Q&A with Director of Brewing Operations John Stewart
Q: How did the recipe come about?
A: "We were looking to create a beer with some malt flavor that was still easy drinking so we focused on malt that would create some complex flavors while making sure it wasn't overly roasted or too extreme in one direction. When we were building the recipe we wanted to create a sort of hybrid version of a Schwarz bier and a Black Ale. The result was a very approachable malt beer."
Q: How long has the brand been around?
A: "The Black Ale was one of our original beers and has since then become one of our flagships, which was one we didn't necessarily plan on being a flagship. Usually beers like IPAs are the flagships for most breweries and I think that kind of speaks to our uniqueness here at Perrin."
Q: How did it quickly become a flagship beer?
A: "I think it’s the approachability. It’s a beer that people enjoy in both summer and winter seasons with it not being too high gravity or having too big of a body. Typically, when you think of malty beer you think of cold weather but the thing with Black is that it’s good all year. It was able to please craft beer enthusiasts of both spectrums. Next thing we knew it became our number one ordered and number one draft handle."
Q: What makes the beer so unique?
A: "It's a great introduction beer for the macro-drinker into craft beer. It's a beer that has a smooth dark malt character so when you see it you may think of a stout, roasted coffee or chocolate and while there are subtle hints of that, it’s not over-the-top. You get the complex flavors but with a light crisp body so when it finishes it’s easy drinking. Black is often confused as a Lager by a lot of people because it drinks so smoothly."
Q: Good food pairings with this beer?
A: "Black is a really good one because anytime you’re grilling or roasting food, it has that roasted malt flavor with a body light enough for more delicate food, where the beer doesn’t overpower it. It’s always great for burgers, steaks, and some people have even used it to make brownies."
Perrin Light Lager is a great grilling beer and pairs well with light snacks to start the party off. Large salted pretzels and chips & guacamole go great with such an easy drinking lager.
Beer City Bread
Keep it local and pick up Beer City Beard from local West Michigan Meijer store. Beer Cit Bread is full flavored and an excellent option for holiday grilling meals. Sliced thinly and coated in olive oil it can be grilled and used for a bruschetta base paired with Perrin Gold. Or use the bread as a bun for pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and pair with a malt forward Perrin Black.
Sides & Salads
Beers with a light body and some acidity are a good pairing for salads.
Try Passion Fruit Gose or Grapefruit IPA paired with a Strawberry and Goat cheese salad topped with some walnuts. The combination of acidity and fruit assists in cutting through the cheese and walnuts.
For dishes coming off the grill like chicken, try matching a light and malty Perrin Gold or Light Lager. (featured above is the classic beer-up-the-butt chicken with a Light Lager for a juicy and flavorful meat)
For a pork/ribs dish that is going to have some sweetness and caramelization, reach for a Perrin Black to match the roasted notes and BBQ sweetness.
Flipping up some mean burgers? No Problems Session IPA is your burger beer. One of Perrin's favorites is a blue-cheese stuffed burger topped with banana peppers. The malt cuts through the burger grease and cheese, while the hops pair well with your favorite toppings.
For steak most people lean towards a dark roasted malt forward beer, but for a summer grilling party pair a 98 Problems IPA with a freshly grilled steak seasoned with rosemary and flash seared in butter.
Nothing says summertime like S'mores over a campfire.
Perrin Smore’s Stout combines graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow with a hint of smoke and wood from Scotch barrel aging that brings you back to roasting marshmallows over a campfire. This beer pairs with all sorts of chocolate desserts and sweets.
If you stopped by the brewery for a bottle of No Rules at this year’s release, a Fourth of July party is a great opportunity to share with friends and a wonderful after BBQ dessert. Plus nothing says ‘Merica like 15% bourbon barrel aged beer.
What will you be drinking?
Brewer Master John is reaching for Perrin summertime favorites Grapefruit IPA & Passion Fruit Gose!
Q: Where did the inspiration for Rollin' Coal Stout come from?
A: My first ever home-brew was a Russian Imperial Stout and I am in love with stouts porters and browns.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the liquid, what can people expect when they try it?
A: When you get the beer first you see its black with a dark brown head. The aroma you get when you put it to your nose is chocolate and dark fruits. Once you taste the beer hints of raisins, plums and dates with sweet molasses finish.
Q: How did the name "Rollin' Coal Stout" come to fruition?
A: What can I say I love diesel trucks, the moment you hit the throttle the engine screaming making the coal roll. Stouts are my favorite style beer so put to together bam Rollin' Coal Stout.
Q: Were there any challenges you faced during the brewing process of this beer?
A: Well, when we were brewing there was a lot of specialty grains some of which we as a brewery have never used. We think with the amount of specialty grain dropped are Ph of the wort lower than expected. This just dried the beer out a little, but the dryness helps with the sweetness makes you want to drink more.
Q: Are there any other brewing styles you have any interest in brewing in the future?
A: I would love to do a barley wine one day something about barrel aging beer just makes that beer way more complex.
Q: What sparked your interest to become a part of the craft beer industry?
A: I love the freedom of what we do. Creating something we craft from start to finish that people can enjoy. And I could not drink bud light any more needed something didn't taste like shit.
Q: How long have you been with Perrin Brewing?
A: I have been with Perrin brewing company for 1 year and 4 months. It has been the best job I have ever had. People are great, the job is fun and best of all we make some awesome f***in' beer at Perrin Brewing Company.
ROLLIN' COAL STOUT, Russian Imperial Stout 10.7% ABV 47 IBU
Dark roasted malts combined with molasses give this beer a full body, with dark fruit, plum & raisin notes and a color that is as dark as the smoke rolling out of your diesel truck. We added five pounds of Chicory root to combine chocolate and coffee notes creating a full flavored stout.
Written by Jesse Weinkauf, Brewer
The New England style of IPAs has now firmly seated itself in the brewing repertoires of many of Michigan’s well-established breweries as well as some of the newer ones. Some tend to scoff at the hazy, unfiltered nature of the beers that fall into this increasingly popular category, and their concerns of settling and shelf stability do not fall on deaf ears. After all, these beers do have some issues pertaining to stability. They are definitely less stable than the majority of other styles that exist namely due to the lack of filtering. But this is not a concern for me, nor is it a concern for the many lovers of the style. Why you ask? Because, these beers are meant to be drank as fresh as possible. They are not being brewed to sit on store shelves for a certain amount of time or to spend possibly the same amount of time in the hands of a distributor.
Most East Coast brewers producing this style are doing so in amounts just large enough to sell out in a couple days of being packaged. That’s the nature of the beast at hand. According to Tree House Brewing’s Twitter account, they are “Freshness Crusaders.” They specifically tell people to never cellar their beer, not even their darker styles. They produce enough beer to sell out in a short period of time. They usually start selling pours of their beers as well as canned versions the same day they are packaged or at the latest the next day. They also do not distribute their beer so the only way the public can obtain any of it is to travel directly to the brewery or to get it from someone who has been there. This is obviously a different business model from a production brewery, but smaller batches can be made in-order-to ensure the product moves in a timely fashion.
Onto the style itself. We at Perrin are lucky to have a reverse osmosis system. This gives us a blank slate in terms of mash water. We start with neutral RO water and then build our salt and acid profile for each beer brewed here. New England style IPAs focus on the chloride to sulfate ratios in terms of mash water. The chloride part tends to lend to mouthfeel and haze retention and the sulfate part affects more the hop character and bitterness. Acid additions such as lactic are added during mash-in to control PH and later in the boil to accentuate the tropical fruit characteristics of certain hops. Using acidulated malt is another way to control the PH of the mash. Whatever method is used, a soft mouthfeel and a solid haze is sought after.
