Nearly four years ago, in September 2013, the France 44 Beer Crew had a brewing opportunity at Fulton Beer in downtown Minneapolis. Jake’s friendly neighbor, Fulton brewer Matt Moon, graciously invited the team over for a Sunday brew session on their nifty Northern Brewer 15-barrel pilot brewhouse. With much guidance and planning from Matt, we settled on brewing an Imperial Stout fermented with French Saison yeast, and then aging it in our France 44 Buffalo Trace Single Barrel. To those of you who think that brewing is all glamour and fame, think again. We learned first-hand the effort that goes into every pint you gulp. These guys put in long, hard days!
Arriving just as the sun crested above the horizon, Matt threw on the tunes and quickly put us to work. Kegs were cleansed and rinsed. A variety of malts were selected for our grain bill, this had to be a BIG beer! What surprised me most through this process was how little dark and black malt is necessary to make a beer that pours black as night. Using a hand-drill powered mill, we learned the precision it takes to get a proper crush. Too little and you won’t release enough fermentable sugars, too much and you risk not being able to filter your wort properly. It was going to take three batches on the brewhouse to fill that barrel, so we had to get moving.
Taking turns lifting buckets of milled grain up the ladder to mash-in, we then learned the correct mash paddle technique. From there on it was a frenzy: mash, lauter, boil, chill, whirlpool, transfer, repeat. Though our beautiful wort had yet to begin fermentation, I think we were all feeling a sense of accomplishment. The brewing process and all its variables were quite intriguing! Before we knew it, the day had passed and the sun was making its way across the western vista. Bill and I left the brewery smiling ear to ear, what a day it was! Props are due to former F44 beer guy Jake Wolf (say hello to him next time you’re at Steel Toe Brewing) as he outlasted us and made it to the very end of brew day. Now we had to wait…
Only the most undiluted, sugar-filled wort could be used to create a beer with the strength we desired, so we used just the uber-concentrated first runnings. This sugar-rich liquid was introduced to Wyeast’s 3711 French Saison yeast strain, the namesake for our brew. This versatile strain fermented vigorously, making the beer strong and dry, with a silky body. After fermenting out, the brew went to rest in our France 44 Buffalo Trace Bourbon Single Barrel for half a year. Just a handful of kegs resulted. Quite a bit of work for so little beer! Luckily for you, we will be pouring the final keg this Friday, July 7th from 4-6:30pm at the beer tasting bar. Stop in to have a chat with Fulton Ben, try our beer and all of Fulton’s stellar line-up. We hope to see you there!