Friday, March 14, 2014

What am I Doing?

The short answer is I'm in Germany working at a friend's small organic brewery. I'll be back in New York in May.

My stay has been completely dominated by Mozart's Requiem.

The long answer is for you, the person who actually reads this, and my parents! I'm about halfway through my stay here in Riedenburg, Germany. With only 3 months in Bavaria and many things to do and see time is going by very quickly. I've seen Munich several times, Berlin, Dachau, Regensburg, Nuremburg, and a little bit of Ingolstadt. All of which are very interesting.

More importantly than the personal enlightenment that comes from traveling in a foreign country is the learning and experience I'm gaining from working in a German organic brewery. There is a law here that prohibits any brewery from making a beer with more than the four essential ingredients in beer: Water, Barley, Hops, and Yeast. It's called the Reinheitsgabot, or German Purity Law. This means that you cannot use any water treatment from sources that are not one of these things. You cannot add spices, clarifying agents, fermentation aids, or sugar. Since talking to my co-workers I have discovered that there are a few exceptions, such as you are allowed to use a malt other than barley, like Spelt, if you use a top fermenting yeast. The rules seem arbitrary and many brewers do not like the restrictions placed upon them. But many also believe it challenges them to make great beer because it's harder to cover up flaws. Only recently were they allowed to dry hop under the law. Americans would go nuts.

Every beer at this brewery uses the decoction method of brewing. This means that during the mash process a portion of the mash is removed, boiled, and put back in with the rest, which raises the overall temperature of the mash which can be necessary for certain flavor complexities. It's a very old and traditional way of brewing and it's not very common in America because it takes such a long time to do. Using this method of brewing means that one beer takes nearly 12 hours to brew, therefore we can only make two batches in one day. German breweries are not expanding as quickly as American breweries so having a large system that only brews a few times a week is very common.

All of the fermentation is done in a cellar that holds 8 open fermenters. Every day I work in this cellar I manually clean a few of them. Once empty they are refilled almost immediately. Brewing has changed a lot in the last 50 years for the Germans so using these old methods of cellaring can be quiet frustrating or them. It's a funny thing: We all want our jobs to be easier but as soon as it becomes too easy the passion can be lost.

That's all for now. I have completely fallen in love with brewing again. Never stop learning.



  1. Way to sell me on German beer!

    Also, reading your post while listening to Mozart made it a spiritual experience. Well done.

  2. Tony! Stumbled upon this while going my G+ account... It's so great to read what you are up to. I remember the first time you and Justin brewed at the Huntington Blvd house.. It doesn't seem like that long ago. Hah... Enjoy your travels. Cheers man!