Thursday, August 25, 2011

Day 157! Scotland - UK - Goibniu Home Brew Beer -- Up Next, Senegal!

Before I get any mail correcting this post, let me state up front that I know Scotland is not technically a sovereign country, although from a historic stand point, it could certainly be considered so. Rather, Scotland, Wales and England all make up the entity known as the UK. And, although each has their own distinct culture, food, traditions and dialects/accents, all share common citizenship, government, currency, armed forces and membership in the UN.  But, since I'm currently working my way through the "S" countries, and  my awesome friend, Michael Roman just happens to know a thing or two about home brewing, Scottish beer seemed like a logical, (slightly self-serving) choice. Hence a trip to Deja Brew, in Shrewsbury, MA, where I had the time of my life learning to brew my first ever batch of beer with the help of a generous and awesome group of brew masters.

Seeing as I am a total beer brewing newbie, I asked Michael, professional photographer extraordinaire and all around great person, to contribute a guest post, along with the beautiful photographs (with the exception of the beer in the glass and the bottles, which you can tell were taken by me, the wannabe photographer) you see on this page.  Please check out the link to view his work or to register for a class. Take it away, Michael.............

When Sarah first mentioned the idea of a guest blog about home brew, we wanted to tie it in to a country of the world. The obvious choice? Goibniu (pronounced Goiv – new)! Other than the fact that this has been one of my favorite recipes, its name comes from the Celtic god of manhood. Goibniu was a sword-smith whose place of worship was the smith-works. Before a battle, he bestowed a blessing on the swords and weapons with....wait for  So we have a tie-in to the blog and a great excuse to go brew a batch of beer! In case you're wondering about the flavor, Goibniu is a nice malty ale, tipping the scale at 7.5% alcohol content. Twelve pounds of grain in the mash make this a delicious, smooth beer, with a slightly sweet finish.

To be honest, I have to state up front that “home brew” is a slight misnomer in this case. I actually brew my beers at a place called Deja Brew.  They have a vast collection of recipes, all the ingredients necessary, kettles that are larger than anything I could muster at home (so the amount of beer per batch is more rewarding than what one could typically produce at home), and, perhaps best of all, they handle all the clean up. It of course costs more to brew at their facility than it would at home, but the convenience is well worth the extra cost, and the beer still ends up being cheaper than what you can get at a retail store. And the fun of creating something from scratch is enhanced by the fact that you can sample some of the beers Deja Brew has on hand in order to help you decide on a recipe to use either for your batch that day or for one in the future. And it’s also a great social occasion to brew with several friends or coworkers. But on to the main point.

Happiest behind a camera, Michael
also has some mad brewing skills!
As a typical college student in the 1970’s I loved, and consumed, my share of beer. Until a funny thing happened to me, that is. While in college, I spent five months in Germany and  got to sample a wide and wonderful variety of beer. When I got back to the U.S., I quickly realized that my domestic beer drinking days were behind me. American beers were just so bland and all the same for the most part. There was a glimmer of hope for me when my good friend Greg brought over a six pack of a new beer in the mid 80’s. He was all excited about it and I felt bad having to tell him I just wasn’t all that fired up about beer. But he was right. This beer had flavor and body. It reminded me of the beer I used to have in Germany. The beer was Samuel Adams, and the timing was right at the start of the micro-brewery explosion in this country. I still didn't consider beer very often until one day at work when a couple of home brewers brought in the fruits of their labors and hosted a beer tasting party in the parking lot at the end of the day. One of the beers was so flavorful and delicious that I came to realize that beer, as my friend Kevin always used to say, “was not just for breakfast any more”! (the older readers of this post may remember the orange juice commercial from the 70’s or 80’s). The beer was Deja Brew’s Midnight Porter. Before I knew it,  I was hooked into the group of brewers who regularly meet at Deja Brew. These guys have opened my eyes to some recipes I may never have tried on my own, and it’s been a rewarding nine years in the meantime.

Okay, so Sarah and I had a mission. A mission to educate her readers to the joy and ease of making your own beer. We had to toil over a hot kettle, albeit one with some wonderful aromas coming from it, and countless time (countless because after enough sampling of the product, the concept of time got a little fuzzy) filling bottles with beer and running the capping machine, but, hey, somebody had to do this for you, the reader. And we were willing (hiccup) to suffer any sacrifice (hiccup) we had to in order to bring this post to the world (hiccup). Joining us were Sarah’s husband Liam and my brew buddy Mike, who was the one who first introduced me to Midnight Porter, which to this day remains another of my favorite recipes.

