Emmy-nominated show Beer Geeks is kicking off a new partnership with Ora.TV to air 22 new episodes beginning this Thursday, September 18th, with 2 back-to-back episodes. The first focuses on San Marcos, California’s beer geek favorites, Port Brewing and Lost Abbey, and the 2nd on Portland’s own Hair of the Dog. Hosted by the affable and boisterous Master Brewer Michael Ferguson of the BJ’s empire, the Beer Geeks television show takes a more formal but approachable tone than competitors that promotes craft beer as both a serious craft and as fun.
Each of the three episodes of Beer Geeks I have seen so far begin with the into to a local brewery and its team, then follows them through the creation of a beer and finishes with a meal and many pints. Beer Geeks takes the commendable road of spending a lot of time emphasizing beer as a cooking ingredient and terrific food pairing option. They do not rely on gimmicks or contrived situations, but instead come in and do their best to integrate with brewery operations to get a more first person perspective on the day-to-day workings of a brewery.
The September 18 Port Brewing/Lost Abbey episode introduces us to infamous brewery icon “The Tomme” and explains to us how both Port Brewing and Lost Abbey are two different breweries operating on the same system with the same owner (though not touching on the confusing Pizza Port Brewing). On this episode The Tomme is brewing “Hot Rocks Lager,” a stein beer, a style made with large red hot heated rocks in the kettle that I have always found fascinating. That’s right, rocks. As Michael Ferguson and Tomme Arthur explain, the technique dates back to a time when brewers did not have the heating elements of direct fire or steam powered boilers, and instead achieved the necessary cooking temperatures by tossing extremely hot rocks from a fire into the wort.
The first challenge in creating “Hot Rocks Lager,” stein beer, or others of the style, is choosing the right stones. They must be able to reach an extremely high temperature without exploding. I have read about experiments heating river rocks under a campfire, and Dogfish Head experimented with heating stones in a pizza oven, but the folks at Pizza Port/Lost Abbey have them beat. Brewery plant manager Ken has built a custom setup capable of simultaneously firing up four converted 1/2 barrel kegs with custom holes cut in the bottom to heat the rocks for the beer. I thought it was also interesting to note they use black granite shaped in what looks like dirty concrete bricks and heated for 3 hours before being added to the wort to create a boil. Never having seen the process personally, this is a lot of fun to watch, especially as the wort fills around the rock filled kegs and boils and caramelizes around them. You will have to watch the episode to see how all of this works and the beer finishes out.
A brief but fun interlude involves Michael Ferguson in the Lost Abbey barrel room tasting and blending wild yeast sour beers to be used in Duck Duck Gooze. This segment highlights the complexities of barrel-aging, with each barrel taking on its unique flavors, as well as the art of blending to achieve a stable final product.
The second half of the episode focuses on food and the offerings from Epic Eatz, an awesome looking food truck that sometimes serves the Port/Lost Abbey tasting room. Epic Eatz owner John Adams makes what he calls “California Surf Cuisine,” which is basically a fancier taco truck with a sous vide machine. His food and recipes using beer are well showcased, including a sous vide beef cheek tacos cooked with a coffee and cocoa nib-infused Imperial Brown Ale. They then delve into beer gastrique, making a beer syrup.
The episode finishes with lots of beers and food and a discussion on how and what to pair with rich beers and food. Overall, it’s a fun and educational experience that takes you to top breweries around the country you may want to visit or are already a fan of, and you learn a little about brewing and food pairing along the way.
Tune in, *ahem* direct your web browers to Ora.tv on Thursdays for new Beer Geeks episodes for free. Stay tuned for a review of the Hair of the Dog episode.
DISCLAIMER: Beer Geeks is a sponsor & advertiser of The New School, we thank them for their support.