Southwest Brewing News April/May 2015 : Page 1
d Ph id M l ihill Story and Photos b by D David Mulvihill By Bev Blackwood II Taking the “brewers cut” from a freshly dried bale of hops in the Yakima Valley, Wash. PHOTO BY BEV BLACKWOOD II. t is a great time to be a hophead. “Hops are now h almost like rock stars a with craft beer fiends,” w states Scott Birdwell, s owner of DeFalco’s o Home Wine and Beer Supply in Houston, Texas, and an avowed hophead. Unlike the dark days of the hop shortage e roughly a decade ago, there’s now a proliferation of new varieties with exotic names like Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon showing up in beers like Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack IPA and other hop-forward concoctions. That means there’s a trickle down effect for homebrewers as well. “We have access to probably three times as many hops as we stock, and we stock 60 or 70 varieties,” notes Birdwell. More knowledgeable craft beer drinkers means finding the right mix of products to meet their needs. “You buy a good craft beer and often on the side of the label, it says “made with Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe hops” and the customers love the beer and come in saying “I want that!”” Birdwell exclaims. Customer driven demand can create issues with the “hottest” hop varieties though. Hop vendors often can’t balance the supply to the demand, especially for smaller accounts. “They (suppliers) teased us last year,” Birdwell wryly notes. ”We had people asking for [Mandarina Bavaria hops] and we couldn’t get any.” I SEAL BEACH As a trained chef with focus on modernist cuisine, Gordon’s original intention for the Seal Beach property was a nine-table fine dining restaurant that would cater to an affluent beach community. After signing the lease, he took some time to better know the locale. “I quickly figured out that it is an incredibly laid back community that might be disinterested in super foo-foo modernist cuisine,” Gordon shared. He decided to rethink things. “A lot of my influences were Southern anyway, so I kind of felt, if I take the foo-foo-ness out of my food, it is, in a sense, Southern BBQ. I was doing a lot of smoking anyway, and thought it may be a fun departure [from fine dining].” n 2011, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing opened in Long Beach, Calif. as a new venture by Chef Gabriel Gordon, his wife Lena and a brewer named Julian Shrago. The Gordons were not new to restaurant ownership, having opened Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach some years earlier. Let us revisit its roots and experience its progression. See Beachwood p. 4 See Hops p. 3 From the Editor ...................................3 NIPAC Celebrates Brewers Talent ..........3 Homebrew Beer Stylist .........................5 Event Calendar ....................................8 Directories & Maps ........................ 10-13 Lagers Revenge .................................. 17 New Mexico ...................6 Oklahoma ......................7 Nevada ..........................8 Arkansas .......................9 S/C/E Texas ................. 14 Austin ..........................15 N/W Texas ................... 16 Northern Arizona ........ 18 Southern Arizona ........ 18 Central Arizona ........... 18 Southern California ..... 19 San Diego .................... 19
Much Ado About Hops That Are New
Taking the “brewers cut” from a freshly dried bale of hops in the Yakima Valley, Wash
It is a great time to be a hophead. “Hops are now almost like rock stars with craft beer fiends,” states Scott Birdwell, owner of DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer Supply in Houston, Texas, and an avowed hophead. Unlike the dark days of the hop shortage roughly a decade ago, there’s now a proliferation of new varieties with exotic names like Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon showing up in beers like Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack IPA and other hopforward concoctions. That means there’s a trickle down effect for homebrewers as well.“We have access to probably three times as many hops as We stock, and we stock 60 or 70 varieties,” notes Birdwell. More knowledgeable craft beer drinkers means finding the right mix of products to meet their needs. “You buy a good craft beer and often on the side of the label, it says “made with Columbus, Centennial and Simcoe hops” and the customers love the beer and come in saying “I want that!”” Birdwell exclaims. Customer driven demand can create issues with the “hottest” hop varieties though. Hop vendors often can’t balance the supply to the demand, especially for smaller accounts. “They (suppliers) teased us last year,” Birdwell wryly notes. ”We had people asking for [Mandarina Bavaria hops] and we couldn’t get any.”
A new hop bine takes at least three seasons growth to reach maximum yield. Add to that years of crossbreeding to achieve a particular flavor, aroma and bittering level, and a new hop variety represents a substantial long-term investment by the growers. Even larger breweries can have problems securing the latest and greatest varieties. “We love designing new beers around the new hop varieties,” Real Ale Head Brewer Erik Ogershok states. “When we are evaluating these new varieties, we are really looking for aromas that stand out.” However, beyond the flavors and aromas, logistics come into play.“Before we get too excited about buying every new hop we smell or taste, there are things to consider,” Ogershok adds. “What hops do we already have contracted? Do we build a new beer around it? We also have to know if there will be enough of this new variety available before we commit to using it in a recipe.”
