Despite the fact that I always think using exclamation points is really really corny... THANK YOU! Thank you for supporting our Brewery and by extension all of the fine folks and families of those fine folk. Also, THANK YOU! Thank you for supporting local bars and restaurants - You do a credit to your city when you choose to spend your money here. This, despite the fact that there is a guy who looks a lot like me that has been spotted numerous times at Target.
Sooo...Whats next? Well, I think there are some "Americana" ideas I'd like to try out - We're dreaming up an Amber beer and I'm also interested in a "Common". We always have access to the American Yeast strain we'd need for our interpretation of Amber, so that may come to fruition faster than the "Common", which would neccessitate bringing a new type of yeast into the brewery. In the meantime we've brewed a larger batch of Rye Pale which has been missing for a bit and the larger batch will allow us to send some brew to our Second and Newest Distributor in Illinois - Koerner. Sup Illinois?
Back to Amber and "Common". Firstly, Amber is style 10B. Its darker than Pale Ale, usually more rounded and smooth, with varying hop rates but normally subdued. Some breweries call them "Red Ales". If you went to a brewpub from 1982-1996 then you had an Amber beer. I'm excited about it because there are a couple of new malts I want to try and I think its going to make a great food beer. "Common" is a bit harder to define according to the internet. Common is well defined by the flagship producer Anchor with its Anchor Steam Beer. Steam beer is 'Common'. It is essentially beer fermented with lager yeast at ale temperatures and exhibits a clear grainy malt character and maybe some light fruitiness. The part about "Common" that gets confusing is that Commons debut album was Can I borrow a Dollar? and then went on to direct Terminator Salvation. This is why I love the internet. TS wasn't critically acclaimed but I say, Man! What do you want from a Beer?
Not everyone knows but Dylan (pictured) has microscopic eyes and a rare ability to point out individual yeast cells with his finger.
I imagine that most blogs don't begin with an apology concerning the lack of blog posts. It turns out that my blogging ability is pretty much exactly like my jogging ability. Two years ago (three?) I decided I would jog around some of the blocks around my house which I did about 8 times. If my terrible memory is unlikely correct after about the 8th time I decided that I was pretty much as healthy as I was going to get and that my 'jogging' face looked a lot like my 'doing taxes' face. I think I also got lapped by the Postal Worker in my neighborhood. Anyway, you'll be happy to know that all of that energy is now being applied to blogging so you can expect a short burst of 'blog' face.
Yeast are on of the biggest mysteries of brewing. I mean what is yeast anyway? Well, yeast are in the Kingdom of Fungi, which seems like it would be a pretty neat Kingdom to be in. Yeast are quite small individually (measured in micrometers) but when they get invited to a beer party they invite lots of friends. When brewers 'pitch' yeast into fresh wort the yeast count can be anywhere from 6 to 18 million cells per ml depending on the gravity of the beer (or more for the biggest beers) but the yeast then self propagates into a much larger community. Brewers usually use one of two main types of Yeast - Saccharomyces Cerevisiae (ale yeast) or Saccharomyces Pastorianus (lager yeast) and these two kinds of yeasts are generally referred to as 'warm' fermenting or 'cold' fermenting respectively. Warm fermenting yeasts optimally feed and produce beer correct flavors somewhere between 62 and 72 degrees F. Cold fermenting yeasts do the same anywhere from 48-60. If I were a yeast my temperature range would be very narrow indeed. I find that I am most productive at 78 degrees between the hours of 9:30 and 11:00am from April until about 4th of July.
Yeast will convert wort to beer in a wider window of temperatures, but the flavor compounds and general health of the yeast will be affected - generally to the negative. Every beer style has general attributes that are exclusive to keeping correct yeast temperatures and populations - some of the flavor compounds that can develop due to a flawed fermentation schedule include unwanted ester formation (fruity), phenols (medicinal), autolysis (yeasty), and Diacetyl (buttery). Its important to note that many off-flavors are still a part of a healthy fermentation, but they remain below the taste threshold.
