Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Please post your brewing schedule here. Post in the subject line who, when and type (ie. All Grain, Partial or Extract). Post in the body the brewday information including directions and what you will be brewing.

Moderator: rsc3da

Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Thu May 15, 2014 9:00 pm

As most of you know, Alpha Brewing Company downtown holds periodic homebrew contests with a different theme each time. I won the last round with a version of my Cream Ale fermented entirely with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. Each winner gets their name on a wall plaque at Alpha, a free ½ gallon growler filled weekly for a year, and an invitation to brew their winning recipe commercially, to be served in Alpha's tap room. Hell, yeah.

I won't reveal all of Alpha's proprietary tweaks, but my original recipe went like this:
75% Two-Row Pale Malt
15% Vienna Malt
2.5% Crystal 40°L Malt
2.5% Aciduated/Enzymatic/Sauermalt
5% Flaked Yellow Corn

+ three additions of Cascade (my original batch used freshly-picked home-grown hops…brag, brag, brag…)

OG: 1044
FG: 1009
ABV: 4.5%
IBU: 36
COLOUR: hazy gold


I learned a lot about the mechanical aspects of brewing on a larger scale. I think they might've learned a few things too, since they'd never used corn, acidulated malt, nor the first wort hop technique. Obviously, basic brewing principles were the same as homebrewing and (unless we're talking about a fully automated megabrewery) the pro brewer's job remains very manual and very physical. It's a hot wet mess, but somehow still interesting and enjoyable. Oh, and hanging-out with a couple cool guys all day with an open bar helps grease the wheels too. Late in the afternoon, several tall ones past beer-thirty, I asked one of the brewers "how are you able to keep from going home drunk every day?" He sheepishly answered "yeeeah…I'm usually not able." I'm not saying they're lushes. I'm saying these guys work really hard late into the night almost every day of the week, seldom stopping to eat. Not to mention Alpha mainly brews big-ass beers, like 7%, 9%, 12% ABV. That's no joke.

It's not a huge operation, but very well constructed and intelligently laid-out. The Canadian-manufactured Criveller three vessel brewhouse is 2 ½ barrel capacity. Most brewdays involve brewing the same thing 2-3 times (depending on strength) in order to fill numerous 5 barrel conical fermenters. The fermenters all feature built-in glycol temperature control, and can double as bright tanks from which they direct-fill kegs. The same glycol system chills the adjacent walk-in cooler which serves the cozy tasting room on the other side of the wall tapping 10 different fresh beers at all times. Curious bar-flies can observe the whole brewery operation through a large plate-glass window.

Image
Here's a pic of the tasting room bar I snagged from their website.

Alpha batches roll-through pretty quickly thanks to their own patrons, taps at several bars around town, beer festivals, and special-release bottles sold at high-end liquor stores. The company is barely over one year old and when early success afforded them the chance to expand, instead of obstructing the window with more towering fermenters they made the bold business decision to start a cellar program of sour and barrel-aged ales. The extra capacity is now diverted into 55 gallon drums, Jack Daniels and George Dickel oak whiskey barrels, rum barrels, etc. Their small batch format enables them to brew all kinds of crazy cool stuff. They brew a few things over and over, such as their Extra Special Red Ale and Storter, but the bulk of production is rotating IPAs, Imperial IPAs, Imperial Stouts, eccentric fruit and sour beers, basically whatever suits their fancy. They're just the right size to find something weird at a farmers' market, and the next day make beer with it. Can you name another brewery with a roasty rye IPA, an experimental single hop APA, an pale Imperial IPA, a Belgian IPA, a jackfruit beer, a calamansi shandy beer, plus four more oddities on tap at the same time? That doesn't even count their ever-increasing bottled offerings. Take a look at this line up.

Image
Classic three vessel brewhouse design. Close-up is the open-top mash/lauter tun, in the middle is the boil kettle, and furthest away is the hot liquor tank. Also in line but difficult to see: steam generator and heat exchanger. Check out all those handy-dandy stainless steel tri-clamps. I even saw the brewer whipping them on and off one-handed. Jealous!


