Monday, December 31, 2007

Dunedin Brewery

I have to be honest. I had almost written off this small Florida brewery. I received a bottle of their "Celtic Gold", a Kölsch-style ale for Christmas last year. Needless to say, I was not impressed. The beer was incredibly bland and plain.

I had heard rumblings that the brewery acquired a new brewmaster and I didn't want to pronounce judgment based on one beer I sampled out of a bottle. So Mom and I hit the road for Dunedin, a small town about 25 minutes outside of my parent's house in Tampa.

Dunedin was founded by two Scottish blokes, it gets its name from Scots the Gaelic Dùn Èideann meaning "Edinburgh" (the capital of Scotland). The brewery incorporates Celtic and Scottish themes into much of their decor and many of their beers. The two flags of Scotland adorn fermentation vessels as you enter the brewery. The sister city of Dunedin is Sterling, Scotland.

It's a local hang-out, tucked off the beaten path. Very atypical for a beach town in Florida. The building an decor is equal parts brewery, beach shack, and downtown loft. The barkeep was very friendly and knowledgeable, eager to talk beer. He informed me that they no longer bottle due to previous problems in quality control. They currently serve beer on site and also distribute kegs.

The beers on tap included:
Pictured: Piper's Pale and Christmas Farmhouse
  • Lowland Wheat Ale
  • Razzberry Wheat Ale
  • Apricot Wheat Ale -- Sampled out of a sample cup: Sweet, and fruity with a hint of sour wheat in the finish. Apricot nectar taste is very pronounced.
  • Redhead Red Ale
  • Beach Tale Brown Ale
  • Biere de Cafe -- Sampled out of a sample cup: Exellent coffee beer! Body is medium-light with rich cocoa and coffee bean notes. Reminds me of a coffee-infused New Belgium 1554 in that it has some mild roastiness without being anything like a stout or porter.
  • Piper's Pale Ale -- Ordered a pint: Very nice citrus/pine hop aroma. Caramel notes are kept to a minimum which allows the hops to shine through and allows this beer to remain incredibly thirst quenching. A great session beer, despite the 6% abv.
  • Nitro Stout (dry Irish stout)
Three seasonals were:
  • Bohemian Rhapsody Imperial Pilsner -- Sampled out of a sample cup: Aroma of lemon and orange peel. Medium mouthfeel with lots of fizz, backed up by peppery herbal and orange notes.
  • Brewmaster's Reserve I.P.A. -- Ordered a pint: Like a hoppier version of piper's pale, which is not a bad thing. Slightly more alcohol and more punchy citrus hops in the nose. Keeps in the theme of high drinkability set by the APA it's based on.
  • Christmas Farm Ale -- Ordered a pint: Funky and fruity with a robust caramel/biscuit backbone. Has some characteristic Belgian "funk", usually indicative of a secondary fermentation courtesy of wild yeast and/or bacteria. Some slightly sour, acidic notes balance out the Christmas cookie-like malt notes. I asked the bartender if any wild yeast/bacteria were used and he informed me that they were not! He did mention that the beer is re-fermented in secondary on sour cherries.
Guest Beers Included:

  • Rogue (John's Old Locker Stock) "Glen" - American Strong Ale: I was very surprised to see this on tap. I have never seen the "Locker Stock" edition beers on tap anywhere outside of Oregon.
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: always a solid choice.
  • Avery Hog Heaven o4' Barleywine (I didn't realize it was the 2004 vintage till I was typing this up!)
Overall, I was very impressed with the brewery. Great beer, ambiance, and a local crowd. I'd love to stay at a small getaway motel in Dunedin. Beach by day, beer by night.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Belgian Brewing in Greek Florida

Merry Christmas.

I'm in Florida visiting with my family for the holidays, but that hasn't stopped me from perusing new beer. I picked up a couple dozen bottles at the large wine/liquor depot. Last night I uncorked a beer and was marveling at how unique and enjoyable it was. Scanning the label, I noticed it is brewed in...Tarpon Springs, Florida? I was shocked. Tarpon Springs is a small Greek community located about 20 minutes from my parents' house in Tampa. I plan to visit there on my stay. For now a review of one of their beers will have to do:

The Beer: Lectio Divina
The Brewery:Saint Somewhere Brewing Company of Tarpon Springs, Florida
The Style: Belgian Strong Ale
ABV: 8%
Brewer's Description: Lectio Divina is brewed in the spirit of the abbey ales of Belgium. Brewed with the same care and attention to the Art of Brewing that is practiced in the monastic breweries of Belgium.
Color: Poured into Gator pint glass. Slightly hazy orange-copper with small white head.
Aroma: White grapes, apple cider, sweat, farmhouse smells
Taste/Mouthfeel: Thin, medium to high fizz. Lots of fruity esters and some grassy/sweaty notes. Some notes of exotic sweet cane sugar, apple juice, and ginger. Suggestions of white wine and a touch of woodiness and peppercorns.
Finish: Very tart and pronounced with citrus esters, no alcohol heat whatsoever. Some slight herbal hop as well. Finish is dry and satisfying.
Notes: This was a very enjoyable beer, not quite like anything I've ever had. It carries it's alcohol extremely well and is surprisingly easy to drink and refreshing. This almost reminds me of a Saison crossed with a Tripel. The beer has spicy, citrus, herbal, and grassy notes coupled with a typical Belgian "funk" that I describe as "sweat".

If I did not know any better I would think this is a genuine Belgian ale. I'm extremely impressed that a small brewery in Tarpon Springs is able to pump out such a wonderfully complex Belgian-style ale. Keep up the good work guys! This brewery could be well on-track to becoming the next Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.l

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ignorance to Beer Culture

I recently stumbled upon this blog post regarding beers the author(s) would never drink

I am constantly amazed by the ignorance of mainstream media to all things, including beer. The author(s) seem to have never even tried many of these beer. It reads like it was written on five minute google research.

6) Lambics are fermented with bacteria, and are enjoyed by many people. The sugar-infused lambics at Tapwerks Ale House where I work are very popular, especially with those that normally do not like beer.

5) I have never tried Randall before, but as a hophead and evangelizer of all things Dogfish Head, I'm sure I would enjoy the enormous hop aroma it imparts to finished beer.

4) You can find my review of Utopias here. I agree with them that is more like a cognac than a beer but it is still technically a beer. It's expensive but worth a shot.

3) I have had this pine ale before and it's delicious. Adding pine needles to beer was done before the widespread use of hops. It's not that far off when you think about it. Many hops impart pine-like character to beer.

2) I have never had this beer. I did have a toasted coconut porter at the Great American Beer Festival and it was fantastic!

1) Those who like light beer and enjoy livening it up with fruit slices will probably enjoy this. And this beer is aimed squarely at them.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Triple IPA, an update

I have previously spoke about a Triple IPA I home brewed. The time has come to drink it.

