Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Beer

Merry Christmas from Kudy the dog

Merry Christmas! Before flying home to Florida for the holidays, I decided to sample two more winter offerings available in the Northwest.

The Beer: Alaskan Winter Ale
The Brewery: Alaska Brewing Company of Juneau, Alaska
The Style: Winter Warmer/Old Ale
ABV: 6.4%
Brewer's Description: Style: English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol, Olde Ales are brewed in the fall as winter warmers.

Flavor Profile: Brewed in the style of an English Olde Ale, this ale balances the sweet heady aroma of spruce tips with the clean crisp finish of noble hops. Its malty richness is complemented by the warming sensation of alcohol.

History: From the seafaring adventurers of the 1700s to the homebrewers of today, adding spruce tips to beer has a rich history in Southeast Alaska. The tender new growth of Sitka spruce tips lends a delicious, yet subtly sweet floral aroma to tea, jelly and now Alaskan Winter Ale.

Ingredients: Water, malt, hops and yeast with no adjuncts, no preservatives and no pasteurization. Our glacier-fed water originates in the 1,500-square-mile Juneau Ice Field. A complex blend of six malts including Pale, Wheat, Munich and caramelized malts. Prized Czechoslovakian Saaz hops and Sitka spruce tips.

Color: Poured into pint glass, deep yellow, slightly cloudy. Healthy white head.
Aroma: Very sweet malty aroma
Taste/mouthfeel: medium carbonation, medium creamy mouthfeel. Very sweet "buttered-biscuit" malt flavors that give way to some mild fruity esters.
Finish: very subtle piney bitterness in the finish with some faint peppery spicy notes.

Notes: Purchased at Rosauers Supermarket in Spokane, WA. A slightly different take than the other winter beers I've reviewed, this beer is the lightest in color and the tastes is much more on the sweet malty notes. There is some bitterness in the finish but the focus seems to be primarily on the malt. I did not detect any specific spruce tip notes, I didn't realize the beer was made with spruce tips until reading the label. The brewery probably used lower hopping rates so the hops wouldn't compete with the flavors imparted by the spruce.

The Beer: Dicks Double Diamond Winter Ale
The Brewery: Dick's Brewig Company of Centralia, Washington
The Style: Winter Warmer/America Strong Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Brewer's Description: Northwest style winter seasonal bold enough to get you through the weather. We fill the mash tun to the top with lots of Northwest premium 2-row malted barley, plenty of rich Munich malt, a full bag of sweet caramel malt, lots of crisp malted white wheat, and a touch of highly roasted black barley. This kind of big beer requires several healthy additions of hops with real character for backbone and finish. We don’t call it Double Diamond for nothing.

Color: poured into pint glass. Dark, transparent brown, small, thin white head.
Aroma: Wow, spicy! Cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, caramel.
Taste/mouthfeel: medium-heavy body, medium-high carbonation. some mild spiciness (much milder than the aroma would suggest) followed by dark fruity esters. (dates? raisins?)
Finish: the finish is huge and very warming on the throat. Course, scratchy hop bitterness (Chinook hops perhaps?) followed by some winter spices (cinnamon?). Noticeable lingering hop resin bitterness on the tongue.

Notes: Purchased at Huckleberry's Supermarket in Spokane, WA. This is definitely a BIG beer meant for sipping. I don't think there are any spices in this ale, but the malt complexity and warming alcohol notes definitely add some spiciness. This beer is big on the malt and tremendous on the hops. This is the kind of beer to be savored slowly on a cold day. "Nursing" is perfectly acceptable for a beer of this magnitude.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Seasonal Ales: Powder Hound and Jubelale

This is the time of year when
breweries start to roll out their winter ales (and lagers). There is no one school of thought on what a winter ale should or should not be. They are often stronger and/or hoppier than the typical beers produced by the brewery. Many breweries model their winter ales after stronger English ales which were traditionally brewed in the winter. These celebratory beers were usually malty, darker (amber to brown) beers with ample bittering hops for balance. I chose to review two such "Winter Warmers" from a pair rapidly growing Northwestern craft brewers.

The Beer:
Powder Hound
The Brewery: Big Sky Brewing Company of Missoula, Montana
The Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.2%
Brewer's Description: Powder Hound is our Winter Ale, and since it is our own creation we call it a Northern Rockies Strong Ale. Powder Hound satisfies, with the fine hand selected British hops fully complimenting the smooth malt notes. After a day on the ice or in the snow, enjoy a Powder Hound Winter Ale. Available November through March.

Color: Poured into Yakima Fresh Hop Festival pint glass, deep ruby red in color when held to light, otherwise approaching brown. Thin creamy off-white head that leaves lace.
Aroma: cranberry notes? Brown sugar and some darker fruits.
Taste/mouthfeel: medium carbonation, medium creamy mouthfeel. Fruity esters up front fading to medium toasted malt notes.
Finish: pronounced, but not overpowering, hop bitterness. I would never call this beer "hoppy", but it has enough hops to balance the sweetness of the malt. Specific hop flavors are not apparent.

Notes: Purchased at Rosauers Supermarket in Spokane, WA. An enjoyable, if safe, winter ale. Showcases bolder malt and hop notes than a typical beer of this strength while maintaining a surpisingly amount of "drinkability". This beer tastes much better when it is allowed to warm up for about 15 minutes. Served cold, much of the nuances in the malt are masked by the bitterness.

The Beer: Jubelale
The Brewery: Deschutes Brewing Company of Bend, Oregon
The Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 6.7%
Brewer's Description: Jubelale is classified as a "Strong Ale" or an "English Olde Ale," and has ties to the traditional Celebration Ales of England. Characterized by a very large malt body and pronounced bitterness, Jubelale contains five different varieties of hops and a healthy amount of caramel. The perfect ale for surviving the long, cold nights of winter. Our tradition is having a different local artist design our Jubelale label & packaging each year. October - December - draft and bottles

Color: Poured into pint glass, dark brown in color with ruby hues. Thicker and much creamier off-white head than the Powder Hound.
Aroma: very little aroma, I'm having a hard time picking up anything! Perhaps some raisin notes?
Taste/mouthfeel: medium-low carbonation, medium creamy mouthfeel. Creamy, toated-bread malt notes up front, quickly giving way to bitterness.
Finish: the hop bitterness here is a bit much for the beer, in my opinion. I adore hoppy beers but this beer packs a bit too much hop bitterness that overpowers any malt-derived flavors in the ale. Some mild citrus hop notes in the finish.

