Brian started out in the culinary world but made the switch to brewing in 2010, becoming Volunteer Assistant Brewer to Davin at Rockbottom in Chicago. While the brewing world has not brought Brian any exotic experiences like opening a Mongolian restaurant in Mongolia (he did that), it did bring him to us in Memphis, and we couldn't make delicious beer without him. As he says in the video, he is "the mom" of WISEACRE beer, managing and taking care of its every need for 2-5 weeks before sending it on to packaging and out into the world.
Brian will tell you all about it and much more in this almost 8 minute video (cut down considerably). He goes "big on words", challenging the makers of Mountain Dew to challenge him, sings a little, graciously forgives five year olds, talks way too much about the drummer from The Police, references the Hot Dog and Sausage Council and explains Malort.
Irusu is the Japanese word for an idea that transcends time and culture: pretending you’re not at home when visitors come a-knockin'. Our Irusu, a super dry pale lager, is made with rice. Though some only associate the use of rice with mass market industrial lagers, rice has been used in fermented beverages for thousands of years and by many different cultures. The addition of rice lightens the body and flavor of barley beers, and though we still love our complex sippers, there is a time and a place for everything.
The oldest known barley beer was discovered in the mountains of Iran and dates back to 3400 BC; however, the oldest known fermented beverage (over 9,000 years old) was discovered in China and made with rice, honey and fruit. Though we call sake rice wine, it is technically closer to a beer (fermented beverage made with a cereal grain, not fruit). Rice has also been used in American brewing for many years (a hundred plus, though, not thousands).
It was German immigrants who first involved rice in American beer. Trying to make the pale bright (clear) and bubbly lagers they were accustomed to at home was tough with the higher protein 6-row barley available at the time in America.
Barley is full of starch, proteins and other compounds that make it great for brewing. Enzymes (specialized proteins in the barley) are responsible for breaking down starch in the barley into simple sugars which makes alcohol production possible (yeast can eat sugar but starch is too big). Some of the proteins also contribute to the body and texture of the beer. However, too many proteins lead to cloudy unstable beer, and some barley varieties have more than others. The barley the Germans used for brewing at home had a good balance, but the varieties they had access to here in early America had a lot more protein. Something starchy with very little protein was needed to bring it all back into balance, and this is where rice (and corn) come into play.
Rice and corn have very little protein and specifically lack the specialized proteins (enzymes) that break down starch. When making all-rice or all-corn fermented products, enzymes must be introduced from another source*. However, when rice or corn is used with barley, especially the higher protein 6-row, the rice has access to plenty of enzymes to break down its starch into fermentable sugars.
In fact, the beers made with corn and rice were even lighter in body and flavor than the all-malt pilsner and helles style beers they were trying to replicate. Since rice is almost only starch and nothing else, once the enzymes from the barley have a go at them, the starches break down into very small sugars. After fermentation, very little besides alcohol remains. With all-barley beers, even the very nicely ratio-ed 2-row, there will be more leftovers (starches, proteins and other compounds the yeast did not eat) after fermentation that contribute to the flavor and body of the beer. These pre-prohibition lagers were the model for the mass market industrial lagers that sprang up after prohibition.
Though it all started with 6-row barley, we used our usual higher quality 2-row (now easily accessible in ‘merica) to make this beer. It still has a richer, better malt flavor than the typical American Adjunct Lager the big guys make. However, it is much lighter in body and flavor than our Tiny Bomb Pilsner or Memphis Sands Helles. It is not very highly hopped but there is a smidge of bitterness to balance.
*For sake, the rice is inoculated with a fungus the produces the enzymes needed to break the starches down into fermentable sugars. For chicha, an all corn beer, the corn is chewed first. Human spit adds the enzymes needed to break down the starch in the corn.
Originally from Florida, Andy attended Siebel Institute in Chicago and Doemens World Brewing Academy in Germany. This is where he met Davin (one of the Bartosch brothers), quickly bonding over snarky quips, nonsensical graphs and creating ridiculous ficticious brewery names for class projects (Endagered Feces).
Upon graduation, they went their separate ways. Davin to Chicago to brew for Rock Bottom, and Andy to Montana to brew for (at least self proclaimed) America's most remote brewing company, Lang Creek. After 9 months, Lang closed (it was quite remote) but Andy scored a job at the Great Northern Brewery in Whitefish.
Over the next 6 years, Andy had a lot of fun. He skied Big Mountain, hucking cliffs on his back. He hiked and rafted. Looking for a bit more fun in his work life, he came upon a photo shared on Facebook. The Bartosch brothers finally started their brewery, WISEACRE, and were documenting their set up with silly photos like this one:
Andy wanted in. In the spring of '14 (about 6 months after WISEACRE opened its doors), Andy moved with his wife and dog to Memphis. His favorite activity is drinking Rumpleminz on the back patio of The Cove. It was in this home-away-from-home, with Andy plied with many beers, that this interview takes place:
*The full name of Cooley’s book is: Cyclopaedia of practical receipts and collateral information in the arts manufactures, professions, and trades including medicine, pharmacy, hygiene, and domestic economy : designed as a comprehensive supplement to the Pharmacopoeia and general book of reference for the manufacturer, tradesman, amateur, and heads of families. Phwew! It contains many useful recipes for making beer with ingredients your average early settler may come across. On the same page, it also contains loads of information on Bees.
