Review: Hereford & Hops IPA

Hereford & Hops IPA
Our American version of the classic English India Pale Ale (IPA). This copper colored ale has a higher level of alcohol that most of our beers and definitely has the most hops used in the brewing process. This beer contains very high levels of hop bitterness, flavor and aroma. Hidden among the hops is medium bodied beer with medium maltiness which helps balance the perceived hop bitterness. This beer is a must for all of the hopheads out there.

From a growler filled 142/27/2007, into a pint glass.

Pour is golden straw yellow with a foamy, puffy white head. Rocky, with decent lacing.

Smell is sweet and fruity, like grapefruit and orange, a bit of honey, more grainy/grassiness as it warms up but not a lot.

Taste is actually quite bitter throughout, the balance definitely leans hoppy. There is a little bit of maltiness that appears as the beer warms in the glass but the bitterness levels never let it through. Almost imperial in bitterness, at 86 odd IBUs that could be expected, but I'd like a bit more balance. There's a little bit of an odd aftertaste. Dave mentioned the water profile on his blog, that may be what it is.

Mouthfeel is crisp and very drying. Pretty light in body.

Drinkability is okay. This isn't really a session beer, due to its general flavor but its a decent IPA if not a little unbalanced. There's bitter tasty and bitter harsh, with this one leaning toward the latter.

T'was a good Christmas...

Welcome back from my brief hiatus. It's been a busy week, full of good cheer and good beer.

I've taken to dinner and shared a number of my Sly Fox Christmas Ales. Its been well received by all. I've also bought a fair amount of the Lancaster Winter Warmer, a nice tasty surprise and a good value, easily my favorite of their offerings.

Some of the boys in the Beer Club headed out for a round trip of a few spots in Western PA. I was unable to attend but sent along plenty of cash and empties. I got a pretty nice haul for not even attending.
-Growler of North Country Paleo IPA
-Growler of Hereford and Hops IPA
-Growler of East End Bitter End
-Growler of East End Snow Melt
-Bottle of East End Three (Third Anniversary Triple)
-Bottle of Southern Tier Choklat
-Bottle of Southern Tier Gemini
Not too bad for not being able to go along. Much thanks to those guys for accommodating me. So far I've only had the NC offering, but look forward to my thoughts on the others, plus a homebrewing update soon.


Review: Bell's Java Stout

Bell's Java Stout
The satisfying elements of both stout and coffee come together in this full-bodied treat. A marriage of Sumatra's best with rich chocolate and roasted malt provides for a truly enlightening beer.

I've professed my love before for coffee beers, Bell's Java Stout being one of the best of them, so this should be telling.

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass, purchased at Uncle Sudsy's.

This is what a coffee stout should look like. Pour is jet black with a puffy mocha head, rocky and long-lasting, lacing well as it falls.

Smell is sweet and roasty and full of coffee aroma. I think Bell's uses Sumatran though I'm not sure. Like a beeruccino.

Taste is rich and earth, tons of coffee flavor along with just a touch of sweetness to mellow it out. This is just 100% black coffee beer. Delicious.

Mothfeel is rich and full bodied, slightly creamy and just plain thick.

Drinkability is good, I could drink as many of these as the cups of coffee I have each morning. A great beer I enjoy every year, coffee + beer at its finest.

Review: Breckenridge Christmas Ale

Breckenridge Brewery Christmas Ale
The chill of a Colorado high-country winter calls for a beer with extra flavor and strength. Here it is. Breck Brew's Christmas Ale. At over 7% alcohol, with a sturdy texture and rich flavors of caramel and chocolate, our holiday seasonal is the fermented equivalent of a good fire.
The ultimate winter warmer.

Breckenridge is a fairly recent arrival in the local area. I'm a fan of their Rocky Mountain IPA and 471. Their other offerings are pretty solid, as well. Dave had said he found this one pretty nasty, but being a Christmas beer and personal taste being what it is, I had to give it a go. So, here it is:

12oz bottle poured into a pint glass, bottle purchased at Uncle Sudsy's.

The pour is dark brown with red highlights and a cap of off-white head.

Smell is pretty non-existent, maybe a very little bit of coffee or roasty malt aroma but that's it.

Taste reminds me a little of a brown ale of sorts, with the addition of a bit of coffeeish bitterness. There's a little bit of fruitiness in the finish along with a hop bitterness that washes in after it that has no real notable character.

Mouthfeel is medium in body and drying.

Drinkability is decent although its just not a very interesting beer, its kind of odd and doesn't really call for more than one. I'll stick to the IPAs.

Review: Flying Dog K-9 Winter Ale

Flying Dog K-9 Winter Ale
The psycho in the pack … K-9 Cruiser is a dark, sweet and malty winter warmer that will captivate any adventurous craft brew drinker. A true Flying Dog original, K-9 Cruiser is the perfect brew to warm you up in those cold winter months.

This is the winter seasonal from Flying Dog, I picked it up when I saw it at Subs&Suds since I like to try every new beer I come across and I'm in a big winter beer swing lately, naturally.

This beer pours a dark red-drown with a decent cap of head that doesn't stick around too long. Pretty minimal lacing.

Smell is roasty and just a little blend of woody and fruity, but that's about it.

tasty is pretty much malty, a combination of earthy, almost bordering on cardboardy breadiness, followed by a bitterish finish, almost spicy like cinnamon, but with out the corresponding flavor.

Mouthfeel is pretty light in body and rather 'active'.

Overall not a bad beer but certainly not the greatest winter warmer either. Worth trying each year perhaps, but I'm not sure I'd get more than a bottle each time.


Present Wrapping Beer.

Last night, after getting the kids to bed, Kim and I got to work wrapping presents. What better beer to enjoy whilst wrapping than a Rogue Santa's Private Reserve? One of my favorite winter seasonals, for certain.

Rogue Santa's Private Reserve
Rogue’s annual holiday offering, Santa’s Private Reserve, is a variation of the classic Saint Rogue Red, but with double the hops--including Chinook, and Centennial, and a mystery hop called Rudolph by head brewer John "more hops" Maier!This holiday elixir is brewed with two-row Harrington, Klages and Munich malts, along with Hugh Baird 30-37, Carastan 13-17, and Crystal 70-80 malts, plus free range coastal water and John’s proprietary top-fermenting Pacman yeast. Available in both 22-ounce bottles, 12oz Loose packs for Winter 2005, and 12oz six packs for 2006.

My bottle was a 22oz bomber. Last year I had both a bomber as well as picking up a case after-season when it was on sale.

This beer pours a great looking clear red, topped with a nice soft, fluffy cap of foam. The head lingers nicely throughout the drinking process and leaves a bit of lace behind as well.

Smell is full caramel and wonderful hops.

The taste follows suit in the same manner. Nice and malty up front, sweet caramel and biscuit flavors, washed away by that delicious piney, sprucey hoppiness. The body on this is sooo creamy, delicious.

One thing to note about this beer is that while its a fairly balanced beer, if you want the most flavor out of those hops, get this beer ASAP. The first bottle I had of this last year (and this year, obviously) was super fresh and the hops were incredible. As time went on, they fade pretty quickly. There's still a nice hoppiness but not the great aroma/taste that it has when its young.

Bottom line: if you see this one, pick it up, and soon. Its a great holiday seasonal , if I can find more while its still at its finest, I'll definitely do so.


My homebrew, another's review.

Dave reviews my steam beer, which he's dubbed Steamy McBeer, over at his blog.

Thanks Dave!


Last Night's Dinner

Last evening, as winter began to swell up even more to the west, we had over a friend of mine from work and his family. They have kids very close in age to our own, plus they're just good people, so its nice to get together.

The menu as follows, with 'expected' beer pairings.

Baked Brie with Blackberry Jam
-Homebrew Steam Beer

Crunchy Romaine Salad with Cider Vinaigrette
-Church Brew Works Pipe Organ Pale Ale and Celestial Gold

Dr. Pepper Glazed Ham with Prunes
Homemade Chunky Apple Sauce
Skin-On Mashed Potatoes
-Troegs Troegenator Double Bock

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel-Cream Cheese Frosting
-Bell's Expedition Stout

The meal was incredible, the pairings quite successful, the children generally well behaved. A good time was had by all.

PS: The ham was even better today after soaking all night in the sauce... Nice matchup for the Church Munich Style Dunkel for lunch.

Bottled up the IPA

This evening I bottled up the Alpha King IPA Clone, 36 bottles total. A little less than I had hoped for but such is brewing. Looking forward to trying it.

