Friday, April 10, 2015

FarmWards Batch #2: The blandest of beers

Try as we might, not every beer turns out as the brewer had hoped. Despite planning, research and analysis of beers past there can always be a mistake, or in this case a mistake in judgement/process. For this beer I had set out to dial in a recipe for a little Saison recipe that was inspired by Tired Hands Saison Hands, what I got was something just north of boring. Now this beer isn't bad, as you'll read below, it is just lacking any real character you would expect in a Saison.

With this tasting notes post I wanted to change it up a bit and get the opinion of someone whom I respect and would give me positive feedback. I reached out to Brian Hall of to see if he would be willing to write me a little review. I really like Brian's reviewing style with beers folks send him for his blog, he is honest, articulate and honest. I can't stress how important it is to have someone whom you can rely on for honest to goodness feedback and I've always gotten that from Brian. I'll jump back in after the review with on how I think we got to this point with this beer but I will let Brian take it from here.

If nothing else its a pretty beer.
I know Ed from conversations when we started beta testing for the Yeast Bay.  Since beginning that project, we regularly send ideas back and forth regarding all things beer and bread. I’ve sent him beers and he’s returned great beers.  One of my favorites from his first package is one I plan on making soon.  
Recently he sent me two beers and asked me to give him a brutally honest review of a Saison he’d brewed up.  I told him no problem, I can do a “Brewtally Honest” review of any beer.  Three days later, they were on my doorstep. Lucky for me, the beer was racked off the keg so I wouldn’t have to let it settle for a week.
I wasn’t given any information other than that the beer was a saison.  Apparently he’d reviewed it himself on his blog, but to be honest I don’t recall reading that particular entry so I was starting with no knowledge (take that as you will.)  I didn’t pull out the BJCP guidelines, as I prefer to simply write about what I observe rather than end up looking for things that are missing.
I took the beer out of our fridge and let it sit for half an hour.  WIth a “kssst” the cap came off and for a second I thought I was in the presence of a gusher (impressive for a keg racking!)  However, it poured great and had an excellent finger of head which remained on the beer throughout most of the tasting.    
Before taking a quick photo, I plunged in for aroma.  And again.  At first (as the beer was a tad on the cool side) I didn’t get much, except for a strong “beer”-like aroma.  I’ll elaborate.  The nose was primarily pilsner malt - the same smell one would get from smelling any of the macro breweries - Bud, Coors, Miller.  In the same way you might describe what chicken tasted like was how I found myself trying to describe this brew - “Well, it smells like beer…”  As the beer warmed and I got past the pilsner, I noticed some very light notes of lemon zest, clove, and what I thought to be noble hops (turns out they were Cascade…)  I’ll reiterate, these aromas were in very small amounts.  I almost thought I got a little whiff of peppercorn spice, but it might have been in my head as I knew this was supposed to be a saison.
After making a few notes, I gave it a taste.  First impression was it was incredibly thin.  In the words of someone who tried my Pumpkin Beer of ‘12, “Is there any malt in here??”  Other impressions was that the flavors seemed somewhat muddled, as opposed to the usual crisp and clean.  Bitterness was low-med, and I perceived a slight astringency in the finish.  Carbonation was great, there was no DMS or diacetyl, or any other off flavors.
While easy to drink, not a huge “deliciousness” factor - sheerly just from the lack of overall flavor.  More hop flavor comes out as it warms.  A very, very thin beer, however beer nonetheless. Ed asked if my impressions would have changed if he would have pitched it as a table beer - my response was probably not.  I probably wouldn’t have “looked” for the peppercorn/spice, but other than that everything was just observation.  Even in a table beer, I’d still like a little more “going on.”  
I spoke with Ed a little about how he brewed this beer and the main thing he told me was that he tried a Ferulic Acid rest during his mash.  Brewing with Wheat states this rest is typically done around 111-115 degrees and - you guessed it - develops ferulic acid.  Supposedly this rest aids in the production of clove like flavors, however there has been debate over whether it works or not.  Did this account for what I perceived to be a light clove flavor?  Perhaps, as I wasn’t aware of the acid rest when I was sampling the beer. 
Would I buy this beer?  Probably not.  It’s not flawed, there wasn’t a “yuck” factor at all, it just came up short with my expectations for a beer simply due to the thinness of the drink.  Would I like to see this brewed again with a little more malt?  Yes please.