The Beer: Shiva's Revenge
The Brewery: Rooftop Brewing Co.(?) of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Style: Triple IPA
ABV: 8.2%
Brewer's Description: This Triple India Pale ale is based loosely on Russian River's "Pliny the Elder". Shiva's Revenge is hopped in the mash tun and then full wort hopped in the brew kettle. The ale is boiled for 90 minutes with bitter, flavor, and aroma hop additions. During secondary fermentation the beer is dry-hopped for 2 weeks using 3 different hop varieties. The clean malt backbone is provided by domestic two-row barley and caramel, carapils, and Munich malts. When all is said and done, Shiva is infused with over 2 POUNDS of hops delivering a massive 244+ International Bittering Units! Behold, Shiva: the Destroyer of Palates!
Color: Poured into a snifter glass. Pours a dark copper with red highlights when held to light. Solid 1 inch thick puffy, meringue head that lingers and leaves spongy lace down the side of the glass.
Aroma: Navel oranges and ruby red grapefruit dominate. Touch of lemon peal and subtle mango and strawberry aroma in the background.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Ample carbonation that gives way to green, vegetal hops. Bubbles give way to creamy smooth mouthfeel. Very faint caramel malts and some warming alcohol in the background with some minor astringency.
Finish: Initially crisp and dry. Gives way to colossal bitterness. Resins sting the mouth and stomp on the back of the tongue. Roof of the mouth is left dry and mouth-smackingly bitter.
Notes: This is easily the hoppiest beer I have ever made. I regularly brew a 49 IBU APA and I have brewed a 100 IBU IPA and 127 IBU DIPA. For this beer I aimed for massive amounts of hop flavor and aroma, and I think I succeeded. The aftertaste is so hoppy it sometimes feels like you ingested a small herb garden.

I also did not want his beer to be too "hot" and boozy. I was not aiming to make a thick, heavy IIIPA with a barley wine-class burn in the finish. This beer contains just enough malt to give it enough strength to hold all of the hoppiness. As a result the beer has a clean, dry finish and it is in no way sweet or alcoholic tasting.

My only complaint is that the hops taste a little too "fresh". With time I expect the green and astringent flavors to meld and mellow. The ale has only been in the bottle for 3 weeks, very young for a beer of this strength and bitterness.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Utopias: A Review

While not the strongest beer ever produced, Utopias is the strongest beer in production. It's also the strongest beer ever made without using the Eisbock-technique. I recently sampled the brew at Tapwerks Alehouse and Cafe in Bricktown, Oklahoma City (2 ounce shots can be had for $9).

The Beer: Sam Adams Utopias
The Brewery:The Boston Beer Company of Boston, Massachusetts
The Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 27%
Brewer's Description: To create Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams used traditional brewing ingredients including all four types of Noble hops, which add a slightly earthy, herbal taste. The spiciness of the hops really comes alive. In fact, Utopias MMII has even been described by some as almost "fiery" -- a fitting description for the strongest beer in history. Beyond the special brand of hops, Utopias features ingredients that truly set it apart from other varieties of beer. Utopias MMII contains caramel and Vienna malts for its rich amber color and several different types of yeast including a variety found in champagne. $100 a bottle and it's limited to 3000 bottles, which look like copper brew kettles.
Color: Poured into a shot glass. Brilliant, clear copper color. The bottle is just as opulent and excessive as it sounds. It's heavy and made of real copper, not a cheap commodity lately.
Aroma: Huge maple syrup followed by cognac and port notes. Intense sweet vapors sting the nostrils. Beer is completely flat (thus no head) and served at room temperature.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Deep, rich, sweet, and syrupy. Maple syrup dominates followed by pleasing walnut and toasted pecans. Other flavors present are honey, caramel, and toffee. No hop flavor whatsoever.
Finish: Very hot and stingy finish. You can feel the intense heat making its way to your stomach. The "fiery" descriptor given by The Boston Beer Company is dead on. The finish is also intensely sweet with no bitterness.
Notes: I expected this beer taste like jet fuel, but I was pleasantly surprised. The alcohol is strong but there are a wealth of other flavors. The neck of the bottle does indicate "ale brewed with maple syrup" and they must have used copious amounts of it. The pecan flavors are a treat, it literally tastes like fresh toasted pecans. This is definitely a beer to drink in small doses, it'd be a great dessert beer. Scratch that, I don't think I would consider this a beer. It's more like a "maple wine".

On a side note I have to chuckle at "champagne" yeast nod. It's done in a way that suggests champagne yeasts are sexy and exotic. They can be purchased at any home brew supply shop and are actually extremely cheap and common. Champagne yeast was likely chosen simply because it is the only strain that can withstand the extremely high alcohol levels without being killed off. Alcohol is a waste product of the yeasts' sugar consumption so they literally begin to drown in their own excrement.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Jerk Chicken

"Jerk" can be thought as "Jamaican BBQ". It's a very hot(traditionally from Scotch Bonnet peppers) and well-spiced (often thyme, nutmeg, allspice, cloves). I found the base for this recipe on Tabasco's website. I was so impressed with how well it came out that this has become a regular dish of mine.

  • 1.5lbs boneless skinless chicken breast.
  • 1/2 bottle Tabasco Habanero sauce (use A LOT less if you don't enjoy hot foods, probably a couple of teaspoons)
  • 2 tsp whole allspice (freshly ground, if using powdered, use half as much)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  1. Pierce chicken breasts repeatedly on both sides with a fork
  2. Add chicken breast to a large ziploc bag. Add all other ingredients to bag, seal, and mix well with hands being sure to rub the chicken until all breasts are completely covered.
  3. Marinate 8 hours to overnight. (I have marinaded for as little as an hour or as long as 3 days, I have found this to be the best period of time)
  4. Remove chicken from bag, discard marinade. Oil grill and grill till cooked all the way through. Serve with rice or other sides.

I chose to whip up this for a side:

Simple Mushrooms and Spinach

  • large handful of spinach
  • ~25 mushroom slices
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • splash of lemon juice (or a whole lemon squeezed)
  1. Melt butter on medium in a skillet. Once melted add garlic and let cook for one minute.
  2. Add mushrooms. Cook until golden brown or to desired doneness.
  3. Add spinach. Mix in well with mushrooms, coating the spinach with butter.
  4. Once spinach is wilted, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Allow to cook for one more minute.
  5. Remove from heat and serve!

Notes: As with most foods this hot, I recommend a very hoppy beer such as an APA or and IPA. I choose to pair this with New Glarus' IPA.

The clean bitterness and citrus/pine notes can hold up to the onslaught of heat provided by foods such as this one. The lemon notes in the spinach also complement the citrus notes of hte IPA nicely.

This recipe can be modified in numerous ways. Finely chopped onion can be substituted for the onion powder. Any number of sugars can be used. Table sugar, corn sugar, even molasses or honey. Nutmeg can be substituted for allspice, although I find allspice to have more pleasing flavors in this dish.

