Thursday, March 31, 2016

This Is a Journey

Brad and I enjoying a few brews before I hit the road. He and Jason are two of the hardest working people I personally know.
This past St. Patrick's Day marked my 2 year anniversary since starting my new career in brewing at Spiteful. With the exception of breaking my wrist something fierce due to a bicycle accident shortly after starting my employment there, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. As I write this, I'm fighting the flu. The doctor asked if I needed a note for my boss and I laughed. I said that these guys are my friends as much as they are my bosses—not many people can say that. In fact, I can honestly say that everyone at Spiteful I consider a friend. Again, something most can't say about every colleague. However, I'm writing this not only to acknowledge how fortunate I am, but also to announce my departure. If you follow brewery news in Chicago, you likely know that Spiteful's preparing for an expansion, moving operations to a new facility in Bowmanville—or "Beermanville" as I've heard cleverly referenced—literally next door to Half Acre's new production facility. Needless to say, things are going quite well for the brewery, so it may seem odd that I'm leaving. But an opportunity presented itself earlier this year that I just couldn't pass up, and starting this Monday, April 4, I begin my new adventure as the first employee for Transient Artisan Ales. We've mentioned Transient a number of times in the past, most notably when Matt and I collaborated with Chris [Betts] just over a year ago. With news of the expansion, and a successful 2015 for Spiteful (not to mention, seeing the floor plans for the new space is pretty awesome), it didn't make this decision easy. Admittedly, it was the toughest decision I've had to make career-wise. After days, even weeks of consideration, one point made the decision very clear: if Kimbell were to ever become something more than just a home brewery, Transient embodies much of what Kimbell would want to be. Once I came to this realization, it was a no-brainer. I mean, before I ever met Chris I was an original member of the Transient Reserve. This is to say I've been a fan of Transient for a while. So to now be able to say that I'm a brewer at Transient feels, well, amazing.

While Spiteful has been working on their expansion, Chris has been hard at work with his own space. He acquired a building in Bridgman, Michigan last year. A lot of walls, carpet (and subsequently, a lot of carpet glue) have been removed since then. Now, it includes a tasting room, and a brewery that houses a plethora of wooden fermenters of all sorts and sizes. On top of all that, he built his own koelschip! I'm entering a world of adventurous fermentation, and that is exactly where I want to be.

The cellar at Spiteful Brewing. The brewhouse sits where I was standing to capture this image. On packaging days, the brewhouse is replaced with the canning machine or bottle filler. This room is about 450 sq ft.

The guys at Spiteful will always be family to me, and I'll always be proud of our success together, and their inevitable success that's still to come. I simply can't say enough good things about Brad and Jason and how they've managed their company. A regimented operation of brewing and packaging that utilizes one of the smallest spaces I know of any brewery working out of, maintaining quality day in and day out.  If you haven't tried a brew from Spiteful, you're doing yourself a disservice. Two gold medals at last year's FOBAB, and a recent Brewers' Choice Award at the Goose Island Stout Fest—these aren't rewarded to just anybody. 

A photo I captured while visiting the new Transient space in Bridgman. Notice the brand new 30 bbl oak foudre on the right.
As I look ahead, it's my hope that I can contribute to the quality and success that Chris has deservedly accomplished with Transient so far. It's going to be a fun ride playing with different brewing techniques and fermentations. And yet, I'm fortunate enough to still say that my boss is also a friend. Life is good. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ghost on the Move

Since we last talked Ghost, Andrew and I have brewed several more batches; most have barrel fermented and a few aged on fruit. Of the fruit variety, we have successfully produced a sour cherry version (Cure for Pain), as well as apricot (ApriGhost) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Medicine for a Nightmare).

We also teamed up with Omega Yeast to see if we can find out exactly what we are dealing with. So far, there are still some questions to be answered, but we know we are working with bacteria in conjunction with at least 5 strains of yeast including Brettanomyces. We are planning to have Omega plate out the strain separately to see if we have anything relatively unknown to the brewing world. We also had Omega grow up pitches of the blend as it stands to see how their's compare to the blends we currently have living in our barrels.

In addition, we began working on a project with Transient Artisan Ales using our house culture. A little background on Transient (from their website):

"Transient Artisan Ales was formed not due to a lack of great beer, or with the intentions of growing a massive craft beer brand. Rather, our goal is to recognize and appreciate the bounty of our local environment, take time to enjoy a simple and beautiful thing, and provide others the opportunity to do the same.
As the name Transient implies, our beers are meant to change with age, and even from batch to batch. We use a blend of expressive yeasts and encourage the influence of the local Midwest mircroflora and the natural environment on our small-batch offerings through open-top fermentation."

