Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Beginning of the End

The word about the impending demolition of the New Old Lompoc is, by this time, pretty well known. We still have no firm date as to our last day, but trust me when I say that everyone will know and we will undoubtedly send the Old Lompoc out with a bang. On the brewery side of things, we've started dialing down the brewing operations, and have more than likely brewed the last batches of our year round beers at the New Old Lompoc brewery. The NOL brewery will mostly be used for research and development of new beers, such as our ongoing Hop Secret program up until the end. (Hop Secret #2 is on tap now and #3 should be out in the next few weeks)

On a personal and bittersweet note, this week marks my last week with Lompoc Brewing, as I'll be leaving to become the Head Brewer at Pints Brewing Company, set to open this spring in Oldtown. My last batch at New Old Lompoc will be an old ale I've dubbed New Olde Ale that we plan to barrel age using the solera method, so that beer from the New Old Lompoc will always be around. Legendary Lompoc head brewer Dave Fleming will be taking over brewing operations at New Old Lompoc and may actually get a chance to brew his famed Honey Jalapeno Lavender Lager. This blog will carry on, with owner Jerry Fechter taking over the reigns. Thanks to all the loyal Lompoc fans out there. Cheers!

-Zach Beckwith

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Week in Review and Looking Ahead

Brewing has always been driven by the seasons, from beer styles to brewing schedules. With the Holidays having come and gone we're now coming into what most breweries consider to be a "slow" time. This is the time of year where long neglected cleaning and maintenance can no longer be put off, and space opens up in the brew schedule for new beers.

First up let me remind everyone that today marks the long awaited release of Sounder Slayer Lager at New Old Lompoc. We anticipate the Timbers Army to be in full force.

In my previous post I talked about our Imperial IPA test batches; Hop Secret Imperial IPA #1 is on tap now at New Old and Sidebar, while I brewed Hop Secret #2 last week using Meridian hops, a variety I've never used before. Initial impressions seem to suggest that the Meridians are much milder than the Chinook/CTZ/Cascade combo used in #1 and Hop Secret #3, which I'll be brewing in the next few weeks, will fall somewhere in between #1 and #2.

I also recently talked about Black Dawn III Coffee Stout, the latest incarnation of our annual release. Yesterday Dave and I added the cold pressed coffee to the finished stout. Ristretto Roasters cold pressed a total of 20 lbs of coffee for us, 10 lbs of their Beaumont Blend, 5 lbs of Peruvian, and 5 lbs of El Salvadoran. We added a gallon of cold press single origin coffee to each keg and pumped the rest into the brite tank with the remaining stout. As a result we'll have 3 different variations of Black Dawn III at the release party Friday January 13th along with Black Dawn II, which featured solely Beaumont Blend, and the base beer for the original Black Dawn, 2009 Pre-Dawn Imperial Stout. I've also enlisted my dad to make a poster for the release party, which in his typical style is pretty over the top (you can see the image on our Facebook page, I can't get blogger to load it).

In addition to the Hop Secret and Black Dawn projects I've also been forging ahead with the cask conditioning program. This Friday I'll tap Hop Secret #1 dry hopped with Simcoe in the keg. I'll tap cask conditioned Arctic Blast next week at the Black Dawn III release.
Tomorrow I'll be transferring Illegally Blonde to a brite tank where it will sit on vanilla beans for the next week.

Well that should do it for now, the batch of Centennial IPA I'm brewing just came to a boil. Until next time, Cheers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hoppy Holidays

With Christmas quickly approaching and the New Year looming shortly after that, we here in the Lompoc empire decided to explore the possibility of revamping our year round lineup. It comes as no surprise that tastes have changed since we opened in 1996. Back then, Amber Ales and Pale Ales dominated brewery taplists across the country and IPAs were the "extreme" beer du jour. For Northwest beer drinkers, IPA has become the standard style, a beer that pleases both those new to craft beer and the hardcore beer geek. With this in mind we've begun working on a reworking of our hoppy beer lineup to bring it in line with changing tastes. Don't worry, our flagship C-Note will remain unchanged but we'll be adding a new Imperial IPA to the mix.

