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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Transferring Halvtreds to Secondary

Halvtreds at 3 weeks
I find that I mostly post about brewing but don't spend to much time discussing/update what happens after I pitch the yeast.  This will be a quick post about transferring to secondary complete with some tips I've picked up.

When we last left Halvtreds it was a few days in primary at 55 degrees.  I generally start all of my lagers at 55 degrees, I know some people throw it down straight to "lagering temps" in the 30s - 40s but I question where they learned this.  My lagering techniques come from two sources, Shawn and his years of brewing and Gregory J. Noonan's New Brewing Lager Beer which Shawn recommended I read.

My lagering schedule looks like this.  8-10 days primary fermentation at 55 degrees.  Once primary fermentation has slowed I perform my diacetyl rest by raise the temp to 68 degree for a couple of days.  This helps the yeast clean up any diacetyl in the beer, something that because of their low fermentation temperatures lager are more prone to.  After a few days I rack it into secondary and set it to 50 ramping it down to 45.  After another period of time I start to lager it by bringing the temp slowly from 45 to 40-30s.

Shot of my siphon screen
What is diacetyl and why don't I want it in my beer? Diacetyl is a byproduct of fermentation that can impart a buttery flavor in your beer. In ales the higher fermentation temperatures generally clean up unwanted diactyl. This is why the diacetyl rest is beneficial in lager brewing. 

Back to Halvtreds.  Primary had slowed after 10 days so I started my diacetyl rest at 66-68 for about 4 days.  After that I knew I didn't have time to transfer so I returned it to 55 degrees.  The following week I quickly took an hour and moved it to secondary.   

A couple of tricks I've picked up that I use in secondary (and tertiary) transfers are; I flush the secondary vessel with CO2 from my keezer prior to filling it and I tie a sanitized nylon bag to the end of my auto siphon.

Now that it's in secondary I wait to see if I can score some East Coast Yeast, if not then I'll select a White Labs version and start the souring phase.



Tuesday, December 20, 2011

StarRaptor / Chris's Imperial Red - Side by Side

Same grain, different levels of hops
If you go back to the original post on StarRaptor you'll see that it started out as a collaboration brew on the Mr Beer Forums between myself and a fellow brewer out in Minnesota named Chris (mnstarzz13). 

The process itself is everything I love about a collaboration which in the end produced two very different beers. Essentially we arrived at a central grain bill which each of us spun to their own taste. For me this meant increasing the IBUs and adding some dry hops while Chris backed off the hops and created a much more malty beer. I also subbed the Amarillo for Citra which is something I will not do again if Simcoe is involved. As far as yeast went he used Wyeast's 1056 (which is the same strain as WLP001 and US-05) and I used San Diego Super Yeast (WLP090) which is described as supercharged WLP001, so pretty similar strains.

There was also a slight variation in equipment and techniques. The two that stood out for me was secondary vs non-secondary and keg vs bottle conditioned. Beyond those we both used a yeast starter, added yeast nutrient, included whirlfloc, controlled fermentation temperatures and aerated the wort (whip vs pure O2).

Chris's Imperial Red

Nice, dark garnet color
Appearance: Pours a dark garnet color into a Bruery tulip glass.  It appears slightly hazy as I shine a light through it but it is overall pretty clear for a bottle conditioned beer.  I poured it almost straight down and had issues generating head,  however when I swirl it I'm able to form a nice 3/4 inch head of tan fluffy foam. It's a lot darker then StarRaptor and when I shine a light behind it very little makes it through. Generates good lacing as I imbibe

Aroma: I'm picking up some slight wood, almost oak, notes.  I don't know where this is coming from.  It's very light on the hops coming across with a rich malty aroma.  When I breath in deep I get a slight fussel alcohol aroma.

Mouthfeel: Good level of carbonation with small tight bubbles.  Medium bodied with almost a rich think malty mouthfeel.

Taste: Very malty reminds me a little of an strong Irish red.  I can narrowly pick up the taste of the alcohol but it's very minor.  Overall it a smooth rich malty beer and when I look at it that was it is very drinkable.  There is very little hop bitterness as it is very malty. 

Overall:  This is a solid beer.  I feel it could have benefited with some time in secondary and perhaps some pure O2 at time of pitch.  It has a very familiar taste that I can't seem to place 


I love the color and the glow
Appearance: Poured crystal red from the tap into Bruery tulip glass with an inch of off white almost egg shell head. I'm actually pretty pleased and surprised by how clear it is. It's gone back and forth in the clarity department but seems to have leveled off pretty clear. Solid lacing as the level goes down. Shining a light behind it generates a beautiful red glow.