-Brian Hall 
So, a pretty forgettable beer in the end. I was happy Brian picked up on the strong Pilsner aroma, "beer-like" is really a great way to describe it, its something that I have gotten from almost every beer that I have brewed with Wallonian Farmhouse. But this character tends to fade with time, to the point that it virtually disappears

I was going for a pretty light beer, but not as light as this beer ended up. I had decided to ferment with Wallonian on the cool side, 67F, to see if I could still achieve a complex fermentation profile as well as a dry beer in doing so. I succeeded in the dry beer department with a FG of 1.002 but the fermentation character is way too clean. When you build a beer that leans so heavily on expressions from a characterful yeast you really need to ensure that happens or you might end up with a "beer-like" character resembling BMC. Yikes, back to the drawing board. 

Thanks again to Brian for his thorough and honest review, and be sure to scope out his site for a lot of great funky beer and cooking posts. Thanks to him and his sourdough culture he shared, bread baking has become a new obsession of mine and Brian knows his stuff in that department. Cheers!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Revisiting The Yeast Bay Brett Blends

It was around this time last year that I brewed a split batch of the FItR with the three original Brettanomyces Blends (Beersel, Lochristi, Brussels) that The Yeast Bay first went to market with in 2014. With the way Brett can change a beer over time, especially in the bottle, I thought it might be beneficial to post some update tasting notes on each of the three beers to better understand what each blend can do.

It had been a few months since I tried any of the three variations so I did not have a fresh idea of what each beer had to offer. Although I had an idea of what my favorites were back in August of 2014 I did not review those tasting notes prior to tasting again so as not to influence any nuances I picked up on. 

One thing I will note here is that by fermenting the beer out with Wyeast 3711 prior to adding the Brett blends I achieve my goal of a quicker turnaround but I think in the end I sacrificed some yeast character. Each beer is discernibly different, but are lacking in complexity that you might expect with a beer like this. I attribute that entirely to virtually no sugar remaining in the beer prior to the Brett being added leaving virtually only phenols, esters, and other fermentation byproducts for the Brett to metabolize. So if I seem underwhelmed by any of these beers you can blame it on my process and not the blends themselves. After that disclaimer, below is how I perceived these beers one year and one week from brewday.

FITR Brussels blend notes
Appearance: Brilliantly clear, very pale with a bright white pillowy head that sitting on top, very highly carbonated.
AromaFarmy like funkiness, slight acidity, phenolic, spicy. Opens up as the beer warms, was subdued when too cold. 
TasteLight peppery spice on the tip of the tongue, hops bitterness is practically gone. Very dry, delicate and moderately funky. 
OverallIt's light and refreshing but falling off a bit, it's held up ok but with the hops dropping off its losing some of the balance. The beer is very dry but has a hint of sweetness on the back that i attribute to the abandoning hops. It appears that this blend can help achieve an effervescent carbonation, but also drops very clear.

FITR Lochristi Blend notes
Appearance: Not nearly as clear as Brussels, it's has a nice haze that I would prefer in a Saison. The carbonation looks a lot lighter, but still a fairly high level. Interesting in that these were all carbed with the same amount of sugar. Thin white ring of head along the sides of the glass.
AromaRipe fruit, really unique nose, no funk at all just a big bouquet of pineapple, honeydew and melon. Some malt lingering in the nose surprisingly.
TasteLight carbonation, dry but not overwhelmingly so. Light body, bright and refreshing. Not much spice pretty much all light fruit. 
OverallA very ethereal beer, the Pineapple, melon nose is super unique. It's something that reminds me of walking past one of those food carts in the city that sells only bowls of mixed fruit. Bright, refreshing wafts of melons. I'm a big fan of this blend, it needs a delicate beer behind it though bc it's a slow worker but given the time you're going to be rewarded.

FITR Beersel Blend

Appearance: High carbonation, thick white head sitting on top throughout the glass just like Brussels. 
Aroma: Fruity, light notes of Pineapple and guava, and another fruit that I can't put my finger on. There is a faint rustic funkiness in the distance, something that I would compare to an old house during renovation. Weird I know.
Taste: Follows the aroma minus any funk really, light pepper, fruity. Very little hop bitterness, but enough to keep it balanced.
Overall: Not in your face with Brett character, I had to search for something here but it did open up as it warmed. It's enjoyable but might even pass for something clean. There is a slick, oily mouthfeel to this one, kind of buttery...