What do we do to prevent a wacked out ferment? Well, the best things you can do are to have a very healthy mother-colony of yeast, give them plenty of oxygen to build an even bigger colony to ferment your wort, and give them a nice comfy fermenter with a stable temperature. After fermentation its equally important to get the yeast off the beer (we don't filter so there is always a bit in suspension - you see our beer clarify over the weeks) since the food source (wort) is converted and nobody wants to be at a party that ran out of nachos. Then, get that yeast to the next party! Re-using yeast (conical fermenters have a nice little dump port at the bottom to run yeast out) is the name of the game. It costs us 600 bucks to buy new yeast for a 20bbl batch of beer. Yowzzaa.
Yeast are a lot more complex than I've described herein- but that goes without saying - except that I typed it. Way back in the day yeast were just an invisible force that made some beer good and some beer great. Now, yeast wear "Hi my name is ____" stickers and are grown up in labs across the world to perform exclusive tasks. So this is a thank you to all the billions of yeast cells out there that have contributed to making livers happy around the world.
Dylan changes out the pirate flag on the top of our brewery.
So I'm pretty sure you'd like to hear what I did today. Well, today was another big day as I decided to change out our water filter cartridges. As I'm sure you surmised, not changing water filter cartridges means we're not brewing much beer so this is good news. Mike asked me just yesterday what my guess was as far as our output was concerned and I guessed something around 1 billion bbls which turns out to be a bit high, but we still needed to change out the filters despite Mike's negative attitude.
I've probably mentioned before that our water treatment program is pretty basic- and thats a good thing- it means our city water is really pretty nice. We have incoming water pass through a two stage filter housing that then fills our Hot Liquor Tank. The HLT is basically a big water heater. The water in the HLT provides all the hot water we need for brew day- mashing, sparging, cleaning, and sanitizing our Heat Exchanger. We don't really need filtered water for anything else, so we bypass the filters for other uses like keg cleaning and wash down.
Our water filter is designed to handle a lot of pressure (we have a 1 1/2" water line feeding the brewery) and its designed to pass through a lot of water quickly. Our HLT is matched for a double brew-day so it handles 40bbls of water (over 1200 gallons) and it fills pretty quick. I was going to make a joke about filling in about 'a billion' seconds and then I googled it and found out that its like 31.7 years. Now the joke is busted and I'm mad at our Educational System for not focusing on trivia as a teaching tool.
Breweries are really neato but a brewery is only as fast as its slowest thingy and that thingy shouldn't be your water filter since its first in line. If Jake and Mike were here watching me type they'd be yelling "You're the slowest thingy!" Har Har. Breweries are also full of people who think they are comedians.
Dylan a few days prior to giving the below speech concerning the release of our APA (American Pale Ale) and the future of the Sci-Fi Civil Life Brewery. The following speech was given in the past at our Pigs & Pints but it comes from the future.
St. Louis, the Gateway to the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Civil Life Brewing Company. Its hopefully longer than 5 year mission, to explore Craft Beer, to seek out new Patrons and new retail accounts, to boldly go where many Craft Brewers have gone before a long time ago in far away states. It is a period of Civil Life. Rebel Craft Brewers, striking from very small and usually cobbled together breweries have won substantial victories against the Evils of Bored Taste Buds. During these battles the Rebel Brewers managed to steal the secret plans for American Pale Ale- a flavorful beverage to be enjoyed by adults on May 6th between the hours of 11:30 and 6:00 that has enough firepower to destroy an entire planet of taste buds - but in a good way. Pursued by Sinister agents, Dylan, Mike, Jake, Patrick, and Chris race back to the brewery, Custodians of the stolen plans that can save their Patrons and restore freedom to the galaxy, or something like that. Klaatu, Barada, Nikto.
Brewers Dylan Mosley and Mike Bianco pose for a picture in a rare photo op.
Hops. Right now you can't even have a conversation about Rihanna's new tattoo without Hops coming up. Hops are the Poster Child of Beer. But what the heck are they? Well, they are a flower of sorts and they grow on a vine. They are totally kicking Honeysuckle, Clematis, Wisteria, Kiwi, and Trumpet Vines butts at re-defining Craft Brewing. I guess some vines try harder than others.