Notes: Purchased at Rosauers Supermarket in Spokane, WA. Similar to the Powder Hound with much more hop bitterness, a bit too much for my taste. I love hoppy beers, but I expect beers like this to have some rich warming maltiness. I would rather drink a pale ale or IPA when in the mood for a bitter beer. The hop bitterness here is too in conflict with the malt flavors. Instead of balancing them, it competes with them. While the Powder Hound is balanced by the hops, this beer is slightly off the mark. I should note that I still enjoyed the beer, I just feel that it could become even better with a little restraint on the bittering hops.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grand Teton Brewing XX 20th Anniversary Mountainberry Double Wheat Ale

The Beer:
20th Anniversary Double Wheat Ale
The Brewery: Grand Teton Brewing Co. Inc. of Victor, Idaho
The Style: Fruit Beer (base beer is a wheat wine)
ABV: 7.6%
Brewer's Description: To commemorate that twenty-year history, the brewers of Grand Teton have chosen four of our favorite beers--three current, one historical--to update and enhance. XX Mountainberry Double Wheat Ale is the second release in our 2008 XX series. Grand Teton's original fruit beer, Huckleberry Wheat, was brewed for about five years beginning more than a decade ago. It was light and sparkly, with just a hint of sweet-tart mountain huckleberry. This year's celebratory version is bigger in every way--more than double the original's malt, fermented to 7.6% alcohol by volume, then flavored with more than a pound per gallon of fresh Pacific Northwest huckleberries, blueberries and marionberries. Bold and flavorful, XX Mountainberry Double Wheat makes a wonderful aperitif, or try it with a balsamic vinaigrette salad, glazed ham, duck a l'orange or fruity dessert.

Color: Poured into an Allagash Belgian-style glass, deeply copper with a marshmallowy white head that rapidly dissipates. Bottle of the large (1 quart, 1.8 fl oz), flip-top variety (perfect for re-use in homebrewing). The top has been dipped in purple wax, which is common for beers capable of aging.
Aroma: funky wheat and jammy huckleberry notes, perhaps a touch of ethanol
Taste/mouthfeel: high carbonation stings the tongue up-front, bubbles give way to a well-attenuated, thin body with somewhat hot alcohol notes. Berries do not show up on the palate with the intensity they do on the nose. Beer has a vinous, wine-look quality with faint, generic, fruity notes.
Finish: very faintly sweet finish with heady, warming alcohol notes. For only 7.6% (this may be high for some, but I like stronger ales) you can sure feel it going down.

Notes: Purchased at Huckleberry's Fresh Market in Spokane, WA. I did not know what to expect of this strong wheat ale. I will say that it grew on me a bit with every sip. It is initially quite jarring, but once your taste buds acclimate to the flavors it becomes a bit more subtle and complex. It is certainly a unique beer with a distinct taste. The brewing of strong or "imperial" wheat ales (often called "wheat wines", patterned after the strong barley-based beers "barley wines") is a fairly new trend in the microbrew community. As such, I do not have very much experience with the style. This one happens to be augmented with various wild berries of the Inland North West.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Avery Redpoint Ale

The Beer: Redpoint Ale
The Brewery: Avery Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado
The Style: American Amber Ale
ABV: 5.1%
Brewer's Description: Some beer lovers enjoy a rich, malty brew, while others go more for hoppy beers. Our brewmaster likes both - as evidenced by this rich and caramelly amber ale with the distinct flavor and bouquet of Cascade hops. Reaching the perfect balance of crystal malt sweetness and hop bitterness took plenty of time and effort, making Redpoint the perfect beer for toasting your most recent success.

Color: Poured into gator pint glass, transparent deep amber with fluffy white head which leaves generous lacing
Aroma: caramel maltiness up front balanced by citrusy hops
Taste/mouthfeel: medium to low carbonation which allows rich caramelized malts to express themselves. Flavors of toasted bread, brown sugar are present along with some faint nuttiness.
Finish: relatively malty body gives way to a medium-dry hoppy finish. Some minor resin on the tongue. Hops are of the pungent, Pacific NW variety that remind one of grapefruit.

Notes: Purchased at Publix grocery in Tampa, FL. I really enjoyed this beer. It reminds me of an ESB that has had its woody/earthy English hops replaced with punchy American varieties (this is actually how the "American Amber" style came to be developed). At 5.1% abv it's a fantastic session beer. Repoint is very quaffable but still packs ample amounts of flavor on both the malt and hop fronts. Amber ales are, stylistically, more malty (and thus balanced) versions of APAs. This is a stunning, balanced, benchmark example of the style, are you listening Anheuser-Busch?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Father of Homebrewing's "Top Five" Beers

A friend, Charlie, and myself.
With the (sold out) Great American Beer Festival looming in a couple of days I have been unable to contain my anticipation. I decided to go see what Charlie is up to...

Charlie Papazian is the founder of the Brewer's Association (which puts on the epic Great American Beer Festival annually in downtown Denver, a must-see event for anyone into craft beer) and writer of the foremost guide on homebrewing “The Joy of Homebrewing” (which single-handedly taught me how to brew). A highlight of my simple life was getting to meet this man at last year’s GABF.

Being such an iconic figure in brewing, he is often asked to name his favorite beer. While Charlie hesitant to name any specific beer, here are some picks he recently listed for his “Beer Examiner” column:

  1. Best lager beer with a thick juicy barbecued-to-perfection steak - Kings & Vagabonds Czech lager (homebrew). Gordon Biersch Czech-style lager (Brewpub nearest you)

  2. Best ale with hearty stew – Dusty Mud Irish-style stout (homebrew). Mountain Sun Old School Stout (Boulder, Colorado).

  3. Best Belgian Trappist ale by a fireside - Westvletern 12

  4. Best Belgian Trappist (style) with Lasagna - Leftmalle Dubbel-style (homebrew). Westmalle Dubbel

  5. Best beer with Sushi – Lefthand Brewing Co. JuJu Ginger ale (Longmont, Colorado)

Note that (in addtional to legendary Trappist ales such as Westvletern 12), Charlie recommends primarily local brews (he resides in Boulder, CO). Papazian also notes that most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, and urges the reader to drink the beer that's made closest to where they reside (be it a brewpub or your own homebrew). Amen Charlie! You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Help me brew

Homegrown hops from my front yard!

I am finally starting to settle in to my new home in Spokane, Washington. I've started to rent a house and, to my surprise, the previous tenant had quite the green thumb! Among other things, I now have spearmint and hops growing in my yard! I've finally begun to unpack my belongings and my brewing setup is aching for some fresh wort.

