Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Mike » Sat Jul 10, 2010 4:57 pm

bourbonv wrote: The art of making whiskey in the first Place the Distiller must be an Industrous man a Cleanly Sober watchfull man _____.


I know from personal experience in making beer and wine that drinking during the making of same is apt to be injurious to the final product.

But, when I have led these adventures it was always in a party atmosphere and most impossible to completely abstain. And, full bore mashing (which I have done only once) does indeed require an industrious fellow...........lucky for me my friend George has been there to be a partner almost every time I have brewed. Glad I had the options of buying the malt syrup and the yeast since I am not as industrious as the folks at Johnathan Taylor Diary.

It has been over a year now since I last brewed (I did make wine last fall, which turned out to be quite good) and I told myself then that I had brewed my last time.........but some folks have started to make noises about brewing again this fall so my resolve is faltering. In addition to the work, it IS a lot of fun.............and the ribs I always make while brewing get many compliments.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby bunghole » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:12 pm

Mike said "and the ribs I always make while brewing get many compliments."

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ribs.

Mike, how much beer; bourbon, and tent space do you have?

Party at Mike's!
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby cowdery » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:02 pm

delaware_phoenix wrote:I don't think any distilleries are looking to capture wild yeast though some wild yeasts are used to make Belgian sour beers. The profitability of the craft trade is limited as it is, no reason to make it harder or more dicey than it already is.


Except, I don't know, to actually make it craft, as opposed to just small.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby bunghole » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:15 pm

cowdery wrote:
delaware_phoenix wrote:I don't think any distilleries are looking to capture wild yeast though some wild yeasts are used to make Belgian sour beers. The profitability of the craft trade is limited as it is, no reason to make it harder or more dicey than it already is.


Except, I don't know, to actually make it craft, as opposed to just small.


So, would on site yeast propogation make the difference between a run-of-the-mill small distillery and a true "craft" micro-distillery?

Woodford Reserve has it's own on site yeast propagation. Does that make it any more crafty than any other distillery with it's own yeast production?

I'm just askin'

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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Leopold » Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:53 pm

I don't think that you're asking me, but I'll venture my answer: no.

Yeast propagation (yeasting/whatever) and what Booker Noe's grandfather did are two entirely different processes.

Can't speak for Woodford Reserve, but SOP for yeast propagation involves maintaining your own slant of yeast, pulling a single cell from said slant, and adding wort/mash to it in increments, adding oxygen as you go. You start from one cell to 10 ml, to 100 ml, and so on until you've got the yeast that you need. There are variations within this method, but the results are the same: healthy, pitchable yeast, ready for fermentation.

To me, this isn't a craft as you can take any responsible kid with a Bio. degree and lab experience with good attention to detail, and hand him/her your list of procedures, and boom, you'll get your yeast. They don't need to know the first thing about whiskey production to follow those procedures. You just need the equipment and a staff.

But what Cowdery related from Booker Noe, well, that's not only an art, that's downright amazing. Replicating yeast by sight and taste out of thin air is really something. I can say that I've been handling yeast without a lab for well over a decade now, and I've never tried anything like that before. Pretty neat.

The other thing that's implied in yeasting is the lack of repitching. In other words, some distilleries are one-and-done, stepping up your yeast from a single cell so that fresh yeast is always used. Others will top crop the yeast off of the top of the open fermenter after primary fermentation is finished and add it to the next batch. That is a craft. You have to know when the yeast is ready to be harvested, and how to harvest it properly.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby bunghole » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:27 pm

Man, that's a great post Leopold, and a whole lot to think about.

Here's what I want to explore. Leopold wrote "The other thing that's implied in yeasting is the lack of repitching. In other words, some distilleries are one-and-done, stepping up your yeast from a single cell so that fresh yeast is always used. Others will top crop the yeast off of the top of the open fermenter after primary fermentation is finished and add it to the next batch. That is a craft. You have to know when the yeast is ready to be harvested, and how to harvest it properly."

I don't know of any commercial distillery that 'top crops' their yeast in the way you describe. Is that the only way to be crafty?

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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Mike » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:38 pm

At this point, my two cents worth is worth much less than two cents. Nevertheless, I will sally forth. Many times on this very site have I extolled the skills of our master distillers. In my very strong opinion, and in support of a statement of Chuck Cowdery that some skills can only be acquired from a master craftsman, it is the case that some bourbons (or other spirits) are truly exceptional and achieve a greatness worthy of unabashed praise due to the skills of these craftsmen.

Now, realistically, I do not claim for myself the ability to truly appreciate these spirits in their fullness........but, by God, I am experienced enough to know they are there.