Also, popped open the first bottle of Imperial Steam. I'm not really sure what this is 'supposed' to taste like but it ain't half bad. Looking forward to trying it more as it matures.


Review: Otto's Winter Warmer

Having not done a review in forever, I'll follow a format put forth by Brian and Adam at the Brew Lounge.

Otto's Winter Warmer
Our seasonal festive celebratory ale. This year we made it with lots of cranberries and a touch of nutmeg. Smooth and fruity with a warming finish.
Formerly at 9.5% and brewed with "100 lbs of tart cherries, honey, oatmeal, and a touch of cinnamon".
(Not sure if this is accurate for this year, their website isn't listing this one yet.
ABV: varies, somewhere around 7.8 - 8.5%

Poured from a growler picked up by Nate.

Pour is a dark reddish brown, with a quick rising off white head that fades quickly to a ring of foam. Rather translucent in the glass, rapid rising bubbles as well.

Smells sweet and of faint spices, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Taste is a gingery, graham cracker, followed by the sweet sugar and spice of cinnamon and brown sugar. Nice level of spicing, not too much to be overpowering. Nice balance for a spiced beer.

Very drinkable even at this ABV, I'm on my third glass and feeling quite warm. Definitely a good choice for a winter warmer.

Others' reviews: Rate Beer, Beer Advocate

Who Doesn't Like Christmas Vacation?

With more or less the rest of the month of December off, I'm hoping for a relaxing break and a very beery close to the year.

-I've got two batches to bottle, the IPA and the Imperial Amber Ale.
-The first of the Imperial Steam Beer should be opened sometime next week.
-With all this 'free time', I'm planning to cook more, which always goes well with beer.
-A few of us from Indiana Homebrew Club are putting together a beer tour for a day after Christmas.
-Maybe one more batch to brew before the end of the year? Who knows.
-A couple recent trades and aquisitions have me up to my ears in good beer, including some DFH Immort Ale, Bell's Expedition and Batch 8000, Victory Old Ho', Lancaster Winter Warmer and a fresh growler of Otto's Winter Warmer.

I'll do my best to keep up with posts, report back on how the homebrew is tasting, and perhaps even include a few write-ups of my holiday beer tasting.


Grilled Venison Backstrap & Broccoli Cheddah Soup

Quick Post.

Used this recipe for the backstrap and this tasty recipe from Kegs and Kitchens for the Broccoli Cheddar Soup.

I used a little Steam beer homebrew in the soup and drank a brown ale with the meal.

Finished the night with Mad Elf and Frosty the Snowman with my son.


What Beer to Pair with Venison?

Not being a hunter, but enjoying both food and things that are free, I was more than happy to accept a friend's offer of some venison from his recent hunts.

He was kind enough to give me some backstrap, described as one of the best cuts of meat aside from the tenderloin.

My plan is to marinate it in some way, though I'm not sure in what base. Any ideas on pairing beer with deer, or game in general?


'Tis the Season.

With snow falling outside and temperatures dropping (at least this week...), I'm fully into the Christmas spirit.

And that is something odd for me. I'm not sure what it is, maybe its getting older and slightly less cynical. Maybe its my ability to block out all the commercial hubbub. Maybe its just seeing my kids excitement and remembering 'what it used to be like'.

Maybe its the Sly Fox Christmas Ale talking. Easily my favorite Winter seasonal, (Is February's Nugget Nectar release far enough off to be considered Spring?) I couldn't help getting a case when I was in Philly, especially at the basement bargain price of $40 for twelve 750s.

Last night I popped open the first one, this year graced with a bright green label, but otherwise the same look as last years. Nice way to differentiate for a vertical, lining all the bottles up, a seasonal display of tasty brew. Definitely going to have to save a couple for future years, an opportunity I missed last year, but only having two bottles, they didn't last long.

I'll do a more thorough tasting post soon.


Nothing in Primary

For the first time in a few months, I've got nothing in my fermenter buckets.

I bottled up the Imperial Steam Sunday morning, capping a total of 42 bottles.

Doing that emptied out a carboy, into which I transfered the Imperial Amber Ale, along with a 2 ounce Cascade dryhop.

I also opened up my first bottle of the Steam beer I brewed as my 'comeback' beer. Nicely carbonated, not a foamer like the EAssB, long lasting head. Its still not where it needs to be, as it smells a little green, but I'm hoping a few more weeks of sitting will turn it around.

I noticed a bit of the weirdness that I had from the EAssC, but I'm not sure if that is the age of the beer, only two weeks in the bottle or if its a DMS problem.

I left the lid off this time, so if that is the case, I'm going to blame it on a weak boil. Even using the turbojet we have for a front burner on our stove it can be a push to get a good rolling boil, a problem I've alleviated in the past couple batched by using a ring of heavy duty aluminum foil as a heat shield around the bottom of the pot. Visually, its working well. Hopefully it pays off in taste.


Philadelphia, in review.

Just a minute for a quick review of Philly.

-Triumph was awesome! It was the most upscale brewpub I've ever been to. Great look/feel, good & creative food, solid beers. We liked it so much we went twice.

-Nodding Head was good, but a bit too quiet for a Monday Night Football. Ludwig's was much better. Nodding Head's BPA was as good as I remembered.

-Case of Sly Fox Christmas for 40 bucks comes out to less than 3.50 a bottle. What a steal!

Maybe more later, but for now, I'm off.


Three posts in one morning?!

Since I'll be gone all week, I figured I'd squeeze in as much content ahead of time as I could.

Looking back of the most recent posts, I realized I hadn't said much at all about the Imperial Steam Beer (Batch 0003) I brewed up.

When I decided to kickstart my brewing again, I brewed a Steam Beer kit. In the interest of reusing that yeast cake, I looked around for a recipe for an Imperial Steam Beer. I found two different recipes, one from TastyBrew and one from the Maltose Falcons.

I used a Steam Beer kit as a base and with the above as a guide, Dave and I crafted a recipe. He's handy with his tools, BeerTools that is...)

It fermented quite nicely and has been in secondary now for more than two weeks. I decided to crash cool it get some of the floaters to drop out and that has worked very well. I was hoping to bottle it before I left town, but time being what it is, I ran out.

Looking forward to trying it though!

Sweetening my Cider

As I said in my autosiphon post, the hard cider I brewed turned out really dry.

So yesterday, while I already had sanitizer in a bucket, I dropped in some potassium sorbate and two cans of 100% natural apple juice concentrate. Gave it a little bit of swirling to get everything mixed in well. Hopefully that takes away a bit of the dryness.

I had thought about letting it ferment just a little, but didn't want to mess with rereading gravity and trying to pull a sample from the carboy, so I guess it will just be a mystery until I bottle.

Batch 0006 - Imperial Amber Ale, in the bucket

Sunday morning I awoke bright and early to brew Batch 0006, an Imperial Amber Ale. The base for this recipe was a Grape and Granary Amber Ale kit, to which I added 3 more lbs of Extra Light DME and a couple extra ounces of Cascade hops.

Once again, Dave assisted me with the recipe. His print out called for 5 different hop additions during the brew, as well as a dryhop, with a single varietal for each stage. However, the way the hops are packaged in the kit, the hops are not separated by type but rather by step, so I ended up adding a half oz of Cascade and a half oz of Simcoe twice, rather than an oz of each independently. That may mess up the IBU calculation, I'm not sure. Hope that made sense.

Brewing went well, all the grain stayed in the bags, I did split the grains between the two provided this time. While I was heating the initial water to boil to release the chlorine (8:30 am), I transfered the Alpha King Clone to secondary. It's looking and smelling great. The recipe for that one called for a dryhop as well, so I just dumped in my pellets and transfered on top of them. They were floating still this morning, but I'm guessing they will become a little more beer-logged and sink eventually.

Pretty uneventful brew session, which I'd say is a good thing. I almost had a boilover when I was reading a book to the kids but I caught it in time. Nice rolling boil after that and a quick cool as well. I did a four gallon boil and to help speed the cooling, I poured a gallon of my refrigerated spring water into the wort while it was in the icebath. That dropped the temperature nicely. A little more liquid to transfer, but I was afraid it I poured to 100 or so degree F wort onto the yeast cake, I'd shock it, defeating the point of reusing.

Ah, the yeast cake! I've had such success dumping new batches on top of yeast from freshly transfered batches. This batch took off! I was finished pouring and aerated around 1:30 and the wort was bubbling constantly well before 5:00pm. Its in a bucket so no blowoff, but I did notice one odd thing.

