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Hunting for Yeast (and other less beer-friendly organisms...)

You never know what you'll find on a piece of fruit!

You never know what you'll find on a piece of fruit!

In case you hadn't noticed already, I love to get my hands dirty and make/build/grow anything and everything wherever possible. And what better thing to capture and harvest for a brewer than yeast in your very own backyard? It's a good time of year to do this when the flowers are blooming and fruits are abundant in the warmer weather.

Yeast is everywhere. In the garden, on food, on your skin, on your dog… everywhere! This microscopic fungus, specifically the strain Saccharomyces Cerevisae or “Brewer’s Yeast” plays a very important role in beer production with the vital responsibility of converting sugar into alcohol. A side effect of this reaction is that the yeast also produces some delicious (and some not so pleasant) esters. The flavours and aromas developed depend on variables such as the strain of yeast, the temperature of fermentation and the availability of key yeast nutrients in the wort.

The skin of fruit has a plethora of yeasty goodness on it. The apricot tree that we sampled grew a yeast with a delicious sweet apricot aroma... apricot beer anyone?

The skin of fruit has a plethora of yeasty goodness on it. The apricot tree that we sampled grew a yeast with a delicious sweet apricot aroma... apricot beer anyone?

Historically, before the invention of microscopes, the brewer’s would leave the wort to cool outside and voila! Magically, it turned into beer overnight. Of course it wasn’t magic, it was simply science; wild yeast floating about in the air had landed in the wort and couldn’t believe their luck to land in such a sugary feast. Unfortunately there were also a number of undesirable yeast strains and bacteria in the air. These days with technological advances in microbiology, it is possible to collect a sample from a surface and if yeast starts to grow upon incubation, it is possible to isolate the yeast from any other things lurking in the sample and grow the yeast to brew a beer. Some breweries have done this, for example Rogue Brewery in Oregon and the famous “Beard Beer” from the yeast harvested from the head brewer’s own facial hair. In Gisborne, the brewer’s from 7Cent swabbed their navels in order to brew their “Belly Button witbier” (which despite the name is admittedly a delicious brew!).

Alfie!!! Such a sweet innocent looking dog... his tongue... not so sweet! #blackmouldgrowth

Alfie!!! Such a sweet innocent looking dog... his tongue... not so sweet! #blackmouldgrowth

To show how it’s done, we headed over to the lovely Froth Editor Emily Day’s home to swab a few things and see if we could capture some yeast. A variety of things were swabbed or collected in the garden and house, including lavender, an apricot tree, Emily’s hair and a lick from her little dog Alfie.

Agar plates... different nutrient bases encourage the growth of different organisms, so you can undertake specific tests to determine the presence of particular bacteria or yeast.

Agar plates... different nutrient bases encourage the growth of different organisms, so you can undertake specific tests to determine the presence of particular bacteria or yeast.

How to DIY yeast hunting using agar plates:

1.       Make up a solution of agar and set a thin layer onto a sterile plate.

2.       Make some delicious wort to entice the yeast cells to come and party

3.       (Optional) Get yourself a sterile cotton swab

4.       Put on your yeast hunting cowboy hat and clean disposable gloves 

5.       Go and find something awesome to swab!

6.       Wipe your cotton swab onto an item, for example an orange, and then take the lid off the sterile plate and gently swipe the swab onto the plate, careful not to break the agar layer. The reason the swab is optional is because you can also gently wipe the object directly onto the plate. For example, you can let your dog lick the plate (side note: the results from this will be an excellent way to deter yourself or others from allowing the dog to jump up and lick you on the face)

7.       Cover the plate and leave in a dark place.

8.       Check every few days to see if anything has grown onto your plate!

It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen! You can also get some plastic centrifuge vials (or small plastic bottles) and fill them with wort and add a potential yeast host, such as a leaf, flower or some hair. Keep the vial flat side down and still and wait to see if it bubbles – a good sign that yeast is present and being active in the solution (Carbon dioxide is a by-product of the conversion of sugar to alcohol by yeast, hence the bubbles).

It's best to incubate your agar plate samples in a cupboard with a constant temperature of 25C (or an incubator if you have one handy!) but somewhere dry, not windy and not too cold or hot or where your dog won't lick it will suffice.

So our experiment took a few days waiting for yeasty goodness to colonise on the agar plates. The good news is that Emily’s hair showed no signs of bacteria so you're safe reading a copy of Froth magazine with your glass of frothy... unfortunately we can't say the same about Alfie’s tongue… black and blue mould does not belong in your beer! Hair of the dog anyone?! (literally…!)