But I'm at a crossroads of brewing. I haven't brewed in so long (about 7 months) that I have an abundance of ideas and seemingly little time to implement them. Let's start with the basic ingredients I have on hand:

50# American two-row barley malt (base grain)
5# Munich 10L malt (specialty grain)
5# Crystal 40L malt (specialty grain)
5# Carapils malt (specialty grain)

1# of “Spokane” Goldings whole hops (homegrown, unkown AA%)
3oz Amarillo hop pellets (8% AA)
3oz Summit hop pellets (18%[!] AA)
3oz Saaz hop pellets (2.5% AA)
1oz Hallertau Select hop pellets (2% AA)

Whitelabs WLP001 California Ale Yeast (a very clean all-purpose strain, I usually use it for APAs and IPAs)
Whitelabs WLP028 Edinburgh Scottish Ale Yeast (cooler fermenting, maltier strain. I usually use it for stouts, porters, scotch ales, and English ales)

Here are some ideas I’ve been throwing around:

1) Harvest Pale Ale: Using the Amarillo (my personal favorite hop) for bittering and flavor additions and “wet-hopping” with fresh-from-the-vine goldings hops. The Goldings would be used for aroma hops and for dry-hopping. This would be a 5%-6% abv pale ale with a huge hop nose. I would shoot for 35-45 IBU.

2) Mild Ale/Bitter/”Blonde”/Golden Ale/Cream Ale: A milder, easier drinking beer that is quaffable enough to not scare my small group of inland NW friends away from the joys of homebrewing. I would still use the homegrown hops for late kettle additions and dry hopping. I would shoot for 15-20 IBU, 4.5-5.5% abv ale.

3) Winter Ale: A 2008 vintage of the winter ale I did last year . This year I would tweak the recipe and include fresh spearmint leaves late in the boil instead of (or in addition too) the juniper berries I used last year. Scottish yeast strain for 6%-7% abv and about 25 IBU.

4) Belgian Golden Ale (with apple juice): A high-gravity Belgian ale fermented with a fresh apple juice for added complexity and strength. I’d use a Belgian strain of yeast and shoot for a 7.5%-8.5% abv ale with 15-20 IBU.

I may try and re-use my yeast over the course of three batches. Start out with the mild ale, then use that yeast cake on the harvest pale, and finally finish off with a winter ale.

More on re-using yeast in a future post.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dick's Best Bitter

The Beer:
Dick's Best Bitter
The Brewery: Dick's Brewing Company of Centralia, WA
The Style: Extra Special Bitter
ABV: 5.5%

Brewer's Description: Wonderfully balanced "session beer" in the ESB style. A combination of 75 L and 120 L caramel malts give this ale a nice color, maltiness and body. This is then balanced and complimented in the kettle with Magnum hops which contribute its clean but detectable bitterness. Mt. Hood hops are then added for a lingering hop flavor and aroma. We ferment our bitter with Dick's house yeast for that classic English ale flavor.

Color: Poured into whiskey hotel glass, bright copper with steady white head. Bubbles continually rise from the bottom of the glass, as they do in champagne.
Aroma: sweet toffee, caramel, some biscuity malt notes, no hop aroma
Taste/mouthfeel: medium carbonation, medium mouthfeel. Sweet caramel malts up front (although not as intense as in the aroma) followed by a clean bitterness.
Finish: bitter, semi-dry finish, although little hop flavor is present.

Notes: Purchased at Huckleberry's Organic Market in Spokane, WA. This is almost a text-book ESB, although the balance is perhaps a little skewed towards the bitterness. As the ESB is an English-style pale ale, hops are usually utilized earlier in the boil and sparingly at the end (these are called "finishing hops"). This results in a beer with hop bitterness but little hop flavor or aroma. This ale would pair well with sheppard's pie or go great with steak and ale pie.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cave Creek Chili Beer

The Beer:
Chili Beer "Cerveza con Chili"
The Brewery: Black Mountain Brewing Company of Cave Creek, Arizona
The Style: Pale Lager (specifically: a Mexican-style lager with a Serrano pepper steeped in the bottle)
ABV: 4.7%
Brewer's Description: Golden, very low carbonation, pale lager with a whole chili pepper in the bottle.

Color: What looks to be a Serrano pepper is immersed in the bottle, as soon as the bottle was opened the chili rose to the top. Poured into gator pint glass, pale clear gold with aggressive effervescent bubbles. No head. Put chili to the side for later consumption.
Aroma: Hot chili aromas. Smells like Serrano, jalapeno, and perhaps some Anaheim.
Taste/mouthfeel: Medium-low carbonation. Some very faint sweet malt that is quickly dominated by pepper oils. The beer gives a pleasing "warmth" without feeling overpowered, sort of like a spicy bloody Mary.
Finish: Semi-sweet spicy finish, throat warming. No hops detectable.

Notes: Purchased at Wine and More in Tampa, FL. NOTE: If you do not like very spicy things you will HATE this beer. I have an incredibly high tolerance for hot sauces and dishes, I appreciated this beer. It's sort of like drinking a beer infused with pepper juice, if this sounds disgusting to you, I would not recommend this lager. This isn't something I could drink as a session beer, but I certainly enjoyed drinking one. This beer would make a very interesting marinade ingredient.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An update from your humble Beer Geek

Spokane Falls from the Monroe St. bridge downtown

I have recently (days ago) moved to Spokane, Washington(don't worry, I stopped at plenty breweries along the way) in pursuit of better career(and beer) opportunities. I've already seen a wealth of beer I could never get in the Sooner State. There are a couple of local breweries and the solid "Laughing Dog" brewery is relatively close in the Idaho panhandle. I will do my best to cover all the new beers and breweries I encounter. The grocery stores here are also quite stellar, so expect some new beer-infused food recipes.

I will miss my friends and acquaintances back in Oklahoma, you folks are exceptional! To all of you: keep hope alive. Oklahoma is one of the most repressive beer states in the nation, it is your challenge to expand beer culture in the state, one pint at a time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Avery Karma Ale

The Beer:
Karma Ale
The Brewery: Avery Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado
The Style: Belgian (Pale) Ale
ABV: 5.2%

Brewer's Description: We believe in Karma. We suspect most of you do, too. It truly is a global concept. Very simply put, "you get what you give." Inspired by this principle and the wonderful farmhouse and pale ales of Belgium, we've created Karma Ale, a decidedly fruity and estery ale, intricate in body and nose, all driven by a unique Belgian yeast strain. Remember, good things DO happen to good people. Here's to being good!

Color: Poured into whiskey glass, transparent gold with minimal white head
Aroma: sour vinegar, apples.
Taste/mouthfeel: high carbonation, light mouthfeel. Flavors of pilsner malt, some light honey, apple esters, and cedar. Taste is not as sour as aroma would lead one to believe, but there is still a small amount of farmhouse "funk".
Finish: surprisingly bitter and dry finish.

