Beer 511

Exploring the Craft Beer and Homebrew Scenes in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Category: California (Page 2 of 3)

Admiral Maltings’ “Open Malthouse Day”

On February 10th, I attended Admiral Malting‘s “Open Malthouse Day”, hosted by Admiral’s founders, Ron Silberstein (of ThirstyBear Brewing) and Dave McLean (of Magnolia Brewing), as part of San Francisco Beer Week.

Guests were taken on thirty- to forty-minute behind-the-scenes of the malthouse, where we were able to learn about and observe the full production process. Both farmers and brewers were also on hand to experience the tour and to share their stories and speak about their experiences with Admiral’s malt.

Ron Silberstein, co-founder of Admiral Maltings, explains the malting process, accompanied by UC Davis biologist, Lynn Gallagher (at center), who developed the strain of barley used in Gallagher’s Best malt, and Bob Schaupp, a barley farmer, here enjoying his first glass of beer brewed from his crop.

 

Today, industrial malting is typically done in what is referred to as the “compartment process”, in which grain is passed through large, stainless-steel tanks able to accommodate tens, or even hundreds, of tons of grain. The grain is agitated with auger and aerated with large fans, as it passes through a series of alternating wet and dry stages, before being kilned.

Floor malting, on the other hand, is a more traditional, slower and more labor-intensive method, which is said to produce superior malt with deeper, richer flavor.  Upon opening in July of last year in an old dry-goods storage facility on the former Alameda Naval Air Station, Admiral Maltings became the first commercial floor malting facility in California since before Prohibition, and California’s first maltster with a California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) certification.

On my tour Silberstein explained that the barley spends 38-42 hrs steeping in the hydration tanks, then 4-5 days germinating on the malting floor, before being sent into the drying kiln for 24 hrs.

The malt is then passed through another machine which removes the rootlets before it is bagged.  A ton of rootlets are removed from each 10 ton batch of barley. With the addition to husks and other debris that is removed, there is a 20% loss, per weight, in the malting process, such that each 10-ton batch of barley results in 8 tons of finished malt. Currently, Admiral is approaching ten batches per month, but are looking into some material improvements which would enable them to attain fourteen batches per month.

With the Bay Area being a hub of the growing farm-to-table (or in this case, farm-to-glass) movement, the opportunity to avail themselves of locally-produced, small-batch, and certified organic, malt has generated a great deal of interest among local brewers.  Enough so that Admiral has been able to outfit it’s own taproom exclusively serving beers brewed using its malts.

The tour ended with tastings of Admiral malts and of beers made with those malts, guided by the brewers who made them.  On hand were brewers from Harmonic Brewing Co. (serving Prague Rock, made with Admiral Pils malt), Armistice Brewing Co. (serving Berthday Beer English Golden Ale, made with Feldblume malt), Social Kitchen & Brewery (serving California Grown Lager, made with Gallagher’s Best malt), and Independent Brewing Co. (serving Escaped the Island Blonde Ale, made with Maiden malt).

Eddie Gobbo, co-founder and head brewer of San Francisco’s Harmonic Brewing Company, talks bout his experience brewing with Admiral’s malts and leads a tasting of his Prague Rock Pilsner (brewed with Admiral Pils malt).

“Celebrator” turns 30!

Wow! The Celebrator is turning thirty!

Established in 1988 as the California Celebrator, and now officially titled Celebrator Beer News, it has indeed been a fixture of the California craft beer community.

I have personal fondness for the Celebrator going back to the mid- to late-1990s, when I started homebrewing.   The local homebrew supply store –the now long-defunct Fantastic Fermentations in Pacheco, CA– always had copies on hand.

In those days when the internet was barely getting going and websites were mostly hosted by universities and government institutions, the Celebrator was about the only way a regular guy like me could find out about and keep up with the craft beer scene, read interviews with brewers, or read features about breweries.

Much of it was almost incomprehensible to me –I had yet to have tried many of the styles mentioned and had little idea of where the breweries talked about were located– but I read every issue cover to cover and soaked it all in.

The folks at the Celebrator are marking this occasion with a 30th anniversary bash during SF Beer Week, on Feb, 17th.

