Last weekend was a very busy beer weekend for people in Colorado Springs. The Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium and the Peterson Air Force Base Hombrewing Awards were both on Friday and I had the unfortunate task of trying to decide which to go to. Either way I knew I’d be missing out. I chose the Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium (RMMS) so I’d like to show you a little of what happened. I can’t go into too much detail or the blog post would be unbearably long, but I’ll provide you with some nice summaries.
The RMMS is basically a beer industry conference at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and was founded by the Center for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics at the University. Jim Mattoon, the RMMS founder died last year on Deceber 24, 2010 at the age of 80.
People in the beer industry from all over Colorado come to the event for tips, recent beer related information, and basically a conglomeration of resources from things relating to sanitization, brewing procedures, hop farms, new malting companies, and more. The talks, all of which were good, ranged from technical, academic, to inspiring to informative. Only 120 seats were available and I’m guessing that there were probably only ten or so people attending that were not also a part of the industry. So, if you want to get your ticket next year you will need to make sure to get them in advance because they sell out annually.
This is what the large conference room looked like. I actually work at UCCS and I have never been in this building. It boasts a pretty spectacular view of Pikes Peak and the surrounding mountains. The first lecture was on Lager Yeast and Fermentation by Bryan Pearson of the Brewing Science Institute. Bryan has won multiple awards for his lagers and ales at GABG, the World Beer Cup and the Real Ale Festival. Bryan provided information that many people are unaware of when it comes to lager yeasts, such as how much yeast is needed to avoid under and over pitching, proper cool down temperatures and techniques, what mistakes cause what off flavors, and how best to avoid those off-flavors.*
The next speaker was Steve Breezley, the production manager at Avery Brewing Co. Steve talked to us about drinkability, what it is, what it means, and how customer’s tastes seem to change over time. Apparently the Avery IPA claims 31% of Avery’s production but about fifteen years ago it sat at just over 11% of production. Similarly the Ellie’s Brown Ale is 12.6% of what Avery produces but fifteen years ago was their highest selling beer at 27.5%.
|Avery’s Dihos Dactylion and Cory Forster of Dillon DAM Brewery taking notes|
My favorite part of Steve’s talk was when he was speaking of Avery’s dedication to making “extreme beers.” They ignored common perceptions of drinkability and decided to go all out and make The Beast, which sat at 37 degrees Plato when they first made it. Immediately they had to learn some new techniques for fermenting such a high alcohol beer. Along the way though, they learned all sorts of new techniques that drastically changed the way they made their beers that already sat between 8-12% ABV. So experimenting in unkown ways gave them all sorts of insight into ways to enhance flavors and to do things more efficiently and to make drinkable beers that others previously thought not possible. The image above shows Dihos Dactylion, a beer we were given for tasting. The beer is dedicated to an employee that was going to leave Avery, it is aged in Plump Jack Cabernet barrels with Saccharomyces, lactobaccilus, and pediococous, which gave the beer a bit of a tart grape flavor, dry finish, and a clear lacto presence without much acidity.
About this time the bottles were brought out and everyone started drinking during the lectures.
I met Dennis de Boer, a homebrewer who was attending the event. He brought a few bottles of his Juniper Ale. He used whole Juniper branches in his mash instead of adding the berries to the boil or to the fermentation. The result was a really round, nutty, and earthy beer that I was very attracted to. I noticed a lot of people enjoying the beer as well.
John Schneider of Black Fox Brewing enjoying some of Dennis’ Juniper Ale.
The next speaker was Frank Stonaker of the CSU Hopyard Project and Summit Plant Labs. He gave all sorts of information on the raising of hops in regions of Colorado and how the weather can affect hop production in various ways. He is hoping to begin raising organic hops in the near future as currently most breweries in Colorado get their organic hops from New Zealand. *
Pictured on the right is John Bryant, the President of Oskar Blues. He was the keynote speaker at RMMS. He gave us a basic rundown on his career in the beer industry working for Rainier, Portland Brewing, Deschutes, and Odell. He told us about a number of mistakes he saw happen in his early days that he believes put certain breweries either out of business or out of touch with innovative beer. An unfortunately broad summary of some of his points include having a clear and strategic plan for the brewery, don’t do price discounting (using Rainier as a major example of how preserving market share with price can go all wrong, Rainier kept competing with Budweiser but Budweiser was able to just keep bringing their price down and eventually Rainier wasn’t making enough money to innovate, pay benefits, update equipment, etc), Line extensions vs. Innovation, beer quality and sensory development. He also spoke briefly about a greater need for Independent Liquor Stores, which is the first time I began hearing any real argument against having beer in corner/grocery stores that also-kind-of made sense to me. In my post on making Colorado Springs a better beer destination, putting craft beer in corner/grocery stores was one of my suggestions. Carol from the Beer Drinker’s Guide to Colorado pointed me toward some reading on the topic and the very next day Mike Bristol approached me and gave me more information on why what I suggested is a bad idea. I’m hoping he’ll write an article for the blog about this soon.
Jason Buehler of Shamrock Brewing with Jim Stinson of Rockyard Brewing.
Chad Yakobsen of Crooked Stave and Dana Johnson drinking together. Chad was the next presenter and gave a ton of information about Brettanomyces Yeast…not on how to use it but on what it’s all about and common misconceptions about it. Chad, who originally studied wine, put together an entire thesis study on Brettanomyces during his graduate stay at Heriot-Watt University and the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have never used Brett in my beer so much of what Chad talked about went over my head, but in general he looked at a number of different strains and compared what they did during fermentation in different conditions. Some of his research can be found on his website The Brettanomyces Project and it looks like the basic conclusion is that each strain produces drastically different results. He talked to us about his preferences, what he chooses to look for in his Brett beers, and what kind of conditions can make that happen. At Crooked Stave if Chad is able to keep his beers under the conditions he requires and desires I would say we can look forward to some really fantastic beers soon. Crooked Stave, based in Ft. Collins, is not opened quite yet but should be sometime this year.
The guys from Dry Dock. I sampled a few of their beers for the first time and was very pleased with their really terrific Double IPA that used Golden Promise malt.
The talk that I was most looking forward to was Pubs On A Budget from Tom Hennessy of Colorado Boy Brewery. Tom has started a few different breweries since 1992 and gave all sorts of tips on starting a brewery with the minimum budget. Very inspiring talk. He also showed all sorts of photos of things like dairy tanks that he has converted to fermenters and mashing vessels for his brewery projects. His talk was followed by a brief update from Bob Wall of the Colorado Malting Company and Randy Flores of the Colorado Local Hops Project.
Can you believe all this beer was left at the end of the event? *
The Boulder Brewing crew. I sat with these guys all day. A good group of people.
The event ended at Trinity Brewing with a dinner for all the RMMS attendees. We were treated to some great food and some really good beer, including a thirty or so tap list of beers only from Colorado. I did see a Rogue tap handle though. I will make it known that the first beer I had at Trinity that night was Funkwerk’s Maori King, a hoppy saison that will satisfy most any hophead. Anyway, it was a great way to end the night. Pictured here is Linsey Cornish from Odell Brewing and Matt Weatherbee from Golden City Brewery. The rest of my images from that night didn’t turn out to well.
– – –
* Indicated the photo above was taken by Dan Flanders. Otherwise I snapped the picture.