Category Archives: Brewing History

Channelling the ghost of Sir Arthur Guinness: Brewing a Guinness Irish Stout…

Without a doubt, Guinness is one of the world’s most recognizable beers. Not only is it one of the most recognizable, it has almost, single-handedly, eradicated almost every other beer in it’s style to become what seems to be the only apparent example of a Dry Irish Stout.

Guinness’s brewing history dates back to the early days of Porter, whereby the story of Porter and Stout are inextricably linked. Stout originally referred to a stronger version of Porter. The term “Stout Porter” would have been  synonymous with the brown beers, letting the consumer know of the relative higher gravity to which it was brewed. In it’s heyday, Porter would have been brewed with mostly, if not all, brown malt. With the advent of “Black Patent Malt” in 1817, brewers then had another option for making the highly popular beer. What they found was that they were able to use a grist of mostly pale malt and enough patent malt to get the same colour. Pale malt has a much higher efficiency than brown malt does, so they could use less grain, thus lowering their production costs. When roasted barley came on the scene, brewers had yet another option to use when brewing their porters and as such, the divergence of porter and stout began. Continue reading

Pilsner Urquell – decoction mash or single infusion?

It’s that time of year again when my cellar reaches optimum fermenting temperatures for lager style beers. Over the past year, I’ve become more familiar with the various styles and I can’t wait to take a stab at some of them.  I’ve researched and learned a tremendous amount since I started brewing, and along with that research comes, of course, many new beers to try.

There has also been countless hours spent talking with my father-in-law about all things beer, wine, and gardening. He is originally from the Czech Republic, and because of that, is always promoting the superb quality of the world’s only true Pilsner; Pilsner Urquell. The history of Pilsner Urquell and how it came to be is a wonderful, informative tale of brewing history. One that is too large for the scope of this post, but is touched upon in a fantastic article from Brewing Techniques titled: The History and Brewing Methods of Pilsner Urquell.

Up until this point, I’ve been brewing completely with a single infusion mash, which works for most styles of beer. (and keeps the brew day at a reasonable length) Recently I’ve become intrigued by the traditional decoction mash that is used by European brewers. Thus far, I’ve seen it as too advanced for me, but after coming across an excellent 3 part video from Braukaiser explaining in great detail the double decoction mash, (See video here) I feel I’m ready to give it a try. Every time I have a sip of the buttery golden yellow of a Pilsner Urquell at my in-laws, the more I want to discover how the heck they actually brew it.

I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m doing with a decoction mash as I’m a virgin in such territory. Braukaiser’s video is the one to watch, but I do want to learn what effect it has on the resulting beer. In order to do this, I’m going to do 2 things: Continue reading

Brewing with the brewmaster at Black Creek Historic Brewery…

I’ve always been intrigued by history. How people lived, evolved, and created things that we now take for granted. Life must have been gruelling and much tougher compared to our electrified, air-conditioned, mass consuming lifestyles of the 21st century. In the northwest corner of the Greater Toronto Area is Black Creek Pioneer Village. A settlement that dates back to the early 1800’s. Life was much slower and more dependent on animals to for usable energy, and running water to power mills to grind grain. It was a time when all the technical inventions we have enjoyed over the last century just didn’t exist yet.

Black Creek Historic Village has recreated an 1860’s type brewery on the premises to help educate us on what life was like back then. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling their wonderful Porter and Pale Ale (some of my personal favourites) from the LCBO, which is what re-sparked my interest in the village.The beers that are found at the LCBO aren’t actually brewed at the historic brewery itself as it would be impossible to supply the demand as well as meet the strict quality control standards of the LCBO. Trafalger Brewing Co. company in Oakville and Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery in Barrie are contracted to produce the beers according to the same recipes Ed uses at the historic brewery. Black Creek offers tours on the weekends that take you through the social and historical implications of brewing in the early 19th century as well as a working mill and the cooperage. As a special addition, you can sign up to ‘apprentice’ for a day with the brewmaster, where you get to wear ‘historically appropriate’ attire, and learn the process of brewing beer in the 1800’s. Continue reading

Falcon Town Pilsner

After trying my hand at lagering with the Caveman Kellerbier, I had a rare saturday night at home with my gal who had some freelance work to do. My daughter was in bed, so I thought “why not brew something up?”. So I decided on a simple extract recipe for a Pilsner that I snagged from John Palmer’s – How to Brew, which is a fantastic reference for learning how to make your own beer.

I’ve renamed it “Falcon Town Pilsner” in honour of my soon-to-be-father-in-law who hails from the town of Sokolnice, Czech Republic, (translates to “Falcon Town” as it is known for the falcons used in the area for hunting). Sokolnice is a mere 300km from the town of Plzeň, where on the 5th of October, 1842, the first cask of original Pilsner lager was tapped. (Read “The History of Pilsner Urquell“)

It’s been lagering in my fruit cellar for just over 8 weeks and I’ll be racking it into a keg pretty soon to welcome the summer beer drinking season. The buttery golden colour and the aroma of the noble Saaz hops create a rather otherworldly aura.

UPDATE: I ended up lagering it a bit longer than I expected, with pretty amazing results. I racked it into a 5 gallon keg at the end of May in order to filter it. (see post “How to filter your beer using a plate filter…”) That means it was lagering for a total of 11 weeks, plus the initial 4 weeks of fermentation. It’s just finished being carbonated and is the perfect beer to welcome the hot weather here in Toronto.

I’ll post a final picture when I have a frosty cold glass poured!!

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