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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Thomas Hardy’s Ale 1978

I was barely conceived when
 this beer was bottled
The road to this beer started several years ago when I first got heavily into beer. I can’t remember when I first learned of its existence but I right away knew I wanted one for my 35th birthday, which at the time was three plus years out.  I know a couple of guys who have acquired them for their 40ths but at the time it seemed like too much of a stretch, now however I would consider another bottle just for that occation.

Over the years I’d throw out an occasional ISO:FT but only got crickets.  I even tried eBay off and on when you could still find beer on it, but I never caught a 1978 when it was available and was outbid on some close vintages (I thought I might be able to trade a 77 or a 79 for a 78).

So after years of searching and with the 35th deadline quickly approaching I was finally able to set up a trade for one in exchange for a bottle of the recent release of Duck Duck Gueuze.  The only hang up was that the bottle was all the way in Australia of all places. He asked if I’d be willing to wait till December as his friend would be in California around that time and could bring the bottle over with him. Considering it was the closest I’d been I agreed and started the wait.   A lot happened to me in the interim time: I started a new job, got banned from BA despite never violating their terms of service (where the trade started), ate a lot of reubens, ordered a brewsystem, went on an incredible vacation with my wife to Maui, had the best Halloween ever with my daughter and drank hundreds of new beers.  In the end we met up at Noble for a pint and exchanged a beer I’d been waiting years to get my hands on.

From the label – 
Thomas Hardy’s Ale – In “The Trumpet – Major” Hardy wrote of Dorchester’s strong beer “It was the most beautiful colour that the eye of an artist in beer could desire; full in body, yet brisk as a volcano; piquant, yet without a twang; luminous as an autumn sunset; free from the streakiness of taste but finally, rather heady”
There is also a label on the back of the bottle not quite as eloquent as the one on the front.  It states that this beer will last for 25 year and should not be consumed for at least 10 as stated by “Do Not Open Before 1988”

The oldest beer I've ever had
Appearance: Poured very carefully from a 180 ml 6.34 fl oz bottle numbered G 8745 and dated 1 May 1978. Pours near flat into a Thomas Hardy’s Ale Snifter glass sent to me by my friend Dan Cowell.  Tiny little bubbles form on the surface of the beer some linger but most quickly vanish. Peering inside the bottle reveals that a black tarry sediment remains on the bottom.  All is to be expected from a beer older than I am.  It is crystal clear with a brilliant amber-garnet color.

Aroma: Wow, talk about sensory overload.  It smells hot (fusel), old and very musty probably from oxidation.  Very reminiscent of port with leather and aged stone fruit accompaniment.  There is some faint residual sweetness on the nose when I deeply inhaul.  Bonnie swore it was barrel aged when she first smelled it and I can agree it has the presence that it could have been aged in port barrels with some type of fruit.

Mouthfeel: Thin and very slippery with no carbonation detected, but I’m in no way surprised by this.  The slickness coats my entire mouth.

Taste:  Very odd, nothing like I've ever tasted before.  I get hints of port but it also has a very metallic taste to it like over ripe plums.  There is a distinct tartness to it.  There is so many things going on that I have never tasted before I have no frame of reference to compare it to.  It is nearly impossible to distinguish what’s going on in my mouth.  It gets crazy good as it warms and opens up you get used to what you’re experiencing.

Overall: You really have to approach a beer like this with a completely open mind.  It was like nothing I have ever smelled or tasted before. Some beers get top marks due to taste alone while for others it is the experience that make them unforgettable.  For this beer it is truly an experience I will not soon forget and a great way to toast my first 35 years on this planet.  I would love to try another in 5 more years and possible with a 1978 Westvleteren 12.



Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Pilz that Killz (Pilz Brothers Collaboration)

I know it's been a while since I've update the blog and there are a lot of reasons for that.  The biggest is my new job that has kept me a lot busier than I had been in the past.  The other big reason for the lack of posts has been a lack of brewing.  A couple months back I took the plunge to start construction of an all new brewhouse.  The project is taking slightly longer than I would like and since I stripped several pieces of my old set up for the new one the result has been an out of commission brewery.  Hopefully the project can get back on track in December...

Meanwhile, I've been having the itch to brew as the last time I actually produced a beer was the last time I brewed with my mentor and good friend Shawn O on the Same Grain, Same Style, Different Brewer group collaboration which produced my Sour Citra Saison. Shawn and I had been talking for several months about going a Bohemian Pilsner using decoction, I even bought a sack of grain in August time frame just for it. Unfortunately scheduling the actual collaboration proved to be about as easy as building a brewhouse.

When it was looking like we were going to brew in October I bought a vial of WLP800 (Pilsner Lager) to use seeing as how it had a mid November expiration, however by the time we nailed down a post Thanksgiving brewday I needed to buy another vial.  Stock issues lead me to grab a vial of WLP830 (German Lager).