After nearly a year Lochristi aged the best or at least changed for the better. When they were younger I liked the Beersel better than Lochristi but I noted that due to the sluggishness of Lochristi I felt it still had time to hit its stride. At this point, in this beers lifecycle, the Lochristi was far and away the most unique. Tons of delicate pineapple and melons, it's unlike any Brett blend on the market and your patience will be rewarded. A lot of people get strawberry from the blend, that hasn't been my experience but it could have to do with the base beer.

Beersel was previously my favorite, and I still really like the balance between fruity Brett character and the supporting funky weirdness. If Lochristi hadn't aged so well I would probably still prefer Beersel of the three, but Beersel hadn't really changed all that much after this time. Its a great blend, and it will continue to have a home in my beers. 

The Brussels blend is good to, just not as unique as the other two and did not change much at all. It did work the quickest for me, so if you want a quicker brett character and classic farmyard funk then its for you. I happen to like the fruitier Brett strains so its Lochristi and Beersel in my beers theses days. If you have the patience, and if you're brewing mixed fermentation beers you better, do yourself a favor and pitch the Lochristi into a saison and watch it age very gracefully.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

FarmWards: Batch #2 Analyzing and Tweaking Recipes

Recent upgrades to my system, shiny.
There is value in repetition, tasting a beer that you brewed, evaluating, and determining what you might need to change to get it exactly the way you want it. There are so many variables that you can change, and most homebrewing is quite manual resulting in batch to batch variability making it feel like youre chasing a moving target. The key though is to keep the changes in the recipe to a minimum, if you change 3-4 variables every batch you may have no clue which of those changes made the impact on the final beer. By making one, maybe two, small changes it should be easy to pinpoint whether or not you are on the right path. This is all assuming your process is at least close to repeatable, its very difficult to analyze impacts of an ingredient change if you cannot repeat your brewing process.

This type of meticulous analysis and experimentation over the last few years has really helped me to become a more precise brewer, and taster, of beer. This is especially important with Beta testing for The Yeast Bay, I want to be as precise and unbiased as possible when brewing and tasting. Not to say I have reached ultimate brewing accuracy, brewing consistency is always a work in progress. This is even more important when trying to emulate a great, very delicate, beer like Tired Hands SaisonHands as I am here. Techniques need to be consistent so that the differences in your recipe changes stand out in the end product, especially in a low gravity Saison where there is really nowhere to hide.

So with the second batch of this beer I made 7-8 changes, kidding, the changes here are very subtle and could possibly even go unnoticed. When I brewed FarmWards the first time I was trying to emulate SaisonHands without very much recipe info to go from. The result was good, not great, and definitely not a clone, it needed some subtle changes to satisfy my own palate. I am not 100% sure what those changes need to be, but with an educated guess I can narrow the options down batch to batch. Maybe I will even nail it this time.
White Wheat from Canada Malting Company.

I opted for a first wort hopping addition instead of a 60 minute bittering charge, same as I use in my hoppy beers, but with Magnum instead of CTZ hoping for something a little less aggressive. I lowered the Oats very slightly in favor of a very slight increase in Wheat and Rye. Instead of using a single infusion mash temp I chose to dough in for a Ferulic Acid then direct fire the mash to raise to saccharification. The Ferulic Acid rest should do a few things,  should lighten the body a bit, but more importantly I am hoping to encourage the production of 4VG (Spicy, Clove like) for a more complex fermentation profile. 

So thats technically three changes, shoot me, but they are each so subtle that I should be able to detect the impact.If not, I will revert these change back to the original recipe and make another subtle change which may or may not get me what I want. Even if they don't get me to my goal the journey of exploring the variations can be a learning experience more valuable than actually achieving that perfect recipe.

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.50 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.80 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.044 SG
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Measured FG: 1.002 SG
ABV: 5.5%
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: 27.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

83.1% - 7lbs 11oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 6.8% - 10oz - CMC White Wheat (3.5 SRM)
 6.8% - 10oz - CMC Rye (2.5 SRM)
 3.4% - 5oz - Flaked Oats

Boil: First Wort Hop - 0.35 oz Magnum [14.00 %] - 21.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 6.4 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

1L starter - Wallonian Farmhouse

Ferulic Acid Rest - 15 min @ 114.5 F (direct fired mash with ramp time of ~10 mins)Sacch rest - 60 min @ 148.7 F 
Mash Out - ramp time 10 mins to reach 170 F
Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: 60 seconds of pure O2. Filtered Tap water, Mash PH 5.39 targeting Markowski Farmhouse water profile.