Aroma: Predominately citrus with some pine notes.  The Citra really stands out in the aroma, I just wish it played better in the flavor department.  It's been on draft for a while now I while the hops are still coming through it's days are numbered.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp with OK carbonation considering the issues I'd recently had that flattened the keg.  In fact I had only re-carbonated it a couple of days prior.   I would consider it a light to medium bodied beer.

Taste: It seems to be improving and it very drinkable right now with nice citrus hop flavor.  I don't know how much longer this beer has before it completely fall apart though.  I don't think the hops are playing well and will avoid the Simcoe Citra combination in the future.

Overall: The most difficult thing about drinking this beer is shaking the memory of how it tasted when I was moving it to secondary.  It was absolutely brilliant and felt I had nailed a recipe.  Since coming out of secondary it has never lived up to that tasting.  Having had a few Simcoe Citra beers at this point I can say I don't like how they play together which is odd as Falconer's Flight is a hop blend of Simcoe, Citra and one other and I loved it in Costa del Sol.  I might play with this recipe and rebrew it in the future minus the Simcoe and I enjoy the Citra aroma it still has.

I really enjoy experiments and collaborations like this.  I find the ability to create multiple beers from a central batch of wort fascinating. The ability to take a grain bill and hop or add DME it to taste, in my opinion, really let's the individuality of the brewer shine through even more then when you just use different yeasts.  I hope to do more of these split wort collaborations in the future.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Building the Indiana Jones Crate Keezer

What if this dispensed beer?
I've decided for today to finally post the complete Indiana Jones Crate Keezer build.  By now you might have noticed in the "SNB Brews Currently..." section on the right of the page a section listed "On The Crate". This refers to the 4 tap keezer I built out of an old chest freezer, which is the definition of a keezer vs a kegarator btw.

I knew going into building my own draft system that it should be four taps and have a theme to it.  After a lot of thought I got inspired to make it look like the crate the US Government puts the Ark of the Covenant in at the end of Raider of the Lost Ark.  This is why it is refer to as the Crate, The Indy Crate and The Indiana Jones Keezer on this site and others that I post to.

I bought the chest freezer off of Craigslist and a Johnson Analog controller from Addison Homebrew Provisions.  I also picked up the shanks and Perlick faucet from AHP. I highly recommend Perlick faucets for their forward sealing design. Everything else I picked up from Home Depot mostly in their scrap wood department.

Real quick, chest freezers work by routing the cooling medium around the inside of the walls.  Unless you have a map diagramming this it is highly advisable to NEVER screw, drill or nail anything to the wall of the freezer.  I used liquid nails to connect the wood skin to the lower part of the freezer.

In total it took me about 2 weekends to complete which I broke up into two builds several months apart for monetary reasons. During this period I used it as a 3 tap keezer, this is the reason that for a period it only has 3 holes and the lid magically becomes red. Later I decide to build a removable drip tray using rulers, shelf brackets and a drip tray I bought off of eBay.

With that said here is a picture walk through of the build process.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Funky Brother Brett

During the mash
A few months back I stumbled upon an interesting article on brewing beers fermented 100% with Brettanomyces instead of Saccharomyces. The article featured a couple of names that I've started to become familiar with over the past few months since my first read through.  The biggest take away for me was actually the non-use of aeration. It was an intriguing article so I posted it up to my Brewluminati Facebook group. This generated a lot of good discussion and several of us decided to undertake the challenge.

I decided to brew up a Mo Betta Brett inspired recipe which I'd found on both White Labs and the Mad Fermentationist. I named the beer My Funky Brother Brett after both Brettanomyces and my actual brother Brett. For the strain I went with White Labs WLP645 (Brettanomyces claussenii). Brettanomyces claussenii was discovered at the Carlsberg brewery in 1904 and some of the descriptors that I've read for clean fermentations are fruity with pineapple like aroma. For those who note that Mike (The Mad Fermentationist) is using Brettanomyces anomalus and not Brettanomyces claussenii I'd like to point out that according to Chad Yakobson of The Brettanomyces Project and Crooked Stave in a NHC 2011 presentation B. claussenii has since been reclassified as B. anomalus. So they are scientifically the same strain.