For hops I went out on a limb and used two New Zealand hops one of which I'd never heard of.  For bittering and half of my flavor charge I went with Pacific Gem. For the other half of flavor and a larger whirlpool of Aroma I selected Wakatu.  Here are the descriptors

Pacific Gem - New Zealand 
Alpha: 15.00 % Beta: 8.20 %
Usage: Bittering 
High alpha smoothcone cross developed at DSIR in 1987.
Used for: Bittering - produces a cask-oak woody flavor.
Aroma: Pleasant - some blackberry aroma.
Wakatu - New Zealand 
Alpha: 9.00 % Beta: 8.50 %  
Usage: Dual
Characterized by restrained floral notes atop freshly zested lime Description: Formerly called Hallertau Aroma. Similar to German Hallertau but Higher alpha. Excellent Dual Purpose hop, rounded floral aroma with hints of lime.
Typical Beer Styles: Lager, Pils, Bock, Wheat, Kolsch, Helles, Belgian Ales.
The one thing I really wanted to use was my new 15 Gallon Boil Kettle with Tangential Inlet I bought from Brewers Hardware back in October.  The thing was an absolute beast!  Once we sparged into Shawn's kettle we drained off half of it into mine and started heating.  I was amazed at how fast it came to a solid boil. The tangential inlet also worked better than I could have imagined and after a 30 minute whirlpool had created a wonderful island of trub in the center of the kettle.

I'm really looking forward to trying this one in a couple of months and can't wait till my brewhouse is completed.  For our next collaboration / Scott education project we are looking at doing a turbid mash to brew some lambics.  Until next time.



Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Westbennetteren 12 b(2)ottling

That time of year for Zombies
For the most part I don't bottle condition my beers and opt instead to carbonate the beer in the keg to a volume I am happy with then BeerGun it into a bottle when I need it in a bottle. I have really only one exception to this and that is for when bottle conditioning is a very integral part of the of finished beer, such is the case for my "fancy beer with a fancy name" Westbennetteren 12. Even in these exceptions I still like to utilize the BeerGun in loo of a bottling bucket as it allows for a nice sealed O2 free environment and it's so much easy to use the controls on the Beer Gun.

So when it came time to bottle up Westbennneteren 12 b2 I moved the beer from it's long secondary to a flushed keg. I then added 5.5 oz of Candi Syrup Inc Simplicity and a fresh vial of WLP500 (I couldn't get any fresh WLP530 in time). Finally I shook and rolled the keg to get everything to blend together.

For this round I wanted to use as many genuine Belgian bottles as I could (especially Westmalle / Westveleteren trappist bottles) so I asked my friend Michael, who owns the incredible Belgian GastroPub The Globe, if I could have at some of his empty bottles. He said yes allowing me to secure just about a case of Westmalle, Rochefort, Orval and Straffe Hendrik bottles. Added to the Belgian bottles I had on hand allowed me to bottle over a case of Westbennetteren 12 in Belgian bottles.

The final key to this years batch occurred just as I was ready to order this years caps from Bottlemark.  Just as I was about to place my order for the same cap I used last year, they came out with a new line of colored crowns including a gold oxygen-barrier cap which is the perfect cap for Westbennetteren 12. I have to tell you the new caps are incredible, not only do they look great but they are incredibly durable.

Now that the beer is bottled up it has about a month or room temperature conditioning ahead of it before it's debut at Quad-Fest 2013!

À votre santé


Monday, September 30, 2013

Town Hall Brewery - Masala Mama

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Until tonight I had issues completing the Top 5 as number 2 Masala Mama from Town Hall Brewery was draft or growler only.

I was unsuccessful in my last trip to Minnesota as it was "too late and far" to go with my brother, never mind that we ended up waiting over 40 minutes where we went.

So special thanks to chixdighops for the growler of Masala Mama for a growler of Knucklesandwich.

It arrived tonight and thanks to the cold temperatures was pretty cold. an hour in the fridge while I worked on the keezer was plenty of time to get it to IPA enjoying temperature.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful amber color with a fluffy cloud of head (I'm actually pretty impressed as it was fill on Monday) into my Squatters Imperial Pint. Solid head retention with very nice lacing.

Aroma: I'm a little stuffy but the hop aroma blasts through but in no way over powering, I would guess it is little dry hopped.

Taste: Yup this is a solid IPA, not overly bitter and well balanced. Bonnie says that is 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.

Mouthfeel: Beautiful

Drinkability: Awesome, at around 6 this is a prefect multiglass IPA!

Now that I have creaked the Top 5 its time to work on both filling the top 20 and getting reviews in place for all

Serving type: growler

01-08-2011 02:34:28

Karl Strauss - Scott's Big IPL

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Had on tap multiple times at the Costa Mesa location as well as pro brewers night at the AHA Conference.

This beer was the pro version of their Pro-Am competition for

A: Nice golden orange color with a frothy white head. Lacing remains well through the glass

S: Good hop aroma, I would have excepted more with it being related to an IPA but this is a Karl Strauss beer. I'm picking up Simcoe

T: More East coast then West coast and tasted more Ale then a lager but overall I it had a very nice flavor that I enjoyed greatly

M: Solid monthfeel with good carbonation.

O: A good representation of a non existent style. On of the best Karl Strauss beers I've had in years

Serving type: on-tap

07-12-2011 15:46:40

Brasserie La Choulette - La Choulette Framboise

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

12 ounce bottle poured into a Bruery tulip, served at around 44-50. Label lists it as a French farmhouse ale brewed with raspberry juice.

