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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pic(k) of the Week: Hands of a Brewer

Kevin Blodger —co-owner and lead brewer for Union Craft Brewing in Baltimore, Maryland— zwickle-teases a sample of Union Craft Schwarzbier directly from a 40-barrel fermenting vessel.

Hands of a brewer

A Schwarzbier is a dark lager that balances somewhat roasted malt flavors with moderate hop bitterness. Think stout, but as a lager rather than an ale, and with more of a baker's chocolate character than the burnt malt flavor of the former. Blodger's lager had finished primary fermentation, and was in a state known as diacetyl rest, in which the beer is kept relatively warm for a day or two to eliminate the buttery character of yeast fermentation. After that, the beer will be matured at cold temperatures for several weeks, a process known as lagering.

A zwickle is a sample port —on the side of a fermentation or maturation tank— used to extract samples of young or fermenting beer for measurement and observation. To pour a sample for tasting, with Germanic license, is to zwickle-tease.

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ABOUT THE BREWERY

Union Craft Brewing is Baltimore's newest brewery —kegs began rolling out only in late June of 2012— and is the only production brewery operating within the city limits. It sits in 7,200 feet of a re-built warehouse along the banks of the Jones Falls River in the old mill district of Woodberry.

The brewery's initial offerings are Duckpin Pale Ale (5.5% alcohol-by-volume) and Balt Altbier (a brownish-red German-style ale, 5.6% alcohol-by-volume). A third beer, a seasonal, Old Pro Göse, is also a German-style ale, but a wheat beer fermented with lactobacillus as well as standard ale yeast, yielding a refreshingly low-alcohol (4.8% alcohol-by-volume), sour/sweet ale. In 2011, Blodger brewed the same recipe for the Gordon-Biersch brewpub in Rockville Maryland, and received a bronze medal for it at that year's Great American Beer Festival, the nation's premier brewing competition. In late September, the Schwarzbier will replace the Göse as the brewery's second seasonal.

Blodger & Zerivitz
Kevin Blodger (l); Jon Zerivitz (r)

Blodger's business partner is Jon Zerivitz, a past graphic designer who "wanted to get out from behind his desk." Zerivitz wrote the business plan, and recruited Blodger. He helps with the brewing (a veteran homebrewer himself) and handles the marketing.

Union Craft's beers are currently only available on draft, and only in Maryland. The partners hope to add a canning line in 2013, as their production passes their first year goal of 1,500 barrels.

Union Craft Brewing_est. 2012

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  • More photos, and more about the brewery: here.
  • Tours are offered Saturdays, 1-4.
    See the website —unioncraftbrewing.com— for more information.
    How to get to the brewery: here.
  • A barrel is not an actual thing, but a unit of liquid volume measurement. It equals 31 gallons. Thus Union Craft's projected first year production of 1,500 barrels would be the equivalent of 46,500 gallons of beer. Each of its four 40-barrel fermenters holds 1,240 gallons of beer; that's the equivalent volume of 80 kegs.
  • A production brewery differs from a brewpub in that it is not a restaurant. It is a factory, so to speak, for producing beer. There are a couple of brewpubs in Baltimore, but the last production-only brewery to operate in the city proper was the National Brewing Company, located in the Highlandtown area, and closed in 1978. Much later, Degroen's would be bottling its beers in Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood, but it had begun its life as a brew pub, the Baltimore Brewing Company, and would close in 2005. Yet another production-only brewery is projected to open in Baltimore in late 2012: Peabody Heights Brewing, to operate in the Waverly neighborhood.
  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as subject. Commercial use requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

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