Brewmaster’s Tithe — Amsterdam Brewing Co.

Name a beer you would drink everyday. I could name dozens. Now name one that you could drink for breakfast everyday. Probably a smaller list. You can see where I’m going with this, I’m sure. Before I had even actually committed to doing this fast (if you’re just tuning-in, I’m fasting from food for Lent), I reached out to a good friend, Iain McOustra, Brewmaster at Amsterdam Brewing Co. All I said was “If I was going to fast from food for Lent, would you help me make a beer to drink so I don’t starve?”. He immediately said yes.

Rather than getting into the history of beer during Lent (that’s for another day, but suffice to say, some monks would still drink beer while fasting in preparation for Christmas and Easter), I’ll just tell you about the beer.

Brewmaster's Tithe — Amsterdam Brewing Co.

Brewmaster’s Tithe — Amsterdam Brewing Co.

If you would rather skip to how we made it, scroll down a bit.

From a blank 341ml bottle (though I have 650s too), Brewmaster’s Tithe pours a hazy brown that is copper red when held to a light. A dense 1/2″ head drops to a thick sticky layer of foam that leaves huge lacing on the glass. Aroma is malty with a good hit of alcohol. There are warm spices, and just a touch of herbal hop, if you look for it. But big caramel sweet malts are the main show. Taste is more of the same, sweet and malty, with caramel, biscuit, and a bit of oats. Hops offer more of a bitter dry hit than anything else. I suspect that the spiciness I noted on the palate is hop-related, as the yeast is super clean (which makes sense for a lager). The beer is super sweet, but kept in check, so that while the body is creamy and thick, it isn’t cloying (thank God). The over-dose of oats makes the mouthfeel really thick, though the carbonation and hit of bitterness help keep it from being overwhelming.  There is also a nice touch of heat on the finish, but the beer isn’t pronouncedly boozy.  While using oatmeal to add body might not be the norm in a “classic” doppelbock, it still has so many similarities in terms of taste and appearance, that it seems believable that a German monastic community might make something similar to keep them through a long 40 days.

Brewmaster's Tithe, back-lit

Tasty and red

I am so thankful for friends like Iain, Cody, Morgan, Kevin, Scott, Patrick, and the crew at Amsterdam. I literally couldn’t be undertaking this without you guys.

Normally I would put where to buy this beer here. But you can’t. Sorry. If you’re round my place to hang out, I might offer you a sip, though.

Drink This With

Well, obviously, nothing. At least not food.  That said, it was recommended by my doctor that I have some fruit juice around a half hour after each beer, to help “wean” me down from the sugar high, preventing the insulin boost that the huge dose of simple carbs adds, from leading to a hypoglycemic reaction.

About The Brewery

The Amsterdam Brewing Company is an independently owned and operated craft brewery that is deeply rooted in the city of Toronto. A pioneer of the craft beer revolution in 1986 and initially called the Amsterdam Brasserie and Brew Pub, The Amsterdam was the first of its kind in Toronto to offer patrons hand crafted lagers and ales that were brewed ‘in-house’. Today they brew over ten different beers including their flagship lager – Amsterdam Natural Blonde, the award winning Big Wheel Deluxe Amber, Boneshaker IPA and multiple year-round and seasonal brews. The Amsterdam Brewing Company uses only traditional brewing methods and their beers are made with four all natural ingredients – malt, hops, yeast, and water. All beers are GMO-free, without preservatives, and never heat pasteurized.

The Making of Brewmaster’s Tithe

Once I was fully committed to participating in this fast, I got to work with the crew at Amsterdam, planning what the beer we would make would be. I was keen on a German-style doppelbock (rather than a Belgian dubbel). I was also keen on adding stuff to keep me from, you know, dying. Early discussions included such possibilities as dulse (seaweed), quinoa, under-attenuating (intentionally leaving lots of sugar un-fermented), oatmeal, and leaving the yeast in (think marmite). All of them, save one, were dismissed on the grounds of likely making the beer taste, at best, weird; at worst, awful. It was decided we would make a fairly traditional doppelbock, but add a decent amount of flaked oats to the recipe. This is not a new idea. In fact many stouts (and at least one brown ale; I’m looking at you, Left Field) use oats to add body, and complexity to the flavour. Because proteins from the grains make it through to the final product, boosting the umph using oats was a good idea.

Mashing-in Brewmaster's Tithe

Possibly the wrong bag…..

So before Christmas, I headed to the brewery at Esandar, and worked with Cody on Amsterdam’s pilot system. The recipe called for a great grain bill, including Munich malt as the base, floor-malted bohemian pilsner malt, abbey malt, and oats, but therein lay the foundation for out biggest mistake. In the process of mashing-in, we had filled grain bags with the milled grains. But we accidentally left the full bag of oats in the line of bags. We didn’t realize until we had added about 1/3 of the bag of extra oats to the recipe. So we bumped up the water and other grains, but accepted the fact that the oats which should have been about 9% of the grains were now more like 20%….. As noted above, the results were more than fine; I kind of dig the heavy body and extra nutrients.

Brewmaster's Tithe, mash

Cody’s head intact, and a St Arnold-esque paddle

Using a traditional decocotion method (we actually did it in like 6 steps, which surely added body, as well as darkened the beer through kettle-caramelization), we got the wort ready for the boil. It was around then that my priest, Lucy, popped in to see how things were progressing, and to offer a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing on the beer.  She read from Psalm 65:

You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.
You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!
Psalm 65:9-13 NLT — A psalm of David; and the closest thing to beer you’ll find in the Holy Bible…..

Me and the Reverend Lucy Reid.

Me and the Reverend Lucy Reid.

After that we boiled it up, added the hops, and pitched the German lager yeast. All in all, it was a pretty good day, even if Cody picked up a ding on his lid that required a few staples to close him up.  We fermented it out in a cool spot of the brewery, then transferred it to a cooler, where it lagered for about 8 weeks.  Once carbed up, we bottled it, and now it all resides in my crawl-space, waiting to keep me from starving.

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