As you can gather from the above quote, Transient is a perfect match for us in respect to our brewing vision. After Chris tasted a few of our beers, he expressed interest in working with us and our mixed culture. After a few meetings we decided to brew a wort similar to the grist we use for our farmhouse series. This wort would then be barrel fermented with a pitch propagated by Omega (grown from our original barrel fermented ghost). The barrels chosen were 130 gallon puncheons, composed of Hungarian oak, which previously held Cabernet Sauvignon from an undisclosed Napa Valley winery.

This collaboration we brewed on March 29th, and we're eager to see how our culture performs at this increased volume. We are also excited to have the opportunity to work with Chris at Transient and hope to continue to work with him on future projects. As of now, we wait for the yeast to tell us what to do next.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

2 Days, 7 Beers

We're lining up seven beers to share in the following two weeks. Starting this Saturday, we're helping celebrate with Graze Magazine once again for their semi-annual printed release. Again, Graze is a 2-color literary magazine that points it's focus toward food. For every release, they host a party filled with live performances, food, drinks and raffle prizes. We're thrilled to be a part of it, and for the occasion, we selected three sour beers that should each pair nicely with a range of foods:

Golden Age
A Farmhouse ale fermented with a mysterious culture that includes Brettanomyces.

Beat the Reaper
A wheat ale fermented entirely with Brettanomyces Anomala.

Mork from Ork
A blended beer containing a lengthy lineup of malt including wheat, rye and spelt. Some of this beer was fermented with Brettanomyces Nanus and aged in an oak barrel for 6 months. The other half was brewed with pumpkin and fermented with a mix of wild yeast and Wyeast 3725.

Then comes a fest focused entirely on beer the following Saturday, October 25. Boo Ha Ha is another Won Kim production which is sometimes enough for some folks to want to attend. In other words, they're known for a good time, and we can attest. We'll be joined by many others sharing their beers, and we're excited for what we have in store.

In July we began barrel-fermenting our Ghost yeast, and it's been on a terror ever since. We'll be wrangling up three different Ghosts with frightening fruit profiles (in a good way, sorry, couldn't resist) for Boo Ha Ha. And if sour beers aren't your thing, we'll also have a Brett IPA on tap.

Follow the links below for tickets.
Graze Magazine Release Party (tickets also available at the door)
BOO HA HA (Buy your ticket in advance. This event sells out.)


Sunday, August 3, 2014


Over the years, Andrew and I have both grown more and more fond of complex sour ales like Belgian Lambics, Flemish reds & browns as well as many of the American Wild Ales. While these beers can be immensely satisfying, they often take years to reach their full potential. Although we've brewed several examples of these styles, we often find ourselves longing for a quick way to produce complex sour beers.

We've brewed several beers that rely on a quick souring with Lactobacillus, followed by fermentation with Saccharomyces or Brettanomyces to good effect (Berliner Weiss/Roggen, Gose, Farmhouse series), but they still lack some of the complexity and true sourness that our long-fermented Belgian style ales have.

Rewind to the Low Dive years and our first Saison; my original idea was to brew a Saison fermented with a commercial Saison strain augmented by the addition of dregs from the funky Saison master Dany Prignon at Fantôme. This first attempt was satisfying, but the contribution from the dregs was negligible. For our second attempt we made a yeast starter from the dregs of Fantôme bottles and used this slurry as our yeast. This version exhibited a complex sour ale within just a few months and proved to be a great compromise between the quickness of something like a Berliner and the years-long process involved in something like a Lambic. We have used this same method several times now to produce some really fun beers, including a blueberry infused version (Elila), a wet-hopped harvest version (Harvester of Sour) and a pumpkin & spelted version (Ghost). For our last couple batches we changed our method by harvesting yeast from our own beers instead of relying on bottles of Fantôme to get things moving. All of this experimenting over the last 4-5 years with this method gave us the idea to figure out a way to perpetually produce this base beer while building our own 'house' character into process.

The answer Drew and I came up with was to re-pitch the slurry from our previous batch (Ghost) into barrels and ferment entirely in the barrel. By way of Spiteful, we procured two FEW bourbon barrels and proceeded with our plan. After just two weeks of fermentation, we were almost amazed to find that this fourth or so generation of mixed culture produced what previous batches took two months to accomplish. At this point, there is a very pleasing sourness, complimented by an earthy funk & spicy complexity.

