One beery weekend coming up!

logo_grønnThis weekend will be a nice one for us. We get to brew a test batch of stout, taste lots of beer and chat to fellow brewers. And the weekend starts early at that!

Busy beavers
Tonight, Thursday, we’ll be firing up Kim’s homebrew setup to concoct a new test batch of an American-style stout.

Tomorrow, Friday, Gahr will be judging in Lervig’s homebrew competition.

Friday afternoon we’ll be heading for Grimstad to meet up with the guys at Nøgne Ø and the lucky homebrewers who managed to get a ticket for their annual homebrew meeting on Saturday. Gahr will give a little talk at the brewery, and we expect to taste lots of great beer and meet lots of nice people.

What more could a cuckoo brewer ask for?

Triple joy at Henrik Øl og Vinstove!

Today Supermax Lager and Halvor India Brown Ale were finally released at Henrik Øl og Vinstove to accompany the Imperial Amber already on tap there. Our hearts rejoyce and we definitely could not have gotten a better Christmas present! Seing three ABC beers on tap at the same time makes us very happy, indeed.

All the colors
The lightest of this hoppy trinity is the Supermax Lager, a “pilsner” clocking in at 5 % abv. and 40 IBUs. This golden lager looks like a standard pilsner, but looks can lie. American hop aromas come leaping out of the glass, leaving the imbiber with an impression of hoppy freshness rarely found in light lagers.

Halvor India Brown Ale is a full-bodied, strong American-style brown ale loaded with Chinook and Cascade hops, though not to the extent that the citrus hops clash with the malts. With complex roasty malt flavors working together with a dry, slightly rummy note from the use of dark muscovado sugar in the kettle, the brown ale is definitely a sustaining, malty beer with a nice kick of hops. This 60 IBU and 6,5 % abv. nectar is the perfect pick-me-up on a cold night.

Old faithful
Henrik Imperial Amber (8,5 % abv. and 70 IBUs) is the biggest of the three beers currently available. The well-balanced yet powerful hop presence and clan malt profile makes this an ale that beiles its strength. Smooth and deceptvely drinkable, it will leave you wanting more!

Another test batch bubbling away

The green gold – for once in conservative amounts!

Craft brewers love hops, home brewers love hops, beer geeks love hops. We sure love hops as well, but sometimes the time is just right for something else. Sometimes the time is just right for a low alcohol dry stout. And that’s why we’re brewing a dry oatmeal stout at Kinn Bryggeri for Henrik Øl og Vinstoves 20th anniversary on the 10th of January next year. But as with all our brews, we do test batches first. This one was brewed a few days ago.

Simple yet effective
With an original gravity of 1.040 and 40 IBUs from a single FWH addition of East Kent Goldings (and an undisclosed amount of Chinook!), the beer isn’t likely to blow the socks off of anyone, but the simple yet effective malt bill provides sustenance and a subtle complexity of roast flavors sure to please. Roasted barley is of course the signature malt, while amber malt adds mild coffee and nutty flavors and aromas complementing the burnt character of the beer. 10 % Flaked oats and a smaller amount of flaked barley round off the edges and provide a mouthfeel that belies the strength of the beer. Hopefully it will emerge black as the ace of spades, sharp yet rounded, dry and refreshing.

We can hardly wait to get to Kinn to brew this beer together with Espen, Torvald and the other guys at the brewery. Our wishes for New Year’s are modest; we simply want the 10th of January to come quickly!

India brown ale on the way!

On Friday our third test batch was brewed, this time an India brown ale. The beer will be brewed to celebrate Halvor Kittelsen Elle’s ten-year anniversary as a bartender at Henrik Øl og Vinstove, and if God is willing, pigs don’t fly and the Creek don’t rise it will be on tap there later this fall.

Packing a punch

It packs a nice punch of both malt and hops, with Special B lending notes of dark fruit to the beer, while brown and chocolate malts provide a subdued but complex roasty character. A healthy dose of demerara sugar gives it a nice and dry finish. We’re going back to the roots with the hops and use Cascade for both flavor and aroma. Our trusted companion, Chinook, is used both for first wort hopping and as a dry hop together with some more Cascade.