Here's how the brewing process goes: Many, many thanks to Deja Brew owners Ray and Donna, Head Brewer, Dave and Brewer Joe who patiently guided us through the process, sharing information, a little history and lots of culinary chemistry tips the night we brewed.

Our first step was to go see what was on tap that night and to pour some liquid refreshment to help us get through the task before us. The second step was to go to the recipe books and take out the one for Goibniu. There are so many recipes to choose from it can be a bit overwhelming to decide upon “the one”, but we didn’t have that problem this night.

The next step is to measure out the grains and grind them (called “milling”) in order to expose the starches. Then comes the mash process. This is where the grain, in a basket, is submerged in the kettle and steeped at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. During this time the starches are being converted into sugar, which the yeast will later convert to alcohol. The spent grain is then removed and pale malt extract is added. This is grain-based sugar that is designed to speed up the brewing process. If the extract was not added, the recipe would require a lot more grain, and a lot more time and effort in the mash process. One of the things about the extract is it carries some color and flavor from the grain that it was made from and this is reflected in the color and flavor of the beer.

The wort, as the mixture is now called, is brought to a boil which causes various chemical reactions as well as sterilizing the wort. Sterilization is important to keep wild yeast from spoiling the flavor and character of your beer. After the boil, the wort is simmered at just below the boiling point and hops are added for flavor and aroma.

It’s now time to move the wort to the fermentation tank where the yeast can be added to do their job. But first the wort needs to be cooled down which would otherwise kill the yeast. Deja Brew sends the wort through a heat exchanger on its way to the fermentation tank so there is no delay before adding the yeast. The fermentation process runs for 7 to 10 days during which time either all of the sugar is converted to alcohol or the amount of alcohol reaches the point where it kills off the yeast. I’m thinking the latter happened in our case. Goibniu is a very “high octane” beer. Yeast converts sugar into two waste products – alcohol and carbon dioxide. There is a valve on top of the tank that allows the carbon dioxide to escape but not let anything in from the outside. The valve is transparent and filled with water and you can see the CO2 bubbles going through it which makes it easy to know when the fermentation is done.

At this point the beer is moved to the “bright” tank, being filtered in the transfer process to remove the dead yeast and any other material that may have made it though the filter between the kettle and the fermentation tank. The “bright” tank is pressurized with CO2 and sits in a cold room for up to a week or so, at which point the beer is ready to be bottled.

The final step in the process is a return trip to Deja Brew on bottling day. The bottles are run through a sterilizing process and then the beer is transferred to the bottles and a hand operated capper adds the finishing touch. Again, it’s a rewarding time and a great social get together. And the fruits of your labors can be shared and enjoyed for months to come. 

But don’t wait too long to enjoy your beer. There are no preservatives and it will spoil over time, especially if you don’t keep it cool or cold. In fact, the beers all seem to peak in flavor about two weeks after bottling after which point they will slowly go downhill. I find it best to keep the beer in a “beer fridge” and finish them off within three months or so. Beers that are high in alcohol, like Goibniu, and/or lots of hops will last longer, but, hey, it’s beer, so why wait to drink it? My brewing buddy Mike has found some Goibnius in the back of his beer fridge more than a year after they were bottled, and reports that they are still a delicious treat.

Goibniu (recipe courtesy of Deja Brew and Dave Thompson, Head Brewer)

3 lbs. caravienne
3 lbs. crystal
3lbs. munich
2 lbs. caramalt
1 lb. roasted barley

7 qts. pale malt
2 qts. adjunct
2 lbs. brown sugar

Bittering Hops
3 oz. kent golding

Finishing Hops
2 oz. fuggle
1 scoop Irish moss

Irish dry yeat

© 2010-2011, What's Cooking in Your World? Sarah Commerford/All Rights Reserved 


William said...

WHAT FUN, Sarah! And now you can even scratch off "Brewing My Own Beer" from your bucket list!!

sadie said...

Thanks, Dad and Judy! xoxo

witchywoman said...

Now I am truly envious! I do not have the room to even attempt this...LOL!

sadie said...

quoting homer I don't have the room or the equipment to do this at home either! Best beer I've ever had :)