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Friday, October 28, 2011

Darkness Day

Front of the Bottle
On a cold fall morning I recently found myself at Surly Brewing company to celebrate the release of their annual Russian Imperial Stout - Darkness.  I'd never been to a traditional beer release so only had a vague idea of what to expect.

I decided to arrive around 5:00 AM, this put me surprisingly farther back then anyone would have expected.  I know this because I talk to several veterans of the event (many of whom camped out all night).  I ended up talking to the guy right behind me Dan (ungertaker) for most of the morning. 

At the front of the line a large tasting table had been set up so with our spots saved, Dan and I ventured up.  It was filled at that time with mostly empty bottles but there were a few tasty treats left. It was still pretty dark, fortuniately my flashlight was able to light it up.  While there I was "fortunate"enough to try Voodoo Maple Doughnut from Rouge, it was as bad if not worse then I had heard.  I would be hard pressed to find a more divergent mismatch between smell (good) and taste (a smoker in a portapotty bad).

Back of the Bottle
After we got back to our spot I met up with a group of BAs and cracked open a Pharmhouse Ale from Namaste Brewing.  The people who understood beers with a small degree of funk seemed to enjoy it.

I went back to my spot to look for Dan to see if he wanted to try the Pharmhouse.  I notice a group trying to get my attention so i headed over.  Turns out it was a case of mistaken identity but noticed they were getting ready to open a Surly Five and a Cascade sour.  Not wanting to be a mouch but wanting to try both I asked if they wanted to open the bottle of Oude Tart I had with me and turn it into a mini sour tasting.  I have to say it was nice to have those beers back to back.

Around 7 Surly team started going around announcing that they would be starting to give out Darkness wristbands around 8. While we waited the group in front, back of us and us all started opening some additional beers.  I got a chance to try some more awesome beers but the highlight of that grouping had to be the Upland Kiwi Lambic.

Where 5 AM gets you
Once we got our wrist bands it was off to the front of the line to participate in a Blind In Person BIF set up by Brandon (biglobo8971).  It was while I was waiting that Omar fork-lifted out the first kegs of Moe's Bender that morning.  It was funny with the whole zombie theme going on to watch a group of beer geeks surround and a keg and drink it in 10-20 minutes.  I had the 5th pour of this keg and I was really expecting to be blown away more by it as I'd heard great things about Moe's Bender.  Moe's Bender is basically Bender with coffee (a la Coffee Bender), chocolate and vanilla.  The coffee really stood out while the chocolate was very minor and the vanilla was almost non existent.  I read later that the batch tasted off to a lot of people who'd had it before.

My Basecamp
Once the gates opened instead of getting in the pick up line I decided to go inside and try Damien, Omar had drop off a keg near where I was sitting earlier but mentioned that it was for the people who didn't get wrist bands so I decided I could wait.  Damien is a parti-gyle of Darkness. For those unfamilar with what a parti-gyle is, it's a technique in brewing that allows you to get two beer (one high gravity and one low gravity) with the same grains.  It was a great new edition to the line up and I would love to see it in cans one day.

Ryan arrived around this time and we hung out for the next few hours.  Overall I had a great time.  It was a beautiful day filled with tasty food (a traditional pasty), great beer, killer music and awesome people (I finally got to me my main trading partner Meagan (chixdighops))


Shots of the line at Sun rise
Just before 9 Omar dropping keg's of Moe's Bender
Chef Shack the morning crew
biglobo's BIF
Occupy Surly
Hoard of Darkness-less Zombies attacking a keg of Damien
Bottle share table
The hoard approaches the gates
Zombie Omar kicking off Darkness Day
The Casks section was my favorite

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brewdemo and Scott's Session Series 4: DG's Mild

On Sunday I did a extracting brewing demo at Addison Homebrew Provisions.  I planned it with Eric several months before but it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to brew.

I toyed around with a bunch of ideas and tried to get some feedback on them. They included:
A Flemish red
A sour session over peaches
A viking porter
A session wheat (maybe open fermented)
A California Common over fruit (probably peaches)
An Old Man Winter

The biggest theme ended up being my desire to have some more session ales on the Crate.  

While flipping through the Stone book The Craft of Stone Brewing Co.: Liquid Lore, Epic Recipes, and Unabashed Arrogance that I got off of Amazon I came across the recipe for Lee's Mild and decided to give it a go.

Besides converting the recipe to extract the only change I made was to sub the Northern Brewer bittering hops with Columbus (which is a Northern Brewer Sub) and add some Cascade hops for flavor and aroma.  I still keep the IBUs very low.

