category Beer

Coming Not So Soon, Barrel Aging at Black Star

As many of you know, we just released Aberrant No. 4 in the pub last month. What many of you may NOT know is that was the last bit of the original base beer that was soured in our used bourbon barrels. The base beer that was originally put in the barrels was a malty, slightly smoky beer that was then inoculated with a few different souring bacteria and wild yeasts in each barrel.

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Can’t Quit You: A Collaboration with Blue Owl Brewing

This February will mark the first collaboration between Black Star Co-op and Blue Owl Brewing. Back in January, Jeff Young flew north to Black Star for a “brewunion” of sorts in which we set out to create a sour-mashed Double IPA. With him he brought his fellows owls and the infamous MIU (modular inoculation unit) to better facilitate the souring process. 

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Gone Gold: Black Star’s Head Brewer on GABF 2015

We asked Black Star Co-op’s head brewer, Andy Martinec, to answer a few questions about the most recent trip to the Great American Beer Festival and Recalcitrant Dockhand’s gold medal win. 

You and Mike are both relatively new brewers, what does this sort of critical acknowledgement do for you moving forward?

Andy: It’s amazing to have something like this happen this early in your career but I have to give a ton of credit to Jeff and Chris (the brewers before me) for setting us up for success. We were trained very well by both of them and the recipes have been tweaked for years to finally get to the point that they are at.

The Texas craft beer scene is increasingly more visible on a national stage. Do you foresee this trend continuing? Do you foresee Austin’s (and maybe even Black Star’s) influence increasing as well?

A: Texas, on the whole, will continue to grow and be seen as a competitive craft beer producer around the country/world. Austin’s influence has no choice but to increase. With this city being one of the most desirable places to move to, quality will continue to go up and competition will drive ingenuity and creativity.

Are you going to try to produce another medal winning beer, or are you already over the awards show rat race?

A: I am not quite that jaded yet. We will continue to submit beers for competition and if one of them is recognized, that is awesome! If not, that’s OK too. We produce beers we want to drink and try to make them in a unique way. Sometimes, though, they do not fit into a style guideline, so naturally they do not stand to win any medals.

How difficult is it to drive 900 miles the morning after a Gold Medal win?

A: It’s actually pretty easy when you are in the back seat sleeping.

How did you decide to submit Recalcitrant Dockhand for judging at GABF?

A: Traditionally we do not brew this beer until November since it is so hot in Texas and Porters just simply do not sell as well as a lighter offering. This year we decided to brew this beer 2 months early specifically to enter it into competition. We knew the last time we brewed this beer it was awesome and thought it was a pretty accurate representation of the style so that is essentially what drove our decision.

Is there anything that you learned during the brewing process of this particular batch that you’ll try to replicate?

A: Keep the malt bill the same. I am a firm believer that this beer is what it is because of the Weyermann malts that we use in it. They are extremely flavorful and full of roasty coffee and chocolate notes, which, in my opinion, is why it is such a solid Porter.

All Good Things Come in Threes

This month’s release of house beers has me really excited, because the beers each have some really special elements that make them unique. I got to sit down with Andy to talk about the design phase, products used, and aging process defining the beers that you’ll find on tap this month. 

Hubris

We brew Hubris, our wet hopped ale, every year during the hop harvest in North America. Ensuring the freshness of the hops is crucial to producing a great wet hopped ale, so the production window of this beer is carefully planned. The Beer Team decides on a variety of hops they’d like to use a month or two in advance. This year they chose Cascade hops from the Yakima Valley. When the hops are fully developed, the grower harvests, boxes, and ships the hops to us all in the same day. The grower provides the Beer Team a window for the hops to arrive so they can plan their brew schedule around the shipment. At the time I’m writing this, Andy is brewing Hubris. When the 30 lbs. of Cascade hops arrive, Andy will put them into a huge nylon bag which he’ll hang from one of the cleaned and sanitized tanks. They’ll rack the beer into this tank and steep Hubris in the fresh hops (like giant beer tea) until they’re ready to move the beer into a serving vessel. The professionals call this dry hopping; I prefer “beer tea” apparently. Hubris will be available in house (with all its beer tea glory) beginning September 14th. 

Ceres

Named for the Roman goddess of agriculture and grains, Ceres is set to release later on this month. Ceres will be the Co-op’s second member-owner designed beer, the first being Elba, our spiced wheat ale that received a medal at the Great American Beer Festival. To design Ceres, the Beer Team gathered responses from an online survey to member-owners. Based on the responses, the Beer Team determined that we should make a beer with a nice malt backbone and character and chose a mixture of rye, wheat, and pilsner malts. At a design forum, member-owners participated in a guided sensory analysis to sample different hops, deciding that Hallertau hops would best complement the Ceres’s malt character. In considering what would best accentuate the malts and bring out the quality of the hops, the Beer Team decided to make Ceres the Co-op’s first lager, sourcing yeast from Live Oak Brewing. We thank the member-owners who participated in designing this beer and hope that this beer meets the tastes and preferences of the membership when it’s released later this month.