Notes: Purchased at Publix grocery in Tampa, FL. I am not sure if the funky/sour/vinegar notes were intended in this beer or not. Regardless, I was not a fan of this beer. The beer tastes awkward and has little personality beyond a slightly off-putting aroma. It feels like it doesn't know if it wants to be a quenching, light belgian ale or a dry Flemish-style sour ale.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stoudt's American Pale Ale

The Beer:
American Pale Ale
The Brewery: Stoudt's Brewing Company of Adamstown, Pennsylvania
The Style: APA
ABV: 5.0%

Brewer's Description: This uniquely American beer offers a crisp, medium-body with a light amber color. It is assertively hopped with Pacific Northwest Cascades for a firm bitterness and delightfully floral aroma.

Color: Poured into whiskey glass, slightly hazy orange with minimal white lacing
Aroma: grapefruit peel and some lemon zest
Taste/mouthfeel: medium carbonation, assertive grapefruit bitternesss up front, very faint malt balance
Finish: bitter, ample hop resins, finish is medium-dry

Notes: Purchased at "Wine and Boos" in Tampa, FL. This was a very solid, if not incredibly outstanding, example of an American pale ale. Typical cascade hop aromas and bitterness (Cascade is the most commonly used hop in amongst craft brewers, although this is beginning to change due to the recent hop shortages) abound. Very drinkable beer, would go great with burgers and a summer cookout.

Lagunitas Lucky #13

The Beer:
Lucky #13
The Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California
The Style: Imperial Amber Ale
ABV: 8.3%

Brewer's Description: From the first day of the first mash of the first recipe in the first space to this oasis 13 years on the road; We have worked hard to walk in the footsteps of our hero brewers. The Esteemed brewer of California's best Pale Ale, the Noble Brewer of the planet's only legal Steam Beer, and Oregon's Rebel Brewer from Newport. Thirteen years down the road, we have found our own voice as brewers but our admiration for the Great Ones has not dimmed one bit. If we walked well down the hero's path ourselves, perhaps we too have been an inspiration for others. Beer is a Bronze Age business and we feel honored to have left our footprints on its path into history, at the same time leaving our flavors on your buds. Thanks for your trust over the years and we hope you enjoy this specially brewed Hi-Gravity Auburn offering. Beer Speaks. People Mumble! O.G. 1.085 76.92 IBU

Color: Poured into whiskey glass (best I could do at the hotel). Bright polished amber with very thin white head that leaves lace.
Aroma: Sweet malt, caramel, tangy hops
Taste/mouthfeel: medium full, caramel malts up front with some very faint toffee. Soft carbonation gives way to pleasant hoppy bitterness in the finish, assertive but not at all harsh.
Finish: malts and hops are in very good balance although the gregarious additions of citrusy hops win out in the end.

Notes: Purchased at ABC Liquor near Anna Maria Island, FL. The American amber ale can usually be thought of as a slightly darker, maltier APA. The APA has always had stronger versions in the form of IPAs and double or "imperial" IPAs. Recently a new style has emerged among craft brewers, the "Imperial Amber Ale". Lucky #13 is one such example. This beer has a great balance of malts and hops, the caramel maltiness plays nicely with the punchy Pacific NW hops. That said, this is not a perfectly balanced beer (nor should it be) such as an ESB. This is a strong beer with assertive maltiness and even more assertive hoppiness. A very well-crafted ale.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

The Beer: Union Jack IPA
The Brewery: Firestone Walker Brewing Co. of Buellton , California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.5%
Brewer's Description: 70 IBUs. Simcoe bittering hops; Centennial, Cascade and Tomahawk for flavoring; aroma hops are described as a "blend of C's."
Color: Poured into Urthel stemmed glass. Bright polished amber with very thin white head that leaves lace.
Aroma: juicy mango and peach, fresh-cut flowers.
Taste/mouthfeel: fine bubbles sting the tongue, giving way to citrus oil bitterness that stings the sides of the mouth and lingers in the back of the throat. Touch of sweet caramel malt in the middle, just enough to keep this beer balanced.
Finish: Resiny, tongue-coating hop bitterness. Bitter, oily, hoppy aftertaste.
Notes: Purchased at BevMo! in El Segundo, CA. This beer comes from Great American Beer Festival's "Best Mid-sized Brewery". A classic American pale ale, with a touch more malt than some of the other west coast IPAs. This India pale is clean and bursting with hop flavor yet balanced enough to drink as a session beer or at a BBQ on a hot day. I'd suggest pairing it with spicy Thai/Indian food or a zesty salad.

Friday, May 16, 2008

21st Amendment Brewery

photo courtesy of my friend at: The Exploded View
On December 5th, 1933 the United States enacted the 21st Amendment which repealed the alcohol-banning 18th Amendment. Some 66 years later the 21st Amendment Brewing Company opened in San Francisco California.I recently took a weekend trip up to SF to visit this fine brewery. I ordered the sampler and began tasting the full spectrum of delicious ale.
photo courtesy of my friend at: The Exploded View
Southpark Blonde (Blond Ale, 5.1%, 17 IBU): quenching and clean with some mild butter notes in the finish. Very light bodied.
Water Melon Wheat (Fruit Wheat Ale, 5.5%, 17 IBU): Surprised by this one the watermelon flavors dominated this beer. Watermelon notes are fresh and crisp, not at all sweet. Very refreshing and enjoyable.
Summer Ale (American Pale Ale, 5.2%, 21 IBU): crisp and mildly hoppy pale ale. Hops are almost all in the flavor and aroma with little bitter finish.
Bitter American (Bitter, 3.6%, 40 IBU): Very interesting take on an English bitter, a style of beer meant to be low in alcohol to allow weary workers to consume many during some after-work hob-nobbing. This take on the style uses American hops for a very citrusy bitterness. Enjoyable, especially for a beer so low in strength.
21-A IPA (IPA, 7.2%, 78 IBU): Award-winning IPA, clean and bitter with tons of bursting citrus hops and a lingering, tongue-drying finish.
Repeal Rye (Rye Ale, 6.5%, 40 IBU): Hoppy, spicy, and dry. Rye flavors and hops blend very well. Some caramel malts in the body as well.
Myers Scotch Ale (Strong Scotch Ale, 8.3%, 23 IBU): Rich malt flavors with some caramel and toffee notes. Finish is slightly sweet. Very small touches of earth and smoky flavors. Impressively quaffable for a beer of such low hop bitterness and high alcohol.
General Pippos Porter (Porter, 5.6%, 45 IBU): typical, but enjoyable porter. Some mild roasted notes with ample bitter chocolate.