I added enough water to ferment 5 gallons, but with the fermentation going along so rapidly, it appears the level of liquid has dropped!?!? No idea why this happened, other than it maybe being suspended in the krausen? Anyone else ever see that before?


Turkey and Beer

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better topic than Beer and Turkey.

A couple resources to help out your research:

Trouble Brewing kicked things off in early November with some Turkey Trials.

Beer Advocate has a special feature written up for the holiday, including a very cool, dare I say whimsical, illustration.

Bob Batz Jr, at the Post-Gazette, moves his usual Thursday column up to Monday morning with a feature on pairing beer and turkey, making sure to highlight local beers ideal for the meal.

He also makes mention of the Brewers Association's http://www.beerandturkey.org/. Guess what that's all about.

I'm not sure what I'll be having with my turkey this Thanksgiving. I was hoping for homebrew, but I don't have anything that will be ready in time. What about you?


Batch 0005 Fermentation Photo

There it is, Batch 0005 on top of the fridge, nice big krausen forming up and bubbling happily away.

In the background: two cases of steam beer hopefully getting carbed up.

Brewing Batch 0005, a Boondoggle of Bag Breakery

Like things seem to happen every year, I have a ton of vacation time left to use up before December 31, so I've begun taking days off here and there. Friday was one of those days and what better way to spend it than brewing. So Friday, after lunch, while Kim was running errands I started brewing up my Alpha King clone.

Instead of buying six bottles of spring water this time I used tap water and boiled to free the chlorine. This batch called for doing a four gallon boil so it took some time to get that up to heat. From there I let it cool to 160 in order to do the grain steeping.

While that was cooling I bagged up my grains into the hop sock. For some reason the kit included two hop socks, but since there's a dryhop in secondary, I just assumed the bag was for those pellets. So jam jam jam the grains in the sock and tie it off as best I can.

About thirty minutes of waiting and ploppity-plop, in goes the grain bag and I'm stirring and stirring and stirring. The kids are really interested in what 'we' are doing so I'm giving a mini-tutorial. Stir stir stir and then it seems like the grain bag is a little easier to push around the brewpot. And oh look, now there's little grains floating around the wort. And oh, here's the grain bag all sopping wet and untied.

Panic! No, that won't help. I continued the steeping and stirring, put the extra hop sock over a colander and poured the wort through into another spare pot. Since the wort was still warm and I didn't want to make a (huge) mess, I used a 2 qt Pyrex measuring bowl to slowly pour the wort over the grains (is that almost a mini-mash?) and in little time at all I was back on the stove. (One note: would hot side aeration be an issue that early in the game or is that more of a problem once sugars are converted, post-boil? I splashed it as little as possible.)

Surprisingly, I got the four gallons up to a nice noisy boil rather easily and before too long I'd been through all of the hop additions and was cooling the wort. It looked and smelled great and the hydrometer said I hit the OG spot on, 1.066.

My yeast pack, Wyeast 1056 XL, was severely bloated and in it went and by next morning things were bubbling nicely.

I'm planning to use the yeast cake from this batch for my next brew, a dryhopped amber ale, but from what I read, its a good idea to step up the gravity with each batch, fully utilizing all that happy active yeast.

I'm thinking to do a barleywine or DIPA after the amber ale, but I'm wondering this: Is the gradually higher gravity essential to sustain the yeast activity? Meaning, should I ramp up the gravity on the amber to ensure that the yeast is 'ready' for the big beer?


Batch 0005 - Alpha King Clone

I ordered a few things from Grape and Granary Wednesday afternoon, including a couple ingredient kits.

Batch 0005 is an Alpha King IPA clone which features 6 different hop additions including my first attempt at dryhopping.

Batch 0006 will be a dryhopped amber ale that I'll dump onto the yeast cake (Wyeast 1056) of the IPA. I had great luck with doing this with the steam beer yeast cake so I figured I'd try it again.

Planning to brew the IPA today, already smacked the yeast pack and its swelling nicely.


The Joy of Autosiphons

In preparation for bottling my Steam Beer, I stopped at Village Homebrew yesterday afternoon and picked up an autosiphon. Until now, I had been starting a siphon by mouth (after a tasty vodka mouthwash), a messy and somewhat questionable method.

What a difference! The autosiphon couldn't be any easier to use. It was so much less painful that I transfered my Cider to secondary the same night.

Taking a gravity on the Cider, turns out that it sure is dry. The Cider fermented down from 1.060 to 1.002. I'm not sure if I'll add some apple juice concentrate or something else to sweeten it a bit or just let it ride...


It's been a while...

Well, after a busy and trying (at times) six-plus months, I'm going to give this blogging business another shot.

I've jumped back into homebrewing thanks to a boost of personal interest, due in part to the official formation of the Indiana Homebrew Club (offshoot of the Indiana Beer Club).

Currently, I've got 15 gallons of liquid on top of the fridge in fermentors. I'm planning to bottle one batch, a Steam Beer, tonight.

I dumped the wort for an Imperial Steam Beer on top of that batches yeast cake. I think I'm going to crash cool it in our uninsulated attic to get some of the floaters to drop out.

I also have 5.5 gallons of hard cider in primary. Its the result of some unpasteurized Pome Ridge Orchard apple cider and two packs of Nottingham Dry yeast.

In the works, with ingredients on the way, are an Alpha King Clone and a Dry Hopped Amber Ale.

We popped the last bottle of my ESB, now dubbed EAssB, at the second Indiana Homebrew Club meeting, unfortunately as an example of what homebrew should not taste like. Some people (must have been drunk) actually said it wasn't too bad.

Can anyone say back at it?

I haven't rated a beer in FOREVER, but I've definitely been enjoying my fair share. May do a post or two about specific beers sometime. We shall see.


Skipping the Session

Despite pre-posting, getting prepared and buying a special new release, I blew off the Session. It seems they had a good turnout, I doubt I'll be missed.

Why no dubbels for me? Well, I think I had a good excuse. Traveling up to State College by way of I-99 took me past Marzoni's and Otto's and I could not resist the call of the growler fill.

I ended up bringing home a growler of Marzoni's Weizenbock and Otto's Maibock, and since I believe one of the suggested themes of this round was bocks (and will probably follow in turn, so I may have jumped the gun) I'll just pass it off as some sort of conscientious objection. Opportunity knocked and I had to answer.

So Friday was a bock night. I've only opened the Maibock thus far and my thoughts are as follows:

Poured from a growler into a pilsner glass. I got this growler Thursday, opened it last night and am reviewing the beer today, Saturday afternoon. Otto's website says this one comes in at 6.4%

Pour is still well carbonated, an easy tilt leaves a fluffy creamy head capping a clear and rusty body, with curtains of lace above the foam.

Smell is of floral and grassy hops along with malty sweetness, though not much aroma unless forced. Whiffs of alcohol, too.

Taste is bready and sweet, like a blend of grains, honey and nuts, almost cereal-like. There's a good hop bitterness as well, present mostly in the finish, a spicy flavor the washes the tongue as you swallow. As it warms, more fruitiness comes through and the hoppiness drops back to more of a grassy flavor.

Mouthfeel is lighter than medium bodied with a nice crispness and some mellow carbonation. Notable, but not overpowering warming and alcohol.

Drinkability is good, this is a beer intended to welcome the warmth of spring and though my timing was off and I'm sipping it on an April day all of 33 degrees F, its a nice balance of warming and drinkability.


Another Session ahoy, this Friday she be...

Arrr, mateys!

Allan at A Good Beer Blog has sounded the warning for Friday and this time the beers be Dubbels (just stick with me on the pirate theme for a minute)!

Like Allan, the area is a tad lacking in Dubbels and my personal experience is consistent. However, Clipper City recently released a new beer to their line-up, Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale.

Part of the Heavy Seas line-up of very tasty beers, Holy Sheet Uber Abbey Ale is:
From the centuries-old tradition of Belgian Abbey monks comes our Uber Abbey Ale (9%). Aromatic and very full bodied, the beer will pour a deep burgundy in color and feature a rich, robust depth of malt character. Grab a line – Holy Sheet! – or you might be swept overboard.

Some websites (like BeerAdvocate for example) call it a Beligan Dark Ale, but in that same category are many other Dubbel-style beers, like New Belgium Abbey, Ommegang, and Chimay Red, so I think I am safe enough.

I'm really looking forward to trying a new beer from Clipper City and I'm quite pleased with the way the timing worked out for this one. Now walk the plank, land lubber!


From Boston to Latrobe

via Realbeer.com:

The Boston Beer Co., brewers of Samuel Adams beers, has signed an agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of City Brewing Co. to brew some of its beer in Latrobe, Pa.