Hop vines grow from a Rhizome which is a stem that you bury a few inches under the ground and then realize three years later that you should have planted only two because those suckers grow fast and spread all over your garage. The vines produce a cone, or flower, that looks like a little papery pine-cone with yellow pixie dust on it. This little thingy is why you can melt the inside of your mouth with a +100IBU beer and blog about it.
Now I'm not going to go into the botany of hops right now, mostly because I'd be retyping a wikipedia entry and partly because the point of this blog is something different.... We're going to talk about Hops as a commodity. Whoa. I can tell you are already enthralled.....
Hops are like any other farm produce - its planted and harvested according to supply and demand. It takes about 3 years for a hop vine to really become mature which is about 32 years faster than me. Once again, this vine is really ahead of the curve. It used to be that big commercial brewers commanded pretty much all the hops on the market and there wasn't really much point in growing anything that they didn't want. Nowadays that's totally defunct. The Craft Beer market is directly responsible for many hop farms and are sometimes even doing their own growing. Any brewer who doesn't own a hop farm for their own purposes buys hops either directly from farmers they've worked deals with, brokers, or other distributers who act as material suppliers. Since hops are typically harvested once a year breweries plan ahead and purchase hops either as a yearly contracted amount or play the spot market game which is purchasing the overage from contract farms as the supply is available.
We've played the spot market this past year since we were still trying to figure out how much we would use and of what types of hops. Now that we are rolling into production work, a yearly contract for our hops makes total sense.
The past few years, and this one for sure, has seen a marked increase in the number of Craft Brewers out there and has had many consequences for Hop availability. Centennial? Can't get them. Simcoe? Nope. Citra? Chinook? Amarillo? See Centennial and Simcoe. These hops are scarce for one reason- the acreage planted isn't enough for the current demand. And the demand is HIGH! I've seen insane numbers floated past breweries looking to sell them and the very Hops that were instrumental in building America's Craft Brew Scene are practically given away. Well, not really, but its kinda the difference between paying for Tenderloin or Chuck. Another obvious reason that the hop market is volatile is that some years the harvest wanes due to any number of natural impacts.
These are all issues that impact any new brewery and the next couple of years will be interesting especially as new hops are bred and the craft focus shifts from hop to hop. At The Civil Life we really put a lot of thought into our Hop Program from a ‘balance’ perspective. We talk about ‘balance’ quite a bit, but ultimately I think a better word is ‘compliment’, as sometimes the Hop note either becomes very obvious or the Beer is very driven by Malt. Our Scottish Ale is a good one to talk about here- for the style it really is very hoppy but ultimately I think the hops are saying “hey, I really like hanging out with you Malt, lets go shoot some pool”. I think highly of all of our ingredients and I really don’t want one to beat up on the others. The simple fact is that its difficult to make an enjoyable beer that uses one ingredient as a crutch. Can’t we all just get along?
Lastly, as this post is about ‘commodity’, there is the economic impact of Hops. Depending on what type you are using and in what quantity they can be a hugely expensive portion of your recipe. We are malt-driven at the Civil Life and that does help us keep the costs of Hops in balance. One of the great things about beer is having that second beer, so we also try to build beers that invite you, our casual reader to reach for another. As you reach for another beer, you increase the economic impact of this brewery and to that we are thankful.
I once asked Mike, “Why is Dylan foaming at the mouth?” Mike said, “Jake, that’s beer foam...I think.”
Dylan pictured far left then Mike, Jake, Chris. And yes, we were drinking when this photo was taken.
Foam. I mean, FOAM! Its like beer's name badge. It tells you that you're in for a treat- or at least it should. The foam that is on top of your beer which is in your glass which you are about to drink whilst reading this is a by-product of good brewing, good ingredients, and a well washed glass. Go ahead. Give yourself a hand. Thats some fine washing you did. Hopefully the other two are in tow as well.