Cheers to them! To the Celebrator! And, thank you!

Five Suns Brewing (Martinez, CA)

Last weekend I had the opportunity to check out the digs for Five Suns Brewing in downtown Martinez (California).

Five Suns is the brainchild of five friends (though I think a couple of ’em might be brothers) who decided to open a brewery together. By putting in a great deal of “sweat equity” into their space they’ve managed to put together what is already a pleasant, welcoming, comfy-feeling place, with a nice bar, vintage sofas paired with modern tables, set in a modern “industrial” space with pleasing interplay between cement, wood, old brick work, and exposed pipes.

They are set up as a 3-bbl. nano brewery, and the plan is to initially be open only on weekends (I presume that means Fri. evening through Sunday), until they can develop enough of a following to be able to afford to increase their brewing capacity.

 A big regulatory hurdle has been surpassed with the granting of their ABC license this week, which clears the way for Five Suns to produce and sell beer on premises. Other local and state permits still need to be cleared, however.  Thus, an opening date has not been set –they wouldn’t even speculate on it– but the owners told me they expected to launch some soft-opening events for friends and backers early in the coming year.

 

Five Suns Brewing
701 Escobar St Unit C
Martinez, CA

www.fivesunsbrewing.com

 

Update (12/19/2017):   Five Suns Brewing is now open!  Check their website for the hours.

Black Diamond Brewing Co.

Well, it has been quite a while since I posted anything.   I got sick and then busy, what with Thanksgiving thrown in there and a few other things. Pretty much all fun (except for the being sick part) but they kept me busy.

I did have a couple of posts in mind, both on beer fests. One, noting that the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), America’s largest commercial beer festival, had taken place in Colorado. Though I didn’t go, I was enthused because my friend Matt Sager won a bronze medal for the Danville Brewing Co. with Chux DIPA. The other was a note on Lima Beer Week, which was taking place at the same time.

In any case, I missed the window of opportunity and both events are now long over and done.

What is not done and over with is that Concord’s Black Diamond Brewing Company remains shuttered. Apparently for good.

An October 17th post (since deleted) on their Facebook page showed an image taken of a sign taped to their door, which employees reportedly found when they showed up to work that morning:

Due to unfortunate circumstances the locks have been changed and Black Diamond Brewery is closed for the foreseeable future. Thank you to everyone who supported us during our 23 year run!

Naturally, that led to speculation -since confirmed- that the company was bankrupt.

As things stand now, the doors remain shut and the website is gone.

I had a bit of a soft spot for Black Diamond.  Not only was it a longstanding local brewery, but it was, in fact, the first brewpub I ever went to.  That was back in their original location at the former Cadillac dealership building in Walnut Creek, with it’s long curving bank of huge windows, which beautifully framed the brewhouse.  The food was good as well and it became an early favorite spot for a “date night” without the kids.

After a bit, the restaurant and brewpub closed, and though I started to see Black Diamond beers in stores, I lost track of the brewery for a number of years.

Then, through friends in my home brewing club, I found out that the brewery was in Concord and that it had an attached tap room. Since then, I enjoyed many an event there and got to see how much Black Diamond gave back to the community.

Everyone I met who worked there was really nice and generous. It sucks how the closure went down, and I just hope that they were all taken care of and were able to land back on their feet.

 

Drake’s Aroma Coma 2x IPA

In July, San Leandro’s Drake’s  Brewing Company released their latest edition of Aroma Coma IPA.  The company sent me a sample bottle, along with a nifty branded glass to drink it in, which I found waiting for me upon my return from Peru.

The 2017 Aroma Coma is double IPA.  The brewery press release indicates that they have added more Citra hops and more rye malt and light caramel malt. The ABV has also been bumped up to 8.0%.

I found Aroma Coma 2x IPA to be intensely hoppy –as befits a double IPA– with citrus notes, particularly grapefruit and a touch of orange. It is malty, which helps balance the hoppiness.  It is a big beer, but not over-the-top in any regard, and is easy to drink. I’ve gotta say, I found it altogether pleasant and a lovely way to treat myself after the workday.

 

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