According to a company press release, Boston Beer and City Brewing will upgrade the brewery by purchasing equipment to allow for Samuel Adams’ traditional brewing process, use of proprietary yeasts and extended aging time, and beer bottling and kegging. Brewing of Boston Beer products is expected to begin during the second quarter.

“This agreement gives us increased flexibility,” said Martin Roper, President & CEO of Boston Beer.

More here. The official press release is on the Boston Beer Co website. This is good news for the region, without a doubt, especially with continued growth in the craft beer market.


First Brew Review - 2 weeks in the bottle

After two weeks in the bottle, I could wait no longer. I stuck a bottle in the fridge yesterday and popped in open Sunday afternoon. I said to myself, "If its even drinkable, I'll be satisfied".

Well, based on that goal, I think its ok. The head off the initial pour was huge. Infection? I fear that may be the case. The body is a golden honey color, a tad cloudy though I think I didn't leave quite enough in the bottom of the bottle.

The nose is rather fruity for a bitter I think, but not sour or offensive. I think the DMS is a little present though.

Taste is ok, again, not offensive. Drinkable but not great. I think we'll be making a little more beer bread around the house. A decent bitterness in the finish but certainly not what I would call hoppy.

Carbonation seems like its coming a little, I got a nice pffiff popping the cap.

The recipe says this beer hits its prime around two months in the bottle, so I'm hoping it gets better...


Overcoming a Frat Party Reputation - BA in the NYT

Published in today's Food & Wine section of the New York Times, Eric Asimov profiles Jason and Todd Alström , founders of BeerAdvocate.com.

Nice coverage of one of my favorite online beer resources as well as the cause of good beer, in general. The only part I take exception to is this:
Without the pastoral mystique that has been appropriated by wine producers or the suave, sophisticated imagery of the wine drinker, beer lovers have largely retreated to the antistyle precincts associated with such proverbial social outcasts as computer nerds and science fiction fanatics. Bizarre facial hair, unflattering T-shirts and strange headgear are standard equipment among beer geeks.

I think I'm quite suave. Right? Right!?!?


Bottling my First Batch

Yesterday evening I invited over Josh, a friend of ours, to help me bottle the first batch.

It was kind of stressful, I think from now on I won't do anything brewing related unless the kids are away or asleep. They both insisted on being involved. Zach was the designated bottle dumper, I gave them each a quick rinse to make sure anything lingering from the cleaning process was washed away. Ella chose capping as her task of choice. All in all, it went rather well.

The beer ended up at about 1.012, which for an English Special Bitter seems about right. It tasted ok, but being room temperature, young and undercarbonated, I can't expect a whole lot.

Oddly enough, I only ended up with only about a case and a half of beer. I left a good inch on the bottom of the secondary and I think when I did the initial transfer from bucket to carboy, I left a little more liquid than I needed to wash the trub for storage. The carboy cap-siphon starter method worked great to get things going into the bottling bucket, but I had to use the mouth-method to start the bottle filler. I'll have to read into a better method for that step.

I also broke on bottle (filled unfortunately) by not paying attention and overzealously capping.

We took the chance to celebrate the holiday with an Irish Beef Stew I had made earlier in the day. I also opened the growler of Red Star's 4GA, their 4 Grain Ale (barley, wheat, oats and rye), which was dry-hopped this time around and quite tasty. Josh brought over a 6-pack of Weyerbacher Quad, but by the end of the evening, I was in no position to be drinking any of that one. At 12%+ I would have been asleep before 9:00.

Hopefully in three weeks I'll have a fairly passable beer. I'm hoping to get another batch brewed before the end of March, so I can keep with my once a month brewing schedule.


A PA-brewed Guinness alternative.

Don Russell, aka Joe Sixpack has posted his regular Friday column for the Philadelphia Daily News, choosing this week, appropriately, to highlight Sly Fox Brewing's O'Reilly's Stout.
Said O'Reilly: "Every bar that puts it on, it just makes it that much easier for us to tell other bars, 'See, you don't need to serve Guinness.'

I don't know of a single bar that started serving us that has gone back to Guinness."

It's gotten so popular, Sly Fox is considering canning the stout with one of those nifty widgets that help create the brew's signature foamy head.

There's one other thing that has to be said about O'Reilly's Stout: it just might taste better than the original.

Very cool, I'd be thrilled to pick up a sixer of widgeted O'Reilly's, especially since its currently a draft-only option, meaning it doesn't see its way out to western PA much. That said, last I was at Market Street Ale House in downtown Pittsburgh, they had it on tap, I'm assuming in anticipation of the upcoming holiday. I didn't get a chance to try it, as I had a meeting right after lunch that I was heading-up (though after the meeting, I kind of felt the pint wouldn't have done any harm).

Other options that I am personally aware of:

East End
is having the 2-for-1 Black Strap Stout specials for (extended) growler hours this Saturday.

I was at Red Star yesterday and they had flyers up indicating an Irish Day tomorrow, with tappings of fresh Irish Red and Iron Horse Stout (the latter a GABF medal winner). I was hoping for a growler fill of either one but it was not to be.

North Country seems to have on their McCafferty's Ale, a "true Celtic Red ale".

A new beer from Penn Brewing

According to Lew Bryson, who's got the info right from the horse's, err, brewer's mouth:
We’ll call it Penndemonium, to be introduced on Mayday in draft and 22 oz. bottles. (This is our first 22 oz. product, We put in a new filler.) You can try it here at the Penn Brewery Restaurant on May 1st or come to the Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest on June 2nd and try it.

How exciting is this?


Brewing super-small batches

After reading a little of Ted's Homebrew Journal and searching the Home Brew Forums, I've become interested in brewing extra small batches. Microbrewers do small 5 gallon test batches all the time, I'm just scaling it even further.

I figure with less volume to brew the process will be a little quicker and I'll be able to brew more often or do more brews. It won't be faster to boil or ferment, but it will get drank faster and I'll have more chance/time to experiment.

I've got plenty of half-gallon growler jugs around but then I'd have to split the batch, which means more equipment to purchase, which could be spent just as easily on ingredients. I've read about people using one-gallon glass apple juice jugs, as well.

Anyone have any experiences to share or advantages/disadvantages?

Also, I'll be bottling my first batch sometime this week and I'm working out plans to brew a batch with a friend who has never brewed. Wish us luck!


Western PA Brewery Updatery

Via the always prescient Lew Bryson come a healthy round of updates, a bunch of which involve western PA.

Blurbbage includes East End, Four Sons, Sprague Farm and Voodoo. But, wait!

Perhaps the most exciting is this:
Andrew Maxwell (out of John Harvard's) and the folks from the Rivertowne Inn (Verona and North Huntington) are getting together to open a brewpub in Monroeville, just off the Turnpike interchange (312 Center Rd.). He's got a 15 bbl. JVNW brewhouse ("Gas-fired," Andrew said, "It’s the nicest system I’ve ever touched.") and tanks already in Pittsburgh, and there's a sales agreement on the building (paperwork should be final in two weeks or so). Get this: "Our goal is to carry between 13 and 18 beers at any one time," Andrew says. "I’ve never been given the opportunity to do something like this." Those of you lucky enough to know him from JHBH Monroeville should be excited; and so should the rest of you. This is going to be a very easy stop off the PA TP...and a must-stop.

Its to be called the Rivertowne Pourhouse, and by golly, I cannot wait for it to open.


Another new beer from East End!

News from the East End GOOD BEER newsletter.

Less than a month after releasing the Fat Gary, Scott has another new beer on the loose, Session Ale #7:
Session Ale #7 will make it's debut at Thursday Growler Hours this
week (as in later today), taking this weeks draft count back up to 5
(Witte is back in stock too!). It's my interpretation of a style that
has a bit of a reputation for being on the bland side of things... but
not this time. American Wheat beer roughly follows the recipe for a
German Wheat beer, but with some significant changes. Instead of
German Hefewiezen yeast, a more neutral American yeast strain is
typically used (or in this case, an English strain), and the noble
German hops are replaced with American Hops - LOTS of American hops,
but this is no Bitter End. It's all about Hop Flavor this time, and
packed into a beer that's still just about 4% alcohol by volume.

Sounds kind of like Southern Tier's HopSun to me, and that is not a bad thing at all. I'm really looking forward to this one, hopefully I can get down there soon. I also hope the weather warms up a tad, to go with that beer!

Scott's also holding 2-for-1 Blackstrap Stout fills for St. Patty's day next week.
To mark the
Green-ness of what one huge stout manufacturer has been calling "The
St. Patrick's Day SEASON", I'll be running 2-for-1 fills of Black
Strap O'Stout on both Growler Days next week.

