F4T: Accordion to Steve, Jackson St. Brewing

Apr 29, 2016

Steve Smith contemplates a flight of beer at Jackson Street Brewery

Ambi: I’m Elsa / Have you heard about our watermelon beer?

 VO: I’m Steve Smith, and this is Accordion to Steve: Jackson Street Brewing, a special edition of Food for Thought.  Elsa Va, my accordionist, because I have one, (don’t you?) joined me for a tour of this local tasting room located on 5th Street, downtown. 

Elsa Va at Jackson Street Brewing
  Wait a minute, 5th Street? Indeed. The name is an homage to brew master Dave Winslow’s fermented beginnings, batch brewing five gallon beverages in his abode, which is on Jackson Street, and tippling with his family. The dream of opening his own shop came about when Dave: The beer started tasting good VO: And I’m here to see that it does, and to have a looksee into how Dave does it. And because I needed a good place to go with my accordionist.  Walking in from the street, the room is welcoming, spacious, light. The bar stretches before you, and behind it is the room where we begin, the brewing room. Dave: So, the process for brewing begins right here: this is the mash tun. Steve: And this is like a huge kettle Dave: Except it doesn’t ever get heated up. First you pour water in here. You pour grains in there, and you take the stirrer… paddle! Paddle. Mash paddle. Very important. If this thing breaks, I don’t know what I would do without it. Steve: It looks sort of like the devils pitchfork, but all of the tines are tied together. Dave: Yeah, there’s little gaps in there so that you can break apart the little dry balls of grain, because you want them all to moistened with the water. Steve: So what do we do after this step… what is this called, again?  Dave: This is the mash tun. T. U. N. You know, like Jack Daniels is called “Sour Mash,” because they mash in the grains. The enzymes convert the starch to sugar. So it sits in here about an hour.  Steve: OK. So the water and the grains just hang out together, and your just getting the sugar out of them.  Dave: Yeah, getting the sugar out.  VO: The liquid in the mash tun is then sent to the hot liquor tank Dave: There’s no liquor in it. It’s just water. It’s got a water heater in it. It’s insulated. So, I can leave it on, and it will hold the temperature overnight so that I can brew the next day.  Steve: And this basically looks like a stainless steel oil barrel. Dave: These are stainless steel, food-grade barrels.  VO: The sweet liquid inside, called wort, is brought to a boil Dave: And now you’re brewing VO: The longer the boil, the more concentrated the sugars, the more viscous the liquid. Short boils are for pale ales and lighter beers, beers that often feature hoppiness, a bitter flavor that comes from the flowers of the hop plant. These are added during the boil.    Dave: But the hops are different. They’re more mild in Europe… European hops are more mild. They’re more spicy, earthy, maybe a little bit floral, but American hops are more aggressive. It’s kind of the revolution of brewing in the US.  Steve: That’s interesting, because you think of American beers compared to European beers, and you think that European beers are more flavorful than, like, an American Pilsner.  Dave: They’re just balanced different. They’re more towards the grain flavor, and the malt, and the sugar, and the, you know, carameliness.  In the US, they’re more towards the hoppiness. It’s all about balance. There are so many different components to a beer other than just how heavy it is.  You have to combine the hoppiness and the malt, and everything else. Steve: And the flavor profile… Dave: Yeah, there’s so many things. That’s the biggest thing to learn, too. That takes a couple years to figure out.   VO: After the boil, the beer is chilled to about room temperature then pumped into a fermenter where the yeast is added.  Dave: And it will convert sugar to alcohol. Germans have been making beer like this for 3000 years. They’ve been propagating their strains, so there is just thousands of strains. VO: And each imparts its own flavor, making it not only important for converting the sugar to alcohol, but in giving a beer its character.  Dave: So once its done in here, between anywhere from a week-and-a-half to two months I’ll keep ‘em in here, I have a choice. I can either send it into a keg to have it sit for another three or four months, to age, or, if I want to carbonate it right away, I pump it into that room, into another vessel just like this  VO: The room Dave points to is a walk in refrigerator. The keg aging option involves whiskey barrels, a pastor, and trips to Louisville.  Dave: Perfectly legal. You can do it. I’m hoping to bottle one of these. I have a barley wine in here, it’s almost 12% alcohol, and then I have an oak, whiskey aged doppelbock.  Steve: Let’s go drink some beer VO: I bellied up to the bar, and Dave brought a paddle with four beers poured into snifter-like glasses.  