As far as the preferred malt bill in this style of beer, brewers are primarily staying away from most caramel/crystal malts in favor of just a base grain such as 2-row coupled with wheat and flaked oats and maybe a lower Lovibond specialty malt for some added color. Caramel characteristics are not desired for the style, whereas bready flavors or even something more neutral is preferred. Flaked adjuncts such as oats help give a creamy and soft mouthfeel to the beer. The malt character is meant to be a support for the amazing hop aromas and flavors, but not a dominant player like it is in most Midwest style IPAs. These are not “malty” beers, but rather hop monsters.
Speaking on the hops that are primarily used, brewers seek cultivars such as Galaxy, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Nelson, Motueka, etc. that have intense tropical fruit characteristics that lend themselves so well to these IPAs. Big flavors and big aromas are the name of the game here. Usually the bittering comes from the last 10 to 15 minutes of the boil and not from the beginning. First wort hopping or start of boil hopping is kept to a minimum since this tends to produce a harsher bitterness. Late boil hopping in large amounts allows us to obtain our desired IBUs, but a much softer bitterness compared to most other types of IPAs. Massive whirlpool additions lend mostly to the aroma and the flavor with a small effect on IBUs which lessens as the temp drops below 200 degrees. Some breweries will even run the finished wort through their heat exchangers and back into the whirlpool vessel before adding the whirlpool hops in-order-to lower the temp to a desired amount and lessen the IBU increase. This does, however, increase the chances of DMS formation and possible infection so care must be taken if this is the desired method. Either way, whirlpool additions are a must.
Yeast choice is crucial here as well. English strains seem to be the favorited types used in these beers. They tend to not flocculate as well as American types, which lends to haze retention, and the fruity esters that form from these strains accentuate the fruitiness of the hops used. Traditional American strains such as California Ale can be used and will still create great beers, but a lot of the New England-y character comes from those fruity esters.
Dry hopping this style is where the real magic happens. Massive dry hop amounts in the range of 2 to 4 lbs per barrel are desired using hops with high total oil content such as Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra for example. Higher total oil means more flavor and more aroma from the dry hop charge. Brewers are even experimenting with cryo-processed hop hashes that contribute aroma and flavor in a much more concentrated form. Whatever hops you decide to dry hop with, daily agitation is key.
In conclusion, however you decide to package the beer, whether it be in cans, kegs or both, the flavors will dance across your tongue and into the realm of the olfactory where the scents of ripe mango and orange juice mix with some pine and pineapple, and maybe a little bit of berry as well. No matter your like or possible dislike of the style, I do not believe for a single second that East Coast IPAs are going away. They are here to stay and they have proven to be more than a legitimate style of beer. For some breweries they are a way of life.
Cheers and many more hoppy beers
Written by Adam LeClaire, Logistics Manager
Like a lot of people, I really enjoy traveling. I like the new experiences that come with it and getting the chance to see someplace new, but I also enjoy the subtle differences you can notice when traveling to a new place. Hell, I even enjoy putting my headphones in and navigating airports as an anonymous member of the crowd. A recent trip to Yakima, Washington with our Director of Brewing Operations, John Stewart, to select the hops we will be using in 2018 was another great opportunity to get out of the office and experience a few new things.
The trip first took us to Seattle, where we spent a day noticing subtle differences in culture that lead us to realize just how uptight the Midwest can be. For example, U-turns are perfectly legal in Washington and here in Michigan we often can’t even make a normal left hand turn (hence the “Michigan Left”). We had to be a little touristy and hit Pikes Place Market, where we loaded up on some amazing seafood for a few meals and spent some time just taking in the spectacle of it all. From there we decided to explore a few of Washington’s fine recreational marijuana dispensaries. Without getting political, why would this not be a thing in Michigan? Midwestern uptightness, that’s why. Oh, and we also checked out a few breweries along the way too. Fremont Brewing was a favorite of mine given that they had cold brewed coffee on tap and a cool open-air atmosphere.
Before making the three hour(ish) drive out to Yakima, we thought it important to load up on coffee. And here’s where more subtle nuances pop up – not only does Washington have a ton of small, drive through coffee stands to get your fix, you can even get served by a barista in a g-string. Once again we wondered why this isn’t a thing in Michigan. Titty-coffee in hand, we took the long way to Yakima to take in the sights of Mt. Rainer. Although it was a bit less visible due to forest fire smoke, the area surrounding the mountain is gorgeous and make the drive much more enjoyable.
Once we were out in Yakima, we got down to the business of professionally smelling things; in this case hops. Each year we make this trip not to buy new hops, but to select exactly which hops we will be using for the upcoming year. As the farmers begin harvesting their crops, the hop brokers allow brewers to evaluate samples from each farm and pick the lot that they think best suits the beers they are making. The process is simple but more difficult than you would think. For each hop variety that you are selecting the broker will place 4 – 8 samples of the same hop on the table. One by one, you make your way through each sample taking note of the physical appearance of the hops as well as making a careful critique of the aromas. In the end, the sample that you feel best fits your beers is the one that wins out.
Given that we are part of the Oskar Blues family, we aren’t doing this alone. In addition to us, there were folks from two Oskar Blues locations, Cigar City, and the Utah Brewers Cooperative – that’s a lot of years of brewing experience standing around the table. Although many of us are using different hops or using the same hops in different ways, it’s great to have such a strong group to draw opinions from. Again, trying to distinguish between a half dozen samples of the same hop variety becomes an exercise in splitting hairs, but it could be much worse.
Outside of actual selections, we had a chance to tour farms and processing facilities. One morning we had the chance to spend some time in an experimental hop field checking out different new hops that may or may not ever see commercial use. It’s interesting to see the different directions that hop breeders are trying to take the plant. We also had the chance to see a few of the areas where hop cones are processed into pellets for commercial brewing use. I always find it interesting to see the processing end of things, if for no other reason than they have a lot of really cool equipment to do the work.
When we weren’t smelling hops, looking at hops growing in a field, or looking at hop processing equipment we were probably eating tacos. Another subtle difference between being in a different part of the country is the higher taco consumption rates we encountered. I think most people in Michigan would be a little hesitant to eat tacos from a dilapidated food truck in a laundromat parking lot, but in Yakima, we flocked to it. I can’t put an exact number on how many tacos I personally took down during the week, but it seemed like a never-ending cycle of eating tacos until the point of physical pain and then dealing with taco shame for the hours that followed.
Finally, the trip had to come to an end with a long drive back to Seattle, one last titty-coffee, and flights back to Michigan. While I’ll miss being able to cut across four lanes of traffic to pull a u-turn, CBD candy and knowing what my barista’s buttcheeks look like; it’s good to be home. Oh, and it’s good to know that we’ll be using some amazing hops in beers to come.
Written by Connor Klopcic, Brewer
On Saturday, September 9 Perrin Brewing Company’s celebrated their 5-year anniversary. I’ll first start out by saying “wow, that has gone by really fast.” I have been with Perrin for 2 and a half years now and it does not seem that long. I’d like to tell you what the anniversary party is like from a brewer’s perspective and everything that we had going on.