Foam is a latticework of beer stuff that traps the inherent Co2 coming out of solution. The ability of that 'beer stuff' to maintain that lattice integrity is all chemistry and physics- mostly the types of chemistry and physics that doesn't call polypeptides, amino acids, minimal surfaces, tessellations, van der Waals Forces, gravitation, and osmotic pressures 'beer stuff'. But the gist of it is, foam is actually very complicated and not to be triffled with nor taken for granted. I mean who wants to drink a beer that is undergoing a destabilization of its van der Walls Forces? Not Me Man!
So, we do a few things to try and make sure that our beer is foam-worthy. For starters we try to make sure that our wort is as clean as possible before going into the fermenters. Once the wort is happy in there we keep a close eye on fermentation and bung the fermenter shut to trap as much natural Co2 as we can (we're getting better at this). Natural Co2 has a very fine bubble size and gives the beer the best possible texture and creates a very stable foam. We also force carbonate our beer to the exact level we want under a closed environment as slowly as we can. Carbing Low and slow promotes the same bubble size and keeps the surface of the beer in-tank calm.
Disturbing the beer less helps keep the gas in solution and once again, keeps the surface of the beer happy which in turn keeps all those positive foam dealios active and strong.
Sometimes the very ingredients you use before all of this occurs can cause you a brewery sized headache. For instance, lets say you use adjuncts- lets just say anything other than barley, wheat, or hops. Many adjuncts simply have enough lipids (fatty boom balatties) to do in beer foam before it ever gets started. Fats, oils, detergent residue, dirty glasses, all of these will kill foam. Also, beer that has a small hop charge or beer that is minimally carbonated will not usually support as large of a head than ones that contain more hops or Co2. (hops are sticky! Co2 makes foam!- duh)
So the next time you are at your favorite pub check out your beer's foam. As you drink, check out the lacing- how it sticks to the glass as you drink (thats one clean glass!) and think back to your lunch break when you read this shoddy information and thought to yourself, 'Man, I should've gone to YouTube".
Kind of looks like a fish or maybe a duck. The Tri-clamp rorschach test has begun.
Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say "Man, I really need to get better at blogging... and have I always looked this old?" Well, to address the first part- I do need to blog more. I haven't really found my blogging voice. I left it somewhere I'm sure, probably in a spot that seemed like a good one at the time, but a spot nonetheless that is now covered in an Invisibility cloak and in some other dimension.
The second part? Hey, you can't stop progress.
So here we are at my blogging crossroads and you know what? You're gonna help me out. Ask me some questions! Things you've always wanted to know about a brewery! There, that will help. Probably.
But I've got to get this ball rolling and to that end we're going to talk about one of the most important and cool things in a brewery - the Tri Clamp! Tri Clamps are a genius little device that allows a brewer to splice together all kinds of equipment, hoses, tubing, joints, doo-dads, and widgets. Now it should be said that not all breweries use Tri Clamps, but those that don't wish they did. Why? They allow for a connection that is very safe and easily cleaned and sanitized. That my friend solves lots of problems.
If your brewery is set up for Tri Clamps then you have them everywhere! Tri Clamps are like the word 'Smurf' to Smurfs. I bet we've got a hundred or so Smurfing up various things at the Civil Life. The clamp itself is very easy to understand- its shaped like the letter "C" with a hinge in the middle. When you want to mate two hoses together you simply insert a small flat gasket between the two hoses and wrap the clamp around the abutted ends. Then you tighten it down with the integral thumb screw. Presto Chango! Now you have a really long hose!
Again, the beauty of the clamp is the simplicity and the ability to keep things tidy and clean. The gasket is either made of Silicone, Buna, Teflon, Viton, or EPDM. Each material has a range of temperatures that it is rated for as well as different sorts of compatibilities with chemistries, pressures, and whatnot.
What do you do if you don't have Tri Clamps? Well, the first thing you do when you get home from a hard day at the brewery is find a quiet spot and pray to everything holy that you've cleaned all your threaded connections well enough so that you can continue making tasty beer. The second thing you do is get on the internet and order up a mess of Tri Clamps.
