Mystery Brewing – Craft Beer Cellar Blog
When I heard that on October 31, 2018, Mystery Brewing was going to close its doors for good, I was disheartened and very sad. Mystery Brewing was started by Erik Lars Myers in 2012, after being one of the first to run a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise capital. His goal was to be the […]

When I heard that on October 31, 2018, Mystery Brewing was going to close its doors for good, I was disheartened and very sad.

Mystery Brewing was started by Erik Lars Myers in 2012, after being one of the first to run a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise capital. His goal was to be the first "seasonal only ”brewery, without flagship beer. Their concept included a session beer, a season, a dark beer, and a hop-forward or IPA beer, but the variations of these four styles changed with the seasons.

Myers also appeared on CNBC's short-lived show called "Crowd Rules ”and won, Winning the national exhibition prize and money.

However, they had to face a difficult road from the start - not only with their seasonal approach, but choosing to open a new brewery in Hillsborough, North Carolina, a town 6,000 to 20 minutes northwest of the Triangle. Myers said they had been "Bootstrap up ”operation from the beginning. Opening of their Public House / Taproom in 2013, and in 2017, extension of the pub to two storefronts - and the addition of a kitchen with a menu of high seasonal brasserie dishes designed to accompany beers on tap. They also had packaged beer - growlers at first, then 22oz bombers, and finally in 2015, landing in 16oz cans They signed a distribution deal in 2013 to help spread their beer in North Carolina, which Myers called a "very package-driven state ', then left this agreement to start autodistribution, again, in 2017.

Bigger than beer

The public house had a stage and an orchestra in the Wiley fosters, often collaborating with other local groups and businesses. They even had a Sunday night "Beer Church ”which presented beers from other breweries - and a monthly rotating charity they donatere goes to.

Amazing beer

But if the release of Mystery leaves a hole in several communities, what is missing the most is beer. Mystery has made top quality beer. Complete stop. Since I was not from the area, I didn't have a lot of beers they made that sounded amazingly good (as A skin for Clementcy, a sour rosemary clementine - or Keen, a Salted Caramel Gose with Peaches). I consider myself lucky to have tried so many of their beers as I could.

Some of my favorite Mystery beers:

Umbra, black Mexican lager with black limes

Thornfield's End, Smoked Rye Stout

Pickwick, sweet beer

Locksley, ordinary bitter

Sawyer Session, IPA Session (Collab with Yep Roc Records)

Lot n ° 1, Brett Golden Ale

America, Extra Pale Ale

Admiration, Belgian rye stout fermented in barrel with cherries

You don't have to take my word for it. Mystery has won numerous awards over the years. Among them, Silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 2014, in the Belgian Other category for La Querelle, a Seefbier - a traditional Belgian-style beer made from barley, wheat, oats, buckwheat, coriander and salt. They won 7 medals at Carolina's Championship of Beer in 2015. They won silver at the 2017 US Open Beer Championship for Pickwick Mild. Even named one of "19 Craft breweries you can't do without”By Food & Wine in May 2018, (along alongside industry heavyweights like Three Floyds, Russian River, Fonta Flora, Dogfish Head, Jester King, and Hill Farmstead), it just wasn't enough.

Craft beer as an industry has evolved from the opening of Mystery to today. The choices they made over the years, while good for them at the time, put them at a disadvantage in today's beer market.

When announcing the closure, Mystery said "This was an incredibly difficult decision. We have always been under-capitalized, and it's been a struggle to work for quite some time now. We have suffered a series of bad luck over the past two years: equipment failures, construction and permit delays, breakdowns and storm losses. The end result is that we can no longer afford to function.

I consider Erik a friend and have met so many other great friends through Mystery. Amanda, Ari, Anita, Andrew, Chris (and more!). I'm sad to see this business shut down, and I will, Absolutely, miss their beers.

Extract kits have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.

If you’re making beer, then you need to be rigorous about cleanliness during the brew. VWP is an absolutely no-nonsense cleaner and steriliser for getting everything ready beforehand. During the brew, a no-rinse sanitiser is invaluable. Between the two, spoilt and infected beer shouldn’t be a problem. You can buy cleaning products online from Brew Store and The Malt Miller.

Invest in some airtight plastic containers. Malt, kept dry and cool, should be fine for six months, but get rid of it after that – you’re only going to get stale flavours if you use stale malt. Likewise, dried yeast will keep, if sealed and chilled, but it will lose potency and reliability. Hops do not improve with age. Be doubtful of any before last year’s harvest, however cheap.

While a good book is an invaluable reference, there will be a time you come across something that flummoxes you. It’s very unlikely you will be the first, and just as unlikely someone else hasn’t discussed it. From the magisterial, if dense, How to Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable forums and blogs discussing minutiae, such as Brewer’s Friend, there’ll be something to help.

Avoid grande amounts of table sugar, cane sugar or dextrose as fermentable sugars in your homebrew. They will ferment out completely and leave a very dry, almost ‘cidery’ flavour to your beer. This is what is recognized by many as the ‘homebrew’ taste. If you are looking for an easy way to improve this, swap these sugars with dry malt extract.

