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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Yin - Red Wine Barrel Aged Baltic Porter

60 gallons of high gravity Baltic Porter
With over 8 months of aging on the Sour Seven it was more than time to get Shawn's other red wine barrel, which like it's sister is an old red wine barrel from from Hogshead Wine, into production. Somehow Shawn let me be the Project Manager on this one, probably in exchange for space in my garage to store the barrel.  I mentioned in the Sour Barrel Ale Project post my thoughts on doing a big stout in the other barrel, while at the back of my mind I was thinking of a Baltic Porter.

For the last few months I've been part of a Monthly Share/Evaluation/Advice Meet-up group operating on the code name Tao of Fermentation. It's a loose group of brewers at various experience levels with the goal of seeking critical evaluation on our beer.  It was also the perfect group to get together for a group brew to fill the other barrel.

Good use of my time
Once it became clear Shawn was going to let me take the lead on this one I started steering the project starting at the October evaluation meet-up.  Seeing as how the first barrel had gone straight to being a sour barrel I wanted to try and keep this one clean to began with.  I figured as it developed in the barrel we would have plenty of time to steer it to sour if need be but a clean red wine aged dark beer sounded delicious.

It was also at that meeting that I suggested that we go with a Baltic Porter and asked Daniel if he could help develop the main base beer.  To me Daniel had made some of the best Baltic Porters I'd ever had including one that was the base beer to Black Lingerie. The big problem I was going to run into was controlling the temperature as I planned on doing a group primary in the Beast again. I figured however that by December the crazy weather we'd been having would mellow out and winter would arrive. For the yeast we used some Saflager 34-70 surrey that Shawn had washed from a Bavarian Dunkle he made. In addition I asked everyone to bring a couple extra packs with them to pitch.

By mid November we were set on a December 9th brewday and by the time the day came the forecast looked perfect to do a monster lager. While we had discussed getting together for the brewing it wasn't feasible given the set up of everyone's brew system.  So instead it was decided that people would drop off during the day.

The next morning = more cleaning
It ended up being a pretty mellow brewday, as I didn't race to get up and get started.  While my brewday was mellow it wasn't without it's challenges. My scale was broken which made measuring my bulk 2-row a bit challenging.  While she wasn't overly pleased with it my wife allowed me to use her as the tare on our house scale to weigh out the grain (no I didn't get a picture as I value my life).  I also had a nice little mess to clean up when the hose I was using to recirculate spilled out - it actually happened twice.  In the end I had a measured gravity of 1.110, which is a new record.  Overall the group averaged right around 1.095.

I correctly predicted that people would be dropping off most of the day so I didn't really need a set end time, in fact drop off started just after noon and went until 9ish that night.  I spent most of the time doing odd brewing chores such as kegging up some Imperial Browns that I brewed back in October during a disastrous brewday - so disastrous that I doubt it will ever make it to a post. I also cleaned everything that needed cleaning including a bunch of the draft lines on the Indy Crate

The next day I came out to a massive fermentation from both fermentors.  By the time I got home the blow-off was all over the garage requiring me to change the sanitizer and clean the garage. I tell you my garage has never smelled more like a brewery than it did that week.  One step of caution I took was given the amount of fermentables I was using I knew there would be a massive amount of CO2 output, I therefore kept the garage partially cracked and the door open to create a draft.  CO2 is very dangerous and heavier than air and I did not allow my dog or child in the garage unless it had been fully opened first.



