Malting Company of Ireland

For years, I’ve been searching for an Irish grown malt. I never really cared for English malt because it was too bready and biscuit like for my taste. In fact, I’m not a fan of English ingredients entirely, so if you know where to get Irish grown hops, let me know. Occasionally I would do a Google search, get two or three pages deep, click onto a few leads and get nowhere when it came to availability in America. I conducted one such search in late summer 2012 and finally saw two names on one page that stopped me dead in my tracks. Malting Company of Ireland and Brewers Supply Group were staring at me in the same sentence on a global commodities distribution website. Brewers Supply Group is my malt supplier.

I immediately sent an email to my supplier. “Yes,” was the reply, “we have the stout and lager malt available in our California warehouse.” I got the spec sheets and the stout malt was a light lovibond and it didn’t look like there were any problems with using this malt in a lighter colored beer. In fact, this malt, by the numbers, is very similar to Golden Promise. The low protein and high extract had me dreaming of making IPA stand for “Irish Pale Ale”.

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Click to enlarge

The sack of malt came in with a delivery and I took it home. Due to the madness of moving Humboldt Beer Works, I didn’t get a chance to brew with this malt until Veterans Day. The week before, I ran into Peter Hoey of Brewers Supply Group, formerly of Bison Brewing and we ended up going to Strange Brew together that day. He said this was some of the best malt he has ever seen and was hoping to brew with it soon.

I had originally planned on doing a pale ale, but after speaking with Peter, I changed my mind to a SMaSH beer, single malt, single hop. Since this was such a new (perhaps, unproven) malt, I wanted to see what it could do on its own without interference from color or roasted malts. Also, since I’m such a fan of Anchor Steam, my go-to dual purpose hop is Northern Brewer.

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Deciding my recipe was done. 100% Malting Company of Ireland Stout Malt, Northern Brewer hops all around to 25 IBUs and of course, Irish Ale yeast. I adjusted my recipe to give me an OG of 1.052 and proceeded with my brew day as normal.

I should have known something was wrong –or right– when I took my pre-boil gravity reading and it was 1.052. My pre-boil was my target original gravity. I needed this measurement to figure out my efficiency. Assuming 35 points of extract –which is fairly average for base malts– I had achieved 95% efficiency. If this malts point value is closer to Golden Promise, my efficiency only drops by 1%. I was so stunned I took two different samples and my results were the same.

Regardless, I extracted a lot of fermentable sugars out of the grain.

My original gravity ended up at 1.058. I fermented with Wyeast 1084 at 62 degrees. The beer finished at 1.009. I was hoping for something more session strength and landed at 6.4% ABV. I did not secondary.

I kegged up the beer and finally poured a draft. What I tasted was a well rounded, full mouthfeel beer. Despite finishing on the dry side, you could not tell. This beer was still malty and didn’t taste dry at all. I didn’t achieve good clarity, but I wasn’t trying either. I happened to run out of Whirlfloc so I used no finings, I didn’t cold crash and I didn’t secondary. It produced a wonderful, pillowy head and was all around delicious.

In the foreseeable future, I don’t plan on using any other malt. I’m going to continue on with my pale ale idea, but now I’m beginning to think this malt would make a fantastic barleywine. So I’m considering both in a partigyle batch. Almost every style of ale with this malt is begging to be tested out.

Malting Company of Ireland makes lager, stout, ale and distillers malt. The stout malt is available at Humboldt Beer Works now.

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Northwest Brewing News Readers Poll 2012 – Humboldt Well Represented

Saturday, December 1st, I was at Humboldt Beer Works schlepping homebrew supplies and I received a phone call. I don’t even know who it was, I didn’t recognize the name. “I’m reading in an email that you won ‘Best Northern California Homebrew Supply Shop’ in the Northwest Brewing News Reader Poll.”

Silence. Processing. “Uh, what?” was my dumbfounded reply, still trying to figure out who I was speaking to. I obtained an email address of the editor of the Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, and fired off a query.