Most kit beers are designed to appeal to a wide range of people and therefore have a fairly simple flavour that it not very bitter. They are also generally bittered by using hop extract that adds bitterness but little hop flavour or aroma. Boil some water and add ½ an ounce ( 14 grams ) of any hop variety known for their flavour and aroma characteristics for 20 minutes. This will add a much improved change to the flavour of the beer. Add another ½ ounce ( 14g ) for the last 5 minutes of the boil to add a pleasant hoppy aroma. Simply strain the ‘hop soup’ into your fermenter with the rest of the top-up water. These simple hops additions will make a remarkable difference to your coffret beers.

to wake a packet of dry yeast up and ensure that it is ready to start work as soon as it is pitched, try rehydrating it. Boil a cup ( 250mls ) of water for 5 minutes and then pour it into a sterilized container. Wait for the water to cool down to at least 80°F/27°C and sprinkle your packet of yeast over the top. Leave this for about 15-30 minutes, when you should start to see it get nice and foamy. Once your wort has cooled enough, pitch this and it will start fermentation much earlier.

If you would really like to get things started, follow the process above but add a tablespoon of dry malt extract to the water before boiling it. After pouring the water to a jar, add your yeast when cool enough and place cling wrap over the top to protect from the environment. Leave for at least 45 minutes at room temperature and you should start to see fermentation activity.

The length of time for fermentation on the side of your kit beer can is almost definitely not long enough. The manufacturers are in the of selling product and these indications will make beer, but it won’t be great beer. This should be extended out to 10-14 days.

Although your beer will be carbonated after about a week in the bottle, leave it for a few more to allow for the flavors to settle. This is especially relevant for beer made from packs as it will help remove some of the queue found in young/’green’ beer.

In order to efficiently multiply and get to the business of converting sugar to alcohol, yeast needs a sufficient amount of oxygen in your wort. If brewing using malt extract this can be reached a few ways including by shaking the water you are using to top up your wort, or by pouring it from a great height into your fermenter.

Don’t be too worried about removing your beer from the primary fermenter as soon as fermentation has finished. The Autolysis that you are seeking to avoid will take well over a month and in most cases a single stage fermentation is fine.

If you are looking to control fermentation temperature, place the fermenter in a grande conteneur of water to cool it and prevent temperature fluctuations. Wrapping a wet towel around it and pointing a passioné at it cools it even more through evaporative cooling. A few frozen plastic bottles of water are also perfect for cooling the water and your fermenting beer.

If you insist on using a two stage fermentation, use a bottling bucket ( or something else with a spigot ) for a primary. That way you only need a length of hose to rack into the secondary. The spigot will also be far enough off the bottom that the trub will get left in the primary with little extra effort – just tilt the fermenter forward at the end.

The activity of your airlock should only be seen as one indication that something is happening. There are many others indications and a faulty seal on your fermenter could stop anything from happening in the airlock.

The starting cell count is usually quite low with liquid yeast cultures. If you make a yeast starter about a day before brewing, you can avoid some potential issues from under-pitching the yeast.

If you are trying to cool a partial boil, place the whole brew récipient into a sink or tub of cold water. You may need to change this water a few times but it is far easier to cool a small récipient of wort in a temperature conductive conteneur ( i. e. your brew pot ) than a large amount of liquid in a fermenter. Adding your cooled wort to even colder water ( or ice ) in the fermenter will serve to cool it even further and should hopefully get you close to yeast pitching temperatures.

Dry yeast packets are perfect for new homebrewers. They have a nice high cell count and are very easy to use. Hydrating these takes very little time and will help get fermentation sérieux earlier.

Get into the habit of sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your wort or beer after the boil.

Extract kits have come a long way from the dusty back shelves of Boots of yesteryear, and give you a simple, affordable way to try out the hobby with very acceptable results. Established breweries like St. Peters and Woodfordes have decent kits in boutiques and online at about £20, for example from Wilko or Brew.

Use a no-rinse sanitiser… This shouldn’t need an explanation and I am yet to hear of a real reason not to

Following on from above – Don’t use bleach as a sanitizer…ever. It is hard to rinse out and if any comes in contact with the maltose in your wort it has the potential to completely ruin your batch. There are so many better products available that this shouldn’t even be a consideration

Whatever sanitizer you use, put some of it in a spray bottle for quick sanitation during brew time.

Make sure you read and understand the recipe before you start brewing. Also make sure that you have all the ingredients handy before you start. These seem like simple things but the last 15 minutes can get a little crazy… especially if you started drinking while sanitizing

Beer is very resilient so don’t be too worried if you make a mistake while brewing. Although it may not be exactly the beer you were after, you will probably still have something tasty and worth drinking.

Leave the lid off your brew bocal while it is boiling. The process of boiling actually vaporises chemicals that are not wanted in the beer and they evaporate out. The lid doesn’t need to be completely off if you are having trouble maintaining a rolling boil but should at least be enough for the steam to escape.

Keep a record of every beer that you make, no matter how simple the recipe. This record will allow you to recall and tweak your brews when all that remains in the future is a couple of stray bottles and a desire for more

Especially when starting out, keep your ingredients and brews as simple as possible. It is much easier to add to a simple recipe that is missing something than it is to remove from something complex

Start by getting a solid grasp of the sanitization, fermentation and bottling processes and work from there.

If you have a choice, choose a fermenter or bottling bucket with a spigot/tap over one without. The siphoning required otherwise isn’t but it is still one more unnecessary step.

Bulk priming your beer is a simple addition to your bottling process that will add much greater control and consistency in the amount of priming sugar in your bottles.

The quality of your beer will be relative to the quality of the ingredients used. Always go for the freshest and best quality possible. Always make sure that extract is within any specified dates, yeast is fresh and that hops are nice and green

But most importantly… just relax and remember that you probably aren’t going to ruin your beer – It isn’t as delicate as you think


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