Putting the "Yin" in the Barrel
Yin Part Three - Draining the Barrel

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter

Not everyday you get up to
drink whales bro
December 12, 2012 (12.12.12) is a beer day that I’ll always remember.  Not only was I able to grab a brick of Westvleteren 12, pick up my Barrel Aged Speedway Stout and get my hands on my Eclipse Futures, it was also the last time for next 89 years that the month, day and end digits of the year we all be the same (look out January 01, 2101).  Stone Brewing Company has been celebrating this numerological alignment since 2002 by releasing a new Vertical Epic beer starting with Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale.  Each subsequent Stone Vertical Epic Ale was released one year, one month and one day apart with the long term plan of allowing the consumer to open them all side by side on 12.12.12.
Given their commitment the phenomenon it was no surprise that Stone decided to go out in a blaze of glory.  Not only did they help throw Vertical Epic celebrations across the county (Including one at Out of the Park Pizza) they also hosted an Epic Eve Dinner.  The main event however was their big blowout festival the Stone Epic Festival: The Final Chapter.  This was the only large event at Stone that included all 11 of Stone Vertical Epic Ales together. 
Grabbing a ticket gave me access to 3oz pours from every Stone Vertical Epic Ale in a commemorative glass. Food stations that paired unique dishes to each of all 11 VEAs (Yeah I abbreviated Vertical Epic Ale, you wanna fight about it) I enjoyed and Three 4oz samples of your choice from four additional barrel-aged and cask versions. Personally I viewed this as a once in a lifetime event and knew it was going to be straight up epic (you know VERTICALLY EPIC) so I pulled the pretty pricy trigger and bought tickets the day they went on sale. Apparently it was not as easy of a trigger to pull as it never sold out in fact you could buy tickets at the door.
Eric and Marshall gearing up
to take down Epic Ales
I was able to convince both my buddy Marshall and the indomitable Eric Hammond to join for this experience.  Marshall’s finance Christa even volunteered to be our DD with was epic in its own right as it really took a lot of outside pressure off of the situation.  We got there pretty early and did a little shopping in the store (I might have bought my wife a Christmas present there – I doubt typing this will spoil anything since I’m pretty sure she doesn’t read my blog). They had closed down there entire bistro and gardens which was fantastic as it really did create a “A gorgeous festival atmosphere” that allowed us to enjoy our beers and pairings at our own pace (great discussion Stone).
The event kicked off exactly at 12:12 pm with Stone CEO and co-founder Greg Koch leading the attendees in a final countdown.  Going in my crew decided that we would buck convention and not do it in the expected order of 02.02.02 to 12.12.12.  We even asked Dr Bill for some tasting order advise (he recommended making sure we spaced out those that paired well with desserts).  By splitting which 3 barrel-aged and cask versions each of us got we were able to try everything they were pouring.

Here’s the order we did it in (with notes)
  • Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Aged In Bourbon Barrels (Added it Untappd)
  • Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale (Wanted it do it back to back, the bourbon had covered up a lot)
  • Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale (Eric says I can hash tag it as a white whales bro. #WhiteWhalesBro. This was a real treat and was fantastically drinkable for an eleven year old Witbier)
  • Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale (Great food pairing and really a nice winter warmer or Christmas beer)
  • Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale Cask (A lot darker than Eric’s regular version)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels (Really unpleasant – pass)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale (Different than all the bottles of it I’ve had)
  • Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels
  • Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic w/ French Oak
  • Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale
  • Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale Cask
  • Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale (enjoyable little (yeah right) pepper beer)
  • Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale
Most of the food paired great with the beer, I recall only one match that changed the taste of the beer for me in a negative way, but with the exception of that job well done. Also if you wanted to try one of the paired items again you were easily given a second helping. The festival atmosphere was great as was the pace we enjoyed it at, we never felt like we had to race to a station to get a pour of anything. In fact once everything was flowing within the first hour it became rare to wait in any line for any beer.  In addition to the great pairing stations by each tap location, they also set up to food stations filled with bread, cheese, fruit and the amazing bacon bread which paired with everything. I also got the chance to hang out with the hosts of one of my favorite webshows, New Brew Thursday, Stephen and John.  Stephen came back later and crushed at our table for a while, which was really cool as he had a bunch of great stories to share. 
Overall this gave the Firestone Invitational Beer Fest a run for the title of Best Run and Best Overall Beer Festival of 2012.  The really did create something special with this one.  In a big way it’s sad that this was a once in a lifetime event because I would love to do it again.  Was it pricy? Yes. Was it worth it? Hell Yes!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Official Logo
Way back in January 2012 I brewed a tribute to Westvleteren 12 which I tongue-in-cheek called Westbennetteren 12.  I mentioned at the time that my two brewbrothers-in-arms Shawn and Daniel also ended up brewing quads that same month.  Over the course of the next several months, as our quads bulk aged, we started to talk about getting together sometime that winter once they were conditioned for a little tasting. 

By the time I bottled my quad in July plans to hold a Quad night sometime in November/December were in full swing. It's funny to read that I'd planned on opening my first bottle then as I ended up imbibing on nearly half the batch by the time we got together.  Over the summer Daniel obtained 6 Westvleteren 12s for us to enjoy side by side with our quads. I figured if we were going to enjoy some Westy 12 we should enjoy it out of the proper glass so I grabbed 3 off of eBay.

By August it had officially started to be called Quad fest and by the end of that month I had designed a logo and t-shirts for the event.  I've often said that the best thing about homebrewing is you can take it as seriously or as sillily as you want, and the idea of making fest related t-shirts with our logos and beer names was too much fun to pass up. 

The Westvleteren Set
In October we settled on both a date (December 7th) and location (The Globe - Dine • Bar) for the event.  The Globe was an easy choice for something like the QuadFest.   In addition to a global focused menu, owner Michael Pauwels has always been extremely accommodating to opening homebrews to share.  As a bonus they also have one of Orange County's best selection of Belgian and Trappist beers available, which was key for QuadFest.