While the hopping is not as aggressive as in our imperial amber, the pine and grapefruit tones are powerful enough to stand up to the rich maltiness on offer in this ale. The trusty WLP001 yeast from White Labs does the most important work in a cool fermentation that really leaves room for the malt and hops to shine.

Blichmann rocks!

A new toy!

We are big fans of Blichmann brewing gear, and use a number of their products in our test brewing. This time yet another piece of equipment from Blichmann was put to use; a brand spanking new seven gallon Fermenator. While it is highly doubtful that it will make the beer any better, it sure looks nice and makes harvesting yeast a breeze. Thank you John Blichmann!

Supermax given the go-ahead!

Johnny is very pleased with the new brew.

Yesterday the guys at Henrik Øl og Vinstove gave Supermax Lager the final green light. Although we were already really happy with the beer ourselves, it’s always nice to know that our ideas hit their mark. “Just what I hoped for“, bartender and beer enthusiast Halvor Kittelsen Elle said. Owner Johnny Ve was no less happy; “We can sell quite a lot of this,” he said with a smug smile on his face.

On draft and in kits
Hopefully this Simcoe and Amarillo driven lager (there’s also some Chinook in there, of course!) will be brewed sometime before Christmas. It’s exclusive to Henrik Øl og Vinstove, so Bergen is the place to be. If you can’t make it to Bergen, beer kits will be available for home brewers at Bryggselv.

Bergen Ølfestival; a roaring success!

Bergen Ølfestival (BØ) last weekend was a great success, with lots of people, lots of great brewers and most importantly, lots of great beer. Although the weather was rather typical for Bergen, with a creative mix of showers and the occasional ray of sunlight, the people in attendance didn’t seem to bother one bit. The crowd was smiling, and the beer was flowing. What more could one ask for!

A big turnout
Brewers from Nøgne Ø, Lervig, Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn and Balder were pouring their goods and home brew shops Vestbrygg and Bryggmaker were also present. ABC’s Gahr Smith-Gahrsen did a talk on historical IPAs and got to plan the up-coming oatmeal stout with Kinn founder Espen Lothe. Very nice, indeed!

Hopefully the festival has come to stay. We thank Stian Krog and the other organizers for making this possible and hope Bergen will be blessed with this festival for years and years to come.

A small TV clip from the festival shot by Bergen Student-TV can be seen here:

(Video courtesy of Bergen StudentTV)

The test batch for Henrik Supermax Lager is ready

A few weeks ago the test batch for our second beer was brewed. This time it’s a light lager. But don’t let that fool you, there is nothing bland about this beer. The inspiration for this beer comes from two of the most important areas in the beer world; Bohemia and the U.S. west coast. Brewed in the style of a classic pilsener but with a serious amount of American hops, this beer should please both discerning beer geeks and less hardened beer drinkers alike. The beer is brewed exclusively for Henrik Øl og Vinstove in Bergen.

Smooth sailing
The brewing of the pilot batch was smooth sailing from the word go.  Using a stepped infusion mash intended to produce a crisp and smooth malt character, first wort hopping to adjust the bitterness and rather substantial amounts of citrusy American late hops in the kettle. The beer was also dry hopped with same hop varieties that were used in the kettle. Fermentation took place at 10 °C, and the dry hops where added at day 11, after fermentation had subsided. The beer was lagered at 2 °C and emerged crystal clear after just a few days of storage. A full four weeks of lagering gives the beer a velvety yet crisp texture despite the serious kick from the hops. It emerges at a strength of about 5 % ABV, with an original gravity of 1.049 and 40 IBUs.

Pilot brewing homebrew-style

So far, so good
The result: Well, when pouring, the aroma hits your nose before the beer touches the bottom of the glass. The sweet maltiness from the continental pilsner malt provides the perfect backbone for the pungent hops. While the name “Supermax” really comes from a standing joke between the brewers and Henrik Øl og Vinstove, it really says a lot about the beer. It’s a maxed-out light lager. And it’s rather super. We really can’t wait for the commercial version!

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.