German beer getting a little toast

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Turner Valley: Jochen Fahr maturing doppelbock in oak barrels for a different taste

A Turner Valley brewmaster is playing with his neighbours and his doppelbock to create something unique.

Jochen Fahr, owner of Brauerei Fahr, reached out to friends at Eau Claire Distillery and secured two virgin oak barrels to age his doppelbock lager and bring out different flavours in the beer.

“They’re brand new and never had any bourbon or anything in them,” said Fahr. “They’re new oak, charred, so it’s toasty, it’s very vanilla oak wood flavours.”

One barrel will be tapped in mid-November, around the same time as the regular doppelbock is ready to come out of the maturation barrel in the Fahr brewery. The other barrel will stay locked and loaded until late fall 2019, ready to serve next Christmas, he said.

The dark lager complements the holiday season because it carries notes of chocolate, coffee and caramel, he said. Keeping some in the barrels will make a limited edition of the brew that has an underlying toasted vanilla flavour, he said.

Jochen Fahr of Brauerei Fahr co-operated with Eau Claire Distillery to procure some charred oak barrels to age his doppelbock in.

“This one is definitely a treat,” said Fahr.

It will likely be available in the tap room only, he said. Though the Fahr tap room isn’t quite open for business yet, he doesn’t think it will be too much longer.

The brewery, on the other hand, has come a long way since its infancy back in Fahr’s garage.

Now he operates his own water treatment system, which transforms tap water into distilled through a reverse osmosis unit. It allows him to remove everything from the water, and then during the mixing process certain minerals are added back into the beer, he said.

“I make water for the specific beers we make,” said Fahr. “We would add gypsum, calcium sulfate. Sulfate adds to hops perception and bitterness, calcium is mouth feel, then calcium chloride gives it some sweetness from the chloride part, so you can balance out how you perceive your taste of the beer.”

Because beer is 95 per cent water, it’s important to make sure it starts out right, he said. It’s mixed with grains and malt to start.

“You take the starch that’s naturally occurring in the barley and wheat and you convert it into sugar,” said Fahr.

Jochen Fahr of Brauerei Fahr pours a glass of his unfinished doppelbock, which will mature for upwards of eight weeks.

Then it’s all pumped to the brew kettle, where the beer (called wort at this stage) is boiled to draw out its flavour. It’s important to boil it long enough to make it taste right, he said.

“If you don’t boil enough sometimes it can get kind of a cabbage, vegetable flavour in the beer and you really don’t want that,” said Fahr.

Water is also evaporated in the boiling process, concentrating the sugars that were extracted from the grain. The amount of sugar concentration determines the alcohol level in the beer once it’s finished, he said.

Hops are added next to add flavour and bitterness before the beer is cooled down before adding oxygen and yeast in the fermenting tanks, he said.

“Then it’s exactly like baking,” said Fahr.

Just as yeast is added to bread dough to make it rise with CO2 bubbles, the same CO2 reaction occurs in beer, converting the concentrated sugars into alcohol.

“Then it turns it into beer – magic,” said Fahr.

Jochen Fahr of Brauerei Fahr holds up a sample of the doppelbock, a dark wheat ale.

Different beers are then aged differently, he said. Ales typically go directly to the finished beer tank ready to be poured into kegs or bottles, while lagers need more time to develop their flavour, he said.

A pilsner will sit in the maturation vessel for four or five weeks, while the Fahr hefeweizen – a wheat ale – will need about two weeks, he said. The doppelbock takes the longest, typically needing upwards of eight weeks in the tank, he said.

With the brewery well underway, Fahr is now looking forward to opening up his tap room and expanding the business.

“I just want to make good beer,” he said. “I focus on the beer first, the rest will happen.”

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