National Organic Homebrew Challenge: And the Winners Are . . .

November 16, 2007

Woo-hoo! Two homebrewers get to brew their award-winning homebrew recipes at two of America’s finest organic breweries. These are the lucky (and apparently skilled) winners of Seven Bridges’ first annual National Organic Homebrew Challenge.

Congratulations to Larry Lynch-Freshner from Boulder Creek, CA for Best of Show and Grand Prize winner of the western division for his organic “Bad Weather Barley Wine.” Larry gets to brew his recipe with the Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery.

Congratulations also to Richard Lawrence from North Falmouth, MA, the Grand Prize winner of the eastern division for his organic “Wu Wei Wit.” Lawrence gets to brew his recipe with the Otter Creek Brewing Company (makers of Wolaver’s Organic beers).

For a complete list of the contest winners, click here. And mark you calendar now for next year’s National Organic Homebrew Challenge.


The judges pictured here were hard at work tasting and scoring entries in the Nat’l Organic Homebrew Challenge. Thanks to all the judges and stewards for their hard work, and to Gordon Biersch for the space.

Brew Your Organic Homebrew at a Real Brewery

October 8, 2007

NOHCHave you always wanted to brew your homebrew at a real commercial brewery? Well, here is your chance.

Enter the first ever national organic homebrew competition, hosted by Seven Bridges cooperative and registered with the American Homebrewers Association.

The homebrewer with the highest scoring beer East of the Mississippi will get to brew their award-winning beer with professional brewers on the 40 barrel system at Otter Creek (makers of Wolaver’s organic beers) in Middlebury, VT.

The top scoring entry from West of the Mississippi will get to brew their beer at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing in Santa Cruz, CA. Each winning beer will be offered by the respective brewery as a limited special release.

DEADLINE: Entries must be received by October 19th.
(Sorry if this is the first you’ve heard about this and don’t have time to brew; this post is really just a reminder/update on previous posts about this competition).

There are prizes for first, second, and third place in each of the 15 style categories, including $25 worth of free organic homebrewing supplies, t-shirts from organic breweries, pint glasses, and recipe books.

First place ‘Best of Show’ gets a hefty $250 worth of organic brewing supplies, an organic cotton Seven Bridges t-shirt, and a one year membership in the Organic Buyers Club. And second and third place Best of Show get generous organic goods too.

All the details are right here. So get that entry shipped out ASAP.

Oh, and if you live anywhere near Santa Cruz, you can still sign up to judge or steward at the competition. Just contact Seven Bridges to volunteer.

Beer, A Graffiti Artist’s Best Friend

September 3, 2007

Dave, at Via Negativa, clued me in a creative use for beer: moss graffiti art ingredient. The concept is pretty simple. In a bucket, mix a can of beer with a half teaspoon of sugar and a handful of broken up moss. Stir well or use a blender if you prefer. Pour it in any manner of of dispensing system, such as a spray bottle or watering can, or dip a paint brush in a bucket of the final mix. Spray or paint on the liquid in any design you fancy. The result is moss art. It will hold the design for a while until eventually the new moss growth will distort it out of recognition.

The best kind of beer to use it homebrew from a batch that went awry or that can of cheap fizz-water that’s been cowering at the back of the bottom drawer in the refrigerator ever since your brother-in-law brought it to your holiday party.

Moss Graffiti

Flying Dog Open Source Beer Project

June 12, 2007

Flying Dog Open Source

Neal Stewart, Flying Dog marketing director says, “The Open Source Beer is a truly collaborative project and gives our loyal fans the opportunity to buy a beer that they actually played a major role in creating.”

Interesting that it’s the marketing director being quoted since this seems to me more like a marketing ploy than anything else, but perhaps a fun one for some folks. perhaps it was inspired by the original open source beer project in Denmark.

The idea is pretty simple: Flying Dog presents the basic style parameters for a strong German doppelbock and invites users to suggest ingredients via a website set up for this purpose. Flying Dog Head Brewer Matt Brophy is already experimenting with some of the suggestions and providing feedback. Its unclear though how the decision will be made about the final recipe but it seems he’ll just take all the input and decide what to do with it. The final recipe will be shared and a version for homebrew-sized batches will also be provided.

There’s already some chat happening on the website so if you’re interested in helping to create a beer that will be brewed commercially, go check it out and throw in your two cents.

Grains of Possibility: Ways to Use Spent Brewing Grains

April 15, 2007

(This appeared as my Spring 2007 Column in American Brewer)

According to Gunter Pauli of the Zero Waste Research Institute 92% of brewing ingredients are wasted. Most of the waste is spent grain that still has lots of useful protein and fiber. From a business perspective, that spent grain is potential revenue that most brewers are either giving away or paying to have removed as refuse. Why let that grain go down the drain when that mushy malt can be turned into money?

Feed Is for the Birds
By far the most common use of spent brewers grain is as animal feed, primarily for cattle, but also for pigs, goats, fish and just about any other livestock. In a 2003 survey of 45 breweries, 38 said their spent grain was used as animal feed, mostly for beef cattle and dairy cows. Some brewers, like Allagash, Deschutes, and Kalamazoo claim to fetch a small price for their grains, but most breweries give it away for free, which is certainly better than paying waste disposal fees. But cattle feed is neither economically nor ecologically the most efficient use of spent grain.

