Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Flying Dog Brewery Tour

On Saturday my wife and friend accompanied me a few miles north to Frederick, MD to tour the Flying Dog Brewery.  Flying dog originated in Aspen, Colorado as a brewpub, but came to Frederick, MD when the opportunity to expand presented itself through the acquisition of the Frederick Brewing Company.  Flying Dog has a really great story and I would encourage you to take the tour or read "About" it on their webpage.  

When we arrived at the brewery we were able to meet our tour guide - a fellow homebrewer and distant relative through marriage, Jamie.  All tour members got a sample to sip on and the tour began.  I was impressed to find out Flying Dog is currently operating 24 hours a day 6 days week and just about at their capacity around 100,000 barrels.  This allows them to execute some energy efficient practices liking taking the hot water, a byproduct of using the heat exchanger, from cooling one batch of wort down and recycling it to start mashing the next batch. Flying dog has 50 bbl boil kettles which feeds into 200 bbl fermenters.

Flying Dog has its own lab for quality assurance and have two proprietary yeast strains (FDL - Flying Dog Lager and FDW - Flying Dog Wheat) which they use and maintain for many of their beers.  The brewery uses a 2-step filtering process for all of its beers (not including two of their wheat beers) and they have a rock-solid bottling machine (Krones brand is built to last).  I also learned that some years hop crops can be chemically different and will be more or less affected by storage temperature.  After lab analysis of each hop, different beers are allowed to be stored in Flying Dogs warehouse at room temperature before being distributed, as they will not have an adverse affect on the beer.  Those beers which need to be kept cold are housed in their cold room.  Flying dog also hand packages all of its variety packs by pulling 2 beers from 6 different cases and combining them.

After the tour we headed back to the tasting room to sample the great assortment of beers there on least 15 offerings I believe!  They currently have 3 different single hop Imperial IPAs (using El Dorado, Chinook, and Citra hops), their year-rounds, seasonals (Pumpkin Porter, and Marzen), some gruit (no hops beer) and even some small batch's from the staff.  This is a really cool aspect of Flying Dog as a business - all employees are given the opportunity to pitch an idea (I believe it is monthly) for a beer and have it be brewed on a small scale.

Overall, it was a really great tour.  Many thanks to Jamie for fitting us in and being an awesome guide! My wife took a bunch of pictures so be sure to scroll through those!

(Self Explanatory)

(Would love to have this much Stainless Steel)

(First Part of the Filtering Process, OR a rocket ship?)

(Bottling Line)

(Pallets of wonderful beer!  Forefront is where/how variety packs are made)

(Jamie, our great tour guide!)

(About Half of the Tap handles in the Tasting Room)

(Me on the right, occasional co-brewer on the left)

(Panoramic Cheers! Can see all the tap handles in the back)

(Mrs. Shegogue Brew and Myself)

(2008 Horn Dog Barleywine...delicious)

"Good People Drink Good Beer"

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brewery Update 9-21-2012

I brewed the Pumpkin Ale last weekend.  Had some issues with sparging due to the pumpkin, but was able to successfully extract the wort.  I pitched some WLP002 I had harvested from my mild back in April.  I had a lot of issues trying to determine how much actually yeast I was pitching - 3 pint jars of rinsed yeast from 6 months ago I estimated I had about 30-45 billion viable cells.  I pitched this into a 3 quart starter, which was then chilled and decanted to pitch into the pumpkin ale on Saturday night.  I utilized this great Yeast Calculator which is helpful when you are pitching with a specific quantity of yeast outside of a vial.  I will have a full post on this recipe, the process and tasting notes once it is ready to drink.

This week I received the first package addressed to my residence as a Brewery...that makes me official right?  Thanks to my good friend, I was able to source some cheap spice flavoring for the pumpkin beer, which came in the mail.

This weekend we will be touring the Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, MD.  I am looking forward to the tour and trying some of their awesome beers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seasonals, out of Season

I recently read Billy's article on Whats the Ideal Beer Lineup?    The article analyzes commercial breweries beer lineups and tries to conclude the perfect formula for the number of Year Round, Seasonal and Specialty beers for a brewery.  As with anything worth talking about, there were a wide range of opinions.  An off-topic statement that got to me thinking in his post was that of Seasonal beers and their "seasons."  Are Seasonal's really in, Season?

I find that a lot of breweries seasonal beers are scheduled to be available for a quarter of the year.  This makes sense as our seasons are 3 months each - no flaw in logic here.  So whats the problem.  Well, I find the problem with seasonals is they come out WAY to early, which leads to them being gone WAY to soon.  I am going to use two Delaware breweries as my guinea pigs for this example (mainly cause I have family in DE and often support those breweries), but to my knowledge, everyone doing it.  The Breweries are Fordham and Dogfish Head and the beer for this example is based on the season of fall and and the sweet tastes of Autumn.

Dogfish produces its fall Seasonal called Punkin Ale, while Fordham produces the Spiced Harvest Ale (which to my knowledge doesn't actually contain pumpkin, just the spices).  Dogfish's offering comes out right about the 1st of September every year, where Fordham's beer comes out in Mid August.  Dogfish recommends pairing Punkin Ale with the following: Turkey, roasted duck, lamb, stuffing, dessert dumplings, sharp cheddar.  Fordham suggests paring with Turkey, Ham, braised veggies, pumpkin pie, cheesecake and cinnamon streussel.

(Photo Compliments of LittleKata)

Man, all those foods sound delicious, making me salivate for Thanksgiving....wait, its September!  We just had labor day celebrations.  Its still warm and humid in D.C.  Thanksgiving isn't for another 3 months?  The first time I start thinking about pumpkins is in October, when I decide what to carve in my pumpkin.  After I binge on candy, my mind shifts to rich pumpkin pie, but this is all months away.  To add insult to my pumpkin spice cravings, dogfish even states on their website that if you want to have some for Thanksgiving, you need to stockpile some up cause its is usually GONE come November.  What a buzzkill.

Maybe breweries do this by design, as the beers seem to be all consumed or sold out at the end of the season when you really want it.  Like all of those summer thirst quenchers in late August and early September, when they were finished distributing in July ( Sierra Nevada Summerfest).  Maybe their rationale is if you want it you will then make a mental note and buy more the next year?

I obviously don't run a production brewery, so I don't know if seasonals are done this way because they all want to fall in line.  Or if there is a business reason behind it, but to me the consumer I would like to see the dates pushed back a little bit to encapsulate the larger portion of the desired season.  In the Shegogue Brewery we will be brewing our Pumpkin Ale this week.  It will be ready for consumption at the end of October and should be good past Thanksgiving into December.

So what are your thoughts?  Seasonals in and out too early or are they just right?  Let me know

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012-2013 Brew Schedule

After some thought (and using my input from my previous post), I have come up with what I think will be my tentative brew calendar.  I say tentative because I fear the unknown...well not really, but I do like to have the authority to change my mind.  I also may need to throw in an extra brew, or delay one to meet friends/family requests.  You will also notice I don't have brews planned during the hot summer months.  This isn't because I melt in the sun, but more cause I don't like/trust my fermentation chamber to handle such temperature differentials in the balmy garage.

So, without further ado, here is Shegogue Brew's 2012-2013 Brew Schedule:

I didn't brew this much last year, but I did the year before.  I hope to be able to brew about once a month.  I have already been doing some extensive research on Pumpkin Ales.  There is some controversy on whether or not using pumpkin is necessary, but I think I will be using the orange substance in my brew. Now to start crafting recipes to determine which hops to buy in bulk, how many sacks of grain to buy and which yeasts to use!