The Grätzer Project Story

After months of planning, experimenting, brewing, tasting, and rating, it's finally time to celebrate! 15 barrels of San Francisco's first Grätzer, formulated at BrewLab, are now sitting in kegs at Thirsty Bear Brewing Co. just waiting to hit your lips.

It was a long and winding road that brought us to this point, and it all started with some friends of BrewLab, who own a little foot pedal–powered printing press in their garage. They love beer, so they decided to publish a handmade book, Why Beer Matters, from an extraordinary essay by Evan Rail.

Several months ago they showed us a copy of the finished book (it's gorgeous), and we were struck by a passage where Rails talks about a recently extinct beer style.

About 20 years ago, a small brewhouse in Poland stopped brewing the last known version of Grödziskie, aka Grätzer--a small, hoppy, slightly sour beer made with oak-smoked wheat. Many have since tried to recreate this funky beer, but it's a tough one, as both the yeast and the oak-smoked wheat are quite rare.

We were intrigued. So was the rest of the SF beer community.

We talked to Jim Withee, founder of GigaYeast, who after much sleuthing, managed to isolate a promising yeast from a bottle a Grätzer brewed by an historical beer enthusiast out of Germany.

We talked to Phil Cutti, brewmaster at South Paw, who agreed to oak-smoke some 200lbs of wheat on South Paw's massive smoker for the project.

Lastly we talked to Brenden Dobel, brewmaster at Thirsty Bear and German beer fan. Brenden loved the project and agreed to brew a 15bbl batch of Grätzer that'll go on tap all around the city.

From here, we asked the BrewLab community to help revive this virtually extinct polish oak-smoked wheat beer. A ton of you rose to the challenge, and together we hatched a plan. After a marathon weekend of brewing, we came away with not one, but *twelve* different versions of the Grätzer style.

At this point, we turned to the larger BrewLab community to help us pick the best recipe, and once again, you all really stepped up! We had a big ol' Grätzer party, and got great feedback using our RFID rating system.

Since the party, the BrewLab leadership has worked closely with Thirsty Bear Brewing and South Paw to scale up the most popular recipe (Grätzer #5). After lots of persistence and hard work over the course of the summer, we finally got 'er brewed just a few weeks ago.

Never before has such a wide swath of the SF beer scene come together to produce a beer. The result could have easily been something boring—a beer by committee, or the lowest common denominator—but instead, we made something both deeply rooted in history and wildly new. We haven't had a chance to taste the beer yet, but according to Brenden from Thirsty Bear, who just kegged the stuff today, we've got a real winner!

Please just take a moment to reflect on all the awesomeness YOU and the rest of the BrewLab community brought to this project.

Done? Cool. Now come have a drink with us at one of these release parties!

Grätzer First Tapping
Thursday, 9/12, 5pm
South Paw BBQ, 2170 Mission Street

Grätzer Release Party
This Friday, 9/13, 5pm
Thirsty Bear Brewing Co, 661 Howard Street

Beep! Measuring tap pours with RFID

For the last BrewLab party, we put a few fancy electronic touches on serving. If you were there, you probably noticed a little electronic tag on the bottomof your tasting glass and some matte black readers hooked up to the bar taps:

With these in place, we asked the bartenders to scan the tasting glass at the tap before pouring. After the end was over, we tallied up all the beers poured. But then what? We put aside our beer thieves and hydrometers for a few evenings and broke out our pocket protectors and statistics software to answer a few questions...

What did people drink? How much?

Larger figure (PDF) of beers by pour

Top three beers of the night by popular demand? Bexley's Porter, Love Potion #4 Oyster Stout, and You Ruined My Life Bitter.

We collectively drank about 80 gallons of beer. With just under 1200 pours, that's about 8oz per pour. People had between 4 and 5 drinks on average:

Larger figure (PDF) of drinks per person

Just how many beers did we pour? When was the beer flowing?

All told, we recorded 1,163 pours. Beer was flowing most freely between 9pm and 10pm, with 437 poured that hour:

Larger figure (PDF) of overall pour rate

How did things change over the course of the night?

What poured early? Late? Did drinking tastes change? What kicked the fastest?

This chart is a little unusual, but it show how the pours were more diverse earlier in the evening compared to later. That's probably not due to drinking tastes becoming more conservative, but just because of us starting to finish off kegs around 11 to 12 o'clock. Here are the breakdowns of pours, split out by hour:

Larger figure (PDF) of diversity by hour

Splitting it out into 10-minute windows the chart is much busier, but clearly shows the selection tapering off at the end.

It's also interesting to look at the pour rate over the night, by beer:

It's easier to make careful comparisons when they're stacked vertically on the larger figure (PDF) of pour rate over time by beer in 60 minute, 30 minute, and 10 minute windows.

Another one of the same?

Did people ever go back for seconds of the same beer? Thirds? Fourths?

Why, yes, indeed! The top personal favorite beers were:

  1. Belgian Trippel: One afficionado went back 5 times.
  2. Troglodyte Brown ESB: Someone went back 4 times and a couple of folks went back 3 times.
  3. The Skeptic Red IPA: Someone went back 4 times for the Red IPA, too.

