The Art of Handcrafting a Beer: Part I

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By Jason Jugenheimer, Mahoning Valley Flight Crew

As fans of craft beer, we enjoy all aspects of the industry. We enjoy being educated on beer, hops, even water. We attend beer schools, lectures, tastings and always take beer tours at every brewery we go to that offers one. It wasn't until the night on January 31 though that we truly came to understand the true brewing process, and that was all thanks to the guys at Birdfish Brewing in Columbiana.

Some of us have been or are home brewers, so we have some experience of crafting a beer. Though most home brewers, including ourselves, start from kits and work our ways up, we feel we have a general idea of what goes into the process. I’m here to tell you, there’s a whole lot more to brewing at a brewery than any tour or brewing from a kit can teach you.

First of all, if you love brewing, you also have to love doing the dishes. The amount of cleaning happening is insane. Cleaning probably is 85-90% percent of the process.

Secondly, you've got to be creative in your engineering. Unless you are big volume brewer with a lot of capital to invest in a system that is ready to go, you need to do a little design work on your own. As Jared Channell puts it, “We got a lot of support in making this happen.” He’s referring the countless friends and family who helped them design and engineer things they needed for their brewing system.

Finally you have to be a bit of a mad scientist to be a brewer, which Jared is. And this is how our little adventure started.

While discussing beer with the Birdfish guys at a beer taste a couple months ago, I mentioned a Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Stout that I created by doctoring a brew kit at home. They sounded interested in trying it, and I obliged them with a growler. Now, this is not a special perk because we’ve built a relationship with the guys; they always take suggestions for beers from their patrons. I just had the unique opportunity to actually share the beer I created.

They liked what they tasted and wanted to know if they could have the recipe to try brewing it. I obliged with what and how I made it, but like I said it was a kit I doctored, so having an actual recipe for the beer was lacking. This is where Jared’s wizardry come into play. And this is what the brewery tour doesn’t always show you.

There is a lot of design and chemistry that goes into creating beer. Everything comes down to percentages of ingredients. Shifting the percentage of one affects the percentages of another. Trial and error is the norm.

I sat down with Jared to look at the recipe he designed and even discussed with him a few changes we made before brewing the newly designed Birdfish beer Blueberry Oatmeal Outstanding Breakfast Stout. I’ll let you figure out the acronym.

What will follow in a series of blogs will be the Mahoning Valley Flight Crew’s experiences with Jared, Greg, Josh and the rest of the Birdfish crew, from brewing a beer from scratch, watching it go through the stages of the process, to finally the tapping of what we hope will be an extremely enjoyable beer for the patrons of Birdfish. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll see it on the shelves of your go to craft beer store.

Watch for our next installment in this series coming soon.

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by mvfc


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