We had the opportunity to attend the first in the Brew Like a Pro series at Bitter and Esters in Prospect Heights. Based on directions given by Victory’s Bill Covaleski, the Bitter and Esters crew led a group through a fifteen gallon batch of Victory Prima Pils. Victory was generous enough to provide not only the recipe, but also grain, hops, and yeast from the brewery. The session was well designed for a group that included homebrewing veterans and novices. Discussions ranged from the basics of starting a mash (the extraction of sugars from malted grain) to the chemistry behind alpha and beta amylase rests (specific steps in a complex mash).
Sean McCain, the brewery’s New York City representative (pictured above), gave a brief history of the brewery and the Prima Pils. Victory places a huge emphasis on tradition and the quality of ingredients. In addition to only using high-quality German malts, the brewery invested in a wet mill (something we had never heard of) which is calibrated for each use and uses specific amounts of water as the grain is crushed to protect the integrity of the grain husk. Victory has also decided to use only whole leaf hops instead of hop pellets (something most homebrewers will be familiar with), pictured below.
The best part of the day was the discussion among homebrewers. Each step in the process brought up different questions and issues in homebrewing. The more experienced homebrewers were able to share tips and tricks for solving specific problems, while the novice homebrewers brought noticeable enthusiasm. It doesn’t get much better than sharing a homebrew and some conversation while brewing.