No... that is not how yeast should look!

No... that is not how yeast should look!

Happy yeast hunting folks!

 

Cheers,

Annabel & Skye (& Rusty!)

Don't worry - this is as close as these two dogs and their tongues ever get to our brewery!

Don't worry - this is as close as these two dogs and their tongues ever get to our brewery!

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Brunswick Beer Garden

When most people hear the words “Beer Garden” they envisage tables and chairs outside the back of the local pub drinking beers with friends. For us, a “beer garden” has a different meaning... we are busy planning and growing plants to use for making beer!

Hmmm... a garden made out of beer? Or beer made out of the garden!

Hmmm... a garden made out of beer? Or beer made out of the garden!

The obvious plant that comes to mind when you think of brewing ingredients is hops. Those of you who have read my previous blogs will know that we have been planting and growing hop bines for over a year now. Unfortunately there were big floods in Kyneton a couple of months ago, but luckily for us we had dug up all of our hop rhizomes to split them up into multiple plants and they are safe and sound in pots at Brunswick and they weren’t washed away. There is a good variety of over 100 hop plants now. If you’re interested in having your own hop plant at home, you can contact us via our website. We will keep you posted on their progress!

Our hop rhizomes - safe and sound hibernating in the driveway

Our hop rhizomes - safe and sound hibernating in the driveway

We’re lucky enough to live and work in a community that is enthusiastic about the environment and sustainability. We have even been using the backyards of our neighbours to plant some hops and other things and many have volunteered to host a beehive.

Slowly but surely, we are going to plant more and more things for brewing with and sharing with the local community, hopefully including a little bit of wheat and barley for micro-malting to produce small quantities of specialty malts. We have already harvested hundreds of coriander seeds to plant and use in our Belgian style witbier.

We are also starting to harvest yeast, with our plan being to eventually capture yeast from our forest fruit trees to use in our sour beer program. So far we have successfully collected yeast from fruit trees, flowers, herbs and even human and dog hair! (NB: This is just an exercise for interest’s sake; I promise I won’t ever put yeast from my dogs or my own hair into a beer!)

Watch this space for further developments…

Cheers!

Annabel & Skey

Remember - don't bite off more than you can chew...

Remember - don't bite off more than you can chew...

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How To Taste Beer… or How I Got the Dream Job as an Associate Beer Judge at the AIBA 2016

So you know that saying “It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it…” Well when I got invited to be an associate judge at the recent Australian International Beer Awards and although I joked around in the lead up to the competition telling everyone who’d listen about my good fortune, it really is not a simple task…

"Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint!" (Wise words from the head  judge) Source: nutritionfacts.org

"Remember it's a marathon, not a sprint!" (Wise words from the head  judge) Source: nutritionfacts.org

The judging took place over three days and it really is a serious business – every beer you taste, you have the fate of someone’s personal creation of beer in your hands. Kick off was 0800 sharp and went on all day until about 5-6pm, depending on the speed of your table. So that’s a whopping 80-100 odd beers to taste a day, with a couple of short coffee breaks in between.

Source: www.flickr.com

Each table had about 6 or 7 people on it, including an experienced team captain, several qualified and highly skilled judges mixed with some first and second year associates. It’s a fantastic system and I had the great privilege of sitting next to some expert beer tasters and learning more about sensory analysis, beer faults, individual style requirements and how to taste a beer properly than I have in my entire adult life.

Source: pixabay.com

Source: pixabay.com

When you judge a beer in a big international competition such as AIBA, you only have about 5 minutes to look at, smell and taste it, noting what you observe before moving on to the next one. If tasting something like light Australian lagers, it’s quite easy to move through the beers as you are concentrating on one particular style and the alcohol is not too strong. However, certain categories such as “Barrel Aged” are more difficult because the base beer can be anything at all so you are constantly switching from one style to the next, cleansing your palate with crackers in between beers.

Halfway through a flight of 30 odd barrel aged Imperial Stouts... #palatefatigue

Halfway through a flight of 30 odd barrel aged Imperial Stouts... #palatefatigue

It’s so interesting to be an insider on the judging process as a beer producer. There are multiple experts at the table who all rate your beer based on appearance, aroma, flavour, style and technical quality. This is followed by a discussion between panel members, particularly if there are big differences in opinion and the table captain will mediate and guide the team members towards the best decision. Your beer is in good hands (or should I say mouth!).

