The Herald Trubune
Newsletter of the Ann Arbor Brewer's Guild

"Back and side go bare, go bare,
Both foot and hand go cold;
But, belly,
God send thee good ale enough,
Whether it be new or old."
-William Stevenson-

Vol. 8, No. 6
June 1994

In this issue

  • The Meeting: What's Happening
  • The Last Meeting
  • Beer News
  • Roving Reporter
  • On Beer: Belgium
  • Competition News
  • Brewer's Anonymous
  • Treasurer's Report
  • Announcements
  • Upcoming Meetings
  • Wooden Beercase Plans
  • Newsletter Editors
    Spencer Thomas: 994-0072
    Josh Grosse: 769-0906

    The Meeting:
    What's Happening

    Yes, we did it again: changed the meeting date at the last minute. Actually, we realized the problem last month but forgot to fix the schedule in the newsletter.

    Anyway, assuming nice weather, the meeting will be on Spencer's deck. If the weather is lousy, we'll go inside.

    One event is planned: a malt tasting. Mike O'Brien will bring malt samples from DeWolf-Cosyns (Belgian maltsters). For the tasting, we'll make a selection from the 40 or so in the box, and crunch them between our teeth. Yum, yum! We'll probably have some sort of "score sheet" to keep track of the different flavors, in hopes of producing a malt flavor profile list that we can distribute in a future newsletter.

    We probably ought to have a discussion about this year's brewola style. One idea: combine it with the AHA Specialty Quest competition in November. Mocha stout, anyone?

    Otherwise, it'll be the usual: beer, munchies, and more beer.

    The Last Meeting

    A small group met at Tom Dimmer's house in May. As neither editor was there, the meeting report comes from Hal Buttermore. He notes that it was "An intimate evening of beer tastings."

    The AHA Club-only Stout Bout winner was Tom Dimmer with his American (i.e., hoppy) Classic Dry Stout. There were 7 entries, with 3 "ringers." The winning entry beat the 2nd place finisher by only 1/2 point!

    Food included Holly Dimmer's Mexican Bean Dip, cheese tray and sourdough bread; and Rolf's outstanding bread sticks!

    A large selection of commercial beers from around the world were sampled: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar Pilsner, Jever Pils, König Pils, Blanche de Bruges Belgian White Beer, Urgäuer Weizen (Bavaria), Bell's Solsun Sle, H.C. Berger Indego Pale Ale (Colorado), Young's Stout, Dragon Stout (Jamaica), an Australian stout, St. Stan's Alt & Amber, Urbeck (Austria). These were brought by Tom, Hal (from Ken), Rolf, and Mike O'Brien (the Merchant of Vino contributed the Bell's Solsun and Little Kings' Bruin Pale Ale).

    But, wait, there's more: Jim Johnston ("The Rye Master") brought Catch her in the Rye Lager and Ale and a German Dunkelweizen. Bill Pfeiffer contributed an Oktoberfest and a Robust Porter. Hometown Highland Wee Heavy (a strong Scotch Ale) came with Paul Phillipon. Mike O'Brien had an Australian Ale and a Light Porter. Dennis Raney had 3: an English Pale Ale, Sunday Brunch Ale, and a Robust Porter (or maybe a Stout?). John Alguire's First Edition all-grain American Lager was judged to be a "Good job for your first try at the style!" Hal's English Pale Ale was judged by a British guest, Ron Fry, as "Excellent." [Ed note: we think this is the same beer that advanced to the AHA National 2nd round.] And last, but certainly not least, was Rolf's ancient stout.

    Business notes

    With a large number of entries from the club evident at AHA Nationals, it is recommended that AABG members enter future competitions jointly to ensure a high point tally for the club. We believe we can give some of the West Coast homebrewers a run for their money! Let's talk about it at the next meeting.

    With the untimely passing of Tom Burns, it was suggested that the AABG ask for donations to a yet-to-be-determined charity in his honor.

    Beer News

    Club member's cousin to open brewpub

    Tom Dimmer reported that his cousin, Darren Whitcher of Martinez, CA will be opening up a brewpub, to be called Black Diamond Brewing Company. It should be opening this fall in Walnut Creek, CA (east Bay Area). Anyone travelling in that location is invited to drop in and get a personalized tour from Darren.

    Renaissance Festival

    There will be brewing at the Renaissance Festival again this year. It usually runs from the first weekend in August through the end of September, on Saturday and Sunday, only, plus Labor Day. Frankenmuth will be supplying the base malt and hops again this year. More details will be announced at the meeting,or call Mike O'Brien.

