Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Grätzer comes alive

Remember me making some comments in my post about Grätzer Breweries that I was looking at Grätzer again for a reason? I'm going to tell you what the reason was.

It's another one of my projects. In fact the day I'm going to write about sort of included two of my projects, but more of that later. Let's take it one project at a time. The Grätzer project is what I'd started on. It's a collaboration between Michel Ordeman (of Jopen), Alice van der Kuijl, Sebastian Sauer, Evan Rail and me. We've brewed up (the brewers at Jopen have to be completely accurate) brewed up not just a Grätzer but also a Grodziskie. I know, same thing, different language. But we have made a disticntion between the two.

This is starting to get like a memory test. Do you remember me posting about Grätzer containing white willow bark? It sounded too good an idea to pass up. We were already wondering whether we should call the beer Grätzer or Grodziskie. The solution was simple: brew one with willow bark and the other without. Then we get to see what effect the willow bark has, and we can have both a Grätzer and a Grodziskie.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. I think they're the most authentic Grätzer/Grodziskie to have beeb brewed commercially since the brewery in Grodzisk closed in 1993. Why? Because we managed to put together all the key elements of the beer. The recipe is pretty simple. 100% smoked wheat malt and 100% Lublin hops. Now here's the really important bit: fermented with the real Grodzisk yeast strain.

When the brewery in Grodzisk closed in 1993, the head brewer was farsighted enough to send a sample of the yeast to a lab in Poland to be preserved. Somehow, Pivovarský Dům in Prague (a brewing institute as well as a brewpub) got hold of the yeast, too. They have samples of all sorts of yeast, so it isn't that odd. Evan Rail arranged for them to culture up enough to brew several batches and drove from Prague to Haarlem with 3 kegs of yeast in the boot of his car.

The beers have been brewed to the classic 8º Plato strength, with a good dose of hops to balance out the smoke. I can't wait to try them. I'm still kicking myself for never tracking Grodziskie down in the early 1990's when it was still being brewed in Groszisk. This should make up for that terrible ommission.

Exciting, isn't it? The beers were brewed the first weekend in October. Being low gravity, they'll be ready pretty soon. Just another couple of weeks. It'll be a very special day when I take my first sips. Knowing me, gulps more like. I'll be sure to let you know they taste.

That other project? While we were at the Jopenkerk for the brewing, we tried some Porters brewed from historic types of brown malt. I've been working with Ben Heaven for a while on the3 malts. I say working with, but really he does all the work. Kilning the malt (using straw as a fuel sounds pretty scary) and brewing beer with it. I just cheer from the sidelines. He seems to have cracked making diastatic straw-kilned brown malt. Do you know what that means? For the first time in a couple of hundred years it's possible to brew an 18th-century London Porter. What could be more thrilling than that?


zgoda said...

Ron, I was old enough in late 80's and early 90's to taste real Grodziskie, in both traditional strength (8* Plato) and Specjalne (12* Plato). Then now I had an opportunity to try contemporary samples, as brewed in Poland elsewhere (by Pinta in Zawiercie Brewery and Grodzka 15 brewpub in Lublin). They're both somehow wrong - it's either not crystal clear, or too smoky. Smoke notes in original was very faint, barely noticeable, and the beer was perceived as "highly carbonated, crystal clear, strongly hopped", not "smoked". That smoky notes came from original malting process, now partially employed by Weyermann in production of oak smoked wheat malt.

AFAIK they used 2 yeast strains, less floculent for fermentation (beer was then filtered), then highly floculent for carbonation. Beer was cleared with fish gelatin (karuk?).

Anyway, I'm very glad for the revival. The original brewery in Grodzisk Wielkopolski has been loaned lately to Fortuna Brewery from Miloslaw with a prospect of commercial brewing of Grodziskie again.

The name "Grodziskie" is protected by origin in EU and Grodziskie beer can be brewed only in Grodzisk, others must call their beers "A'la Grodziskie" or use German name Gratzer. :)

Gary Gillman said...

This is all very interesting. Here is an earlier recreation project which I found by accident:

The accident is that I was looking for references to a gratzer beer made earlier this year by a local (Toronto) craft brewery, which I couldn't find but I found this.

The Toronto beer was made with the assistance of a Pole who had knowledge of the beer from his Polish background. IIRC, smoked wheat malt was not used: rather, some smoked (probably peated) barley malt was added to a wheat mash.

The smoked taste was mild and it was very good, similar to zgoda's account above. The beer was lightly cloudy but I would think centuries ago it must have been unless perhaps when long-stored.

A couple of local breweries occasionally make something they call smoked Berliner weisse, and this is probably close to the palate of some Gratz beer.


Bro-in-law said...

I'd love to learn more about that yeast. I've been using German Ale/ Kolsch yeasts for my Gratzers but this was only a guess. Using these and home-smoked malt I've turned out some nice stuff but with no authentic reference, I have no idea how close it is to the real thing.Keep it coming Ron. Good stuff!

Ron Pattinson said...

Gary, except Grätzer isn't sour, while a a Berliner Weisse should be intensely so.

Ron Pattinson said...

Zgoda, I didn't realise that Grodziskie was a protected name.

Interesting that the smkoe taste wasn't that prominent. It sounds like it must have diminished over the years as older descriptions definitely call it smoky.

Gary Gillman said...

True Ron, and the Gratzer I tasted, made with the assistance of the Pole I mentioned, wasn't sour. But either are our local smoked Berliner weisses!


Anonymous said...

Have a look here please:

Jeff Renner said...

Is the yeast a top fermenting or bottom fermenting one? Is the beer cold lagered?

Great "prove you're not a robot" word - frickage. It ought to be a real word.

Ron Pattinson said...

Jeff, it's top-fermenting yeast and no cold lagering.

Zafra Whitcomb said...

I just racked my latest batch of Grodziskie (8* P) into the secondary after a week. I used a combination of Lublin and Lomic hops, a pinch (3%) cherrywood smoked malt (the rest is the standard oak-smoked wheat) and Wyeast 1007, so I know it's not completely authentic, but should be pretty tasty. I did a similar mini-batch this summer and had middling to good success (bottle conditioning being terribly inconsistent). The smoke was not prominent, surprising for 100% smoked malt, but I attribute that to it being smoked green, instead of post-kilning. I would love to try going authentic with the original yeast strain, or at least taste one made with that yeast.

If you make it to Maine (US), come on by and I'll share a pint with you. :)