After months of anticipation we meet up at Shawn's place, in our official shirts, for some pre-game tasting so some of Shawn's latest triumphs of brewing.  Shawn's wife Sonja had volunteered to be our DD and given the amount of 10%+ beer on the schedule to be consumed we felt it was a great idea to carpool. We also brought a bunch of bottles to give each other in addition to the ones we planned on opening that night.

When we got to The Globe we ordered some of the delicious noel beers that Michael had on tap.  I personally really enjoyed the St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and felt it was a perfect warm up beer for the night. 

Then it was time to start the main event.  We decided to open up a couple of bottles of Westvleteren 12 to calibrate our palates and allow us a decent pour. I've had this beer a bunch of times over the last year, some bottles better than others.  Fortunately these bottles were spot on what I remembered. I'll get around to doing a full review of it later.

Classic Daniel
Next up came my Westbennetteren 12. I'm very pleased with how it came out.  Lots of nice dark stone fruit flavor.  Great character from the yeast. Slightly high level of carbonation but not as bad as I had feared.  Similar to the Westvleteren but not as dead on as I was hoping for. It was definitely a little darker and the taste was close but not right there. I had another bottle of it the next day and took some notes for a tasting analysis. Next year I'll follow some of Daniel's advice and simplify the grain bill even more going straight up plisner.

Next came Shawn's quad - The Blessed One.  While it wasn't exactly how I remember it tasted it was still very well done. I really loved the added details he put into the packaging of it.  I'm glad I have another bottle of this to enjoy later.

Daniel was really concerned with the carbonation levels he'd been experiencing with the bottles of Westy Southwest that he'd been opening for people.  He suspects that it's probably a cap issue as there is evidence of sediment on the bottle of the bottles that suggest bottle conditioning had occurred.  Fortunately the bottle he opened for us was wonderfully carbonated.  Again, it was just a fantastic quad that hit all the right flavor notes.

Me, Daniel, Sonja and Shawn
After that we opened a few other beers that Shawn and Daniel had brought.  Shawn had another version of his quad that he had soured which I'm really looking forward to trying again soon.  Daniel brought a preview bottle of Black Lingerie batch 2.  The rebrew of a beer I've gone on the record as saying it was one of the most complex beers I'd ever had. The taste was strikingly reminiscent of the first batch just much younger.  I definitely want to grab a couple of bottles when he releases it next year.

To sum it up QuadFest 2012 was a pretty big success.  All of us had a lot of fun and want to do it again.  We've already starting thinking about expanding it to even more brewers.  The big thing is that make it in time all participants have to have beers fermenting in the next quarter. For me I'll probably brew my next batch of it in mid January.




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Darkness Day 2012

Darkness 2012 - with the new glass
For the second year in a row I found myself in line outside of Surly Brewing Company, drinking beer, meeting new friends and having way too much fun in a line all in pursuit of one of the last great non-barrel aged imperial stouts worth chasing - Surly Darkness.  Unlike the first year where I showed up at 5:00 in the morning to get in line this year I convinced my brother to join a group of my Minnesota friends in camping out - OVERNIGHT.  

After getting off of work we met at his house.  After unwinding with a little rock climbing and grabbing a bite to eat we loaded up the car with gear to survive in the 23 degree weather that was expected that night.  We arrived and connected with my buddy Brandon who immediately handed me a bottle of 2007 Darkness and told me to take a drink - it was pretty god damn tasty and set the mood for what would be the best beer related experience I've ever had. A lot of people in the community made that statement possible but I'm going to have to single out Brandon (Biglobo8971) as being outstanding. After settling in for a while Ryan and I took a walk with a glass of Cantillon Classic to scout the area, the entire business park was packed with people.  We chatted with a group around the area I was at last year at 5am and they told us that they had arrived around 7. It was unbelievable. 

That night I had some incredible beer, meet new people and overall just had a blast.  We decided to head to the tent around 2 am to grab a quick four hour.  My brother, who is a doctor, clearly had trained his body through years of little sleep to instantly crash out as he was sound asleep pretty much as soon as his head hit the pillow. Me, not so much as the light above where we made camp and the sound of a nearby generator both kept me awake most of the night.

Untappd version 0.2
Last year I got to meet a bunch of great BAs and put faces with names this year I really felt like part of a community. It was an amazing feeling being that welcomed. I got to hang out with several trading partners including my main Surly hookup Dan (Ungertaker) and put more faces with so many BAs. Lots of insane beer was poured and I got to try several that I never thought I'd have the opportunity to try, so that was cool.

Plus I got to hang out overnight with my brother and expose him even more to the world of BA.

