Brew-Monkey's Brewer Interview
320 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE
July 30, 2005
Today I am lucky enough to talk to Andy Tveekrem, brewer for Dogfish Head - the legendary East Coast hop monster.
So... Andy, how long does it take to settle on a recipe for commercial production?
We zero in on them pretty quickly, at least 90 % there the first time, and by the 2nd or 3rd brew we're usually happy. But recipes are not carved in stone either; we continually tweak things here and there. We are dealing with agricultural raw materials so there are constant variations that have to be factored in to the brewing process.
How did you decide on the beer styles you make?
As near as I can figure, Sam hears a little bell at 3am and suddenly we are off on a new beer adventure. It happens a lot, by the way.
How far removed from the initial idea is the final product we all now commonly drink?
Pretty close. We don't water things down to make them sell better... just the opposite, in fact.
What settings do you use for crushing grain?
There is no ideal setting for a mill, because it all depends on the type of malt you use, the type of mill, and the design of the lauter tun. Our current lauter is too small which gives us deep grain beds and slow run-offs, so we mill on the coarse side to keep from getting stuck. Our new brewhouse we are installing should make things easier in that regard. Right now we are using a Kunzel 4 roll mill, which is pretty nice.
Do you perform the legendary "20 minute" mashes? If not, how long do you mash?
A typical mash is 1.5 hours. We do a brief protein rest, ramp up to saccarification temperature and finally mash out at 170.
What kind of efficiency do you normally get? How much fluctuation do you get from batch to batch?
Our efficiency is horrible right now because of how our brewhouse was designed and because we brew a lot of high gravity beers. When the new 100 barrel brewhouse is done we should be brewing with efficiencies in the 90s.
How long does a typical brew session take? What is a typical brew day like?
It's about 8 hours from mash in to knock out. Brewing is hard work, and cellaring is even more demanding physically. Brewing involves lots of running around to clean the wort line, mill the next brew, harvest yeast, etc. And the scrubbing is a constant. It is also pretty hot in the brewhouse this time of year.
How often do you brew? What days do you brew?
We run around the clock, M-F and we do Saturdays as needed to keep the tanks full. We average 5 brews per day, 25 to 30 per week.
At what temperature do you do your mashes?
122, then 148-150, then 170.
How long does your boil commonly last on the regular beers? What about on the specialties?
Normally 90 minutes, but longer for some of the strong beers. Like our 120 minute IPA. That one goes (drum-roll, please) for 120 minutes.
Do you adjust the water (use water modifiers) for the different styles or just go with the local water source?
We have our own well water for brewing. We soften the water and do an ion exchange and then adjust with brewing salts as needed, usually calcium.
What type of yeast do you use and how do you maintain your culture?
We have two primary yeast strains. One Belgian type for our Raison d' Etre and our own Doggie yeast for all the others. Our yeast is highly distinctive and assertive, not for the faint of heart. We use Whitelabs as our source.
How many times do you reuse your yeast from batch to batch?
Normally about 6 generations. Our plethora of high gravity beers tends to abuse our little yeasty friends so we do frequent re-culturing.
Do you use the White Labs Super HG yeast in any of your beers?
Yes, as well as others.
I read you use six different yeast strains for the WWS. Are there any WL/WY equivalents homebrewers might try to make a WWS-like beer?
Experimentation is the spice of life.
Do you use wine or champagne yeasts in the big beers? If so, do you have any tips on which wine yeasts work well and how to use them? How do you prevent the beer from becoming too dry when using them?
We don't use them.
Which WL strains would be the closest matches for brewing your 60min., 90min., and 120min. IPA's?
Any good, flavorful English ale yeast should get you close, then pile on the hops in the end of the boil and in the fermenter. Bang, instant Dogfish!
What about hops... do you use whole or pellet hops?
Pellets uber alles. They store better, taste better, and are much easier to use.
I know you like to use the Simcoe and Amarillo combination quite a bit. What other hop varieties and/or combinations do you like to use?
We use a boat load of Warrior, Glacier and Palisade around here. Vanguard is good for milder, less hoppy beers.
What is a typical dryhopping amount/schedule for your IPAs?
We like to use about 1.5 lbs/bbl in the kettle and then another 1 lb/bbl in the fermenter. Too much is never enough.
Have you ever noticed any astringency from boiling hops over 90 minutes?
Do you use a Whirlpool or Filter method?
We whirl. Originally our brewhouse had a kettle/whirl but then we added a separate whirlpool that we built out of an old open-top fermenter. We call it the Frankentank based on its singular lack of aesthetic appeal, but we gained two barrels of wort per brew and sped up the brewing cycle by an extra brew per day.
What finings or clarifiers do you use if any?
We throw some Whirlfloc G into the kettle.
What temps are most ales fermented at on this level?
We start at 68, let it rise to 71, then let it sit for a few days at 74 to mop up any diacetyl. Then we crash the beer to 32 for at least a week.
What temps. do you typically ferment your big beers?
We start at 68 and let them rise into the upper 70s by the time feeding starts.
Do you pasteurize or add preservatives?
Which award are you most proud of and why?
We all got excited about the Gold at GABF last year for Midas Touch. It was the first GABF medal for Dogfish. Our beers don't fit into mainstream categories very well, so style-based competitions are tough for us.