from left to right: Southpark Blonde, Watermelon Wheat, Summer Ale, Bitter American, 21-A IPA, Repeal Rye, Myers Scotch Ale, General Pippo's Porter

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bear Republic Racer 5

The Beer:
Racer 5 India Pale Ale
The Brewery: Bear Republic Brewing Company of Healdsburg, California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.00%
Brewer's Description: This is a hoppy IPA. Did I say hops? Your brewer is a hop head! This is a full bodied beer using American grains. The goal was to create a base for showing off the unique floral qualities of two Pacific Northwest hops, Columbus and Cascade. Columbus is a new hybrid High Alpha Acid hop used mostly for bittering, but used heavily as an aromatic in this strong brew. Cascade is the balance that ties the malt and bittering hops together. It is a true specialty ale and is our brewer’s statement on this style. 2004 L.A. Commercial Brewing Competition, Silver Medal Winner; 2004 World Beer Cup, Silver Medal Winner; 2001 Real Ale Festival, San Diego, Gold Medal Winner; 2001 Real Ale Festival, Chicago, Gold Medal Winner; 1999 Great Amercian Beer Festival, Gold Medal Winner - og 1.070, ABV 7.0%, IBU 69. California State Fair Bronze Medal, 1997 Beerfest Invitational. - og 1.070, ABV 7.0%, IBU 69.
Color: Poured into my poor, over-used Urthel beer glass. Pale copper with very small, tight, white head.
Aroma: mild tangerine and perhaps some hints of cranberries and/or currants.
Taste/mouthfeel: medium mouthfeel, moderate, fine carbonation, very slight caramel sweetness and some grapefruit.
Finish: stingy pine, lingering resin finish.
Notes: Purchased at BevMo in Torrance, CA. Yet another IPA from the West, this India Pale comes from the 2006 GABF Small Brewery of the Year. This is a drier IPA and definitely an above average one. Still, the aroma is not as pungent as I would have hoped for. The taste is certainly pleasing and quaffable, the alcohol is rather strong for the style, and hop bitterness is abundant. I found that robust citrusy and floral hop flavors were slightly lacking. Still, this beer will prove enjoyable for hopheads to be sure. This homebrewer would argue there are better IPAs to be had in the Golden State, however.

Friday, April 25, 2008

AleSmith IPA

The Beer: AleSmith IPA
The Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Company of San Diego , California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.25%
Brewer's Description: AleSmith IPA used to be known as "Irie Pirate Ale." However, some nasty patent attorneys think the name is too similar to another brand, so we had to "cease and desist." It's a darn shame, but it beats an obnoxious legal battle, in both expenses and Excedrin. Don't worry though, we won't change the beer (which is a MUCH better IPA than that "other" brand). It was conceived as an American-style IPA to satisfy the yearnings of the most die-hard hopheads. Its high alcohol content may catch you unawares if you're not careful, but it's hard to resist once you've tasted it. Appearance: Deep golden to light amber color, and a nice beige head, with good retention when properly served. Flavor: Starts off with strong citrusy, resiny flavors, balanced by a nice malty sweetness, then fades to a dry finish with a lingering hoppiness and a faint hint of plums and black cherries. Aroma: Strong piney-citrusy character, with vanilla in the background. Mouthfeel (body/texture): Smooth, medium-bodied. Feels warm in the mouth from the alcohol.
Color: Poured into Urthel stemmed glass (away from my glassware at home, it was only $3 at Whole Foods). Dark peach in color, bright but with some very faint cloudiness. Head is thin and white but lingers. Steady stream of fine, effervescent bubbles float to the surface.
Aroma: Zesty aroma of orange, grapefruit, and lemon peels with some ambiguous fruits and flowery notes in the background.
Taste/mouthfeel: starts out with some mild caramel sweetness abruptly followed by citrus oil bitterness and some resiny pine notes. The high hop bitterness puckers the sides of the mouth and lingers on the roof.
Finish: long, bitter, lingering finish. You'll be remembering this beauty for hours.
Notes: Purchased at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. One of the first beers I reviewed on PremiumBitter was this brewery's barley wine. I was blown away by the beer, it's one of my favorite barley wines and AleSmith is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries. A very, very solid IPA. Possibly one of the best.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Port Brewing Wipeout IPA

The Beer: Wipeout IPA
The Brewery: Port Brewing Company of San Marcos, California
The Style: IPA
ABV: 7.00%
Brewer's Description: With 78 IBUs. Our version of a West Coast IPA- brewed in the San Diego style. This massively hoppy beer gets its flavor and attitude from no less than five hop varieties including Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, Simcoe and Summit.
Color: Poured into sub-par hotel whisky-ish glass. Hazy burnt orange with minimal head.
Aroma: grapefruit peel, some mild "catty" notes, mango
Taste/mouthfeel: consistently bitter from start to finish. Medium carbonation. Lingering finish. Bitter, not incredibly complex.
Finish: resiny drying finish that lingers causing you continually tongue your mouth.
Notes: The "catty" (think litter box, cat urine) notes in this one completely turned me off. I think this has something to do with the simcoe hop used in this IPA. It has been known to give off these flavors/aromas in some people. I was a bit underwhelmed by this beer, although it was still an above-average IPA.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Russian River Damnation

Minutes later an Oklahoma wind blew over the beer, shattering the glass to joke

The Beer: Damnation
The Brewery: Russian River Brewing Company of Santa Rosa, CA
The Style: Belgian Golden Strong Ale
ABV: 7.75%
Brewer's Description: In the great beer producing country of Belgium, some brewers have made it a tradition to give their beers an unusual name. Sometimes the name is curious, now and then it is diabolical and other times it is just plain silly. Damnation is our brewmaster's interpretation of a Belgian style Strong Golden Ale. It has extraordinary aromas of banana and pear with mouth filling flavors of sweet malt and earthy hops. The lingering finish is dry and slightly bitter but very, very smooth.
Color: Poured into pilsner glass (I did not have any Belgian glassware available at the time). Bright, gold, with excessive amounts of wonderful sediment and a large clinging, fluffy, white head.
Aroma: ethanol, touch of cardamom, sweet pilsner malt
Taste/mouthfeel: Flavors of muscat grapes, ethanol, ginger, peppery spiciness with herbal European-style hops in the finish. Dry medium mouthfeel, medium-to-high carbonation.
Finish: dry and crakery, finish is clean with no lingering bitterness.
Notes: Purchased at liquor store in Los Angeles. This brewery is located in the midst of wine country and brews some amazing ales. While this brew is not particularly to my liking stylistically, it's still a fine Belgian golden strong ale. Very reminiscent of iconic Duvel, but with significantly more hop bitterness in the finish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Labotomy Bock