Gaining access to new varieties may also be a matter of knowing the right people. Karbach Brewmaster Eric Warner trained at the Technical University Munich and his time in Germany has paid dividends over the years. “My close ties with Germany have put me in the pole position to have access to a couple of new varieties that don’t even have names yet. We only got 10 kilograms each of these two German varieties, so we are only doing small pilot batches,” Wagner informs.Moving to full-scale batches very much depends on whether or not the hop shows well in an actual beer. “There are plenty of examples of hops that have rubbed [rolling whole hops between the palms and then smelling the resulting aromas] great in the experimental stage but the beers have been meh,” Warner remarks.
Taking the time and energy to brew with the hops in a commercial setting benefits both the brewery interested in the new hop variety and the growers. “The best way of showing interest [in new varieties] is using an experimental hop and giving the growers feedback,” Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner comments. Wagner travels to Czech and German hop growers annually to select which hop lots Saint Arnold will contract for in the year to come. “Often the first time we encounter an experimental variety, there are only a couple of kilos available. If the hop is a couple of years farther along, we might be able to get enough to brew a one-off special batch.The year after, we could probably get 200 kilos, which is what we need to release a beer in our Icon series,” Wagner adds. He sees hop growers all over the world aiming for the next “rock star” variety. “It seems that everyone is trying to find the next Simcoe, Citra or Amarillo. Even the Germans,” Wagner smiles. “I did sample some wonderfully intense noble varieties while in Germany last fall though.” Likewise, Karbach’s Warner sees new trends emerging. “What interests me more than anything right now are the heirloom varieties,” he states. “[The heirloom hops] used to be very common in Europe 50 years ago, but have all but vanished.”
Regardless of which hop variety is poised for success or revival, for professionals and homebrewers alike, the first task is to figure out what style of beer best suits the hops. “We typically will experiment with dry-hopping casks to evaluate new hop varieties,” Erik Ogershok of Real Ale states. For homebrewers, unless they’ve tried the hops in a commercially produced beer, they often rely on their local shop’s expertise to guide them. To that end, DeFalco’s test brews simple beers to give them an idea of the hops’ character and potential uses. Birdwell describes their test batch philosophy, “You don’t want the malt or the yeast to be out front; you want those in the background. It can even be a light malt extract beer because the malt is not even important; you’re just looking to see what the hops do.” Lacking the pressures of commercial brewing, homebrewing was once where experimental hops found their first audience.Birdwell recalls, “I remember when we used to sell CMJ90 hops; they call them Centennial now.” As new hops appear, DeFalco’s Basic Brew® recipe offerings expand to encompass the new varieties, “We’re in the middle of nine new recipes right now,” Birdwell notes.
With new hop growing regions like New Zealand coming onto the scene and traditional areas like Germany and the Czech Republic exploring new (and old) hop strains, the future looks bright (and bitter) for hop lovers, whether they are craft beer drinkers or homebrewers.
Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Much+Ado+About+Hops+That+Are+New/1974619/252828/article.html.
A Perfect Pairing At Beachwood BBQ & Brewing
In 2011, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing opened in Long Beach, Calif. As a new venture by Chef Gabriel Gordon, his wife Lena and a brewer named Julian Shrago. The Gordons were not new to restaurant ownership, having opened Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach some years earlier. Let us revisit its roots and experience its progression.
As a trained chef with focus on modernist cuisine, Gordon’s original intention for the Seal Beach property was a nine-table fine dining restaurant that would cater to an affluent beach community. After signing the lease, he took some time to better know the locale. “I quickly figured out that it is an incredibly laid back community that might be disinterested in super foo-foo modernist cuisine,” Gordon shared. He decided to rethink things. “A lot of my influences were Southern anyway, so I kind of felt, if I take the foo-foo-ness out of my food, it is, in a sense, Southern BBQ. I was doing a lot of smoking anyway, and thought it may be a fun departure [from fine dining].”
Beachwood BBQ was born with an emphasis on staying true to traditional techniques while taking creative liberties with flavors. And, given his background as a fine dining chef who was opposed to serving sub-par wine, he took on the same view when considering his craft beer program. It would include a rotating showcase of the best American, Belgian and world craft beer.Beachwood’s “Hop Cam” was perhaps the first in the industry to stream live-feed of the current beer board, giving patrons an up-to-the-minute glimpse of current offerings at each location.
