BSG HandCraft recently introduced Weyermann® Barke® malts to homebrewers nationwide. This heirloom barley variety once enjoyed the highest reputation among German brewers and was the most widely used barley variety. Barke® brings an intense malt flavor, full-body and helps promote conditions for improved head retention.
We thought it would be fun to see how a professional brewery is currently using these malts. Located on the outskirts of the epicenter of world political power in Washington D.C., the majestic barley fields of Germany combine inside a 1950s industrial building where Jeff Hancock (Head Brewer, President and Co-Founder of DC Brau Brewing Co.) formulates unique brews with these special malts.
Tell us about DC Brau:
We opened our doors in March of 2011. I got my first break in the brewing industry back in 2000 at a little brew pub called “Franklins General Store and Brewpub.” Currently we have around 36 full and part-time employees.
We currently run a 15bbl 3-vessel (MT / LT combo, boil kettle, WP) Allied Beverage Tank system. We have six 30bbl fermenters, seventeen 60bbl fermenters, two 30bbl bright tanks and three 60bbl bright tanks.
What’s the reception been like by the locals?
The locals have really got behind DC Brau. We were the first production brewery to open in DC since 1956. We’ve always had a strong craft presence with Dogfish, Flying Dog and Heavy Seas being so close. That definitely helped with the city getting behind craft beer and wanting a home-grown offering.
During our first initial launch at Meridian Pint, a craft beer bar located in the Meridian Hill neighborhood, we blew thru 20 half-kegs of our Pale Ale called “The Public” in 6 hours. That’s when it occurred to us that we were going to need to brew a lot more beer.
Since our launch we’ve seen a steady 40% growth each year. Needless to say the locals are 100% behind us and the DC craft beer scene.
What is the DC beer scene like? Are there any peculiarities of working in the nation’s capital?
There are definitely unique challenges to operating within the DC lines. Because the city did not have any production breweries since the 50’s, educating elected officials has been an ongoing challenge for us. We blindsided the city with an industry it hadn’t seen in more than 60 years. Couple the normal bureaucracy with the fact that DC didn’t have a manufacturing sector and it makes for challenges.
On the flip side the city has really gotten behind businesses that have chosen to produce within the city lines. We held a press conference for former Mayor Vincent Grey at our facility about a year and a half ago and have had a couple of Congressmen and Congresswomen, such as Eleanor Holmes Norton to name drop some, visit the brewery. Since we came along, there are now 10 breweries (production and brew pubs) located within the city limits.
Did you or your team have any homebrewing experience?
I started home brewing when I got my start in the industry back in 2000. So when we started DC Brau I already had around 9 years of professional and homebrewing experience under my belt. Most of our production team has a mix of professional and homebrewing experience.
What is your brewing philosophy?
My brewing philosophy comes from understanding the classic European styles of England, Germany and Belgium then taking fun turns and twists from there. So I’d say its mix of history and in turn thinking outside of the box when formulating recipes.
Our slogan is “Fermentation Without Representation”. This references that since DC isn’t a formal state or territory we have no vote in Congress. Meaning we have no autonomy when comes to decisions.
What style of beers do you brew?
We primarily brew a nice mix of styles. Our main flagships are an American Pale Ale, American India Pale Ale, Belgian Blonde Ale, English style porter and a traditional German Pils. We also brew a whole host of one-offs.
We brew a semi-regular Double IPA called “On the Wings of Armageddon” which is by far our most popular cult beer and has garnered us a 99/100 rating on BeerAdvocate.com. To date we’ve brewed over 75 different beers including flagships.
Any exciting upcoming plans?
We are planning something very special for our upcoming 5 year anniversary. We’re also planning a large expansion where we’re acquiring 23,000 sq. ft. of new warehouse space, purchasing a new 30bbl 4 vessel brewhouse and a new 200cpm canning line. We hope to have this expansion completed by spring of 2017.
Tell us about the beer you made using the Barke® malt and why you liked using it.
Our experience using Barke® malt was great, we used Weyermann® Barke® Munich and Weyermann® Barke® Vienna as the 2 primary malts in our Oktoberfest. The proof is in the pudding as they say. We were very impressed in how the malt performed during the brewing process.
The malt kernels were nice and uniform and the extract was better than expected in regards to our calculations. Our Oktoberfest had great mouthfeel and color and to me represented how proper Oktoberfest and Festbiers should taste. There was an amazing biscuit and bready note on the nose backed up with a nice medium body and a crisp, malty mouthfeel that was followed up by a smooth velvet-like finish. It was highlighted by a balanced charge of Hallertau Tradition that helped to compliment the subtle notes of the malt.
Would you use the Barke malt again?
I would definitely use Barke malt again, primarily for German or European styles of beer.