Cascadia Nation Black Lager

cascadia-black-lagercThe Cascade Mountain Range extends from Southern British Columbia through Western Washington and Oregon, into Northern California. Part of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire” its highest peak is the volcano Mount Rainier. To its west are the hipster havens of Seattle and Portland, famous for some of the finest craft beer in the world. To its east lies the fertile hop growing region of the Yakima Valley in Washington. South of Portland, at the western edge of the Cascades, another stretch of fine hop farms fills the Willamette River valley.

The Cascade Range and its surrounding hop and barley farms form the mythical country of Cascadia. A generous cartographer would include the barley-growing regions of the Columbia Basin, and the Palouse, stretching east and south from Spokane, Washington. It also makes sense to declare San Francisco an honorary member among Cascadia cities, for it is the birthplace of the modern craft beer movement in the United States, thanks to the visionary efforts of Fritz Maytag and his Anchor Brewing Company.

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

Grain harvesting in Whitman County, Washington

The strains of hops developed in Cascadia, fittingly often begin with the letter “C” themselves. The “Four C’s” as they are sometimes called, are Cascade, Centennial, Chinook and Columbus. More recently Citra ™ has joined the group. They are dominantly bright, piney, citrusy and resinous in taste and aroma, and form the basis of most American India Pale Ales. Recently, they have been incorporated into a style known as Cascadian Dark Ale.

As hop and barley production began to ramp up in Cascadia during the 1980s, another development took place 180 degrees away in the Ring of Fire. Japanese brewers were early to recognize the potential for product differentiation offered by creating all-malt lagers in their commercial operations. Kirin and Sapporo led the way with premium “black beer” (黒ビール), featuring roasted malts and a sweet finish.

The Cascadia Black Lager shown here pays homage to both sides of the Ring of Fire. It is hoppy (40 IBU) like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, slightly roasty like a dark ale, with mildly sweet maltiness like Japanese black lager. It uses the San Francisco lager yeast to keep the finish drier than a typical ale. Cold-infused specialty grains, including debittered Carafa II, Munich malt and Breiss Special Roast maximize flavor while keeping away excessive burned harshness. A nice thick head leads to a moderately full mouth feel, and its 5.7% ABV is assertive, while keeping it well within the range of sessionability for the discerning and determined tippler!

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Robert Rivelle George Reveals Secret to Creating Full-Flavored Beverages

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Have you noticed the proliferation of enticing labels in the craft beverage section of your grocery store or liquor outlet? Perhaps you’ve also noticed the breathtaking prices commanded by these handcrafted drinks. Fermentation master and author Robert Rivelle George certainly did, and decided to share his knowledge with those who enjoy craft drinks but balk at their cost.

His new book The Umami Factor: Full-spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century, takes on the task of instructing the aspiring or seasoned craftsperson in the secret to creating full-flavored, satisfying beverages at home, the way it was done for centuries.

Umami is the fifth taste, existing alongside the better-known sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is the savory taste of amino acids ubiquitous in foods such as yeast, grains, fruit, and roasted meat and vegetables. By exploiting the taste sensation of Umami, a craft-beverage enthusiast can create savory, mouth-watering drinks of all types, hard or soft.

Released this May by Schiffer Publishing, Robert’s book The Umami Factor features a foreword by brew master Norm Chapman of Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery in Grand Forks, and more than 100 color illustrations. These accompany 75 original recipes for beverages spanning the gamut of soft drinks, beer, wine, sake, cider, mead, and even hard liquor. Mr. George explores ancient to modern techniques for producing these beverages, while offering a philosophical perspective to their creation and enjoyment.

“Robert’s philosophic approach to brewing in The Umami Factor is more of a lifestyle than a hobby,” says Maarten Lammers, owner of Nelson’s Art of Brewing. “He has a sense of humor that leaves you laughing out loud. I read with the eyes of a novice, and the eyes of a scientist, and I’ll certainly use the recipes, which are delicious.” Harry Davidson of HD Ventures adds “Like any good book there is drama, intrigue, inebriation, and sex. A complete reference guide to brewing, rich with recipes, menus, instructions and photographs, it leaves no stone unturned.”

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

History includes a long tradition of brewing, vintning and craft pursuits of all types. The Umami Factor presents a unique way to follow those crafty impulses, and amaze and impress your friends. Robert’s recipes are complex, for you can’t create a complex flavor sensation without a complex recipe. But the book also suggests easy ways to improve even the most prosaic of concoctions. Beginner and expert alike can find very many ways to challenge themselves.

“These are the creations of a man who is a master of his craft. Read this book carefully and keep it by you. You will be a better brewer as a result.” — Norm Chapman, Brew Master, Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery

Germano-Bohemian Lager

GB PilsPWGermano-Bohemian Lager marries the idea of rich, full Bohemian Pilsner with the crisp bitterness and clean flavor characteristic of North German lager.