Yes, sure enough, we won. As did the Local Beer Bar for Best Nor Cal Alehouse/Pub and Best Nor Cal Beer Store and Redwood Curtain Brewing Company for Best Nor Cal Nano Brewery. I know what you are thinking on that last one.
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Humboldt Beer Works spent most of this voting year in a small space that was less than 300 square feet. But by golly, we packed that place with everything you needed to brew. Our goal was to move into a bigger space within a year, and we did it in the 10th month of operations. We quadrupled our size and expanded our offerings and couldn’t have done that without all of you and many of you voted. Thank you.

The Local Beer Bar opened in March of 2012 and instantly, owner Darren Cartledge put himself on the map as a beer destination. He cut his teeth at Blondie’s Food And Drink in Arcata and hit the ground running with The Local. One of the great reasons to visit The Local is that you can go two days in a row and the beer menu won’t be the same. There is never a shortage of interesting beers at The Local, both tap and bottle. This award is well deserved.

Another well deserved award, albeit misguided, is for Redwood Curtain Brewing Company. But lets make this clear, Redwood Curtain is not a nano brewery. Not even close. So you have heard the 2012 story of Humboldt Beer Works and The Local Beer Bar, now hear Redwood Curtains 2012 story.

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Actually no, the ugly part doesn’t need to be retold. The brewery operated previously as a partnership in the beginning of the year and in August, a sea change forced owner Drake Mollberg to take the helm. But that wasn’t all. This sudden transformation punched Drake right in the face during a brewery expansion and the impending birth of his child. All at once, his life got very multi-faceted. Not only did he become sole owner, but he took on all the brewing duties.

So I hereby rename Redwood Curtain’s award to Best NorCal Brewery Owner, because Drake truly deserves it.

I’ve been singing this song for a year. Humboldt County is a craft beer destination in the making. Here’s proof.

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The Great Yeast Experiment

It was one of those ideas that a homebrew club lives for.  But it was certainly not a new concept for homebrewers.   We hatched a plan to brew up a bunch of beer, in this case 20 gallons, and dose each gallon with a different yeast.  We didn’t make it to 20 different yeasts but enough to make it interesting.  And in January, we plan on getting together and tasting them all.  One of the primary goals of a homebrew club should be education and this was great education in yeast and how important of a role it plays in beer.

10 brave souls with 13 different yeasts in hand endured one of the worst days of weather in Humboldt in 2012.   But no matter, the testing ground was Heatherdowns Brewery — uber geeky homebrewery approaching nanobrewery owned by uber geeky homebrewer approaching nanobrewer, Jere Cox.

Jere is one of those guys who became introduced into homebrewing with a gift from his wife for Christmas years ago.  Little did she know that he would go nuts and fill their garage with a monster stainless 20 gallon system and externally heated/cooled conical fermenter.  We are ever in her debt for that wonderful gift.

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Over the course of a few weeks, interest spread and people signed up to take part.  Here is a rundown of all the yeasts that were used:

Mad River house yeast (American Ale)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale
Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale
Wyeast 1450 Dennys Favorite 50
Wyeast 3725 Biere De Garde
Wyeast 3763 Roselare
Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison
Wyeast 1099 Whitbread
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager
Wyeast 2565 Kolsch
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
Wyeast 3711 French Saison
Wyeast 3538 Leuven Pale Ale

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The base beer was a simple blank slate, which was important in this experiment.  100% pilsener malt, Magnum, Santiam and Tettnanger hops bittered to about 25 IBU’s and an anticipated ABV at just over 5% — but that will vary based on the yeast and fermentation handling by each participant.   The baseline beer was going to be Jere’s made with Mad River Brewing’s house strain which lends itself to crisp and clean finishes.   All other strains will be compared to this.  Each participant agreed to maintain the proper fermentation temperatures to the best of their ability.   Yeasts were pretty well matched to their handlers — from the most demanding yeast going to the most experienced brewer and the most forgiving yeast going to the newest brewer.  Late fall/early winter brings the mildest of mild temperatures to Humboldt, so the timing was well chosen.
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Is your mouth watering in anticipation?  It should be!  Side by side comparisons of one beer with only one variable changed is one of the best ways to train your palate.  It doesn’t matter if you want to be a better brewer or a better taster, this is an experiment for you.  How can one taste them all?  It would be easy to tell you when and where.  Instead, I will send you in the direction of the Humboldt Homebrewers — let your adventure begin there.

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