Friday, December 7, 2007

New Glarus Hop Hearty Ale

The Beer: Hop Hearty Ale
The Brewery: New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin
The Style: India Pale Ale
ABV: 6.1%
Brewer's Description: This Ale is brewed with the best of Old and New World hops. Then we infuse the aging tanks with a dry hop addition of Cascade and East Kent Goldings to bring home the hops! Expect this Ale to pour a glass brimming with rich caramel flavors along with an intense hop aroma
Color: Poured into Unibroue La Fin du Monde snifter. Dark caramel in color with a puffy white head that leaves lace behind.
Aroma: Pines, evergreens, grass
Taste/Mouthfeel: Fizzy (and surprisingly creamy) medium body with piney, clean-bitter hops up front. Gives way to biscuit notes, lightly toasted malts, and some caramelly sweetness.
Finish: Very clean, crisp, and bitter. Pine and some sour citrus with a subtle amount of earthy and herbal hops. Bitterness lingers but does not sting.
Notes: (This beer was purchased in New Glarus, Wisconsin. Unfortunately this brewery's beers can only be found in the badger state, although they are expanding the brewery in the coming months.) This is one of the beers that originally got me interested in hoppier, more bitter ales. It is very apparent that old and new world hops were used in its creation. Almost every major hop flavor component makes an appearance in some way. Pine, citrus, herb, and earthen notes are all present in this beer. Overall, what I enjoy most is the overall "cleaness" of this beer. It manages to be hoppy and quenching at the same time. This would make a great "session" IPA.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Eisbock

The Beer:
Kulmbacher Eisbock
The Brewery: Kulmbacher Brauerei (Schörghuber) of Kulmbach, Germany
The Style: Eisbock
ABV: 9.2%
Brewer's Description: The ice bock, also known as "Bavarian", owes its discovery to a coincidence. According to the chronicles of the Kulmbacher brewery, some time around 1900 an apprentice forgot on a cold winter day to carry two barrels of bock beer into the brewery cellar. The barrels stayed outside, were covered by ice and snow and weren’t discovered until the following spring. The barrels had burst and the apprentice was reprimanded. But the carelessness was a stroke of luck because under the thick ice coat, a bock beer extract remained, strong tasting and high in alcoholic content.
Even if the dark, tasty specialty is not produced in this spectacular way anymore, the chance that gave birth to this beer became a tradition. Today this beer rarity is brewed in a modern brewing and freezing process, but the incomparable taste is still the same and can always be enjoyed in winter months.

Color: Poured into Ayinger Celebrator glass. Dark chocolate brown with some deep red hues when held up to light. Minor suds on the surface, no real head. Label is "lazer" holographic in the same way that a really rad pog "slammer" is.
Aroma: Chocolate cookies, malted milk balls, some alcohol aromas.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Huge, thick sweet maltiness followed by a barrage of bubbles. Some toasted bread, anise, cinnamon, toffee, and brunt caramel round out the heavy body.
Finish: Finish will warm you from the inside-out. Sweet and alcoholic with no real hop bitterness. Some toasted nuts, burnt raisins, and maple syrup in the finish as well.
Notes: (My parents picked this beer up in Florida for me. It is unfortunately not distributed in my current state of Oklahoma) An Eisbock is made by taking a doppelbock and freezing it. The frozen water is then chipped away and the beer is melted once again. In a way this is a crude form of distillation. The beer is further concentrated empowering the sweetness of the malt and raising the alcohol levels. The second strongest beer ever brewed is a Japanese Eisbock.

This beer is a rare treat. Truly a beer for the winter it hides it's strength well until the finish. This is not a bad thing to me, I quite enjoy the warming se
nsation this beer provides as it glides down my throat.

Bock and Brown Sugar marinated Steak

Here's yet another recipe I found over at Allrecipes:



  1. Use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the steaks, and place steaks in a large baking dish. In a bowl, mix together beer, teriyaki sauce, and brown sugar. Drizzel sauce over steaks, and let sit about 5 minutes. Return bottle of beer to refrigerator.
  2. Sprinkle with 1/2 the seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder; set aside for 10 minutes. Turn steaks over, sprinkle with remaining seasoned salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and continue marinating for 10 more minutes.
  3. Begin preheating grill for high heat. Remove steaks from marinade. Pour marinade into a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for several minutes. Bring beer out of fridge.
  4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill steaks for 7 minutes per side, or to desired doneness (3 minutes for me). During the last few minutes of grilling, baste steaks with boiled marinade to enhance the flavor and ensure juiciness.
I recommend using a doppelbock/bock or stout/porter for this recipe. The bock will lend some extra sweetness while the stout/porter will add some roasted notes. The marinade lended a pleasing sweetness that wasn't over-powering. The juiciness of the steak still shines through the the salty/spicy/sweet balance of the marinade.

I paired this with the remaining beer. The alcohol in the bock was great at cleansing the greasy fat of the steak. The oak and vanilla complemented the sweet notes in the glaze nicely.

I have to say this is possibly the best marinade I have ever had, and it's extremely quick and dirty. Highly recommended!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bourbon Barrel Bock

The Beer: Bourbon Barrel Bock
The Brewery: New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin
The Style: Doppelbock (wood-aged)
ABV: N/A (I'm guessing around 9%)
Brewer's Description: Sublimely elegant this toffee toned bock is rich with a blend of Wisconsin and German barley malts. Over four months of resting in oak bourbon barrels gives this beer a wonderfully smooth body that will improve and mellow with age. Should you choose to enjoy this classic today, you can expect a treasure of vanilla, oak and carmel notes to be bolstered by hops from France, Slovenia and Germany. Wild Brett yeast sings in harmony to the tune of Bock. 20 degrees Plato OG makes this bourbon barrel a masterwork to remember.
Color: Poured into Ayinger Celebrator glass. Brilliant, clear, rich copper with a very minimal white head.
Aroma: Ethanol, bourbon, sweet malt.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Lots of oak and bourbon up front. Gives way to subtle, warming toffee and some suggestions of vanilla. No hop presence to be found. Body is very thin for this style.
Finish: Some warming alcohol in the finish with a touch of oatmeal cookie. No hop bitterness. Also some sweaty tang in the finish, likely caused by the Brett. If you can taste this it's something you will either enjoy or despise.
Notes: This beer was purchased in New Glarus, Wisconsin. Unfortunately this brewery's beers can only be found in the badger state, although they are expanding the brewery in the coming months. This was surprisingly thin for a doppelbock. I usually expect this style to be robust and malty, but the emphasis here was more on the bourbon notes augmenting a thin body. The alcohol definitely makes you aware of its presence, this is certainly a sipping beer. As I find myself saying with many wood-aged beers, I'd be curious to try this beer sans the barrel aging. I made an excellent marinade with this beer, more on that tomorrow!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Surly Santa's Stash

Today I'm brewing a winter seasonal beer, often called a "winter warmer". These brews are usually more generous in all facets. More alcohol, more hops, more malts, and often with the addition of holiday spices.