    Taste of the Great Lakes

    The TOGL conference this year (November) will feature Michael Jackson, Fred Ekhardt and FredScheer.

    If you entered beers in last year's ToGL competition, Mike O'Brien has your score sheets.

    Roving Reporter: Chicago

    Bill Pfeiffer, Hal Buttermore, Dan McConnell, Paul Phillipon, and Spencer Thomas did a "road trip" to Chicago at the beginning of May to help judge 666 beers in the first round of the AHA National Competition. We left Ann Arbor mid-morning on Friday, May 6. First stop: an unplanned halt near the Zeeb Rd. exit to retrieve Hal's brewing notebook, which had blown off the top of the car. Oops!

    First planned stop: Kalamazoo, where we sampled Bell's beer on tap at the brewery, and got a personal tour from Larry Bell. He's expanding like mad: from 3000 barrels last year to 6000 this year, and he expects to make 12,000 next year. For lunch, we took Larry's recommendation of The Corner Bar. Bell's Amber and Solsun on tap for $1.10 and $1.20/glass (a sign on the beer board regretted that they had to recently raise their prices!) or $4.50/pitcher. After some luscious fish sandwiches and a pitcher of each, we headed west again.

    Only to stop 15 minutes later in Lawton, to visit Duster's, a new microbrewery/brewpub. Samplers all around refreshed us. Wheat: supposed to be a Weizen style, but low on the cloves, served with lemon. Red: heavy on the crystal malt. Brown (original names, what?): pretty good. Back on the road.

    A couple of hours later, after navigating Chicago rush-hour traffic and highway and bridge construction we landed at the "Goose." Goose Island Brewery, that is. A quick snack and beer helped us unwind from the road. Then, down the block to Sam's Warehouse, where a couple of us really stocked up from Sam's huge selection (not to mention the good prices).

    Then, it's off to work: a bit hairy navigating in the Loop, but we found the place in good time to sign in, and dig in to more food! Judging was supposed to start at 7, probably got going about 8. More beer! But this time, we really had to pay attention.

    At about midnight, we headed off the various places we were to spend the night. Spencer, Bill, and Paul ended up in an apartment with a wild kitten (ask Paul).

    Next morning, it's back to Cavanaugh's for breakfast and [[exclamdown]]more beer! Lunch followed, and then the final flight in the afternoon. Big category: stout, had 60 entries. But there's room for an excellently crafted stout in there, because none of them were fantastic.

    Some time left before dinner. What can you do in downtown Chicago on a Saturday afternoon? Drink beer! A bunch of us headed over to Berghoff's and had a fresh one. What bliss to just drink it, without analyzing it! Then, it's back to Cavanaugh's for the Midwest Invitational Brew-off. 21 beers, all made from the same ingredient kit (but not all brewers used all the ingredients). We had to pick our favorite. Voting continued into dinner (very nice, indeed).

    The winner: our own Dan McConnell with a beer he called Flanders Golden. A very nice amber beer with a luscious fruity sweet-sour flavor reminiscent of Oerbier. It was clear to some of us (but not Dan) that this was the odds-on favorite. Just to make it clear: we did not know ahead of time who made which beer. But some of us were pretty sure we knew which was his. And it was definitely getting the buzz: we overheard several times, "have you tried #3 yet?"

    Then, into the car, and back on the expressway to home. Rolled into AA about 3AM. Next morning: Mother's Day (can't miss that one!)

    On Beer: Belgium

    Two short pieces by C.R. Saikley retrieved from the Homebrew Digest. Some people know how to live...

    Brouwerij Rodenbach -
    Gem of Roeselare

    One of the treasures of the Belgian brewing industry is found in the city of Roeselare, the Brouwerij Rodenbach. My journey into Rodenbach's rich 150 year history began in their warm reception room, whose walls are lined with photos and breweriana depicting that history. I was soon greeted by my guide, Mr. Eric Deseure, and he began to tell the tale of Rodenbach.

    The Rodenbach family figures prominently in the region's history. It all began with Ferdinand Rodenbach, a celebrated military surgeon and somewhat of a medical researcher. In 1750, he moved to Roeselare from Andernach, which was part of the Austrian Empire. Ferdinand was not a brewer, and a full two generations passed before the family's interests turned to brewing. In 1820, a small brewery on Spanjestraat was purchased by Alexander Rodenbach, a most remarkable individual. Blinded by a shooting accident at age 11, Alexander developed a "written" language, similar in concept to Braille. In addition to being a brewer, Alexander was a member of the National Congress and supporter of the Belgian independence movement. His political activities must have kept him too busy to devote much attention to the brewery, for it was closed in early 1836.