Cheers to East End and Scott. Keep up the good work!

Beer and Food with the Brew Lounge

As much as I wish I were announcing a coming together of beer bloggers to meet, eat and drink, it is not so (just yet...)

Bryan has posted about the new section on Beer and Food on the Victory Brewing webspace, but goes the extra mile by adding links to a few other excellent resources.

Thanks, pal!

So far, the Victory coverage is kind of sparse, but promising. The HopDevil marinade sounds good, as does the sandwich it leads to. A friend of mine recently did a marinade with Golden Monkey and a fresh herb that I am currently not recalling, and he said it turned out fantastic.


The Session #1 Roundup

Stan's posted the round-up of the first Session aka Beer Blogging Friday. Looks like a great turn-out, especially for the kick-off event.


The Session: Not Your Father's Stout

The theme of the first-ever Beer Blogging Friday aka The Session was "Not Your Father's Stout" though I must say that if my father did enjoy beer, my choice is one right up his alley.

Brewed in St Louis, by the St Louis Brewery aka Schlafly, Kaldi's Coffee Stout is an October release.
This collaboration with Kaldi's Coffee uses the cold toddy method of extraction for the coffee. We mix it with Oatmeal Stout for an exceptionally delicious beer. Also available in bottles.

A friend of mine who owns a Coffeehouse was able to tell by taste that it was a cold toddied beer, though the best assessment I can give is that its my favorite coffee beer.

As I've noted before in this space, I am a big fan of coffee and beer. Combine the two and I'm as close to heaven as I will get, so saying the Schlafly is my favorite holds some weight, at least to me.

On to the beer.

This is a very dark stout, the normally dark bodied beer made even more-so with the addition of the coffee. A huge puffy head rises out of the glass, fluffy but packed with tight bubbles. As it falls to a constant layer of foam, it leaves creamy lacing behind on the side of the glass.

The smell, perhaps oddly enough, is not overwhelming with coffee. There's a nice nutty roastiness to the beer along with obvious whiffs of dark roast coffee, but with it comes a sweet creaminess.

The taste is quite bitter, again mainly the role of the coffee, the hops present here are much in the background. This beer is rich and creamy, with a silky texture that's just a tad sticky-sweet. A tad high in alcohol at 5.7% to be a true session beer, but when the weather is cold and the wind is blowing, a session with this beer is a welcome opportunity.

Being a coffee stout, this beer begs to be paired with dessert, perhaps a warm piece of apple pie (a la mode of course). For the more adventurous (or those with little pressing for a day) this beer is made for breakfast. Can anyone say pancakes with an apple compote and just a touch of fresh whipped cream?


Transfering to Secondary

After taking a hydrometer reading on Sunday (it read 1.020), I thought it would be safe to transfer last night, based on the 1-2-3 fermentation schedule.
So after a week in the primary, I took another hydrometer sample last night. Its fallen to 1.014! The recipe I had from Grape and Granary didn't have a final gravity listed, so I combed through some books I had, and averaging the final gravities from those recipes, it's pretty spot on, I think.

So I did as Charlie Papazian said, "relax don't worry, have a homebrew". Well, it wasn't a homebrew, but I do what I can.

I cleaned and sanitized all of my transfering equipment, the carboy, a growler (for the yeast). I used Idophor this time, rather than the B-Brite I had for the brewing night. I'll probably be using it instead from now on, I like the ease of use as well as the somewhat more safe product.

Transferring went smoothly, despite my missing carboy cap, I sanitized my mouth with vodka and got things underway. The process was quick, easy and I was done and cleaning up in less than an hour's time. I saved the yeast cake from this batch in a growler, with plans to use it for my next batch. Not only will I save money, but its an easy way to get a starter and provide for a vigorous fermentation out the door. Anything to quell my constant fidgeting and second-guessing.

Just an aside: I thought this blog could use a little sprucing up, thus the pictures. I know most people who will read this know exactly what the process is like, but it sure makes the post more interesting, either way. I took a couple pictures during the initial brew night, but they include incriminating evidence off me leaving the lid on the pot for the entire boil, so I'd rather not post those.


Sip a stout.

Most of the beer blogs have done the reminder for this Friday's first ever mass-beer-blog, now dubbed The Session.

Sort of as I warm-up (I think), Hop Talk has a shirt blurb on the history of stout as a beer style.
“Stout” could be applied to any style, meaning it was not uncommon to see a “stout pale ale”. In 1820 Guinness began producing a stout porter. As time went on, “stout” came to apply only to porter and, eventually, the “porter” part of the name dropped off.

Also, of note, over at the Portland Beer Blog, a post begins detailing New Old Lompoc's upcoming seasonals, which include a “blonde stout” dubbed Bombshell Blonde.
Bombshell is brewed to a stout recipe without the dark grains that give stouts their coffeelike bitterness and color. It uses oats, which give it a dry hay sensation on the palate and a quenchingly dry finish.

Sounds like something a homebrewer would make. I'm quite curious how that would turn out.

All that's left to do now is decide what stout to try. You can help Bryan decide his choice over at the Brew Lounge.

I'm wondering, do I drink Thursday night and post on it Friday, or try to do it all in the course of Friday evening?


Yet another mistake...

When I brewed my first batch last Wednesday, I figured everything had gone according to plan. As the week went on, I became more and more skeptical towards my success..

It turns out I've done yet another goof. When I did my boil, I left the lid on. Great! Now I'm expecting to have a beer full of DMS.
DMS is continuously produced in the wort while it is hot and is usually removed by vaporization during the boil. If the wort is cooled slowly these compounds will not be removed from the wort and will dissolve back in. Thus it is important to not completely cover the brewpot during the boil or allow condensate to drip back into the pot from the lid.

In other words, I pretty much messed up the entire reason for the boil. Concentrating the good, evaporating the bad.

Argh, yet another lesson about to be learned the hard way. I almost feel like I should just toss this batch and start over, but I'm probably too emotionally invested now not to ride it out.

A fairly prodcutive weekend

Despite my concerns, the hydrometer read 1.020 for the sample I took last night, so it does seem to be working. I'm not sure if I missed the initial burst of activity since everything was stored in the cabinet or if the process was more gradual than I thought it would be.

I'm assuming since I fermented in a plastic bucket that the extra space in the bucket lessens the pressure build-up, thus no need for a blow-off, thus the less animated bubbler activity, right? I'm learning as I go.

I gave the thing a nice shake Sunday morning with hopes of getting the yeast floating around again, hoping to get a little more activity, though from what I read, the majority of the bubbling after agitation is coming from escaping air rather than fermentation activity. Doh. I'm just hoping I didn't oxidize the beer.

I'm going to let it sit until Wednesday or Thursday night and then rack to secondary. Depending on timing and personal schedules, I may try to brew a new batch that same night, so I can use the yeast cake, though I'm wondering, if I leave the yeast in the bucket and wait to brew until Saturday, will everything stay sanitary and healthy?

I also got my bottles cleaned and delabeled. I used two 15 gallon plastic tubs filled with HOT water and a bit of Oxy-Clean. After five hours in the solution, most of the labels fall right off, then all it took was a little scrubbing to make sure all the glue was gone. Then, a nice rinse and off to dry. All the labels came very easily, with the exception being a couple Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout bottle, which after the five hour soak and a few minutes of scrubbing, had only started to show paper. Ah well, at least, their beer is good.


We've got bubbles!

Last night when I got home the airlock WAS bubbling. Finally!

I say that even though I know it wasn't that long. Patience is one of the key attributes to being a homebrewer, so that's another thing that I'm learning as I go. It was too get cold overnight, so I wrapped the fermenter in a blanket, pulled it further out from the back of the cabinet and hoped for the best.

It was still cold this morning when I checked. The beer had fallen to 60 degrees so I decided I need a change for the sake consistency and warmth. I cleared off the top of the fridge and _carefully_ lifted the bucket to the top.

Now its starting to take off. I'm getting bursts of bubble activity every ten to fifteen seconds.

The fermenter is still out of the way, impossible to meddle with and now the temperature is more even or the day's cycle.

Plus, it makes for a great conversation piece.


Fermentor woes...

Actually, my issues are probably more like worries, but I tend to be dramatic when passionate.

I'm doing the fermentation of my first batch in the kitchen cabinet under the sink. There's a couple reasons for that.
1. It's away from curious child and pet activity. Double doors = lockable.
2. It's out of the way of general household activity.
3. It tends to be the warmest room of the house.

