Tin Tuirtle Design

Craft Beer in China

clock June 22, 2015 05:24 by author Bald Turtle

A better title might be craft beer in Beijing, but many of my friends who are involved in craft beer are spread out across multiple Chinese cities. I am very lucky to have been involved in the Chinese craft beer scene since almost the beginning because now I have so many friends, so many great people -- that I can always visit and talk with about what is going on in China. Things are changing quickly as with almost everything else in China (other than the laws regulating beer) so it should not have surprised me to see how well many of the operations are doing. But still, I was not only surprised but really happy to see how well business is doing and how much better our choices are with regards to both drinking and producing beer in China.

On the import side of things we have multiple new choices for American craft beers, including Dogfish, Great Divide, Firestone Walker and Founders. The picture below shows the cooler at NBeer's location out by PingAn'Li and as you can see it is packed with great choices. It is expensive ($10+) for a bottle but at least you can get it. Finally Chinese enthusiasts can taste a great beer and have something to compare other beers too. When you drink a Double Jack then you know what to shoot for when brewing your own IPA's or what to expect from other local brewers who are presenting double IPA's to you as examples of the style. Not to say there aren't other great double IPA's out there, but you have to admit they are a leading example of the style.

NBeer Beijing Craft Beer Cooler

Firestone Walker and Founders in China

One of the other fascinating developments is NBeer's Sabco Brew Magic that they use to produce beers for sale as well as "rent" to local home brewers. Yes - you can actually go in and talk to Yin Hai or the other guys there and set up a time to brew on their Sabco system. Then use one of their small conicals to ferment and BAM! you have beer to take home. It is a great concept that I have to admit I was totally skeptical about when they first explained it to me 2 years ago, but it seems to work out well for them. There are 3 Sabco Brew Magics in China that I know of, the first one I helped a friend ship into Beijing (which was a nightmare) and then the two that NBeer/Tipsy Face brought in shortly afterwards.

Sabco Brew Magic in China

There were lots of new brewing operations to visit, but one of the coolest stories was the third Great Leap location. Here I found a friend who started brewing with the Beijing Homebrew Society and is now one of the main brewers at Great Leap. I can remember when Enda was homebrewing at the embassy apartment and trying to deal with keeping the kitchen clean and finding a place to store all the fermenters. Now he is working commercially on a modern ten barrel system and they are producing top quality beer. He is totally enthused about it and in my opinion this guy was born to brew.

Great Leap ten barrel system

Beer Geeks Festival in Beijing

clock June 15, 2013 18:43 by author Bald Turtle

So the guys got together and decided that a beer festival was in order, and it was done primarily to host the Chinese brewers who might not otherwise attend a festival in Beijing. It was an absolute blast to see everyone I knew from the brewing community. There were 23 homebrews submitted and the quality was actually quite good. The main thing was hanging out with friends who love to brew.

Beer Geeks Festival

There were quite a few tents put up and this one was giving an explanation on how to brew.

Craft Beer Festival

And the homebrews were judged by some of the local brewmasters and awards were given out at the end of the day.

Beijing Craft Beer Festival Awards

Control circuit design

clock May 18, 2013 18:16 by author Bald Turtle

This is my first pass at the circuit that I want to use to control the hot water heater elements in the brewery. I am running this past the guys on the forum to get their input. If all goes well I will order up a waterproof control box from the U.S. and have it shipped in.

brewery control circuit

Plugged in the BCS-460

clock May 10, 2013 16:05 by author Bald Turtle

I fired up both of my brewery control systems to make sure they worked. I also did some minor process programming to get a feel for how the system will function once I am ready to brew. I have really struggled with my decision to use these versus a more standard PID control. I love the functionality, and I wanted the capability to do more complex tasks so the BCS seemed like a great choice. But being here in China I am having tremendous difficulty in even getting the most basic parts (bolts for example) and a pre-assembled panel from somewhere is really starting to look good. But I know if I can just get this to work that in the long run this will be something that I am glad I did. I have two of these controllers, one to run my brewing process, and the other to control my jacketed fermenters. The controllers and probes all came from Brewer's Hardware in the U.S.

Brewer Control System

Test fitting the HLT

clock May 9, 2013 17:25 by author Bald Turtle

I placed my valves and heating elements in the HLT/Boil kettle to make sure everything would fit. I am in the process of trying to complete the control system, but I am running into a lot of problems. China does not really understand GFCI or why you would want to waterproof an electrical box. A lot of simple things that I thought I would just buy here I am now considering shipping from the U.S.

Safety is a very real concern. Water and electricity do not mix, and on top of that the safety of some of the availble components here is doubtful anyway.

China Boil Kettle

Tri clamp valves

brew heating elements

I am having second thoughts about my design and I plan on getting some input from the guys over at The Electric Brewery.

New Brew Equipment

clock May 1, 2013 13:35 by author Bald Turtle

Was an exciting day today, besides being my birthday I received the vessels and conical fermenter I had fabricated last month.

China conical brewing fermenter

I will post more details on system as I begin to bring the pieces together, but so far the welds on the stainless look good, and the insides are nicely polished.

Brew kettles in China

stainless conical fermenter

Visited some micro breweries

clock March 4, 2013 14:21 by author Bald Turtle

I stopped by Great Leap and Slow Boat over the last week to see what was going on. I have to say the feeling and customer service at Great Leap is much improved. Their banana beer was excellent, along with several other choices. Chandler's new Slow Boat Taproom is done really well, with a nice clean place, a real bathroom, and 20 beers on tap. Their vanilla porter was the best Beijing brewed beer that I have had yet. And it came in at a decent 8.75 ABV.

