January 16, 2009

Violinist’s Beer Brewed by Rohrbach’s

This morning, Rohrbach Brewing Company on Buffalo Road began brewing a batch of Symphony Pilsner, based on a recipe by RPO violinist John Sullivan, a home-brewer for 26 years. This light, crisp beer won “Best in Show” at the 2008 Upstate New York Home-Brewing Association’s annual contest, and a key prize was having his beer professionally brewed.

Rohrbach’s brewer Bruce Lish talked us through the process of brewing beer on such a large scale. This brew will produce 7 barrels, or approximately 230 gallons of beer! The process begins with “mashing in” – this involves adding malt grain to hot water in a big metal vat. It looked sort of like oatmeal and had a wonderful smell that reminded me of feeding the horses one summer when I worked at a stable.

The malt is added in batches and stirred with an enormous metal shovel and a huge whisk to break up clumps. The mash then will sit for an hour or so to release the sugars and then the liquid (or wort) is drained off. It then goes through several steps, adding hops and yeast, and is placed in a conditioning tank. The finished beer will be ready to drink sometime in March.

A nice musical side note – as we were talking, we found out the Bruce also has a music degree. He studied jazz bass and audio recording and now plays in the Irish band Sisters of Murphy. A great background for brewing the Symphony Pilsner!

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