Appearance: Purple-red with a slight garnet tint in head. Reflective light off the glass is a very deep red color. The frothy head clings well to side of glass with some lace lacing which barely sticks to the side of the glass

Aroma: Slight funky with tart raspberry. Bonnie detects an almost metallic smell, it’s very subtle and only something her super sniffer would pick up. I can barely detect it, it similar to the difference between stainless steel aged chardonnay and chardonnay aged in oak barrels. Somewhat of a “clean” smell in the back in my nose, by clean I mean the way a room smells after a thorough cleaning. Not as much funk as I would've hoped for in a “farmhouse” ale but the aroma is very enjoyable and improve slightly as warms. Swirling definitely helped bring out the raspberry character.

Mouthfeel: very small bubbles, some twang, bubbles pickle my upper lip. It has a very raspberry juice and champagne feel 

Taste: It’s definitely a raspberry beer, this is by far the most predominate flavor in the beer however it is not overpowering like some fruit beers. The raspberry is very much in balance in this beer not overly raspberry. It does have very little funk and is not as complex as I would've hoped

Overall: A decent beer but nothing extraordinary. Still it’s very clean very well brewed. I went in wanting a nice funky soured beer and that probably clouded my review. While I’ve stated a lot that I would have preferred more funk I am a lot happier with this beer than if it were listed as a farmhouse saison. A little too fruity of a beer for what I would like in a farmhouse but to me farmhouse means a beer with a great funky bretty character smell and taste.

Serving type: bottle

08-08-2011 19:18:16

Alpine Beer Company - Ugly

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Attention brewers of Black IPAs, Cascadian Dark Ales, India Black Ales, American-Style India Black Ales or as the Brewers Association recently announced American-Style Black Ale.

This is how your beer should taste, smell and appear.

Had this on tap at the Alpine beer company 11-May-11

Appearance: Poured a dark roasty black with brown around the edge. No really head was present and I didn't see it poured but it does product very nice lacing.

Aroma: The hop aroma blasts through but in no way over powering, very nicely done, piney with some citrus

Taste: Yup this is a solid IPA, not overly bitter and well balanced. I get near zero roasty flavor, how are they getting the color

Mouthfeel: Beautiful, good carbonation, nice body, a little dry

Overall: Awesome, this is everything an American-Style Black Ale should be!

Serving type: on-tap

05-12-2011 19:20:18

Brouwerij Oud Beersel - Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at a sour tasting held 7-Mar-2011 at my homebrew club

A: Ruby red, pink head, had a nice fluffy head that did quickly vanish
S: Soured cherry pie
M: Full and foamy, like soda!
T: Old cherry pie or a tart cherry pie, more of the traditional type which showcased the fruit without piling in sugar
O: Cherry pie in a glass!
Original A-
Second thought: B - Its tastes too much like cherry pie, not really interesting.

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2011 19:38:32

HaandBryggeriet - Haandbakk

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this at a sour tasting held 7-Mar-2011 at my homebrew club

A: Brown, glossy, low carbonation
S: Earthy, it smells like dirt
M: ~ metalic, slick and dry
T: Shit! it is going crazy in my mouth, Hot, very tarty and sour, its a smack to my palate
O: It's a very nice ride, Buzzy, I could enjoy a bottle

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2011 19:34:15

Russian River - Temptation

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this at a sour tasting held 7-Mar-2011 at my homebrew club

A: Golden, very clear, small white head even when poured straight down
S: Tart nose, some funk
M: Free roaming, [u]sour[/u], good carbonation
T: Sour, light, tart, lots going on
O: This is a wild ale, its hard to nail down everything going on, this isn't my style but I can respect its craziness
B+ to A-

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2011 19:05:21

Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen - Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Had this at a sour tasting held 7-Mar-2011 at my homebrew club

A: Cloudy, golden orange - like Younger, head disappears quickly
S: Funky! Shit man, lots going on, People smell this and then still want to drink it?
M: ~
T: Fortune Favors the Bold, tart, lemony, peppery
O: Party in my mouth, I like it

Serving type: bottle

03-08-2011 19:02:01

The Bruery - Autumn MapHELL

Pulled off of BA in light of the Great Banning of 2013

look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Served in a giant pumpkin at the Bruery's Friday tasting. I waited around for 45 minutes to try the first glass. in fact I watched it get made, Tyler and Patrick took a cask of Cherry Chocolate Rain and emptied into the Pumpkin. Then one of the severs filled it up with Autumn Maple poured from the tap into pitchers

A: They started it off by taking some of the spent cherries they used during the fermentation and putting them in the glass, they then poured into a Tulip. it is a murky brown color with very low carbonation. 

S: The nose on the beer is incredible. you pick up some of the coco, the cherry smell is very strong and I also get a very feint vanilla hint

T: The taste is absolutely exceptional, all the notes I loved about the CCR blended beautifully with the Autumn Maple. drinking it was absolutely a joy and well worth waiting around for 

M: A little heat on the back but pleasant. 

D: This beer went down exceptionally well for a 14%+ abv beer. it left a delicious aftertaste that left me wanting another glass right away

Glad I waited around for this beer, who knows if it will ever be available again

Serving type: cask

11-01-2010 18:19:51

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Maui Brewing Company

I drank a lot of Maui on Maui
Bonnie and I recently had the opportunity to vacation sans Syd in Hawai'i. We decided based on past visits to stay in Wailea on Maui and by past visits I'm referring to family trips over two decades ago. While the primary reason for the trip was relaxation and alone time I knew a trip to Maui Brewing (both the pub and production facility) was definitely on the agenda.

