Gettin' Stuck

Gettin’ Stuck

 The brewery at Zuni Street has been staying busy! Keeping the tanks full has become a constant…we’ll call it a game. In order to do so, I have started to brew 2-3 times per week, which adds up, after all the cellaring, kegging, and cleaning is factored in. To the point, lots of everyone’s favorites including Sit’n Rock Ale, Zuni Street IPA and Eva’s have been brewed multiple times, but today’s blog is about the two newest beers on the Tap List: Cold Queen Kolsch and White Wood IPA.

Both beers gave me a hell of a time, but for very different reasons. Cold Queen Kolsch is named after my wife, Theresa, and her dog Mayzie, who is also sometimes known as the Ice Dragon. A Kolsch is a light refreshing beer traditionally brewed in the Cologne region of Germany. The yeast used is ale yeast, which means it ferments at the top of the tank, but it can ferment at very cold temperatures like lager yeast. The colder fermentation temperature helps the beer develop cleanly and crisply. Lagers and Kolsch’s are both hard beers to make because the lack of big hop or malt flavors leaves no room to hide anything off in the beer. Why, as much as I disapprove of Budweiser’s business tactics, their beer is flawless and gets my respect as a brewer.

 The brew of Cold Queen went very smoothly. The wort made it through the brewhouse just fine and into the fermenter at the proper, cooler temperature. Then came my first of unexpected problems, adding the yeast. The thermostat on our cooler was broken so it actually froze the keg of yeast that I was going to use to ferment the Cold Queen. Yeast is a living organism-it will sit dormant at just above freezing temperatures, but it sure as shit does not want to actually reach freezing temperatures. I did not realize this until the morning of the brew. I pulled the yeast keg out of the cooler to try to warm the yeast up in the morning. Back to getting it in the tank, I hooked everything up to push it into the tank, some of it went in, but there was a serious slush at the bottom of the keg. I did best that I could to get the slushy yeast in, although this was frozen yeast that was not healthy, going into a cold fermented beer.

 I monitored the brew for two days, it dropped gravity over the first night by a hair, but after that, there were no signs of fermentation. Due to the frozen status of the original yeast and the cooler fermentation temp, the yeast was struggling and I had a stuck fermentation. I bubbled a bunch of CO2 into the bottom of the tank to help rouse the yeast and get it back into solution. After that I bubbled a good amount of oxygen into the bottom of the tank to help the yeast grow. Yeast can grow anaerobically (without oxygen during fermentation) or aerobically (with oxygen during propagation). Yeast grows much happier in the presence of oxygen, hence bubbling the oxygen to help stimulate growth. It was a stressful few days of watching, but eventually the yeast took off and fermentation began! I couldn’t be happier with the result! Crisp, clean, refreshing and true to style, the Cold Queen was worth the struggle!

 The other new brew on the list is White Wood IPA. Some may call this an East Coast IPA or a New England IPA. No disrespect to the East Coast, and as a Denver Native and Broncos fan, there was no way I could go with New England IPA. I like to call it what I have known the style as, and that is a White IPA. It is brewed with wheat and oats to give it a white and hazy appearance. The wheat and oats also do something not so awesome-thicken the eff out of the mash.

 The White Wood gave me hell in the brewhouse. Because the mash was so thick and gelatinized from the oats and wheat, I had a horrible time separating the solids from the liquids, or as we call it in brewing, a Stuck Mash. I tried all of the tricks in the book, but alas the stuck mash got me and I had to do all I could do…wait. A normal runoff (the separation of solids from liquids) takes me about 1-1.5 hours. The White Wood stuck mash took me 6.5 because of the stuck mash. There goes dinner plans…

 I eventually got the 10 barrel brew through the system and into the 20 barrel fermenter…

 “wait?! 20 barrel fermenter! Shit, I’ve gotta do this all again tomorrow!”

 It takes two batches to fill the 20 barrel fermenter, so thus two stuck mashes. The next day I adjusted the recipe to lessen the amount of oats by a touch and increase the amount of rice hulls by a shitload. Rice hulls help immensely with stuck mashes and they worked! My runoff still went slow, but I got it done in about 2.5 hours instead of 6.5! Thank you rice hulls!

 White Wood just got kegged and put on tap this week. I’m very please with how it turned out. It tastes like pineapple, grapefruit, and a little bit of orange juice perfectly melded with a beer, although no juices were added. The wheat and oats provide a smooth mouthfeel and nice malt backbone to balance the juiciness of the hops. I am very excited for this beer and for you all to have a try! Cheers!

-Willy the Warhammer, April 10, 2017