Our First Brew: Henrik Imperial Amber

On February 23, 2012 Andrimne/Black Cat’s inaugural brew was made at Lervig Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger, Norway. The first brew to hit the market was Henrik Imperial Amber, an 8, 1% abv. American style strong ale.  The beer was commissioned by Henrik Øl og Vinstove in Bergen and is served there exclusively.

The setup at Lervig Aktiebryggeri

From home brew to commercial brew
Our first brewday started like any good brewday; with a cup of strong coffee and a run-through of the day’s schedule. Lervig’s head brewer and creative mastermind Mike Murphy had scaled up the recipes from our homebrewed pilot batches and we sorted out all the details like water adjustments, the hopping schedule, mash temps and so on. While the recipe as such was set, a lot of the finer points regarding the process had to be discussed. Scaling up a recipe from a homebrew system to an 8 hl batch is not just an issue of doing maths, temperatures and times may need adjusting as well. We made quite a number of decisions on the fly, and hence the working title of the brew became “Eyeball Imperial Amber”. Eyeballing really makes brewing a lot more fun at times!

After having run all the malts through the Engl roller mill, we mashed in at 65 °C. We really aimed for 67 °C, but, hey, eyeballing is eyeballing. Runoff was smooth and the sweet wort tasted like pure manna.

As soon as the bottom of the copper was covered with wort, the first half (again, eyeballing!) of the bittering hops were thrown in. We put in more bittering hops at 60 minutes, but the main part (about 70-80 %) of the roughly 70 IBUs in the beer comes from a substantial hop charge at 10 minutes. We are suckers for the resiny qualities of the Chinook hop, so we found it fitting to use Chinook as the sole copper hop in our first beer. To give the beer an extra edge and a really fruity aroma we used a massive charge of Amarillo pellets for dry hopping. We actually had a hard time getting our hands on enough Amarillo for this brew, and ended up having to buy them from the homebrew shop Bryggselv. Thanks are due to homebrew shop owner Erik Schønsee for providing the pellets!

Kim adds a bucket of Chinook to our first ever brew.

And how was the beer received?

Did the beer live up to our expectations? Yes, and then some. It fermented out dry and crisp (thanks to White Labs WLP001!), and the neutral yeast character really let the crystal malts and citrus, pine and peach qualities of the hops shine. The customers at Henrik Øl og Vinstue seem to have agreed, because the beer sold out a lot quicker than expected.

Thanks to Mike Murphy for finding room in his busy schedule to do this. A great brewer and a great guy! And to anyone who didn’t get to sample the brew (or just would like another sip), don’t despair. The next batch is right around the corner. It will be brewed again early September.

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