Posts tagged Brewer bites
Beers by Bill: LEM
Switchback Brewing Company Extra Pale Ale

LEM (affectionately named after its striking resemblance to the Lunar Excursion Module) gives us incredible flexibility in how we utilize hops. It is built for both whole cone or pelletized hops. We have been currently working with whole cone hops in our Extra Pale Ale. We devised a system of using hops in their natural whole cone form so that we could extract an obscene amount of aroma and flavor without the huge bitterness that would normally accompany them if using pellets. With the XPA being a sessionable 4.8% alcohol beer, the huge bitterness would overwhelm the lighter malt body. Our use of whole cone hops allows us to “steep” the hops for just a moment before separating them from the wort. This pulls only the volatile flavors and aromas out, because the bitter compounds take extended contact. LEM is a device we concocted that gives us the ability for an ultra-late hopping, whereby we pass the hot wort through the whole cone hops on its way to the cooling unit. This means the glorious, but volatile, aromas and flavors are captured because the wort is cooled within seconds of passing through the hops.

As if that’s not enough, LEM also allows us to dry hop with pelletized hops. Through a reversed flow system, LEM will swirl and hydrate the hops so they can be recirculated into the finished beer. At Switchback our beer is naturally carbonated by the yeast. As a result, all of our beer is under pressure, which means we cannot just open a port and pour dry hops in. With LEM we recirculate the hop slurry into the tank while under pressure. The recirculation is highly efficient at maximizing hop/beer contact for exceptional dry hop character. Being able to do this under pressure means we can continue to carbonate our beer completely naturally.

Brewer Bites: Slow-Fermented Brown Ale

In 2009, we acquired a “new” four-vessel copper brew house from Germany and began brewing all of our flagship Switchback Ale on this 66 barrel system rather than on our original two-vessel 15 barrel system, allowing us to make significantly more beer at a time and subsequently giving our brewers a whole lot of extra free time. But of course, a brewer’s mind never sits idle, and thoughts immediately turned towards new beers and recipes that we could brew on the old 15 barrel system. It was during this period when we were finally able to brew and release Dooley’s Belated Porter (which had been in the works for nearly 5 years!), and many other thoughts and ideas quickly came and went. Our head brewer, Tony Morse, really likes Genesee Cream Ale, and with the obvious exception of Switchback Ale, it might even be his favorite beer of all time. When he suggested that we brew our own version of a Cream Ale, everyone else laughed, except for him and Switchback’s owner/founder/brewmaster Bill Cherry, who knew that Tony was actually on to something big.

Bill had been wanting to brew and release another malt-forward beer for a while, and he began thinking about the effects of fermenting a malty brown ale at temperatures slightly lower than normal for typical ale fermentation. These conditions would suppress a number of the fruity esters produced by the yeast during fermentation, allowing the flavors of nutty and caramel malts to shine through. Also, when the yeast has to work in these cooler environments, they struggle to break down the sugars and convert them into CO2 and alcohol, but this struggle also produces a smooth, creamy mouthfeel like that of a Cream Ale, and this beer can indeed only be described as “crazy smooth.”  

Sean Reen
Switchback Brewer