Better lighting next time, I promise

I have been/will be living in California for the next couple of weeks. I'm taking this opportunity to sample the local and exciting West-coast beers the region has to offer. I've been very busy, but here's a quick hit in the meantime. Expect more in the coming days and weeks:

The Beer: Lobotomy Bock
The Brewery: Indian Wells Brewing of Inyokern , California
The Style: Doppelbock
ABV: 10.8% (!)
Brewer's Description: This smooth rich dark southern German dobblebock is an Indian Wells Brewing Co. favorite. This 10.8% beer is powerful, but VERY easy to drink! This beer is not for the timid. A few of them and you’ll feel like you’ve had a frontal lobotomy the next day. Consume with caution!
Color: Poured into pathetic hotel room glass. Coffee bean brown with clear rootbeer high-lights, extremely small head.
Aroma: faint clean aroma.
Taste/mouthfeel: slightly sweet with mild nutty and lightly toasted notes, surprisingly thin body with medium-high carbonation. Disturbingly quaffable, per the brewer's description.
Finish: slight cracker/saltine toasted finish with hints of cocoa nibs.
Notes: Purchased at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. The label resembles Terrence and Phillip from "Southpark" and it was only $7 a six-pack, how could this humble beer geek refuse? It's amazing that this beer is so incredibly strong and tastes so incredibly light. This lager is no more challenging to drink than say, Shiner Bock, but it packs over TWICE the alcoholic content. This brew is very enjoyable, if not incredibly complex. Perhaps similar to the stereotype associated with residents of LA?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's all about the Bock

Label from a doppelbock beer I brew (soon so can you!)

Springtime is Bock…

In a big way.

I have a special nook in my heart for bock beer. The first “dark” beer I started regularly drinking was AmberBock. While the Michelob/A-B product wasn’t really a true bock-style beer (it’s more appropriately termed “dark American lager”, ShinerBock and ZeigenBock also fall into this category) it piqued my interest in bocks.

I would later try a true German doppelbock called “Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock” at a small Aussie-style pub in Gainesville, FL called “Stubbie’s”. This was one of the first “good” beers I could appreciate. It was malty, smooth, and a bit sweet. When I first became intrigued by craft and import beer I could never stomach hoppy beers. Naturally, the malty-sweet bocks were some of my favorites back then.

I was recently asked to write a piece for a fantastic beer magazine out of Portland, OR called “Beer Northwest”. Being a quarterly magazine, I felt it was important I write about bock beer and its ties to the spring season. In this issue I speak to the history and defining characteristics of bock beer, pitch some homebrewing advice, and offer a recipe from my personal collection for a doppelbock I call “Liberator”. What follows is an excerpt from the mag:

A Brief History of Bock Beer
The name “Bock” derives from a mispronunciation of the German city of Einbeck, where bock beer was first brewed. A less common explanation, but amusing nonetheless, states that bocks earned their name because drinking the strong beers feels like getting kicked by a goat! Coincidentally, “Bock” is German for billy goat and many modern-day bocks have labels adorned with goats.

The bocks of Einbeck were quite different from what we now term “bock”. Einbeck bocks were lighter and hoppier than modern bocks. They also contained 1 part wheat for every two parts barley. The beers of Einbeck were coveted throughout Germany and Munich was no different. Much of the beer consumed in 17th century Munich was imported from Einbeck, locally brewed beer was frowned upon. Munich brewers began attempting to replicate the bock beers of Einbeck using local ingredients. After repeated adjustments and tweaking (darker malts and lower levels of hop bitterness were better suited to Munich’s hard water) a darker, maltier beer was born. These brews are the bock beers we know today.

Ever wondered about:
  • the bock-monk connection?
  • lagers vs ales? Are all bocks lagers?
  • what the different styles of bock beer?
  • the secret behind the “-ator” naming convention behind doppelbocks?

Learn more in the Spring issue of Beer NW magazine! Issues can be found in watering holes and brewpubs through the Pacific NW region, they are also available for purchase at the magazine's website.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Homebrewing: Brew Day

>>Part 4: Brewing your first batchWort ready to be measured with the hydrometer

That day has finally come. You're about to get involved in the most rewarding and addicting hobby I have ever participated in. I've said it once and I'll say it again: be sure to take notes throughout your brew day! This will be very helpful for future batches. I keep all of my recipes and notes in my computer. It's important not to get stressed, and if you do take Brew Guru Charlie Papazian's advice and "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew"(RDWHAH). Since this your first batch you probably don't have any; your favorite commercial brew will have to do.

Before you start: Sanitizing

  1. Sanitize everything that will touch the beer and is not being boiled (e.g. stock pot lid, 6.5 gallon carboy, funnel, thermometer, hydrometer, lid for stock pot, airlock, and carboy stopper) with Star San (if you use a different non-rinse sanitizer, follow the directions on the packaging), 1 ounce in 5 gallons of water, this water can just be tap water. The best way to do this is to make the batch of sanitizer in your bottling bucket and use it as your sanitizing bucket. note: Star San will vigorously foam up when mixed, this is normal. DO NOT rinse the foam off of or out of your equipment! It will NOT hurt your beer or contribute any off-flavors. The phosphoric acid(foam) in the Star San will simply become nutrient for the yeast.

Adding the malts: Steeping

  1. Add 3 gallons of spring water (the other 3 gallons should be in the refrigerator)to your stock pot, place on the stove, and turn the heat to high. Monitor the temperature every few minutes with your thermometer.

  2. Add your 1lb of Munich Malt and .5lb of Cara-pils malt to your nylon grain bag and tie/draw shut.

  3. When the temperature has reached 155*F add the grain bag to the stock pot and turn your stove to "low". Make sure to agitate the grain bag so that all grain is wet and/or immersed.

  4. Steep the grain for 30 minutes at 155*F. You will need to tweak your stove settings to maintain this temperature. If you cannot maintain precisely 155*F don't worry, just make sure the temperature stays between 150*F and 170*F. If it exceeds 170*F, remove from heat.

  5. While the grain is steeping, set your two 3.3lb cans of liquid malt extract in hot water. This will allow the syrup to more easily flow out of the cans.

  6. When the 30 minutes is up, remove the grain bag from the water. Hold it over the pot by the draw-string and let it drain out into the pot. When liquid stops dripping out of the grain bag, discard your grains and wash out the nylon grain bag for use in a future brew. DO NOT squeeze the grain bag as this can extract unwanted tannins, just let is drip.