Aberrant No. 2

The Beer Team will also release the 2nd edition of its small batch barrel aged sour series in September. Originally acquired from Balcones Distillery, the barrels have been aging this current version of Aberrant since February 2014. When it comes on tap today, you should expect a nice malt character, some residual sweetness, mild tartness, and a lot of character from the barrel. Because the barrels are already inoculated with three strains of cultures, expect that future versions of the Aberrant series to be ever changing, with complexities developing from the worts used to make the beer. The Beer Team will place the 31 gallon batch on tap today and expect to have it on tap for a couple weeks. 

We’re releasing some very interesting house beers this month, and we’re very excited to share them with you. 

 

2015 Member-Owner Designed Beer: Part II

After reviewing all of the results from the initial “Member-owner Designed Beer” survey, I feel I have a pretty strong idea of what everyone is looking for in this recipe. The majority of people had very similar ideas about what our next beer should be. Since the feedback we received was so focused, I don’t think it is necessary to release a second survey. This means the sit down sensory analysis gets to happen sooner! 

On Sunday July 19th, we will hold a gathering of Member-Owners (hopefully everyone who participated in the survey will join) at Black Star Co-op, 2pm. There will be a plethora of ingredients present based on our interpretation of everyone’s survey input. Our job will be to guide the you, the Member-Owner’s, through each potential ingredient, then decide which of them will be included in our beer. 

Once we have decided what should make it into the recipe, the Beer Team will brew this collaborative ale and serve it at the pub. 

If you’re a beer-loving member and want to be more involved, this is your chance. Come on out and help create a beer you want to drink at your Black Star Co-op. 

Design for Drinking: Brewing A New Member-Owner Envisioned Beer

Black Star Co-op just recently passed the 3300 member-owners mark (that’s amazing). We are truly fortunate to have so many people who support and care about this brewpub. Because y’all are so great, we want to do something special: let’s make another member-owner designed beer! I mean, think about how well it worked out last time (see: GABF Bronze Medal).

We’re going to manage this design session similar to how Elba was designed some years ago. To help navigate a process with so many contributing voices,  we’re going to start with a couple surveys to fill out.

We need to narrow down what “type” of beer to make. Then we can start focusing on a specific style. Majority decides the winner, so make sure you vote.

After the surveys are completed and type and style are determined, we will invite a group of member-owners to Black Star for an ingredients sensory analysis to determine what will be in the final beer. Once we have gathered as much feedback as possible from our members, we will design a recipe, share it with everyone, and brew it as soon as we can fit it into the schedule (ex: if we end up with a boozy porter, it makes sense for us to wait until the colder months to start brewing).

I am excited to see what y’all will have us cook up. Please give as much feedback as you like. We will try to guide this process so that most of you end up with the beer you’ve always dreamed of. 

Here is the link to the first survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CJS75S2

You Casked for It: More Cask Releases Moving Forward

Casks! Casks! Everyone loves casks! Well, maybe not everyone… But those who do will be excited to hear that we are going to change the way we manage our cask program going forward. We currently set aside two Mondays out of the month for special cask releases that we market a week or two in advance. This schedule gave us time to build excitement and inform people about the beer that will be on the cask engine.

This has worked great so far, making our Monday nights that much more special when you come to visit! However… I want more. More casks. More hops. More fruits. More puns. More El Vulcano. More manual pulling of beer.  

My aim is to have more casks on the engine throughout the year. As of now, Black Star Co-op releases a cask on a Monday and by Wednesday, it’s often gone. That means a cask is usually only available for 3 out of every 12 days. Though the few days our casks are available may engender an air of exclusivity, which is what we were aiming for, I want to see what happens when it’s more available. Bottom-line: I want to have more delicious under-carbonated beer waiting to be tapped.

This will change the way we advertise our cask releases. Instead of having a two-week heads up for the exact day a cask will be released, we will send out information on Facebook closer to the tapping of each release. We will let you know in the monthly newsletter which house beer you can expect to find casked each month. This month, expect special casks of Pneuma, Vulcan, and Rover. 

That being said, our beer production is highly seasonal, and the warmer months (now) generally yield beers less likely to be casked up. But we’re going to try to implement this new system and pull that engine all summer long (El Vulcano, anyone?).

By doing this, the Co-op will have casks available more often–including during peak weekend hours. For all who have asked “whats on cask?” and too often received the reply “nothing!”—this change is for you. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the traditional re-fermented ale offering that is cask-conditioned ale as whenever the mood strikes.