Andrew's Rye Bock, Love Potion #4, Cyclhops, and the Best One Red Ale were personal-fave runners-up, each with a few people going back not just for seconds, but thirds.

Special thanks to Jason Morrison for leading the RFID charge and for putting together this excellent summary. Come to our next party for new and improved RFID wizardry!


Wow, it's been quite some time since our last post. I assure you we've been up to our neck beards in work around the lab--you should check out our Facebook page for more timely updates, but I'll try to update this more often too...

It's almost hop planting season! We've been training our clumsy green thumbs with some veggies out in the backyard, and so far no plants have been harmed. I've been known to even let fake flowers wilt in the past, so I'm particularly proud of our little greens.

Pictured: fava beans, radishes, rosemary and cilantro.


SF Homebrewer's Guild-Brewlab SF Homebrew Share at Inferno Bar, Noon to 3:00 PM on Saturday, June 2nd

A big part of BrewLab is giving all the amazing home brewers in the city a chance to meet each other and share their wares. For our next homebrew share, we're excited to be teaming up with SF Homebrewer's Guild and Pizza Inferno, one of SF's best new craft beer bars! Join us as the homebrewers from SF's two premier homebrew organizations get introduced, geek out on homebrewing, and show off their goods. With our two organizations coming together, we're expecting a pretty amazing crowd of brewers--should be really fun!

We’ll be awarding prizes for the People’s Choice beer, and everyone gets a vote, so make sure to bring enough homebrew to share with everyone (it's hard to win if only 10 people get to try your beer!). We’ll also have a raffle to raise money so Brewlab and the SF Homebrewer's Guild and Brewlab can keep bringing you excellent events and purchase needed equipment.

The details:
* How much: $15 gets you in plus all the Inferno pizza you can eat.
* Homebrew requirement: We ask that each homebrewer bring at least two 22 oz or four 12 oz bottles of homebrew to share (bring more if you want to have a shot at the People's Choice award!). Each homebrewer can bring a guest.
* Where: Pizza Inferno, 1800 Fillmore St (between Sutter St & Bush St), San Francisco, CA 94115.
* When: Saturday, June 2nd from 12pm to 3pm.
* Bonus: Stay afterward to take advantage of the amazing tap lineup offered by our fabulous host, Pizza Inferno!

Brewer's Meeting Recap and Upcoming Events

Sunday the East Bay brewer's meeting was held. There were a couple of SF brewer's on hand as well. Thank you for all of those that attended, and thank you for bringing the beer to share. The smoked porter (Rauch malt), and the mead were the two standouts in my opinion.

The upcoming event, that the meeting announced, was a Brewlab party, to be held in the East Bay in the beginning of May. We're still looking for locations for the party, but are generally looking for something in and around Jack London Square. If anyone has any ideas please let us know, and start planning you beers. Additional details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Another notable was a "potential" Pilsner competition, with an AMAZING first place prize. The competition won't be until June or July, but it does take a while to lager. So although I am going to leave it vague, for now, I think everyone should start thinking about making a Pilsner.

Finally there are 2 sensory tasting kits that have been acquired. The first will be taking place in the upcoming week in SF, and the second is still to be determined somewhere in the East Bay. So if you're interested please email to tell us so.

Happy drinking and brewing.

Coming up: East Bay Homebrewers Meetup, Sunday 4/1

Since day one, we've had tons of homebrewers in Berkeley and Oakland ask us when we plan to cross the bay bridge and bring Brewlab to their neighborhood. As we move into our second year, Brewlab is finally coming to the East Bay!

Expect to see a lot more Brewlab tastings, drinkups, and educational events in the East bay over the next few months. For starters, we're bringing together homebrewers in the East Bay to taste some beers and talk about how Brewlab can help out in the east bay homebrew community:

East Bay Homebrewer Meetup
Sunday, April 1st, 5pm

If you'd like to join us, sign up as a brewer here and we'll email you the details!


So I’m going to make another Barley Wine. The last time I made a Barley Wine was 2 years ago, yesterday. And for inspiration I had to open a bottle for notes. When this was first brewed I absolutely hated it. It was peaty to the point of peated scotch, esters of pungent fig flew in your face, and the solventy nature of the 11.3% alcohol made it a little uncomfortable. Well I have to say that after 2 years he is beautiful! I mean we’re talking about a sweet malt aroma with hints of apricot and alcohol. A very creamy tan head that dissipates after a bit. It’s a burgundy color with hints of ruby. There is a definite alcoholic edge to this guy and he warms you I more ways than one. Its’ flavor is sweet with more dried fruit perceptions and a medium carbonation level. There’s definitely still a hint of its’ solventy roots, but it really has mellowed dramatically with time, and he is pretty smooth. So after the encouragement I weighed out the next guy!


10 Gallons of IPA, 10 Gallons of Saison.
At least one of these will be kegged and ready for the Brewlab party Sept, 23rd!


Getting some Lemon Party Tripel ready for batch 5


Pickup aftermath.


Happy to have some homebrew! Pickup on 7/30/11


Pickup on 7/30/11, tasting some brew!


A little quality control before Batch #4 goes out.




Getting our brews in a row for Batch #4 delivery.