Image
Their grainstore.


Image
A trusty ol' scale for hops and specialty grains.


Image
Mash-in: stewing the grains in order to convert starches into sugars. Later in the process, you'll see a snap-on sparge head attached to that overhead pipe.


Image
Volauf: an old German brewing term meaning to cycle the wort back through the grainbed, causing it to filter itself. Why? Because keeping grain husks and trub out of the boil prevents unnecessary astringent flavours in the finished beer. When the mash is complete, some of the first-runnings are gravity-fed into that smaller tank below. At first, it's full of grain husks and trub. As the tank fills up, you turn on a pump for a few seconds to gently sprinkle the wort back on top. Repeat, repeat, repeat until the wort runs clear. Afterwards, you reconfigure the valves to pipe the wort into the boil kettle.


Image
A nice shot of the Sparge: additional hot water is flushed through the grainbed, sending all the fermentable sugars into the boil kettle. And guess what? It really works! When you taste a handful of the spent grains afterwards, they taste like nothing, no residual sweetness whatsoever. If you look closely, you can see the yellow specs of corn.


Image
Racking to the boil kettle.


Image
Boil: it's hard to see, but there's a nice rolling boil inside. Normally, the Alpha brewers clamp this door shut, trusting the chimney to vent DMS, a precursor chemical which produces an unpleasant cooked-corn-like flavour if you're not careful to boil it all away. I talked them into leaving the door open the whole time because of all my actual corn. Better safe than sorry. Word to the wise: this is very important with Pilsener malt too.


Image
Alpha uses pellet and/or whole cone hops, as dictated by availability. When it comes to high-demand varieties especially, microbreweries must take what they can get.

My recipe called for first wort hops plus two later additions. The theory goes: by adding your hops earlier and allowing them time to chemically meld and rise to a boil gently, you achieve a smoother bitterness compared to the thermal shock from subjecting them to a full rolling boil all-at-once as is typically done. I almost always do my first hop addition this way, but your mileage may vary.


Image
During the 60 minute boil was a good time to shovel and spray out the mash tun. Nice door design, eh? The spent grains went into a clean trash can on wheels, which was rolled out back to be picked-up daily by a local farmer for cattle feed. Win-win situation.


Image
Here's a cool piece of kit I had never seen before, but some background information first: at the end of the boil, a whirlpool is created inside the kettle, which greatly increases hop utilization efficiency and deposits the trub and spent hops into a tidy cone in the center. The hot wort was then pumped out, through a heat exchanger which brought the temperature down to a comfortable level before pitching-in the live yeast. The plumbing junction pictured here pulls wort from the heat exchanger above, then hangs a left toward the fermentor. There's a dial-thermometer to check the temperature as it flows past, and a sight-gauge in order to check the colour. Last but not least: the little tube coming in from the right is pure oxygenation, supplying what the yeast needs for the next few hours. Wouldn't you love one of those bad-boys on your homebrew rig?

Another fun-fact about the heat exchanger: the near-boiling wort flows through great lengths of coiled tubing surrounded by cold tap water continuously flowing past, thus chilling the wort to a room temperature equilibrium. But what about all those gallons of "spent" tap water? Instead of going straight down the drain, the now-heated tap water is routed into the hot liquor tank which greatly reduces waste water and reduces heating expenses and gives you a head-start on your next brew cycle. This struck me as a clever cost-saving "green" technique that even homebrewers could practice. The benefits seem obvious, but not all pro brewers think to do it this way.


Image
Connecting the filling tube to the fermentor.


Image
This batch went straight into a repurposed food-grade stainless steel 55 gallon drum, originally used to ship maple syrup. Until a week ago, it contained a funky peach lambic. See how it rests on a convenient dolly to facilitate rolling it to the aging cellar at the end of the brewday? Brett is an extremely slow-acting Belgian farmhouse yeast. It doesn't foam-up much, and doesn't really need the normal primary/secondary fermentation transfer. So, we simply poured the Brettanomyces bruxellensis culture in the top bung hole, then tucked-it in until September or so.