On the downside, as I told my brother, I'm no longer allow to make fun of people who camp out for iPhones. He did point out that we probably had more fun in line than they ever will so there's that.
"Last year waiting in line was half the event, this year it was the event" - Me
My brother Ryan sharing a mini keg of beer
One of my favorite moments of the day came after wristbands were handed out. My brother had bought a mini-keg of Two Hearted and I think because of it's placement it didn't get consumed at lobo's truck. So we decided that we would kill it by walking up the line sharing with anyone that wanted some. While there were a few camps that semi turned their noses up at it most were very stoked and loved it. We almost made it the whole line and almost everyone who had some offer great beer in return. Definitely one of the highlights for us.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sydnie IPA

The labels from the first 2 Sydnie IPAs
As I've mentioned before in 2009 my mom bought me a Mr Beer for my birthday.  After sitting on it for a few weeks I ordered the American Devil IPA kit as I wanted my first beer to be an IPA.  It was with that in mind in that I brewed my first beer in my house in January of 2010.  I called this beer Sydnie IPA after my still incubating offspring and as legends go it turned out really bad.  Somewhere along the way it got an infection (probably from the water I found in the back of my fridge) and was never really drinkable.  Despite the disappointment of the first try I really loved the process and continued forward.  For those saying it was probably because I used Mr Beer I disagree as I went on to make dozens of success beers using Mr Beer products. 

Later that year after getting 20 odd beers successfully under my belt I decided to give Sydnie IPA a second go and again I was left with a less than stellar brew.  Was the name cursed?  I had made a bunch of really tasty beers since my first outing. I'd followed the directions to a tee and had again failed. Again I put the disappointment behind me and continued forward honing my brewing techniques. While I made several IPAs and worked on a few IPLs over the last couple of years but none of them carried the name Sydnie IPA.

That was until October of 2012.

On October 21st I did a brew demo for Addison Homebrew Provisions.  Leading up to the demo I created a poll on the forum asking people what they wanted to see made.  I had five ideas in mind each would included a presentation topic to discuss during the downtime between steps. 
  • IPL – Discussion Topic: Lagering 
  • IPA – Discussion Topic: Hop Additions 
  • Imperial Stout– Discussion Topic: Brewing BIG Beers 
  • Vanilla Porter – Discussion Topic: Flavor Additions 
  • Split Batch – Discussion Topic: Creating Two Beers from One Wort 
In the end IPA won with 24% of the vote. 

My buddy Daniel from BeancurdTurtle Brewing pouring
some of his outstanding beer during the demo
When it was clear that IPA was going to win I started looking for a recipe. Like a lot of brewers I tend to have a lot of beer recipes floating around my brewing software.  Some of these are scribbles of recipes, a few are recipes I've come up while others are ones that I'd found online. They all fall into the "someday" I'll get around to brewing them.  One in particular stood out - Sydnie IPA... 

I'd always known that one day I would make another go at a beer called Sydnie IPA it was too sentimental of a name for me to never use again.  I also knew that I would need a new recipe for it, just start completely fresh carrying over just the name.  The recipe I'd been toying with was based on an old Melrose IPA homebrew recipe that Julian Shrago had posted back in 2007.  I'd made a few modifications along the way (converting it to extract for the demo and including a little carared for color).  Mostly I was evaluating the hop bill for a new IPL style recipe I'm working on.

The demo went off pretty well,  a few oh my gosh (as Sydnie would say) moments but overall it went really well.  

One of the few benefits that not posting for over 6 weeks has afforded me is time.  Normally I would post about only the brew aspect of the beer and never really report on how it came out. In the case enough time has passed between brewing and posting for me to report on how the beer turned out.  It turned out really great, probably the best IPA I've brewed.  The hop bill worked really well and is a lock to make it into my forthcoming IPL. Curse = Smashed



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Amy's Backyard Honey Mead aka Trilobite

Amy's Backyard Honey Mead
aka Trilobite
After a very long delinquent period of not posting I'm back.  Sorry for the delay but the last six weeks have been absolutely the busiest of my life, between work, home and vacation I've had zero extra time to do anything.  Part of being busy included another barrel brew on a 2 barrel brewsystem with one of my homebrew clubs Brewcommune.com, hosting a brewday for them, attempting to brew my annual imperial stout and hosting a brew demo at the shop.  This was followed by a trip out to Minnesota for work which included an overnight camp-out for Darkness Day 2012.  I've got lots of stuff to cover but let's get started with my second mead.