The hardest part was actually finding time to brew it with everything else I had going. Looking at my scheduled Bonnie suggest that I brew it on a Friday night. I've been thinking of doing a late night brew session for a while so I agreed and invited some fellow brewers over to assist and hang out.

I brought out the fire-pit so people could stay warm
Ive been hovering in the low 60s lately in my efficiency and this was no exception.  For some reason I calculated the efficiency of the recipe at 65% but ended up 4 points under gravity at 1.056 or 60%. I know some people getting 75-80% from batch sparging but that isn't me. I'd love to get it up but for now I just need to start basing recipes off of what I'm really getting not what I wish I was getting.

One note on working with Brettanomyces, because the size of the cell is so small Brettanomyces can hide in the smallest seams or scratches, so if you start to venture this direction you'll want to keep it isolated. I bought a bucket that I intend to use only of brett-based beers and have an old secondary that I will give to the project. In addition I'm going to mark all hoses and siphons that comes in contact with the brett including keg tubing. I didn't do this with Halvtreds as it used a clean primary and will only be soured in bulk aging in a keg.

It's going to be in primary for a while as I've read the strain can take up to 11 days to really get underway.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Labeling and Waxing the Imperial Rhino Stout 2011

Ready for wax
So on my last post I talked about using a Blichmann BeerGun to bottle Imperial Rhino Stout 2011. Since then I spent some time labeling the bottles then waxing the top to complete the look.  

For the most part I've labeled pretty much every bottle I've filled (minus competition bottles) but I've only waxed a couple of beers.  In my opinion there is nothing classier of a finishing touch to a killer homebrew then labeling and waxing the bottle. Especially if you are going to be giving them out to friends.

There is a lot of discussion on the real usefulness of waxing beyond decorative reasons.  With the advent of modern bottle crown technology the need for wax to prevent oxidation has been greatly reduced.  Modern crowns are manufactured with ability to seal airtight. Oxygen aborbing caps are also fairly common and can be picked up in any LHBS.

I have a few tricks to labeling bottles that I never discussed when I did my post on creating them.  When it comes to labeling I primary use two kinds of Avery labels; 5168 (3.5 x 5 inch) for the big labels and 5164 (3.33 x 4 inch) for small labels.  I generally buy them off of Amazon in boxes of 100 sheets, this yields 400 5168s and 600 5164s.   I've used full sheets to custom cut labels and clear which I've not liked the results of.  I seen other label products that are removable but more expensive and the Avery labels come off pretty well with a good PBW soaking. One of the hardest parts of labeling is getting the label to print perfectly on the sheets.  In the past I've thrown away a lot of not 100% perfect labels.  These days I print and hope for the best.

When it comes to applying labels it's best to apply to a clean, dry and room temp surface.   Generally if you are rising your bottles after filling, to wash off the beer you purposely let overflow, you should have a clean surface.  Dry part is easy as you've either toweled it off of let it air dry.  The temperature on the other hand is only something I recently ran into when bottling via the BeerGun. I use to bottle and label in the same sitting and as you might recall I recommend having the beer and bottle at the same cold temperature.  This means that the bottle I'm applying the label to is actually pretty cold.  Cold to the fact that it can have a tendency to sweat therefore eliminating the dry part of my labeling requirement. I'd also found that even if I towel it off the label still doesn't want to overly stick to the bottle.  These days I generally let the bottle come up to room temp overnight before labeling.

When I was first brewing I had a lot of fun labeling upside down, sideways and even on an angle.  Today I generally like a nice straight label.  I've found a little trick to help with this.  As modern bottles are machine made not hand blown they all have vertical seams on them.  I find one of these seams as use it as a guide to position one side of the label, I general label like I read left to right. Once aligned it's a simple trick to roll the bottle smoothing out the label as you go.   I've also found that you can remove and reapply within a second or so to straighten it out.

Seeing as I've only used wax a couple of times I might not be the best authority on it.  Wax comes in several colors and generally I choose one that matched the label and overall feel of the beer.  To melt the wax I take on old can and fill it with the wax.  Then I drop it in a pot of boiling water till melted.  I will saying having done it side by side don't stir your wax, just let it melt.  Early bottles of IRS 2011 had some small bubbles where as the main run is smooth and glossy. The difference, I stirred the first time I melted.  Once melted I remove the can from the pot and dip the tip of the bottle to the depth I want and hold it there for 10 seconds and remove.  In the last run I say no reason to double dip.  You could have fun at this step or keep it clean.  I like to have fun with drips here and there. 

The end result looks pretty damn good.



Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BeerGunning the Imperial Rhino Stout 2011

Back in 2010 I made a big holiday beer out of some left over ingredients.  This was before I was doing starters, multiple early O2 infusions and yeast rousing.  It ended up being a pretty high alcohol beer at around 10.17% even if it was pretty sweet with a 1.026 FG.   I bottled it up in champagne style 750 ml bottles with some carb tabs.  In retrospect I should have added some fresh yeast as after several months most opened bottles were flat. 

One of my favorite pieces of brewing equipment
Salvation came that Christmas in the form of a Blichmann BeerGun.  A Blichmann BeerGun is like counter-pressure bottle filler in that allows you to bottle fully carbonated beer straight from a keg however unlike a traditional CP there is no need to pressurize the bottle to keg pressure.  It should be noted that I have filled bottles from both a corny keg as well as a sanke keg I just had to assemble a second set of connectors.  Basically it is a handheld version of a commercial bottle filler used in commercial brewing, Bootlegger’s actually uses two Blichmann BeerGuns to bottle all of their beers.

It should be obvious why bottling from a BeerGun is so great.  Basically it allows you to really dial in the carbonation level you want in the beer, eliminates concerns on carbonating high alcohol beers and there is no bottle sediment to cloud up my beer once poured.  I’m sure several people with disagree with eliminating all bottle conditioning potential of the beer but for the most part I’m not brewing the types of beers that benefit from bottle conditioning. 

I busted out the BeerGun both Saturday and Sunday this past weekend to fill some bottles.  The Saturday I only filled 8 bottles total; 4x 22oz Scott’s BIG IPL w/Citra to take to various events, 2x 12oz Scott’s BIG IPL w/Citra for the 2012 Doug King Memorial HomebrewContest next month and 2x 12oz StarRaptor to send to my collaboration partner.

The newest label for Scott's BIG IPL

Sunday was much different as I set out to drain a couple of kegs.  First up was the bottling of all remaining Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 into 12oz bottles.  Later this week I’ll label and wax them.  After that I filled a case of 22oz of Marshall’s bourbon barrel barley wine so I could get back the keg I’d lent him. 

The BeerGun is a great tool for any homebrewer to have in their toolbox.  It assembles and disassembles quickly for easy cleaning and works exactly as advertised.  It has two triggers, one flushes the bottle with CO2 to protect the beer from oxidation and the other fills the bottle with carbonated beer.  Once you flush and fill a quick sanitized crown goes on as usual.  The trick I’ve found to filling bottles with a BeerGun is to have the bottle and beer at roughly the same temperature.  You can chill the bottles two ways depending on time, in the fridge or if you’re in a pinch the freezer.  If I’m pressed I clean and sanitize the bottles then stick them in the freezer while I set up the bottling table.

I'll be back on Thursday to cover labeling and waxing the Imperial Rhino Stout 2011



Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brü Grill & Market

From Brü Grill & Market's Facebook Page
Thanks to Facebook Bonnie and I got a sneak peak my friend Brian Cockle's newest endeavor Brü Grill & Market.

I've been waiting to check this place out for months and have to say the wait paid off. Bonnie and I loved both the food and beer at Brü Grill & Market.

Let's talk about the beer for a second. Not only does Brian plan on having 42 taps of nothing but craft, but the list is up there among the best I've seen (this include Beachwood and The Playground). I'm most excited by the large representation of local OC breweries such as Taps, Bootleggers, The Bruery and Cismontane on those taps. He is also covering a wide variety of styles something that I, as a beer geek, really appreciate. Last night for instance I had super fresh Double Jack, probably the best I've had for a while, and Green Lakes Organic Ale that Brian selected for me. Both paired excellent with the food I was enjoying. Bonnie had a West Coast IPA and Stone IPA. The Double Jack was severed in a nice fluted glass while the rest came in a 20 oz Imperial Pint so it could hold a full 16oz with head. It doesn't hurt that it also happens to be one of my favorite shaped glasses.

Then there is the bottle menu which will be incredible essentially if it's in the Market section you can order a bottle. The selection was top notch and included several beers I was shocked to find such as a case of Abyss. I hear only 11 cases od Abyss made it to OC making it hard to find. Best of all is the pricing, the price in the Market is the price no corkage. This is a recent trend that I am definitely enjoying as I generally ignore most beer bars bottle list not wanting to pay an arm and a leg.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the food. We had the Brü Crü pretzel appetizer and split a Cesar Salad and Brü Burger. The house-made Cesar dressing was excellent and the season on the fries was wonderful and nothing like the ones on the kid's menu fries.

