Heater Allen Update & Review

I scored a bottle of Heater Allen Schwarzbier last night, and the nice cashier at Belmont Station reported that Rick Allen had gotten his larger, 6-barrel brewery online (reducing somewhat my sense that I had scored! with the bottle I was holding). And so it is:

Brewer's Notes, July 7
We've been brewing on the new system for a little over a month now, and I think that we've gotten a pretty good handle on how to best make beer on this system. First, we've figured out that the system works best when we're using 300 to 350 pounds of grain. For most beers this equates to 6 barrel batches, not 7. Higher gravity beer batches will be even smaller. We also are mashing the grain in the Boil Kettle rather than in the Mash Tun. This gives us much better temperature control for our step mashes. We then pump the mash up to the Lauter Tun, clean out the Boil Kettle, and then strain the wort back into the Boil Kettle. This is classic modern German brewing, as opposed to the British tradition of single step infusion mashing, and as opposed to old-style German decoction brewing.

Today we're going to brew our second batch of Bobtoberfest. Each batch we're brewing will yield about 4 1/2 barrels. We'll combine the two batches in one of our 9 barrel lagering tanks (the first batch is currently lagering in one of our fermenters).
They had bottles of the pilsner, which I've had, and the schwarzbier, which I have not. My sense is that schwarzbier is one of the more popular of Allen's beers, and I've never been able to score it. It's one of my favorite lager styles, and a perfect crossover lager for ale-happy Oregonians.

Allen's version is pretty thick and chewy; one could be forgiven for calling it "porter-like"--though of course I would never offend a proud lager brewery with such rank denigration. He uses 9 malts in the beer, and I agree that it has "complex malt, caramel, chocolate, and espresso flavors." It is quite a bit meatier than the German schwarzes I've tried, but it fights flyweight: just 4.8% alcohol. It is a fine beer, and I hope that drinking Heater Allen will no longer be such a rare treat.