Hot Rocks! Traditional Steinbier Brewing

Image

One goal of the Queen City Brewery is to bring unusual specialty beer styles back to life. For nearly 20 years, our brewing team (Phil Kaszuba, Rich “Monk” Evans, Paul Held, and Paul Hale) has done just that with our annual Steinbier.

Steinbier (translation–stone beer) is a unique historic ale that was developed in the alpine regions of Germany long ago when brewing vessels were made of wood rather than metal. Since the brew could not be heated directly and boiled over a fire, rocks were heated in a fire and then lowered into the liquid, heating it to a boil. This use of rocks in the brewing process imparts a unique blend of subtle smokiness and caramelized malt flavor that are characteristic of Steinbier.

Tradition calls for the fire to be made of Beech wood and the type of rock used is called Graywacke (GRAY–whack). Graywacke is “layered” metamorphic sandstone that is dark gray in color and indigenous to Vermont. It withstands the intense heat and rapid cooling encountered during the brewing process without shattering.

In our process, the Graywacke is heated for hours over a Beech wood fire while the wort is prepared using conventional methods. The hot rocks are lowered into the wort and a violent (hissing, bubbling, frothing, steaming) reaction takes place. At this time, high temperature caramelization and some burning of the sugars occurs. Also, smokiness absorbed by the rocks transfers to the wort. The rocks are removed when they are still very hot (they now have a sweet, caramelized coating on them) and are placed in a sterile container for use later in the process.

After fermentation, the rocks are placed back in the beer and left there temporarily until the caramelized coating and any residual smokiness are dissolved and absorbed into the beer further contributing to the flavor profile.

This labor intensive process gives our Steinbier a unique flavor profile unachievable by any other method. Queen City Brewery will be one of only a handful of commercial operations in the world making this historic beer.

Advertisements

Pilot Batch of ESB

I just racked a pilot batch of a new ESB recipe for conditioning. This recipe is essentially a bigger version of one of my favorite English bitters, Timothy Taylor Landlord Ale, with a starting gravity of 13 degrees Plato instead of 10, and an appropriate increase in hopping rates (using Styrian Goldings mostly). West Yorkshire ale yeast from Wyeast (#1469) is the key to getting close to the distinctive Taylor character in my opinion.

I also made a prototype label for my lower gravity Taylor Landlord clone using some awesome open source artwork.

Beer Styles I Have Brewed

Our Munich Dunkel, which we brewed at the VT Pub & Brewery

I recently put together a list of all of the beer styles I have brewed over the years. Here it is:

American Styles

  • American Brown Ale (1 award)
  • American IPA
  • American Light Lager (1 award)
  • American Pale Ale (1 award)
  • 1950s Bushwick Pilsner
  • California Common (4 awards)
  • Cream Ale (4 awards)
  • Dark American Lager (1 award)

U.K. Styles

  • Barleywine (9 awards)
  • Dry Stout
  • English Bitter (2 awards)
  • English Brown Ale (2 awards)
  • English ESB
  • English IPA
  • English Mild
  • Foreign Extra Stout (2 awards)
  • Imperial Stout (1 award)
  • Porter
  • Oatmeal Stout (4 awards)
  • Scottish Ale (4 awards)
  • Strong English Ale (1 award)
  • Strong Scotch Ale (3 awards)

Continental Styles

  • Belgian Witbier
  • Bock (5 awards)
  • Bohemian Pilsner (5 awards)
  • Doppelbock (1 award)
  • Dunkelweizen
  • Dusseldorf Altbier (1 award)
  • Eisbock
  • Kolsch (3 awards)
  • Maibock / Helles Bock (1 award)
  • Munich Dunkel (8 awards)
  • Munich Helles
  • North German Pilsner (1 award)
  • Oktoberfest
  • Rauchbier (12 awards)
  • Steinbier (16 awards)
  • Trappist Ale (1 award)
  • Vienna Lager (3 awards)
  • Weissbier (1 award)
  • Weizenbock (2 awards)

Specialty Beer Styles

  • Chocolate Porter
  • Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
  • Maple Ale
  • Raspberry Altbier
  • Raspberry Stout (1 award)
  • Smoked Porter (1 award)
  • Spiced Christmas Ale

Welcome!

Welcome to the Queen City Brewery blog. With over 25 years of brewing experience and great support from family and friends, I have set out on a new adventure: to move from my two-thirds barrel brewhouse to a full-fledged craft brewery.  Stop by now and then to check on our progress!

Cheers,
Paul