My yeast asn't started yet, though the directions for my brew say it can be 24-72 hours. I'm somewhere around the 26 hour mark.

Overnight it got cold and the temperature of the beer dropped from 70F to 65F. I assume it will go back up to 75 as the day goes on and the house rewarms. I've got an old down jacket wrapped around the bucket, thinking at least I can keep it insulated. Tonight when it gets even colder (low of 5 or so I believe) I'll pull the bucket out and stick it somewhere warmer.

I know, "relax, don't worry. have a homebrew", but its only 7:00am and I've got to get to work. Advice, experience, tips?


First brew is in the bucket!

After a late-ish start, a little after 7:30, my first brew is in the fermenting bucket. Everything went quite smoothly, almost too smoothly, I'm still waiting for something to go wrong.

I case you missed the initial post, I brewed an extract ESB from the Grape and Granary. Besides showing up a day later than expected, service and price their were top-notch. The kit included liquid malt. dried malt extract, some specialty grains, plus both bittering and aroma hops and Irish moss. I ended up getting the London ESB yeast from Wyeast. The Smack-Pack gave me a bit of a scare, I wasn't certain it was working, so I gave it a few extra smacks.

Cleaning and sanitation went as well as those things could. No boil-overs, though I have my giant turkey fryer to thank for that more so than vigilance. I pitched the yeast with the temperature a little below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, starting with a original gravity of 1.043, which on the low end of the spectrum according to the BJCP, but as I said, the temperature was a bit high, so that may be off. According to the Complete Joy etc, thats about right.

All cleaned up around 11:30, not too shabby for four hour's work.

Now comes the hard part, worrying and waiting for fermentation to begin.


Pulling the homebrewing trigger

I've finally gone all in. I'm going to homebrew, and soon!

My lovely wife gave a starter fund for Valentines Day (how's that for romance?) and I figured I have enough for a decent kit.

I've had feelers out to a number of people who have brewing equipment they no longer need or want, so I was hoping to get some of my equipment on the cheap. Sure, I could have just brewed at Nate's house, but that kind of felt like cheating.

Friday I ran out to a friend of my Dad's, a guy who had homebrewed in the past but had not done any brewing for years. Lack of time? Perhaps, he does custom woodworking so I can see how that may be an issue.

Long story short, I ended up getting a huge deal (some handy extra stuff too, including a recipe book and a bottle washer) and had enough leftover cash to stop off and get a Turkey Fryer kit. We have a kit we found in our attic, but it lacks a burner. The new kit's cookpot also has a spigot, which the older kit does not, so I figured it would be better to not use that one to brew. Plus, if we ever do when we want to fry a turkey, there will be no mixing of tools.

I ordered an English Special Bitter extract kit from The Grape and Granary, a homebrew shop in Akron, OH which Nate recommended along with a Wyeast 1028, London Ale Yeast. The kit includes a dry yeast, which I may use to do something like a Coffee Brown Ale. I've been flipping through books and have a good idea for the recipe, I just need to figure out what coffee origin/roast I want to use. More on that later.

So, I'm ready to brew, Kim is going to help (how's that for supportive?) and here's hoping it goes well.


Victory pulls out the Hammer

Lew Bryson reveals in his Short Snorts column today that Victory Brewing will be contract brewing the former Heavyweight beer (not champion) Perkuno's Hammer Imperial Porter.

Bill Covaleski had this to say about the project: "Ron [Barchet] and I have always been big fans of Perkuno's Hammer, and Tom's beers in general. This was one beer that we simply could not let vanish, and when we reached out to Tom about keeping this great beer alive, he was very enthusiastic to collaborate to that end. This is another example how Victory lives to delight our own inner beer geek, and the beer community as well."

I still have a bottle of the original Hammer in my fridge, but I think its safe to drink it, now that I know more, possible much more is on the way.


East End Brewing Spot on WQED, plus other East End News

Someone ripped this from their DVR and sent it to Scott. I'm posting it here for your viewing pleasure.

I was going to embed it in this post, but YouTube's not liking me right now. You can see it here.

Scott also reports in the newsletter about a new year-round brew:

A few months back, I brewed a batch of Session Ale, with less than one
tenth of the hops that go into a batch of Big Hop IPA. In case you
missed #3, it was a Southern English Nut Brown Ale and at very
drinkable 3.6% abv. The response to a malty beer in the lineup was so
strong that I've decided to balance out the year-round offerings a bit
and promote it from "Returning Session Ale" to "Year Round
Beer" (taking the place of your beloved Pedal Pale Ale, which as
promised before, will return in a new form with another spring keg

Sounds like Scott's heard the call for session beers, I'm looking forward to trying this one.


It's Hibernatin' Time

Here is western Pennsylvania we've gotten a spell of weather over the last couple of days. We've had snow, though not Oswego County NY volumes, which last night was topped of by a nice inch or so of ice, followed by a little more snow for good measure. It was enough to close our offices, so I've got a snow day! It's still coming down out there now and the temperature is dropping.

So, whats a geek to do? Stay inside, under a quilt and read a book? Why no, a better idea would be to go out and tackle it all.

Somehow, we've managed to have one of the biggest driveways on the block, despite being situated amongst a group of four-squares like ours. I'll blame on being the corner house: two frontages, double the asphalt!

After spending the last couple hours lifting snow, breaking ice and heaving both as far as my limbs can manage with my less-than-ideal snow shovel, I'm inside again. A quick warm up of coffee (which for those playing along at home is a new fair trade, organic I received as a gift from TJ, owner of the Commonplace Coffeehouse), I sit down with a mug of 2005 Great Divide Hibernation Ale, a beer I've mentioned on this blog in the past. I also promised I'd devote some more time and space to qualitative reviews. On that note, here goes:

Great Divide Hibernation Ale 2005 vintage
12 ounce bottle, 8.1% ABV
Bottled October 20, 2005
Great Divide Website
Beer Advocate, Rate Beer

Dubbed by Great Divide to be Colorado's original strong ale, this beer is a big one.

Pours a murky, viscous dark brown, with a tall tan head.

Aroma bursts forth on this one, dark fruits and molasses, whiffs of alcohol. Not much hop aroma. This beer is a good year and half old, Great Divide brews this one in July and cellars it until October, add to the the one year of cellaring after bottling and voila.

Taste is sweet and malty, the hops more present as a good bitterness in the finish. Obvious alcohol, though in no ways too much, it makes this beer stand up straight.

Mouthfeel is rich and creamy, with an obvious warming, too.

Overall, this is a tasty winter (extra)warmer and one I look to try every year. It's good to see how the hops fade to the back with the year in the cellar. It's warmed up my old body very nicely, but lulls me into staying inside rather than heading back outside for another round with Old Man Winter.


Voodoo Brewery Update - February 12, 2007

Voodoo Brewery, brewers of Artisan Beer Styles, is located in downtown Meadville, PA, "Producing Craftbrewed Beers of Heritage and Integrity" all brought to you fresh as can be by Brewmaster Matt Allyn.

Sounds good, right? Well, here's the good news, the shot below is Matt brewing up one of the first batches.

Over at the Voodoo website, Matt's posted up photos of the new brewhouse's completion as well as pics of the first brews being made. The website also states "We are not yet producing any beer, we hope we will be distributing some time MARCH/ APRIL 2007." but it seems they are, at last, brewing!

Based on the Voodoo Beers portion of the website, we can expect they have some tasty and interesting things in the works. Can this place come soon enough?

Local Beer Coverage - The Gazette Article

The long-awaited Indiana Gazette article on homebrewing came out in yesterday's Leisure section and Nate has already posted a good blurb about it on the Club blog. I also posted a jpeg of the whole shebang.

So far, we've received two 'I'm interested, and I have friends!' responses by email, so we're building momentum. I'm itching to get started with my homebrewing as well and slow and steady, things are falling into place. Northern Brewer has some of their winter seasonal ingredient kits on sale, so I was thinking I'd try a Scottish 80/- or something. I keep spending time thinking about ingredients and supplies, I just need to start brewing...


The first rule of Beer Club...

is Please, talk about Beer Club!

Last night was our second meeting and Nate has a good write-up over on the club blog.

Good times were had and all the beer was tasty, minus one odd-bottle-out. For some reason the Southampton Biere de Garde was off. Jon said when he popped the cork there was very little 'popping' and that the bottle had been filled up to the cork itself.
Nate wrote:
A couple of us felt that it was off, with a lot of DMS (dimethyl sulfide) and buttery notes.