Back in mid-October my good friend Bryce came down from our hometown of SLC to LA with his girlfriend Amy.  She was in town at the last minute to take her Medical Licensing Examination Step 2. Besides bringing me an at least 250 million year old Trilobite (it could be up to 500 million years) they also brought with them 2 pounds of fresh honey that Amy had harvested from the bee hives she keeps in her back yards.  That's right from the bee hives she keeps in her backyard, how cool it that. 

I decided to use it to make a small batch of mead using the recipe for Joe's ancient orange mead as the recipe.  I've had mead from this recipe from several friends and it has produced some of my favorite meads.  I also had pretty much every ingredient on hand including fresh oranges from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box.  Amy gave me 3 8oz by volume jars of honey which equated to 2 pounds by weight of honey. the standard Joe's recipe calls for 3 pounds of I scaled the recipe down based on the about of honey I had (2/3 of a gallon versus 1 gallon).

Close up for the trilobite they also brought
Violating probably a dozen unwritten rules about hosting a brewday I decide to use that time to keg up a bunch of beers, transfer some to secondary and clean everything that needed cleaning so pretty much I decided not to brew on a brewday. Like I said, it probably violated tons of unwritten rules. Not wanting to violate them all I decided that I would include making the mead on my to do list so I could at least say I made a fermented beverage.

The really nice thing about mead is how freaking fast it is to make. From warming the honey to clean up it probably took me less than an hour, probably less, almost all of it going to heating the honey to liquify it make it easier to work with. Now comes the waiting, currently it's hanging on in my kitchen for a few months as the bread yeast chews though the honey.  I have plans on when this will make it's debut but who knows when that will happen.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fifth Element

The Fifth Element can refer to a lot of different things; a crazy comedy-science fiction film, a mythical element, the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere, even a Finnish hip hop band. These days however, when I hear the name Fifth Element my mind first goes to a crazy-delicious beer from my hometown brewery, Squatters. I fell head over heels for this beer since I first vanquished it during a 3 hour layover in SLC.  I quickly knew I needed to obtain more and am currently the top drinker of this wonder on Untappd.

750ml bottle into Bruery tulip. Thanks Heather for the bottle!

According to the Brewery - 
Fifth Element is a delightfully complex and rustic "Old World" style Belgian farmhouse ale. Aged in American oak barrels for a year and bottle conditioned, this artisan Belgian ale is sure to refresh.
You never forget your first
Appearance: Pours a wonderful pale cloudy yellow orange color with a nice thin white head. Minimal head retention but that is something I've learned to expect in this style of beer.

Aroma: You've probably heard of love at first sight, well this beer had me a first smell. I knew as soon as I picked up the barnyard funk that this beer occupied the small 5% corner of saison / farmhouse Ales I truly love. Definitely more farmhouse than saison. Besides the wonderful layer of sour funk I get a ton of citrusy lemon with a light oak note

Mouthfeel: Slick bodied with a medium level of carbonation adding to its dry and puckering taste.

Taste: This is completely on the border of being more a sour than a farmhouse something I am completely fine with.  The citrus sour dominates the mouth but other flavors (oak, light spice, brett, tart tangerine) are very recognizable if you allow it to sit on your palate. This is a very palate refreshing beer, prefect to break up a barrel aged stout tasting.

Overall: Damn! How do I start stockpiling cases of this beer. I loved this beer so much when I first had it that I asked to keep the bottle, which I then treked home to Orange. Every time i have had it since it has continued to live up to that first moments, something few beers can do.  This is one of those beers that gives almost every other farmhouse a bad name as few can live up to the name farmhouse better than this one. For me it also exemplifies the need to continue to explore styles that you have been let down in the past because if I didn't I never would have found this beauty of a beer...



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Souring Halvtreds Part 3

The continuing quest for a sour beer
The ongoing chronicles of Halvtreds (my sour red lager that I brewed as my fifty batch of beer) continues.  It's been about 8 months since my buddy Daniel came over to help me drink a series of sour beers whose dregs were collected, built up and added to Halvtreds which had been waiting in secondary since December 2011.  In that time it had taken on a pleasant sourish aroma but the taste seemed to be primarily brett driven.  It needed something else in the flavor realm that could pair nicely with the aroma and help to round off the overall beer.

Getting ready to go into the oven
Back in the development phase of this beer I had planned on adding fresh huckleberries to it.  I figured it would be an interesting choice as I'd not seen a huckleberry sour and they happen to be one of my favorite fruits.  The problem I ran into with them really came down to price.  They're not really available locally, as they are more of a Northern wild berry, so to procure them I'd have to buy them online which is when cost became an issue.  I found a multitude of sites online that sell frozen huckleberries, even fresh berries during the season, but to buy enough to give the beer a good flavor was going to set me back $50-60. Unfortunately the flavors I was getting didn't justify that level of expense.

