Saturday, September 26, 2009

Brewing Season has Arrived

Since the middle sixteenth century, the official Bavarian brewing season has begun on St. Michael's Day (September 29), which is effectively Germanic Catholicism's celebration of the autumnal equinox. With the emergence of Munich's Oktoberfest celebrations three centuries later, and the Great American Beer Festival three decades ago, the arrival of Fall has taken on even greater significance in brewing traditions world-wide. 'Tis the season for beer!

Like modern brewers of today, even those in Bavaria, I have no problem brewing during the summer, even if it requires a little more effort to manage my fermentation temperatures. Nonetheless, every year around this time I find an extra dose of energy around my brewhouse. And it arrived not a moment too soon. We emptied two kegs yesterday, which I was able to replace with two full ones waiting on deck in my lagering freezer. But that leaves just a single full keg in reserve, and four empties sitting around ready to be filled.

The good news is that those kegs won't be empty long. Fermentation is nearing completion on two carboys of a not-quite-mild Brooks Leather Saddle ale. This was supposed to be my maiden English Dark Mild, but a surprisingly high mash efficiency (due to the new grain mill at the homebrew shop?) led to a somewhat stronger ale that will end up being more of a Northern English Brown (OG=1045, expected ABV=4%). Over the next month, I plan to complete my series of English ales with an ESB and an IPA. All of these English ales will be welcome additions to the Bike Brew kegerator, which has been decidedly Germanic and Belgian for much of the year. Here, for example, is the current line-up:
  • Beach Cruiser Blonde (a Bavarian-American hybrid ale perfect for our warm SoCal Indian summers)
  • Dunkelrad (a traditional Bavarian dunkelweizen)
  • Gran Bel Giro Maibock (the first keg we enjoyed in May; the second keg is serving as our Oktoberfest beer)
  • Black Lion (a non-traditional ale of Flemish inspiration: a black witbier? a Belgian schwarzbier?)

Finally, the annual autumn energy surge at the Bicycle Brewery got an extra boost from the recent Pacific Brewers Cup. After getting off to an inauspicious beginning--I lost two intended entries in a glass-shardy mess on the floor of the homebrew shop--the PBC ended fantastically for me. The two entries that I did successfully deliver to the competition both took first place (!) in their respective categories; blue ribbons for my CrossXtoberfest Vienna lager and my robust Barista Porter. Alas, the remaining few bottles of each are set aside for the upcoming California State Homebrew Competition, so I'll just have to brew them again in the months ahead.

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