The number one thing about our anniversary parties is how awesome it is to see how many people come out to drink the beer that we made. It is amazing to see every single person who walks through that gate drinking something the Perrin team have worked so hard to make. Along with that, hearing what people have to say gives a sense of pride in our everyday work. Hearing everybody’s thoughts on Perrin beer and talking to people one on one, makes us understand why brewing is such a great profession. It’s not because we get to drink beer all day every day, whenever we want. It’s because we get to create something that people enjoy and can share over and over.
Malted Milk Ball Imperial Porter was released on draft, in bottles, and in a specialty Firkin. Malted Milk Ball went over very well, there were many comments on how much people enjoyed drinking that beer. Once the beer warms up, the chocolate notes come out to blend with vanilla and bourbon notes. These really came through after a few sips. Perrin Light Lager was also released on Saturday. This was an experiment to see if people would want to drink a craft light lager, and the answer is yes. This was the first time Perrin’s Light Lager was released to the public and has already sold out. There will be more to come.
Besides people coming out for beer, Perrin Party had a lot of entertainment for guests while they were drinking. The cornhole tournament went off without a hitch, having spots filled days before, there were over 100 cornhole participants. There were 6 bands who were all amazing. Paradise Outlaw, hi-ker, Miss Atomic, The Crane Wives, Jake Kershaw, and Papa Vegas. Bands started at 4pm and went until 11pm. It was great to have nice weather and great music, it made everyone happy and kept the energy up the entire day.
There were a lot of people making custom Perrin shirts at the party as well. Citizen Shirt was there with 8 different templates and a couple different shirts that people could choose from with different ink colors to customize whatever Perrin shirt they wanted. It was very cool to see a bunch of people walking around in custom Perrin shirts that are personalized with their own unique style. Speaking of custom, you could have had a customized glass etched with whatever you would like on the side. They had pint glasses, wine glasses, and everything in between.
Food trucks, who doesn’t love food trucks? No Rules brisket tacos from Daddy Pete’s BBQ, What the Truck, Blue Spoon and phenomenal pizza from Pizzaiolo Wood Fired Pizza out of a food truck! Not only was there hand-crafted beer and food but there was hand rolled cigars. Beautifully crafted cigars were available in the cigar lounge to be enjoyed with Malted Milk Ball, and a bonfire. It was a really cool area of the party.
WZZM 13 came out to talk to people and cover the party, they filmed people enjoying beers, playing cornhole, dancing to the music, sipping and smoking by the fire and conducted a couple interviews as well. There was even a drone flying around taking aerial pictures throughout the day and the night, which can be seen on our Facebook page.
I would like to personally thank everyone who came out and volunteered their time to help us put this party on, and all the hard work they put into it. I would also like to thank everyone who attended Perrin’s 5 Year Anniversary Party. It is your loyal beer drinking that has allowed us to grow over the past 5 years and throw a party like this one every year. Thank you for your continued support which will allow us to throw a bigger and better party next year! Enjoy all the Perrin beer you can get a hold of.
Perrin Brew Team
Packaging the beer is one of the most important parts of the brewing process. The individuals that work in the packaging department are charged with ensuring the beer we can, bottle or keg is of the highest quality and fits the needs of the consumer. The normal day starts with checking the carbonation level of the beer. After the carb level is to our standards, we then move onto sanitizing the necessary line, whether it is the can line, keg line, or bottling line. After the sanitation is done, we put the product into the proper container and ensure that there are no leaks or dents. Throughout the entire process, there are various quality checks that need to be done. This could be as simple as making sure the fill level of the container(s) is correct or could get as difficult as making sure the seams on the cans seal correctly and meet our standards. Once everything is said and done, the process then transfers to the warehouse department, where the wonderful Perrin product is sent out to you, the consumer.
What are some variations we can see from the packaging crew?
We package a lot of different products and use a lot of different vessels to do so. The consumer has seen us use 12oz, 22oz and 750ml bottles. The bottles have been wax dipped, crowned, cork and cage and bottle conditioned. We use preprinted cans and hand labeled cans (this is new for our canned sour series and other special beers). We have also done ‘one off’ kegs (sour, barrel aged, etc.) and firkins.
Why is packaging viewed as the last defense in the brewing process?
Our philosophy of ensuring a quality product starts with our procurement of raw materials and does not stop until the consumer drinks our product. Our job in packaging is to ensure every individual unit (up to 24,000 cans and 300 kegs a day) is to the highest quality. It is packaging’s job to guarantee the highest quality product by running multiple QC checks, some in which can be very precise including seam checks on our cans that need to be within .003 inches, our carbonation levels need to be within .04 volumes. Now that we are expanding our market reach, many consumers first impression of Perrin Brewing Co. will come from one of our cans. So for our loyal consumers and our first timers, we work hard to guarantee it is an awesome recurring impression or first impression.
Who are the guys on the crew?
The packaging department is comprised of 9 people. The Packaging Manager Josh Stewart, 1st and 2nd Shift Leads Cody Dykstra and Josh Wilkinson, and 6 packaging wizards in Casey Conley, Jacob Cutler, Kurtis Lown, Grant Trisch, Drew Bond, and EÓin Klopcic. The following questions were answered by each of them.
What is your favorite Perrin Beer? Why?
Kurtis: Lil Griz! I can get that delicious bourbon barrel aged taste and have a few without getting obliterated.
Grant: The Dangler
Jacob: No Rules. It tastes great, is sweet and I look forward to a different colored bowling ball every year!
Casey: Grapefruit IPA. It is the perfect thirst quencher.
EÓin: The Dangler
Cody: No Problems. It’s a session IPA so I can drink it all day
Josh W: Razzberry Blonde. What can I say, I’m a fruity guy……
Favorite song to sing karaoke to?
Kurti: Ooooooo Uuuuuuuuh…… ummmmm I used to be a big Billy Idol guy but I would have to say that my new go to is Du Hast by Rammstein. Also, Maneater by Hall and Oates.
Grant: Professional rappers or broccoli…..
Jacob: I don’t really do karaoke but my favorite song to sing is I Spy.
Casey: Mmmmm by Crash Test Dummies
Drew: Pump Up The Jam
EÓin: Shake That
Cody: Friends in Low Places
Josh W: Sad But True
What is your favorite part of the packaging process?
Kurtis: Licking the tops of all the can lids
Grant: Shooting dented or torn cans into the bin while yelling “KOBE!!!”
Jacob: Being with the boys
Drew: Making boxes……………. And friends………
EÓin: Hand throwing cans onto the line
Cody: Making the beer readily accessible to your mouth.
Josh W: Kegging. It’s a great way to work out without going to the gym..
What is your favorite movie?
Kurtis: Brokeback mountain
Grant: Inglorious Basterds
Jacob: Pulp Fiction
Casey: Boondock Saints 2- All Saints Day
Drew: Star Wars VI
EÓin: The Hobbit-Battle of the Five Armies
Cody: Pirates and Bad Boys 2
Josh W: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (not Charlie!) and The Wizard of Oz
What is your role at Perrin Brewing Company?
I brew beer for the masses to enjoy.
What is your favorite beer on tap?
I would have to go with You Bretta Run, simply because of its low ABV and crisp, clean easy drinkability on a hot or cold day.
What is your all-time favorite Perrin beer?
Well, that’s a no-brainer, Of Rice & Men. I guess No Rules is alright as well.
What are your Hobbies?
When I’m not at work you will find me at home playing with my kids, trying to build something from scratch or on the golf course. I also enjoy hunting and fishing but it’s sometimes hard to find the time.
