Norwegian beers spring 2019

Being part of Beer Academy entails some perks as well. Our company wants us to be well updated within the beer world and especially on what trends are going on in the beer world. Therefore me and a couple of my colleagues were sent to a news launch organized by Vinmonopolet. There were many importers and producers present. Having tasted over 50 different beverages, mostly beers, I have chosen three breweries that have earned their praise.

Reins Kloster

Reins Kloster is a small brewery on the northern side of the Trondheim fjord. Their batches are quite small, around 600 liters. Their new label design struck me as a mix of modern retro, and most of all intuitively aesthetically pleasing.

Haandbryggeriet

Initially a small brewery started in South-eastern Norway in the town of Drammen. Has grown to be a well known brewery in whole of Norway. Their beers are signified by both wild experiments by making the most over-the-top beers as well as some clean and style-correct beers enjoyed by many.

7 Fjell

Based in Bergen, the 7 mountains brewery has grown tremendously fast over the last years and has delivered consistent quality.

Andhrimnir, 11.8% Barleywine. Andhrimnir in Norse mythology is the Chef that prepares meals for the fallen heroes in Valhalla that await the end of the world. A fitting name as this barleywine packs a punch but is well balanced with its sweetness, and most importantly hiding the sting of the alcohol content. A clear favorite of mine in this exhibition.

Cascade Single hop – bottling

I sincerely apologize for lack of any brewing process pictures. I also apologize for not telling you that I made a Cascade single hop pale ale. But as an apology here comes a few pictures from the bottling day. The summer is fast approaching and heavy stouts and abbey ales would not tempt on a hot day. But what about a pale ale? A nice, clean crisp ale with just some flighty aroma and a nice bitter finish. That’s it, nothing more fancy, and therein I think lies the beauty.

The moment of Truth for any brewer. Opening the fermenting tank and checking what’s inside. You can see some lumps that refused to sink. I assure you this is fine and normal.

Before doing anything we need to see if the fermentation is really done. Besides we need to see how much residual sugar we have and how careful we need to be with the sugar.

Plop. Yes, that is quite within desired range. Commence the next step.
To avoid too much dead yeast I transfer the beautiful golden liquid into another bucket and mix in the priming sugar; ca. 4 grams per liter.

The beer has a nice flighty hop aroma. This is a Cascade single hop so it smells of grapefruit and its typical floral tones. In addition it has a nice bitterness at the end. The beautiful golden color makes it tempting to look at and I look forward to pop this one on a hot summer’s day. Besides this will be a beer that can be enjoyed by everyone above legal drinking age.

Cocoa bean porter

As a brewer I always seek to challenge myself and try out new recipes and ingredients. This includes both classical beer types and more exotic approaches. Now, cocoa and porter isn’t exactly a new thing nowadays and has almost become a new classic sub-style under porters and stouts. That’s why I decided to take a quite simple and classic porter recipe and add cocoa beans to it. After doing a bit research I figured out that some use whole beans, others even ground cocoa and some conflicting instructions whether to add it in secondary fermentation or after the initial fermentation has settled. Nevertheless, I first had to make the porter itself.

Starting with the usual stuff, heating our mashing water to the sweet spot of 65 degrees Celsius. On the picture of the grist we can see some black malt grains that will give the color and depth to our brew

Compulsory picture of what’s happening inside the mash

As you can see I am using a simple brew in bag method with the biggest boiling pot I have. The one that I use is 17 L volume which makes it perfect for a small 12 L batch. Note that the sugar yield is a bit smaller with using a brew bag. However, this is not a problem for a batch of this size. Additionally we only want enough alcohol for a decent flavor extraction of the cocoa.

The last stage of course before cooling and fermenting is adding the hops. Several classic porter recipes ask for some hops in the start of the boil. I skipped that, since the cocoa beans would probably give a lot of bitterness. Instead I chose to add some Fuggle hops at the end, and only 25 grams of those.

In they go!