I know this is a question a number of homebrewers are interested in... the Randallizer. What can you tell us about that?
Randall the Enamel Animal... he's taking over the world. What could be better than pouring your beer from a keg right through a bunch of hops and into the glass? It's a great tool for informing the public about what hops really are and how they contribute to beer flavor.
For Midas Touch - when did you add the saffron? How much did you add? It didn't seem to be very yellow as one would expect from using saffron in bigger quantities.
We add it post fermentation to preserve the aroma. It doesn't do much for color.
Is it feasible for homebrewers to attempt fermenting a beer to 18%-23%? If so, can you go over key steps and recommend a fermentation schedule/plan to achieve this. An example ferm. schedule for an 18% beer like WWS would be great.
Some of what we do is proprietary, but we take our house yeast and start off the fermentation with about 26 Plato wort. We then work up some WL super high gravity yeast in another batch and rack them together after it hits high kraeusen. Then we start feeding with sugars and yeast nutrients. Avoid agitation and venting or you will lose some of the alcohol through volatization. Feed the beer til it stops eating. Keep it warm to keep the yeast working.
How long and when would you recommend homebrewers oxygenate (using a ss stone) their high gravity beers?
The same as regular beer. Make sure you pitch a good volume of healthy yeast and it will do the rest.
What is/are the most important factor(s) for creating a high ABV beer that doesn't taste like rocket fuel?
Don't pile it up with too much food at the beginning. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Are the grain bills the same for all three of the IPA's and just the gravities differ, or do they have different grain bills?
They are fairly similar. Specialty malts are not a huge factor in these beers.
The DFH 90 Min. BYO recipe listed the grain bill as Pilsner and amber malt, whereas a recent Zymurgy 90 min. recipe listed it as pale 2-row and Munich. Which is more accurate?
Right now it is a bit of both-- 2 row and amber malt.
Do you have any techniques or processes that are unique to your brewing/brewery? Can you tell us about it/them?
We brew our IPAs with a continuous hop addition in the kettle, which is unique. We have a hop doser "Sir Hops Alot" that sits over the kettle and drops in the pellets throughout the boil.
For something like the 120 Minute IPA and the World Wide Stout - how do you get that much alcohol? There has to be either some special process (oxygenation for several days while adding more wort, etc.) or really kick ass yeast. Can you shed some light on that for us?
Actually it is several kick ass yeast strains. And we feed the beer during fermentation with sugars.
How is Sam's book going?
It is selling really well and getting great reviews. It is into the 2nd printing already.
The Dogfish movie was great - what prompted that and will there be a part 2?
It was a slap back at all the prohibitionist propaganda coming from MADD and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. These groups have a major anti-alcohol agenda-- and are largely funded by our tax dollars. It's pretty annoying so we decided to have a little fun.
Part Two: The Mothers Strike Back... it could be interesting. We'll need some light sabers for sure.
What do you see in the future for you and your company?
I see continued growth for Dogfish. We haven't been able to keep up with demand yet.
Brewery info: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Location: Milton, Delaware
How long has the brewery been around?
The company is 10 years old and started as a brewpub in Rehoboth, DE. We expanded into bottles and a separate brewery location six years ago.
What is the yearly production?
Right around 30,000 bbls this year. Last year was 20,000.
How many different beers are made and how many are bottled? Where do the rest go?
We have 18 beers in bottles and a few more that are draft only. And the pub does a few that are just sold there.
What is the current distribution?
We are centered on the east coast but we sell in 26 states.
When will we see DFH beers in the San Francisco Bay Area?
That is a really good question... wish I had an answer for you. Maybe once we get the new brewhouse going and have a few more fermenters to fill up.
Name: Andy Tveekrem
Date Of Birth: 9/15/63
Current Brewery: Dogfish Head
What kind of education do you have?
I studied history in college and did a few years in grad school as well.
Did you attend a Brewing School?
I went to Siebel in '92 and again in '96.
How long have you been brewing?
I began homebrewing in '86 and professional brewing in '91. So it looks like next year makes it twenty years-- sounds like a good excuse to celebrate...
How long have you been at your current job?
18 months now.
What did you do previous to this job?
I was brewmaster at Frederick Brewing in Maryland for four years, and I was brewmaster at Great Lakes Brewing in Cleveland for nine years before that.
Every brewer has high and low points... what are yours?
The high point was getting hired at Great Lakes and realizing I could make my hobby become a life-long career. The whole Frederick thing was a low point. It was like being in the German army... no matter how well you fight the battle, you're still going to lose in the end.
What is your favorite beer style and why?
It depends on the season and my mood... generally I like hoppy pale ales and IPAs, but I also enjoy hefe weizens and porters.
What is your Favorite beer?
The one in my fridge, waiting for me to get home.
Which beer do you enjoy brewing the most?
The 60 Minute IPA.
I love the fact that a big, bold IPA is our flagship beer. And I love the extravagant use of hops that goes into it.
Do you still brew at home? What do you like to brew if you do?
Not lately, my house doesn't have a basement, but I might ferment some cider this fall.
Personal notes/outside interests: I like traveling, reading and bike riding. And I enjoy sports that dovetail nicely with beer consumption: croquet, disc golf and bowling. Good stuff.
Thank you Andy - this has been a big thrill for me and you have provided us with some great information. Thanks again and cheers!