I've been a fan of Maui Brewing for several years now after giving there cans a try when I was first getting into beer.  In Bonnie's opinion their Bikini Blonde Lager tastes like Hawai'i and Big Swell IPA was exactly the type of IPA I was into back then. Whenever a new can comes out I make it a point to give it a try and have been presentably surprised more often the not. 

A little background on Maui Brewing Co, they started back in 2005 as a brewpub in Lahaina on the west side of the island. About 3-4 years ago they decided to open a production facility to can some of their best selling beer.  The decision to can was based a lot around the environmentally conscious aspect of cans with a Ball recycling/production facility on the island it was a no brainer for them.  I really got the sense on tour that local and sustainable are very important to them.

Bonnie chilling at the window
The tour at the production facility was great, the guide went into a lot of detail both on the history of Maui Brewing and processed involved in not only just making beer, but making Maui beer.  Some of the fun facts I collected on my tour are as follows: Maui has a contract with their shippers so that the beer the send to the main land is keep below the waterline of the boat which keeps it in the low 50s°F.  The toast all their coconut in house for their CoCoNut Porter. They've been experimenting recently when it comes to when they add it to the beer including in secondary.  Originally they added it to the boil but have recently moved to running the beer over it in a hop back between boil and chilling which has greatly enhanced the coconut flavor. So if you haven't tried it in a while I recommend grabbing a four pack. They date all their cans now (thank you). Bikini Blonde is their top selling beer in Hawai'i while CoCoNut Porter is their top selling beer on the mainland. They really focus on where their beer is sent so they can feel comfortable it's turning over quickly. They are in the process of building their own "destination brewery" in Kihei which will increase their production fivefold. 

The food at the pub was really solid and some of the better food we ate while on Maui.  The tap list was incredible and made me wish they canned more of the brewpub beers as I was absolutely in love with a bunch of them.  I really enjoyed Double Overhead and Black Rock Lager which I convinced the bartender at Monkeypod Kitchen to mix 50-50 with the CoCoNut Porter. This blend, which Bonnie called an Maui Black and Tan (even though they are both dark beers), will be the inspiration for her next brew.  I myself was inspired by my travels to brew what I'm calling a Hawaiian Pale Ale, but we'll talk about that later.

Overall it really made me think about a lot of things and the steps that would be needed to get there...  I have a lot to think about in the next few weeks.  Change is on the horizon.  Till next time

Huli pau!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Yin Part Three - Draining the Barrel

After seven months
A lot has happened since I first started talking about the large batch of Baltic Porter the Tao of Fermentation planned on aging in an used red wine barrel.  To start with, the beer became known as Yin with its brother Yang starting to take shape quite recently. I also started referring to the Tao of Fermentation as the Fellowship of Tao Brewers. Since putting the beer into the barrel in mid January (13.13.13 if you recall ;) ) I'd made it a point to taste it once a month to see how it was going.  In the May time frame I felt it was getting pretty close to being ready and my June I was convinced of it so we started talking about ways to get it out of the barrel.

One of the beers I opened
It was decided that we would set the date for exaction to occur at our August meet up.  Shawn had a long rod of stainless steal which he fashioned into a racking cane and Daniel procured a self priming pump.

In addition to collecting the beer I thought it would be fun to watch Beer Hunter the Movie while drinking some beer off of Shawn's beer engine in honor of Michael Jackson in addition to opening some Michael Jackson worthy beers.  Unfortunately the draining of the barrel, drinking of beer and general comradery was too load to really hear the movie so I'll have to check it out at a later time.

The beer itself came out really well and measured 1.014 FG. When you consider the overall group average gravity of was right around 1.095 SG we're looking at an ABV of 10.76% with an apparent attenuation of 83.82%, pretty outstanding.  The flavor was fantastic and we noticed there was some stratification that the different levels with the first pull being very different from the last pull.  

I ended up with three vessels pulled from the around the beginning, middle and end totaling around 11 gallons. I believe the extra couple of gallons kegged is really Shawn's as he only brought a single keg with him so I prepped a keg for him that was filled with the last couple of gallons.

The barrel crew and the fruit of our labor
Instead of leaving the beer how it is I plan on dividing what I have into three beers.  The batch I already have kegged I'll leave as is and rotate in as a spot on the crate becomes available. The 4.5 gallons I collected in a carboy I'm adding three vanilla beans to and will let it sit for a couple of months.  To the last keg I am also adding a vanilla bean and half a cinnamon stick, once this is done I planning on BeerGunning it to share with Shawn.

I'd like to see what everyone does in the next few months and try to organize a tasting where we can taste the different directions everyone went.  I'm also interested in see if a grand cru blend can be created.  

From here the barrel needs to be cleaned, sanitized and sealed until the next round.  In my head I'm torn between an imperial oatmeal stout (Imperial Rhino) or an old ale.   

Till then στην υγειά σας


Monday, August 5, 2013

Sour Citra Saison - Same Grain Same Style Different Brewers No.1

The OG beer signal 
A few months back Steve J and Daniel F came up with the idea for "a different kind of 'collaboration'". One that involved brewing the same style of beer and the same grist percentages.  After that, every other aspect (gravity, hops, yeast/bugs, spices etc) was up each brewer. The style for what I am assuming/hoping will be the first of many rounds was determined to saisons. The grist percentages were set at 86% Belgian Pilsner, 11% Spelt and 3% Rye As I've mentioned before saisons aren't my favorite style as they tend to have a wide range of flavor and aroma profiles considered to be "in style" however certain saisons, such as Fifth Element from Squatters, are among my favorite all time beers.

I knew right away that I wanted to team up with Shawn O on this one.  My idea for how I wanted to collaborate with Shawn was pretty simple, 1 mash and 2 kettles.  Basically do the mash for around 11 gallons of wort production and split it into two kettles.  This would allow each of us total control on hops, spices etc.   Initially I figured that he would brew a clean to version while I would sour it in some way.  It quickly became apparent that he also wanted to play around with some bugs, which I was in no way surprised by.  

After a couple of weeks of swapping ideas between each other over various conversations, calls, texts and emails we settled on plan of attack.  Each of us would do our own sour starter which we would combine and add to the mash when we got together.  I would take 6 gallons of wort and add 1.5 gallons of RO with a 60 minute boil targeting a 1.048 SG. Shawn would take the balance adding slightly more RO and do a 90 minute boil looking have 1.037/8 SG.

If you are going to brew a sour saison...
To prep for brewday I made a gallon starter with pilsner DME which I split between two vessels.  The first vessel was a quart mason jar with a half a cup of raw unmilled grain. This became my sour starter as lactobacillus is naturally present on the hulls of grain.  I tried my best to keep it at 120°F using an old Polystat Constant Temperature Circular I had rescued from the trash at work.  Unfortunately the reason it was tossed was that it couldn't cool, which at the time I wasn't concerned about, however as I learned this meant that it would continue to drift up over time.  I was able to remedy this by setting an upper limit which shut it off if it was above, this was accompanied however with a nice alarm. The remaining gallon became the start for an old pitch of 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. Contains B. anomala, B. clausenii and B. anomulus
A new saison that I approve of
For the hops I decided I wanted a BIG Citra presence so I planned to hop burst with a good amount of at 20 and 0 while keeping the IBUs contrained (more pale ale level than IPA).  For the bittering hop I decided to go with some Cascade given it's dual use potential.

Brewday itself was a blast.  I headed over very early to find the mash water almost at temp and Shawn waiting for me to mill.  After getting everything set to go we tasted and tested our sour starters.  Both had a pleasant sour bite and combined for a 3.63 pH so we tossed the liquid into the mash.  My brother Ryan (who recently moved to Cali from MN) soon arrived to hangout and help me brew.

In the end we both beat our target gravity with me coming in at 1.051.  It was great to brew with Shawn again as every time I do I learn so much.  The beer is currently fermenting in a poor-man fridge and smells absolutely incredible, I can't wait!



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dueling Brews

My girls all hanging together
On the Fourth of July, Bonnie and I celebrated the birth of our homeland by brewing two beer side by side... at the same time!  This momentous event was made possible by the generous trade of a pretty full tank of propane for some future beers by my buddy Ryan O! I have to tell you it was great to be able to do and nice to know have a backup tank for normal brewdays.

For her beer Bonnie went with the Petite Saison d'Ete kit from Northern Brewer that'd we'd picked up during the Buy 3 Ships Free promotion. She followed the recipe pretty straight forward but instead of brewing it with the recommended yeast we instead tossed it on the very thin yeast cake from Weiss the Hell Not.  This should give it a bready slightly sour character which will be further refined by aging it on some canned raspberries.  The name given to this beer therefore will be Petite Framboise d'Ete and it should be ready by the fall.

For my beer I decided to take the Dead Ringer kit that came in the promotion and turn it into an IPL using washed yeast from Bonnie's latest batch of Costa del Sol.  I think it's pretty cool that to ferment our beers this round we used the yeast (and bugs) harvested from each other's previous batches. The Dead Ringer kit is essentially a pretty spot on clone of Bell's Two Hearted which is a highly rated all Centennial IPA.  It also happens to be the beer that my brother Ryan B bought for Darkness Day and shared with whomever in line wanted some.  Once it is done I plan on washing the yeast once more for a second run at Bitter Sweet Symphony.

That's it, nice, short and straight forward, probably a sign of posts to come.  Recipes below



Friday, July 5, 2013

Pilgrimage for the Tao Brewers Fellowship

The pilgrims
I mentioned in my post on Societe Brewing that the Tao Fellowship (one of the many brewing groups I'm in) was planning a pilgrimage down to see them.  A couple of weekends ago a group of us (Steve C, Steve S, Greg N, Daniel F and myself) got together and headed south in a rented mini van (complete with a free screw in a tire).  Our journey south of the Orange Curtain took us to several destinations, some good, some bad and some outstanding.

We met up at the historic home of Greg Nagel (world renown beer blogger) to assemble and try a few beers.  Once Daniel and his lovely wife HsiHou (who had graciously volunteered to be our DD) arrived we loaded into our "screwed" minivan and took off to sit in traffic for nearly three hours.

Our first stop of the day was the brand new Pizza Port Bressi Ranch location which sometime this year will become their production location canning Pizza Port beers.  Hopefully one of the first through will be Poor Man's IPA but I highly doubt it.  It was a gorgeous and shiny facility, I want to say that they were still in the middle of a soft opening as I'd not seen any official grand opening announcement.  The only reason I knew it was open was cyber-stalking some of my beer buddies on Untappd.

I got two beers while I was there and split a pizza with Greg.  The first beer I had was El Toronado an IPA they brewed up for the San Diego location's 5th anniversary.  Overall it was a solid IPA loaded with pine and citrus aromas and a clean bitter taste.  The next beer up was a half pint of RuinTen from Stone.  I really enjoyed Ruination Tenth Anniversary last year, I even split a bottle with Bonnie to celebrate our Tenth Wedding Anniversary.  I therefore wanted to give RuinTen a try, however tracking down a bottle was proving tough so I was jazzed to find it on draft. Another top shelf dank IPA with even more resiny pine and citrus resin.  The pizza I paired the beers with was a brilliant jalapeno and pineapple that Greg suggested.

After filling up on pizza and beer we set out for our next destination. 

I've been using White Labs yeast almost exclusively for the last couple of years and enjoyed what I've read in the Yeast book co-authored by Chris White.  I'd also noticed on their site for their new tasting room that they were offering pours of beers brewed with different yeasts.  I thought that was a great way to really understand the effect yeast could have on a beer.  It was therefore on my recommendation that a group of homebrewers stop by... unfortunately nothing that I drank there lived up to the promise of the concept.  

The biggest problem was the quality of the base beers did little to highlight any noticeable differences produced by the different yeast strains.  Overall it tasted like mediocre homebrew that was fermented without temperature control or water profile adjustments.  While I was glad to have gone it's definitely not a place I can recommend and if I was to do the trip again I've opt to go to AleSmith or Ballast Point instead.  

Leaving disappointed we headed to our next and final destination... 

There's not much more to say on Societe outside of my previous post but once again Societe proved to be one of the highlights of our journey.  I enjoyed a glass of the latest Bachelor, which is their series of single hopped IPAs this one with Mosaic hops. I also had half pours of Pupil, Apprentice and the Widow and got two fills to send to my Minnesota buddies.

Overall it was a great trip and I would love to do it again soon.



Thursday, June 13, 2013

Costa del Sol b4

To say that Bonnie's batch of Costa del Sol hit it out of the park would be an understatement.  After few weeks on tap it hit a point of maturation that just made the hops sing!  From that point on people couldn't get enough of it.  It became on of those beers at a tasting that people would appear with a full glass of it in loo of a small taste.  I myself helped myself to plenty of weeknight pints based largely on it's low abv however the good times were not to last as just like all great beers that you only have 5 gallons it wasn't long till you poured air...  Fortunately we have the ability to make it again and set out to do just that over the weekend.

The only change in the recipe was changing the first wort hop (and primary bittering) from Centennial to Simcoe solely because I "thought" we still had enough however when I went through my bags of hop bits in the freezer Centennial was nowhere to be found.  I'm interested what effect, if any, this change will have.

We decided to run a double brewday with me brewing up Weiss the Hell Not.  So as with her the previous batch, I left her mostly on her own.  After I set everything up, I answered only a few questions here and there before heading to the gym.  I returned at the very start of her boil to see she still had things well at hand.  Since we only had one propane tank I transferred 34 to a keg (see the pictures in Weiss the Hell Not)  while I waited.

Now comes the hardest part, waiting the required 6-8 weeks till I can drink it again. For her next batch we bought the Petite Saison d'Ete kit along with some others during Northern Brewer's Buy 3 Ships Free promotion. We are thinking of taking the kit and tossing it on the yeast and bugs from Weiss the Hell Not along with some raspberry puree.  It should be fun.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Weisse the Hell Not

Brew sheet and starter
It had been a couple of months since my last brewday.  For the most part I've been working on figuring out what I wanted to do for a brewstand and taking the opportunity to save some money in the process.   I've made somewhat decent use of my slightly extra time by keeping the "brewery" tidy and finally bottling both of my meads (Boysenberry Riff Mead and Amy's Backyard Honey Mead aka Trilobite). Still, I was feeling the itch to brew and seeing my beer reserves tumble, especially the not 10% plus beers.

While I love all grain brewing, helping and watching Bonnie brew up a couple of her own batches (Wee Bonnie Lass and Costa del Sol b3) reminded my of a lot of the benefits for extract brewing.  To be ultra clear here, there is not a noticeable difference in flavor between a well brewed extract and well brewed all grain beer.  The benefits of all grain relay more on cost and recipe freedom than quality of the finished product. Extract brewing (when using a quality product) benefits from a shorter and less complicated brewday, perfect for someone short on time and looking to fill a keg with a quality beer.  I guess what I'm trying to say is watching Bonnie brew opened me up to the possibility of brewing an extract beer here and there while remaining primarily an all grain brewer.

It was with this more open mindset that I came across a post in the homebrewing section of BeerTrading.org - Extract - Berliner Weisse, anyone got one? I've come to really enjoy Berliner Weisse over the last couple of years.  They are a wonderful summer beer with their tart crispness and low abv (generally 2.8% to 3.8%).  I'd had desire to brew a Berliner Weisse since coming a across a video presentation by Jess Caudill of Wyeast Laboratories during National Homebrewers Conference 2012 that Northern Brewer had documented and put on YouTube.  The presentation focuses a lot on the yeast driven components of the style more than the grist (grain).  I therefore felt that this would be the prefect time to brew up an extract version and started that taking notes on the presentation.

Getting ready to boil...
for all of 15 minutes
Boy did I end up taking a lot of notes, so many that I ended up putting up them into a PowerPoint presentation containing not only my notes from the presentation but my recipe and the history of the style.  I've put the presentation online and a PDF here.  I won't summarize here but will say that putting it together definitely helped, especially in the area of recipe development.  Originally I was going with a primarily wheat driven recipe till I learned that Berliner Weisse is usually made from roughly 25 – 30% pale malted wheat. I therefore bumped down my ratio to align with what I'd learned... until I shared the presentation with the Tao of Fermentation group where Daniel pointed out that Briess' Wheat DME is 65% wheat 35% barley. He suggested that I therefore adjust my recipe to 1.75lbs Extra Light DME and 2.00lbs Wheat DME which would give me a 47% Pils, 35% Wheat and 19% Pale recipe.

Talk about the easiest brewday I've had since I moved from Mr Beer to extract. With no steeping grains and a 15 minute boil the longest part of the day was bringing it to boil. From there is a almost a mad dash to find, put together and sanitize all the pieces of my chilling equipment.  It's almost funny as the chilling worked so well, cooling it down too low for my intended fermentation cycle, that I had to speed up the run off to warm it back up.  I still think I'm fermenting it a couple of degrees to cold.  At some point this week I'll put together an additional starter for clean yeast and pitch it this weekend.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about I suggest reading my notes or watching the video.



Friday, June 7, 2013

Firestone Walker Invitation Beer Festival 2013 #FWIBF

Hanging out with my favorite brewer Todd Haug of Surly
I've been to a bunch of beer related festivals over the years and my hands down favorite is the Firestone Walker Invitation Beer Festival held annually in Paso Robles.  This is actually the first year I could use the word annually in the correct context as last weekend happened to be it's second annual.  It really is a fantastic fest both in concept and in execution with one of the greatest selection of breweries I've ever seen at a fest.  The basic concept is that Matt Brynildson, Firestone Walker's head brewer, reached out to brewers he knows and respects from across the country and invited them to participate by bringing a minimum of two beers, something rare and something session (low abv generally below 4%).  Also included with the ticket is a great selection of food offerings

For this year I was joined by my stepfather Hugh Hamm and my good friend Daniel Fernandez. Once inside we headed straight to Surly were I had hoped to bump into Todd and Linda Haug however they we're out and about doing their own exploring. While I was enjoying my first beer, Schadenfreude (a dark lager and one of the few Surly beer's that I'd never had) the OC's premier beer blogger Greg Nagel of the OC Beer Blog found us.  The four of us then set out to explore the tremendous offerings that had been selected.

My beer of the day
Brandy Barrel Hunahpu
The first time I lost Hugh was when I stopped by to talk to Linda at the Surly booth.  While I was catching up she asked if I had ever met Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller) and Tore Gynther (To Øl), when I said no she asked if I wanted to. I've had a lot of really cool experiences over the years but having Linda introduce me to Mikkel and Tore was pretty damn awesome.  To it top off Mikkel himself grabbed me a glass of Lil' Mikkel and let me have my picture taken with him.  He also took a picture of me with Linda.

After I found Hugh we headed over to listen to Todd's Behind The Beer Session hosted by the Brewing Network. Ok I'll admit it, with Surly being one of my favorite breweries Surly, while not the main focus, was a big part of this years fest for me. Also, I did get to ask Todd a brewing related "homebrewer nerd" question on the difference between mash hoping and first wort hoping which I had been interested in for some time.  You can see the whole interview here with my question coming in at the 14:08 mark.

For the rest of the day we worked our way around the fest trying tons for great beers and food.  I lost Hugh again when he took off to use the restroom while I manned the abandoned Dogfish Head booth which I used to serve up "barrel aged high fives".  Once I found him we tracked down Greg and Daniel to finish the fest.  We ended up hanging out in the back with Linda and Todd culminating with me talking to Gabe and Julian of Beachwood BBQ & Brewing.  I'm trying to get Julian to be a part of QuadFest 2013 as his  Jean-Quad Van Damme is a nice clean example of the style.

Greg Nagel of the OC Beer Blog on assignment
It should come as no surprise by now that one of the highlights for me was getting to visit and hang out with my friends from Surly Brewing.  I love that in true Surly fashion they brought two of the lower abv beers to the fest; Bitter Brewer (a great american style bitter) and Schadenfreude.  Hopefully next year they'll pull out some Surly Mild and some Bender variants, who knows maybe even some Darkness? On the beer side, my favorite of the day was Brandy Barrel Hunahpu.  There was some much wonderful stuff going on in it with tons of vanilla and cinnamon mixing in and out with the brandy and the wood aromas, truly a wonderful beer. The main highlight however was bumping into and hanging out with friends within the community some of which were in from out of state.  There are two breweries I would love it see invited next year, Squatter's and Noble. I think they would be a prefect fit and I might even put up a post in the future outlining why.