I decided to add the cocoa beans after four days of fermenting. By that time the storm fermentation has settled and there is enough alcohol to extract and retain the flavor of the cocoa beans. To make sure I got the best of it I brought some ecological Peruvian highland beans from a Fairtrade farm. For approximately 10-12 L of porter, there went 200 grams of beans.

The result was a nice classic dark porter. The smell was more of a fermented cocoa with a deep aroma. It was more alike to a 90% cocoa chocolate. The taste was bitter and lingering for a long time. However it was not astringent like when you add too much hops with the accompanying dryness. This was more like the deep bitterness you taste from a high cocoa content chocolate. Of course this was only a sneak taste before bottling. This kind of beer needs very long maturation time to reach its full potential. Therefore, I’ll tuck it in a nice crate in the back of the cellar, forget about it and try it again after at least three months or so. Patience is a virtue!

The result before bottling.

Tasting time!

It has been a while and my two brews have had a nice time in the cellar. Not too cool, not too hot. A perfect temperature to mature a beer is 12 degrees Celsius. Now some beers might need a couple of degrees higher, or lower (think about a lager that needs fridge-temperature of 4 or 6 degrees). But we did not make lager. We made a nice ester-flavored Wit and a heavy Scottish 90-shilling. Now the Wit suffices to be matured for only three weeks, but the 90-shilling gets better with time. So this is a sneak taste of it. Lets pour!

This is a recipe that I have tried a dozen times, so there were little surprises. However, this turned out, as expected into a style-correct example of a Belgian wheat beer. Some aromas from esters begotten during the fermentation, some hints from the bitter orange peel and some tinge from the coriander seeds. Well carbonated with a good mouthfeel. Overall a good score of drinkability. This is a very versatile beer that can be drunk on its own on a warm day, or paired with some creamy pasta dishes, white oven baked fish or even a good seafood chowder.

I had high expectations of this beer, as well as a good amount of worries. The problem with stronger beers (usually 8% ABV and upwards) is threefold. First you have challenges with so much weight from the mash when brewing. This can give you trouble with stuck mash among other things. Second there are potential challenges during fermentation. If the temperature is a bit higher than intended, the yeast can be extremely active with all that sugar and produce too much unwanted esters. This is especially a problem if you want a clean or dry beer. Third, you need to measure carefully the rest of sugar content before bottling, and be conservative how much priming sugar you want to use. You do not want an otherwise nice brew to be ruined and turned into geysers by a bit too much priming sugar during bottling. Trust me I know from experience.

As expected this beer has a lot of malty flavor and caramel. However, it is not overwhelmingly sweetish. The yeast has done a good job eating all that sugar so actually it has quite a dry finish. The alcohol feels a bit, however the sting is hidden well by the malty taste body of the beer. This beer might be enjoyed by itself, but keep in mind that it has its nickname as Wee Heavy for a reason. This beer can be well-paired with some nicely glazed spareribs or a good heavy Boeuf Bourguignon.

Sláinte mhaith!

Bottling Day

It has been a while since the last post, but both of the beers brewed on this site have been fermenting well. It has also been a while since they have been bottled, and a tasting presentation of these will come too. So here comes some pictures of Belgian With and Scottish 90- shilling also known as Wee Heavy.

We can see here that the gravity is something around 1005 FG. That means we should be a bit careful with the priming sugar. Considering the yeast in wheat beers are more “naughty”, being conservative with sugar would mean a well balanced carbonation.
This sample of Belgian Wit contains all that it should. Except for the bubbles. One can see a good deal of particles still floating around. A couple of weeks in a cellar will give the remaining yeast some time to settle the sediments and develop a good amount of bubbly bubbles. The smell has a subtle hint of orange peel and coriander as it is supposed to In addition it is light and smooth to drink and soft to the palate.

Next up the Scottish Wee heavy. Opening the fermentation pail was an experience of its own as the fumes hit my nose hard. There was a slight smell of apple vinegar. It made me worried for a second but this can be normal for beers that have a bit higher ABV.