Notes: Pitched and active 1L starter of Wallonian Farmhouse at 68F, let free rise to 75F and held there for 14 days resulting in a FG of 1.002. This resulted in a much stronger beer than I really wanted at 5.5% but I am most concerned with flavor profile than an extra 1% ABV.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tasting Notes: NOT-Brett Trois Riverwards IPA

Various Riverwards wort fermenting in my very cool crawlspace.
As if 100% Brett fermented beers weren't already misunderstood enough it turns out WLP644 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois is actually Saccharomyces and not a strain of Brettanomyces. This is not breaking news to a lot of folks, and the point of this post is not to go into the specifics, the DNA sequencing stuff goes over my head anyway. If you're looking for more you can read more in depth analysis Here, or Here

I was excited to bring home 20 gallons of Riverwards IPA wort to split off into unique fermentations. With five gallons of that wort being pitched with some 2nd generation Brett Trois, then only two days later rumors started to swirl on the Milk The Funk Facebook group of the misidentification. Like most folks I was skeptical at first, but as more in depth analysis was performed the original rumors would all but be confirmed. one of the most widely used Brett strains for primary fermentations was not Brett after at all but plain old Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. The question is, should we care?

There seems to be two reactions to the news, there is the "Who cares, it makes great beer" camp, of which I am a member, and the "Wow this changes everything" camp, oh yea I'm in that one to. I'm of the opinion that Trois is one of the best strains to use in hoppy beers, as good if not better than Conan, and I will continue to use it in that way as I have now for some time. It has the ability to throw off tons of unique fruity esters that pair very well with aggressive new age hops we all love to use these days. For that reason I will not only continue to use it as I have despite the taxonomy, but will encourage non Brett users to explore the strain now that its being reclassified.

On the other hand, the brewing community was making some serious progress on defining what 100% Brett beer can be and educating the consumer on those facts. I come across people often who note that a 100% Brett beer is missing the "barnyard aromas" classically associated with Brett. This stems from a misunderstanding of how versatile Brett can be, both in primary and as a secondary fermenter. I realize that there are many other strains of Brett that homebrewers and commercial brewers use in primary but this is one of the most popular. So when it comes to the exploration of 100% Brett beer, this is a major setback.

Enough of the Op-ed junk, the beer in question here is awesome, I said I love this strain didn't I? I changed this one up from the Conan base version of the beer, besides the Trois, and dry hopped with 3 ounces each of Mosaic and Citra. I guess that doesn't make for a great side by side comparison but I love getting multiple beers out of one brewday, and this one will eventually have 5 variations in the end.

Brett Trois Riverwards IPA

Appearance: Hazy golden orange, honestly...same color as almost all of my beers. Thick fluffy head on top that just hangs around the whole time, intense lacing on the glass. Unsurprisingly looks no different than the Conan version.

Aroma: Intensely tropical, guava, papaya, pineapple, with a faint background dank note that is a bit more present as the glass warms. The aroma is sharp and assertive, no mistaking the Trois or the Mosaic in this beer they are both the stars here. It reminds me of the fruit smoothies from Jamba Juice all of the servers at a trendy martini bar I used to work at would drink, they lived on that shit.

Flavor: Light bitterness as is customary in how I like these beers, less bitter than the Conan version which I attribute to that beer being much drier (Conan= 1.007, Trois= 1.012FG). Nice creamy texture across the tongue, as it his the back of your mouth it hints at dryness then the creamy tropical juice character comes back. The finish is like a Orange/Pineapple juice mix, so drinkable.

Final Thoughts: I love Mosaic, and I love Trois paired with tons of hops so this is my jam. Its a good little change up from the base version with Conan, and actually fairly different. I shared a growler of this with John from 2nd Story he found it unique, and very juicy, to the point that he is considering playing with Trois, so long as he was sure its Saccharomyces.

Whats amazing to me about Trois, good or bad, is that despite all of the hops in this beer it is unmistakably a Brett Trois beer. Trois can dominate a beer if you don't support it with complimentary flavors, in this case tons of hops. But if you can pair it with aggressive hopping it can bring together a very complex hoppy beer.