AVBC Compost
(Anderson Valley Brewing Company collecting spent grain.)

Cattle require as much as 20 pounds of grain per pound of beef, and need 2,600 gallons of water to produce a single serving. A new United Nations study (Livestock’s Long Shadow, December, 2006) surveys the ecological damage done by livestock, including sheep, chickens, pigs, goats and cattle. According to the report, the world’s rapidly growing herds of cattle are the greatest threat to the climate, forests, and wildlife, and cause a host of other problems too, from acid rain to the introduction of alien species, from producing deserts to creating dead zones in the oceans, from poisoning rivers and drinking water to destroying coral reefs. The world’s 1.5 billion cattle produce 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Fuel to produce fertilizer to grow feed, to produce meat and to transport it – and clearing vegetation for grazing – produces 9 per cent of all emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. Oh, and boy do they stink – cow flatulence and manure emit more than one third of emissions of methane, which warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide.

As usual though, small brewers are among those at the vanguard of a trend that is addressing these problems. Many brewpubs now feature the very meat that was raised on the brewery’s spent grain, often times raised according to organic methods of husbandry, thereby supporting local sustainability and limiting some of the environmental woes caused by global, industrial livestock. But while reciprocity between local brewers and cattle farmers may be better than sending grains to landfill, there are still plenty of good reasons to seek more efficient and creative ways to reuse brewers draff.

Compost Is the Most
According to the International Soil Conservation Organization, 65% of the world’s soil is degraded. Directly staunching the causes of topsoil loss (poor agriculture and forestry practices) may be difficult for brewers, but compost is an effective and accessible way they can help revive soil health. Schlafly Beer in St. Louis used money from a Missouri Department of Natural Resources grant to research various uses for spent grain and found that compost was the best option. Another grant, from the County Solid Waste department, got their compost system up and running. A local vendor packages and sells most of the finished product, and a portion is also used on the brewery’s own half-acre kitchen garden.

Great Lakes Brewing Company Compost
(Patrick Conway, co-owner of Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland, gets his hands dirty in one of the brewery’s vermiculture compost bins.)

Carrie Farthman, at Schlafly, raves about the new-found life for their brewery waste, “composting spent grain not only cuts down on organic solid waste in our local landfill, but it creates a product of great use to local businesses and the well being of the land. We are thrilled at the opportunity to treat the byproducts of our primary production process as a valuable asset to our community, economy and environment.”

Turn on to Some ‘Shrooms
Spent grain compost can also be used as a growing medium for mushrooms. Schlafly is hoping to use another grant to renovate storage areas at their Bottleworks to create incubation and fruiting rooms that will use spent grains and spent yeast to grow oyster mushrooms they will serve at their two restaurants. Likewise, Great Lakes Brewing Co. in Cleveland provides spent grain and scrap paper to their partners at Killbuck Farms to grow organic shitake and oyster mushrooms that are used in entrees at their pub restaurant.

Bakin’ the Barley Goods
Spent grains also morph into all manner of delicious baked goods. Glenn Brady, brewmaster at Silver Gulch Brewing and Bottling Co. in Fox, Alaska harvests draff from the middle of the grain load in the lauter tun right after the sparge in a technique he says avoids teig (the pasty proteins that settle on top of the sparge grains) and gets only still-hot grain, which he says reduces the chance of unwelcome infections taking up residence before the grain goes to its intended use as an addition to his homemade breads.

The historic Frankenmuth Brewery in Michigan serves their chili in a spent grain “bread bowl”. Granite Restaurant and Brewery in Toronto matches jalapeno spent grain bread with their Best Bitter as part of a prix fixe beer dinner menu. The bruschetta served at Hales Ales in Seattle is spent grain crostini topped with fresh mozzarella, vine-ripe tomatoes, and fresh basil, drizzled with balsamic reduction vinegar. And if you think that sounds good as a first course, how about following it up with their slow-smoked pork shoulder in Hale’s Stout with barbecue sauce served on a spent grain roll. But it might be a toss-up between that and their Pacific Rockfish breaded and pan fried, and served with tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onion on a spent grain baguette. Then there is Firestone Walker, World Beer Cup Champion Brewery and Brewmaster two years running in 2005 and 2006, whose ingredients reflect their commitment to locally and regionally grown ingredients, including the spent grains used to craft their pizza dough.

Dog Biscuits, Ethanol and Bio-Plastics
Looking for something a little more unusual than bread? Try drying and milling spent grain into flour and baking it into your favorite cookies. One brewery rolls it on to their own homemade dog biscuits. The possibilities in the bakery are virtually endless, but scientific laboratories have been creating some even more unexpected products. In Japan, the Akita Research Institute of Food and Brewing has developed a new technology that drastically reduces the cost of producing polylactic acid, the spent grain-derived basis from which they are making biodegradable plastics. In Akita Prefecture, one of Japan’s major agricultural areas, most food processing waste is incinerated or discarded in landfills, so the new technology is expected to be an economic as well as an environmental boon.