Coming out of the oven
I still wanted to do it so I needed to come up with a plan B for fruit.   To do this I took a hand bottle of the still (meaning flat vs not in a state of transition from liquid to solid/gas) liquid to a meet up of fellow brewers at The Globe Dine Bar in Garden Grove. 

The general consensus was that it needed more acid to give it a more sour bite.  To obtain this it was decided I needed to introduce additional souring agents with something for them to chomp on.  I decided that I wanted to go with some stone fruit given that they were in season.  Originally we formulated a plan calling for 6-8 peaches and 8-12 apricots which I would grill plus a sour starter.  I changed this up slightly to 3 large white peaches and 4 white nectarines (this mostly had to due with available head space in the beer).  

For the sour agents I opted for White Labs' WLP655 - Belgian Sour Mix 1 which is an unique blend that includes Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, and the bacterial strains Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.

See you in 6 months
To process the fruit I decided to oven roast it at 400F degrees for 25 minutes.  Which the oven was preheating I cut the fruit into 6th and 8th so that they could easily fit into the neck of the carboy.  I left the skins on during the roasting removing them as soon as they came out of the oven (I love my temperature rated Blichmann gloves) and right before they went into the beer.  After the hot fruit was given a chance to cool in the beer I added the vial of WLP655 and gave the whole batch a good shake.

That's it for now but check back in another 6 months to see where we are at (damn sours sure do take time)



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

White Chocolate

For the most part I've been a little let down by the Bruery's recent sour beer offering.  While most are very enjoyable beers they haven't lived up to the level of past offering such as Oude Tart, Marrón Acidifié, the Wanderer or Batch 50, which are some of my all time favorite sours (these days it's a pretty big list). Their spirit (mostly bourbon and whiskey) aging program on the other hand continues to knock it out of the park with their latest release, White Chocolate, being no exception. 

4oz pour from the bottle at the Bruery Tasting room from the Reserve Society Exclusive menu (about time)

Thanks Tim for letting me borrow your
bottle for this great shot!
Appearance: Pours a wondrous coppery orange color.  Not a lot of head, merely a thin white ring, but considering they poured it from an already open bottle not surprising.  I rearly discuss labels in a review but this is by far one of the best labels I've seen on the beer.  The paper is textures and the Logo and White Chocolate is raised.

Aroma: The nose on the beer is incredible.  Lots of vanilla, chocolate and bourbon - pretty much dessert in a glass.  I can see how people have said it reminds them of tiramisu.

Mouthfeel: Pretty much what I've come to expect from a Bruery barrel aged beer, nicely thick and sticky.  The carbonation was nicely balanced and help to open up the beer.

Taste: Huge vanilla and bourbon notes right up front. As it warms you really start to get the chocolate, which is big and rich. This is a pretty sweet beer but the bourbon helps to keep it from being too cloying.

Overall: I thought this beer was fantastic and have referred to it as Black Tuesday Light/Clear because it tastes a lot like a blond Black Tuesday/Chocolate Rain. This is easily the best wheat wine I've ever had and only makes me want to try White Oak Sap (the base beer for White Chocolate and White Oak) even more. At this point they are really teasing us about Vanilla Black Tuesday as they proved with this beer the deliciousness that can come from a barrel aged Bruery beer made with french vanilla beans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Split Batch Sour Red

These starters are making me thirsty
As you may know a while back I got my hands on four vials of  East Coast Yeast (ECY01 BugFarm, ECY02 Flemish Ale, ECY04 Brett Blend #1 and ECY07 Scottish Heavy).  For my first forte in I used the ECY07 Scottish Heavy for my Project S.C.O.T.T. Strong Scotch Ale.  I have to say that so far I'm pretty happy with the results I'm seeing (In Progress Tasting).

I knew that I needed to the remaining vials soon than later so I put together a quick schedule for the next several brews.  The best way to work through them fast was to a couple of split batches, but which to use first?  

Initially I planned on doing a 10 gallon version of My Funky Brother Brett, using WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii in half and ECY04 Brett Blend #1 in the other.  I decided that it would be more purdent to come up with a recipe that would allow me to use more of what I had on hand.  I therefore decided to do a 10 gallon split batch of a red ale to make a Flemish Red and a red sour (BugFarm).

My other piece of new equipment
Mark II Keg Washer
At the beginning I was leaning toward doing all 10 gallons clean, like I did for Halvtreds, adding the bugs to secondary.  I had also planned on using my standard red ale grist modified for a lower gravity.  In the end I decided to do a more standard Rodenbach grist with a few SNB modifications. I also decided after researching Flemish Reds to add the ECY02 Flemish Ale for primary. Most of the recipes had called the sour yeast (mostly Wyeast's 3763 Roeselare Blend) in primary so I figured why not.