Overall we had a great time and it was great to get to talk to Brian on what's he's been up to for the last few months.



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Halvtreds - Soured Red Lager

Halvtreds aka Batch 50
The day after Thanksgiving I set up my system early in the morning (6:30) and set to working brewing my 50th beer.  It was coded named Batch 50 for so long that when it came time to write this post I knew it by nothing else so in a last ditch effort to not call it Batch 50 I translated fifty into Danish and got the name Halvtreds.  I think Halvtreds is a pretty suiting name for a red colored beer. 

When I set out to craft a recipe for my 50th batch of beer I had a few critria for myself: 
  1. It should have the ability to be aged
  2. It could be an ale or a lager but should be brewed with the house yeast (WLP007 for Ales and WLP840 for Lagers)
  3. The hops used should be northwest hops
  4. It should include ingredients that are indicative to me

I made a 3 pint starter with
some amber DME
I decided along the way that Halvtreds should be a mile stone in another way and decided to make it my first full on sour beer. I've been playing with funk in BeanyTink Farmstead Ale, SNB can be CynicAle and DG' Peach Farm but had yet to venture into anything over the top sour.

Venturing back to my list of criterion here's how Halvtreds fits the bill.
  1. A 6.8 sour will not only take over a year to develop but should last well beyond
  2. I decided to make it a lager and pitched a lager starter made with second pitch of WLP840
  3. Cascade for the bittering plus some Citra and Cascade for flavor with an ounce of  Columbus at knockout. 
  4. It's a partial mash that incorporated some of my favorite malts (Victory and Carared) and a lb of Rice extract a la Scott's BIG IPL.  The grain bill itself is almost identical by percentages to StarRaptor

A few things I learned while researching sours that I figure I would pass on;  1) IBUs are keep light for a reason, too much above 20 IBUs will hamper the bugs as hops are a preservative.  2) Some styles of sours are initially brewed clean then soured with bugs after primary while others are given an overnight souring mash at 120 degrees.  For Halvtreds I kept the IBUs minimal (20.5) and scheduled a clean lager fermentation.

Transferring to the fermentor
For the bugs I'm going to try to get my hands one of the sour strains from East Coast Yeast.  I missed the last round while out shopping over the weekend but with a month or more of clean fermentation I have time to try again.  Worst case I'll pitch a White Labs sour blend with some bottle dregs.

Brewday itself was pretty smooth, I had to go into work at 4:00 AM then hit up some Black Friday sales so I was able to get an early start.  

I mashed high at 156 because I wanted to give the bugs some extra food to chew on.  I initially missed my mash temperature so I drained some of the liquid and heated it up in a small pot allowing me to nail the 156 temp I was looking for.  I'd been trying to shorten my mash time to 20-30 minutes but for this round I set it initially at 40 so I could keg up Scott's BIG IPL w/ Citra.  It took me a little longer and by the time I heated my sparge water the mash ended up being around 55 minutes.  Oh well next time.



Thursday, November 24, 2011

ISO: 2011 BT x2 FT: A ton for this

It's been a while since I posted a trade and I do have several I could do but which one.  Given that the date for this post is Thanksgiving I'm going to talk about the trade I am most thankful for... well maybe thankful is the wrong term but I will say this trade involves probably the most awesome box I've ever received.  A huge thanks goes out to Carleton (SpdKil) for his over the top generosity.

Our tale begins back in August; I was crusin BA late one night while Bonnie was watching TV when I came across the following post

Photo of SpdKilz
email SpdKilz | Illinois | BA: Jan 08, 2009

ISO: 2011 BT x2 FT: A ton for this

For (2) 2011 BT I am offering:

330ml JP Bambic (batch 1 or two, your choice)
Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter
Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout
Parabola (2011)
NG Raspberry Tart
NG Belgian Red
NG Cranbic
NG Apple Ale
375ml Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic
375ml Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus
Founders Blushing Monk
Madame Rose

Obviously way over $4$. Let me know. Willing to change some beers, etc.

Can also get any midwest stuff. Any locals you may be interested in I'll throw in for sure. If you are on the fence just BM me!


I sent to him...
(sorry for the horrible picture)
Being in the Bruery Reserve society I had 7 bottles of 2011 Black Tuesday reserved for me so I decided why not and shot him and BM to start the process.

Seeing as how he had Oude Tart on his want list I mentioned that I would include it as an extra seeing as how we was going so over the top.

