Tuesday, July 13, 2010

There's stone in that beer

Here's a video project that arose from Homebrew Day back in May.

While doing an interview for the Big Brew video of the Barley Legal Homebrewers gathered behind Iron Hill brewpub in Maple Shade, Maris Kukainis of Cherry Hill mentioned he planned to do a stone beer as an homage to his Latvian heritage.

Enough said. We'll be there.

If you're familiar with this age-old European process (the late great Beer Hunter Michael Jackson did a segment on the style whilst in Germany) and its origins, then you understand why it's intriguing.

The super-hot stones, when immersed in the wort, push the liquid over the hump into a rolling boil. The technique was relied upon back when some breweries used wooden kettles, which were unsuited for a direct flame. Hence, a work-around, one that imparted signature caramel and smoky flavors into the beer. (Check out the video below, by the Woodbridge-area homebrewer group WHALES. Club members used a wooden barrel as a kettle for their take on the style.)

To a soundtrack of Latvian folk tunes playing on an iPod, Maris brewed his version of stone beer using river stones heated over a hardwood fire. He bittered it with Styrian hops and the hop-predecessor mugwort, and tossed in some crushed juniper berries for good measure.

On a third dunk of hot stones, the wort was boiling, and the air around kettle filled with a combination maltiness and smokiness. (The stones retrieved from the wort wore a veneer of caramelized sugar.)

Maris split the kettle volume into two batches for primary fermentation. We have a follow-up call in to him to check on the fruits of his labors from that day in mid-May.


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