Brewday also gave me a chance to break in some new equipment I'd recently procured for myself, primarily in the forms of pumps.  I'd found a pump on Craigslist a while back and picked it up.  Not knowing the full history of what it was used for I decided that it would only touch cooling water.  The other was a Chugger Pump I'd convinced Eric to carry at The Shop that I planned to use initially just for recirculating but ended up using to fill the kettle as well.

So far I'm really digging the flavor I'm getting from the ECY02 Flemish Ale.  At first I was concerned given the not existent activity I'd seen.  Apparently it was in fact hard at work reducing the gravity into the 20s during it's first week.  I'd watched a Wyeast video about berliner wiesses where they found they got more sour results starting with the sour strain for the first week then adding a second clean strain to fermenting beer.  I decided to do something similar to the red by adding the remaining pack of US-05 I'd used to prime the single "barrel" bottles of Barrel Aged 33



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Barrel" Aged 33

The bottle cap design for
the main blend
Of all the art forms in brewing that have started to find their way into American Craft brewing one of the most exciting for me personally is blending. A lot of brewers today are doing barrel aged beers, be they sours or big thick stouts, tossing them into barrel and letting them sit for a few months. Few however are going the next step and precisely blending them together in a way that elevates the overall beer. Most often all of the barrels are simply dumped into a brite tank or other container for packaging. While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this method better results can occur when they don't feel attached to use all the barrels.  You have to remember that the beer in each barrel matures at a different pace. Just because you put the same batch of beer in barrels from the same distillery at the same time does not mean they hit peak flavor in unison. In fact the range can be between 9-18 months for a barrel to develop the flavor the brewer is after. Some of the best blended beers out there tend to be blends of multiple years of beers, the upcoming 10th Anniversary of Utopias for example contains a batch of Triple Bock from 1993.

Let's take a deeper look at the blending that went into the 10th / 2012 batch of Utopias
The 2012 Utopias brew was aged in hand selected, single-use bourbon casks from the award winning Buffalo Trace Distillery to enhance the beer’s distinct vanilla and maple notes. In fact, this year’s brew including some of our original Triple Bock from 1993. Our 10th Anniversary batch also spent time in a variety of finishing casks: Tawny Port casks and Vintage Ruby Port casks from Portugal, which contribute slightly more elegant, dark fruit aromas, and Rum barrels from Nicaragua, which add flavors of fig, chocolate, raisin, vanilla, and a slight spice. 
Blend 521
I've been wanting to create my own blended beer for a while, in fact I started soaking some of the oak way back in July of 2011.  At the time I had planned on creating my own Firestone Anniversary type blend (which is made up of several types of beer instead of a single style).  That plan never got off the ground but later in that year when I brewed up 33 I knew I'd found the prefect beer to give blending a shot.  Unfortunately due to it's close vicinity to Halvtreds it caught a brett infection that somewhat diminished the final flavor of the beer.  Still I decided to press on with my plan and give blending a shot.

My plan for the blend was to take divide up 33 into four gallon jugs with a 1/2 gallon growler.  In each I would add some of the spirit soaked wood and set it aside for a couple of months.  To fill the jugs I decided to keg up the 33 so that I could use my BeerGun to purge the jugs with CO2 before filling them so that I could reduce any oxygen exposure.  Once filled I wrapped them with electrical tape.  When all was said and done I ended up with five "barrels".
"Barrel" 1 - Korbel Port / American French Oak
"Barrel" 2 - Pusser's Rum / Medium French Oak
"Barrel" 3 - Hecker Pass Ruby Port / Medium Oak Cubes
"Barrel" 4 - Maker's Mark Bourbon / Oak Chips
"Barrel" 5 - Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon / Medium American Oak
A little sample of "Barrel" 5 -
Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon
After two months I decided to try "barrels" 1 & 2.  While they weren't quite as spirity as I was hoping for they tasted solid so I decide to blend them together.  I figured given my success with Imperial Rhino Stout 2011 (2012 coming soon...) in holding carbonation after being beer gunned, I'd blend it in the keg and serve it on draft for a while (I'd been really wanting an Imperial Stout on that I could sip on) and BeerGun the rest later.

In addition to the main blend I decided to do up five 12oz bottles, one from each of the "barrel", and a special 521 blend from "barrels" 5, 2 and 1 which happens to be the first three digits to my home phone number growing up in the SLC.  To prime the bottles I used some carb tabs and re-hydrated some dry yeast which I added to each bottle using a medicine dropper. I've made special caps for each of the blends to tell them apart; 33 - Korbel Port, 33 - Pusser's Rum, 33 - Hecker Pass Ruby Port, 33 - Maker's Mark Bourbon, 33 - Korbel Cabernet Sauvignon and 33 - 521 Blend. I'll probably do a variant tasting with all the bottles in December.