My recipes is loosely based on a porter crossed with an old ale. I'm attempting to create a beer with a solid malty-sweetness accented by toffee, caramel, and a touch of dark chocolate. I am not using any roasted barley, as I want to avoid getting into coffee/expresso flavors. I'm using the Munich and Vienna malts to provide maltiness, caramel malt for sweetness, and flaked barley for head retention and body.

Hops are only used for bittering in this recipe. I want the emphasis to be on the malt and the subtle spicing rather than any hop aromas or flavors. I have read that the magnum strain is a very "clean" bittering hop, I'll be using it only to balance the sweetness of the malt.

I am a huge fan of White Lab's Edinburgh Ale yeast, I used it in my Scotch Ale (Kilted Koch) which is one of my favorite beers. The strain is very adept at emphasizing the maltiness of the beers it ferments. For the other half of the batch I will be using a yeast strain I cultured from a bottle of Alesmith's Old Numbskull barley wine. I was drinking this when I brewed my last beer, saw a huge yeast cake at the bottom and decided I would try and grow it. It seems to have worked, but I have never tried this before so I'm a bit nervous.

  • Domestic pale 2-row malted barley
  • Domestic Vienna malt (4L)
  • Domestic Munich malt (20L)
  • Caramel 20L malt
  • Molasses
  • Domestic Chocolate malt (400L)
  • Bittering: Yakima Magnum (14% AA)
  • Flavor: None
  • Aroma: None
  • Dry: None
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 ounces crushed juniper berries
  • 1 lb molasses

Target Original Gravity: 1.075
Target Final Gravity: 1.015-1.020
IBU: 52
Color: 20.0 SRM

Target ABV: 7-8%

Friday, November 30, 2007

An English Barley Wine

The Beer:
Thomas Hardy's Ale
The Brewery: O'Hanlons of Whimple, Devon, England
The Style: English Barley Wine
ABV: 11.7%
Brewer's Description: Scarce, subtle and complex, Thomas Hardy’s Ale is the beer enthusiast’s equivalent of rare cognac. Bottle-conditioned to mature in the bottle like fine wine, this old ale/barley wine will improve with age for at least 26 years (and we’re still counting!). Not for the faint of palate, especially when young and brash, maturity brings an elegance of flavors unmatched by any other beer—if you have the patience to cellar it for at least a decade.
Color: Pours a rusty brown with almost no head.
Aroma: Some fruit: tangerines, currants. Spices are present as well: cinnamon notes and a touch of anise.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Very big, thick sweet malts. Some earthy spices are present. Woody and earthy hops balance out the sweetness of the malt beautifully.
Finish: Very coarse and bitter finish. Notes of toasted oak as well. Dry, woody lingering bitterness on the palate.
Notes: English barley wines tend to have less hop emphasis compared to their American brethren. They tend to use less finishing hops and and are usually not dry-hopped. Additionally English hop varieties are used rather than American Pac NW strains. This results in ales that have more emphasis on earthy, woody, and fruity tones rather than the bold citrus notes common in American versions.

Very interesting bottle donning an ornamental medallion. This was an enjoyable beer. The sweetness was strong, but not cloying. The alcohol made an appearance, but it didn't stay too long. For a beer that starts so sweet, the finish is surprisingly dry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

excuse the cellphone shot, I seem to have left my camera in Tampa

The Beer:
Hallertau Imperial Pilsner
The Brewery: Boston Beer Company of Boston, Massachusetts
The Style: Strong Lager
ABV: 8.8%
Brewer's Description: Yes, we're a little obsessed with hops. Every autumn for over twenty years, Jim Koch has traveled to one of the oldest hop-growing regions in the world, the Hallertau region of Bavaria in Germany, to hand-select Noble Bavarian hops, including the Hallertau Mittelfrueh variety. This special variety is considered to be one of the best in the world, prized for its unique taste and aroma. Samuel Adams® Hallertau Imperial Pilsner is a celebration of these extraordinary hops. This beer is one of the hoppiest in the world, without being overly bitter. With the first sip, you will experience an explosion of some of the world's finest hops. And we mean “explosion” in a good way. Brewed as a showcase for the hops, this bold brew highlights the spicy, citrus flavors and aromas of the Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops that are abundant in the recipe. The intense hops flavor is balanced with the slight sweetness from the malt. The brew remains pleasantly well-balanced from beginning to end, due to the quality of the hops, and continues to always be, well, "hoppy," providing hop lovers with an amazing beer drinking experience.
Available in 12oz. bottles.

Color: Dark cloudy yellow with a small white head that quickly dissipates and leaves lace behind.
Aroma: surprisingly fruity: white grapes, tangerines, and black currants with hints of vanilla and lemon grass. Some pungent, spicy herbal notes and sweet pale malts.
Taste/Mouthfeel: Some sweet malts initially. Flavors are not as complex as the aromas. Some light lemon notes and minor fruit. Very nice, stinging carbonation. Alcohol is very well masked.
Finish: The finish is long, dry, bitter, and delightful. Earthy dry resins linger on the back of the tongue and sides of the palate. The sweetness of the malts is obliterated by the hops backing up the finish.
Notes: A small, sterile font on the bottom of the label reads "ALE". This could be a frivolous government regulation or an indication that this beer actually uses top-fermenting ale yeast rather than bottom-fermenting lager yeast (as all true pilsners do). I found this interesting in that this beer is similar in many ways to a big IPA. The caramel notes and aromatic hops are missing but the finish is distinctively IPA. This is also incredibly fruity for a pilsner.

I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed this beer. I usually do not enjoy noble hops (such as Hallertau and Saaz) when used in massive quantities, but Boston Beer Company has done something interesting with the Hallertau strain in this brew. The last Imperial Pilsner I drank was from the Odell brewing company. I found it to be entirely too sweet and to have an odd, overpowering, almost oregano-like herbalness to it. This brew manages to downplay the sweetness and avoid the heavy herbal notes in favor of fruits and pleasing bitterness.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beer Exploits in the Old Stompin' Grounds

I was in back in the Sunshine State for Thanksgiving and managed to consume a few ales that can not be had here in the Sooner State. Most were sampled with friends and family. I visited a bar called 'World of Beer" it was located in an affluent cookie-cutter neighborhood. The crowd was text-book "yuppie" but the selection of beer was the largest I have ever seen in a bar. Some 20-30 beers on tap, but a staggering 500+ beers in bottle, all proudly displayed behind glass in a ginormous (Firefox says this is not a word but the dictionary states otherwise) walk in cooler.

behold some low-fi camera phone shots of the establishment:

I took the parents a sampling of my home brew. Due to recent restrictions on liquid that are annoying travelers and padding Proctor and Gamble's wallet, I had to check the bag containing the beer. I didn't lose any soldiers in transit, no broken bottles. Some leaks, but my sloppy capping is to blame rather than the haphazard handling by the "throwers". I used this same dedicated "beer bag" to bring back some brews purchased in Tampa. I am happy to report that these also made it safely back and I will be reviewing said brews periodically in the coming weeks.