Here is the recipe I ended up with

Scott's Session Series 4: DG's Mild
Type: Extract Date: 10/9/2011
Batch Size (fermenter): 5.00 gal
Brewer: Scott Bennett
Boil Size: 7.37 gal Asst Brewer: 
Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Volume 6.24 gal
Final Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal

Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.038 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.009 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 3.8 %
Bitterness: 29.2 IBUs
Est Color: 18.1 SRM


Extract and Steeping Grains
4 lbs 4.0 oz Light Dry Extract (8.0 SRM)
9.8 oz Brown Malt (65.0 SRM)
9.0 oz Caramel/Crystal Malt -150L (150.0 SRM)
3.2 oz Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM)

0.50 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min
0.25 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 20.0 min
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 0.0 min

1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 mins)

1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007)

Steep grains in 1 gallon per pound of grain at 160 for 30 minutes

While finalizing some equipment I wanted to borrow from Eric he mentioned that his brew kettle was 15 gallons.  A light went off in my head and I decided to scale the recipe to 10 gallons to split batch. I love the concept behind split batch recipes and I wanted to do one on my own for a while. I choose to do 5 gallons to the recipe and for the other I would do a starter of my WLP670 strain and pour the fresh wort over some frozen peaches from whole foods that I would pasteurized and cool during the demo.

I overshot the temp on the steeping water which wasn't a problem as I showed the crowd hot to remove a gallon of the 180 water and replace with additional filtered tap water.

After the 30 minute steep we filled the kettle with 10 gallons of water and added the 8.5 lbs of DME which I had a volunteer stir until dissolved while I turned on the heat to start bringing the temp up.

At the start of the boil it looked like we were easily around 14 gallons wort ready to go.

I then put 3 lbs of frozen peaches in a separate pot to pasteurize.  I needed the small burner for this so I simulated running out of propane mid brew and carefully with more audience participation moved the main pot onto Eric's brew stand.

In total we boiled a little over 60 minutes

The measured original gravity corrected for temperature ended up at 1.042 SG

Here's the pics I took.

Crowd Shots
Two grain bags steeping in 2.5 gallons of water
Propane and my DME/Peach pot
Getting ready to boil, now that's a lot of wort
60 minute addition
Hops moved to the brew stand
Boiling away
Cooling down
Collecting some of the hot run off to clean up with later
I used a cooler filled with Ice water to help get the beer cooled down the rest of the way
Trub Island after the whirlpool
The peach version with WLP670
Inside the fermenting cube with a blow off
4 hours later another shot of O2
The next morning - that's why I use blow offs

Friday, October 7, 2011

Creating Labels and the Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 Label

The 2011 Imperial Rhino Stout Label
I’ve gotten a few requests to take about the labels I’ve created for my beers and the process for which I create them.

This isn’t going to be a step by step guide to label creation but it will include some insight on how I put together my most recent label for Imperial Rhino Stout 2011.

To start off with let me give you a little background into how I got started creating unique labels for my beers.  Really it all comes down to Brew Bakers again.  As I was brewing up that first batch of I noticed all the custom labels suck to the walls. Essentially all you have to do is email them the image you want and they’ll print up some labels on Avery shipping labels.

For the first two labels I actually created them with MS Paint and MS PowerPoint (I’m a PowerPoint wizard at work) but after that I felt both programs weren’t letting me do what I wanted.  To make my labels today I use a combination of two open source image editors; Paint.NET which is an open source photoshop with lots of plug-ins and Inkscape which is an open source illustrator program.  Once I’m done I print on two sizes of Avery shipping labels 5168 and 5164.

Generally I break my labels down into 4 categories

  1. Custom to the Beer 4.0 x 3.33 or 3.33 x 4.0
  2. 5 Minute or Standard Label 4.0 x 3.3
  3. Big Beer Labels 5.0 x 3.5
  4. Story Labels 3.5 x 5.0

5 Minute or Standard Labels
For awhile every label I did was different, the only thing they had in common where the SNB logo and a series of easter eggs hidden in all of my labels.  Sometimes I was less then inspired to create a new label nor did I always have the time needed to create a new label.  That’s when I got the idea to create a quick label that I would only need to name and change the background on.  I called it my 5 minute label as that’s all it took to do.  I have three versions of this; a dark beer, a light beer and one with a picture holder.

Big Beer Labels
It’s almost poetic that this post covers the current version of Imperial Rhino Stout label as the label I made last year for it can really be thought of as the prototype for what I refer to as my Big Beer label.  When I completed the label last year I sat back and was really pleased with it, it was clean, simple and looked pretty damn good.  I quickly decided that this would be the basis for all of my beers above 7% abv.

