper and of course come by and say hi if you find yourself in the Big Dogs neighborhood.

Proost y’all.