I need to get out more and check out some of the newer places that have sprouted up. Things have been busy with helping Annie on some of her projects, working on a couple of things for a client in the U.S., and just trying to find a way to exercise and live a healthy life in Beijing. This site needs to be revamped, and I have more web development projects that needs to get done as soon as possible

The Breitling juicer has worked out well, but so far I seem to like my old Champion better. I just can't bring a Champion in my luggage (too heavy), and the Breitling works fine it is just more troublesome to clean.

Breitling juicer in Beijing

We Won!!! Beijing Craft Beer Festival - First Place

clock June 3, 2012 03:18 by author Bald Turtle

I got the word yesterday morning (last night Beijing time) that the Black IPA took first prize at the 2012 Beijing Craft Beer Festival. This is really exciting news and I am jazzed. The turn out was big too, and that means a lot in terms of where craft beer is going in Beijing and China in general. I would really look for this to snow ball, and for home brewing to grow quite strongly in the next year. It is too bad that the regulatory situation is so difficult, because there is a huge market that could be opened up to small, regional craft breweries in China.

It was really a proud moment for both Yin Hai and myself to win first place at the first Annual Beijing Craft Beer Festival. There were lots of beer lovers along with some very experienced brewers, and to get that kind of respect is really great. This post will explain a little bit more about how the beer was brewed, the ingredients and some lessons learned.

One of the most interesting things about this beer is that it was brewed from an Northern Brewers extract kit. Many people will say that it is not possible to brew first rate beer with an extract kit, but we have proven that is not true. In China we typically brew using the all grain method, and that is mostly because quality extract kits are not available in China. This particular kit was purchased from Northern Brewer in February and then carried back to China by Annie during a visit to New York.

The Black IPA kit utilizes specialty grains and four types of hops along with the extract to create something really unique. The description on Northern Brewers site says, “An ebony pint with a beige head is surrounded by an aromatic citrus-and pine force field, backed by a smooth roastiness redolent of cocoa and French roast coffee. Full-bodied, hop-bitter, and boozy, this beer is compelling enough to both fuel and quash the argument of its stylistic integrity, and it goes great with a blue-cheese stuffed sirloin burger or steak.” It is certainly all of that.

--113 grams / 0.25 lbs Weyermann Carafa III
--113 grams / 0.25 lbs Chocolate Malt
--226 grams / 0.5 lbs Briess Caramel 80
--1.43 kg / 3.15 lbs Dark malt syrup (60 min)
--2.72 kg / 6 lbs Dark malt syrup late addition (15 min)
--454 grams / 1 lb Corn Sugar late addition (0 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Summit (60 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Chinook (15 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Centennial Type (10 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Cascade (5 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Centennial Type (0 min)
--28 grams / 1 oz Cascade (dry hop) (Yin did a 33g hops addition instead, as he felt it would push more of the IPA qualities that he likes)

--WYEAST 1272 AMERICAN ALE YEAST II. Fruitier and more flocculant than 1056, slightly nutty, soft, clean, slightly tart finish. Apparent attenuation: 72-76%. Flocculation: high. Optimum temp: 60–72° F.
--DRY YEAST ALTERNATIVE: SAFALE US-05. Optimum temp: 59-75° F.

When we reviewed the recipe prior to brewing it was pretty clear to us that the key to making an exceptional version of this was to time the hops additions precisely, and control our boils. The Brewtong’s facilities are slightly primitive, and to get the brewing process exact takes some work. Not only that but we brewed it at the end of a long day that had two full all-grain batches brewed prior to this. We setup a stopwatch for this batch using a digital timer and began the boil using purified water. The first round of ingredients included the specialty grains which were poured into a mesh bag and suspended in the water as we brought it up to boil. Once we got a vigorous boil going these were removed and discarded (about 20 minutes).

When you are brewing multiple batches a timer with an alarm is essential because often times you are doing multiple things. In this case, once we had the initial boil going and the first round of ingredients added, we were busy filling a fermentation vessel with the previous all grain batch, and sterilizing our equipment for the next batch. Things can get hectic at the Brewtong on brew day! The timers keep us informed at a glance exactly where we are in the brewing process and how long we need to go before the next ingredient addition.

One of the different things about this beer style is the addition of 454 grams (1lb) of corn sugar at the end of the boil. This helps us to hit our target O.G. of 1.075. Once the wort was cooled using our coil chiller we racked it to the fermenter and pitched the Wyeast 1272 American Ale II. Unfortunately we did not activate the package until brew day, about 2 hours prior to pitching. In the future we hope to refine our yeast starters and really get a well documented system for handling our yeast. With Jacob Wickham’s knowledge it is for sure that we will only get better and better in this area.

We also deviated from the primary recipe by not racking to a secondary fermenter. With the limited facility and time it was not possible. The original recipe calls for it to be held in secondary fermentation for 2-4 weeks before dry hopping 5 days prior to kegging. Instead we chose to skip the entire secondary fermentation step and dry hop (28 grams Cascade) to the primary fermenter 1 week before kegging. This allowed the beer to be conditioned for a couple of weeks prior to the festival.

Again, many thanks to all of the people who tasted the beers from the Brewtong. The feedback is extremely valuable to us as we work to develop our brewing process and beers.

Beijing Craft Beer Festival

clock June 1, 2012 05:59 by author Bald Turtle

Saturday there will be a beer festival sponsored by Great Leap and the Beijing Homebrewers Society. Yin Hai and I will have an entry together, #6 black IPA, so stuff the ballot box! I had to come back to the U.S. before fermentation was completed on this batch, but the word is that it is a very good beer.

Beer Wars

clock May 13, 2012 16:35 by author Bald Turtle

A really interesting film about the craft brew industry.

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