It’s no secret that I’m trying to find a job — something fresh. As a journalist, I’ve had the honor of meeting all kinds of different people over the years, and learning all sorts of different things; so I may not know a ton about every subject, but chances are, I’ve written about it at some point over the last 14 years. So, when I was turned away for a job in the alcohol industry, I was a little stunned. Not only have I served as a bartender and a waitress, but I’ve also learned a lot about beer! Not to mention I’ve guzzled a few… Anyway, here’s a piece I wrote in 2012 on a Baton Rouge Brewery, Tin Roof:
Summer has only begun, and Tin Roof has already delivered their new ale, Watermelon Wheat, to taps around the city. With such a creative beer, I had to wonder just who was doing the grunt work at our local brewery. After spending an afternoon with local Tin Roof brew master Tom Daigrepont, I’m certain we’ll be seeing many more delicious drinks right around the corner.
To learn the brewing basics, Daigrepont gave me a tour of the brewery—a giant green warehouse near downtown—from the buckets of malt to the Tin Roof taps.
Although Daigrepont has only been with Tin Roof since December 2010, he’s been home brewing for almost 20 years. Once a lite beer drinker, a previous job took him around the world, where they strictly sold local brews.
“I would be gone for weeks and months,” he said. “After drinking other beer, lite beer just didn’t hold up, so I wanted to try making my own.”
Before the luxury of the Internet, Daigrepont researched from newspapers and magazines, ordered a catalogue, and purchased a home brewing starter kit.
After completing his first batch of beer in 1992, he took local classes from a home brew shop.
“I got hooked,” he said. “Now, when I travel, I always do something with beer. I go to breweries, events…it’s a community that’s a lot of fun.”
Let the fun begin.
Beer is made of four ingredients: malted barley, hops, yeast, and water. A home brewing kit will contain all of the ingredients, except water. It will also include basic equipment, such as large buckets in lieu of large tanks. The more expensive the kit, the more equipment it will provide, such as a thermometer, book, or a DVD.
The malted barley, or malt, comes in various colors, all with different tastes, is used to create wort, which is the base of the beer.
“The wort is very sweet, but is offset by the bitterness of the hops,” he said.
The malt, which looks like soy nuts, is put into a mill to be crushed. From there, it goes into the mash tank, which has a set volume of water.
In the mash tank, it creates a porridge-like substance. The water pours over the malt like rain, and sugar is formed and extracted. A screen inside the tank is used to separate the malt particles from the liquid.
As for home brewing, the malt is an extract, either liquid or crystallized. Instead of the rain method, the malt can be steeped, like tea, or simply mixed.
Once all of the sugars are created and extracted, the liquid (a concentrate) is moved to a different tank, where more water is added, and hops, and the mix is boiled.
“There are different varieties of hops, in different flavors and aromas, which are more or less bitter,” Daigrepont said.
The mixture is cooled from 212 degrees to 68, so the yeast can be added, which begins the fermentation process. The yeast converts to CO2 and alcohol.
“There are also different strains of yeast, which finalizes the flavor,” he said.
And lastly, it’s chilled to a delightful 33.5 degrees and stored in kegs for the market.
Aside from the new Watermelon Wheat, Tin Roof also has the Perfect Tin Amber and the Voodoo Bengal Specialty Pale Ale in local bars and restaurants. Since the introduction of their beer, the recipe has changed for the better.
“I’m constantly wanting to make it better,” he said. “If I can tweak something, I will.”
Daigrepont said experimentation is easier in home brewing, since it costs less to make per batch. Tin Roof produces 1000 gallons per batch, leaving little room for error.
“There is a cost-savings in home brewing,” he said. “But there’s something about the quality and the style of it. You get to make beers that aren’t available on the market. Plus, there’s the fact that you’ve made a product you can enjoy with family and friends.”
I had my first pint of Watermelon Wheat at The Bulldog, and I can say Tin Roof has got a homerun with this one. Light golden in color, the beer isn’t heavy with watermelon (it’s not comparable to any other Louisiana fruit beer) flavor, which comes from local melons.
I could taste the watermelon more after the fact, than I did when it first hit my tongue. It’s refreshing, and way more convenient than avoiding all those seeds from an actual melon. If you’re looking for a way to show your favorite Dig writer how much you care, share a sip of that Watermelon Wheat.