  1. The Beer: Olde School Barley Wine
    The Brewery: Dogfish Head Brewery of Milton, Deleware
    The Style: Barley Wine (Winter Seasonal)
    ABV: 15%
    Brewer's Description: Inspired by a tale of a cask doctor who brought sluggish ales back to life by suspending a fig in them. Brewed from 100% Maris Otter pale ale malt, a blend of fine hops and conditioned on dates and figs. User Instructions: open bottle, pour contents into two snifters. Enjoy. ALTERNATIVELY: Walk hand-in-neck with bottle into the middle of the woods. Use shovel to dig 2x2 hole three feet deep. Seal bottle in plastic bag. Place in hole and pack with dirt. Memorize location and leave. Return exactly one year later. Dig up bottle, open and enjoy
    Color: Deep amber with a light haze, head is almost non-existent
    Aroma: ethanol and extra sweet fruit syrup smells dominate the nose
    Taste/Mouthfeel: Thick and syrupy. Beer starts off sickenly sweet, I thought I was not going to be able to finish this initially. Other flavors make vaguely noticeable guest appearances. Perhaps some apricot and/or mango nectars. Hot alcohol notes are present throughout.
    Finish: Some citrusy hop bitterness appears in the finish, but it is largely muted by the avalanche of over-bearing malty sweetness anf fusel alcohol notes. The sweetness is so thick that I would almost describe it as "slimey". It coats your palate with a film of syrup.
    Notes: I enjoy most of DFH's beers (as a brewery, they are one of my most admired) and barley wines are my latest obsession in the beer world. Naturally, I thought this would be a perfect match. I respect what they are trying to accomplish here, but this beer is entirely too sweet and generally "boozy" for me to enjoy (even as sipping beer). This sugar-fed jet fuel is worth a try if you're a die-hard barley wine fan, otherwise I would suggest skipping this beast. I suspect that a year or two of aging would temper the alcoholic notes, but I see the sweetness getting stronger as the hop compounds degenerate over time. Sam, if you're listening, please bring an aged sample to the Great American Beer Festival next year for further analysis.

  2. The Beer: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
    The Brewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, California
    The Style: India Pale Ale (Winter Seasonal)
    ABV: 6.8%
    Brewer's Description: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale represents a time honored tradition of brewing a special beer for the holiday season. There are generous portions of barley malts and fine whole hops of several varieties, creating a brew with a full, rich and hearty character.
    Color: Pours a ruby red with orange highlights, fluffy white head with lingering lacy suds on the glass.
    Aroma: Punchy grapefruit, some pines
    Taste/Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation that tingles the palate with grapefruit, citrusy bitterness. Bitterness gives way to some caramel sweetness but the emphasis is all on the hops.
    Finish: Dry, bitter, clean, and refreshing. Bitterness lingers in the sides of the mouth for almost an hour afterwards. This beer is bittered with Chinook hops and it definitely shows up in the finish.
    Notes: Holiday beers are usually contain some combination of spices, more alcohol, and more hops. Sierra Nevada's take is definitely the latter two. This is one of my favorite seasonals. For a beer of this strength and hoppiness it remains incredibly drinkable and refreshing. It's a peppy, bright, lively beer great for spirited conversations (and probably even some playful arguments) during the holiday season.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hops and Malt sans Alcohol?

I was mindlessly wandering the internet today, researching hops, when I stumbled upon this entry in Wikipedia: Julmust

It is an unfermented malt drink consumed in Sweden around Christmas time. It contains everything beer does with the subtraction of yeast and the addition of citric acid, color, spices, and preservatives. What would something like this taste like? If it's anything like unfermented beer, I'd have to pass. It's far to sweet to be a quaffable beverage.

The entry states that you can sometimes purchase the beverage at IKEA stores in the United States. The closest location from my apartment is down in Dallas. Fortunately my roomate has a borderline unhealthy fetish with the store and makes frequent trips. With a little luck I may be able to procure a bottle or two (and subsequently review it on this site).

Another curious aspect of Julmust: it can be "aged". A part of me wonders what would happen if you dropped some yeast into one of these bottles and attempted to ferment it. I'm going to go ahead and hypothesize that those "preservatives" would probably prohibit you from doing such a thing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Scotch Crotch

Some months ago I brewed a "Scotch Ale". The names "Kilt Lifter" and "Tilted Kilt" were already taken. In their absence my brash sense of humor came up with the following:

I used a free clip art image of a cockatrice that I vectorized and modified, my family tartan (from the Ross clan). And a heraldry shield that I colored to match the Scottish flag.

So what is a Scotch Ale exactly? To answer this, we must first define Scottish Ale. A Scottish ale is more or less an English Bitter style brewed in Scotland. The differences in the two styles derive from differences in the climates of Scotland and England. Scottish Ales are:
  • Less hoppy: hops do not grow in Scotland and were very expensive to import.
  • Maltier: robust Scottish malts such as Simpson's Golden Promise malt (a malt also used in The MacCallan single-malt scotch whisky) are employed.
  • Cleaner: Scottish ales were often fermented at cooler temperatures (many at lager-like temps) as a result of the naturally colder weather in Scotland. This resulted in cleaner, less-estery (read: fruity) ales.
  • Smoky: historically barley was malted using wood-fired methods which gave the malts a BBQ like smokiness. This is one aspect of the style that is controversial among homebrewers. The style may get its smokiness from Scottish yeast strains or from the use of modern, peat-smoked malts.
Scottish Ales are categorized according to archaic taxes on beer of varying strengths. There are three "levels" of Scottish Ale, which are generally identical in ingredients and vary only in the quantity of them (resulting in the increasing strength). All exhibit a low level of fruitiness, a medium level of maltiness, and a dry, light roasted finish. They may also exhibit earthy and smoky flavors. The ales are generally light amber to burnt red in color.
  • Scottish Light/60 shilling: 2.5-3.2% abv, brewed as a blue collar "session" beer
  • Scottish Heavy/70 shilling: 3.2-3.9% abv, slightly stronger "session" beer
  • Scottish Export/80 shilling: 3.9-5.0% abv, brewed stronger to better survive export to foreign markets
A very strong Scottish style of beer is termed Scotch Ale, 90/100 shilling, or "Wee Heavy" (all are interchangeable terms). It is similar to Scottish Ales but is much stronger, maltier, and sweeter. Hop bitterness is still kept to a minimum. The smokiness may be non-existent to very apparent. Color ranges from dark amber to almost black. Strength can range from 6% abv to well-over 10%. Like Scottish ales, Scotch ales often have a caramel-to-molasses sweetness derived from caramelization in the brew kettle over long boiling periods.

When brewing Kilted Koch, I was still brewing extract-based beer. This means the majority of the fermentables were derived from a malt syrup. I used an ungodly amount of said syrup and steeped Simpson's Golden Promise malt along with a pinch of roasted barley and peat-smoked malt. My aim was to give the beer a malty, roasty, and smoky character that extract alone could not provide. To add additional complexity, I boiled for three hours instead of the usual one. For hops I used a small amount of East Kent Goldings at the start of the boil.

In my humble opinion, this is one of the most solid beers I have ever made. The beer has a wonderfully rich molasses taste (many people think I literally used molasses in the recipe), a deep maltiness, and finishes slightly sweet with a twinge of whisky-like peatiness. The beer is deceptively smooth and it wears its 10+% abv gracefully. I hope to brew an all-grain version of this beer whenever my current keg runs out!

Monday, November 19, 2007


It says "food" in my banner, so here it goes:

I love curry. A few days ago I decided to attempt to make some of it. I've always been leery of making Indian food. I've tried it in the past, and while the results were good, there was something missing.

So I did some searching around on, made some user recommended adjustments, and came up with this:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (a red would go better, but I'm too cheap)
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons garlic-ginger paste
  • 3 tablespoons hot madras curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of Indian "extra hot" chili pepper (if you do not like your curry hot, I recommend using much, MUCH less.)
  • "splash" of IPA (optional/just for fun)

  1. Heat skillet to medium and add curry powders, garlic powder, and paprika. Let toast, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add olive oil, onions, shallots, and green peppers. Sautee until shallots and onions are browned.
  2. Add chicken, yogurt, milk, bay leaf, ginger root, and garlic-ginger paste. Bring ingredients to a boil, then allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add chili powder, garam masala, and IPA and simmer for an addtional 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with basmati or jasmine rice and naan bread.

The recipe worked out great. Lots of hot spiciness and a rich creamy texture. I found it fitting to pair this with an IPA. The extreme levels of hop bitterness present in the style are able to compete with the insane heat of the curry. The beer I chose was the recently released: Sierra Nevada Harvest Fresh Hop Ale.

Formerly known as simply "Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale", I first consumed this IPA at the Rogue Ales Public House in Portland, OR. I was surprised to hear on the McNellies Beer Blog that the beer is being distributed to the great state of Oklahoma. Previously, this IPA was only available on draft, and was rarely found outside the Pacific NW region of the US.

The beer competed with the curry nicely. The mouth-smacking bitter finish competed nicely with the heat of the Indian chili powder. As far as fresh-hop beers go, I still vastly prefer Great Divide's Fresh Hop Pale Ale. It's a much more aromatic brew. I felt the aromatics were a tad lacking in Sierra Nevada's brew. Also the caramel malts seem to muffle the hops too much for my liking.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Winter Warmers

Last night, I had a couple of friends over. We brewed what I hope will blossom into a magnificent barley wine. To stay toasty, we sampled two monstrous beers:

  1. The Beer: Old Numbskull
    The Brewery: Alesmith Brewing Company of San Diego, California
    The Style: Barley Wine
    ABV: 10%
    Brewer's Description: Bottle conditioned.
    Old Numbskull is AleSmith’s first barley wine offering. You may find the name "Old Numbskull" curious. Barley wine has its origins in England and tradition is to begin the name with "Old": Old Nick, Old Sampson, Old Jock, etc. Tongue-in-cheek is often the spirit in naming a barley wine. After drinking a glass or two, you may agree that Old Numbskull feels like a fitting description. It also reminds us of the Three Stooges, one of the greatest comedy teams of all time, so it's meant to bring a smile even before the first taste. Exotic fruit aromas, along with clean ethanol, caramel, honey and toasty notes are
    present in the nose. At five months of age, the Numbskull flavor begins malty and the hops become more evident from the middle to the finish and linger nicely in the aftertaste. The aroma notes also show themselves in the flavor.
    Color: Deep ruby with red hues, small white head.
    Aroma: mango, grapefruit, alcohol, sweet malt
    Taste/Mouthfeel: Medium-full mouthfeel with soft carbonation. Sweet caramel maltiness in the front, followed by bread toffee. Fades into papaya, passion fruit, dragon fruit, and some plum notes.
    Finish: Finish turns to bitter grapefruit peel, citrus oil, and pines. Lingering bitter finish in the sides of the mouth.
    Notes: Bottle purchased in Portland, OR. An outstanding barley wine, and an outstanding beer in general. I really enjoyed the rounded flavors that melded together on this one. Initially this brew is extremely sweet, but the citrus/pine punch comes in to keep the beer from being excessive. Sure to warm your core on brisk holiday nights. Highly recommended if you can get your hands on it!

  2. The Beer: Allagash Curieux
    The Brewery: Allagash Brewing Company of Portland, Maine
    The Style: Abbey Tripel/Wood-aged beer
    ABV: 11%
    Brewer's Description: Allagash Curieux is a unique beer that was aged for 8 weeks in Jim Beam Bourbon Barrels. In July 2004 they brewed a batch of the Triple and placed it in Bourbon barrels from Kentucky. December '04 bottles labeled as 11% ABV.
    Color: Poured a cloudy gold
    Aroma: Sour, sweaty, funky, vinegar, wood chips
    Taste/Mouthfeel: Ample carbonation dances on the tongue. It quickly subsides and gives way to a puckering punch of sourness. The body is peppered with strong notes of cedar, sawdust, and oak. Suggestions of juniper, pine needles, spruce tips. Perhaps just a touch of mint.
    Finish: Dry and sour. Leaves the mouth puckering. Some hints of bourbon and some stiff alcohol.
    Notes: Bottle purchased in Portland, OR. This beer was certainly an experience. I'm glad to have tried it, but I could do without taking this little taste-bud assault in the future. Truly unlike any other beer I've tasted, I think I would have enjoyed it more sans barrel aging. The wood and the sourness (from Brett, I'm guessing) really overpower the crisp and estery notes of the tripel struggling to get out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

High Alpha Brewing at a Low-Yield Time

A week ago today, I decided to brew a Triple IPA. I did not think much about the coming shortage of hops, I had a bunch stock-piled in the freezer from beers I meant to (but never did) make. Now, one week later the time has come to move the beer to the secondary fermenter and dry-hop it.

Then I realized the strains I had settled on for my recipe were in short supply. After doing some scrounging around at home brew shops and online I eventually was able to get my hands on some Columbus, Chinook, and Centennial hops. All is well with the world again. Here's a summary of what the currently nameless hop-bomb is composed of:

  • American 2-row barley malt
  • Cara-pils Malt
  • Caramel 40 malt
  • Corn sugar
  • Mash Hop: Amarillo
  • Full Wort Hops: Chinook, Amarillo
  • Bittering Hop: Chinook
  • Flavor Hops: Centennial, Columbus
  • Aroma Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial
  • Dry Hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Columbus
  • WLP001 California Ale (5 gallons)
  • WLP007 Dry English Ale (5 gallons)
Original Gravity: 1.072
IBU: 214

Expected ABV: 7-8%

Today, I'm going to brew a mammoth Barleywine using of the Triple IPA yeast cake. Barleywine is a style I have never brewed before, largely because my love of this style is a recent revelation. I am aiming for a grapefruity, citrus, bittersweet beer that improves as it warms. Rouge Old Crustacean, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, and Great Divide Old Ruffian are my inspiration. Here's some background on the monstrosity that will be keeping me warm through the Oklahoma winter:

Name: The Ancient One

  • American 2-row barley malt
  • Munich malt
  • Cara-pils malt
  • Caramel 60 malt
  • Caramel 120 malt
  • Bittering Hop: Chinook
  • Flavor Hop: Centennial
  • Aroma Hops: Centennial, Cascade
  • Dry Hop: Centennial
  • WLP001 California Ale (5 gallons)
  • WLP007 Dry English Ale (5 gallons)
Anticipated Original Gravity: 1.110-1.120
IBU: 96

Expected ABV: 11-14%

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pan-Seared Pilsener Sirloin Tips with Herbed Pecan Orzo and Shiitake-Blue Cheese Sauce

Here is my latest preperation from "The Best of American Beer & Food":

Sirloin Tips:
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef sirloin tips
  • 1 cup Pilsener (I used my Belgian-style pale ale)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper sauce (I used 4 tsp of Tabasco Habanero)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Herbed Pecan Orzo:
  • 1 cup orzo (I could not find orzo, so I used 1.5 cup of mini penne)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt (used sea salt)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted (I preheated the oven to 300F, spread on cookie sheet and let bake for 10 minutes, removed and chopped in food processor)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped (I have discovered these are about 5 times cheaper at an Asian grocery)
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and finely sliced (I used some nameless brown mushrooms I found at the Asian market. The workers there were Vietnamese and could not direct me to the shittake mushrooms)
  • 3 ounces of Pilsener (I used the fabulously cheap Lion's Head Pilsner)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (sea salt)
  • 2 tablespoons flour (used whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (used Gorgonzola, as I prefer its taste)
    Rosemary sprigs for garnish

  1. Marinate sirloin tips in a large ziploc bag with Pilsener, Worcestershire, pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. At least 20 minutes (I marinated for 48 hours)
  2. Cook pasta in according to packaging instructions. Strain and add butter and herbs, mix well, set aside, and cover to maintain heat.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Brown sirloin tips for 1-2 minutes on each side or until brown. Remove, set aside, and cover with aluminum foil. Do not throw out marinade!
  4. Melt butter in skillet used to cook steak. Add shallot and mushrooms. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in beer and allow to completely absorb and evaporate. Add salt and flower and stir to coat. Add reserve marinade and boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat to low and cook for 4 minutes, stirring frequently or until the liquid is reduced by half.
  5. Cut sirloin tips into strips and return to the skillet. Cook until desired doneness (1-4 minutes).
  6. Arrange pasta on serving plate. Pour steak and sauce over the top. Sprinkle with cheese crumbles and garnish with fresh rosemary.
The recipe turned out excellent. This is an extremely hearty meal. I was surprised by how quickly I was full and how much I had left over. The book notes that this makes 4 to 6 servings, which is about right. The flavors all meld beautifully. My only complaint is that it came out a bit too salty. I will probably omit the salt editions next time as the beef broth and Worcestershire provide enough salt on their own.

The book recommends pairing this dish with an American dark lager or nut brown ale. I paired it with my own doppelbock "Liberator", and I have too say that the maltiness was a bit too much when coupled with the hearty mushroom sauce. I agree with the book that a nut brown ale would be a perfect complement to the toasty, nuttiness provided by the pasta while still being light enough to cut through the thick sauce.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hop in

Hops can be harnessed in beer using a myriad of methods. But first, a Reader's Digest version of how beer is made:

  1. Cracked grain (e.g. malted barley) is added to a large vessel called a mash tun. Hot water (150F-160F) is added to the tun and the grain is allowed to steep at this temperature for about an hour.
  2. The liquid is drained off the grain, leaving the grain behind. The sweet liquid is called "wort". As the liquid is being drained, more hot liquid is being used to rinse the grain, this is called sparging.
  3. The wort is then transferred to the brew kettle where it is brought to a boil and boiled for 60 minutes or more. Hops are added and let to boil for varying times depending on the application.
  4. The wort is rapidly cooled to room temperature using a chiller. Once room temp is reached the wort is transferred into a fermenter. Yeast is pitched into the beer and mixed.
  5. The yeast-infused wort is then aerated with oxygen to make fermentation more vigorous.
  6. The beer is allowed to ferment, anywhere from 2 weeks to several months. Once fermentation is complete the beer may be aged in a cold vessel, then kegged or bottled.

Mash Tun Hops: Added to the mash tun and steeped with the grains during the mash. The aroma hops are usually used for this application. This adds extra hop flavor and aroma.

Brew Kettle Hops:

  • "Full Wort Hop": This hop is added to the brew kettle as the wort is being transferred from the mash tun. This allows the hop to steep in the wort before it is boiled, contributing more hop flavor and aroma to the beer. Once the brew kettle is filled, the hop addition goes through the entire boil.
  • Bittering Hops: These hops are boiled for an hour or more. They are used only to bitter the beer and contribute no flavor or aroma.
  • Flavor Hops: These hops are boiled for about 30 to 15 minutes and contribute hop flavors to the beer and medium levels of bitterness.
  • Aroma Hop: This hop is boiled for 15 minutes or less. It primarily contributes hop aroma and some flavor. Bitterness contribution is minimal.
Alternate Hopping Methods:
  • Dry Hopping: Adding aroma hops into the fermenter post-boil. This imparts huge hop aromas to the beer without adding bitterness. The hops are left in the fermenter for 2 weeks or more.
  • Wet Hopping/Fresh Hopping: Relatively new process by which fresh hops are used in place of the traditional dried hops and hop pellets. This adds a unique "green" aroma and flavor to the beer and adds unique and pungent aromas. Process was first used by Sierra Nevada for their Harvest Ale.

To India: With Love

The India Pale Ale (IPA) style started in England. The country was occupying India and ale had to be shipped around Africa, through the Cape of Good Hope, to the English colonies there. Pale ale was popular at the time and the beer was having trouble "surviving" (read: not spoiling or souring) the long ocean voyage. Brewers began to make a special export pale ale for troops in India. It was similar to a pale ale but stronger. To aid preservation of the beer, this pale ale contained more alcohol (for its preservative effects) and more hops (for their mild antibiotic effects). This new style came to be known as India Pale Ale.

From India to America

American craft brewers began to take this idea and run with it. Punchy Pacific Northwest-grown hops are far more potent than their brethren across the pond. The "American" India Pale Ale was born. In place of the earthy and fruity hops used in the English version, the state-side version contained bolder, stronger, citrus-type hops (such as cascade, chinook, and centennial). The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) now distinguishes between English-style and American-style IPAs.

Birth of DIPA
Fueled by the "bigger, bolder, better" mentality, craft brewers in the states continued to push the envelope. More hops! More alcohol! Stronger hops! Dry-hopping! Wet-hopping! Continuous hopping! This new, stronger, and more bitter IPA came to be known as an "Imperial" or "Double" IPA. The first example of this style is often considered to be Blind Pig IPA, brewed by the late Blind Pig Brewing Company. Head brewer Vinnie Cilurzo has since started another brewery, Russian River, and has re-acquired the rights to the Blind Pig name.

Double is beginning to take over in usage. "Imperial" was first used to describe "Russian Imperial Stout", a stronger version of English stout beer brewed for the imperial court in Russia. Imperial is often used to mean "a stronger version of" in craft brewing e.g. "Imperial Red", "Imperial Pilsner", etc. However, there is a growing movement to call these "double" in place of "Imperial". Many craft brewers feel using the "Imperial" descriptor for anything other than stout is incorrect.

The Unquenchable Thirst for more Bitterness
Craft breweries continue to push even further on hops and alcohol levels of their IPAs. Some breweries have begun making beers which they label "triple" IPAs. This style has yet to be officially recognized by the BJCP (it can be thought of as an intensely hoppy barleywine in some regards), but that hasn't stopped adventurous craft breweries from brewing massive 10+% abv, 100+ IBU monstrosities of hoppiness.

Notable IPAs:
Bridgeport IPA, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Stone India Pale Ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Bell's Two Hearted Ale, Surly Furious, Odell India Pale Ale

Notable DIPAs:
Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Stone Ruination IPA, Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA, Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Pizza Port Lou P. Lin, Pizza Port Hop Suey Double IPA

Notable "Triple" IPAs:
Russian River Pliny the Younger, Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA, Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Addition by Subtraction

Ever since I have been doing 10 gallon batches of home brew I have been splitting each batch into two equal-sized partitions. In doing this, I can use two different yeast strains on the same recipe and compare the final results.

Almost 5 weeks ago I brewed what is termed a "heather ale". This is a historical Scottish style of beer in which heather tips are used in place of hops. The use of hops in brewing is a relatively recent development in the grand history of beer. Some even say the first beer contained heather.

Problem: I had neglected to rack this beer to a secondary fermenter for far too long. I kept putting it off. I like to time my brewing so that I can syphon a week-old beer off of the yeast (and into the secondary fermenter) and immediately syphon a freshly brewed beer on to the yeast cake. I had planned to ferment an imperial milk stout on the yeast cakes of the heather ale, but I could never make the time, didn't have the equipment, etc.

Yesterday, I gave up on reusing this yeast. I decided I would just rack the beer into secondary and pitch some fresh yeast when I brew the imperial milk stout. I didn't want to risk off-flavors associated with leaving the beer on the yeast for an extended period of time.

The two yeast strains I used were White Labs Irish Ale Yeast (WLP004) and Wyeast Scottish Ale Yeast (1728). I began to siphon the beer off the Irish Ale yeast, I took a sample for taste and to take the final gravity reading (it was 1.010). Tasted great, no off-flavors. Had a delightfully smooth and creamy mouthfeel with a finish that is both biscuity and flowery.

Then I did the same for the beer on the Scottish Ale yeast....

Something was wrong, the aroma was sour. I took my sample out and continued to siphon the beer into the secondary fermenter. Once I was finished I sat down and tasted it. It smelled of sweet vinegar and cherries! The taste was tart and sour with a touch of sweetness. The beer is contaminated with some sort of organism. Which one it is, I'm not sure. The taste is very similar to that of Flemish-style sour ales such as Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne.

I'm trying to figure out how half the batch became contaminated. This little mistake will still be bottled and aged (possibly on oak chips), I'll probably enter this happy accident into some home brew competitions as a Flanders red and see how it fairs.

Here are the front and back labels I cooked up for the heather ale. I used a picture my friend over at We Are Cartographers took of my traversing Holyrood park in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tasting Beer: Some Starting Points

I used to find it silly and pretentious, the way some would describe beer. The more varied my taste for beer has become, the more my sensitivity has grown. As you expand your love of beer and sample increasingly challenging beers, you will begin to appreciate nuances you never noticed before.

For instance, I never liked hoppy beers for years. I kept giving them a chance every few months, and now my favorite styles incorporate massive amounts of the little flowers. The last remaining style that I disliked was "barley wine", a bittersweet mega-alcoholic brew. This is now one of my favorite kinds of beer. I appreciate it in ways I never thought I would.

Here is a descriptive guide for what to look for in tasting beers. These are words I've read from other sources (such as the late, great, Michael Jackson) as well as words I have just come up with from my own experiences. I must warn, many of them are probably not what is legally considered "English".

Hop-derived aromas/flavors: floral/flowery, citrus, fruit salad, grapefruit, water melon, lemon, orange, peach, strawberry, black currants, woody, earthy, herbal, oregano, piney/pine needles, resiny, sappy, grassy, catty (cat urine/litterbox), lemongrass, sweat

Malt/sugar derived aromas/flavors: biscuit, cracker, bread, rye, wheat, corn, toast, toasty, roasty, coffee, espresso, dark chocolate, cocoa, toffee, grainy, cookie, dough, caramel, burnt, smoky, sweet, creamy, malty, molasses, rummy, cidery, dark fruits: raisins, prunes, dates, plums, figs, hay, anise, liquorice, tobacco, nutty, almond, bourbon, alcohol, wood/oak, brown sugar, meat/bacon/BBQ/campfire, maple syrup

Yeast/fermentation dervied aromas/flavors: spicy, white grapes, phenolic, cloves, bananas, black pepper, coriander, citrus, smoke, estery(fruity flavors), sweat, yeasty, "funk", vinegar, sour, horsey(saddle blanket), barn flavors, tart, leather

Other random aromas/flavors: coriander, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, anise, fennel, tea, perfume, rosehips, fruits(added to the beer), chamomile, chocolate, juniper, spruce, heather, ginger

Negative flavors and off-flavors (in some styles of beer these may be desirable, most of the time they are not): vinegar, sour, tart, cooked corn, vegetal, astringent (think biting into a grape stem, sucking on a tea bag), cidery, wet cardboard, soapy, barn flavors, horsey, medicinal, band-aid, buttery/butterscotch(this tastes like a buttered popcorn Jelly Belly to me, in fact it is in ingredient in that candy and is the cause of "popcorn lung"), meaty, metallic/blood, solvent ("hot"/harsh alcohol flavors), cloying (sickenly sweet/syrup), stale, musty, stale, skunky

Moutfeel: sticky, smooth, fizzy, tingling, soft, flat, thin, thick, creamy

Finish: crisp, fruity, sweet, bitter, lingering, malty, hoppy

General take-aways:
  • Always pour beer into a glass first (style-appropriate glassware is another discussion all-together). Drinking from a bottle does not allow the beer to hit all flavor centers on your tongue and over-emphasizes the bitter taste-buds on the back of the tongue.
  • These adjectives are just a starting point. If you think a beer tastes or smells like something, write it down!
  • Try joining a site like ratebeer or Beer Advocate to keep track of your notes.