Who would you do a collaboration brew with?
I’ve always thought it would be cool to do a brew with Sam Calagione the Founder of Dogfish head brewing. He really gets creative with his beers and thinks outside the box and I like that. He is a great role model to have in the craft beer industry.
Best west Michigan place to drink?
I really like The Reservoir (or Sazaracs) on Plainfield. It has a great atmosphere and a great beer selection and never too crowded.
What got you into brewing?
I always wanted to brew but didn’t know quite how to get into it until a buddy brought his setup to my place. I was hooked after that first batch. Being able to create something out of raw grains that friends can enjoy and converse over is a great feeling.
What is your favorite sports team?
Well, obviously the Detroit Lions. One of these years I won’t be let down…hopefully…
What is your go-to food item at Perrin Brewing?
I gotta go with the boneless wings with black ale bbq sauce and jalapeno ranch as my dipper.
If you could take three items with you to a deserted island, what would they be?
A picture of the family, a Firestarter and a machete lol
Josh Stewart is the Safety Manager and Packaging Manager here at Perrin Brewing Co. This fall will mark his third year with the company. These are a few things he would like to share with you:
What do you do here?
Imagine Auguste Rodin’s statue, The Thinker, add about 15 lbs of muscle to him and you pretty much have what I do here in bronze form. I started out in packaging, moved to the cellar (coldside), spent almost a year brewing (hotside), somewhere in-between the two I adopted a safety culture and as well I am the Packaging Manager. It has been a neat transition and I believe I am one of only two employees that are competent in all production areas (someone fact check that).
What is your favorite beer?
My favorite beer to drink is an American lager, My favorite beer to brew is QStew
Do you have any hobbies?
I am about as cool now as I was in high school (flash back to high school and I am sitting alone at lunch playing Pokemon Red on the Gameboy laughing at my own jokes). Just kidding. I enjoy football, so you can catch me playing in flag football tournaments or coaching high school football in the Fall. I also enjoy cooking, reading books and watching movies.
If you are not at work, what can we find you doing?
I am a HUGE homebody; you can find me with my wife and son and our dogs if I am not at work. We try to do a lot as a family: go to the zoo, play outside, go to Grandma’s, or anything else that fosters a fun family time.
Who would you do a collaboration brew with?
I get teased about this but I really enjoy drinking hard cider. I have volunteered and judged at a few competitions and enjoy the sense of nature that ciders offer. It makes sense then that I would like to do a brew with Thistly Cross or Woodchuck.
I listen to country, Top 40, some hard rock, but my default radio station is normally WCSG.
Favorite Sports Team?
Michigan State Spartans
What is your favorite Perrin Lunch Item?
Chicken wings, half Parmesan Garlic-half black ale BBQ
If beer could talk I am sure it would have a dynamic vocabulary, all except this style which can only say “I am Gruit!” Pronounced grew-it, this is a versatile beer style. But what exactly is it, a sentient hop plant from space? Quite the contrary, a gruit is a beer made without hops. But as we have come to learn hops give beer their excellent flavor and stability against contaminants. So why purposely make a beer without them?
Hop usage in beer is actually a relatively new innovation to its history. Most beer made before this time proved to be unpalatably sweet and would spoil within days. The sweetness came from the malt that was used, and later adding hops balanced the sweet with bitter to find a pleasant middle. But due to many reasons in many areas around the world hops were not used as the bitterness component in the beer.
Beer since its inception has always been considered by many to be a sustaining drink. But this is even more so true in the past where most brewing was done by monks and churches. They wanted to impart a healthy alternative in the dark ages to the drinking water that had dead people floating in it (thanks barbarians). So, due to boiling the water, the slight benefits of alcohol in moderation, and the addition of spices which gave critically needed nutrients to a poor diet the first true gruit was born.
It also cannot be denied that the U.K. has had an incredible influence on beer history. In the past England tried to ensure it kept its edge in the industry and decided to levy heavy taxes on what they assumed to be the most important ingredient in brewing, hops. Intrepid brewers however found ways around this with local bittering plants. The Scottish for example made beers bittered with heather, giving a unique flavor to the product. The Irish also used what was plentiful to them, spruce tips. In this example taxation led to the gruit being reborn.
A muddled view of history would paint the gruit as a beer of opportunity or necessity, only being made when poor water or taxes demanded it. But is this the case? Yes, it is. A modern gruit is just a beer that a brewer skimped on ingredients and still wants you to drink saying that all the hipsters are doing it. Okay all kidding aside, the gruit is a very versatile beer style richly steeped in history and tradition. It allows for flavor combinations nearly impossible in conventional ales or lagers, and does still hold beneficial nutritious effects. The next time a gruit passes your way give it a try!
Written by Bryan Bastow, Brewer & Quality Control Manager
Sour beers seem to produce two extreme opinions, they are either loved or hated passionately. As professional brewers, we expel great effort and focus extensively on ensuring our beer is a clean stable product, free of any off flavors or microbiological contamination. We do anything we possibly can to prevent our beer from being spoiled, ruined, or degraded by unwanted organisms such as wild yeast or lactic acid producing bacteria. But in all honesty avoiding such microbes doesn’t always hold true for all the beers we make. As drinkers of Perrin might know, we really like to make sour beers. Sour beers are produced using either wild yeast, bacteria, or a mixture of the two. That means that the very same microorganisms that would be considered a terrible contamination in most of our beers, are also used to ferment and create the great sour beers we love. I have always found the irony of this situation slightly entertaining and I believe it is an excellent example of how varied and expansive beer styles can be from one another. It’s an interesting concept to look at these microbes as a contamination and problem in normal beer production, and then use them as a tool and necessity in sour brewing.
Even more intriguing is that I’m truly in the cross roads of this double-sided mindset. As the QC/Lab manager at Perrin I’m personally in charge of ensuring that all our flagship beers are free of any microbial contamination. This is accomplished through extensive microbiological testing at several stages throughout the brewing process. On one end, our production team works tirelessly to keep wild yeast and bacteria out of our beer at all costs. On the other end of the spectrum, I love being a part of making sour beers and using these microbes to produce acidic, mouth-puckering, delicious sours. Making both high quality clean beer and sour beer requires a great deal of knowledge and skill to do so. Although they may differ greatly regarding ingredients, fermentation, and the aging process we try to make sure both are held up to the same high standard of quality. Brewing sour beer is really a different world, and I love being on both sides of that fence getting to experience brewing a wide range of beers at Perrin.
Most beer, including our mainstay, seasonal, and flagship beers are fermented using either an ale yeast strain (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) or lager strain (Saccharomyces pastorianus, carlsbergensis). These yeast species have been selected and cultured over hundreds of years to perform fermentation and create flavor profiles in a very consistent and predictable manner. These “culture” yeast strains, used in the vast majority of beer production, are often referred to as “clean beers”. They are fermented using a single yeast culture or strain and any other microbe in the beer would be unwanted and considered a contamination. So…. if there is “clean beer” there must be the opposite or “unclean” beer. You guessed it; that would be sour beer. Producing sour beer is a totally different mindset revolving around unique fermentation and maturation processes. It can be made using a large array of wild yeast and/or bacteria strains. There can be one or several strains blended together depending on the desired flavor profile the brewer is looking to achieve. These mixed cultures in sour beers are ironically the exact organisms that would be a nightmare if found in our normal production brews. Although sour beers contain wild yeast and bacterial strains, that doesn’t mean any random microbe can be allowed to grow in the beer. These beers are still produced using a pure culture strain(s) that creates very specific flavors. When brewers design a new beer or recipe they envision a certain overall flavor profile, with specific characteristics and attributes. From there they assemble the exact ingredients and brewing procedures that will create the beer’s qualities precisely as they intended. When making sour beer the brewer intentionally inoculates the beer with a bacteria strain to produce a desired flavor. Any microbe that is present in the beer and wasn’t intended to be by the brewer is concerned a problem. Such organisms can create off flavors or a flavor profile different from what was planned. Therefore, sour beer can still have a contamination issue if there is any organism present besides the originally intended culture strains.