Coors Brewing has been producing another petroleum alternative with their spent grain, one that brewers have always made in low concentrations, ethanol. But this ethanol is made from waste grains and spilled beer and being sold as commercial fuel-ethanol. In 2005, Coors and project partner Merrick & Company, opened their second plant together in attempts to meet growing demand for the product.

“We’ve basically taken a waste stream and turned it into a revenue stream,” says Steven Wagner, the Merrick vice president who helps lead the Coors ethanol project. The ethanol is sold under a contract with Valero Energy Corp., which distributes the beer-ethanol to Diamond Shamrock stations around Denver. With federal regulations mandating ethanol fuel use and bio-based product procurement, fuel production and bio-plastics may soon become the most attractive option for brewers everywhere.

Better Organic than Never (my late post for Beer Blog Friday)

March 5, 2007

Session logoI had planned on participating in the first ever Beer Blogging Friday Session last Friday but travel, family obligations, and lots of beer-related adventures (which I’ll be posting about soon) kept me away from my computer for several days in a row. It was quite nice actually.

But I felt kind of silly having promised twice to post during this experimental group blogging thing and then not doing it, so for those of you who were eagerly awaiting my post, here’s a recipe for Organic Irish Stout from Seven Bridges.


This is a partial mash brew producing a dry stout with a rich roasted malt character and a moderate hop bitterness.

4.4 lb. Organic pale malt extract
1 3/4 lb. Briess organic pale 2-row malt
3/4 lb. Briess organic roasted barley
1/4 lb. Briess organic Caramel 120 oL
1/2 lb. Weyermann Carafa III malt
1/4 lb. Organic barley flakes
1/2 oz New Zealand Hallertaur hops- bittering (24 IBU)
1/2 oz German Hallertaur Tradition hop pellets- flavor (8 IBU)
1/2 oz German Spalt Select hops- finishing
Ale Yeast: Wyeast #1084 Irish Ale or White Labs #004 Irish Ale
For bottling: 1 1/4 cups Organic Dry Malt Extract (DME) {or 1 cup organic malt extract, or 3/4 cup corn sugar, or kraeusen with 1 quart of unfermented organic beer}
Optional ingredients: 1/2 teaspoon Irish Moss

International Bittering Units (IBU’s): 32
Original Gravity (O.G.): 1.044- 1.048
Final Gravity (F.G.): 1.012-1.018
Average alcohol content (% by volume): 4.3%

Brewing Instructions
1a: Heat 1 3/4 to 2 gallons of water to 160- 165 oF, then turn the heat off. Add the grains (or grain bag with grains in it) and stir well. The temperature should be 150 oF. Adjust the temperature if necessary by adding heat, hot water, or cold water.
1b: Allow the grains to soak for 40 to 60 minutes at 150 oF. Do a starch test to see if the mash is done.
2a: Heat 1 to 1 1/2 gallons of water to 170 oF in a separate pot. Sparge the grains with this water when the mash is complete.
2b: Add water to the liquid collected from the grains to make up to 5 1/4 gallons.
3. Heat the water to almost boiling and then turn the heat off. Add the malt extract and dissolve the extract completely. Turn the heat back on and bring to a boil.
4. Once the wort has reached a rolling boil add 1/2 oz. NZ Hallertaur hops (bittering) and boil for 40 minutes.
5. Add 1/2 oz. German Hallertaur Tradition hops (flavoring). If desired, add the Irish Moss flakes. Boil for 15 minutes more.
6. Add 1/2 oz. German Spalt Select hops (aroma), boil 5 more minutes, & turn the heat off.
7. Cool the wort to 65- 75 oF.
8. Transfer the chilled wort into your sanitized primary fermenting vessel.
9. Shake or stir (with a sanitized spoon!) the unfermented beer vigorously to add oxygen.
10. Add the yeast and ferment in a cool dark place for 4-6 days at 60- 70 oF in the primary fermenter.
11. If you have a secondary fermenter, transfer the beer to it when fermentation activity has subsided (after 4-6 days). This step is optional.
12. Ferment for an additional 7- 14 days, or until fermentation is complete.
13. Clean and sanitize enough bottles for your batch.
14. Sanitize your bottle caps.
15. Boil your bottling sugar in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes.
16. Cool the sugar solution to 70 oF and pour into a sanitized carboy or bottling bucket. Transfer your beer into the same container and mix slowly. You can also pour the sugar solution into the same fermenter with the beer instead of transferring.
17. Use a racking cane and siphon tubing with a bottle filling tip attached to fill your bottles. Cap immediately after filling the bottles to prevent contamination.
18. Store the beer at room temperature (about 70 oF) for the first few days, then in a cool dark place
(55- 65 oF) for 1-3 weeks. Your beer is ready to drink when it is clear and nicely carbonated.
19. Relax and enjoy your organic beer!

You can buy all the ingredients for this Organic Irish Stout from Seven Bridges here. There are also all-extract and all-grain kits available for this beer. Plus, there are also kits for Oatmeal Stout, Robust Porter, and Nut Brown.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 53 other followers