The Anatomy of Absent Landlord
Brewers Blog #1
- August 24th, 2016
- By Stephen Rich
In Germany, a Kölsch is a relatively modern hybrid beer – meaning that it is fermented with an Ale yeast that typically does its job in warm temperatures, but is instead fermented cold as a Lager would be. The style is easy, simple, refreshing and supremely “sessionable.” We’ve taken inspiration from this originally Cologne-brewed welcome beer and made it our own – specifically denoted as a Country Kolsch… No umlaut, and for good reason!
Absent Landlord is brewed with both old-world and new-world ingredients, is fermented with the traditional Kolsch Ale yeast (but at warm temperatures), and is left unfiltered and unpasteurized. All these qualities make it unlike a Kölsch you would experience in Germany or elsewhere across the world. We’ve brewed Absent Landlord this way because our goal was never to brew a Kölsch – it has always been to brew something interesting and delicious, but still welcoming and refreshing. So let’s look at the anatomy of our Country Kolsch.
At Cowbell Farm, Absent Landlord will be brewed with fresh deep-well water from our own land, passed through sophisticated carbon and UV filters to ensure the water is clean and pure. That’s about all that needs to happen to the water before it gets mixed with crushed grains to become the mash. Our Country Kolsch has a very lush mouthfeel and delicate balance of subtle flavours – keeping mineral levels moderate and balanced as they are when they come out of the land in Huron County will help us to craft Absent Landlord’s sensations perfectly. We only add a small amount of Calcium Chloride and Calcium Sulphate to the water (called liquor) in the mash to help achieve the pH level that is optimal for that stage of the brewing process.
As mentioned, we brew Absent Landlord with both old-world and new-world ingredients. Pilsner Malt is the bulk of the grist bill in this beer; as it traditionally would be. Depending who you ask, wheat may find its way into an old school Kölsch as well, and it definitely does in ours – along with Torrified Wheat – which resembles puffed wheat cereal, but would not be used in Cologne, Germany. Both of these wheats help contribute to the smooth and lush mouthfeel and fluffy white foam in Absent Landlord.
Carafoam, a relatively modern German Malt, also helps add body and foam retention to the beer. The final two malts are Light Munich and Aromatic Malt. In our case, both have a similar purpose and affect; to boost the richness of malt flavour in the beer without adding a dense character. When used in small quantities, both of these specialty malts help show off the cereal, biscuit and honey sensations naturally found in Pilsner Malt. Together, this grist bill creates the backbone of Absent Landlord.
You may find Perle and Hallertau Hersbrucker in a German Kölsch, and we use both; especially Hallertau Hersbrucker. The Perle is added early in the boil just to give the beer a clean and balanced bitterness. The Hersbrucker comes in later in the boil to add some bitterness, but mostly to contribute aromas and flavours of rose petal, sweet grasses and gentle herbs.
Also, in that late hop addition is a new-world hop from New Zealand called Wakatu. It is actually Hallertau Hersbrucker grown in New Zealand rather than Germany –this change in terroir creates a change in character. Wakatu adds elegant sensations of peach, lemongrass, sweet morning dew and soft melon.
White Labs 029 is the classic German Kölsch yeast – as specified above, designed to be fermented cold creating simple and easy drinking flavours. For our Country Kolsch, we pitch this yeast at 18C, and let it rise up to 24C. Much higher than what it would be accustomed to, closer to 12 to 14C. We’re doing this because the point was never to imitate a classic beer style – it was and will always be to make something delicious!
At these warmer temperatures, O-29 as I like to call it, creates an amazing array of aromas and flavours that complement the malt and hops that we use. Together, Absent Landlord resembles the easy drinking heritage of a Kölsch, but shows off more flavourful and interesting nuances and flavours – perhaps just as the country does ;)