Brew This: Marz Community Brewing’s Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss

By Al Robertson   So you want to brew some sour beer? Brewing sour or wild ale at home can seem daunting and dangerous to homebrewers and pro brewers alike. When I first ventured into making sour beers at home, I approached them with much trepidation, due to fears of contaminating my equipment and unfamiliarity with the sour brewing process. The first sour beer I brewed was a Berliner weiss, for which I acquired the necessary bacteria from a grain-inoculated starter. The result was surprisingly tasty and relatively easy to replicate at the homebrew scale.   When I joined Marz Community Brewing some years later, we decided to have a Berliner weiss as one of our regularly brewed offerings. I was assigned the task of developing the process for creating a Berliner weiss in a production environment while maintaining the quality and consistency of my homebrewed test batches. This proved to be an extremely challenging endeavor because the process I used as a homebrewer was too difficult and time consuming to recreate on a production level. Because Berliner weiss is so low in alcohol, malt presence, and hop character, it is impossible to mask any flaws or inconsistencies. It is truly one of the most difficult styles to produce, despite the simplicity of the recipe.   To overcome our initial production inconsistencies, I took one of my grain-inoculated starters to Lance Shaner at Omega Yeast Labs. He was able to identify and isolate the souring bacteria responsible for my successful homebrew Berliners, which was then used for producing the Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss at Marz. The bacteria are a Lactobacillus plantarum species. As far as I know, no other commercial beer yeast laboratories offer a plantarum species to the public. This strain is well suited for a production environment because it is able to sour beer at room temperature relatively quickly. Other commercially available Lactobacillus strains require extended aging or fermentation temperatures as high as 120°F to produce the results we are seeing in a matter of 36 hours at much lower temperatures.     The Bubbly Creek Berliner Weiss   50% Pilsner Malt 50% White Wheat   0.5oz Whole Leaf Czech Saaz 1 unit OYL-605 Omega Lactobacillus blend 1 package of Safale US-05   OG 1.034 FG 1.010 pH 3.2   Heat water to 160°F and combine in the mash tun with the grains and whole leaf hops at a ratio of 1.3L water per pound of grain. Mash for 60 minutes and sparge with 170°F water. Collect the desired amount of wort and boil for 45 minutes. Chill to 80°F and pitch the Lactobacillus blend. Let the wort sour for three days in the fermenter and then add a package of Safale US-05. The beer will be ready to bottle in one week. Carbonate to 3.2-3.4 volumes CO2.   If desired, add whole fruit and/or your favorite Brettanomyces strain after primary fermentation for added complexity.    

A Conversation with Rick Chapman and Head Brewer Ryan Brooks of Coronado Brewing Company

  Interviewed by Ed Marszewski   Rick and Ron Chapman opened Coronado Brewing Company almost 20 years ago on the island of Coronado, across the bay from San Diego. The brewery started as a small neighborhood brewpub around the same time as Ballast Point, Stone, and AleSmith. Together, those breweries formed the San Diego Brewers Guild, and over time Coronado and the guild birthed the “West Coast” beer styles that we have come to love and adore.   At the moment, Coronado isn’t as well known to Midwestern beer drinkers as Stone or Ballast Point, but in late-2015 they entered a distribution contract with Wirtz Beverage and have just started rolling out the barrels here in Chicagoland. In 2014, the brewery won best Mid-Sized Brewery and Brewer at the World Beer Cup, taking a prize with their Islander IPA. And if the liquid continues to taste as good as the ones we’ve tried, we expect them to do well here in the beer capital of the Midwest.   We hooked up with Rick Chapman and Head Brewer Ryan Brooks at Mash Tun HQ a few days before they were heading to FoBAB and asked them to tell their story.   Edmar: How did you start your brewery?   Rick Chapman: My brother Ron and I opened the brewery 20 years ago. It had always been a dream of ours to have a brewery. And 20 years ago we put together a business plan, bought the property almost 150 yards from the home we grew up in, and plucked down a little brewpub.   Edmar: So you started off with a brewpub that had a restaurant, a taproom, and a small brewing facility. What was the size of your system back then?   Rick: It’s a 10-barrel system and it’s still there. We’ve become a brewpub on steroids. We bought the building next door and we put in 13 20-barrel fermenters. We put out 6,000 barrels a year from there until we built our production facility about three and a half years ago.   Edmar: So three and a half years ago you opened a production brewery and started making beer to send to other markets?   Rick: We started getting into the distribution game in Southern California mostly, but then some other markets outside. Pennsylvania was the first out-of-state market we came to out, about nine year ago.   Edmar: Ron, were you one of the brewers back when you first started?   Rick: No, we asked one of our baristas, Sean Dewitt, if he wanted to be a partner. He became one of our head brewers. 20 years later, he’s become our director of brewing operations. So, he’s our head brewer but he doesn’t brew any longer – he brews with Ryan’s team.   Edmar: Ryan, when did you start at Coronado?   Ryan: I worked at a brewing facility about an hour north of San Diego for a few years, and I wanted to get to San Diego where the big dogs were. I interviewed at Stone in the morning and at Coronado in the afternoon, and 15 minutes after I left, Sean, the Director of Operations said, “Hey, you want to start on Tuesday?” That was almost four years ago.   Rick: Did Stone call you back?   Ryan: After two weeks – and I’d started at Coronado already, so it didn’t matter.   Edmar: You were based in California, and you got involved in brewing because…?   Ryan: I was cheap. I was playing in a punk rock band touring the world and I liked good beer. But I couldn’t afford a lot of it so I started home brewing.   Edmar: That’s a common story. I know many musicians here in Chicago that were homebrewing, and then some of them actually went on to open up nanobreweries or work for breweries. It was pretty fun to go get bootleg brews for $5 a bottle in somebody’s apartment on the West Side.   Ryan: It was fun.   Edmar: The Coronado portfolio of beers is pretty diverse today. But I bet almost 20 years ago, when you first opened up the brewpub, you had to have your standards: amber ale, golden ale, porter, pale ale, maybe an oatmeal stout. When did you get involved with the West Coast IPA freak out phase?   Rick: It was happening when we opened. Stone started doing IPAs. AleSmith did some IPAs. And we were part of that. It was the San Diego Brewers Guild that kept us all together. So everybody experimented and tried different things, and through that process we defined the West Coast IPA.   Edmar: When do you think that the dominance of the IPA hit the country? Do you recall when, all of a sudden, you couldn’t make enough IPA?   Rick: Probably only about five or six years ago.   Edmar: The one thing I hear about San Diego is that it’s just about as easy to grab a fresh craft beer as it is to get a Corona or some other macro beer.   Rick: I’ve been on the sales side for years, so that’s where I’ve seen the difference. In the last three or four years you have a lot more access to the buyers, especially the big chains and the big restaurants. Before, we were just pounding on doors and trying to get people to talk to us.   Edmar: Glad to hear that people in these corporate chains understand the value that craft beer has in the marketplace. Do you think the acceptance of craft beer in chain stores has been driving the expansion of craft beer volume sales?   Rick: That’s a piece of it. On premise, off premise. Working with each other to build brands. But, yes, the expansion of craft beer in chain stores is helping a lot to build brands.     Edmar: Your company is expanding, you have two facilities and a tasting room, and…

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