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Brewer for a Day
THE MAKING OF “’T IS MOOI ‘WEST”
June 25, 2007
I have never been a brewer, and I never will be. Of course I have made some attempts brewing a beer at home, including brewing a abbey ale that had only 4,5% ABV in stead of the promised 9%, but tasted nice all the same and a homemade mix of De Troch lambic, Girardin lambic and Lindemans lambic, of which I have some 15 year old bottles left, still in good condition. But brewing was not for me. Until the opportunity came up to have my own beer brewed in the tiny Mommeriete brewery in Holthone, just a 45 minutes drive from the village where I live.
I wanted a special beer, not brewed before by a Dutch brewer, so I came up with the idea to brew a abbey tripel type, spiced firmly with American hops, preferably Cascade. Though many brewers worldwide have such beers in their portfolio, no Dutch brewer has made an attempt to brew that kind of beer.
In March I made arrangements with Mommeriete. Brewers Gert and Carina were quite interested and finally on the early morning of May 4th I entered the brewery, together with my wife Diane and village pub owner Huub to start my life as a one day brewer.
The aim was to brew a 100% malt, light colored beer, preferably as light as a pilsener, so Gert grabbed bags filled with Weyermann pilsener malt. The malt was milled, the water was heated to 62 degrees C, and the mash was allowed to rest for half an hour. Then again heated to 68 degr. C, again rested and finally heated to 78 degr. C.
This process gave us some time to taste the beers of Mommeriete. Gert poured us a well made maibock, firmly hopped with German hops, brewed in the Bavarian style and very tasty. The Mommeriete blond he poured had a slightly altered recipe. The beer has improved considerably, thanks to the increased use of Czech Saaz hops. The beer now has a proud 40+ EBU, and that didn’t remain unnoticed. Worth a try whenever you find it, I’d say. Gert and Carine also have a Rauchbock planned for the autumn, and I will be first in line to get it.
After some hard work collecting the wort, the malty sweet liquid, about 240 litres, was ready for boiling. Hops were added before the boil: 7 ounces of Columbus and 5,5 ounces of Magnum hops for serious bitterness. After two-thirds of the boiling time another ounce of Columbus and 4 ounces of Cascade were added for aroma, just before the end of the boil 1 ounce of Columbus and 4 ounces of Cascade were used as finishing hops. This would be good enough for 40+ EBU and loads of hoparoma, Gert had calculated.
Brewing is hard work, I found out. Everything was thoroughly cleaned time and time again. “Working sterile is almost impossible, but optimal cleanliness is necessary!”, Gert Kelder explained. “I wash my hands more than 50 times a day on brewing days, and I keep everything as clean as I possibly can.” Diane, Huub and I followed his example, kept washing up the brewing equipment over and over, and cleaned the floor as many times as we could.
The hours passed by as the boiling process was finished and the wort was cooled down to an acceptable temperature to start the fermentation process. The original gravity was 1068,5, promising an ABV of 7 or 7,5%. I always believed we would brew a top fermented beer, but Gert and Carina Kelder decided differently: the beer would be bottom fermented, with a second fermentation in the bottle. A lager yeast, originating from a midsize German lager brewery, who will remain undisclosed was added to the wort and the fermentation process could start, promising a quite unique beer.
Loosely based on an American IPA, this would be a strong lager! A German IPA, some purists probably would call it, and I can’t blame them. I’ve never seen anything like this in the Netherlands or in Belgium or even Germany. “Kiek’n wat wöt”, the people in my village would say in their local dialect, meaning we are not sure what the result will be, and we are somewhat sceptic. But Gert and Carina clearly were not: “it is also an experiment for us, but I am convinced this will be a good beer”, Carina said.
All the hard work being done for the day, I couldn’t resist tasting another Mommeriete beer, the Weizen, straight from the lager tank. Loads of banana, still rather sweet, promising to be a fine beer, especially from tap.
Weeks of anxiously waiting for a good result passed by. Until I received an e-mail from Carine saying that the beer had been bottled and now was busy re-fermenting in the bottle. First impressions were that the hoppiness was rather harsh, but the beer was rapidly gaining in balance. Two weeks later Carine mailed me again, with the message that the rather harsh bitterness had eased down further during maturation. The flavor was fine, just as the color and the head.
Six weeks after the brewing date I was able to get the beer from the brewery. On a hot and humid day I drove to Holthone. Gert and Carine poured me a glass to get a good taste of it and I opened another bottle at home. The color was blonde mixed with some orange, the beer had a creamy, steady, typical German head. The beer was poured straight from the fridge and at first I tasted a rather harsh, woody hopbitterness. The raw hoppiness lingered on and on in the earthy bitter, even a bit woody aftertaste. Like a massively hopped German maibock.
But as the temperature of the beer rose a grapefruit aroma came up with notes of red berries. The American hops made their presence clear, just as the pleasant malt character. The warmer the beer got, the more abundant and flowery the aroma. Also the flavor gained in fruity notes, especially citrus and red berries, and the beer became what it was supposed to be: a bottom-fermented version of an IPA. German IPA, if you wish. The beer is deceptively drinkable, and the 7,5% ABV remained almost unnoticed. Maybe the balance of the beer could have been slightly better, but it was a very interesting and successful experiment, and, most important, a delicious beer.
A beer that I will enjoy many more times, but I’ll make sure there is something left for others as well.
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