Monday, September 10, 2007

Hop In It

In order to get the aroma and extra hit of hop in our dry-Hopped APA, we need, naturally, hops; and lots of them.

In this case, fresh Cascade hops. It's not exact, and sometimes we add more, sometimes less. It all depends on the quality of the hops. But the more the better.

It may not be the hop-bomb style that has developed a strong following the craft beer and homebrewer worlds, but its hoppiness is not to be denied.

The APA began it's life as a seasonal beer that was our version of a Hop Harvest. Being the hoppiest of our beers it soon developed dedicated fans who wanted to see it brewed more often.

A non-dry hopped version of the APA made its debut in 2004 as the Expedition Reserve APA, which was brewed to commemorate the Anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Again, the beer developed fans who wanted a pint of the hoppy brew year-round.

So, in 2005, the APA made its way onto the list of year-round beers.

The beer followed in the tradition of the highly-hopped American-style Pale Ales (where the APA's name originated). Over time, however, the desire for more hop flavor and aroma, propelled by our regular APA fans, led to some trials with dry-hopping in late 2006.

The trials involved trying several methods to best impart the hope flavor and aroma we looked for. For the smaller batches the Tap Room brews we suspend weighted bags of hops in a unitank and then move the beer into the tank.

At the Bottleworks, however, the concern was that the much larger volume would not pick up the hops evenly. Several methods were tried including a variation on the hop-back which circulated the beer through a pressurized vessel (the "hop-coffin" as it was known) containing the hops.

The method finally decided upon is similar to what is done at the Taproom. the beer is moved into a horizontal tank in which has the hops on the bottom and covered with domed stainless-steel screens. This prevents the hops from floating to the top and provides for more even exposure.

After getting the thumbs up from hop-heads within the company and our hop-craving customers, the operation was ramped up and officially became the Dry-Hopped APA.

The new beer required new packaging and as such you will now see the Dry-Dopped APA label on tap handles around town, as well as new bottle packaging in the stores.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Rack 'Em

If the aroma grew any stronger, folks might think Schlafly had gotten into the distilling business.

Yesterday, 33 bourbon barrels were filled with this year's batch of Schlafly's Special Reserve Imperial Stout. The beer will age in those barrels for the next several weeks with the specific date of bottling depending on how much flavor, and how quickly, the stout takes up.

Last year, the the beer took about two weeks to attain the desired character. A test barrel that was aged over two months knocked over even our most enthusiastic bourbon-aged brewer.

The aroma that flowed from the barrels as they filled was rich, sweet and far from delicate. A snoot-full of the stream blowing out as the barrel filled was potent, to say the least. Perhaps Missouri's decision to ban alcohol vaporizers was a wise move.

The imperial stout began it's life this spring as four consecutive 15-barrel brews knocked out into a 60-barrel fermenter. A brew that taxed our brewhouse's capacity, averaging 24° Plato. Our ever-voracious house ale yeast went to work on the malty giant, fermenting out in a few days.

Afterwards, the beer aged in the fermenter for months. We periodically sampled it to monitor the process. It's initial heat mellowed and rounded out; an important step as it is now introduced into barrels that bourbon formerly called home. We want to introduce a bourbon character, not set fire to the glass.

Peering into the barrels before flooding them with CO2 revealed a nice alligator-skin pattern to the char. As we went through filling the barrels, the entire cellar filled with the aroma of bourbon, roasted oak, and imperial stout. It drew several onlookers to whom the operation played "Pied-Piper." Though you wouldn't need a tucan's nose to figure out what we were up to.

After being bunged, the barrels went back up in the racks to age.

Bottles of the barrel-aged Imperial Stout will be available just in time to sip while Halloween goblins ring doorbells around the city.
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