Although from a micro stand point sour beer differs greatly, all Perrin beer follows the same general outline and quality standards. The single cell organisms present will perform the fermentation process in which the sugars are broken down and converted to produce ethanol, CO2, and many other by products. There are many by-product compounds created by the yeast during fermentation. Some of these by-product chemicals have very distinct flavors and descriptors, and they can contribute strong flavor characteristics in the final product. Therefore, some yeast strains will help determine the final flavor profile of the beer, which is appropriate for many styles. The most commonly used culture yeast (such as our house yeast) is relatively neutral, which means it doesn’t produce high levels of these fermentation by-products. This means that our house Saccharomyces yeast does not greatly determine the beer’s main flavor characteristics, where as other strains may.
Wild yeast and bacteria used in beer production contributes greatly to the beer’s flavor profile. Wild yeast strains are known for making funky, spicy, horsey, peppery, and fruity flavors that are very distinct and unique. The bacteria used in making sour beers, such as Lactobacillus or Pediococcus produce acid. These bacteria contribute a great deal of flavor, most noticeably being the intense tart, sharp, and acidic aspects. Good sour beers having a range of acids at varying levels creating a well-balanced and layered acidity that is easy and pleasant to drink. Lactic acid bacteria also take much longer to ferment than cultured ale yeast. It could take months to over a year to fully complete fermentation and finish the beer’s profile. For these reasons a mixture of bacterial strains is sometimes the way to go, as different bacteria can create different levels of acids and flavors over time.
Despite the many differences between clean and sour fermented beer, they also have some similarities as well. All beer made at Perrin undergoes extensive testing and evaluation to insure no unwanted microbes are present and no off flavors have been produced. Despite how it may seem, sour brewing at Perrin is actually very tightly controlled and monitored to produce specific acid levels, flavors, and aroma. Both clean and sour fermented products are subjected to analytical, sensory, and microbiological testing. I believe this high standard of quality for sour beer is something that sets Perrin Brewing Co. apart from many other breweries that take a crack at making sours. I’m proud to say that our sour beers are held up to the same quality standards as all our clean fermented beers. All this testing verifies that everything goes as planned and we reach the original design of the beer. At every stage of the process we do quality checks to make sure no contamination has taken place and the flavor profile has developed as the brewer envisioned it.
Clean and sour beers are kept separate and use designated tanks, hoses, parts, etc. to avoid cross contamination. Although this is true, they both follow the same high quality standards. My position in the brewery lab makes me particularly nervous, obsessive, and probably annoying to others when it comes to having sour beer in our production brewery. Since sour beer contains organisms that can cause some serious problems with our flagship beers, they must be processed and stabilized to avoid cross contamination. Sour beer is put through a process called sterile filtration which removes all the wild yeast and bacteria used during fermentation and aging. From that point on it is very stable and will not have any problems in package during aging. If this stabilization process were not to occur there could be many problems that arise in the package product over time. Some of the issues could be re-fermentation in the bottle that causes pressure to build, creating bottle bombs or gushing beer. The beer could also turn “sour” in a very bad way that can be noticed by a vinegar flavor stemming from acetic acid production by the un-removed microbes. Sterile filtration or pasteurization of sour beer insures that it is stable and will be good to drink for a very long time. Considering the huge amount of work and effort put into making sour beers it is only right to finish the beer properly and make sure no issues can occur in package, resulting in wasted beer.
All in all, the duality of making clean and sour beers is one of my favorite aspects of brewing. Both styles require specific knowledge and care to produce well, although the process for each differs greatly and may seem contradictory to one another. Making sour beer is much like making modern wine in my opinion. It requires blending of different aged barrels and acidity levels to achieve a precise flavor profile and overall balance. It is truly an art in of itself and I have great respect for the beer and those brewers who make world class sours. The vast difference from a light-bodied mild lager or ale to a radical sour with high acidity shows that the drastic range of beer styles is greater than any other beverage. No other alcoholic or fermented beverage has such a wide range of flavors, techniques, processes, ingredients, and styles. It is a thing of beauty and for us brewers it gives us a constant source of experimentation to expand our brewing abilities and mind set.
It’s awesome getting to do something different and interesting like making sour beers. Brewing is my biggest passion due to the fact it is ever changing and extremely diverse. When it comes to beer styles, the spectrum seems endless and is full of drastically different procedures, flavors, colors, aromas, and more. Having all these opportunities for exploration, such as sour beers, is what keeps this profession interesting and exciting. I love working at a brewery that produces such a wide range of beers and beer styles. Our day to day operations produce huge quantities of our flagship beers that make up the strong majority of our production and sales. I like to think of these beers as clean and well-balanced, made methodically to produce solid, reliable product with high quality and consistency. On the completely opposite end of that spectrum is our sour program, which slowly produces small sized batches of specialty beers. The ordered chaos that is sour beer fermentation and aging is unlike any of our production beers. There is an element of unknown and spontaneity in sours that keeps us on our toes and allows for an injection of creativity every time a new sour is released. Both ends of this spectrum are great to be involved with, and I do my best to learn and master these styles. Knowing these beers have different needs and require different environmental factors and procedures, ensures brewing will never be the same every single day. Most days will try to fine tone our mainstays beers in effort to create the highest consistency and quality possible. Then others days will consistent of taming the sour beast and listening to what the beer’s telling you. Being a brewer demands you to wear many different hats and that you have the ability to adapt and improvise. A brewery cannot produce both world class sour beer and clean beer with a single-minded view. Making sour beer is such a tangent from normal beer it requires a whole new set of skills and knowledge. As someone who loves to learn new techniques and methods, sour beer offers an entirely new rabbit hole to jump down.
I feel sour beer is really on the rise in popularity in America and we will see much more of these styles over the following years. With that change, more and more brewers will produce sour beers and play the game of clean vs. sour beer production. I know at Perrin we try to recreate or mimic traditional sour brewing techniques, characteristics, and methods while mixing in the use of modern technology and science. Putting sours through the same extensive quality testing as clean beer allows us to make a sour beer that is not only very high quality but also very consistent and reproducible, which is something not usually associated with traditional sour beer. I hope that craft beer drinkers continue to educate and expand their palates to accept and understand delicious sour styles. When done correctly, well-made sour beer products could be some of the best beers in the world. For the sake of being able to continue to make sour beer, I’m going to do my best to convince everyone that sours are truly some of the best beers on the planet. I would greatly encourage everyone to develop an appreciation and gratitude of these powerful, complex, unique, intricate, and even refined styles.
Written by Sheldon King, Cellarman
Have you ever wondered how your favorite beer got its name? Maybe its a play on words or a phrase. Maybe its named after the types of hops or other ingredients used to make it. It could possibly be named after a tool or piece of equipment commonly used in a brewery. Or maybe its named something completely asinine just because. Whatever the case may be, it is the goal for every person naming a beer to come up with something unique. But what some people might think is a fun and easy job is actually an extremely difficult task.