The recipe uses floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt, made from Bohemian spring barley. This malt shows a wider color range among individual grains than malt processed by modern pneumatic malting methods, with their tighter temperature control. The result is a fuller malty flavor, with a bit of residual sweetness. It is slightly under-modified however, and will benefit from an acid rest and protein rest.

The mash bill uses 3% acidulated malt to lower mash pH, in the German manner, which prohibits additives such as organic acids to do so. In soft water this is enough to bring the pH down to about 5.2 in a full-grain recipe.

Munich malt contributes a mild toasty bread flavor to the brew. Carapils is a high dextrin malt that provides foam stability and full body to the beer while adding very little flavor.

Because the starting gravity is a bit above the high-end of the range typical for North German Pilsner (which is around 13 Plato), the hopping rate is also a bit higher than the typical example (which is 35-45 IBU).

Gnomen von Zürich Starkbier

ZurichLagerWFor all the perception that “Zürich Lager” is something special to experience, it seems that most reviews of Swiss beer, at least those that refer to pale lager, report finding nothing special. From Lowenbrau Zürich, Quollfrisch Hell, Feldschlösschen, Calanda, Schützengarten, to probably a dozen more, the reviews go from “Swiss Bud Lite” to “nothing spectacular.”

I’ve only been to Switzerland once, and that was to Geneva, which, while beautiful, has a pretty nondescript beer scene. So what’s the deal with the legendary Zürich lager? Apparantly it all comes down to Hürlimann Samichlaus, a rare Christmas beer whose Swiss manufacture ceased in 1996. The gnomes of Zürich managed to cram an entire six-pack of flavor into a 335ml bottle, and at 14% ABV, there are still some cellared examples being consumed now and again to rave reviews. In 2000 the brand was revived by Austrian brewer Schloss Eggenberg.

Albert Hürlimann was a recognized expert in the scientific development of yeast, and his extremely alcohol-tolerant strain survives as White Labs WLP885. Equipped with a vial of this venerable strain, what is one to do who does not have the patience to wait three years for a lager to mature?

In this example, a brew of 16.5 degrees Plato starting gravity will turn out to be very drinkable in less than six months, finishing at 3 Plato with an ABV of about 7.2%. The beer starts with a hefty grain bill of lager malt, to which the brewer adds Munich, Vienna, Melanoidin and CaraPils specialty malts.

The Zürich lager yeast throws off a lot of phenolic flavor which comes through strongly in this beer, giving it a quality almost like a Belgian brew. It is a long, slow fermenter, and four to five months in the secondary is about the minimum necessary to bring the gravity down to a manageable level.

It is a very flavorful and full-bodied beer, and will improve with age for quite some time. I plan to keep a bottle at least another six months to see how it develops.

SixPoint Classic American Pilsner

AmerPilsPw
There’s a phrase that goes “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” That was not always the case. Back in the day when a mug of beer was a nickel, there WAS a free lunch. And it came with a pilsner beer that was about six percent alcohol. “Six point” beer pretty much disappeared after the great American experiment called Prohibition. Here that tradition is revived with Sixpoint CAP, a Classic American Pilsner.

This all-grain CAP version uses American six-row barley malt for historical accuracy, as well as a touch of grainy sweetness. Because it is higher in starch-converting enzymes, six-row malt is able to transform the other key ingredient in Classic American Pilsner: corn grits. This is an East-Coast Pilsner recipe, by the way. If it were a West-Coast recipe it would likely substitute rice for the corn, giving a dryer, more neutral flavor.

More specifically to this particular recipe, the corn grits are substituted with polenta, which is not processed with an alkali the way corn grits are. The result is a bit of added corny sweetness that is subtle but definitely there. I used Golden Pheasant Polenta from South San Francisco.

The mash consists of 76 percent six-row malt, 18 percent grain. To add malty complexity, 6 percent specialty malt is added. Carapils gives it the thick head and creamy mouth feel associated with CAP. Munich malt contributes subtle, caramelly umami. To aid clarification, the mash contains about .75 grams per liter of black malt.

The grains are mashed using the American Double mash schedule. Essentially, the corn grains are boiled to gelatinize them, and this boiled mixture is added to the main mash to raise its temperature after a half-hour saccarification rest. The raised temperature completes the conversion of the cornmeal mush.

A smooth Pilsner needs nice soft water. This one is brewed with Southeast British Columbia mountain branch water. I like calling it branch water. It gives it a classic American vibe.

Classic American Pilsner exhibits a refreshingly bitter hop character as well, from the generous but scrupulous application of Noble hops from Europe. For this recipe, first wort hops are added to the runoff, in this case Saaz. Cluster hops add bitterness and Tettnang are used for flavor.

The beer was fermented with White Labs San Francisco yeast, but any good dry-finishing lager strain would do, as long as the fermentation temperature doesn’t get higher than 60F. When fermentation was nearly complete, this batch went into the refrigerator in a carboy for 12 weeks of rest at 38F (3.3 C). With another 12 weeks in the bottle at cellar temperature, the result was a tasty, corny, stony beer, the kind you would have loved if you were twenty-two in 1922.