Tuesday, August 9, 2016

I'm taking my talents to Pitman New Jersey :)

Most avid homebrewers fall in two camps, the ones who want to brew professionally someday and the ones who don't want to ruin a perfectly good hobby, for years I've lived comfortably in the latter. Its not that I never wanted to work in the brewing industry, it's that I have a good steady job, kids to support, and a mortgage to pay so starting a new career is not something that would be ideal. But like a politician running for office, I've changed my stance, well...kind of.

I've kept this under wraps for some time now, but I am excited to announce that I have recently signed on to build/manage/maintain a line of barrel aged mixed fermentation beers for Kelly Green Brewing Company as a consultant. Kelly Green is a new nanobrewery in the previously dry town of Pittman NJ, that just opened this spring. I connected with the owner Justin Fleming through our mutual friend Jack (a KGBC employee). I told Jack I was thinking about pitching this idea to some local breweries, he brought it up to Justin, we met up for some beers and the rest is history. 

Beautiful barrels from Amalthea.
Justin is giving me full creative control over this line of beers from grain to glass, which is awesome, but we will be working together in a collaborative nature throughout that process. All of the beers in the line will be Saison based, fermented and aged entirely in oak wine barrels for their life cycle. Once they have matured they will be blended/fruited/etc and then bottle conditioned and sold at the brewery only. Justin made a connection at nearby Amalthea Cellars, a winery in NJ, and picked up a first batch of 6 barrels. Hopefully we will be able to use their barrels for most of the line, a source of in state barrels right from the source can't be beat. Wort will be pumped into the basement of KGBC where those barrels will reside, then pitched with a house mixed culture that I have been cultivating over the years alongside some fresh Saccharomyces. Recipes will vary, but we will keep this culture bouncing around the cellar in the majority of the beers we release (there may be one Sacch+Brett *No Bacteria* Saison however), so I believe our house character will shine through.

In preparation for our first brewday I spent time growing up a big pitch of the mixed culture, mostly built via bottle dregs and strains I have had success with over the years, as well as a large pitch of Brett Drie. The blends I have been using over the years have done me well, acidify quickly but not overly so, and can handle upwards of 40IBS. To go along with the mixed culture I decided on Imperial Organic's Rustic strain, believed to be Blaugies, as I have been having success with it on the homebrew scale of late (post coming soon). So I ordered a 1BBL pitch direct from the lab and propagated it up in 4L of media, which should be plenty to handle 4BBL (2 oak barrels worth) of wort when pitched along with the Brett and mixed culture. The brew days will be staggered so that I can draw off slurry from the previous barrels to repitch all 6 barrels with the same culture that we propagated up.

Received this two days after the mfg. date, can't say enough about Imperial's responsiveness.
Various blends and cultures at various stages of propagation.
Our first brew/barrel fill (not necessarily the first to be released) is a beer I am very familiar with, and have been working on and tweaking for years. The heart of this beer is the Farmer in the Rye recipe, with a few tweaks to the hop schedule and no sugar (also similar to An Ocean Between the Staves). This is a recipe base that I have used for Saisons at home with many variations some with fruit, blended, dry hopped, or barrel aged, it's very versatile and should serve us well to start the program. 

The most obvious hurdle here is filling multiple 60 gallon barrels with a 1BBL brewing system, brew days will always be long, so filling these first 6 barrels might take some time. On the first brew day we got a bright and early start, with 3 batches planned we hoped to knock out ~105 gallons worth of wort by pushing the limits of the system. This will leave ~ 7 gallons of headspace in each barrel, hoping not to make a big mess. The barrels will get topped off once primary fermentation has settled down, this will be the only time we will do that for the beers, not replacing angels share.
This isn't even the start of the boil, that's how much we maxed the system out.
While the mash water on the first batch heated up we rolled the barrels out for visual inspection, checking for crack staves, heads, or any loose hoops that may be signs of dry barrels/areas that could leak. Five out of the six barrels looked absolutely perfect, the insides looked like a beautiful red wood flooring with a good half gallon of wine left at the bottom, which we of course sampled and enjoyed. But one of the barrels was completely empty, and upon closer inspection I found a spec of mold the size of a quarter on the inside. Not a total loss as Justin liked the idea of using it as a table in the bar room anyway, so we decided not to risk treating it. We hit each barrel we were using that day with super hot HLT water to ensure they were not leaking, leaving them sit throughout brewday until we were ready to fill them. The others got flushed with co2 for the time being, no holding solution, retaining the wine that was left inside to keep them hydrated.

Swelling heads.
Leak testing with hot-ish water.
Filling barrels in the basement, no extravagant equipment, everything on simple.
It took 14 hours but we got the first two barrels filled with over 100 gallons of wort, pitched them with loads of Imperial Rustic, Brett Drie, and my mixed culture of Brett/LAB/Wild Yeast/Saccharomyces. These will age until they are ready, a timeframe that will be tough to predict but 4-6 months is a fair estimation, the bugs will tell you when they are done. In the meantime we will get to work filling the rest of the barrels with some other variations of wort. I am normally very patient with these types of beers but this first run has me as anxious as ever, I just can't wait to see what they become, but wait will will. Justin and I sincerely cannot wait to release these beers to everyone, we think the local beer community is going love them. At least we hope so...

KGBC Barrels #1 & #2 - Name TBD

**Recipe scaled down to 5 gallons**

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 7.00 gal
Post Boil Volume: 5.70 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.50 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.1% - 9 lbs 12 oz Weyermann Pilsner 
18.3% - 2 lbs 5 oz Rye Malt
 2.6%  -  5 oz Munich (10L)

Boil: 60 min - 0.50 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 24.2 IBUs
Boil: 30 min - 0.55 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 5.8 IBUs
Boil: 15 min - 2 Whirlfloc Tablet + 2 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil:  5 min - 0.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] - 2.3 IBUs
Boil:  5 min - 0.50 oz Cascade [6.90 %] - 2.6 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 0.75 oz Saaz [4.00 %] ~0 IBUs
Boil:  0 min - 0.50 oz Cascade [6.90 %] ~0 IBUs

KGBC House Mixed Culture

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 150 F 

Fly Sparge 172f

Misc: Pitman NJ tap water, Campden treated, Mash pH 5.36, Gypsum, Calcium Chloride, and Lactic acid added to the mash127ppm Ca, 6ppm Mg, 72ppm Na, 101ppm Cl, 100ppm SO4). Lactic acid was used to lower the mash pH, your water profile may vary.


  1. That's awesome, Ed, congrats!

  2. Ed, congrats man. Looking forward to tasting a couple of them

    1. Thanks Chris, looking forward to sharing them with everyone!

  3. Congrats! Keep the job and still crush the dream. Well done. Ill be in line when its tasting time.

  4. This is very exciting Ed. Congratulations!

    1. Im super excited, thanks Amos, hope to get to share some with you in the future.

  5. I'm super late to the party on this but wanted to also wish you best of luck and many congratulations!