Hopefully White Labs announces this strain is Saccharomyces soon so that brewers who would normally be hesitant to brew with Brett can start to explore this great strain. Those that normally brew with Brett and now are less interested in the strain might want to think again, Trois will always have a home in my hoppy beers.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Farmer in the Rye with Plums

Jammy Plums and Apricots.
For the last couple of years I brew an annual batch of my Farmer in the Rye Saison then age it on fruit with different various strains of Brettanomyces. The first year of the series I used cherries (pre-dates this blog) and it turned out just ok, two years ago's batch was aged on Mangos with pretty decent results but not exceptional. After of a few years of ok results last years Peach version was one of the best beers I have ever brewed, Luckily I still have 5-6 750ml bottles stored in the crawlspace.

And yes, I added 10% of the
pits to the fermenter.

The wise move would probably be using Peaches again but I wanted to stay the course and change it up once again this year. I came across some Plums and Apricots at a local farmers market while in season and decided on a blend of the two in an 70:30 Plum to Apricot ratio. The Plums I chose (the variety escapes me) were tart, prune like and rich with a dark purple skin that that should lend a unique color to the pale base beer. I threw the Apricots in there to balance some of the prune/grape like dark fruit flavors a bit, hopefully the plums do not overpower the fairly delicate pale base beer. Using about 1.25 lbs/gallon the beer should be very fruit forward once again.

I prepared the fruit, as I have in the past, by giving it a quick rinse then cutting them up into cubes so that they would fit down the neck of my carboy, then storing them in ziplock bags in the freezer until I needed them. Once it was time to rack the beer, I added the fruit to the carboy first then the beer went on top. This years batch got a blend of Brettanomyces starting with cultured dregs from a bottle of Logsdon's Seizon Bretta that was pitched at the start of fermentation on the base beer. I blended in 1 gallon of a fresh batch of Jah-Rod, that I had added The Yeast Bay Beersel Blend, into 4 gallons of Farmer in the Rye at the same time I racked onto the fruit. The beer aged on the fruit for a little over 2 months before it was kegged where it would naturally condition with a fresh addition of priming sugar.

The Farmer in the Rye with Plums:
This photo does not do the appearance justice.

Appearance: The beer is an amazingly beautiful deep purple, very murky and cloudy with some fruit chunks. Has a thick pillowy pinkish head that hangs around for the entire glass, its not super highly carbonated but still within the style. Visually, this is a very eye catching beer.

Aroma: Jam like plum aromas, reminds me a lot of pomegranate juice actually. Just big juicy plum, prune, pomegranate nose. No hops, or much Brett presence to speak of just dark fruit.

Taste: A nice pop of acidity hits the tip of the tongue quick, spritzy carbonation keeps it crisp. Very dry and quite tart, light body making it pretty drinkable and then a smack of plum sweetness in the back of the palate. Almost no hops left as the beer is over a year old. You could easily mistake this for a highly carbonated plum wine with notes of pomegranate and subtle cherry. 

Final Thoughts: The plums do dominate the base beer a little bit but not so much to be overpowering, its just that the base is unrecognizable. It's surprising that there is little to no Brett presence but I think it might also be overwhelmed by the plum. This is super enjoyable, and a nice change of pace from the lighter fruits I had used the last two years. I will definitely use Plums again, but maybe blend in a heartier darker beer to help balance out the Plums a bit. I've had a lot of friends love this beer and say it was one of my most unique beers, I enjoy it alot as well but I am just so damn critical of my own beers.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tasting Notes: Riverwards IPA on tap from 2nd Story

Photo courtesy of @brewerwible.
A few weeks back 2nd Story Brewing held an event to celebrate the tapping of Riverwards IPA, for which I invited as many people as I possibly could. I wasn't really sure what to expect the night of the tapping, I will admit though I was a bit intimidated and nervous at first. Im not quite sure why, as it was mostly a group of friends, family, homebrew club members, and beer people, many of whom have had my beer before. But never had my beer been the main draw for bringing people out, both gratifying and intimidating all at once. I got over it quickly.

Chatting with people about the beer that night was a lot of fun, listening to what they liked, about it, or even what they didn't like. One comment from a friend stood out, he said "tastes like a lot of the hoppy beers you brew". Which I took as a compliment both because I know he enjoys those beers I brew and while this was commercially brewed it stood out as having my finger prints on it. Assuming people were telling me the truth of course, the beer was quite well received. I still find myself checking the Untapped page for the beer far too often but the comments there seem to reflect what I heard from most folks who have had it. 