When it was my turn to brew a beer for our Brewers Series I wanted to come up with a name that not only described the beer but was also slightly witty. I sat down and came up with a list of about 15 names and picked out my favorites. I got on Google and started searching for originality. One by one the names got crossed off my list until they were all gone. Out of 15 names, not a single one was original. There were actually a few names that were in use by multiple breweries. At that point I started searching random names that came into my head until I finally found one that brought up no search results. Was it my favorite? No. Was it funny? Nope. Did it describe the beer? Yes, and that was good enough for me after being denied all the other names.
With over 3,000 breweries in the U.S. alone, imagine the tens of thousands of beer names that have already been taken. With new beers being brewed every day, the names are only going to get weirder and weirder. So next time you see a beer name that you think is stupid, realize that maybe it was their 16th choice and ran out of other options.
Do you think you have what it takes to be a Master Beer Namer? Leave a comment with a beer style and what you would name it, maybe you will see it appear on our tap list someday!
Written by Adam LeClaire, Logistics Manager
One thing that never gets old in this industry is hanging out at different breweries. I always find it interesting to see how different people go about making beer in their own way. This past week I was given the opportunity to visit one of our sister breweries in Salt Lake City, UT – The Utah Brewers Cooperative. This brewery is unique in that it produces two separate lines of beer under that brand names Wasatch Brewery and Squatters Craft Beers.
The reason behind the trip was to learn about a computer system, Orchestrated Beer, that UBC uses. We’ll be knee deep in this system by the time anyone reads this. The experience in seeing the system in operation was extremely valuable, but I couldn’t think of a less interesting topic to read about than brewery ERP systems.
A walk through UBC easily shows how it has grown over the years. It’s easy to tell where new areas were added throughout the years as the brewery has grown. They house a 50 bbl brewhouse, a host of fermentation and bright tank space, and a combination canning/bottling line which is visible from a small pub. Aside from the main production brewery, they also have an offsite warehouse, a brewpub in downtown SLC, a brewpub in Park City, a restaurant in the Vivint Arena, and a restaurant in the airport. I was able to see the majority of it, but I never made it to Park City and I wasn’t about to fight against the traffic of a Jazz game to check out the restaurant in the arena.
Having never been to Salt Lake City, I took a night to walk around the downtown area to check out the city. It was impressive to see that although the city is a similar size to Grand Rapids, it has much more of a “big city” feel. I spent my other two nights in town exploring the nearby mountains. I was even able to meet up with a group of runners to climb Grandeur Peak just outside of town. Running in the mountains is quite a bit different than Michigan, but the view of the city was amazing from the top.
Salt Lake City is an awesome place, but the liquor laws of Utah are something else. Confusing doesn’t begin to explain it. For starters, you cannot pour a beer over 4% ABV on draught anywhere in the state – you can only serve “high point” beers from a bottle or can. There are a slew of different liquor licenses that a restaurant may have, but the most confusing that I encountered was at a small brewery I visited. In order for them to serve you alcohol, you had to be physically sitting AND order an entrée. They would only serve people who “had the intent to eat” when they came in. There was also something about not allowing children to see someone mixing drinks, but I can’t begin to explain that one.
All in all, it was great to be exposed to a different brewery for a few days. Everyone at The Utah Brewers Cooperative was amazingly friendly and welcoming. I’m happy to have made a few more friends in this industry and hopefully a few people I can call once this new computer system revolts on us.
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the November 2016 issue of All About Beer Magazine. Click here to subscribe.
Since the start of his brewing career nearly a dozen years ago, John Stewart has been lucky to work with barrels. From New Holland Brewing Co., where he was responsible for barrel aging Dragon’s Milk, to Saugatuck Brewing Co., where he launched a wood program. Now at Perrin Brewing Co., where he works as director of brewing operations, Stewart has learned from the wood and is eager to share his knowledge.
All About Beer: What do you think is the biggest misconception about barrel aging?
John Stewart: You can’t work with deadlines and dates. The beer is ready when it tells me it’s ready. We can ballpark it from previous experience, but it’s about putting the beer in the best environment and keeping it as consistent as we can to get the beer to the peak point. It can’t be too short or too long; it’s gotta be the right window. That’s why when I hear of places just putting a beer in for over a year or a year and a half because that sounds like a good time from a sales pitch perspective, and I just wonder why they would do that to the beer.
So how do you know when a beer is ready?
Usually, specifically with a high-alcohol barrel-aged beer, I’m looking to take out some of the alcohol warmth, to smooth out the sharp corners and to let the flavor profiles meld together. It should be layered and complex without sharp notes. So it depends on the barrel and the beer. We might only get that with a second- or third-use barrel, and we’re sitting around, waiting, tasting and waiting for the spirit to come through. With sour beers it’s letting the microorganisms do their thing. If you have [Pediococcus] in a beer, you’re just waiting for the Brettanomyces to kick in and chew up the diacetyl produced from the Pedio. As the Belgian brewers say, it’s gotta get sick before it gets better and moving in the right direction. So there’s always a lot of anticipation and loss of sleep worrying about these beers and great joy when they start turning and tasting the way you want.
Patience seems to be key.
It’s like a domesticated animal versus nondomesticated. You whistle and a dog will come, sit and shake. A cat will ignore you. The more you try to control it, the more they run away from you. When I’m in the brew house, I like to know what sour bacteria I’m pitching. I love to control pitch amounts, pH level and total acidity, but at some point I need to let go. It’s like beekeeping, I grew up with bees, and we would tell people you take the hive, give them the best environment and they do the magic. It’s a lot like that with sour beers. I do the best I can, get the right temperature, humidity, barrel purge and then wait back and hold my breath that it doesn’t go acetic. You’re waiting, and sometimes you’re wonderfully surprised and other times it’s taken a hard left turn. Then you have to dump.
What misconception of barrel-aged beers would you like to change?
There’s so much availability of bourbon barrels and stouts and that’s where “wood-aged” immediately goes in people’s minds: A big 13% Russian Imperial Stout that goes down like a shot of whiskey. We try to break the mold a little bit. We have a 6.8% “session barrel-aged beer” where you can have a full pint because it’s on the lighter side. Or how people say don’t put hoppy beers in barrels because it imparts too much bitterness. But if you brew in a certain way, like an IPA without late addition or whirlpooling, you can get better results. We do one in tequila barrels like that, and the pine of the IPA really comes through and is a great complement to the barrel character. There is constant growth and learning with barrels. We have to learn and relearn, because it’s an evolving game.
There’s a lot of attention paid to bourbon barrels, but what do you see as the next frontier?
Oak alternatives. There’s maple spirals and birch and other things that can impart unique flavors that go beyond the vanilla and coconut that we find in American oak. There are coopers working with a wide range of woods these days. I recently had a porter aged in sassafras, and it imparted this wonderful pistachio nut flavor from the wood. That was pretty cool. There is so much wood you can play around with in a lifetime and not get bored.
–This interview was conducted and edited by John Holl, editor of All About Beer Magazine.
Written by Bill VanEenenaam, Lead Brewer
Home brewing is something that got many of us at Perrin interested in becoming professional brewers. It typically starts with enjoying craft beer or your first IPA. The eyes light up wondering what this new flavor and aroma combination is that you are experiencing. Well home brewing is the answer to get to the bottom of it and find out.
