On the occasions that I give brewery tours, I am always asked many questions about our canning line and, quite often, if I could turn it on. Here's the thing, yes, I could turn it on, but all you would see is a control screen and a moving conveyor belt. Without cans loaded up and beer flowing, the canning line can't do much. So here's the next best thing: a video overview (in slow mo!) of the canning line, all below the break.
Have you ever had a milk stout? Have you ever wondered why it's called a "milk stout" or how the milk got in there? Well, the starting point for all of this is milk sugar, which goes by the formal name of "lactose". Milk is not actually added to a milk stout. Instead, lactose is used.
We have some awesome beers coming up in the next few weeks. In case you haven't seen it on our homepage, Bone Dusters is returning this month. Matt's West Coast Refuge is making a return as well. This beer is an imperial red ale with a big hop character. Pine, resin, and citrus dominate with a solid malt backbone to support those flavors and the bitterness of this beer—a perfect beer on a cold winter night. Finally, in the near future we will be releasing our banana chocolate peanut butter porter. This is a silky smooth beer with an awesome flavor, and we can't wait to put it on draught in the tasting room.
Yesterday (November 18th) we brewed our Banana Peanut Chocolate Porter. You might wonder why would anybody in the right set of mind go down this path? Well, we thought the same and then did it anyways. Using a healthy dose of local malts (fistbump Copper Fox) this beer falls in the Genius Loci Series. We really wanted to use Virginia peanuts for this beer but after looking into the feasibility of turning our brewery into a "might contain nuts" place we decided to go 100% safe for everybody and decided to use natural allergen free peanut extract so everybody can enjoy. The brewday started really early, because we had to first pulp and gelatinize our 100+ pounds of peeled bananas:
Felt like working at the zoo!
Banana starch gelatinizes around 70 C (~160 F) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19691322 - man its hard to find scientific articles that are not behind a paywall!), so we started with 100 gallons of hot water, dumped in the bananas, and boiled that for 1 minute and let that sit and stir for about 20 minutes.
Temperature going up!
The banana smell was truly amazing! We loaded another 100 gallon of cold water on this to bring the temperature down after gelatinization was complete and started to bring over the grain. We used some chocolate malt (a specific colored malt that has chocolate notes because of the roasting, not real chocolate yet here) in the mash, and the bananas were not a problem during the further process.
But to really get the flavor we wanted (we were not interested in super roasty and harsh flavors here) we cold steeped chocolate malt, roasted bartey and black malt. For this, we filled a big tub with cold filtered water and threw in milled malt and let it sit cold for 24 hours. Just like cold steeped coffee, you get all the flavor without the harshness. Here you see Joel separating the grain from the liquid, using the largest colander known to man (from the local international supermarket).
We added this dark liquid during the boil later on to really preserve all those nice chocolate and coffee notes.
The wort already was a little dark when we went into run off:
For the hops we used Mount Hood (personal favorite) and pure Droste (nothing beats Droste) Cocoa at the end to get this nice Dutch chocolate note. For fermentation, we decided to use JY137, a personal favorite JasperYeast strain, such a nice strain straight from the capital of the United Kingdom. A nice top cropper underlining the maltiness ending kind of sweet.
That yeast is blowing through the wort as I am writing this post, and hopefully we can enjoy this totally nuts beer in the tasting room soon!
At Lost Rhino we have an open fermenter. Typically, yeast and unfermented beer are added together to a fermentation vessel and then the fermenter is sealed hermetically, allowing nothing in or out. As the name implies, though, our open fermenter does allow air--and everything in it--in and out. In addition, our open fermentor is also a different shape from our closed fermenters: whereas the closed fermenters are tall and narrow, the open fermenter is short and wide. Depending on the type of beer being produced, having an open fermenter can be beneficial. In this respect, there are actually two kinds of open fermentation.
Now that you know all about Lost Rhino's voyage to Madison County, VA, to pick hops, let's talk about the significance of hops as an ingredient in beer. The three main attributes we gain from hops are bitterness, flavor, and aroma. On top of those three, hops contain natural preservatives that help stave off spoilage.
The Tuppers were back at Lost Rhino again yesterday, collaborating with us on another beer. For now we're going to keep the details under wraps except for one piece of info: whole cone Mt. Hood hops in the lauter tun (they smelled amazing).
Birth of Ace is back on tap in Lost Rhino's tasting room. This time around we dry hopped it with Amarillo, Citra, and El Dorado. If you're unfamiliar with Birth of Ace, it's our IPA fermented with Brettanomyces. So, what is "Brettanomyces"? First, let's take a quick look at brewer's yeast, or "Saccharomyces cerevisiae" (for all you Spanish speakers out there, the similarity between "cerevisiae" and "cervesa" is not a coincidence). The Saccharomyces cerevisiae family is large and the vast majority of ales (lager yeasts are also in the Saccharomyces genus, but the specific family of lager yeasts is referred to with the Latin name of Saccharomyces pastorianus) are fermented with yeast strains from this family. OK, fine, but we still haven't gotten to Brettanomyces (colloquially this group of yeasts is referred to as "Brett"). Brett is the wild (it is commonly found on the skins of fruit) counterpart to Saccharomyces, i.e, it also turns wort (unfermented beer) into beer. Brett is also similar to the Saccharomyces family in that there are many varieties of Brett. In terms of practical usages, Brett yields a funkier beer than strains from the Saccharomyces genus--sometimes creating sour notes, sometimes yielding an earthy beer, and sometimes bringing aromas and flavors reminiscent of "horse blanket" . In terms of fermentation length, Brett is much slower than ale yeasts--Birth of Ace was brewed in December 2013 but wasn't ready to be kegged until the end of May 2014 (the current batch is also from that December 2013 brew). Are you a little bit curious about beers fermented with Brett now? Birth of Ace will only be on tap for a limited time so come give it a shot soon!
Back in August, the Lost Rhino crew was invited to pick hops down at Whippoorwill Manor Farm in Madison County, Virginia. Some of us even went down the night before and had an awesome evening at the farm complete with some short hikes, a delicious roast pork for dinner, and a roaring fire later in the evening.
The hops on the farm were all Cascades, a variety that does the best in the sometimes warm Virginia summer and the shorter days compared to hops that are grown for example in Yakima or Upstate New York.
It was a really fun day, we picked hundreds of pounds of fresh hops that we immediately took to the brewery to use in our Hop Harvest 2014 Beer. Some of the hops was kept and dried by the owner of Whippoorwill Manor Farm for later dry-hopping.
We used the hops at several stages during the brewing process; during the mash, during the boil, in the whirlpool, and in the hop back. Then to finish it off, we dry hopped with the dried hops from the same farm.
We had help from Stan Driver of HootNHollerHops, he brought his small harvester out that we used during the day to remove the cones from the bines.
We fermented with a special in-house isolated ale yeast that drops nice and clear. The resulting beer has a great hoppy aroma, fresh hop flavor and a lingering bitterness that is not overwhelming. On draft at the brewery October 1st!