"Skunking", also known as light-struck is an off flavour in beer caused by a reaction between light and hop compounds that smells like a skunk. It's common in green or clear glass bottles. Source www.flickr.com 

"Skunking", also known as light-struck is an off flavour in beer caused by a reaction between light and hop compounds that smells like a skunk. It's common in green or clear glass bottles. Source www.flickr.com 

So any beer that has an off flavour fault will generally not make it through as a medal winner. If a beer is a good drinkable beer, but doesn’t meet the style requirements for example – not enough hop aroma, colour too dark etc… - it would generally receive a bronze medal. To win a gold medal, the beer must be perfectly true to style and technically outstanding.

Thanks to the AIBA and RASV, especially Damian Nieuwesteeg from RASV and special thanks to brewer Jayne of Two Birds Brewing for being a legend and putting my name forward as an associate.

For any budding beer judges out there, a good first step is to volunteer as a steward pouring and serving the beers to the judges. Check out http://www.rasv.com.au/Events/AIBA_Home/ for further information.

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How to brew your own beer... Introduction

I have a confession to make... the first time I brewed beer a beer, it was a Coopers brew-out-of-a-can pale ale that I picked up at the supermarket back in 2001. And I use the word "brew" very loosely as I hardly consider opening a can and adding water to be brewing beer; it's actually more like mixing a drink (and then leaving it for a week or so to become alcoholic before drinking...).

Mmmmm... beer in a can!  Source: en.wikipedia.org

Mmmmm... beer in a can!  Source: en.wikipedia.org

Someone mixing a drink... see what we did there with a bit of word/picture association?  Source: pixabay.com

Someone mixing a drink... see what we did there with a bit of word/picture association? 

Source: pixabay.com

But I digress - my personal brewing practices have evolved many times over the years. There was the continuously stirred tank (ie. the big pot on the stove being stirred non stop by hand in an attempt to maintain an even temperature profile) that often ended in pockets of dead enzymes... then there was the double urn system that caramelised the bottom of the grain bed without fail everytime... and finally a proper 3 tiered system with pumps and fast cooling so that I could brew a pilsner that didn't smell like cooked cabbage.

It's delicious as a side dish to a Bavarian style lunch with a Hefeweizen, but in your beer.... maybe not! Source: commons.wikimedia.org

It's delicious as a side dish to a Bavarian style lunch with a Hefeweizen, but in your beer.... maybe not!

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Even though I now get to brew on much bigger, fancier, shinier, semi-automated systems, it's never the same as the hands on homebrewing. I love to get out my small 50L pilot system and play around with ingredients and recipes to make something new, unique and fun. I still use this system to test out and fine tune all of my new beer ideas before eventually upscaling them for commercial brewing (or admittedly occasionally pouring the test batch down the drain and never speaking of it again...!). There's something extra refreshing about drinking the beer that you toiled and slogged over making yourself. It's an achievement and even better, you can make a beer that is specific to your exacting standards for taste, alcohol content, additives (or lack thereof) and fizziness.

Perhaps a little too fizzy... but you get the gist! Source: en.wikipedia.org

Perhaps a little too fizzy... but you get the gist! Source: en.wikipedia.org

There are many ways to brew a beer - you can find a recipe online or in a book and copy it exactly, you can buy a kit for a beer style and follow the instructions, you can use one of the great beer recipe calculators available online like BeerSmith or Brewersfriend... or if you are a mathematics fanatic like myself, you first choose your ingredients and final alcohol content and then work backwards to calculate the brewing steps for my brewery system. I like to understand all of the little scientific details behind the work of art I create and over the next few weeks, I will be blogging a series of detailed discussion on brewing your own beer at home from ingredients and recipe development all the way through to packaging.

One of the fancier small scale brewing systems around Source: www.flickr.com

One of the fancier small scale brewing systems around

Source: www.flickr.com

Stay tuned for part 1: The ingredients!

Cheers,

Annabel

If you are interested in learning how to brew a great beer at home from scratch using 100% grain, we run all grain brewing classes every other month that include recipe development, a brewing workshop and beer tasting. Check out our website for bookings.

We are also running a special once off Mother-daughter brew day for Mother's Day on the 8th of May from 2-5pm including afternoon high-tea. Spaces are strictly limited, details on our website here.

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We bought a zoo...

