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I'll just get right to the point. We fermented a 5 gallons of beer by putting a log in a batch of wort. It wasn't our idea and it wasn't our log. But that's the story. The true story. The short story. The long story is as follows. And, as always, a video below too.
Beer: Days of New Vs. Days of Old
The vast majority of "modern beer" made by commercial breweries and home brewers, is made using monocultures of lab isolated yeast. In this carefully crafted scenario, a single type of yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae) is added to a batch of sweet wort. The yeast proceeds to eat all of the sugar (or nearly all of it) and turns it into very predictably tasting batches of beer.
In the days of old, grain was turned into wort, or juice was squeezed out of grapes and the the sweet liquid just sat until something happened. What happened? Nobody knew. But if it the brewers got lucky, the juice would magically turn into alcohol over the course of a week or so.
What we know now, thanks to Louis Pasture, that "what happened" was yeast. Yeast is everywhere, but is particularly abundant on fruit, because yeast consumes sugar as its primary food source. What we also know now is that wood is a particularly good storage medium for yeast. Fruit comes and goes, but wood is more durable. It sticks around a lot longer.
Modern Day Beer Pioneer
What does any of this have to do with the log?
Enter Dailey Crafton, modern day beer pioneer and owner of the log we used to ferment our beer. We discovered Dailey when our video editor was conducting research for upcoming projects and happened upon the Vice News, Beerland documentary series, which highlights some of the best home brewers across the United States.
The New York City Beerland episode featured Dailey, who had been fermenting beer using a log he found in a park. As discussed above, this is not how beer is made. However, as also discussed above, it worked because there was yeast living in that log! How and why this actually happened is best described by Dailey, who beautifully documented his story on the Levenaut Beer Company website.
After seeing Dailey on Beerland, we decided to get in touch with him. Our goal was to somehow convince him to send his log to us. We informally (and jokingly) named this project "Finding Logman." It actually was pretty easy to find him because he's opening a couple of breweries. And somehow, it was even easier to convince him to send us his log. He literally mailed it to us in a USPS flat rate mailer. Dailey is just cool like that.
Brewing Log Beer
If a picture is worth a thousand words, there is no telling how many this 18 minute 4k resolution video is worth. Watch it and let us know. Also, scroll down even further for the recipe and some additional details.
Dailey's log beer recipe is pretty simple:
- Crush 11lbs Weyermann Bohemian Pilsner malt.
- Mash in 7 gallons of water at 155F for 60 minutes
- Boil for 60 minutes, adding 0.5 ounces of Mosaic hops half way through the boil, and another 0.5 ounces of Mosaic once the boil is complete and heat is turned off.
- Cool to room temperature, transfer to a fermenter, and insert the log.
- Allow the log to chill in the fermenter for a few days, then remove it.
- Allow to ferment and hang out for roughly 3 weeks.
- Keg or bottle, and serve carbonated and cold.
Very Important Notes
- Hops won't affect the yeast, but will definitely keep sour and funky bugs at bay. The final product will taste a lot more like "normal beer" if hops are added. Hops and anti-microbial. Lactobacillus, pediococcus and other stuff that makes beer taste "funky" and "sour" have a hard time growing in the presence of hops.
- When wood is added to a fermenter, it needs to be fully submerged, lest mold may grow and ruin the whole damn thing.
- Beer made with this process definitely changes with age. In fact, it often gets better with age. This isn't something that should be drank right away. In fact, we tried some a week into fermentation, then two weeks into fermentation, and then three weeks into fermentation. It wasn't until week three that it started tasting good.
- If you want to do this yourself, give it a go. But if what you make ends up moldy, or smells putrid. Don't drink it. It could make you sick. Have fun, and good luck!