Living the Dream! As a homebrewer I am lucky to actually work in the homebrew industry. Brew & Grow Minnesota has allowed me many opportunities to use my passion for homebrewing to help other brewers.
Working with Brew & Grow has also allowed me to establish relationships with many of our amazing local Craft Breweries. I am constantly amazed by the highly creative and talented brewers I have met along the way. Their passion for great beer constantly inspires me to become a better homebrewer.
Recently I had the great pleasure of working with Blake Verdon, Owner and Head Brewer at LTD Brewing Co in Hopkins, MN, on a collaboration brew. Blake is an amazing brewer and LTD Brewing Co. is brewing up some incredible beers! Be sure to stop in at LTD Brewing whenever you're in the neighborhood. You won't regret it!
Blake invited me, along with Kevin & Cheryl to come out to LTD and brew this collaboration brew on his system. Talk about Living the Dream! Blake and I developed the recipe together. I brewed the test batches in my garage, and now I get to brew it with Blake at LTD Brewing Co. Not just a pilot batch but a 250 gallon batch. This is the Brew Day in my words and pictures.
First let's look at the beer. "Creative Juices" is a Double New England IPA. Original gravity is 1.081 and it should finish at 1.016 making it right around 8.5% abv. 146 IBU's according to BeerSmith.
Typical of the NEIPA style this is a very hazy beer. Almost looks like orange juice. Virtually all of the hops are added post boil which really smoothes out the bitterness and creates massive amounts of hop flavor and aromatics and of course a double dry hop for aroma. Galaxy and Citra are the star of the show and give it a complex, juicy blend of citrus, tropical fruit, and melon flavors and aromas. This is one of the easiest drinking 8.5% beers you will ever have!
We showed up at LTD and Blake was ready to go. He crushed all of the grain and used an auger system to take the crushed grain to the mash tun. LTD uses Reverse Osmosis water and they run it through an on demand hot water heater that is capable of reaching temperatures up to 190 degrees. The mash water and grain are fed into the mash tun at the same time. LTD has a grain hydration system that hydrates the grain as it enters the mash tun making it easier to completely mix the grain with the mash water. With great skill Blake is able to coordinate the grain and the water to hit his desired mash temperature of 150 degrees right on the money.
Interesting note. I learned that when you have a very large thermal mass like 720 lbs of grain in about 225 gallons of hot water the temperature does not move at all over the course of an hour mash.
Blake constantly monitors mash pH using a really cool inline pH meter. The mash stayed in a range from 5.23 to 5.27 the entire time. Another interesting note is water chemistry. Blake uses the Brunwater spreadsheet to determine his water additions. Many homebrewers are familiar with Brunwater and I have been using it for years. Water chemistry also plays a vital role in this beer. You can not get the "juicy" character in this beer unless you have very chloride rich water.
While the grains are mashing Blake sets up the equipment to transfer from the mash tun to the boil kettle. Once the mash is completed we started a gravity drain from the mash tun to a grant. A grant is a 12-15 gallon SS kettle with a false bottom that acts as a reservoir for wort coming out of the mash tun. Blake then uses a variable speed pump to pump wort from the grant, through a filter, and into the boil kettle. By doing it this way, he is not pumping directly from the mash tun which could possibly cause the grain bed to compact enough to cause a stuck sparge. We also started our sparge water after starting the drain into the grant and boil kettle.
We did get a little bit of a stuck sparge but Blake was able to fix it by simply reversing the flow on the pump and pumped wort back into the mash tun from the bottom which raised and loosened the grain bed and started wort flowing again.
It took about two hours to transfer a total of 325 gallons of wort to the boil kettle. It also took about an hour to bring the kettle to a boil.
This beer has a first wort hop addition and then 3 post boil hop additions. Once the boil was done we used a giant plate chiller to cool the wort to 175 degrees and then we proceeded with 3 hop additions over the next 40 minutes. Again thermal mass came into play because the temperature stayed at 175 degrees the entire time.
Then it was just a matter of chilling and transferring to the fermenter. Oxygenation is done enroute to the fermenter and then a massive 26 trillion yeast cell pitch of White Labs WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast.
Blake transferred to their 500 gallon Tall Boy Fermenter. The next day he brewed another 250 gallon batch of this beer and blended it with the other beer already fermenting.
Don't forget clean up! You haven't lived until you shovel out 1000 lbs of spent grain!
Brewing at LTD was one of the highlights of my homebrewing career! Blake and the entire LTD Brewing Co. staff could not have been more patient with all of our questions and they really made us feel welcome.
What I learned from this experience is do not become a professional brewer unless you are willing to work your ass off! I mean these guys work hard! But on the other hand the passion for brewing that I saw from Blake and his staff is truly inspirational. These guys love what they do and it shows in their beer.
We will be launching this beer in a homebrew kit at Brew & Grow and in the LTD taproom and bottles at LTD sometime in January, so stay tuned for the release day and I hope you can join us at LTD for a launch party!!!
If you like New England IPA's be sure to read our article on How to brew a proper New England IPA.