Story Labels
When I set out to create a label for my share of the Brewcommune club barrel brew I became inspired by the label for one of my favorite beers, Great Divide Yeti.   I decided a label like that could be the perfect fit for what I wanted to do, on one side of the main label I could talk about the background behind the beer and on the other I could give some brief info on SNB Brewing and Brewcommune.  The finished label came out great (and won an editor’s choice in the 2011 BYO Label Contest) and just like with the 2010 version of the Imperial Rhino Stout I knew this was a format to move forward with.  I like the ability to give a little info on how the beer came to be and it works great for collaborations.

Imperial Rhino Stout 2011

With the label background out of the way let’s dive into the label for Imperial Rhino Stout 2011.

With the beer sitting in a keg being carbonated I knew it was time to get the label taken care of.  I’ve really been enjoying the story labels I’ve been doing so I decided to use that format and adapt the old label to the new format.
For Reference

The first thing I did was pulled up two files, last year’s label and the Strauss IPL label and merged them together so both labels were in the same file and saved.  After that I started deleting and merging certain elements from each of them.  From the IPL I used the the format, about SNB text and circle.  From IRS I grabbed the rhino (with hat) and color scheme. 

The hat that the rhino is wearing is the same hat the Stone Gargoyle wears only greatly manipulated to which I then added the crest I found on another image.  The way the hat fits on the rhino's head is actually a nice little trick done with layering.

Once I had a general mock up I started filling in other details like the brewstats, bar code (which is the brew date), the other rhino and my sig.

Initial Mock Up

Next came a quick text mock up.  I must have been channeling Greg Koch as it was way too long and in need of serious cutting.  Here is the original text –
Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 marks the second release of a big, thick, dark, creamy imperial style stout from SNB Brewing. 

Over the last few years I’ve grown a strong fondness for big dark imperial stouts.   I love a nice heavy mouthfeel that is incredible silky with the roast in bitterness in balance.

Back in 2010 I brewed my first “imperial stout” which happened to be the 6th beer I ever brewed (it was named after the 2nd one Rhino Stout which was an oatmeal stout). It took over 6 months to complete and I was pleasantly surprised by how it came out. I knew I had to do it again in 2011.

When I set out to create the 2011 version I decided to evoke the original Rhino Stout by making it an imperial oatmeal stout.  It is also an homage to two of my favorites in the style Surly Darkness 09 and Founders Breakfast Stout.

The Darkness thread will come from the selection of hops (Columbus and Simcoe) used where as the FBS will contribute its coffee aroma and flavor.   For the coffee notes I used two cold brew extracts (Whole Foods Extra Dark French Roast and Red Sea), one at flameout and the other at kegging.
I ended up cutting paragraph 2 and 3 while slightly changing the wording on what I kept.  The final wording is as follows –
Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 marks the second release of a big, thick, dark, creamy imperial style stout from SNB Brewing. 

When I set out to create the 2011 version of Imperial Rhino Stout I decided to evoke the original Rhino Stout by making it an imperial oatmeal stout.  It is also an homage to two of my favorites in the style Surly Darkness 09 and Founders Breakfast Stout.

The Darkness thread will come from the selection of hops (Columbus and Simcoe) used where as the FBS will contribute its coffee aroma and flavor. For the coffee notes I used two cold brew extractions (Whole Foods Extra Dark French Roast and Red Sea), one at flameout and the other at kegging.
Final Mock Up
Next came the fun part, breaking up every line of text so that I could manipulate them individually.  I’m doing this because I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get the text to justify. I then I built some blocking boxes to adjust and center the logo. Finally finishing by texturing the hat.

Here is the finished label that will adorn the bottles once I BeerGun, label and wax them

The Old Final Label
Update 8-Dec-11: Since I did this post I've ditched the barcode and in it's place put a QR code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) with a link to the main recipe page on the site.  I generate the QR code using Google URL shorter then adding a .qr to the end of the created link (I.E goo.gl/aEmCZ becomes goo.gl/aEmCZ.qr)
The Current Final Label with QR code



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ISO: Tart of Darkness x3 FT: You tell me, Im open

Trading isn’t always as smooth as I would like. Fortunately I have yet to run into any situations where the other party just decided not to keep up their end of the bargain, something I’m surprised to see happen at least once or twice a month.  I’ve come close several times with poor communication and long delays on their end, but they’ve always managed.

This is the tale of one of those times.

I’ve mentioned in the past how frustrating it can be every now and then to collect fresh Surly cans, it’s an off the self beer that you can pick up almost in every liquor store in the Twin Cities, yet I frequently see locals for Surly go nowhere.

I sent to him...
I don’t know what people’s mindset is, but I had grown a little frustrated by it so when I say the following thread by Kyle (kstrickler) on the 28th of July, I knew it was time to put my money where mouth was.