Pretty much sums it up. Its not an oft reviewed beer, being fairly new, at least in bottle form, the the Southampton line-up, but the one review that is up right now doesn't match our feelings.

It's a beer I'd like to try again, I've heard nothing but good things about Southampton, so this off bottle was a little frustrating, especially at the Club meeting.


"wonderfully creamy but sour overtones"

Proving that I can, in fact, laugh at myself, here's an article from The Onion about a potato chip connoisseur. Replace all the potato chip stuff with beer attributes and its pretty much spot-on.

But the chip enthusiast hasn't always been so discerning. After being turned on to chips by friends in college, Sterken said he "used to cram them in, two or three at a time, without any appreciation for their tactile qualities or gentle nuances. Back in those days I couldn't tell the difference between a Walker and a Wise. I thought it was all about boldness and crunch."

Too funny.

For the past year, he has been hosting monthly chip-tasting parties at his apartment to introduce "new finds and old favorites to all of [his] friends."

Now that one hits pretty close to home.

How about some pairing tips?

"If you're having a small lunch, you'll want to go with a medium-bodied Sun Chip that won't steal focus, whereas most hamburgers are going to require a more robust Frito," said Sterken, who suggests allowing all corn-based chips to breathe in a shallow bowl before enjoying.

Well played, Onion, well played...


Erie Micro Brew Festival will offer a taste of new brews

The Erie Micro Brew Festival, April 20 & 21, being hosted by the Brewerie at Union Station looks to be the a big event for a lot of the regions smaller brewers.

Not only will Sprague Farm be there as well as East End (both more or less one man operations, but the fest info says that Voodoo Brewery will be at the event, one of the most exciting, new, highly anticipated brewers in the area.

There will also be a beer dinner the night before, hosted by Mr PA Beer himself, Lew Bryson.

Call the Brewrie for more information.

Also, if you cannot wait until the to see what Voodoo has up its sleeve, they are one of the brewers, among the other good ones on the itinerary, for the Northwestern PA Brewery Tour, February 17th, also being organized by the Brewerie. My they are busy, no wonder their website is so bare bones! Only joking, folks!


What makes good beer 'good'?

After a bit of a hiatus, Travis over at Wyrd Brew has returned, most recently with a post on what characteristics tend to define 'good beer':

Good beer should be made well.
Good beer is crafted with the intention that it is to be tasted and enjoyed.
Good beer has a lot of flavor.
Good beer meets reasonable expectations of the beer enthusiast.
Good beer should be appropriately priced.

You can read the full scoop over at his original post.


New Beer Blog Alert!

Thanks to, once again, Appellation Beer, I'm now aware the Lew Bryson has started a beer blog. Here's hoping he knows a thing or too about beer, right?

It seems the general premise is to proclaim his love for session beers, but so far its pretty diverse. Lew plans to blog on "tasting notes, quick rants and raves, Philly area (and beyond) beer news, whiskey news, and all dat."

You can read his call to arms at his regular website.

Beer Blogging Day

A lot of folks have already covered this, but since I plan on participating, I may as well give a plug, too.
Appellation Beer will host the first tasting March 2 (giving us time to get out the word), and the theme will be “Not your father’s Irish stout.”

There aren’t many rules. Simply pour yourself a stout (or stouts) and post on the topic March 2.

You can get the full scoop here.


The other St. Louis brewery

Appellation Beer has a recent post on the brewery in St. Louis that isn't Anheuser-Busch, the impressive Schlafly Brewing Company (say it Shla-flee, not Shla-fly, which I made the mistake of doing). The post is part book review and part commentary on a topic thats beer circling the Interwebs lately, at least the part that discusses good beer, beer's place as a drink of the common man.

I'm lucky enough to have a friend who lives in St. Louis and brings me back cases of tasty Schlafly beer when he returns home to visit. Most recently, its been the Kaldi's Coffee Stout, the Christmas Ale and the Pumpkin Ale, all of which I thought to be top notch. I'm planning to do a post on all three of them soon, perhaps this is just the prodding I needed.

here's hoping my friend returns home soon, with Schlafly in tow, of course!

I've been bunged!

At least that's what I'm choosing to dub the beer blog equivalent of a 'plug'.

Cheers to Wörtwurst for putting me at top billing on his blogroll update post.

Welcome, to any new readers, as well.


Beer in the Indiana Gazette?

Nate beat me to the punch here, but its completely justified as he's brewed a few more batches than I have (none).

The Indiana Gazette will be publishing an article on beer and wine making in an upcoming Sunday Leisure section.

Whats next, weekly columns on local beer happenings, style highlights and good beer coverage? I'd be delighted if that were the case.

Beer club, beer blog.

Nate went ahead and started up a blog for the beer club. We'll be posting news, club info, tasting information, along with the usual high-jinks. Check it out!


An extended Hibernation, or A couple notes on bottle dating.

There's been some talk, both on Beer Advocate and in their new magazine regarding the issue of brewers dating their bottles. Those who date will usually either do a "bottled on" date or a "best by". The methods of dating can be as simple as marking a date with a pen, to using a laser to cut it into the label.

Unfortunately, finding a brewer that dates their goods is pretty hit or miss. A lot of brewers do date their beers, likely an equal amount of brewers do not.

So where is this all leading? A couple of recent date mishaps, courtesy of yours truely.

Tonight, I popped open a Deschutes Black Butte Porter I got in trade this fall. Checking for a date on the bottle, I see a best-by of 08/22/06. Dammit! I try it anyways and while its far from amazing, it is drinkable. Not worth a review, but drinkable. Note to self, check dates on bottles as soon as you receive them.

This past winter I picked up a case of Great Divide Hibernation Ale from my local distributor. Okay, it wasn't quite that simple, it was a special order. I called, waited, got a call and picked it up. I drank it, and liked it, a lot. I gave a few away, traded a few over Christmas and recently and then finally got around to doing a formal review.
That's when I check the bottled-on date. Bottled 2005. Hmm, that odd. And while Hibernation is brewed in the summer and cellared until fall, its hardly sitting at the brewery for a year. A mistake I thought, and checked at a local six pack shop that had stocked Hibernation the last time I was there. Same story, bottled 2005.
I'm not sure where things fell apart, but I'm doubting it's my local beer distributor holding on to last year's stock, especially since another store in town has the same vintage. The fact is though, that someone somewhere is shipping old beer.
Luckily, Hibernation Ale is a strong beer that can last a year or five in good conditions. I'm not sure how this one was stored, but its still excellent. I wouldn't have known it was last year's vintage until I was smart enough to check.

Well, at least its a good beer. I sort of lucked out, since the 2005 vintage of Hibernation Ale won a silver medal in the Aged Beer Category at the GABF 2006. In fact, I might have to go pick up the rest of that 'old' beer.


The Joys of Beer Trading

Thanks to the guys at the Brew Lounge I have a few new beers to try.

Left to right, we have Adam's homebrew, which I think is his dry-hopped IPA barleywine, Yards Tavern Spruce Ale, Sly Fox Christmas Ale 2006, Southampton Biere de Garde and Sly Fox Odyssey 2006. Clear in the back is olive oil for dinner, please disregard that one.

All of these are new to me, except the Sly Fox Christmas, but thats even better because I had it this year, absolutely loved it and was trying to track down more.

Thanks Brew Lounge!

Brown Ale Article in the NY Times.

Occasionally, the New York Times will run an article on beer in their Food section, under the Ales of the Times column. In the past they have done lambics, wheat beers, and porters. Today's column (they seem to run quarterly by season, last year at this time was barleywines.) was a feature on brown ales, an oft underrated beer.

Part of the reason brown ales are not in the news more (at least in the beer world) is that they are very simple beers. By 'simple' I'm not saying they are easy to brew, as usually it is more subtle styles of beer that take the greatest skill to craft. You can't hide poor malt choices behind an absolutely huge hop profile.

Thus, in these days with 'extreme beers' often getting all the attention, the brown ale is much like the wallflower at the high school prom. Perhaps, the guys out on the floor get the girls for being loud, brash and over-the-top, but the kid over there, all alone, or maybe with a group of like minded friends, he's sensitive, complex (without being too deep of course) and understated. Give that kid a chance!

Well, perhaps I'm stretching the metaphor a tad too far.

Nevertheless, the brown ale... Where was I? The article covers the tastings of a number of different brown ales, alts in some cases, from the US, England, Germany and the Netherlands. The samplers include Richard Scholz, an owner of Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Lew Bryson, beer writer extraordinaire. Take a look, learn a little and maybe try a new beer or two.