After a few additional BMs the deal was sealed and the wait was on.  Wait you say?  Well seeing as how the deal was sealed in August and Black Tuesday doesn't come out till the last Tuesday in October (this year that was the 25th).

In the meantime I was able to get my hands on a bottle of Barrel Aged Autumn Maple that was on his want list. That isn't exactly a cheap beer but I was still feeling bad that I'd be getting all this awesome beer and he'd be getting 3 beers and maybe some locals?

Shortly after the release I boxed up my four beers for trade and shipped them off around the same time..

About a week later I got my box from Carleton that contained the following amount of insane generosity;
Agreed to

... and got this in return!
330ml JP Bambic (batch 1 and batch 2)
Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter
Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout
Parabola (2011)
NG Raspberry Tart
NG Belgian Red
NG Cranbic
NG Apple Ale
375ml Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic
375ml Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus
Founders Blushing Monk
Madame Rose

The Stone version of Special Holiday Ale - Nøgne Ø/Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales/Stone Brewing Co.x 2 completing the series
Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter from Arcadia
Heady-Topper from The Alchemist
Mokolo from Three Floyds
I do take somewhat solice in the fact that he BMd the following expressing his pleasure with his packages
Scott -

Just got the package. AWESOME! Very pumped you gave me a BA Autumn Maple!!!! Way too generous and completely unexpected.

Can't wait to open a couple of these during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Such good beer months coming up to enjoy this big bold beers!

Thanks again for a great trade and cheers!

- Carleton

In the end I was able to get him back and publicly thank him but posting this up on the forums

Photo of StarRaptor
email StarRaptor | California | BA: Jun 07, 2010 | online user online


Epic Trader Alert - SpdKilz

Carleton needs to be called out on this one.

A few month's back I see a post looking to setup a deal to obtain 2x Black Tuesdays in return for a pretty impressive list of beers. I decided to take him up on it and toss in some other beers from his wants to try to balance it out.

This is what I got in return
 http://farm7.static.flickr.com/610 ... 1c07_b.jpg

This is by far my most awesome box I've opened to date

Thanks I ton


I hope Carleton and I get a chance to trade again in the future.



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hess Brewing

Hess Brewing is an awesome nano-brewery located in San Diego that I've been trying to check out for well over a year.  What's a nano-breweryy ou ask?  Think of the old term Microbrewery from the late 90s and vastly shrink it.  Well not exactly.  The definition that many are using for nano-brewery, including Hess, is a brewery which not only brews small batches (51 gallons in Hess' case) but is not the owner's full time job.  Hess was founded in 2010 by Mike Hess a homebrewer since ‘95.  The complete oddassy can be found on Hess' Blog (which I've linked to post 1).

I love this glass
There is a lot I personally love about Hess Brewing, but first and foremost is the hope it gives to someone like myself who honestly can see myself doing something similar one day.  The model just makes sense to me, I understand the added work involved but when it's something you love to do, is it really work?

Overall Hess is about the size of my garage at 800 ft2 and has a really great feel to it.  They are tremendously dialed in when it comes to overall image.  Their logo looks great and all fits extremely well into the overall look and feel of the place.  I love the posters they have throughout the place.  This is definiately the kind of place where it's cool to be a homebrewer as it fits nicely between the stuff you'll find at most homebrewers homes and a comeriacal brewery.

I only had one beer while I was there but did have it in an awesome take home glass.  It didn't hurt that it was one of my favorite styles of glasses.  

Reminds me of my workbench
In the end I'm left wondering, is this the more realistic future of SNB Brewing?  I honestly hope that I can make the answer to that question a yes.  The real issue currently is more time sensitive then anything. In the meantime I plan on getting down to Hess a couple more times for more excellent brews and inspiration.



Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bruery Batch 50 GFAR aka Grand Funk Ale Road

The Bruery Batch 50 GFAR aka Grand Funk Ale Road started 2 years ago as the winning homebrew recipe from the Bruery's batch 50 homebrew contest.  Not only did the winning homebrewer Al Buck fly out twice to help them brew it (It's a blend of 1 & 2 yr barrels), but as the founder of East Coast Yeast, he also supplied them with all the bugs.  For those interested he used his ECY04 BRETT blend #1.
ECY04 BRETT blend #1: Three individual Brettanomyces isolates from lambic producers combined to give an aggressive brett presence in any beer. Vigorous, funky and acid-tolerant, the blend can be added at any stage of fermentation and is excellent for priming or re-yeasting.
750 bottle poured into brewery tulip glass.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful golden yellow color. There is absoluly no head and a very low appearance of carbonation. It is very hazy and appears to be filled with small particles. Swirling the glass does nothing to rouse a head. 

