June is usually an off-month up here yonder. Most years find us expecting summer (like we usually enjoy for a few days in May) but finding some sort of odd fall with some winter woven in, not really getting true sandal weather until after our nation exposes itself in its birthday suit yet again. This year, however, has been quite the opposite. And not just in terms of the weather. June 2014 has the distinct honor of being the month when I buried Tashi (our very good dog of 15 years), when I evacuated my family (and our few treasures) from our home due to a local wildfire, and when my little brewery honored its promise to you and me both.
The bottles in storage with the pediococcus bloom (read the most recent post, My Flog™ if you haven’t yet) are already showing signs of improvement. When pedio blooms, it causes beer to go viscous due to the polysaccharide chains this critter produces. Don’t I sound smart? I could get smarter if I could get my hands on Jean-Xavier Guinard’s Lambic, but out of print and on ebay for $4K for a new paperback! In lambic production (from other sources, thank you very much), they refer to this viscosity as the beer getting ‘sick’. The best part about getting sick is that you get better, right? Well, our very best wild yeast friend brettnomyces is a patient one and, coincidentally, enjoys consuming polysaccharide chains. In the last few weeks, the brettanomyces has been gnawing away and clearing the beer from the neck of the bottle down.
I drove up to Portland recently and sold every single one of our remaining cases of beer. It was a record-setting delivery session for us! You may have seen something on good old FB about James Ryan Adams’ delivery vehicle, the Purple Snatch. If you haven’t, you are in for some eye candy. See how we roll! We took over 60 cases and 2 oak barrels over the mountains with room to spare. The only beer left lies in our cellar library (a case of every bottling run) and a handful of recent bottles on the desk in the brewery. Oh, and the 600 bottles or so of Spencer and Sahalie that are currently undergoing their own particular transformation (see above), but who knows when they’ll be ready. All the available beer to sell has been sold. There aren’t any bottles in the conditioning phase, either. What this means in financial terms (since I’m now a business man and can talk like this) is that I have no income-generating ability for a spell because we don’t release the beer for 4-6 weeks after bottling. Which is fine as long as the spell understands the constraints of my bank account. We’re putting beer in bottles at the end of this week, but I know that the beer has our new friend, Mr. Pediococcus, hanging out. Lounging. Who knows what he’ll do this time around? It feels like he’s a ‘he’ for some reason. Out of 4 bottling runs in May, the first 2 went ‘sick’, while the last 2 were on par with everything else we’ve ever done. The 2 sick ones (Spencer & Sahalie) were bottled prior to the normal ones (La Tache x 2)…we didn’t discover the issue after we bottled both La Tache batches. Meaning we didn’t do anything different for the La Tache than we did for the beers that got sick. Get it? The only real difference (other than the %ABV) was that both the Spencer and Sahalie were krausened with yeast in the very beginning stages of fermentation and the overall yeast cell counts (per ml) were low. Both batches of La Tache were primed with yeast with far higher cell counts and much further along into primary fermentation. All the beer bottled had pediococcus in it, but only two got sick. Could this mean ? Is It Reasonable To Assume ? The joke is on me.
Ha ha, Apothecary. Very funny.
Our initial experiment in this Brave New Brewery is to bottle our beer, knowing that it has this Mr. P in it, with healthy and very active yeast from our primary fermentation. It’s a place to start, and I’m attempting to enter this next phase in the brewery calmly (!), focused on preparing. And reading. And reaching out to folks with experience with our new friend, pediococcus. All in all, there is precious little common knowledge surrounding this organism save its incredibly important role in the production of traditional lambic and gueze, and how fastidious it can be when it gets into a brewery not prepared (or wanting) it.
We want you!
Now, pray tell, what makes you happy and content?
Evidently Mr. P is a very slow grower, so it makes it a little easier to understand why this took so long to occur. Hopefully, the knowledge that we learn here up at the Apothecary will allow us to continue making our beer. Perhaps others will benefit from this knowledge? I will share, I promise. Pediococcus has the distinct probability of making the beer better if we can learn to be even more patient. From this moment, the beer will reside in the barrels longer to hopefully allow the pedio to do its thing in the barrel instead of the bottle.
I thought I had surrendered to the brewery before, but that was just showboating. In recent times, I have handed much of the day-to-day brewing over to my super-assistant, Conner Currie. He is the flow the brewery wants to see. Like I said, I thought that I’d ‘surrendered’ and we were all in agreement that the overall goal was to move the brewery forward by making more beer. Right? Successful brands, people clamoring, the wife wants a real bedroom instead of a loft. Make more beer, make more business, better for everyone. Right?
Wrong. The real surrender has occurred, and guess who gets to call the shots? No, silly, not Conner. Not yet, anyway. The brewery! The brewery is in charge here and will let me know how we can grow. If we should stay or if we should go. If we should wait for the bus to come or the rain to go. It’s kind of a relief, and to the born-agains, I can now see the draw to complete surrender. Shrug your shoulders, raise your eyebrows, purse your lips. Indeed, who really knows what tomorrow holds? I’ve been saying ‘I don’t know’ for quite some time now, haven’t I? Is it weird if my God happens to be sleeping yeasts? I read somewhere that the largest living organism in the world is a fungus. Maybe how we say that beer is proof that God loves us has more to do with the yeast than we previously thought. Unbelievable. I can’t wait to tell my dad how hard I’ve been praying lately…
Tonight the gray sky is mottled like a piece of granite as the wind walks confidently down the valley, pushing the trees around.
It’s a nice, reassuring thing and something that I plan on doing a bit more of myself, regardless where I’m going.