What started as an email, turned into 50 bbls of beer.
On April 14th, I got an email titled Saucerful of Secrects from Matt Brynidlson, simply saying, “I want to brew this with you some day… on the 50bbl system.” After my initial excitement wore off, I started to think, how am I going to scale up this recipe to brew 1575 gallons of this wild brew on a production system of this magnitude? That’s more beer than I’ve brewed in 14 years of homebrewing combined! So I just started taking it step by step, multiplying out malt, yeast, sugar and hops. After asking Matt the personal brewers question, "what is your
mash efficiency" I worked up a grain bill, limited to only one condition, a maximum 4300 pounds of grain.
Please, turn on your stereo, load up “A Saucerful of Secrets”, pour yourself a brew and enjoy this photo essay from the brew day, October 30th, 2007.
Brewing Saucerful of Secrets with Matt Brynildson
Learning that all of the water at Firestone Walker is all RO (Reverse Osmosis), we could build the water after any beer I wanted. So, I flipped through the pages of “Brew Like a Monk,” and picked the Trappist water from Rochefort, to support the heavy malt bill, building the foundation of the beer.
Matt discussed the brew day with Brian, as Saucerful of Secrets was one of five 50 barrel batches to be brewed that day. We turned the stereo up, pumping Floyd throughout the brewhouse.
With temperature rests of 148, 154 and 165 degrees, we test the mash to see if the starches have converted to sugars.
Matt reaches for iodine to check for the sugar conversion, just like I do with all my homebrew batches. He takes a white plate and a few drops of iodine to check for a presence of starch. We have full conversion! The mash is GOOD!
I took a minute to reflect as I was standing in this state of the art brewhouse full of bling, surrounded by more stainless than I have ever been. It was quietly amuzing to see such an operation use the same basic process for checking for starch as the homebrewer.
Because of scale and control we choose to use Wyeast 3787. Jim Crooks, Firestone’s QA Manager, scaled the commercial pitch from 3 liters to 2 bbls, then to 6 bbls, and finally 12 bbls of yeast and starter. This would give the beer 15 millon yeast cells per liter of wort. The concept of scale up really begins to show, as a small starter would over stress the yeast. With over 370 gallons of starter filled with yeast to feed 1575 gallons of wort, we are in good shape. And with a beer this big, we really don’t want a stuck fermentation.
The fruity esters and hints of spices and clove come through in the sample pitcher. We have to taste it to be sure everything is alright and to also offer some refreshment to the brewmaster.
With the transformed grain moved into the Laurter Tun, we start to see the magic of the brew. Nelubas of foam and grain start to appear on the surface of the grist, almost as if the album cover of the Pink Floyd classic is revealing itself.
With a perfect vorloff and a textbook sparge we pump the first running back up into the mash tun. Turning on the steam jacket, brings the 165 degree wort to an almost instant boil. This step was added on the fly because we wanted to add as much extra caramelization that we could to give the beer more flavor.
Matt jumped into the Boil Kettle, to give it a quick clean from the first days batch of brew, prepping it for the fresh wort.
We stop to sample the wort, checking its gravity by way of a hydrometer. Water chilled sample tubes are used to cool the warm wort down to 60 degrees. This is done several times, to see how much sugar in solution we can expect in the final beer. We also checked the pH of the beer, making sure no tannic flavors are transferred over.
Secret spices are measured out, some ground with the staffs coffee grinder, and added during the final boiling minutes. This is going to be one big brew!
With the clock ticking and 3 other batches of beer waiting to boil, the steam is turned off. We check the gravity one last time. With all the additional sugars and incredible malt bill going into this monster of a brew, Jim has to find a high gravity hydrometer as the standard one they use daily only reaches to 21 plato. Upon Jims return, the final gravity is measured, reading an impressive 23.4 plato. The final brew is racked over to the whirlpool, helping the beer clear any remaining hop particles, spices, and protein coagulants.
After sparging 1758 gallons of wort to the boil kettle, we start prepping all of the boil additions. We measured out Styrian Goldings, East Kent Goldings, Amarillo and Centennial hops. I was excited to learn that some of the hops were fresh from this years harvest. Buckets are set in order of additions. We check the clock regurarly for the timing of each addition.