    Later that same year, the brewery was purchased by Regina Wauters, the wife of Pedro Rodenbach. The present day brewery took this date as the basis for its 150th anniversary celebration in 1986. After Regina and Pedro, the brewery passed into the hands of Eduard Rodenbach, and then to Eugene, who was to have a substantial impact on the brewery's success. Eugene traveled to England to study the latest production and blending techniques for top fermented beers. The knowledge he gained there helped ensure the quality and consistency of Rodenbach beers, and propelled the brewery into an era of rapid growth and prosperity. This growth eventually leveled off, and in recent years the brewery's output has fluctuated around 100,000 hl/year (84,000 bbl).

    Much of today's brewery is typical of any European facility. The all copper traditional brewhouse, and modern kegging and bottling lines are similar to breweries all over the continent. There are a couple of features, however, which are uniquely Rodenbach.

    No longer in use, the original malthouse is one such feature. It's an imposing cylindrical brick tower with a conical top, built in 1864. The vaulted ceilings of the interior sweep upward at an impossible angle. During construction, the entire structure was filled with sand, which was then properly formed and used as a foundation for the brickwork. After the mortar was set, the doors were opened and the sand shoveled out to reveal the tower's interior. At the center is a large kiln which cured the malt resting on several levels of screens above. The kiln's fires made it an exceedingly hot place to work, and for this reason there is a bell on the interior wall. Once an hour the bell was rung, signaling "Rodenbach Time".

    Another outstanding feature of the brewery is its vast array of enormous oak barrels. They range in size from 10,000 to 65,000 liters, and are held together exclusively by wooden pegs and exterior metal hoops. Reeds are used to seal the cracks. Nails are disallowed because the beer's acidity would dissolve the metal, thereby ruining the beer. There are nearly 300 of these venerable vessels, with a total capacity of 10 million liters. Their maintenance requires the employment of two full-time coopers. Strict adherence to such traditional methods is one reason why Rodenbach beers are so expensive to produce.

    There are two different worts brewed, one at 11deg.P and the other at 13deg.P. At least 80% of the mash is malt, and the remainder is corn, which is an unusual adjunct in Belgium. Yeast is pitched into open copper vessels, but the wort remains there only during the lag phase. Once fermentation begins, the active wort is transferred to closed rectangular tanks, primarily to facilitate easy removal of CO2 from the cramped fermentation rooms. Primary fermentation lasts for seven days. After primary is completed, the brewery has large amounts of yeast slurry to dispose of. The latest analysis from the University of Leuven identifies 22 different strains of yeasts and bacteria. They have been brewing with the same yeast from the beginning, without reculturing. Thus Rodenbach's yeast and resultant beers are constantly evolving. The brewery generates about 150 liters of yeast slurry per day, which is sold locally for about $0.55 per liter. It is typically used as a nutritional supplement for livestock - one gentleman actually claimed that it made his horse run faster!

    Up to primary fermentation, two worts receive identical treatment, but after primary they are handled differently. The 13deg. wort is aged for 20-24 months in the oak barrels, while the 11deg. wort spends 5-6 weeks in stainless steel. Classic Rodenbach is produced by blending 75% of the 11deg. brew , with 25% of the two-year-old 13deg. brew. The aged, unblended 13deg. beer is bottled straight as Rodenbach Grand Cru, or dosed with cherry extract to become the desert beer, Alexander. All of Rodenbach's beers have an acidic tartness, which comes from the presence of Lactobacillus strains in their yeast. This gives them a refreshing character and fresh taste, despite their extended aging period.

    The Rodenbach brewery holds a unique position in the brewing world. It's an excellent example of rich brewing heritage that has remained intact in the modern age. In Belgium, the market for most sour beers is shrinking, and therefore the export market is crucial to the brewery's survival. It is hoped that the growing number of beer connoisseurs in the US will warm up to these living artifacts of Belgian brewing heritage.

    Editors' Note:

    Apparently the beer currently exported to the US as Rodenbach Grand Cru is, in fact, not the Grand Cru, but is the "plain" Rodenbach. Jay Hersh reported in the Lambic Digest (Internet mailing list) that he had confirmed this by calling the importer. They will be importing the real Grand Cru. It will have foil over the cap. Presumably the regular Rodenbach will then be so labeled, as well. Now, back to C.R. and his trials & tribulations.

    One Night in Brussels

    It was a lengthy, restless trip. Flying east is always harder. Day turns into night into day and night again. Twenty hours after leaving Berkeley, I was finally settled in Brussels. I parked my car, got a room, and changed some money, trying to ignore that the car came from InteRent, and the money came from InterChange. At least I wasn't staying at InterHotel. Charged with the excitement of the city, and spurred on by my hunger, I set out. It was 8:20 PM local time.