Image
The waiting is the hardest part, but lucky for me, I'm entitled to about 16 growler fills between now and then. This isn't my beer obviously, it's their delicious Alpha RYOT IPA.

Cheers!
-Seymour
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby bUnit » Fri May 16, 2014 11:40 pm

Nice write up. Looks like that was a fun day.
bUnit
 
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:15 pm

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Mon Aug 04, 2014 8:07 am

Well, it's been 3 months since we brewed it, so I went down to Alpha yesterday for a taste test.

It was delicious--in my humble opinion--and is coming along exactly as I had hoped. You often hear it's impossible to scale-up a homebrew recipe and get the same thing commercially, but I must say this is extremely close to my own. It is pleasantly grainy with definite hops flavour but not overwhelming bitterness, crisp and dry like a true-to-style American Cream Ale, but fermented with 100% Brett Brux. It has that cool lemonade aroma and slightly acidic mouthfeel, but no intense sourness or funk. Good stuff, an accessible lawnmower beer with a twist.

They're transferring and carbonating it this week, so it should go on tap within a week or two.
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Mon Aug 25, 2014 7:11 am

Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale is now on tap, getcha some while it lasts!

Alpha Beermikester IPA is still on tap too, which makes two current commercial offerings by St. Louis Brews members. A growler of each would be welcome at any party. :)
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby beermikester » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:50 pm

I got to taste a little of your Brett Cream Ale as they were kegging it. Very nice beer! Looking forward to having a proper pint of it this week.

On Tap: Northern Brown Ale, Imperial Oktoberfest, Saison, Kolsch
Fermenting: Saison, IPA
User avatar
beermikester
Site Admin
 
Posts: 1203
Joined: Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:03 pm
Location: Kirkwood

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:42 am

beermikester wrote:I got to taste a little of your Brett Cream Ale as they were kegging it. Very nice beer! Looking forward to having a proper pint of it this week.

Thanks, Mike. That means a lot, cuz I know you don't typically enjoy "sours". This one isn't exactly sour, I'd say the 100% brett fermentation simply added an unexpected layer of earthy complexity.

Cheers!
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:04 am

Well, the owner Derrick texted me last night, "Brett Cream blew a few min ago. Thanks for brewing a great beer."

I thought that was a classy move, and left me with a great feeling about the whole experience. I encourage you all to participate in their Pale Ale contest due October 18.

Cheers!
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby wbuell » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:16 pm

Seymour, will you be brewing a beer for the fall contest?
Bill Buell
wbuell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:52 pm

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:41 pm

wbuell wrote:Seymour, will you be brewing a beer for the fall contest?

I'm still planning on it. As always I have more brewing ideas than brewing time.

Are you?
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby wbuell » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:11 pm

seymour wrote:
wbuell wrote:Seymour, will you be brewing a beer for the fall contest?

I'm still planning on it. As always I have more brewing ideas than brewing time.

Are you?


I want to, but I'm in the same boat, also I sometimes wish I could knock out two birds with one stone and get my socializing in with my brewing time!

Would be down for some co-brewing sessions. :D
Bill Buell
wbuell
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:52 pm

Re: Pro-Brewer For A Day: Alpha Seymour Brett Cream Ale

Postby seymour » Thu Sep 18, 2014 6:30 am

wbuell wrote:
seymour wrote:
wbuell wrote:Seymour, will you be brewing a beer for the fall contest?

I'm still planning on it. As always I have more brewing ideas than brewing time.

Are you?


I want to, but I'm in the same boat, also I sometimes wish I could knock out two birds with one stone and get my socializing in with my brewing time!

Would be down for some co-brewing sessions. :D

Yeah, that sounds fun. Let's each reach out again next time we're ready to brew. Mike C-Z and several other local guys are tentatively game too.
User avatar
seymour
 
Posts: 148
Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 1:24 pm
Location: Maplewood, Missouri, USA


Return to Brewing Schedules

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron