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.