Steve: What is this called when you put it out in this little… Dave: It’s called a flight. So, you get four, and I’d recommend you request a light beer first, and then go to something a little bit more flavor, a little bit more flavor, maybe a little bit more body, or caramel notes, and then finish with something either dark or kinda hoppier at the end, and higher alcohol.  VO: The first beer I tasted was a watermelon beer.  Dave: Our theme here is we grow a lot of the ingredients. We own an orchard, and I love gardening, so I like to incorporate as much fruit as we can into our beers. I’m not a huge fan of sweet extract or fake flavored beers, so I do try to use as much as real, natural, organic, we don’t spray anything. Steve: OK, I’m definitely tasting the watermelon, but it’s not sweet at all.  Dave: No. Steve: It’s pretty dry, really.  Dave: You might say it’s dry, but it doesn’t really have a lot of hops. Before I added the watermelon it actually had a sort of sweet finish. Since it has real watermelon in there, the seeds have a slight bitter component. You might get a little bit of that from the seeds that are in there, and the fruit can give it an extra component, too. Steve: I like it. It’s alright. Dave: You know on a nice warm day, it’s kind of a thirst quencher. VO: The second beer was an Irish red.  Dave: Yep, your starting to get into a little bit more caramel. There’s a little bit of roasted barley – you can see the color in there from that. This one has a slightly higher finishing gravity, and what I mean by that is that there is a little bit more sugar left in the beer. Steve: What does that mean to the taster? Dave: It produces a body, more body.  Steve: It’s thicker? Dave: Yes. More viscous. There’s still some sugar that the yeast didn’t eat in there.  And that’s part of the brewing process.  When you do some of those steps back there. I do a higher temperature mash. I put the grain in there – It’s five to ten degrees warmer, and that makes some unfermentable sugar.  Steve: So there’s a lot of science involved in brewing. Dave: It’s science, but what I really like is it’s still an art form.  Steve: This one tastes a little, or smells a little more caramelly.  Dave: It’s made with a very expensive malt called Marris Otter barley. It’s comes from Europe, it’s European, UK. It has a little bit of a more nutty, grain taste. It’s really good in a Scotch ale, Russian imperial stout, or a beer like this where it’s more flavor from the grain rather than from the hops. It’s not hoppy.  Steve: So we’ve had the watermelon, the Irish red, and this is a Scotch ale. Is this how they brew beer in Scotland?  Dave: Uh, yeah, because in Scotland the history of brewing is that they don’t have a climate that can grow hops very well. This is like the big more grain, more alcohol, more grain flavor. Steve: It has a higher ABV, that’s the word? Alcohol by volume? Dave: Yes. This one is almost 10%.   Steve: Oof.  Dave: It’s getting up there. This one I age for seven months before we released it.   Steve: OK. Is it purple, or is that just the lighting? Dave: It’s more of a brownish red. Steve: It’s like a wine color; like a burgundy. This is sweeter, much sweeter. Dave: Anytime you use more grain, you’re going to be left with more sugar. It amplifies: more and more grain, more alcohol, more sugar.  Steve: Way more sweet than the watermelon beer, which I thought was going to sweet.  Dave: It has double the amount of sugar left.  VO: By this point, I felt myself double sugared. Last stop, the weisenbach. The darkest on the paddle.  Dave: The next beer you’re going to drink has a lot of esters. These are by-products of fermentation. The yeast makes these when it starts to consume the sugar.  Steve: So this is a German beer? Dave: Very traditional. Most German beers are lagers. They’re fermented cold because in Germany they would brew in the fall and winter. It’s thirty-five to forty degrees all winter long, it’s just a consistent temperature. This one’s fermented at sixty-two to sixty-five degrees. Steve: OK. So this is dark but it’s also sweet. Dave:  It’s dark and sweet, but it’s focused on the esters from the yeast. If you’ve ever had a light hefenweisen, they have a lot of clove, banana bread flavors.  Those are esters that are produced by the yeast.   Steve: Am I getting coffee in here? Dave: There might be. There’s a little bit of roasted malt in there – darker.  Steve: This one doesn’t seem to be as sweet as the last one. Dave: That might be because of the other flavors distracting your palette, too. Steve: Well, very good. Dave: You drank all of them, so it couldn’t have been too bad. Steve: No, they’re all good. VO: They were good. And we were good. And we left Jackson Street Brewing with our dignity in tact.  Steve: For brew master Dave Winslow, accordionist Elsa Va, sound engineer Mark Munger, I’m Steve Smith, for Accordion to Steve, a special Food for Thought on Siouxland Public Media.