What is a Big Small beer? Well, we’ll need some backstory:
To make beer, brewers stew malted barley with hot water to extract color, flavor and sugar (sugar = yeast food) from the grain to make a syrup. They separate that sugary syrup from the grain, move it into another vessel, season the syrup with hops and then feed the seasoned syrup to yeast (and the yeast eats the sugar and converts it to alcohol, making the beer). It is very easy to make beer.
Nowadays, brewers just adjust the water to grain ratio for higher and lower alcohol content beers, like making a simple syrup with a 1 : 1 ratio of water to sugar and a simple syrup with a 1 : 2 ratio of water to sugar. The color of the syrup will be the same (sugar has no color once dissolved) but one syrup will be much more concentrated. Unlike simple syrup, the malted barley also has flavor and color. These will also be more or less concentrated depending on the water ratio.
In old English brewing practices, instead of adjust the grain to water ration per brew, they would use the same grain multiple times to make a weaker and weaker syrup (and so weaker and weaker beers), which would result in weaker and weaker beers. This is called partigyle brewing (it would be similar to using the same coffee grounds to make multiple pots of coffee; the first pot would obviously be the strongest and most concentrated in color and flavor, and the following pots would be weaker in color and flavor).
The first, strongest, most concentrated sugary syrup would be used to make a strong beer. A lot of sugar for the yeast to eat means more sugar gets converted to alcohol which results in a higher alcohol content beer. A specific style example of a strong beer that was made from the first syrup (or “runnings”) in England is a Barleywine. A Barleywine, in its most basic sense, is just a very strong pale* ale (very concentrated in color, flavor and alcohol). It uses a whole bunch of pale malt to make a very concentrated syrup that is then fed to ale yeast to produce alcohol, i.e. strong pale ale.
The second or even third, less concentrated syrup (less color, flavor, & sugar extracted) was used to make lower alcohol content beers, called small beers. A specific style example of a small beer would be an Ordinary Bitter. An Ordinary Bitter, in its most basic sense, is a very weak pale ale (low concentration of color, flavor and alcohol). It uses a much less concentrated syrup made with the same pale malt that is then fed to ale yeast, i.e. weak pale ale.
*keep in mind: pale, especially in those days, was used to describe anything from straw/golden to amber in color. While the color of the malt is the same, the color molecules that dissolve into the stronger syrup from the outside of the grain will be closer together, which could make the stronger beer appear darker than the weaker one.
You don’t find many brewing this way anymore for many reasons (consistency being high on the list)…however, it is whimsical and we at WISEACRE like to dabble in the whimsy on occasion. We used this method to make Frostee Goatee, using the second, weaker runnings from Frozen Toast, a wheatwine (same as a barleywine, it just has wheat in addition to malted barley in the grain recipe).
Partigyle Brewing in action:
1A: Brewers stew malted barley with hot water to extract color, flavor and sugar (sugar = yeast food) from the grain to make a syrup.
2A: They separate that sugary syrup from the grain and move it into another vessel
3A: The syrup has a high concentration of color, flavor and sugar.
4A: Season the syrup with hops.
5A: Feed seasoned syrup to yeast. The yeast eats the sugar and converts it to alcohol, making the beer.
6A: Results in a very intensely flavored and boozy beer.
1B: Go back to separated grain. There is still a lot of sugary syrup sticking to it. Add more water and start the process again. This will make a less concentrated syrup (in flavor, color and sugar).
2B: Separate sugary syrup from the grain.
3B: Syrup will have a lower concentration of color, flavor and sugar.
4B: Season with hops (if using different hops than in Beer A, the hop flavor will obviously be different).
5B: Feed seasoned syrup to yeast.Yeast eats sugar and converts to alcohol; with less sugar to convert to alcohol, not as much alcohol will be produced
6B: Results in a less intense beer with less alcohol.
Beer A and Beer B will exhibit similar malt flavor and color (will just be more intense in Beer A). Beer A and Beer B could have very different hop flavor, depending on the hops and amount used in each.
Our Frostee Goatee Big Small Beer (Beer B in this example) used a lot of experimental hops that were not put into Frozen Toast Wheatwine (Beer A in this example) that give it an interesting coconut, guava, and sandalwood aroma. With a less intense malt flavor and more intense hop flavor, Frostee Goatee Big Small Beer tastes quite different from Frozen Toast Wheatwine. Frostee Goatee Big Small Beer also clocked in it at a whopping 5.9% abv, as opposed to 3% abv like most small beers, so it is pretty big for a small beer. Hence: Big Small Beer.
Join us for a tour of our brewery that includes WISEACRE history, beer history, the science behind the ingredients and processes involved in making great beer.