Source: www.pexels.com

Just kidding... we didn't buy a zoo, but we did buy a brewery! It's very exciting times for Himmel Hund at the moment. As we are growing our business, we recently had the serendipitous fortune of procuring some fantastic pre-loved brewing equipment from our mates at 7Cent Brewery. We couldn't think of a better system to have stumbled across, with many fantastic beers having been brewed on the system already.

Well.. ok it doesn't quite look like this but I can dream can't I!! Source: www.flickr.com

Well.. ok it doesn't quite look like this but I can dream can't I!!

Source: www.flickr.com

At this stage we are undergoing the rigorous process of applying for council permits and a producer's licence and all the fun paperwork involved in opening your own brewing facility. We've found a great potential spot, but this will have to remain a secret location until approvals come in and it's official! 

Getting past the red tape is probably the most important part of establishing a microbrewery  Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Getting past the red tape is probably the most important part of establishing a microbrewery 

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

So, you're building your own brewery... how does that change anything? Well it basically means more variety of different beers for our consumers! Having your own system allows you to brew anything you want to at any time without worrying about minimum batches, space availability in another brewery or . I'm really excited to be able to brew seasonal beers, festival beers and some experimental stuff on the side. It also means people can come to the cellar door and taste the beer from the source.

Small batch seasonal brews using our very own Kyneton grown hops!

Small batch seasonal brews using our very own Kyneton grown hops!

But that is all many months away. Right now we busy getting council approval, a licence to brew and designing the set up of the brewery to be... keep reading these blogs as I take you along for the ride as we build it bit by bit!

Cheers,

Annabel

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All the Leaves are brown...

This morning as I struggled to get out of bed in the dark and cold, I finally gave up hoping we'd get a few more late "summer" days and begrudgingly swapped my shorts and t-shirt for jeans and a hoodie. There's more to this change of seasons than grey skies and falling leaves. It may also mean it's time to start drinking some 'transition beers' as I like to call them.

What's a transition beer you say? It's something that's in between the light lagers and session ales that are so popular in summer and the dark, smoky, full bodied stouts and porters of winter. This style of seasonal drinking is very popular in parts of Germany, where for example, a wheat beer drinker might drink Kristallweizen in the height of summer, a cloudy Hefeweizen in autumn and a Dunkelweizen in winter and then a Banana-weizen in spring.

I like to drink something that's a bit more full bodied and warming as the weather starts to cool, like a Belgian style ale with lovely alcohol warmth and complex spice notes or something close to a lager style that packs more punch either from additional hops or a more ester driven flavour profile. 

Decal artwork by Hendrik Laas

Decal artwork by Hendrik Laas

Our two latest short term release beers are inspired by this change of season. The Dampfbier, literally translating to "steam beer" from German, originated in the Black Forest of Bavaria and it's a great story of something amazing being produced purely due to circumstance and locality. The story goes that the medieval peasants brewed their own beer and of course, being poor peasants they chose the cheapest malting method available and made an air dried pilsner style malt. The hops added were minimal amounts of local noble German hops that they were able to acquire from the local growers. Finally, some yeast was required. They went to the local brewery, which obviously being Bavaria was an exclusive wheat beer brewery and begged the brewers for some yeast! Then the beer was brewed without a refrigerated cooling system, meaning a quick fermentation and the quick and vigorous bubbling of the wort during fermentation looked a lot like steam bubbles, hence the name "Dampfbier". And so you end up with this light, yet very estery and flavoursome unique beer.

Yes... technically it's a Belgian blonde, namely a bull of the Blonde d'Aquitaine breed, but not quite the type of blonde I'm talking about... Source: en.wikipedia.org

Yes... technically it's a Belgian blonde, namely a bull of the Blonde d'Aquitaine breed, but not quite the type of blonde I'm talking about...

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The Blonde beer story is a less historical one. Earlier this year, a friend asked if we could replicate a beer he had drunk years ago in Europe but was unavailable in Australia. He didn't remember the exact name or know what was in it. After a lot of research, questions, tastings of various styles and translating some Dutch and Flemish recipes with the help of some basic Afrikaans knowledge, we went for it and brewed this bold beer full of spices, zest and classic Belgian Ale flavours. Funnily enough, it turns out we were trying to replicate the wrong beer, but one person's trash is another's favourite new beer as they say! We think the results are absolutely delicious and this golden beauty may just make it onto our regular seasonal list...

Life's too short to drink boring beers!

Happy Autumn- cheers!

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