ALDC in the Brewhouse: Riverlands Brewing
Beerly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Alpha Acetolactate Decarboxylase. Also known as ALDC, it’s a helpful enzyme that prevents the formation of diacetyl by converting its chemical precursor during fermentation.
We heard through the grapevine that Eric Bramwell, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Riverlands Brewing in Illinois, has been using ALDC in all his brews – from Lagers to Hazies to West Coast IPAs. He was kind enough to get on the horn and tell us how it helps him brew better beer without that buttery off-flavor.
BSG: Hi Eric! Tell us about Riverlands Brewing and the beers you make.
Eric Bramwell: We opened in 2019, almost four years ago. We started off with a Haze-heavy mindset. It’s still a big portion of what we do, but lagers have exploded around Chicagoland. We opened our brewery with a German-Style Pils, and we’ve always done an Oktoberfest. Lager has become a big part of what we do, and what we like to call Modern West Coast IPA. Kind of like what North Park Brewing and Green Cheek Brewing are doing out west. Just Pilsner Malt and West Coast Hops. Lagers, Hazies, Modern West Coasts – that’s our wheelhouse.
BSG: How much beer are you putting out?
Eric: We put our 10-barrel system to work. We’ve done 1,000-1,200 barrels each year we’ve been open. We have four 10s and four 20s for fermentation capacity and they’re almost always full. As long as everything keeps moving, we’ll keep the pedal to the metal.
BSG: How’d you learn about ALDC (Alpha Acetolactate Decarboxylase)?
Eric: I got turned on to ALDC by a couple a local brewers here. Guys who’ve been in the game longer than me said what a useful tool it was. We were doing a collab with Art History Brewing. They use the Pilsner Urquell yeast for their house Czech Lager, but their head brewer absolutely cannot stand diacetyl and that yeast throws it off. So, he used ALDC to prevent that. We were brewing German Lager at Riverlands, not Czech Lager, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
BSG: What happened next?
Eric: A little time went by and we brewed a couple West Coast IPAs using USO5, or Chico. We tried a couple beers we had on tap, and I could taste diacetyl. It was there. Someone on Untappd said they tasted it in our Double IPA. We probably had eight half-barrels still in our cooler, and we dumped them.
I had listened to one of North Park Brewing’s podcasts. Their Head Brewer Kelsey said when he does dry-hopping, he throws a little ALDC in there. The very next batch of West Coast IPA we did, we used ALDC when we pitched yeast and when we dry-hopped. Ever since then we’ve used it in all of our lager, all of our West Coasts, and I haven’t noticed a trace of diacetyl since in any of our beer. It’s been a wonderful product. To me it was a gamechanger.
BSG: We know ALDC prevents the formation of diacetyl by breaking down its precursors. What does that mean for you and the beer you make?
Eric: We brew a lot of lager. Not having to worry about doing a diacetyl rest D-rest, using ALDC can shave a brew week off the turnaround time on a lager. If we can save time without sacrificing quality, we’re going to explore it. It’s also a peace of mind thing. There’s peace of mind in knowing your beer might sit on the shelf and it won’t degrade in flavor quality during that time. It’s important to us that the beer tastes the way we intended it to. The cost of a little jug of ALDC is well worth the price if it prevents us from dumping beer down the road.
BSG: You mentioned you’re using ALDC in your Hazies and other hop-forward beers, right?
Eric: Our American Ale yeast strain tends to throw off a little more diacetyl than our hazy does. But hop creep is a huge issue when you’re dealing with high hop charges. You can take steps to mitigate it without ALDC. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’d rather use the thing that 100 percent works.
You don’t want to buy those beers back off the shelf because you’re hearing reports about diacetyl or another issue – it’s worth using a product like ALDC to mitigate some of those weird things that can happen after your beer leaves the tank and is out of your hands.
BSG: You made a beer called No Functioning Gauges. Love the name. Mind speaking about that?
Eric: It was a collab with Solemn Oath Brewing in Naperville. Their beer was a Hazy called Between Two Pillows. Ours was a West Coast Pils called No Functioning Gauges. For that one, we took a German Lager base, built it around Rahr North Star Pils, and then we dry-hopped it.
BSG: Let’s say you’re floating down a river with your Kayak Pils. What AC/DC song is playing?
Eric: We listen to a lot of AC/DC in the brewery. I love the one that has bagpipes in it!
BSG: You’re talking about Long Way to the Top.
Eric: I love that song. That’s Bon Scott, old-school AC/DC. And Kayak Pils would probably be my go-to, but I’d say that for just about any situation. We also have Lazy Fox, a hoppy hazy blonde. We’re in the Fox River Valley, so that’s another go-to.
BSG: Thanks for talking with us, Eric! We’ll grab a couple life jackets and meet you on the river.