ISO: Tart of Darkness x3 FT: You tell me, Im open

“I have been trying to nail these down for some time, I would love 3... 1 to pop fresh and 2 to age... I have a pretty good cellar if I have to open it up to get this done, but hoping to find an easy trade for these... You can still get these at the Provisions shop correct?


At that point in time they were still available for $15 dollars a pop on the self at the Bruery Provisions just down the street from me.   Kyle also happened to be running the Sour 4.0 BIF that I was in and had over 50+ completed trades so I figured this would be a low risk quick trade.

I was feeling a little altruistic at the time so when he stated that as they (the Tarts) were off the self I shouldn’t be after anything huge, I told him I wasn’t concerned as was willing to go $4$ on this.

On my end it did take me a week or so to collect the three Tart of Darknesses he was after, $45 plus does not grow on trees and I needed to save up a little. I did he Kyle informed throughout on my status and let him know both when I had secured the bottles. 

Once I finally shipped out the three Tart of Darknesses plus a bottle of Hottenroth on the 15th of August I sent Kyle a tracking number and asked when he would be shipping.  It took awhile to hear back from him but when I did he mentioned that he was waiting for some bottles to come in and would be shipping soon after. 

This is where my mind started to play games.  In retrospect it is clear he really wanted to put together a nice package for me as a thank you, however with all the recent rash of even good traders going bad (JoshVandy anyone?) I was a little concerned.

... and eventually got this in return
Don’t get me wrong this trade took it’s time and communication was less than stellar, but it’s not like it went on for months and he did always reply.

I don’t want to get the impression that Kyle is a bad trader, he isn’t and I would trade again with him in the future.  If this post is about anything it’s the need for patients and nailing down what is coming your way.  While it was cool to open out that mystery box I would have been better to know so that I could put my mind more at ease while I waited.

In the end Kyle held up his end of the bargain in spades and on the 16th of September I opened my packaging from him containing the following;  Lips of Faith Clutch from New Belgian, Hoppyum IPA from Foothills Brewing Company, Terrapin Reunion Beer 2010, Tiny from Weyerbacher, Oak Aged Hatter from New Holland and Marshal Zhukov from Cigar City which as a huge want for me.

All in all a pretty awesome box of beer and worth the wait.



Monday, October 3, 2011


Poster for this year
Pretty late getting this post up as SurlyFest was almost a month ago.

For the second year in a row I traveled to Minnesota to hang out with my brother Ryan and hit up Surly Brewing Companies annual SurlyFest party. The propose of the party is to celebrate the annual release of their märzen style beer SurlyFest.

Joining me this year was my lovely wife Bonnie who had wished she'd been able to make it last year. Märzens happen to be her favorite fall style of beer and she fell in deep love with SurlyFest to the point where I am now working out the details of a trade for a couple of packs just for her.

My brother Ryan and I wore our Surly Can Knit Hats again this year.  Just like the previous year we were stopped by a bunch of people to have them either take out picture or have there picture taken with us.  While I'm sure it was because of our awesome hats, I'd like to think it was really because they recognize that Namaste and SNB Brewing are the next big things in craft brewing and want in on the ground floor!

There is nothing better than being about to drink a stein of fresh Furious. That's right a Stein of Furious, as part of the admission price you get a half liter stein with the SurlyFest logo.  They are different each year and only available at the fest and for a few days after at the store (If they have leftovers.)  

SurlyFest sells out every year and I believe this year there were over 1,800 fellow Surly fans in attendance. This is probably the one oktoberfest style festival I need to attend in the fall.  Great vibe, cool people, killer music and awesome beer!

The party did not disappoint and I had a great time again. I met a couple of local BAs who where great to talk to. I also hung out with both Todd Haug (Surly's head brewer) and his wife Linda (who owns and runs one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities Cafe Twenty Eight)

Here are some additional pictures.


The stein, shirt and flyer from this year
We parked in the Power of the Pint parking zone
What's Power of the Pint?
Bonnie and her SurlyFest
Crowd view 1
Crowd view 2
I want to steal this and take it home with me!
Me and my brother Ryan
Hanging out inside
Cheers! It was great having Bonnie with me this year
Bonnie, Me, Jesse (Ryan's Wife) and Ryan
The inside menu board
Midway through I decided to change hats
On the way out I was stopped by woman who had made it the previous year
Me and Todd
I brought him a Bourbon Barrel Aged Wookiee from the Brewcommune.com
barrel brew to thank him for another great year of beer!
Made up of old piping and cans
Ryan and I got a chance to talk to Todd as the Fest was wrapping up
Toasting another great fest at Cafe Twenty Eight the next morning with some Surly Five
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