By Staff Blogger Ryan Hieronymus
Let me start by saying if you don’t like lagers I blame the macro beer industry of the US. Their desire to serve all parts of the country relegated us to tasteless versions of what used to be considered beer. While lagers aren’t my main attraction to beer, it’s mainly because they are done so poorly in the US.
I had the pleasure of taking the brewery tour at Dovetail Brewery recently. I’m lucky to have about 8 local breweries within walking distance, but hadn’t spent much time at Dovetail, which is the newest in the neighborhood. I’d only been once before during their Christmas market last December.
Hagen, Ryan, and Bill
Dovetail is focused on pursuing traditional European and old world style lagers and they nail it. Our tour guide today was the co-owner and brewer Hagen. He was an engineer in his previous life and met Bill, the other half of Dovetail while studying in Germany at the Doemens Institute, a partner of the Siebel Institute. Both are certified master brewers. Prior to the tour I had a chance to talk with Hagen’s dad, Hagen senior. He gave me a fatherly review of his sons’ achievements and how the brewery came to be. The family dabbled in fermentation decades ago with homebrewed wine.
The name Dovetail is taken from the carpentry term for a joint with huge tensile strength and celebrates the joining of the two brewers. The tap handles illustrate the term.
The tour included the brew house, the coolship, the barrel room and open fermentation tanks as well as a water profile review and tasting. The 25 hectoliter brew house is set up for lagers, with step decoction, as well as turbid mashing using a 112 year old year copper tun that was originally used at the Weihanstephan brewery. In the pursuit of obtaining traditional equipment the owners toured Bavaria, with the help of Lothar who guided them to many previously owned equipment from traditional German breweries.
Water is 95% of beer, so the profile is important. After discussing the importance of water in brewing the group was offered 3 samples of water. The first was Chicago tap water; not bad but not ideal for lagers. The second was charcoal filtered tap; it tastes like water through a Britta filter. The 3rd sample had minerals added to emulate the water profile of the Czech region of Pilsen. It was soft, with a mineral presence and dry finish.
After the water tasting Hagen shared some grain and hops samples with the group to further help them understand the flavor components each contribute to the finished product. That finished product was usually in hand as they kept our glasses full during the tour. It was helpful to have a reference point during the beer discussion for how the beer was made and how it tasted!
Next stop was the coolship room. Most of the beers from Dovetail hit the coolship even when not doing spontaneous fermentation to help cool the wort and act in part like a whirlpool to separate tub. Their commitment to the traditional brewing process is evident here as well as the open fermentation tanks.
The barrel room has several spontaneous fermentation projects with the first projected to be ready next year, a Kriek style beer set to be aged on cherries and ready for the anniversary next year. The barrels are 3rd use from Revolution.
The last stop on the tour was the fermentation room. These tanks were also re-purposed from another older brewery. The open fermentation tanks allow the brewers to skim the yeast and use it to re-pitch for additional batches.
The current production capacity is about 2000-2200 barrels with a projected max of 5000 barrels. The philosophy of Dovetail is about celebration the traditional brewing methods and providing the freshest possible beer to the local neighborhood through self-distribution. The philosophy is in line with European family breweries who serve the neighborhood rather than focusing on mass production. If you love supporting local craft breweries and love old style beer definitely check out Dovetail.