Adding the hops: Boiling

  1. Switch the stove to high and begin bringing the water to a boil. As the water is heating up, open your two cans of malt extract. Empty the contents into your 3 gallons of spring water, stirring vigorously. You want to get the extract dissolved in the water to avoid scorching it on the bottom of the stock pot. Note: at no point during the boil should you cover the stock pot with its lid.

  2. When the unfermented beer(wort) has come to a boil, add 1 ounce of Hallertau hop pellets (your bittering hop) and set a timer for 60 minutes.

  3. Monitor the wort every few minutes, making sure it does not scorch or boil over. If it begins to foam over, lower the heat.

  4. With 15 minutes left in the boil add 1/2 ounce of Saaz hop pellets (your flavor hop).
  5. With 5 minutes left in the boil add another 1/2 ounce of Saaz hop pellets (your aroma hop).

Removing the heat: Chilling

  1. When the 60 minutes is up, take the stock pot off of the burner and cover with the (sanitized) lid.
  2. Remove the remaining 3 gallons of spring water from the refrigerator. Add this cold water to your stock pot. The amount of water you can add will depend on the size of your stock pot, but do not exceed 5 gallons total. Adding this water back will help cool the wort
  3. Immerse the stock pot in an ice water bath, adding ice as necessary. A sink usually works for this. It is important to cool your sweet wort as fast as possible, as it is very susceptible to infection by bacteria and wild yeast during this phase. For very rapid cooling, consider investing in an immersion cooler (available at homebrew shops listed at the end of the equipment portion).
  4. Periodically use your thermometer to check the temperature of the wort. When it has fallen under 80*F (the time this takes varies wildly depending on the efficiency of your setup) gently pour the cooled wort through your (sanitized)funnel and into your 6.5 gallon sanitized carboy (again, there will probably be some soapy-looking suds on the inside of the carboy, this is normal and will not hurt your beer).

Record keeping and adding the yeast: Measuring and Pitching

  1. Add any remaining spring water to the carboy to reach the 5-gallon mark you made on your carboy during the last homebrewing segment. If you did not make a mark on the carboy previously, add spring water till you have used 5.5 gallons of the 6 gallons total of spring water you purchased. We are doing this step to account for water that has evaporated during the boil.
  2. Sanitize your hand and cover the top of the carboy. Shake the rock the carboy vigorously to mix the water with the wort.
  3. Take a small (~8 ounce) sample of wort from the carboy. There are many ways to do this. The easiest way is to use your auto-siphon. Disassemble the auto-siphon and dip the large tube down in the carboy. Remove the tube from the carboy and pour into a glass. Repeat this 2-3 times and you should have collected enough wort.
  4. Use your hydrometer to take a gravity reading. For this recipe your OG reading should be somewhere between 1.045 and 1.050. The higher the OG, the higher the potential alcohol.
  5. Vigorously shake your White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast vial that has been sitting at room temp for 4-6 hours.
  6. Using your re-sanitized funnel, pour the liquid yeast into the carboy.
  7. Re-sanitize your hand and again cover and shake the 6.5 gallon carboy vigorously. We are trying to get as much oxygen as possible dissolved in the wort. Yeast cells require oxygen for healthy growth. note: this is the ONLY TIME the wort/beer should be so vigorously agitated. After fermentation starts, oxygen becomes very BAD for your beer.
  8. Plug the top of your carboy with your rubber stopper and insert the airlock into it (filled 1/2 way with sanitized water). This allows carbon dioxide gas to exit the carboy (preventing pressure build-up and eliminating potential carboy bombs) while preventing beer-spoiling organisms from entering the fermenting beer.

Turning wort into beer: Fermentation

  1. Store the carboy at 67*F-72*F in a dark place away from sunlight. Fermentation should start in 24 hours. The airlock will begin to bubble and a torrent of swirling activity will be observable through the clear glass of the carboy.
  2. Your beer will ferment for the next 7-10 days, this is called "primary fermentation" or sometimes simply "primary". After this period it will be time to "rack"'; to transfer the beer from the primary 6.5 gallon carboy to the secondary 5 gallon carboy for conditioning. This "secondary fermentation" as it is called, allows the "young" flavors of the brew to mellow out and aids in clarity.
Wasn't so hard was it? Next week I'll discuss the process of racking to your secondary carboy. Ask any questions you may have in the comments and I will answer them promptly.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Who owns your beer? Anheuser Bush Edition

Lately the big boys at BMC have been disguising some of their beers. The most common example of this is Blue Moon, which is brewed by Coors. There are many more examples of this in the brewing world. Many of the large breweries are producing beer under different names. What many people do not know is that many import beers are brought into the states and distributed by the American macro breweries. This entry will focus on the largest brewery in the United States and 4th largest in the world:

Founded: 1852
Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri
Revenue: 15 billion (2006)

Base Brands:

Hurricane and King Cobra: the "homeless-friendly-priced" malt liquors of AB. High in alcohol and quantity per container (often sold in the nefarious 40 ounce bottle, where legal), low in cost. Fun Fact: as a boy I grew up frequenting Busch Gardens. I used to see the King Cobra logo on the scrolling advertisements in the hospitality house. I desperately wanted Dad to sample it but he informed me "that's a malt liquor son."

Natural (including Light and Ice): the quintessential frat-party beer, often affectionately known as "Natty". This is in A-B's "value" line of beers.

Busch (including: Busch, Ice, and Light): another "value" brand of AB. Like Natty above it but with a more "grown up" image. Also: Majestic Rocky Mountains

Budweiser (including: Budweiser, Light, Dry, Ice, Ice Light, and Select): one of AB's "standard" brands. Bud Light is their best-selling beer in America and Budweiser is the best-selling beer in the world, period.

Michelob (including: Ultra, Ultra Amber, Light, Lager, Honey Lager, AmberBock, Porter, Golden Draft, and Golden Draft Light): AB's "premium" line of beers, these generally contain more malt and less adjuncts. Michelob Ultra is the best-seller in this line. Fun Fact: the first "dark" beer I ever drank was AmberBock, it was my beer of choice for many years in college. I like to call it my "gateway beer". I remember how sophisticated and cultured I thought I was because I drank AmberBock rather than the "crappy swill" everyone else was drinking.

Bacardi Malt Beverages: the clear, sweet, beverages designed to appeal to women and underage drinkers. There has been legal debate lately over whether they should have the word "malt" in their title. Only small amounts of the alcohol in these drinks(if any) is malted-barley-derived. Includes: Raz, Watermelon, O3, Mojito, Pomegranate Mojito, Peach, and Strawberry.
Tilt: AB's entry into the energy drink/malt beverage category. Basically a simple beer that has been drenched in corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, and caffeine.