You get online, do your research and you’re off to the local homebrew store for a starter and recipe kit. You borrow the biggest stock pot your great aunt Gertrude has. After a brief visit and a few hard candies you are off and running. Once arriving home, you open everything up like a kid on Christmas morning. Among all the research you’ve done there is a recurring requirement that they pound into your head “relax and have a beer” you can’t argue with the experts! You begin boiling the wort and start to add in the hops. This aroma begins to fill your kitchen, smelling so great. What could be better than taking part in something humans have done since the dawn of civilization? Upon finishing the brewing process, off to fermentation the wort goes. This is the toughest part; the wait. In this step, you are no longer in control and there is little you can do to speed this process. Your new creation has been left in the hands of single cell organisms, what have you done!
It has been a day and you start to worry. As the research stated, you should begin seeing some activity from your air-lock. Just relax and have a beer, you can’t argue with the experts. Finally, you here a “Click” from the air lock you run over to look “Click-Click” the air-lock bubbles. It’s working! This is wonderful, giddy as a school girl you grab your roommate, girlfriend, mom, dad, neighbor or whoever is near by. Drag them over to your closet where you stashed this magical creation. “Look-look do you see it bubbling!” They are not nearly as impressed as you are, they just don’t understand.
A few more days go by and the bubbling slows down until there is no activity. At this point its time to put the brew into another secondary container. You transfer it over and wait impatiently a week or so. It’s 5am on a Saturday morning, your eye shoot open for today is bottling day. The bottle collection has been going on for the past months; saving bottles, peeling labels and wiping the glue clean. As 5:10am approaches you crack your first beer of the day (can’t argue with the experts). Prep and sanitize the bottles, add priming sugar to the beer for carbonation, and start filling. After capping the last beer and cleaning the kitchen you now have to face more waiting. The experts recommend a minimum of two weeks for bottle conditioning but what do they know! You decide to try one just to make sure that the beer is processing along. You may admit I needs a bit more time for conditioning but it’s getting there! Another week goes by and it has to be ready now. Chill one down, crack it open, and pour it into a glass. You can admire the copper color and the frothy white foam on the top of the glass. This is the moment of truth your heart is racing with anticipation. It’s amazing you can taste the love that went into crafting this brew. It has a green apple flavor that is layered with a hint of buttery popcorn, cooked corn and cardboard. Okay, well maybe it isn’t perfect but you love it anyways. Another week goes by, there is only six bottles remaining. Curious to see how it ages, place the remaining bottles in the cellar.
Time to brew again! You’re a day away from bottling your second batch and you wake up in the middle of the night to something that sounds like a gunshot. Are you having flashbacks of the war, what’s going on!? As you gather your wits and investigate, the sounds came directly from your closet. Yup, sure enough your bottles are blowing up. You may have heard that this can be possible when you rush the process. In the end, while that first homebrew is the worst, it also can be the most memorable.
Written by Michael Lalley, Brand Manager
Once a year the craft beer drinking community flocks to Denver like a moth to a flame. No, it’s not the mountains or legal marijuana that beckons their call, no, it’s the Great American Beer Festival.
The Great American Beer Festival started all the way back in 1982, hosting a grand total of 22 breweries. Since its inception, the festival has grown from a small little party of bearded brewers to the largest ticketed craft beer event in the country. In fact, the 2016 GABF hosted more than 800 breweries with offerings of over 3,200 beers! I think it’s safe to say we are witnessing a craft beer revolution. Huzza!
On Wednesday October 5th I was granted the opportunity to fly out to Denver and experience the festivities first hand. On the lead up to the festival I was bombarded with questions, most often, “What are you most excited for?”. Before stepping foot in the festival, my canned answers included; Wicked Weed, Cigar City, Oskar Blues, Funky Buddha. Everything that I was excited about revolved around sampling world class beers from world class breweries. Little did I know, that answer would change drastically.
Upon landing in the beautiful state of Colorado, you are instantly transported to a landscape drastically different from the streets and sidewalks of Detroit Michigan. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, one can only be reminded of their trivial significance in the grand landscape of the world. Moving swiftly from grandiose landscapes, you enter the city center of Denver where you are dwarfed, not by ancient stone, but instead by post-modern edifices of steel and glass.
Speaking of glass, I quickly had mine filled with a liberal pour of Perrin’s No Rules. Holding it high, I clinked for a cheers with Jarred Sper, John Stewart, Adam LeClaire, and Connor Klopcic. We formed a pod as to more easily move through the Denver Convention Center floor, the home for GABF. As mentioned earlier, with more than 800 breweries and a record breaking 60,000 attendees, I was forced to treat my sampling cup like a football as I juked and jived through the crowds.
Upon sampling as many beers as humanly possible on Thursday night, it was time to man the booth on Friday. Perrin had brought a great lineup of beer; 98 Problems IPA, Black Ale, Apricot Sour, Unfinished Business, and No Rules. As the evening session commenced, there was a steady stream of festival goers, as well as brewery personnel, coming up and raving about our beers. To have a line of people waiting to try your beers, when they are literally surrounded by world class breweries from all over the country, is to be completely humbled.
Waking up Saturday morning to fly back to Michigan, I was capable of reminiscing about the previous three days; the camaraderie with your colleagues, the blood pumping hike through Rocky National Park, the sheer beauty of seeing that many people passionate about craft beer. Upon arriving home, I was asked ad nauseum about what my favorite part of the festival was.
Inevitably it seemed like they were asking me what my favorite beer was, and people seemed to be disappointed in my answer.
My favorite part of the festival was getting a small little glimpse into what our brewers must experience everyday. My favorite part of the festival was being able to see the sheer excitement and eye popping enjoyment of the festival goers when they tried a Perrin beer. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than meeting someone who feels as passionately about Perrin as I do, and let me tell you, there was a lot of passion out there in Denver.
Written by Adam LeClaire, Brewery Operations Manager
This past week John Stewart and I were fortunate enough to make the trip out to Yakima, Washington to participate in hop selection. As part of the Oskar Blues group of breweries, we were joined by brewers from their facilities in Austin, Brevard, and Longmont as well as Utah Brewers Cooperative and Cigar City. Hop selection is the seemingly simple process of evaluating the same hop variety grown by different farms and deciding which lot you would like to brew with for the coming year.
The process seems simple in theory – you get in a room and the hop broker lays out samples of hops grown at the farms they represent. You sniff the hops and pick which one you like best. In actuality, the process is much more demanding than that. The brokers usually present you with 5-12 different lots of the same hop, at which point you need to carefully evaluate each and determine which hops best fit your beers. Your hop descriptors need to be on point – are you smelling citrus? Pine? What about berry or stone fruit? Is there something you are smelling that you don’t like? How about garlic or onion? You need to be conscious of which characteristics you find favorable in each hop variety and how you will use them in your beers to showcase those characteristics.
Each person would rank the top three lots of each hop and we would total the votes. Surprisingly for having five people at the table, we usually came up with a strong consensus as to which lots we liked the best. From there we needed to look at how many pounds of that particular hop we had contracted and how many pounds were available from our chosen lot. If the lot we liked best didn’t cover our contract, we would add in our secondary choices until we had the correct quantity.