It was interesting to see how it differed on a commercial scale as compared to the recipe brewed at home. John had mentioned that his culture of Conan could achieve a high AA% but I thought the wheat and oats would counteract that. The beer finished much more dry than I had planned at 1.007, which accentuated the bitterness a little more than I was expecting but ended up working out really well. I am very happy with how the beer turned out.

Riverwards IPA - on tap at 2nd Story Brewing Company

This glass was smashed to bits moments later, not by me.
Appearance: Cloudy with a thin white head, hazy straw yellow, pretty typical of a lot of the beers that I brew in both appearance and color.

Aroma: Tropical and aromatic, mango, orange, peach, grapefruit, very fruit forward. I don't pick up on much of the malt in the aroma, mostly Conan and the hops. Not there is much of a complex malt bill but you can pick out the oats in the aroma on HopWards.

Overall: It is lightly bitter upfront that gives way to a massive fruit juice character, silky smooth body and pungent hops on the middle of the tongue. It then finishes dry with a slight lingering bitterness that teeters on the edge of being too bitter before it suddenly falls off leaving you wanting more. Its a pretty great roller coaster ride of flavors and even at 6% ABV can be drank all night, Ive done so on numerous occasions. As of this posting, the beer is still on tap, but when its gone its gone.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Riverwards IPA: brewing on a commercial scale

Ed/John, brewing is serious biz.
I recently had the opportunity to design and brew a beer with my friend, and head brewer, John Wible at 2nd Story Brewing Company in Philly. Back in April of 2014 I won 2nd Best Of Show for batch #1 of HopWards in the Philly Homebrew Cup, the prize was the aforementioned brew day. John and I have brewed together in the past and chat about hoppy beer brewing quite regularly so I was looking forward to working with him on a commercial scale.

Once I got the inevitable question of "Can we use Brett or bacteria in your brewhouse?" out of the way (the answer was "hell no" btw) we settled on our shared passion for hoppy beers and set out to build an IPA recipe. Due to contracting and limited availability its not as easy to acquire some of the trendy hop varieties on a commercial scale as we can as homebrewers. Luckily though, John already had Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe on hand so we could run with what would essentially be batch #2 of We Talkin 'Bout PracticeI tweaked the grain bill quite a bit from that initial batch, using 10% Wheat and 10% Oats with the rest base malt, and dropping the sugar.

We blended equal parts Citra and Amarillo late in the boil, and even more in the whirlpool to achieve a tropical fruit juice character. To finish it off it was dry hopped with a 40/40/20 ratio of Citra/Amarillo/Simcoe, adding the Simcoe in for a little bit of piney complexity to keep from being too one dimensional. The end goal is a super fruity, tropical juice forward IPA with a creamy texture and a subtle pineyness. 2nd Story uses Conan (from BSI) as their house yeast strain so pair that with the above and we the makings of some tasty IPA.
I got to the brewery early in the morning, boots on, and let John know that I was ready to get my hands dirty. 2nd Story brewing is in the Old City section of Philadelphia, and if you're familiar the area you'll know that space in these old buildings is at a premium. For the neighborhood however, the brewpub is actually quite big, but the brewhouse itself is a bit tight especially with me and a few friends tweeting and snapping photos all day. A lot of thought went into laying out the brewhouse to maximize what limited space there is, its an impressive system.
Pretending to stir the mash, note the strike water and grist are already fully integrated.
You can see the arm that the auger and HLT tubing meet and excrete the mash.
We started in the basement where we opened 1,000 pounds of grain sack by sack and fed it into the mill which is transferred up to the second floor brewery via the auger. John already had our water measured out and heated to our strike temperature in the HLT before I got there, we hooked up a few hoses and started to mash in. This is the point where I was supremely impressed by the ingenuity of this system, the strike water and milled grain are fully integrated as it is pumped/auger'd meeting in the same tubing that is then dropped right into mash tun, video proof. Despite the obligatory mash stirring photo, there is absolutely no stirring necessary. 

