FoulkesOkes Collaboration Beer – The story Part II

Hey there all you craft beer fans. Welcome to part two of the FoulkesOkes Collaboration.

For the first part of the story: FoulkesOKes Collaboration Beer – The story Part I

So, we left off with the tasting notes on the beer. You may have noticed that the comments section of the tasting notes is mainly related to feedback to the brewer, and what they may change to fix any flaws detected etc. In our case, it was what we would change to enhance the beer. In summary, Hennie (Two Okes Brewery) and I were happy with the beer, we only wanted a bit more hop aroma.

The Germans had convinced us to leave well alone and not make any changes to the recipe.

Now dear reader, one has to understand that brewing on a “home-brew” system is very different to brewing on a big professional system. I had to make sure that we could replicate the process on the “big boy toy”. This may sound straight forward, but in reality it is quite something else. There are many things that come into play on a big system that are negligible on a “home-brew” system. These factors can have a huge effect on the outcome of the beer. For these reasons alone, it is not possible to just scale a recipe on the basis of 1:x and off you go.

Without getting too technical, things like surface area; hop utilization; efficiency; cooling time and contact time are all very different on the commercial scale. The process itself is also very different to what we are used to on the “home-brew” scale.

Hennie and I had discussed the process I had used to brew this beer on  a “home-brew” scale and were scratching our heads on how we would replicate this beer on his system. The problem lay with our hopping schedule.

When one dry hops – it becomes a crap shoot unless you know what you are doing. If you leave the beer on the hops too long, you will get grassy aromas and flavors from the beer. We did not want that at all. If you whirlpool hop, you get a different, more rounded hop aroma and flavor which is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of our FoulkesOkes Collaboration Beer.

The problem with commercial systems, is that most run off the whirlpool, through a heat exchanger to the fermentor. These heat exchangers are notorious for blocking up. We needed to whirlpool at flame-out temperatures for ten minutes, then cool the wort quickly while still whirl pooling for a further twenty minutes to lock in the hop aroma. We needed to circulate through the heat exchanger back to the whirlpool to do this. If we did this, on Hennie’s system, we would block the heat exchanger, which would then f@rk up the contact time, in turn stuffing up the whole taste profile.

This is my favorite part – I get to diverge off track and make the Yeastie’s life difficult. She has to edit this and make sure it is cohesive and coherent.

I alluded in the previous post that the style of beer that we chose is known as the “test” of a brewpub. Many famous beer people insist that this is the first beer they will try, as it is supposed to give an indication as to the brewers skills and knowledge. So what skills and secrets are there to this beer?

Well, you need to make sure you have a solid malt base. This takes a lot of thought. The beer cannot be sweet, but must have a good malt character. You need to know your malt and understand what flavors and aromas it will contribute. Your specialty malt contributions cannot be too high as you do not want to add too much to the body, but neither can they be too low as you need the mouth feel and flavor.

The second thing you need to consider is your mash profile. You want a light to light medium body here. This helps with the “drink-ability” of the beer and also allows you to ferment to a lower FG, which in turn gives you a dryer finish. The mash profile is also going to help with head retention as well as balance out the sweetness you bring to the beer through the malt profile.

Hand in hand with the mash goes your water profile. You need to think carefully about this. This is a lighter colored beer that we want to bias towards the bitterness, but not to hide the malt profile. You really need to get a good SO4/Cl balance. You need to make sure that your mash pH will be around 5.4 – 5.5 and that your water RA is going to be about -20.  You will want good Ca; SO4 and Cl concentrations to highlight the various aspects of your beer as well as to aid the fermentation.

You will then have to consider your hop regime. You will need an initial bittering charge with something clean. You will need to charge it with some flavor and finally some aroma. How best would you lock those in without overpowering the malt and/or making it grassy? The aroma and flavor you want from these hops is something along the lines of citrusy, piney and spicey. Again, all in balance.

The last trick in brewing this beer is your fermentation. You want a nice clean fermentation without much yeast contribution. You don’t want fruity esters from the yeast as you want the malt and hops to shine through. You want a yeast that is going to give you a nice high flocculation. You will need to control your fermentation temperature to achieve these things.

I will post a full grain and extract recipe, with steps in a future part of this story. I will give you all the secrets that Hennie and I followed to brew this beer, both on a home scale and on a professional scale, so that you can brew it for yourself.

So, now back to our conundrum. How were we going to achieve what we needed to do with Hennie’s “big boy toy”?

It just so happens that I work with a variety of engineers and technical people, some of whom are excellent home brewers in their own rights. With my problem in hand, I approached a chemist. We went through the process that I had used at home to brew the beer and then compared this to Hennie’s process. I thought a hop-back would be a great idea, but my chemist buddy thought it would be a waste of money to build a vessel just for this brew. He thought we should build a big immersion chiller; I thought that would be a waste of time and money. The chemist thought we should dump the whirlpool hops into a hop bag, but I was worried about that not all the wort would come into contact with the hops and that we would not extract all the hop flavor and aroma.

The maths was starting to get out of hand. My old and addled brain had not done this sort of thing for many years. The problem had been posed, and now the engineers were at play. Back and forth the chemist and I tossed various ideas, each one to be thought through and then refuted with a new idea. This in turn to be debated and the whole cycle would begin again.

The other home-brewing engineers started to notice that something was afoot. There was more beer-talk than work going on and they started to get involved. Adding more engineers to solve a problem only creates more problems. We were definitely moving – if only we weren’t going backwards.

The next day, the chemist burst into my office with a weird looking tube type sock. It looked like something that had been scavenged from a bag filter. The tube was constructed from a nylon type mesh and it had a funny plastic square at the mouth of the sock. I looked at the chemist blankly. Admittedly, I was not at my brightest that morning, having sampled too many beers the night before; all in the name of research, of course!

The chemist promptly proceeded to clear my whiteboard, that had contained my to-do tasks, and sketched his new process idea. So simple, it was genius! At flame out, we would put the hops into the tube and put that into the whirlpool. Ten minutes later, we would circulate from the whirlpool through the heat exchanger  back through our hop holder into the whirlpool. The holder would retain all the debris and we would get to make sure that all the wort came into contact with all the hops.

We now had a method to our madness, but would the theory prove the practicality?

We will reveal all in a post when we will walk you through the actual brewing of the FoulkesOkes collaboration beer.

Until then,

Cheers in beers


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