    By 8:30, I arrived at T' Spinnekopke, well known in Brussels for its fine food and beer. With no reservations on a Saturday night, I was told to return at nine. The beer list included Cantillon, and I was looking forward to my dinner. I wandered back towards Boulevard Anspach, looking for a warm cozy spot to have my first beer and kill half an hour. Then I saw it. The cafe was called Beer Street. What else could I do?

    I entered to find 74 taps, the largest draft selection in Belgium. I soon found myself sitting with the cafe's owner, a man of impressive stature named Joel Pescheur. Joel did his best to ensure that I sampled all 74 beers. A tour of the cellars revealed the most sophisticated dispensing system that I've ever seen. The pressure and temperature of each keg could be independently adjusted. The computerized control system also accounted for the diameter and length of the serving lines to get the pressure right. After the tour, our discussion turned towards Belgium's beer renaissance. The next thing I knew, Joel and his wife's family whisked me off to Brussels' only brewpub, La Miroir. I rode with his Father and Mother-in-law.

    La Miroir is well outside of Brussels proper, in the suburb of Jette. I could tell we were at a brewpub right away. The life size neon brew kettles on the exterior were my first clues. Inside, there were too many ferns and pastels, but at least the beer list was tasteful. De Dolle Brouwers, Cantillon and Slagmuylder were well represented. The two house beers were a well made Wit, and a loosely interpreted Flanders Oud Bruin. In Belgium, brewing beers of this complexity is merely the price of entry. Otherwise, no one notices. For the first time in my life, I realized that it was relatively easy to build a successful brewpub in the States.

    A quick midnight tour revealed a fairly standard 10 hectoliter system, with some serving tanks being installed. The coriander seeds and curacao orange peels were in baggies below the tanks. They'd tried to put the brewery in the middle of the pub, but local legislation put it against the wall.

    We soon retreated to Beer Street, where Joel again demonstrated his warm hospitality and obsession for perfection. Sated and exhausted, I tore myself away. Wandering back towards the Grand Place, I finally got my dinner. Showarmas and kebabs are the only way to eat cheap in Brussels. One thought surfaced as I collapsed into bed and drifted off, "If I had to go home now, it would all be worth it."

    Competition News


    We have heard from several club members who have beers going on to the 2nd round of the AHA nationals: Hal Buttermore with his English Pale Ale, Jeff Renner's American Pale Ale (both tough categories with a lot of competition), and Bill Pfeiffer and Ken Schramm's Oktoberfest. Congratulations! Let us know about your entries.

    State Fair/Mazer Cup

    State Fair competition entries will be taken at the August meeting at Josh's. Details will be forthcoming.

    The Mazer Cup Mead competition will also be in August.

    Judging Stuff

    Judge practice sessions have resumed. Several judges and wanna-bes met Monday, June 6 at Alan Pagliere's place to judge German Wheat Beers. Call Spencer or Hal if you're interested.

    Upcoming Club Competitions

    AHA                 AHA      AABG       
    Competition 	    Deadline Judging    
    -----------         -------- -------
    Weiss is Nice	    Aug 8    July       
    Best of Fest	    Oct 3    September  
    Specialty Quest	    Dec 5    November   

    Brewer's Anonymous

    Brewer's Anonymous (B.A.) is a monthly column, where the editors try to answer questions from our loyal readers. Direct your questions to the editors, and we'll try to come up with reasonable facsimiles of answers.

    Dear. B.A:

    Can I use 2-liter plastic bottles for bottling beer? It seems that using nine of them rather than 50 glass bottles would be so much easier!


    Dear Lazy:

    Sure. As long as you realize that plastic bottles won't keep your beer as fresh as long as glass bottles will. Plastics "breathe" and therefore are not complete oxygen barriers. Still, as long as you sanitize them and watch the headspace at the top, you can use them for bottling beer. Keep them out of the light as you would any glass bottle, and consider using new caps rather than old ones to ensure the best possible seal.

    We've seen many commercial "brew-it-yourself" stores in Canada use quarter and half liter plastic (PET) pop bottles for their customers, and brewing supply stores there carry bottles and caps. So feel free to bottle in plastic.

    Tip of the Month

    Frank Longmore wrote in the Home Brew Digest on carbonating beer in 2-liter bottles:

    "Hey folks, I've been using my own version of a PET bottle pressure adapter. It allows me to pressure carbonate small quantities of brew, and to bring small quantities to parties, picnics, etc. It's cheap and almost disposable!