Aroma: Smells of wet leather and cat piss.  It's somewhat horsey with lemons and acid. I get a lot of funk on this one. 

Mouthfeel: Very little carbonation detected. Definitely posses the sour slickness I've come to expect from the style. It's slightly prickly as I move it around my mouth.
Taste: Fantastic extraordinarily sour but not to the point of being overpowering.  Pairs really nicely with the aroma. Some citrus like quality to it probably the acid  very reminiscent of most gueuzes is that I've had 

Overall: A great beer make that a good beer as I feel the lack of carbonation is really holding this one back.   It needs that extra dimension as it's far too still.  I'll hold on to my remaining bottles and keep them warm hopefully that'll increase levels carbonation over time.  I also might try to harvest the yeast from the bottle dregs of this one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oak Glen Cider Run Cider 2011

One of the things I like best about belonging to multiple homebrew clubs is that it has given me the opportunity to do things that I wouldn't have done on my own, such as fermenting fresh from the orchard cider.

Last year Shawn arranged for a group of us to travel to Oak Glen to collect fresh cider to turn into hard cider.  He even called ahead to have one of them, Law's, press from unfiltered or preserved cider just for us to use.  This is the best type of cider to use when making hard cider as it is free from anything, you can even leave it be and it will self ferment.

I had a great time last year and enjoyed the first cider I made so for the second year in a row Bonnie and I got in the car and took the girls up to Oak Glen to get more cider. Bonnie's anniversary party for work had prevented us from joining Shawn's group but he had picked me up a couple of gallons from Law's that I could let go wild.

We left mid Sunday morning for hour and a half drive up to Oak Glen.  We ended up having pretty bad luck weather wise and it was cold and rainy when we arrived, in fact it even snowed a couple of times.

Bonnie and Sydnie staying dry
Our first stop was at Law's where I picked up an additional 2 gallons of cider as Bonnie had read that one of the mills, Riley's at Los Rios Rancho was closed.  Law's cider is said to be some of the best on the mountain and they still had a couple of gallons left over from the week before.

Our next stop was at one of our favorite places on the mountain, Snowline... unfortunately we weren't able to really enjoy it as there was snow on the ground and in the air.  The first thing I did was grab a fresh dozen of thier awesome mini doughnuts and walk around the store. After grabbing a gallon of apple cider for myself and a gallon each of the fruit blends for Eric, Bonnie and I bundled up and took the girls for a little walk.  It didn't last long as we decided it was too cold and wet to stay out so we grabbed another dozen doughnuts and headed over to Riley's at Los Rios Rancho to see if it was really closed.

It wasn't.  Having already acquired 5 gallons of cider (2 Wild from Law's via Shawn, 2 unfiltered from Law's and a gallon from Snowline) I didn't need anymore so I just grabbed a tri-tip sandwich to split with Bonnie before heading back down the mountain. I believe the closed issue might have been Riley's Farm and not Riley's at Los Rios Rancho, oh well better luck next year.

Snow at Snow-Line
Upon returning I sanitized a carboy and combined in it the 3 tame gallons along with 3 campden tablets to kill off anything present in the cider. The cider sat overnight so that the campden could do it's work. The next day I feed it some nutrient and hit it with O2 before pitching WLP775 English Cider Yeast.

To date I've been feeding it and the wild gallons nutrient every few days.  I even built a special airlock system for the wild gallons that will come in handy later for mead.  It should be ready in a few months.



Additional Pictures
Snow-Line's line up
Ingredients for this years blend
All combined
Tucked away with the wild cider
Airlock system for the wild gallons

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Random Wednesday Tasting

The evening's line up
The busier I get on the weekend the more I seem to appropriate the random midweek tastings I manage to be a part of, either as a host or as a guest.  They are not completely stress free or without their challenges.  Generally I prefer to help my wife out with our daughter before I leave which can make for a late start.  I also generally have work the next day so staying alter and well hydrated during the tasting is an absolute priority.   The last and most important challenge to a mid-week tasting specifically if it's remote is monitoring my alcohol intake so that I can safety drive home.  With my daughter asleep my regular pick up system is disabled which would leave me with walking or taking a cab if I was unable to drive.

