Thursday, May 27, 2021

Still breathing, still brewing

Has it really been 4 whole years since I wrote a brewing post?

And yet, so much has happened. In 2017, I got a new brewing system, "The Eagle"-- a pair of 15-gallon keggles and other gear from a brewer in Ottawa. I settled into a rhythm of brewing, with a few years of starting with an english pale ale, followed by a cream ale or blonde, and then a hoppy "Warbler" series pale ale, all at 10 gallons that the new system allowed.

The Eagle in the morning sun, ca. 2019

Then in 2018, I built Ferdinand the fermentation chamber, which is an old chest freezer driven by a Brewpi. Room enough for 2 fermenters, with temperature probes driving extremely precise temperature control. It has given me the ability to better control my fermentations, and even do lagers-- though practically speaking, my calendar rarely allows me to give a lager 2 months in the chamber when I have other beers to run.

Brewpi controller and relay box
Ferdinand and his contents

And finally, when COVID descended upon our lives, came a surprising move out of Kitchener, up the road to the little town of Fergus. With it, a complete uprooting of the brewery away from the Mount Hope-Breithaupt neighbourhood that gave the brewery its name.

The new place presents a nice new brewing setup. There's an attached double garage, with room for equipment storage and also the fermentation chamber. Because it's insulated and temperature controlled, I can run consistent fermentations despite garage climate swings. The inner entrance to it is the laundry room, which makes for easier brew day cleaning. All in all, a lot less work to set up and tear down.

At the new place, I've now run three brew days so far. The first two batches have followed my now usual pattern, but with a twist: I tried my first Kveik yeast brews.

The first: Kveiking Voyage, a variation of my Voyage of Discovery English Pale Ale. This one was an attempt to minimize grain-to-glass time, with a ludicruous (to me) 75 degrees F fermentation temperature. It turned out OK, but had a definite stamp of character from the yeast. It was ready to drink less than 2 weeks from brew day, but it took some weeks after that to shed some of this overpowering character to mellow out.

The second, Krispy Kreme, was a cream ale using Escarpment Labs "Krispy" Kveik yeast. This time, no ridiculous fermentation temperature. The goal was to get something as clean as possible and see if this yeast lives up to its reputation to be used as a "quick faux lager yeast". This one came out fairly clear, but still didn't finish low and imparted some fruity character with a slightly lemony edge. Still, the second keg of this beer (which got an effective month of finishing time) is excellent.

So, what's my overall take on these Kveik yeasts? They haven't really given me the results others have bragged about, and I'm not sure why. They both left stamps on their beer that time only improved by diminishing, which defeats the original purpose. There seems to be no replacement for good cold conditioning. Still, they aren't bad-- but unless I'm brewing some kind of IPA that would benefit from them I'll probably stay away in the future. My tastes continue to drift towards clean, clear, drinkable beers... and Kveik hasn't given me a quicker path to that.

Here's to many more brews here, a half hour's drive upriver from the old digs!

Recipes below the cut!