With the growing popularity of hoppy beers across the country, and the growing number of breweries (the Brewers Association lists over 700 breweries in planning in addition to the 1,927 already in operation) some of the more sought after hop varieties are becoming hard to come by. Some of the more popular "new school" hop varieties (Simcoe, Citra, Amarillo) are particularly scarce in most parts because they are trademark protected and grown exclusively by a few select growers. This shortage can become a serious problem for breweries when they can't get a hold of the necessary hops for a popular beer (see Laurelwood's decision to discontinue their popular Workhorse IPA). On the flipside, these shortages force brewers to become more creative in their hop usage, either by creating entirely new beers, or using different hop blends to mimic a similar flavor.

That being said, we come back to our new Imperial IPA. Some may recall a beer named Peregrine Imperial IPA we've brewed for the Sasquatch Brewfest the last two years. Our new Imperial will be based on the original Peregrine but without Simcoe hops. I've taken it as a challenge to create a blend of hops to mimic the characteristic pine and tropical fruit notes of Simcoe using hop varieties we have in adundance. I'll be brewing a series of test batches using different hop blends. The first batch, which I transfered to a brite tank yesterday, will be on tap starting next week and uses Columbus, Chinook, and Cascade along with generous amounts of Perle. Come in to any of our pubs next week and let us know what you think. Until next time, Hoppy Holidays and cheers!

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

As many of you may recall, every January we release a big coffee stout named Black Dawn. It just so happens that's the beer I'm brewing today(and my perennial favorite). Originally designed as a series meant to feature different coffee varieties from different roasters in the same base stout, the logistics proved somewhat challenging, so we retooled the concept into an annual release. Black Dawn I featured coffee from Lone Pine Roasters in Bend, and last year we used a coffee blend from Ristretto Roasters here in Portland. We enjoyed last year's version so much that this year we've decided once again to pair with Ristretto for our coffee, but with a different twist. In the spirit of our original concept, we'll have three different versions of Black Dawn featuring three different Ristretto coffees. I'll be hosting a release party at New Old Lompoc on January 13 that will feature all three versions of Black Dawn III, plus Black Dawn II, and 2009 Pre-Dawn Imperial Stout(the base beer for Black Dawn I). We'll have taster trays available so people can sample all five beers together.

As I write, the pre-boil gravity sits at 1.065, which should produce a starting gravity somewhere around 1.070, resulting in a beer weighing in between 7.5-8% ABV. The grain bill is a complex and large one involving nearly 600 lbs of grain, and featuring Golden Promise, NW Pale, roast barley, brown, chocolate, Special B, Caraffa, and Midnight Wheat malts along with toasted barley flakes. A healthy dose of CTZ hops will provide the bittering to balance the sweetness of such a large beer while Oregon Willamette hops will round out the boil. Black Dawn III will use our house American ale yeast for fermentation. After fermentation is complete I will run the cold pressed Ristretto coffee inline to the brite tank during the transfer.

Time to get back to the brew, I've got 600 lbs of grain to bail out of my mash tun! Make sure you mark your calendars for January 13th because this event promises to be a unique tasting experience. Until next time. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back from the Dead: November Recap

My how time flies. It's been over a month since I last updated the blog, but it seems like yesterday I was writing about cask beer. I have to hand it to the blogerati out there, maintaining a blog is a hell of a lot more work than I anticipated, but I will try to post at least once a week from here on out.

Just because there were no blog posts in November doesn't mean that nothing happened in the Lompoc universe, in fact quite the opposite. The month started with the MBAA fall conference in "Seattle" (Renton and Burien to be specific) where the entire Lompoc brew crew were treated to a number of seminars focusing on cask conditioning. Both days included informative and at times hilarious lectures by a pair of well respected English brewers who pounded home the message that "they don't do cloudy beer!" (However they didn't seem to mind drinking cloudy beer at Friday night's cask feast at Elliot Bay Brewing) The most practical presentation of the weekend was given by Elysian Brewing's Dick Cantwell, who provided some "new world" approaches to cask beer including how to modify common US brewery hardware to produce cask beer.

Upon returning to Portland freshly inspired, I sought to apply what I had learned to develop a regular cask beer program at New Old Lompoc. I decided to forgo the cumbersome stainless steel firkins and instead produce cask beer in our regular bung sided quarter barrels. I also disassembled and refurbished our beer engine so our cask beer can be properly dispensed.

