Posted: May 22, 2022 at 6:16 pm

Here is some exciting news that is a bit different than what we normally share on here – we are collaborating with local craft brewery STORMBREAKER BREWING on a beer!  The beer in the works will be one of my absolute favorite styles, and is one that you don’t see brewed lot in Portland – a Japanese style rice lager.  StormBreaker currently has two locations: one a short walk from our gym right in St. Johns, and the other is also in North Portland on Mississippi Ave., which is where they do their actual brewing. Last week I got to go visit the latter of the two to help brew it, and thought I’d share a bit about the experience here.  

Before getting into the brewing experience I’ll share a quick bit of info on the beer itself.  Japanese style rice lagers are known for being dry, crisp, easy drinking, and refreshing.  They have long been a favorite of mine to go along with sushi, a burger, or watching an MMA card or football game.  They typically need about six weeks to ferment, meaning it should be ready sometime around July 4th weekend (exact date TBD).  Regardless of the exact release date, this should be the epitome of a perfect summer beer for backyard BBQ’s, pool parties, and baseball games, so make sure to get your hands on some!

OK, so a bit on the brewing process.  The first step is called the “mash in” and is generally considered to be the most exciting part of the brewing process.  The mash in basically consists of mixing the grains in with the water.  This is quite the operation because the grains need to be added in certain quantities at certain intervals while simultaneously ensuring that they are mixing well – if you are not careful, and/or if you add them in too quickly, you can get clumping and other undesirable outcomes that will set the entire process back. Sometimes one person can do the mash in on their own, and other times it is better to have several people. Due to the nature of this beer, the team decided to have a handful of people present. Once would be up on the deck watching the mixture and adding in certain ingredients from there, and another team member would be adding in other grains through a specialized machine at specific intervals called out by the lead brewer. It took a lot of teamwork and hustle to get everything into the mash at the right intervals.

Adding grains to the mash from the top of the deck
Adding grains to the mash via a specialized machine

Knowing the audience who might be reading this, a good analogy for the mash in might be mixing up a protein shake.  Like many of you, I have made shakes before and had all the protein mix up perfectly in the water with no clumps whatsoever (this is ideal), and I’ve also had some shakes that for whatever reason the protein clumps up terribly, and the shake is lumpy and gross.  Most people can deal with one sub-par protein shake and still go about their day, but when you’re brewing a large batch of beer you simply cannot let that happen – nobody wants to drink a lumpy beer!

I suggested we secretly make one of the kegs full, but not tell that person theirs is the only full one

The mash in was the highest energy part of the brew, with everything seeming more mellow after that.  There were some periods where the brew simply had to rest, and other parts where the equipment had to be adjusted to keep everything at the right temperature, cycling in water to optimize how much of the grains (and sugars, enzymes, etc.) were getting pulled into the brew without watering it down, and of course adding in hops.  I was actually amazed at how few hops went into such a large batch of beer – there were hundreds and hundreds of pounds of grains, but only a few ounces of hops!

I could go on and on, but as they say “a picture tells a thousand words” so instead I’ll include some photos here from the brew process.  Again, this should be ready in about six weeks or so, which should line up right around July 4th weekend (repeat: exact date TBD).

Lastly, big thanks to Andrew and Lauren for helping get this set up!  Both of them knew that I had always wanted to do something like this, and they did the legwork on getting introductions made and an initial meeting set up.  It wouldn’t have happened without you – cheers!

-Tony Gracia  

Scraping out hundreds of pounds of grain after they’ve served their purpose
You have to tamp them down to maximize space in the barrel – they are “fluffy” when you initially pull them out
Hop addition. Such a small amount of hops compared to all the other grains!


Tony GraciaView Posts