Beers they brew, but do not directly attach their name to:
Sun Dog Amber Wheat: American-style wheat beer, spring seasonal.
Spring Heat Spiced Wheat/Shock Top Belgian White: started as a seasonal Belgian white-style ale, brewed to compete with Blue Moon.
Winters Bourbon Cask Ale: sweet beer with decent alcohol content, a winter seasonal.
Bare Knuckle Stout: nitro-tap dry Irish-style stout brewed to compete with Guinness.
ZiegenBock: version of Amber Bock brewed exclusively for distribution in Texas.
Wild Blue: 8% abv sweet fruit beer. I have never seen this available for purchase here in Oklahoma.
Landshark Lager: pale lager beer initially available only in Florida, it has since reached wider distribution.
Tarpon Spoon: Bohemian-style pilsner available in Florida.
Lone Palm Ale: amber ale brewed for Margaritaville by AB's Jacksonville brewery.
Aruba Red: amber ale brewed for Bahama Breeze Restaurant Chain
Stonemill Pale Ale: an organic pale ale.

Domestic beers distributed by AB, but not brewed by them:
Redhook beers: started as a small microbrewery in Seattle, WA. Redhook's most well-known beer is their ESB.
Widmer Brothers: one of the first members of the craft brewery revolution, based in Portland, OR. Their most well-known beer is Widmer Hefeweizen, an American-style wheat beer.

Beers imported and distributed(but not brewed) by AB
Bass Pale Ale: an ESB from England. Fun Fact: the Bass logo is the oldest trademark in existence.
Beck's (regular, Light, Dark, Oktoberfest): from North Germany, generally not highly regarded among beer critics. It is not brewed in Bavaria and is not one of the official Oktoberfest breweries. Has typical green bottle skunk syndrome.
Boddington's Pub Ale: a bitter brewed in Manchester. Poured from a nitrogen tap or canned with a nitrogen widget, resulting in a creamy mouthfeel lacking in carbonation. Contrary to popular belief, it is inappropriate to call this beer a "cream ale".
Czechvar: a bohemian pilsner brewed in the Czech Republic. Volumes could be written on this beer alone. In the rest of the world this brew is known as "Budweiser Budvar". Curiously, AB now imports and distributes this beer in the states...and is still actively engaged in lawsuits over their using "Budweiser" in their name.
Grolsch (regular, Amber Ale, Blonde Lager, Light Lager): probably best known for their use of expensive, green, flip-top bottles; these beers are brewed in the Netherlands.
Kirin (Ichiban and Light): Japanese pale lager beers are similar to BMC beer in that it is extremely light in color and often brewed with rice. Kirin Light available in the states is contract-brewed by Molson in Canada. Kirin Brewery is the seventh largest brewery in the world.
Leffe (Blonde and Brune): these Belgian abbey ales(the blonde is a Belgian pale ale while the brune is a dubbel) are not brewed by an actual monastery but are affiliated with Notre Dame de Leffe which receives profits from the sales of these brews.
Löwenbräu: One of the six major Munich breweries at Oktoberfest (albeit the least respected). This green-bottled beer with the blue lion emblem is a Munich Helles-style lager.
Stella Artois: pronounced "Stell-uh Are-twah", this is a pale lager brewed in Belgium. Stella was originally brewed as a seasonal Christmas beer but became a year-round beer due to its popularity. Stella is marketed as a premium brand outside of Belgium (where it is just an everyday common lager beer). This beer is known as the "wife beater" in Britain.
Tennent's Lager: one, if not the, most popular beers in Scotland. This beer is another green-bottled pale lager. Not-so-fun Fact: I had a hard time finding traditional Scottish ales while visiting Edinburgh. This beer, however, was everywhere.

Brewery bought out by AB:
Rolling Rock(Extra Pale and Green Light): this brewery was acquired by AB in 2006.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Homebrewing: Final Prep

Part4: Brewing your first Batch
You're getting very close to brewing your own beer.

Hopefully by now you've invested in some equipment and you have your ingredients. It's tempting to just jump right into brewing, but I do not recommend it. Nothing is worse than being in the middle of a brewing session and realizing that you are not prepared (trust me, I've done it far to many times, sometimes I still do).

The day before you brew:

  • Go back to the equipment article, do you have everything listed there
  • Go back to the ingredient article, what about those? Do you have it all?
  • What about your grain, did you have your local homebrew shop/website crack it for you?
  • And your yeast is in the fridge? If you are using the Wyeast strain of yeast described in the previous homebrewing section, go a head and smack it now (per instructions on the back of the foil pouch). Over the next 24hours the yeast will grow inside the foil pouch, causing it to swell. If you are using the White Labs (preferred) option, see below.
  • What about the six gallons of spring water? You don't have that do you? You're going to need it.
  • Get two bags of ICE and put them in the freezer for brew day. I recommend buying ice from the gas station/grocery store as it's the most convenient way to get a large amount.
  • Make sure you have some sort of timer, you will need it.
  • Tool check: do you have your thermometer? Hydrometer? Funnel? Some sort of long spoon to stir your stockpot with? If your liquid malt extract is in a can, you will also need a can opener of some sort.
  • Helpful tip: note that the recipe calls for 1/2 oz additions of Saaz hops. You will probably get your hop pellets in one ounce increments. You can either eye-ball the pellets and split the 1 oz into two partitions or you may want to invest in a small electronic cooking scale (~$30).
  • Document, document, document! Be sure to take notes on everything you do throughout your brewday. This will be helpful for future brew days.
  • Do you have your non-rinse sanitizer?
  • Helpful tip: Use an empty one-gallon jug or other container to fill your 6.5 gallon carboy with exactly 5 gallons of water. Use a permanent marker and make a line around the carboy to indicate the 5 gallon mark. This will be very useful later on, as you will know EXACTLY how much water to add back into your beer.

6-8 hours before you start brewing:

  • Take 3 gallons of your spring water and put it in the refrigerator.
  • If you are using the White Labs (vial) yeast option, take it out of the refrigerator and allow it to warm up at room temperature. This will begin to get the yeast active, and ready to ferment your beer.
  • Re-read all previous articles and make sure you have a good understanding of your equipment and ingredients. Read the brewday article (coming next week) through multiple times before you actually start brewing.
  • Read the directions on your sanitizer, make sure you understand how to use it. If you are using StanSan (this is what I use) it is 1 ounce of sanitizer per 5 gallons of water. StanSan is non-rinse, it is perfectly normal and healthy to leave a foam behind in your carboy, this will NOT hurt the beer at all.

Less than an hour before brewing:

  • Mix your sanitizer in the 6.5 gallon carboy.
  • Make sure you have set aside at least 5 hours of your time. :)

Next week: Brew Day