Overall I think the blend is just ok, it's definitely better than it had been but not as good as I was hoping it would be. Given how much I enjoyed Kate the Great and 33 before it caught a brett infection I plan on doing it again with 34 and leaving it on the wood for several additional months before I blend it.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kate The Great

Every year I make a list of beers that I want to try and set out to land a bottle or two.  In 2010 the list included Black Tuesday, Darkness, Dark Lord and Surly Four.  In 2011 it was about developing a taste for sours  was hitting off various Cantillons and Drie Fonteinen but also included beers like Westvleteren 12, Pliny the Younger, Marshal Zhukov and Surly Five (plus Mo's Bender).  Of all the beers I tired there was one above all that I needed to try.  So I decided that in 2012 I would set out to land legendary Kate the Great from Portsmouth Brewery.

A quick history on Kate the Great - First released in 2005 it lwas a quite sleeper of a beer until 2007 when it was named the Number One Beer in the USA (Number Two on Planet Earth) by Beer Advocate Magazine.  Almost overnight Kate became on the the rarest and most talked about beers. Not helping the fact annually only 1,000 22oz bottles were released until 2012 when the volume to 12oz allowing the quantity of bottles released to raise to 2,000.  2012 also marked the first time the beer was released in a unique bottle as all previous years had used a default Portsmouth Brewery label stamped with Imperial Stout.

The first and only? Kate the Great Label

Sadly 2012 might well mark the last year of true Kate the Great as after eight and a half years Tod Mott the creator of Kate the Great has left his post as Head Brewer at the Portsmouth to pursue other ventures, taking the recipe with him.  While Tod has plans to rebrew the recipe he will do so under another name and future plans for "Kate the Great" have yet to be decided by Portsmouth Brewery.

To obtain the beer I responded to a ISO:FT [ISO- Rare, Churchills 12 FT- Kate, Cantillon, Allagash Sours, 07/08 Abyss, list...] started by jsilva. I still had a Churchill's Finest Hour 2012 that I'd almost just put in a box anyway for a BIF that I got zero wants out of (bullet dodged).  So I considered it out and available to trade. I didn't want to however do a 22oz for just a 12oz so I started the conversation simply with -

Do you have or have access to a Kate the Great glass?

I figured that if I was going to enjoy Kate the Great there would be no better way to do it than in the official glass.  This was a special glass produced for the 2012 Kate Day in conjugation with Portsmouth's 20th Anniversary and featured a close up of Kate bitting off the cap to the bottle - "Twist off... my ass!" The Kate arrived first with the glass getting to me several weeks later.

I decided that my upcoming Tenth Wedding Anniversary (#Scott&Bonnie10Years!) would be the perfect opportunity to open it.  Once the day came I arrived home around 5:20 and pulled the Kate out of the fridge to warm a little. We were going out to dinner later so while Bonnie was getting resdy I gathered my glass and opened the bottle.  Here is my review.

Great looking combo
Appearance: Pours deep and black, with a fourth inch of tan head.  Not a ton of lacing but still an enjoyable experience throughout.

Aroma: I personally don't get as much port as I expected, in fact I don't get any. What I do get is a nice roast aroma with some chocolate and wood traces. 

Mouthfeel: It sits remarkably heavy in my month.  Thick, rich and cream with a very full mouthfeel. Wonderful! I've only had a few stouts as rich and creamy as this one.  Literally everything I look for in an Imperial Russian Stout.

Taste: It was a little cold of the starting block but nothing that a little hand warming couldn't fix.  I get a lot of dark stone fruit similar to what I've tried on quads, almost a plum. A lot of roasty goodness with some fug and chocolate undertones. A very slight warming not unexpected from a beer with a 12% abv.

Overall: I honestly thought this beer was spectacular and lived up to the hype.  Currently Kate the Great occupies the number 3 slot on BeerAdvocate's list of Top Beers for Russian Imperial Stout.  When you consider the fact that most of the top beers on that list are barrel aged while Kate is not it's a pretty impressive feat. 

While I had most of it I probably lost maybe a sixth when my daughter decided to jump on me. I had moved to the couch to finish it up while Bonnie finished getting ready for dinner. Apparently after a little bit Syd decided that it would be a good time surprise me by jumping on me. Result - me covered with most of my remaining glass of Kate. Awesome. Bonnie's Notes: You ended up with Kate the Great all over you because of Syd the Wild

It definitely makes me want to revisit the recipe for Kate the Great that tried back on my birthday as 33 developed some odd infection that I'm hoping will be covered via some faux barrel aging.



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