The brewhouse uses steam jackets to heat the kettle and HLT but the mash tun is just an insulated vessel with a loose fitting lid. However, the false bottom and simple pick up tube on the mash tun are very efficient at leaving virtually all grain particles behind leaving no reason to recirculate. After the mash was complete we used the grant to prime the pump, then pumped right into the boil kettle. With such a large volume of wort in a huge boil kettle its hard to see the rate at which the runnings are flowing.  With a smaller volume of liquid in the Grant you can more easily monitor the flow rate coming out of the mash so you can match the flow of the sparge with some consistency. 
Thats the grant, on left is the panel you connect stainless tubing to transfer liquid via all vessels so there is not a web of hoses all over the floor. Another bit of genius engineering due to space constraints.
As the first runnings filled the boil kettle we turned on the lower jacket to bring the wort to a boil and added the FWH addition of CTZ. After the whole kettle was filled we fired up the second (upper) jacket and we reached the boil in short order. Another bit of ingenuity that impressed me was all of the steam coming off of the boil (its a lot) is captured and condensed back into water then moved over to the HLT to be used for cleaning, so awesome.
I had to change my shirt, it got soiled.

After a 60 minute boil we turned the jackets off and sent the wort through the chiller and back into the kettle to bring the wort temp down to 185F for our whirlpool addition of Citra/Amarillo then rested for 45 minutes. When the whirlpool rest was complete the wort was pumped through the glycol chiller and chilled to 55F, aerated inline, then through the yeast brink and into the FV, all closed system as you can see on the right. But before the wort was aerated and pitched John filled a few of my fermenters with chilled/unpitched wort for me to use various yeast strains and methods at home. There will be multiple follow up posts on all of the different ways I split the 20 gallons he allowed me to take, from 100% Brett (some new blends) to a barrel aged version using my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, this wort will produce many a variation.  
Gimme that wort John, the aromas filling the brewpub at this point were amazing.
Grain gets shoveled onto the floor, then down an 8" pipe that leads to the basement and into trash bins.
You can barely see the green pipe between my legs.
There were a few takeaways from the day for me most importantly that the process itself is not much different than what we all do at home, only bigger and surprisingly easier due to pimped out equipment. Grain out and cleaning the mash tun was a ton of work, hot, sticky and messy but as a one time thing it was actually kind of fun. It was a truly great experience, and I am grateful to John and the Philly Homebrew Club for offering up the opportunity to win the prize. I look forward to winning again in 2015 and making John introduce some Brett to his brewhouse :). As of this posting Riverwards IPA is still on tap, despite my best efforts to drink the entire tank, so if your local go buy a pint and say hi to John. Tasting notes to follow.
You want me to get inside the mash tun to clean it?
1/16/15 - Tasting Notes: Riverwards IPA on tap at 2nd Story (Conan version)
2/12/15 - Tasting Notes: NOT-Brett Trois Riverwards IPA

Photos courtesy of my buddy Bill Shouldis, you can see the full album Here.

Riverwards IPA

Brew day: 12/4/2014
Kegged: ask John

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.85 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Bottling Volume: 5.25 gal
Estimated OG: 1.060 SG
Measured OG: 1.060 SG
Measured FG: 1.012 SG
ABV: 6.3%
Estimated Color: 4.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 42 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

78.8% - 10lbs 4oz - Pale Ale Malt (3.1 SRM)
10.6% - 1lbs 6oz - CMC White Wheat
10.6% - 1lbs 6oz -Flaked Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.25 oz CTZ [17.00 %] - 16.1 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 1 Whirlfloc Tablet + 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] - 7.7 IBUs
Boil:  5min - 1.25 oz Citra [14.50 %] - 12.5 BUs
45 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.50 oz Amarillo [8.90 %] - 1.7 IBUs
30 Minute Whirlpool 185f 1.50 oz Citra [14.50 %] - 2.2 IBUs
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.50 oz Amarillo [8.50 %] 
Dry Hop: 5 days - 2.50 oz Citra [12.00 %]
Dry Hop: 5 days - 1.00 oz Simcoe [13.00 %]


Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150 F 

Fly Sparge 4.60 gallons 170f

Misc: Filtered Philadelphia Tap water. The commercial batch actually had an OG of 1.056 since John's pitch of Conan achieves 80%+ AA and finished at 1.007, but the above is how I brew the recipe on a homebrew system.

Notes: 5 gallons at home was pitched with 500ml of fresh "Brett" Trois slurry, ironically 2 days before the new broke that it may not be a strain of Brettanomyces. 13 gallons was pitched with my Tired Hands Emptiness culture, and racked into my 1 year old Dad's Hat barrel blended with 2 gallons of 1 year old Farmer in the Rye. The final 2 gallons was split into 1 gallon fermenters split with 2 brett blends that Richard from Mark of the Yeast. There will be a post on all of these variations as they materialize, with the barrel aged version last of course.