While 2020 has been a year of setbacks, adaptations, and takeovers for many Minnesota breweries, one brewery has continued to find its way.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Eric Petersen, Sales Director of Brass Foundry Brewing Co. We had started noticing the recognizable Brass Foundry faucet handles in bars and restaurants earlier this year and assumed it was a new brewery in Minnesota. We were wrong.
“We brought out our first beer on the Friday before Labor Day 2018,” Petersen told us on a pleasantly sunny and warm Sunday afternoon in October. “So we've been on the market for a little less than two and a half years.”
Located in an industrial park in Long Lake, Minnesota, Brass Foundry is the only known (at the time of writing) Minnesota brewery operating without a taproom (excluding Surly's recent decision to shut down the beer bar due to of COVID-19).
“Since the inception of the company,” Petersen told us, “some have watched conference rooms. A few of them didn't really work. In the meantime, as we were reviewing one in Minnetonka, I hit the floor with a growler and our 63 IPA question, and practically sold our production capacity in the boardroom we were reviewing. From there, they began to reassess their goals and production needs, ultimately deciding to become a distribution brewery. “It was a very good choice, we think. It helps us grow, which was our original intention. We wanted to go into the market and expand that market. Instead, Brass Foundry worked with retailers and distributors to become widely available throughout Minnesota; they are also growing rapidly in Wisconsin.
Despite its current location and the freedom to work outside the ties of a taproom, the name Brass Foundry - coincidentally - comes from a taproom space they had looked at early on, which was, in fact, a former foundry of brass in downtown Minneapolis.
In addition to finding inspiration in this first space, the name Brass Foundry has a second double meaning. “Brass is a metal,” Petersen continued, “the craft. You have to work with the form. And we look at our beers the same way.
When it comes to beer, Brass Foundry focuses on brewing the beer that will reach the widest and most complete palate. “One of our slogans is 'We made this beer for you'. […] We're brewing in the middle of the slice of pie, so to speak - what's going to appeal to the majority of palates in this taste profile? Our goal is to make beers that are consumable for the consumer and deliver them at a good price. The beers currently available in cans on the market include Cream Ale, Question 63 IPA, Dock Pounder Golden Ale, Crazy Hair Blonde Ale, Ferry Road West Coast IPA, Angry Loon Lager and Amber Ale. In addition to cans, Brass Foundry also brews a forged series of limited cask-only versions that previously included a chocolate stout, porter vanilla, smash golden ale, dark ale, juicy IPA, and raspberry ale.
Just because Brass Foundry beers are widely consumable doesn't mean they can't win awards either. “This is it,” said Petersen, pointing to a can of the 63 IPA question, “this is the beer we started with. [It was] Bronze medal at the New York International Beer Competition for its category this year. Over 600 entries from 14 countries. "
“And in the same competition,” Petersen continued, “… our cream beer won the silver medal at the New York International for its beer category. I think we were notified as soon as COVID hit. “Cream beer currently accounts for 60-65% of Brass Foundry's production.“ It's about our fastest product right now, ”Petersen told us,“ question 63 being second. And then it's a draw between Dock Pounder Golden Ale and Amber Ale.
In a year when COVID-19 has really rocked many businesses - including many in the Minnesota craft beer industry - it's encouraging to see Brass Foundry not only survive but thrive, a true testament to a great role model. commercial and exceptional products. And it's no wonder - once our formal business was done, Eric invited us out and unofficially talking over cold beers. All we'll say is the next time you see Cream Ale or Question 63 IPA in the liquor store or bar, don't let it pass!
To learn more about Brass Foundry Brewing Co., check out their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.
- Adam and Katie, Ale Adventures
Whether it’s your first time with a kit, or your hundredth all-grain brew, you need to ferment it in something suitable. Most of the time your options are between a bucket and a carboy. Carboys or demijohns look nicer, especially if they’re glass, but can be a pain to clean. Food-grade plastic buckets lack glamour, but are practical – just make sure you get one with a close-fitting lid that’s suitable for an airlock. As with most things there are more expensive alternatives, but while they’re good, they’re not necessary. You can find buckets and demijohns at Brew Store or The Malt Miller.
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 conteneurs. 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 tera Brew by John Palmer to the uncountable cercles d'entraides 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 pack 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 pack 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 conteneur. 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 quarante cinq minutes at room temperature and you should start to see fermentation activity.
The length of time for fermentation on the side of your coffret 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 kits as it will help remove some of the queue found in young/’green’ beer.
In order to efficiently multiply and get to the 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 container of water to cool it and prevent temperature fluctuations. Wrapping a wet towel around it and pointing a fou 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 d'environnement. 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 pot 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 bocal of wort in a temperature conductive container ( i. e. your brew récipient ) than a grande 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 working earlier.
Get into the habit of sanitizing everything that will come in contact with your wort or beer after the boil.
Extract packs 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 packs in shops 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 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 hard 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 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