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.