Although selection is the main reason for going to Yakima during the harvest - and a lot of brewers from the best breweries in the country are going to Yakima during the harvest – it isn’t the only reason. We had the opportunity on a few occasions to visit the farms and meet the people responsible for growing our hops. Many of the people we met grew up working in the hop industry or took over a multi-generational farm. Everyone was more than welcoming – they took us into the fields, walked us through their processing buildings, and took the time to hang out and have a beer with us. It was a great reminder that it takes a lot of passion from a lot of hardworking people to bring us the hops we use on a daily basis.
Written by Eamon McCarthy, Cellarman
Recently myself along with brewer, Joe Wilkinson were granted the opportunity to visit Briess Malting in Chilton, Wisconsin to attend a two day workshop/seminar the maltster puts on for it's bearded brewers from all over the country. We were joined by fellow Michigan brewing bretheren from Founders, Saugatuck, Greenbush. Bells, and Dark Horse. The impressive list of other participating brewers included craft beer juggernauts Sierra Nevada and New Belgium and other reputable brewers reaching as far west as Hawaii's Kona Brewing, and as far east as Portland, Maine's Allagash Brewing. The workshop was limited to 50 participants so it was extremely fulfilling seeing Perrin represented with the likes of some of the country's best brewers.
The three day (with travel) "workcation" began with a short 40 min car trip to Muskegon, Mi. It was here where we were to catch our ferry, which would then take both myself and Joe...and Joe's truck across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where we would then make the subsequent hour and a half drive north to Chilton, which lies about 30 miles south of Green Bay. We made a quick pit stop at Pigeon Hill Brewing Company in Muskegon before boarding the ferry. It's always fun getting out touring and seeing other breweries. Special thank you to Chad and Chris for the hospitality. After a pint and some food it was time to hop on the ferry and head westward. We landed in Milwaukee and spent an hour or two exploring the Milwaukee beer scene hitting up Milwaukee staples like Lakefront Brewing Company and the Sugar Maple.
We finally made it in to Chilton at about 9pm, a little tardy for the 6 pm welcome reception at local Chilton foundation Play-Mor Lanes, a bowling alley steeped rich in tradition....and anchored by the mean white russians served up to their clientele. Note:tardiness was due to the set times the boat left Muskegon.... not our tomfoolery in transit... By the time we we walked in to Play-Mor, it was evident we were in for a fun couple of days. Beards, Brews and Brats...and bowling(which we missed) in a small town in rural Wisconsin. The bus back to hotel left not to long after our arrival at Play-Mor but me and Joe stuck around shooting the shit with fellow tardy and Michigan brewers from Founders. We then headed back to the hotel only to be greeted by you guessed it, a lobby full of bearded brewers and a bevy of beers. It was great being able to talk to other brewers about frustrations and pleasantries of a profession that only other brewers can comprehend. It was a great first night.
The next morning at 7am, and the morning after as a matter of fact, we were presented with well balanced breakfast spread provided by the gracious folks at Briess to satiate our appetites for a full two days of classroom sessions and Malt plant tours.Classes were being held at local community college and began promptly at 8am. Our first day of class included a general history of the Briess company, (which just celebrated its 140th anniversary!), a seminar on understanding how to comprehend and monitor your malt analysis, as well as a very informative presentation on Briess's complete supply chain. It's crazy to think of all the hard work and effort put in before the malt even reaches a brewers hands,or becomes beer in your pint glass. A very in depth presentation was also given by a representative from Bells, detailing formulating malt bills for multiple varieties of stouts in your brewery. We broke for lunch, and then spent the rest of the afternoon at their Manitowoc Production Facility. Wow, was thisimpressive. It was cool to interact with some of the maltsters and hear how some of them are 3rd generation maltsers and having been working there for over 20 years. The 2.5 hour tour ended, and after having my mind blown with a wealth of information i otherwise never would have had the opportunity to obtain, we hopped back on the bus and headed to a nearby golf course where dinner was provided and more comraderie was had.
Day 2 was spent a lot like day one; breakfast, more classroom sessions and a tour of Briess's other malting facility in Chilton. In the afternoon, a detailed sensory analysis was given to small groups of us brewers getting more in depth with the intricacies of each of Briess's specialty malts . This was probably my favorite part of the two day session.
Throughout the entirety of the couple of days spent with the folks at Briess, it was evident how passionate they were about their product and how much they cared about the brewers they produce for. Both us as brewers, and them as suplliers were able to exchange ideas about how to build a better working relationship. For as much I personally learned throughout my two days there, it also provided a platform for the people at Briess to learn from the brewers they supply for.
If I only learned one thing (which is nowhere near the truth) from the Briess Workshop, it is that although head retention will be superb, you should NOT attempt making a SMASH beer(Single Malt Single Hop), using Briess Carapils Malt.. We had a great time and learned a lot, shared stories and made connections. I'm thankful I was given the opportunity to attend.
Written by Connor Klopcic, Assistant Brewer
This past weekend July 22nd, and 23rd, the 19th annual Summer Beer Festival went down in Ypsilanti, and Perrin was there. There were more than 100 different Michigan breweries sampling over 1,000 diverse beers. Alright, so that covers the main stuff, now let me actually tell you about the festival.
First and foremost, it was hot as hell. It was in the mid 90’s both Friday and Saturday with very high humidity. I was still amazed at the sheer number of people that came out to the festival. I thought with it being so hot that many would trade in their ticket for some air conditioning and T.V., that wasn’t the case and I couldn’t have been happier. The mass of people standing outside the gates, hours before the event started got all of the breweries amped up. An hour before the advertised starting time, beer enthusiasts (Brewer’s Guild members) were allowed access to the festival and beers all around. This time period is treated as a little warm up for each brewery to make sure the equipment is set-up and working properly. The beer enthusiasts take this hour long grace period to try all the beers they think will run out, or once the general admission opens, there will be a long line for.
Then the horde of thirsty Michigan beer lovers erupted through the gates and into the tents, where it quickly turned into pure chaos. Lines and lines of people wanting to try everything from a gold medaling session beer to a never before heard of double imperial Belgian stout. It is truly exhilarating. Thousands of people are rushing towards you, eager to try something you made with your own hands. The best part of it all, people will tell you exactly what they think of the beer. There is no hesitation when they tell you their thoughts. Luckily for Perrin, the overwhelming conclusion of Michiganders is, Perrin makes really good, clean and solid beer. There are always the outliers in festivals of people who will not like a beer because of the style and flavor, but people at the Perrin booth quickly found another beer for them to enjoy.
Trying all the different beers at Summer Beer Fest is a ton of fun, however the people from the breweries that work the event tend to have a little more fun once the festival is over. Once the festival is over and time to pack up, many brewers head directly to the hospitality area for a much need pint. There are a lot of jokes being tossed around and telling stories of some of the encounters we had with passionate fans and many intoxicated fans as well. It is a nice time to wrap up the festival and have a nice talk with other Michigan brewers. It is also the time to plan the rest of the night’s activities and shenanigans. For the Perrin crew, it was to go check out a couple breweries and cool bars in Ann Arbor that we were told are places for a good time and a good pint. We started off our Ann Arbor visit at Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor. We all really enjoyed our time at Jolly Pumpkin, eating and drinking many sours along the way, their staff was very nice and answered all of our annoying questions. The pizza was great too. We bounced around a couple of different bars, a new favorite for us was The Garage Bar, a nice outdoor, open to the elements kind of place with a nice draft list and easy to communicate tables. Overall, our experience in Summer Beer Festival was very positive. We had a great time and great beer. We are all excited about going again next year.