ProAm Collaboration with Yonkers Brewing Company

Mucking out the mash tun.

Big brewer, tiny mash tun. Doing my fair share of cleaning at Yonkers Brewing Company.

Opening a commercial brewery is the ultimate fantasy for many homebrewers.There is something incredibly thrilling (and cool) about taking a beer that you have conceptualized and crafted and bringing it over to the commercial beer world. This is a big part of the reasoning why most homebrewers jump at the opportunity to have one of their recipes scaled up and brewed on a commercial scale.

This is precisely the spot I found myself in a couple weeks ago when I had the opportunity to brew my Oast House Saison at Yonker’s Brewing Company. All of this was the result of winning the Brewer’s Choice award at the Westchester Farmhouse Ale Competition — not a bad prize!

One interesting thing I have realized over the course of this experience is how non-brewers perceive brewers and the work they do; recipe formulation is viewed as alchemy and something to protect. But I’ve always taken the mindset that recipe is fractionally important compared to the technical skills of the brewer. I think it is somewhat absurd that I have been asked multiple times if I am being monetarily compensated for this recipe being brewed at Yonkers. Honestly, the value in seeing firsthand how a commercial brewery operates is far more valuable than the recipe. The marketing and experiential value has been enormous for me — especially as I consider perhaps one day opening my own brewery.

This was my third time taking a personal homebrew recipe and scaling it up to a commercial batch. This is always a challenge as commercial brewers may not have the same stock of ingredients used in the original recipe. Being malleable is critical for a successful ProAm collaboration. Remain humble and realize that this is a profession for those you’re working with and that there are economic considerations that simply don’t exist in homebrewing. Try to stay true to your vision, but allow yourself to be creative in achieving the same end despite the means. It is important to play the role of the humble homebrewer — these types of collaborations are fun and should be positive for all parties involved. I think we achieved this on all ends of this collaboration.

If the case of my beer, I used a complex mixed-culture of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, and lactobacillus to ferment my beer. This fermentation was critical in achieving the appropriate level of acid and funk in my complete beer, but something that could not be achieved at Yonkers Brewing without running the risk of contaminating their brewery. The suggestion of their brewer was to kettle sour half of the batch and then blend it back with the other half that was cleanly fermented with saison yeast. The idea is that the kettle soured half would bring the tartness exhibited by my homebrew while keeping any souring organisms to the hot side of the brewery where contamination would not be a risk. Additionally, we tweaked the recipe slightly, adding approximately 10% corn sugar to encourage the high level of attenuation exhibited by my homebrew and attributed to the atypical fermentation.

Right now the beer is finishing fermentation and conditioning. Stay tuned. I’ll post details soon about when and where the commercial version of Oast House Saison can be enjoyed.

Brew Day Play-By-Play


Revisiting Krampus AKA Miss Figgy

Krampus in the Glass

Krampus in the Glass

Krampus, AKA Miss Figgy, is a beer of strength and contemplation that begs to be sipped. Inspired by traditional English Barley Wines and complemented by flavors of fresh fig and dark rum, this beers packs a punch at over 10% alcohol. Traditional English malts and a long boil are used to give the beer a rich malt profile of unmistakable depth. Subtle spicing is present but fleeting on the palate leaving you questioning whether you’re tasting intentional spicing or simply the play of fruit, malt, and yeast. A light touch of oak becomes apparent on the finish bringing structure to the rich malt profile.

This beer was re-brewed on a commercial scale at Big Time Brewery in Seattle, WA as part of the 2012 GABF Pro-Am Competition. It will be poured during the Friday night session of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival at the Pro-Am Competition Booth. Below I’ve outlined the beer’s recipe as well as tasting notes from a sample of the homebrewed version.

The Recipe

Size: 5.25 gal
Efficiency: 74.0%
Attenuation: 73.0%

Original Gravity: 1.106
Terminal Gravity: 1.029
Color: 20.93 SRM
Alcohol: 10.32% ABV
Bitterness: 49.4 IBU
Mash Temp: 155° F

13.5 lb Crisp Maris Otter (65.1%)
3.75 lb Weyermann Munich TYPE II (18.1%)
1 lb Crisp Crystal 77 (4.8%)
8 oz Belgian Special B (2.4%)
2 lb Star Thistle Honey (9.6%)

28 g Magnum (12.5%) – added during boil, boiled 60 m

1 tsp Cinnamon (ground) – added during mash
.25 ea Star Anise – added during boil, boiled 5 m

1 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 10 m

1 ea WYeast 1728 Scottish Ale™

4 lb Figs – added dry to secondary fermenter
.5 lb Dark Raisins Soaked in Aged Dark Rum – added dry to secondary fermenter
.5 lb Golden Raisins  Soaked in Aged Dark Rum – added dry to secondary fermenter

1 oz Oak Cube Blend Soaked in Aged Dark Rum – added dry to secondary fermenter

– Build 2800ml 1.040 starter on plate.
– Ferment primary 2 weeks.  Start at 58*F and hold 60-62*F.  Let ramp up to  72*F at end.

Secondary 1 (Rack to Purged Carboy) (Age 1 month):
4 lbs of figs
1/2 lb of dark raisins
1/2 lb of golden raisins

Secondary 2 (Age 2 Months):
1oz oak cubes

Tasting Notes:

Brewed: 12/4/11
Sampled: 10/7/12
Alcohol: 10.3% ABV

Aroma: This beer presents a great layered bouquet of fruit, malt, and various sugars. Initially apparent is a blend of tart cherries and prunes. As it warms, an earthy fig aroma becomes much more apparent and is reminiscent of biting into the skin of a fresh fig. Flavors of turbinado sugar and molasses sit in the background. There is a light touch of oak which is very vanilla-like. Ethanol is apparent, but not hot or distracting. The aroma is very complex and continually evolves as the beer is consumed. It seems like every sniff presents an opportunity to detect additional aromas. 12 / 12

Appearance: Deep brown with garnet-like highlights. Beer is fairly hazy. Head retention is poor, likely a consequence of the high alcohol levels. 1 / 3

Flavor: First up are flavors of heavily caramelized Belgian candi sugar that have characteristics of dark dried fruit. There is a solid amount of toasty melanoiden-rich malts (like Munich). The sugar flavors leave an impression of sweetness that is balanced with some tart-cherry like flavors. Ripe fig skin blends with some of the vanilla and oak flavors creating an interesting flavor combination. Very smooth balancing bitterness. Alcohol is barely perceptible. 19 / 20

Mouth Feel: Medium body and bitterness with soft carbonation. This beer feels like it could benefit from a heavier mouthfeel to increase its richness. 2 / 5

Overall Impression: This beer is quite nice. There are many layers of flavor which make it an enjoyable sipper that evolves in the glass. When fresh, this beer had a huge earthy fresh fig character that seems to have stepped into the background and become more integrated as the beer has aged. It is amazingly drinkable for the ABV. Really enjoyable beer. 9 / 10

Score: 43 / 50 (Outstanding)

Note: Evaluation done according to BJCP Scoring System. This beer was reviewed as a Category 20 Fruit Beer – English Barley Wine Base.