Some day when we are a big fancy brewery we'll have a metric ton of custom sanitary welding done and hard pipe everything in place (an even better solution!) but for the next 84 years or so we will be dragging our hoses around, taking parts off one fermenter to put on another, swapping sight glasses, looking in our trench drain for gaskets that made a break for it, and thanking our lucky stars we have boxes and boxes of Tri Clamps.
So Dylan and I have a long standing tradition of picking on each other. So today, when I took his photo for the blog, I got this picture and a series of ten pictures of him moving too fast. It may be a bit hard to tell what he is doing here but I can tell you he isn’t flashing a gang sign. Nope. - Jake
Okay, well Dylan didn’t write his third post. It may be because he forgot. It may be because he is a dad and raising a kid apparently takes time. It may because I keep asking him to do a lot around the brewery. It may be because he can't stop watching sci-fi after work. It may even be because he went shopping and bought this new shirt. Actually, that wouldn’t be true as Joline bought this shirt for him.
So if you have been reading my blog and Dylan’s, you definitely have been wasting too much time and you may also have come to realize that Dylan and I are always trying to pull one over on the other. It most definitely started with me and since I am the only one that updates the internet, I thought I would write to you about him failing on his third blog update. This will only be up until he reads it (UPDATE: HE FOUND OUT HAD A GOOD LAUGH AND I DECIDED TO KEEP THE POST UP A BIT LONGER.) He is then going to call me immediately (UPDATED: HE WAITED UNTIL HE SAW ME) and probably send me a blog post (UPDATED: NO BLOG POST EITHER...SEE TITLE AT TOP OF PAGE). Which will probably give me trouble about something... which I will nicely delete and then post the cleaned up version on this site. I will probably add a few glowing things about myself as well.
Regardless, he may have taken the role of worst blogger ever from me. But he has done a bang up job at brewing our first beers with Mike. If you haven’t had the chance to taste the American Brown, it may be time to come down and visit us. The German wheat, the rye, the bitter and the best have all been doing very well. Maybe when you are down here you will see Dylan and try to take his picture because a guy like this should be famous and not like famous on a milk carton famous. He most certainly will pose very nicely for you without trying to conjure of the spirit of the bloods and the crypts.
Cheers to Dylan, he means no harm. In fact, he only means good. Drink his beer. Please. The more people that drink his beer directly relates to how many new shirts Joline can buy for him. What’s up with this new shirt not being plaid anyway.
Besides, it’s not like he really has anything on me. My mom bought my last new shirt for me.
Well, Jake has his 'hundred days' and as such he's going to be blogging a lot. So I says to myself, 'self'- 'you probably should blog more'. And so in a fit of very ill advised promising I'm going to commit myself to a new and exciting blog project that I'm calling "XtremeCivility" where I will be blogging 3 days in a row.
Perhaps you think me insane.
The first and most difficult task when blogging is to figure out what the heck your topic is. In my case the topic is simple- Beer. And yet in simplicity lies complexity; and in complexity - simplicity. Or so would say the Sphinx. So there you have it. Beer is simple and complex. But these are mere abstractions for philosophers and meta-bloggers. What I'm all about is much more plaid than all that. And to that end I'd like to answer a question that has been put to me a lot over the last 5 weeks and that is "which beer (Civil Life's) is your favorite?" Surely a handsome blogger such as me can answer such fine a question.
But you know what? I can never do it. Its a really hard question since I find beer so relevant to the moment and normally when asked I'm on the clock and counting those precious minutes before I can partake of the barley goodness. Usually what happens is this.... as we're winding down the shift and I've picked my trusty mug, I amble (I'm fantastic at ambling) over to the taps and a split second later I make my choice - and that choice is really automatic. I do the 'my mother told me to pick the very best one and you are it!' thing and poof! I'm drinking! And then I'm thinking - is this beer where it needs to be- flavor wise?