Gordon reported that as customers started becoming interested in him as a chef (and his getting bored with doing straight barbeque) he began expanding his menu. Some of the Southland’s best barbeque, creative dishes and sides can be found at both Beachwood locations.Gordon’s special beer dinners, held at various times during the year, give him the opportunity to further flex his culinary chops. “Clearly the beer dinners are really just me cooking for myself; showing a lot of other techniques. People [attendees] are supporting my own curiosity, my own search for interesting food and techniques,” Gordon shared. Beachwood’s next beer dinner will likely take place in June or July.
Beachwood was doing very well by the time it turned three. With no room to expand the Seal Beach location, the idea was to open a second restaurant. Faced with a market that was becoming saturated with other beer bars, all competing for the somewhat limited selection and availability of great beer, Gordon did not want to have to ask the same breweries (already supplying Seal Beach) for more beer. “I definitely wanted to open the next Beachwood but thought it best not to depend only on other peoples’ beer.The best thing would be to open a brewery with it and create our own great beer.” Enter Julian Shrago.
Shrago met the Gordons shortly after Seal Beach opened, connecting quickly through beer and finding they all attended UC Santa Barbara, graduated the same year and had many of the same friends. Shrago, then an aerospace engineer and member of the Long Beach Homebrewers club, was becoming more interested in brewing as a profession, striking friendships with some of California’s best brewers and gaining professional experience in unofficial apprenticeships. “Julian made awesome homebrewed beer and was brewing with [people like] Tomme Arthur [Port/ Lost Abbey] and Jeff Bagby [Bagby Beer/ Pizza Port],” Gordon recalled in talking of their partnership formation. Shrago was working on a business plan for a production brewery at about the same time the Gordon’s were planning their new brewpub. The result of their decision to join forces became Beachwood BBQ & Brewing.Much has happened since then, including numerous awards for Shrago’s creations.
Shrago has had overwhelming experiences at the past two Great American Beer Festivals.“People that I’ve had the good fortune to become friends with, like Jeff Bagby, and Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River, these are the guys that win these kinds of awards. It’s a huge humbling experience.” Beachwood’s awards included 2014 Large Brewpub/Brewer of the Year, having come home the prior year with 2013 Midsize Brewpub/ Brewer of the Year. Shrago now stands alongside his superstar brewing peers. Shrago and his assistant, Ian McCall, embrace taste, precision and quality in the products they create.
It’s intriguing to hear Shrago talk about how he approaches brewing. “If I have a general idea for a beer, I think about what flavors I want to taste in this beer, and then what kind of balance... What ingredients are going to get me those flavors? What technical processes are going to get me the right mouth feel to complement those flavors? What kind of water treatment is going to give me the right kind of finish in the beer? What kind of fermentation profiles are going to allow the yeast to bring a good clean finish or allow accentuation of certain flavors?I think about flavor first and then start backing out the other parameters that are going to get me there - not just from an ingredients standpoint, but from a process standpoint.” Recent expansion within the brewpub’s limited space was expected to increase capacity by about 40%, which means more Beachwood beer for a thirsty public.New fermenters and serving tanks were added and coupled with the updating of brewhouse equipment.
Art and Science
In February, Gordon was completing the finishing touches on Beachwood Blendery, a new facility and endeavor he has been fabricating for over a year. The baton was passing to the beer makers. These will include Shrago, Ryan Fields (formerly of Pizza Port/Lost Abbey) and the aforementioned McCall.
Shrago’s brewing approach is at the forefront for what will be crafted at the blendery.Shrago informed, “The engineering has always been helpful for me because at its most integrated level it’s a marriage of art and science.” He also spoke about the lore that many attach to sour beer produced in Belgium. He doesn’t see any reason why much of what happens inside a barrel can’t be quantified from a scientific standpoint.The team will be applying science that is already known while also attempting to calculate things people believe to be slightly magical and not known, quantifying everything they can to better understand the process and biology at each stage.Everything they know and understand will be able to be recreated: things like duplication of wort profiles using specific grains and recreating environmental changes experienced in lambic breweries. Temperature and humidity swings will be reproduced within the blendery through heating, air conditioning and humidity control.Shrago is working to understand more of the intricate biology of the bacteria and wild yeasts utilized. “In month one, what’s the proportion of all those things together? In month two, what’s thriving and what’s not thriving? In month three, where is the biological balance? We’re really going to try to quantify things so that we have a producible, predictable product. We are really excited about this because it is a whole new creative avenue for us. We are hoping to learn a lot. It is an exercise in creative autonomy and discovery.”
Their goal is to create American brewed sours that have the same complexities, flavors, aromas and “magic” their favorite Belgian sours possess: something their customers get to witness many months from now after Gordon and team complete the lengthy brewing and blending processes. If the way the restaurants and brewery have performed is any indication, the blendery venture will also be a success.