Yesterday, in conjunction with our company wide Holiday Beer Extravaganza, featuring 9 holiday beers, I tapped the first test in my new cask beer experiment at New Old Lompoc. On tap now and through the rest of the week is a cask conditioned version of C-Son's Greetings that was additionally dry hopped in the keg. Come on down and have a pint before it's gone. And if one Holiday cask beer wasn't enough this week, Dave delivered a firkin of Holiday Cheer (pre-vanilla) to Bailey's Taproom yesterday, where Geoff plans on tapping the firkin tomorrow, December 1st. I plan on forging ahead with my cask beer program and will be tapping a fresh "cask" every Friday at New Old Lompoc starting next week with Proletariat Red.

Well, that's enough for today, no use rehashing the past, my next post promises to look towards the future. Until next time. Cheers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just Firkin Around

One of the joys of the New Old Lompoc is that I often have the chance to play around with different processes that my brethren at 5Q don't have the time for. Over the last few months I've become increasingly interested in cask conditioning and have filled a few firkins with varying degrees of success.( Some of you may have seen the beer shower that drenched me while tapping a firkin at our 15th Anniversary party in August)

Surprisingly there seems to be very little information out there on cask beer production. I ordered a copy of Patrick O'Neil's "Cellarmanship" but unfortunately it deals mostly with cask beer once it leaves the brewery. After talking with a bunch of different local brewers on the topic (as any brewer's spouse can tell you, we really do talk about beer all the time) I found that there are really two basic methods; racking still fermenting beer into the firkin or priming brite beer with some sugar source and additional yeast. To this point I've opted for the first option, attempting to capture the beer at its sweet spot. As you might suspect, this method, though more traditional, is by nature kind of hit and miss.

Why do I bring this up now? Twice a year the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, Northwest District, holds a 2 day conference that feature lectures, sensory panels, and overall discussion on a particular topic. Recent conferences have focused on topics as varied as barrel aging, water, the history and variety of porter and belgian yeasts. The upcoming fall conference next weekend in Seattle focuses entirely on cask beer. Brewers are encouraged to bring cask beer for a Friday night tasting and as a result we volunteered to bring a firkin. After much discussion between Head Brewer Dave Fleming and myself we decided to offer up 2 firkins, each using a different cask conditioning method.

Yesterday I filled the first of the two firkins with the base porter for our Holiday Cheer direct from the primary fermenter. My task for today, along with brewing another batch of C-Sons Greetings, is to fill and prime the second firkin. For this I'll be using LSD from one of our conditioning tanks and about 100 grams of corn sugar as the priming sugar. Both firkins will sit until Monday at around 60 degrees before being moved to our cellar where a slightly lower temperature will hopefully help with CO2 uptake. It should be an interesting (and delicious) experiment and with the knowledge I hope to gain from the experience, coupled with the content of next weekends conference should result in more regular firkin tappings at our various pubs with a much higher degree of success and consistency. I'll post some pictures following the conference and look for more posts in the future on our continuing cask beer adventures. Until next time, Cheers!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The coming of the holiday C-Son

Although the sun may be out today, the fact remains that summer has come and gone and the slow march towards winter has begun. With Halloween still two weeks away I've already seen Christmas displays pop up around town and along with them, the requisite holiday seasonals from various local breweries. We all recognize that season creep is becoming absurd, but at the same time is the arrival of all these winter beers a bad thing?

Loyal Lompoc followers may recognize that we find every excuse to brew "seasonal" beers throughout the year but that we really take it to extremes when it comes to the Holiday season, releasing 7 Holiday seasonals on the same day. In order to pull off such a feat, both breweries juggle the logistical challenges of maintaining our year round beers while finding the tank space to squeeze in the Holiday beers. Well this week the juggling act has begun at New Old Lompoc as I'm brewing both C-Sons Greetings and Holiday Cheer. As a special treat I've scaled down the Holiday Cheer recipe for all-grain homebrewers:

New Old Lompoc Holiday Cheer Vanilla Porter 5 gallons
10 lbs NW Pale Malt
1 lbs Crystal 120L
.75 lb Chocolate Malt
.5 lb Brown Malt
.5 lb Dextrin Malt
.25 Caraffa II
.25 Special B
60 min boil
.5 oz Chinook Pellets :0 min
1 oz Willamette Whole Leaf :40 min
1 oz Willamette Whole Leaf :60 min

American Ale yeast

Add 1-2 whole vanilla beans to secondary fermenter

I should also mention that we are not immune to the pressures of season creep, and as a result have decided to release C-Sons Greetings a few weeks earlier than the other Holiday beers this year. The C-Sons Greetings release party is set for November 11th at Sidebar. C-Sons will be available in bottles the same day and on tap at all our pubs as well as better beer bars around town.