Woodcut No 3
One week's midweek tasting started via a text from my buddy Scott.  He had just received a growler of Masala Mama from KeefD, a guy I’d traded with before, as part of a Darkness/Black Tuesday trade.  Having enjoyed this beer before I knew I needed to get over there and by there I mean the insanely awesome showroom.   Also at the tasting were Ryan, Steve and Kerry another guy from their office.  I looked at this as a great opportunity to open one of my bottles of CBS.  Being fellow BAs I knew they would appreciate the awesomeness that is Canadian Breakfast Stout, but more on that later.    

Woodcut No 4
After a quick dinner we headed to the showroom for some awesome beers.  Kerry had just picked up a Woodcut No 5 from Odell’s so Ryan decided to bring out his Woodcut No 3 and 4 to have a mini vertical.  Scott brought the Masala Mama, Steve shared an awesome Firestone 13 and I bought the CBS as well as a Hop Harvest II from Postsmouth.

Deciding to start with the Woodcuts first we cracked open the Woodcut No 3 an 11% Oak Aged American Strong Ale.   This was probably my favorite of the three.  The oak really came through and was not overpowering.  You can tell on all the Woodcut series that they are using regular virgin barrels with a medium toast to age it and not spirit barrels.  With all the big bourbon/whiskey/rum aged beers out there it’s nice to see a regular oaked version. It’s really held up nicely over the last couple of years.

Portsmouth Brewery Hop Harvest II
Next came the Woodcut No 4 which is described as an Oak Aged Double Märzen – Style Lager at 11%.  I have to say I am not a fan of the tread of “doubling” certain styles of beers, like märzens, and then aging them in barrels.  I personally didn’t think that the treatment worked.  The malt and the oak came through as somewhat combative in both the aroma and the taste.

We ended the Woodcut run with the most recent offering in the series Woodcut No 5.  The base beer for No 5 is an 11.3% Belgian style Quad (Quadrupel). This beer/bottle might have been infected.  It was near still on the carbonation front and gave off an off aroma similar to buttered popcorn (DMS). There is nothing more frustrating that paying big money for a beer (above $20) and having it be off.  We recommended that Kerry keep additional bottles at room temperature to see if that could help increase the level of carbonation.

Firestone 13!
Next it was on to IPAs.  I’d brought the Hop Harvest II to break up what I was sure going to mostly be big stouts and malt bombs.  I’d recently split an Octoberfest from Portsmouth that was such a DMS bomb we ended up drain pouring it so going in my expectations were high.  It ended up being a pretty good beer. It wasn’t overly/harshly bitter and it ended up refreshing my palate.

After that we cracked the lid on the growler of Masala Mama.  While a very solid beer it wasn’t and pleasing as the last time I had it.  I’d ended up reviewing it last time and noted “Yup this is a solid IPA, not overly bitter and well balanced. Bonnie says that is "ooh smooth" and for the most part I agree. It reminds me a lot of Furious in taste and appearance which is not a bad thing.” I don’t know if I would quite agree with that for this round but it was still a very solid IPA that I was glad to get another glass of. 

CBS Bitches!
Up next was Firestone Walkers 13th Anniversary Ale. Having never had the opportunity to try it myself I was pretty jazzed that Steve had decided to open his Firestone 13.  Not only is it hard to come by these days but it happened to be one of his favorite beers. The beer pour a nice ink black color with a nice level of carbonation and head for a 2 year old beer.  Too many breweries are jumping on the barrel aging bandwagon and have no idea how to truly put together a wonderous barrel aged beer. Blending is truly an art that Firestone has mastered.  Nice, rich and complex just a beautiful barrel aged beer.  I’ve already picked out the prefect beer to share with him the next time we get together.  

For the final beer of the night I opened up a bottle of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout or CBS.  I’d wanted to try this beer since falling in love with Founders Breakfast Stout on a business trip.  The main obstacle at the time had been it was draft only and only once a year, that all changed this year when they decided to release it for the first time in bottles as part of their Backstage Series.  Thanks to my regular trading partner Meagan and a couple of other quick trades I was able to secure a couple bottles.  It too pours a nice black color with a tan head.  The aroma is a wonderful mixture of maple, coffee and whiskey.  The taste is also an incredible mix of maple, vanilla, bourbon, oak and roast.  It is perfectly balanced.  I was a little concerned that Steve and Scott might not dig it due to the coffee component but they also loved it.  It was a great finish to another great night of midweek tasting.


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