By looking at the hydrometer we can see that Scottish 90-shilling still has a little bit of sugar in it. We can expect a sweetness in this one and of course we should be careful with adding extra sugar.
The wonderful brownish color contrasts wonderfully with the thick layer of snow in the background. The taste is sweetish, very malty and a barely perceptible hop aftertaste. Surprisingly the 8% alcohol content is not very apparent. I’m suspecting that the heavy malt taste is doing its work there

Calculating by experience I decided to add around 4 grams of sugar per liter for the Belgian Wit. For the Scottish 90-Shilling I went for slightly under 3 grams per liter. In the picture above we can already see some bubbles on top and I suspect this beer will carbonate well without that much extra sugar. As I am happy with current results, it is time to siphon it into bottles!

The colors and the smells are dazzling and I am impatiently looking forward to have a taste of these!

90- Shilling Wee Heavy

This weeks brew is something on the heavy and malty side. The winter is still raging on with cracking chilly nights, and what’s better than a strong, sweetish and malt heavy brew to warm up your bones. With six sorts of different malts and over six kilos for a 30 liter batch this is indeed something to look forward to. Malt order is in recipe section.

We can see some of the darker malt types crushed inside the mix on the pictures. You don’t need much of cara or crystal malt to really change the color of your wort and give a nice smoky or caramel kick in the brew.

Scottish shilling categories were based on how much tax one had to pay per hogshead (250 l) of beer in the 19th century. According to beer strength, there was light (60 shilling), heavy (70 shilling), export (80 shilling) and wee heavy (90 shilling) which went from 6% ABV and further above. The wee heavies were sold in “nips” of six fluid ounces which is around 170 ml.

It was a challenge to move the paddle around with so much malt. Extra mash water had to be added to cover all of the grain.

Although this is a very traditional Scottish recipe, I’m using the malt set-up and instructions of BrewDog recipe catalog. Strangely it asks for 54 degrees in the mash. However, in one of the brewing books that I use it says that the mash temperature for an 80 Shilling should be 70 degrees. How can this affect the end result? Well, a low temperature will produce a beer that is drier and still has lots of taste, less sugar (meaning less alcohol). Higher temperature will extract more sugar. I went with a safer and well tried option of 65 degrees in the mash. We’ll see later how this affects the wort. The smell and sweetness was wonderful in the kitchen, and I am already excited for the end result.

The wort has a beautiful nutty brown color. A tip to newer brewers – don’t panic if your beer is too dark or too light in the color at this stage. Lots of sediments and smaller lumps will settle during the fermentation and the bear will clear up, thus becoming a bit lighter and clearer in color (though this is not always the goal, e.g. Belgians are supposed to be hazy). I ran almost 30 liters of nice thick wort out of it. Then I scratched my head a bit. It is a shame to let these six kilos of malt go to waste. So I hurriedly warmed up more water and prepared another sparging. The secondary wort was more hazy and with more sediments and of course lower sugar content. However I think this would make a nice, light not so full bodied beer that can be enjoyed in larger quantities.

The gravity from primary wort was over 1080. Assuming a yeast with 80% attenuation this will make a beer close to 9% ABV.

Since this is a beer where malt plays the primary role in taste, hops will be used with care and mostly for aroma, and only at the start of the boil. 25 grams of East Kent Golding will jump into the wort. Remember that hops are also providing a form of protection for the beer against undesired microorganisms, so even in malt-dominated beers a small amount of hops is required.

In you go.

This will probably be a heavy brew that will give a good knock on my head. But then again this is only in good Scottish tradition, warming soul and bones as chilly Norwegian fjords have a bit in common with windy Scottish glens of the Highlands.

Belgian Wit

Today we will start with a classical Belgian Wit beer, a cousin of the Bavarian Weissbier. Having a strong aroma from the high-fermenting yeast, combined with it’s typical spiciness of orange peel, this light beer is perfect as a session brew, a refreshment or a versatile beer to pair with many dishes. This recipe will produce a beer that is very similar to the popular brands of Hoegaarden Wit and Kronenbourg Blanc.