Don't miss the Interactive Feature link about a third of the way down the page, it has some nice photos and good audio on the tastings.

For more on Brown Ale, you can also read up at The Brew Lounge.

(For some of the NY Times articles, a login is required. I'd recommend using Firefox and BugMeNot to get around that.)

East End Beer Dinner at the Harris Grill TONIGHT

Tonight at the Harris Grill in the Shadyside neighorhood of Pittsburgh, there is a special East End Brewing Dinner. Sadly, I will not be attending (though donations are readily accepted and I would provide excellent coverage), but there are some spots left if you can get there. The menu and pairings sounds amazing. For your tastebud tempting pleasure, here they are:

5 Courses Plus Intermezzos
Apple, Butternut Squash, And Radicchio Salad With Dry-Hopped Lemon Vinaigrette
Pedal Pale Ale

Red Dragon-Asparagus Chowder
Big Hop Ipa

Intermezzo: Witte-Citrus Sorbet

Trippel Cheese Puff Pastry “Tart”
Ugly American Trippel Style Ipa

Indian Coffee Crusted Strip Steak Over Three Potato Gratin Served With Roasted Golden Beets And A Chipotle Demi-Glace
Gratitude 2006 W/ Bitter End Side Car

Intermezzo: Blackstrap Chocolate Truffle

Snow Melt-Macerated Morello Cherries Over Cardamom-Dusted Apple “Crackers” Served With Sweetened Cinnamon Crème Fraiche.
Snow Melt Winter Ale

Oy! And I promise, if/when there is another one, I will not miss it.


Beer and Food: A Roughneck's Take

Over at A Roughneck's Take on Beer, Wörtwurst has posted a scanned piece from the Brewers Association about the delicious combination of good beer and good food.

Wörtwurst prefers snack foods with his brews and while I'm not one to pass over pretzels with my beer when offered, I really enjoy pairing beers I drink with the food (usually dinner) I am eating. Its not a new concept, in fact there have been a few excellent books written on the subject, most notably Garrett Oliver's The Brewmaster's Table.

The article is pretty boilerplate as far as beer and food goes, for example, German food with German beer, but its a good reference article. Also included are a few blurbs about glassware and cooking with beer.

The real Easter Egg in the article though, is this handy chart that grids beer style, along with some basic style characteristics. The chart then details suggested foods, cheeses and desserts for each style, as well as preferred glassware and serving temperature.

I'd like to think this goes to show that beer doesn't only go with food, beer IS food!

This town's probably big enough for the both of us.

Welcome to the blogosphere another beer blog out of Indiana, PA. Thats right folks, double the coverage!

My friend Nate has started up his blog: "Nate's Beer and Brewing Blog". Nate seems to get out more than myself, so expect a nice diversity of beer coverage.


More on the "true meaning of beer".

I posted about this yesterday and like many beer fans, I jumped at the chance to defend good beer.

Stan Hieronymus has good coverage of folk's reactions, including words by Stephen Beaumont (who also just wrote a nice piece for Epicurious).

Mike Seate, the columnist who wrote the article that started the ruckus has posted some of the responses he has recieved including one by my friend Nate, which is so well-written, I'm going to repost it here (without his permission, though only until he gets back to me):

Dear Mike,

I read your recent article "Beer snobs forget the true meaning of beer". Being somewhat of a "beer geek" myself, and a homebrewer, I wanted to share a few thoughts (I'll not call myself a beer snob, because I'll drink just about anything if the situation warrants, though I do prefer more interesting brews than the ubiquitous pale fizzy lager).

You're right in the fact that many beer emporiums or craft beer bars have sprung up recently. Pittsburgh is somewhat on the trailing edge of the trend, as we usually are for more refined activities, but there is a definite market for it in our area. Compared to the sheer number of small, neighborhood bars who offer nothing more than pale fizzy lagers (Bud-Miller-Coors and their lights), there are still relatively few places to get a beer with more character. Microbrewing is picking up in our region, thank goodness, and even now we have some great places to enjoy good beer at low prices - e.g., brewpubs. Hopefully, you've discovered Penn Brewery, East End, North Country, Red Star, and Marzoni's - you'll find great beers at low prices (even lower than a Bud at most bars). Even the Hofbrauhaus is coming to the city - only the third in the U.S. - so people are waking up to the thought of better beer.

Paying a high price for Boddingtons, for example, is obviously discouraging, since it's not that great - but considering import tariffs, and the ridiculous three-tier distribution system in our messed up state (case laws, etc.), can we really expect cheap imports? I'd love to see the return of a brewer in every town, where you knew the local brewer and supported his product - that which still exists in Europe. Post-prohibition and the rise of the industrial macro brewers has really stunted that until recently. Of course, your article suggests that people shelling out $5-$10 for a beer are also drinking 4 or 5 a night, like a lot of people drinking Coors Light. Chances are, they're spending the same amount I am - I'm just drinking less.

The truth of the matter is, there are thousands of brewers worldwide, over 60,000 different beers in roughly 80 'style' categories. Some are meant for sipping or enjoying with food (just like wine), some are meant for frat parties and hunting trips. With all that variety, with rich traditions going back hundreds and sometimes almost 1000 years - most people still limit themselves to drinking a mass-produced, tasteless light beer because the TV tells them so. C'est la vie and to each their own. The more people drink good beer, hopefully the cheaper it'll get (and easier to find). You can find everything from sweet to sour, dark to light, smooth to enamel-stripping bitter, and from 3% to 20% alcohol.

In my mind, the true meaning of beer is enjoyment of the drink and socializing - not swilling the cheapest crud you can find to dull your miseries. "Working men" in most European countries sit down to a beer that is local, cheap, and tasty - not popping open a Bud Lite, y'know. If more people around here drank better quality beer, it would cease to be pretentious.

So, by all means, enjoy the corn-laden swill from Styrofoam cup with your kielbasa - hopefully, it's at least a Pittsburgh Brewing product. If that's what you truly enjoy, I'm happy for you. Perhaps in the future, you'll sit down to ask all us bar patrons why we're shelling out our hard earned cash for a "working man's drink". The most common answer will probably be "because it tastes good and doesn't give me a hangover". Who knows, you might even find a new beer to enjoy.

Nate McElroy


Argh and double argh.

When this topic came down the pike and popped on to my screen, I knew I recognized the columnist responsible. Leave it to the Tribune-Review to make Pittsburgh look... something.

Titled "Beer snobs forget the true meaning of beer", the column has me gaping at something in every paragraph. The guy sets himself up, going to the Sharp Edge of all places. Its a beer emporium, for Pete's sake,a beer bar that specializes in craft beer. Its not like he's stopping into Moe's for a mug of Duff.

I guess what bugs me most is that he set's himself up for the whole affair. He sounds almost xenophobic when he comments about "styles and brands of beer so obscure, you need a Frommer's travel guide just to pronounce them."

Give me a break. I'm just going to stop now. It's writing to get a reaction. This isn't the voice of Pittsburgh, its just one man's opinion, a columnist who's job it is to write their opinion.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, thank god for Bob Batz Jr. I'm going to leave the griping for some one else. I'll leave you with this, from Greg Koch:

"Typical human reaction. When you encounter something that you don't understand, it sometimes makes people feel uncomfortable. When that happens, people often react by either learning more about it or by attempting to marginalize it and thus make themselves feel better in the process. This guy simply chose the latter. Sadly, yes, but he's got a lot of company."

More good beer for me!

What do you do when pickin's are slim?

Tomorrow night, the folks from my office decided to do a Wing Night. The bar/restaurant chosen has good wings and since it is the bar's Wing Night, good prices to boot. The problem, though only to me (the rest of the office is BMCY crowd), is the rather lousy beer selection.

Draft options are: the usual suspects plus Yuengling, Yuengling Black and Tan, Blue Moon and Guinness ) which isn't even spelled right on their website. Bottles are very much the same, plus Newcastle and Sam Adams.

Now, I'm not so snobby that I skip the gig altogether or drink water, especially not with wings. That's just not right. Blue Moon is only just ok and its overpriced since its a psuedo-micro. The Sam Adams is a real beer, but its not going to be cheap, and I don't like it enough to pay four bucks a pop. Last time, we were there they didn't even have any.

I guess I'll just wing it (sheesh) and see what happens when we get up there. I'm thinking its going to be a Yuengling night and to be honest, there are times when I actually like Yuengling. Would I get it at a beer bar when better options are available? No, but when its one of the only good beers in a small, western PA college town full of cheap macros, its a solid choice.

Now its your turn. Do you avoid places that don't have good beer? What do you do in a pinch?