In the Plant: Runoff Beers

Today, we bring you a special guest post from none other than Joe “Carlos” Hinman–Greenbush’s Head Brewer/Plant Manager. Now, I’ll hand it over to Professor Carlos… At Greenbush we make roughly nine billion different beers. A lot of these are beers readily available on tap and in bottles throughout the year, but a lot of the variety comes in the form of our lab beers. These are five-gallon prototype batches that our brewers come up with. They are formulated, brewed, kegged and put on tap, ready for feedback from employees and patrons alike. Many of these lab beers have, and will, become full production brews (Apathy, Unicorn Killer, Hollow Promises), some are for special occasions (Cracker, Velvet Valentine) and some are what we’ve been calling runoffs. For some of this post to make sense we’ll have to quickly run through the brewing process for those that aren’t totally familiar.

It starts with mashing, where milled grains are steeped at certain temperatures for specific amounts of time. This converts the starchy enzymes in the grains into simple sugar, fermentable and residual.

After mashing comes lautering. Lautering is similar to brewing coffee in that hot water is run over the mash for 45 minutes to an hour to extract the sugars from it in liquid form, known as wort.

The wort is lautered into the kettle where it’s boiled for 90 minutes and hops and other ingredients are added.

Our higher gravity beers like Rage, Pain and Brother Benjamin require lower kettle volumes to achieve a higher rate of caramelization. This means there will be wort with a decent amount of sugar left behind. This is how runoff beers are born. After the kettle is full of one of these brews, the brewer will take the runoff and fill a 7 gallon pot to boil separately. So this new beer will have the same malt profile as its parent beer, just lower gravity because most of the sugar is in the kettle.

The possibilities for imparting other flavors are endless. Even if it’s a different hop profile it will still come out as a completely different beer. But why limit yourself to just hops? So far we’ve made runoff batches from Pain (our imperial cream stout) by adding blackberries and figs (on tap as Pain in the Figs and Pain in the Berries) and Rage with cocoa powder and pineapple. Runoff batches are a way for brewers to be creative, versatile and efficient. Sure you’re brewing a full batch of beer, but if you have viable product left over that would otherwise go down the drain, why not utilize it and give yourself a chance to experiment? Keep an eye out for more of these brews to come, both on tap and at festivals and events all around the state.

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