We expect to package this beer soon and plan to keep our yeast housed in these barrels with the plan to perpetually barrel-ferment our quick, complex sour ale.

—Written by Matt Kanable

Sunday, April 27, 2014

RELISH — Graze Magazine Release Party

Graze is a literary magazine (founded in 2011) that focuses on many aspects revolving around food. It's released only twice a year, accompanied by a party filled with food, drinks and bands. This Saturday, May 3, marks the release of their fifth issue. For $10, the party will offer you food from Paper Moon Pastry and FIG Catering, drinks made by Chad Hauge from Longman & Eagle, performances by KSRA and Quarter Mile Thunder, AND you get to leave with your own copy of the new Graze. Lastly, we'll be there too, and this would be a great opportunity to sample our beer. On this evening, we'll be sampling:

Inbred Brown
A Kentucky Common Ale fermented in oak casks with Lactobacillus

Spring Helles Bock

Farmhouse 005
Wheat ale fermented with Brettanomyces, briefly matured in oak casks and blended with Kombucha tea


Monday, March 17, 2014

Spiteful Brewing

I'd like to introduce you to Spiteful Brewing, located in North Center, Chicago, and founded by Brad Shaffer & Jason Klein. Their first commercially licensed release was GFY—a creamy & roasty double stout in December 2012. They are one of, if not thee smallest brewery in Chicago. They brew on a 2.5 beer barrel (bbl) brew house, filling 5 bbl fermentation tanks. The first day they mashed in, they started with 3 tanks; at the time of this writing, they have 7. Moreover, they're preparing to install 5 additional 7 bbl tanks to arrive within the next couple months, doubling their current fermentation capacity.

Prior to their opening, Brad brewed at Pipeworks along side Beejay Oslen, Drew Fox (18th Street) and Scott Coffman. His time there proved advantageous as he learned a good amount before having to apply that expertise to his own brewery. The guys at Spiteful will tell you first-hand how valuable that experience was.

Fast forward to now, Matt and I are working on Kimbell Brewing with similar hopes to go pro, but we lack any note-worthy commercial brewing experience. With Spiteful's success and growth however, Brad & Jason recently offered me the assistant brewer position. So I'm delighted to say that I'm proudly and excitedly joining the team in North Center effective today. Not only do I get to work with friends who've accomplished so much in the last 2 years, but this experience undoubtedly benefits Matt and I's venture, becoming far more valuable than words can say. Now when you purchase a Spiteful beer, you can know that you're also supporting Kimbell a little too.

On to the next chapter!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Inbred Brown: Kentucky Common

Kentucky Common is a style that was hugely popular in and around Louisville, Kentucky at the beginning of the 1900's.  It is estimated that in 1913 almost 80% of the beer consumed in the region was of this style.  Many local breweries in the area made their own version of this style, so it is not unreasonable to expect that there would have been some variation from brewery to brewery.  Although Kentucky Common was at one point very popular, like many beers brewed before prohibition, the style was mostly lost as the popularity of commercialized light lager grew.  Since this Kentucky Ale has not been continually brewed since its heyday, it is difficult to really know what this beverage tasted like.  What we do know from a few historical texts is that this was a dark beer, brewed with a large portion of corn, rounded out with other distiller's grains such as Malted Barley, Rye and or Wheat and fermented by way of Sour Mash.  It is believed that the Kentucky Common borrowed heavily from its distilled cousin, Bourbon.  As mentioned previously, the grists were similar, including Corn, Barley and to a lesser degree Rye and Wheat.  Like Bourbon, the fermentation took place via sour mash & it is very possible that used Oak Bourbon casks would have been used as a fermenter as well as a vessel for transportation & serving.

For our first attempt brewing this style, we utilized a sour mash in conjunction with a lightly hopped grist made up of Malted Barley, Flaked Corn, Rye Malt & Roasted Barley.  After cooling, the wort was fermented with a Brewer's Yeast native to the US.

For our most recent attempt, we decided to conduct our sour ferment initially with a pure Lactobacillius strain.  After the beer is soured to our liking, we will pitch a 'clean' ale strain to work on the rest of the sugars.  One other major difference for this batch is the choice of fermenting vessel;  while our initial batch was fermented in a normal fermenter, this batch will spend its entire pre-packaged life fermenting in a used Whiskey cask. We are extremely excited to see how this 100% barrel fermentation will affect the final product. We are also pretty pleased to have these barrels in our collection; thanks to Few Spirits & Spiteful Brewing.