So far we've been moving through beer so fast that the answer to that is a resounding 'yes' and I can rest easy. I try to have a sip of everything to ensure all is well and then I sometimes take a growler home. AHHHH HA! So Mr. Mosley! You take a Growler HOME DO YOU! That sounds like a FAVORITE to ME! Ok. You got me.
I do actually think that things you take home must be favorites otherwise why would you take them? Well I have an easy out on that one too! Joline usually requests something and I take that home. Last time it was the Wheat and before that it was the Bitter.
But as a final note, and promise you won't tell- its between you, me, and the internet, that Brown beer is pretty good.
Picture taken on our parade route as we made the final turn down Holt street. (Thanks to Justin at Stlhops.com.)
Ha! You didn't think I could do it did you!? Well, its here. Blog II. Day II. And now, for the hard part. A topic. Well, lucky for me Jake has given me that!
Today we (me) will tackle the underbelly of what we learned jumping from home brewing to the big top. The joes to the pros. The Pet Rock to Mount Rushmore.
Firstly we learned that homebrewing is cheap and professional brewing is darned expensive. Actually, expensive isn't really the right word, (neither is 'darned') more like "financially crippling". But everything worth doing takes some effort so we'll not dwell on that. The phrase 'it takes money to make money' applies....
Anyway, Homebrewing is as awesome as Big Time Brewing, but there really are some big differences other than scale....as we have found out over the past year. We brewed in my basement on a 10 gallon system made by Sabco, which is a keg servicing company out of Toledo Ohio. Our Homebrew rig was (and is) very fancy and made some pretty good beer. It would normally take about 20-26 lbs of grain per batch, a few ounces of yeast, and depending on the beer around 8-12 ounces of hops as well. Brew day was about 6 hours and included either a trip to Mom's Deli (up the street from my house) or some grilling in the yard while refereeing our dogs. Oh, and many games of Risk and Darts. This is what homebrewing is all about.
Brewing down at The Civil Life is pretty different despite the fact that the processes really are largely the same. We still use the same products from the same companies but the difference in quality seems to have taken a step up. Why? Well, as a homebrewer we'd usually have lots of open bags of malt around soaking up ambient humidity, hops fending off freezer burn, yeast vials that were fresh but small and therefore often barely up to the task, and a water filter that would filter 12 gallons of water in about the same amount of time that it takes my 1984 Volkswagon to warm up in the winter. On top of that, its kinda easy to say 'I'll do it tomorrow' when you don't really want to go back down to your crappy basement. Now don't get me wrong- our homebrew really did turn out well and it was a lot of fun, but man I'll tell you what its awfully nice having bigger fancier equipment that will make 600 gallons of beer in the same amount of time....
And to that effect, what we've experienced at The Civil Life has been overwhelmingly positive. Our grain mill zaps our malt into perfectly milled grist wicked fast (no more noodle arm!), our auger takes it to the mash tun without Mike flinging dust in my face, our Mash tun has an automatic rake (ok, it still needs some work) that mixes our malt and hot water, our boil kettle gets a raging boil and our Fermenters maintain exact temperature. When you add in that we are using malt super fast, our yeast is shipped overnight, and we have a food saver for our hop pellets we have nearly perfect brewing opportunities.
Now I'm not poo-pooing homebrew at all. In fact you really can make world class beer in your basement. The big difference between our homebrew escapades and our wading into the realm of professional brewing is that now we have our processes better managed, our tools are more up to the task, our ingredients are at an all time high, and we don't have 3 dogs doing the hokey pokey during knockout.
All of this is to say that I'm really excited about our new brewing venture. We are finally able to take our recipes and get the most out of them and share them with you proudly. Our equipment provider Premier Stainless really did a great job with our equipment, and Adler did a great job showing me and Mike the ropes. I kept asking where the "make beer" button was during installation.... somehow it never got a laugh.
Dylan Mosley is the Civil Life’s Brewer. He is also responsible for changing out the pirate flag every 8 months. His annual compensation package here is directly related to the amount of time his beard is a minimum of two inches long.