To add another level of flavors to the beer, Matt and I add three different sugars to the kettle from Dark Candi. Brian Mercier shipped over 500 pounds of his special brewing sugars to Firestone Walker. As we haul all of it to the brewing platform, some of the assistant brewers start laughing and cracking jokes about baking cookies instead of brewing beer. I smile, knowing that this is the first Belgian inspired brew that has ever been brewed at Firestone Walker. With the addition of these sugars we not only add gravity to the brew, but also help with the attenuation as these sweeteners are only fructose and sucrose, making it easy for the yeast to metabolize. The Dark Candi Syrup not only gives a ton of color to the brew, but flavors of chocolate, toffee, black cherry, vanilla and caramel will layer into the final palate along with other sugars that Rochefort and Achouffe use.
After 30 minutes, the wort is ready to journey through a tea bag like strainer into the heat exchanger, taking the 200+ degree liquid down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. With all of the hoses cleaned, sanitized and clamped together, making the distance to Fermenter 12, we start the pump. The hot sani-water is pushed out, and then with the turning of a few valves, the wort transfers into the conical. The clear wort mixes with the yeast starter and the tank is filled. Now, we let the beer start to ferment.
As my brew day comes to an end, and I am struck by how similar it was to brewing at home. Sure, my system isn’t nearly as shiny, nor my extraction so high, yet the process is the same. In the same time it takes me to brew 5 or 10 gallons at home, I helped to brew 50 bbls.
As we finish up I realized how fortunate I was to brew with the professional and experienced staff of Firestone Walker. They welcomed my ideas and shared there knowledge and expertise with me willingly. This was a special opportunity that I will not soon forget.
I want to personally thank Brian, Will, Jim (Crooks and Cibak), Dustin, Ali, Michelle, Miguel, Dave, Cathy and Matt for a wonderful day. I sit back and smile, thinking about what a great time I had that day.
After we finish cleaning up, Matt and I start hunting down barrels for the final blending of 11.
The next day I stop by on my way home to check up on the beer. The temperature has risen to 18.6 degrees Celsius or 64.5F. The beer is well on its way to high krausen.
High Gravity Belgian Dark Ale, a tribute beer to Sid Barrett
Fermented in Stainless Steel for 5 weeks
Large charge of Belgian Candi Sugar /Styrian Golding Hops
Calories for a 12 oz glass: 300.58
After primary and secondary fermentation, Saucerful of Secrets has been transfered to barrels. To see A Barrel full of Secrets click here.
After several emails, phone calls, and disussions about the increased scale of the recipe, the beer was scheduled for brewing on October 30th, the special ingrediants were ordered, and I showed up at Firestone Walker at 7:00 AM to start milling 2700 pounds of speciality grain and base malt one bag at a time.
We added the last of the base malt, bringing the total grain bill to 4380 pounds. This filled the mash tun, right to the top rung of the ladder, just shy of submerging the malt mixer. This is were smell o’vision would really be nice.
20% of Saucerful of Secrets was blended with Velvet Merkin creating A Saucerful of Merkins, Firestone Walkers first Holiday Release. After a few months of aging, some of Saucerful of Secrets was released to the world. City Beer was having a Firestone Walker day, selling 11 cases of 11 and had four beers on tap all from the brewery. It was the first appearance of SFS! I got very lucky to actually get a pint! I arrived just after 3:15 pm after being on Justin’s CBS show discussing holiday food pairings and dishes. Craig poured a nice goblet of my brew, refusing money for my first time to have it on draft. I sat down and enjoyed the moment, sipping Matt's and my collaboration, remembering the brew day, stunned how well the beer came out. After I finished my first glass, I wanted to continue the trip down memory lane only to watch the last pint be poured to someone else. I heard that all too familiar sound of CO2 and foam filled the glass. The keg was dust… I asked Craig when he put it on tap, only to find out that it was less than 24 hours before… Justin and Shaun O’Sullivan were going to be bummed; I had invited them down for a glass of my nectar not realizing it would be gone so quick. Sorry guys!