This is a backwards approach to the question of craft. I know that there have been (and I insist, are) folks, human beings, of extraordinary skill in the whiskey making art, because I can discriminate at least a few of the great products they are capable of producing. I know next to nothing as to their processes, or their art, or their reliance on the lab (lab work alone will not make great whiskey, it is not a chemical enterprise, it is a HUMAN one, it is not instruments that must be satisfied, it is HUMANS..........Pappy Van Winkle was right!).

That subjective evaluations of taste place first among criteria I do not contest. But, folks, that ain't the end of it. SOME BOURBONS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS.........for those of you who may be hard of hearing as I am, I repeat, SOME BOURBONS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. If this were not the case this whole post is completely meaningless.

You are entitled to your taste, but to dispute what Chuck Cowdery also said, I say that Beam White ain't as good as Beam Black. Bourbon Joe had it RIGHT. This is no disrespect to Chuck, a man for whom I have utmost respect..............he shoots straight most, most, most of the time..........but he is a human and, in my opinion, was aiming more at getting that poster to trust his own palate (which you must do, but only after you have sufficient experience) than at selecting a good bourbon.

Pardon my interruption in this most interesting and important post, but exactly how the master arrived at the destination of producing good or great bourbon is no more important than that he did so...........and knowing that he did so is sooner or later (like it or not) a public affair. It is the rare artist indeed who can survive on his good opinion of himself alone............and those that do are probably insane.
Last edited by Mike on Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Leopold » Sat Jul 10, 2010 7:52 pm

bunghole wrote:
I don't know of any commercial distillery that 'top crops' their yeast in the way you describe. Is that the only way to be crafty?

Linn


Absolutely not. If i'm reading your question correctly, you seem to be implying that I might think that, as an example, Woodford Reserve isn't a 'crafty' distillery. This isn't the case at all.

I was just relating to one aspect of production: yeast propagation. I have nothing but respect for the art and craft of all the big US whiskey distillers. They cast a long and tall shadow for us little distillers to reside.

I think what Cowdery is getting at is that smaller doesn't necessarily mean craftier. I agree wholeheartedly. Our large scale whiskey distillers are truly something to be proud of, if you ask me. And I know you didn't ask.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby bunghole » Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:15 pm

No Leopold, you're reading two seperate posts as one. So please don't read anything more into my posts than is there. That's sooooooooooo damn dangerous, I don't even do that myself!

I'd like to pin down what is ment by a "craft" or "crafty" distillery vs. a commercial or industrial distillation plant.

I remember the story of a young boy. If I have the story right, his mother died and his father gave the boy to a Christian preacher by the name of Dan Call. Dan owned and operated an outpost in what is now known as Tennessee. He also owned a still, and a slave known as Nearest Green. The boy's name was Jack Daniel. He learned how to distil whiskey from either Dan Call or his slave Nearest Green. Due to the temperance movement, Dan Call sold his small distilling operation to Jack Daniel. Some books say at age 13 others say at a later age, but 16 seems fairly likely. [Don't shoot me on this one folks!]

Now it may seem crazy to us today, that a man would think it wrong to own and operate a still, and then to sell it to an underaged teenager all the while thinking it right to own a slave, but that's exactly what Dan Call did.

Jack Daniel went on to make history, and whole hell of a lot of money! Originally a pot stilled operation, and they had to have their own yeast strain, as there were no commercial vendors, Jack Daniel was the quintessential All American craft micro-distiller.

Nowadays, Jack Daniel is a giant distiller. Are they still crafty, or are they not? Discuss.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby gillmang » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:39 am

I think it would be good, (for me at least), to have some clear definitions. I'd like to propose some, but if they are wrong, I welcome correction, and once we have the concepts straight, I think it will be easier to understand the different practices.

I believe that some distillers, including Jim Beam, use a jug yeast, which means a yeast maintained in liquid form, continually replenished from fermentations, and from that, they create the larger quantities needed to ferment large amounts. This is done in a dona or doner tub. Distillers who do this continually check their yeast to make sure it does not change too much so that esters and other congeners not part of the profile, and weird ferments in general, won't occur.

Some distillers maintain their yeast in what is called a slant, which is a kind of test tube in which a few isolated and selected cells are kept alive with a small amount of growth medium (the agar in the term agar slant). You culture up a fresh stock of yeast every time from this source in this process using a cereal mash of some kind. The cells are pure and cannot get corrupted in the same way as for jug yeast if the slant is maintained correctly.

A third system is to use dried distillers' yeast purchased from a commercial supplier.

The first system mentioned is a kind of re-pitching, but under controlled conditions. A literal re-pitching, such as some brewers and homebrewers do and some distillers used to do 100 years ago and more, isn't practiced by any commercial distillers today except possibly some artisan distillers.

Does this state it correctly (Todd, Tom, or others)?