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We start off with 2.3 kg of wheat malt and 2.3 kg of pale ale malt

We aim for 25 liters of final volume of beer, so all the amounts of ingredients are adjusted to that. If you have an option to select how fine the malt is crushed (either at a brewing shop or if you have a malt mill of your own), try to not have it that finely ground. Some coarseness of the grain is preferable.

First of we start by warming up 11.5 liters of clean water in our brewing kettle. Now many beginners can get stressed about water quality. Please don’t. As long as it is clean and does not have any additions of chlorine or similar chemicals, you’ll be fine. Our aim is to get the mash up to 65 ° C. But since the malt tends to sink down the temperature a few degrees, it is wise to keep the water around 69 ° C before putting in the malt.

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Pour in the malt. Make sure there are no lumps by moving your brew paddle around. Don’t mix and wiggle the paddle around too much; this can result in release of tannin (the one found in wine), we don’t want that. When you have ensured that all the malt is properly immersed, leave it for one hour. During that hour, check the temperature from time to time. If it is a few degrees above or below 65 ° C, don’t freak out and crank the heat up all the way. Keep calm, stability in temperature is way more important than having the perfect display on your thermometer.

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The mash is pretty solid and the thermometer stands almost on its own. Make sure that you don’t put the end of thermometer all the way down. That way you will be too close to the heat source and thus get a wrong measurement. Stick it all the way down, lift it up a bit and you’re good to go. Also watch out for any steam vents that form in the mash, mix them up if you see one. That way the heat will distribute in best way possible, and you will get out the maximum yield.

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Don’t idle around while the mashing is going on! Save some time by boiling some water ahead of sparging. In our case we will need 20 liters. However, some of the fluid is going to be sucked up by the malt (it gets pretty wet and heavy) so it is best to be on a safer side and boil 24 liters. The perfect temperature for sparging water is between 74 and 77 ° C. Anything hotter than that may in turn release tannin.

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Take your paddle and use it as a tool to evenly distribute the hot water, and that way get the best yield.

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Release the valve and you got nice and light wort flowing.

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I mean look at this frothy beauty. If it was only possible to upload smells to a blog.

While sparging, keep a slow pace by sometimes closing off the valve and letting the water sit for a while in the kettle. I used my ale pail to gather the wort in it for sparging, which both serves as temporary vessel now and as a fermentation vat later. Once this is done and you have gotten yourself around 26-28 liters of wort, you are ready to remove the malt bucket, and pour the wort back into the kettle again. And now we are ready for boiling.

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Set the kettle on maximum and once the froth forms on top and it starts to boil, add 32 grams Saaz of  hops. Saaz is the German name for the Czech town of Žatec, where this sort of hops has its origin. A very light and floral variety, this type has an alpha acid only of 3 % which gives off very little bitterness and a nice floral tone to the beer. We add it only at the start of the boil and that will be the only hops that we will ever use in this beer. The total boiling time is 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Once there is 10 minutes left of the boil, lightly crush 25 grams of coriander seed in pestle and mortar, and 25 grams of bitter, dried orange peel.  This will go nicely together with the sweetness of the wheat malt, floral tones of the Saaz hops and the different aromas produced by the yeast. Once the last 10 minutes of the boil are done, use and immersion cooler to cool the wort down to 24 ° C.

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Once it is cooled down, pitch the yeast. I used Mangrove Jack’s Belgian ale yeast which will be wonderful for this type of beer. Completely disregarding nerds that tell people to make a yeast starter three days before brewing, I just sprinkle the yeast directly into the wort and shake it well (remember, your yeast need lots of oxygen to do a proper job). The perfect temperature for fermentation would be 20 ° C. The recipe asks for 24, but all the initial activity will generate a bit of heat so keeping my room around 20 ° C will be perfect. This is a recipe that I have used many times but I am excited as ever how it will turn out a couple of weeks later.