I really can't wait for next year!



Friday, May 24, 2013

Societe Brewing Co.

Logo'd chalice filled with Publican 
Do you like IPAs? Well I love them! It seems like it's almost a requirement for every new brewery that pops up to have an IPA, especially in San Diego which is widely known for perfecting the style.  The big problem is most get their IPAs wrong.  Too much crystal malt, too many types of malts, hops that just don't play well together. The end result is a beer that while bitter, lacks a lot of the subtle nuances that makes a good IPA great.

A perfect example of a new San Diego brewery that understands what it take to make a great IPA is Societe Brewing Co. Founded in 2011 by Travis Smith and Doug Constantiner, both of whom have a rather impressive brewing pedigree having work at such icons as Russian River and the Bruery.  In the short time since they opened (May/June 2012) they have been knocking beers out of the park and their IPAs continue to be some of the best I ever had. 

I remember the first time I was finally able to have one of their beers.  It occurred while enjoying dinner at Churchill's Pub. I had heard a lot about The Pupil so I was jazzed to see it on the menu.  I can clearly recall the first sip, it was very reminiscent of the experience I had when I first tasted Alpine's Duet as I was blown away by the perfection of the hop profile. Absolutely one of those transcendent beer experiences that I'll always remember.   I even took Bonnie to Churchill's the next day so that she could try it. 

The world's nicest growler
A couple of weeks later, as part of a larger bachelor party, I planned a brewery crawl for my buddy.  I set it up to stop at a lot of breweries from Orange County in San Diego with the ability to cut breweries out if need be.  There were however a few breweries that I insisted we stop at one of them was Societe which was a perfect transition location for the evening.

Getting to see the brewery and try their Belgian inspired brew really drove home the point that these guys get it. My buddy Daniel was especially geeked out by their very in style Belgian inspired beers. He was able to pick up the yeast they were using commented about how great water profile was.  He was so impressed that we are planning a Tao of Fermentation pilgrimage back on the 22nd of June.

During the bachelor party visit  I unfortunately confirmed that they have no plans on bottling their IPAs as they want to maintain complete control of their freshness.  If you do want to get their beers to go you have an option of a glass growler with a pewter handle or a stainless steel one, on my second visit with Bonnie we opted for a stainless version filled with the Publican. When I go back down on the 22nd I'm hoping to grab a fill of the Pupil.

The next frontier for them is their wine-barrel aged sours which have been quietly aging in their barrel room for a while. Given their track record with everything else, I can't wait to try them. 



Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Barrelworks

The excellent setup for the taps
Nestled in the hills of the Santa Ynez Valley in Buellton California you will find the latest venture for Firestone Walker Brewing Company and a strong candidate for beer nirvana Barrelworks!

The building, which also holds one of the Firestone Walker Taprooms, is perfect location for such an undertaking as sour beer production.  Located 92 miles away from the main brewery in Paso Robles the physical separation lowers the risk of unwanted bugs finding their way into Firestone's core lineup.

Walking in through the side door emblazoned with the Barrelworks logo you are immediately greeted by the hundreds of barrels currently making up Firestone's growing sour program in addition to a large oak fermenter aka foudre.  Just past the foudre you come to the heart of Barrelworks, its tasting room.  It's not the smallest nor the largest tasting room I've been to but it's the perfect size for the intent of Barrelworks, which is to provide explorers with the opportunity to truly sample a large range of oak influenced beers. Having set out to deliver a tasting room experience all pours are limited to reasonably priced 3 oz tasters.

The best part of Barrelworks overall is because they are focused on being a tasting room they are able to put on beers you'd be hard pressed to ever find.  This includes their highly elusive and sought after sour beers, a rotating selection of Proprietor's Reserve Series, some of their Anniversary beers as well as the individual components that go into them. Another cool thing that they are doing is single barrel tasting where they put on beer from a single barrel.  I was able to sample a lot of beers some of which I'd been wanting to try for years.

In my between two trips I was able to try the following.
The taplist
  • Barrel #22 Dry Stout
  • Barrel #66 DDBA
  • Barrel #94 Rufus
  • Barrel Aged Rufus With Brett - Wow. The aroma stopped me mid-sentence while I was talking to the bartender
  • Bravo Barrel Aged Brown Ale
  • Bretta Weisse
  • Helldorado (Cask)
  • Lil' Opal (2013)
  • Parabola (2012)
  • Parabola (2013)
  • Parabola (Cask)
  • Reginald Brett
  • SLO-ambic - FINALLY. I've been wanting to try this for the longest god damn time.
  • Sticky Monkey - One of the last Anniversary components I've never had
  • Velvet Merkin (Cask)

While you can't get a growler fill of SLO-ambic or Sticky Monkey to go you are able to buy beers there. In addition to being able to pick up a couple bottles of the latest release of Parabola, I was given the opportunity (but did not execute on it) to buy all of the latest Proprietor's Reserve Series (Double DBA and Sucaba) as well as various vintages and Anniversary Bottles back to 13. The vintage bottles are vintaged priced which is what affords the ability to keep them available 

In short, my trip to Barrelworks excited my already lofty expectations and you can bet whenever I find myself in Buellton during their hours of operation (Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m) I'll definitely stop by.



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