Gary
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Sun Jul 11, 2010 10:13 am

smaller doesn't necessarily mean craftier


and

the big US whiskey distillers ... cast a long and tall shadow for us little distillers to reside


Yup. To me, the world of whiskey is the age of the dinosaurs, back when they ruled the earth, and they're no where close to having their time come. I'm a very, very small little mammalian creature hoping not to get squished.

In fact, I hope they don't even notice me. Because if they notice me, they can choose to squish me and there'll be nothing I can do about it.

On yeast, I think there's a lot of interesting possibilities with yeasts for whiskey. I'd love to try catching yeast ala JT; Todd instantly understand what he's talking about, but most of it for me is like, huh? why is he doing that? And I'm still trying to understand a bunch of other stuff. I'm deeply concerned about wood and barrels and what it does to new make whiskey.

But I know so little that I don't know how little I know.

And 90% of the craft/artisanal distilleries and wanna-be distilleries are in this same boat. Though I don't think they'll admit it.

Probably should have shut up after the first word, but there you have it...
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Leopold » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:41 pm

gillmang wrote:The first system mentioned is a kind of re-pitching, but under controlled conditions. A literal re-pitching, such as some brewers and homebrewers do and some distillers used to do 100 years ago and more, isn't practiced by any commercial distillers today except possibly some artisan distillers.

Does this state it it correctly (Todd, Tom, or others)?

Gary


Yes, this is all precisely correct, and it's good you took them time to separate terms because I was putting them under one rubric.

The dona tubs and their management are very much an art, and are indeed different from straight yeast propagation. Every generation of yeast will change the yeast slightly. In brewing, a generation refers to a the first fermentation (gen. 1), allowing the yeast to ferment and settle to the bottom of a cone or the top of an open tank. When this yeast is pulled/harvested, the yeast that is removed is now generation 2. Different yeast strains react to creating those new generations differently. Some can only be repitched only a dozen times before noticeably mutating (lager strains, in particular). Some ale breweries will repitch yeast for dozens of generations without any noticeable change to the yeast's byproducts (congeners/flavors).

So in the dona tub, while you can check for qualitative things like yeast viability or foreign yeast or bacteria, in the end it is up to the Master Distiller as to whether or not the yeast has mutated because that topping up of the dona tub and the addition of oxygen (purposely or no) will lead to daughter cells, and a new generation of yeast mixed in with the older generations. Therein lies the art, imho.

Harvesting and repitching yeast in US whiskey production is difficult because the mash isn't lautered as it is with beer and whisky. The grain solids can get in the way, and in addition, the warmer temperatures that the big whiskey distillers use make for one hell of a turbulent fermentation. This makes it more difficult for the yeast cells to stick together, making harvest even more difficult. We repitch a few of our whiskies for particular reasons, but it's only when we're using multiple strains.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby Leopold » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:45 pm

delaware_phoenix wrote:
smaller doesn't necessarily mean craftier

In fact, I hope they don't even notice me. Because if they notice me, they can choose to squish me and there'll be nothing I can do about it


A wise tack. We've been trying to fly under the radar for years.

I think that it's rather telling that you're already looking to get into yeast management, Cheryl. You're already ahead of the curve, but you just don't know it.

For those who don't know, Cheryl makes what is, by fairly great consensus, the best Absinthe in the world.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:29 am

"What is craft" is a philosophical question and it's a slippery slope to start asking "is X craftier than Y." But just because someone is small, that doesn't automatically make them craft. That mistake is why moonshiners have a much better image than they deserve.

My difference with Mike is that I think it's wrong to equate personal preference with quality. One is subjective, the other is objective. JB white and black are different styles of whiskey. It's certainly appropriate to say "I like JB black better than JB white." But saying "JBB is better than JBW" is saying that style is inherently superior, and that's just not the case. They're different, they have different characteristics, they are different bourbon experiences, and everybody is entitled to a preference, but JBW is simply not inferior to JBB. That's just not a fair statement unless you're prepared to argue that only bourbons over 8 years old are worth drinking.

That's trying to pass off your personal opinion as objective fact. We have enough of that in politics.
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Re: Distillers beer from Johnathan Taylor Diary

Unread postby delaware_phoenix » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:37 pm

JBW is simply not inferior to JBB


That seems provacative given the responses in the other thread where someone asked "what's the best beam".

I think bunghole's inuqiry as to what make something craft is a good one, and one that gets little discussion. Even in the craft distilling world. Conversely, the craft of making whiskey on a large scale is often overlooked. Knowing what the majors do well and what a small distillery can do well is the first step to understanding. (And I don't think these questions have been fully answered anywhere. But I coulda been outta the loop!)

Anyway I've been summoned to start the grill... Gotta go....
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