Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Broederschap Project

It started with an idea. Craft breweries seem to love their collaboration beers, so why not get a few homebrewers together to do likewise? Then the idea morphed into, why not get a few homebrewers that also blog together, and how about doing it with guys I only get to see from time to time and whose company I very much enjoy? Thus I sent an email to James from A Homebrew Log and Eric from Relentless Thirst with a very simple question - would you be interested in designing and brewing a collaborative beer?

Both responded that they thought it was a great idea, and so a mammoth chain of emails developed (I have to say that using Gmail kept that nicely together as an easy to follow thread). In the course of the emails we decided to brew up in Fredericksburg, on James' brewhouse in the picture.

We decided fairly early on that we would brew a Dubbel, and so we all did our research and created recipes from which to design the final project. The only Belgian beer I had brewing before was a witbier, so I went off and bought Stan Hieronymous' book "Brew Like a Monk" (minor aside, while reading the book I kept getting this idea that to brew like a monk, get someone else to do the actual brewing). Eventually we ended up with the following recipe:
  • 18.25 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel
  • 1.00 lb Aromatic Malt
  • 1.00 lb Biscuit Malt
  • 1.00 lb Special B Malt
  • 0.50 lb Wheat Malt, Bel
  • 0.25 lb Caramunich Malt
  • 1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [4.60 %] (120 min) (First Wort Hop)
  • 1.00 oz Styrian Goldings [4.60 %] (90 min)
  • 0.50 oz Saaz [3.50 %] (90 min)
  • 1.00 oz Saaz [2.60 %] (35 min)
  • 0.50 oz Saaz [3.50 %] (10 min)
  • 2.00 lb Sugar, Table (Sucrose)
  • 1.50 lb Amber Invert Syrup (35.0 SRM)
  • 2 Pkgs Belgian Abbey II (Wyeast Labs #1762)
This was to be my first all grain mash, and I had assumed that the grain would be crushed in advance - we got our supplies from Northern Brewer, and I always get stuff crushed in advance. However, James has his own mill, which is an adapted flour mill replete with grinding stones.

Eventually we had 22lbs of crushed grain ready to mash.

60 minutes later we had the first runnings in the kettle, and while sparging the grains, we added our first hop addition, an ounce of Styrian Goldings. When we were designing the recipe, we decided that we wanted to be as classic and authentic as possible. The combination of Styrian Goldings and Saaz kept cropping up in our research so that was something of a no-brainer.

Rather than just chucking hops into the kettle, James has a hop bag that hangs into the kettle. Given that we were using leaf hops for some of the additions, it was inevitable that a few bits got into the boil itself.

During the brewing process we took the opportunity to crack into some homebrew, Eric and I had bought some bits and pieces, as well as a growler of the Brew Ridge Trail Collaboration India Black Ale. Eric brought a coffee porter which was delicious, and James had his converted chest freezer laden with goodies. On tap at the time were his version of the 1933 Barclay Perkins Milk Stout, a Warrior single hopped American Brown Ale and an American Wheat Ale hopped with Cascade and Amarillo (I think). All three were very impressive, as was his Pilsner which was bottled, but the highlight for me was the wheat ale, which combined the best elements of a hefeweizen with the best of an American Pale Ale - so drinkable, hugely refreshing and just down right gorgeous.

We ended up boiling the wort for 2 hours rather than the planned 90 minutes so we could get to our target volume of 10.75 gallons, and so we added a few more hops at the end of the boil just to add a touch of aroma. As part of our aim to be authentic, we included a healthy dose of sugar to the boil, both plain table sugar and the remnants of James' invert syrup that he made for the International Homebrew Project.

When all was said and done, we had 10.75 gallons of 1.068 (16.6° Plato) wort, into which we pitched a healthy yeast starter that James had prepared a few days in advance, and put the fermenting vessel in the fridge to do its magic.

The name for this beer is Dissolution Dubbel. The inspiration for the name was that Virginia was originally named for Queen Elizabeth I, aka The Virgin Queen, her father was Henry VIII and it was during his reign that England became a, kind of, Protestant country and in order to pay his bills, the King dissolved the monasteries and sold most of the property to his friends and supporters.

We decided that as we had such a good time planning and brewing Dissolution Dubbel, that we would make this kind of project a regular occurence, perhaps a few times a year, and so another of the names suggested for the beer itself became the name of our new project, Broederschap is Dutch for "brotherhood".

A fantastic day was had, top company, excellent beer and the prospect of more excellent beer in top company, what more could you ask for?


  1. Great post Al, and definitely a great brewday.

  2. Pretty sure this is how breweries get started. Interesting read though and I hope the beer comes out great.

  3. Nice brewkit too. I am in the process of making something like it. Or more to the point, I am in the process of not doing anything to finish it.

    I need to order bits.....

  4. Man, I wish I had someone to do a collaborative brew with. I think I need to start a home brew club or something. Great stuff


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