    "Just buy a few automotive valve core bodies (with valve cores). They cost under a dollar at an auto parts store. Please buy new ones!

    "Take the plastic cap from the PET bottle, and carefully drill a 1/2" dia. hole, from the inside, using a brad-point bit, to get a clean smooth edge. Be careful to get the hole centered in the cap. Then press and pull the valve core into the cap (from the inside). Presto!

    "To carbonate, I made an adapter with the gas-in fitting from a cornelius keg, a teflon threaded tube from the hardware store, and a new tire inflator air chuck from an auto supply store.

    "First purge the air from the PET bottle with 15 seconds of CO2. Then fill the PET bottle about 3/4 full of un-carbonated beer. Cap tightly, then pressurize to about 15 psi. Put it in the refrigerator to cool down. Then bring the CO2 pressure back up to 15 psi and agitate a lot to dissolve the CO2.

    "Works great! Keeps pressure for weeks!"

    Treasurer's Report

    Rolf Wucherer

    No report this month. Watch this space next month.


    Dues are $15 a year, prorated at $1.25 a month through December '94. Make your dues checks payable to Rolf Wucherer, 1942 Steere Place, Ann Arbor, MI 48104.


    Tom Dimmer still has many Pepsi-style stainless steel kegs available at $10 each.

    Dan McConnell is the new owner of the Yeast Culture Kit Company. He's looking for a couple of brewers to "test drive" the kit and its documentation and give him feedback. Call Dan if you're interested.

    Upcoming Meetings

    Tue, June 14        Spencer Thomas  
    Saturday,           Bill Pfeiffer
    July 16             Beer B-Q
                        Weiss is Nice
    Tue, Auguet 16      Josh Grosse     
    Thu, September 15   Best of Fest
    Tue, October 18     Brewola         
    Thu, November 17    Specialty Quest
    Tue, December 13                              

    Wooden Beercase Plans

    These plans were distributed on the Internet by Bruce Dodak. We haven't tried to make them, yet, but they look like nice crates.

    Materials Needed

    1 - 2' X 4' X 3/8" Piece of plywood
    1 - 26" X 24" X 1/8" Piece of Masonite (Peg board without holes)


    Cut all wood to the dimensions indicated above. Also follow the grain of the wood indicated above. If you do not follow the grain of the wood from above when you go to make the box joints the plywood will splinter.

    For the box joints I used a router table with a box joint jig. The router bit for the box joints is a twin edge 1/2" flute. Make sure when you cut the box joints that you cut both sides of the joint at the same time. This will ensure that both pieces will fit together properly.

    You will also need to make a 3/8" groove in the bottom of the case panels for the bottom to fit into. The groove should be about 3/16" deep and 1/2" from the bottom.

    The inserts are marked to the center of the cut. The cut on the inserts should be about 1/8" wide. When measuring the 17" insert make the measurements from the center of the board because, the outer insert box will not be 2 7/8", it will be 2 3/4".

    The holes for the handles were made with a 1 1/4" hole saw.

    When all the cuts have been made glue and clamp the box together with a good wood glue.

    I did not make any top for the box. That part is up to you.

    Bruce Dudek
    January 9, 1994

    The Meeting: How to Get There

    Tuesday, June 14, 7:30PM
    1418 Golden
    Spencer Thomas's House, 994-0072

    Golden runs North from Stadium just east of S. Industrial. 1418 is 2 blocks up on the left. In good weather, the meeting will be in back on the deck. From western Ann Arbor, make a "shallow" left from Stadium at S. Industrial, then left again onto Golden. From central AA, take the tail end of the directions below.

    From the North and East: Get off M-14 at the Downtown Ann Arbor exit (3). This puts you on Main St. Go to Huron (right before the street narrows for downtown), turn left 2 blocks to Fifth. Turn right and go to the 4th light at Packard and turn left. Go through 6 lights (last one is at Granger) and turn right at the next street: Brooklyn. Take it to the end and turn right onto Golden. Find a place to park.

    From the South and West: Take I-94 to State St. Go north past the mall and through two more stop lights (Eisenhower and Stimson). Go under the bridge and immediately turn right on Rose. Go three blocks to Golden and turn left. Go one block and park.

    Guide for New Members Bring 1-2 bottles per batch of your beer that you'd like to share, or an interesting commercial beer. Bring tasty munchies to cleanse the palate and sop up the alcohol. Feel free to share and sample with other members and make and accept constructive comments; making better beer or curing ailing ales is our interest! Please observe good judgment while imbibing and don't drive while intoxicated.

    Ann Arbor Brewer's Guild
    c/o Rolf Wucherer
    1942 Steere Pl.
    Ann Arbor, MI 48104