New Beer Blog from a Hop Hater.

All around good guy and fellow Indiana Homebrew Club founder Jon has started up a blog called 'Confessions of a Hop Hater'.

He summarizes his thoughts as such:
I'm 22 (for now). I love good beer, but I hate getting drunk. I'm a homebrewer. I cook. I play guitar. I'm very boring. Read my thoughts.

Now despite our opposite views on the wonder that is hops, Jon was kind enough to review two of my homebrews and included the write-up on his new site.



Review: Oskar Blues Gordon

Gordon is a hybrid version of strong ale, somewhere between an Imperial Red and a Double IPA. We make it with six different malts and three types of hops, then dry-hop it with a mutha lode of Amarillo hops. It is 8.7% alcohol by volume, and has 85 International Bittering Units.

It features a gooey, resiny aroma and a luscious mouthfeel. Gordon is brewed with dash of chocolate malt in it, to round out its load of hops and balance the beer. The result is an assertive yet exceptionally smooth version of strong beer.

Mmmm, this is a big bold beer. Dubbed a Double IPA by Beer Advocate, an American Strong Ale by Rate Beer and damn tasty by me.

This beer (12oz can, baby!) pours a bright rusty red with goden highlights and a tall off white head that leaves behind a ton of lacing.

Smell is sweet and hoppy, almost a chocolate-caramel nose along with citrus hops.

Taste is malty, actually rather balanced with sweetness in the front and the lush hop bitterness in the finish,

Mouthfeel is medium bodied and just a tad sticky.

Drinkability is good, this one is big and tasty but not so big as to be overpowering.

Post-Gazette Article on Bear Republic in Western PA

Andy Starnes/Post-Gazette photo

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an article on the efforts of Fatheads and AM Lutheran Distributors in getting Bear Republic beers in to the Pittsburgh market. There's also talk of a couple other noteworthy California breweries that may be heading this way.


Catching Up.

It's been busy around here lately and while I've enjoyed a number of good brews, I haven't had much chance to reflect on them. I'll get something up here very sonon.

In the meantime, here's a picture of a beer.

Otto's Jolly Rodger Imperial Stout



Indiana Gazette Article on the Homebrew Club.

The Indiana Gazette recently had a reporter out to our last Homebrew Club meeting. A few photos were taken by a staff photographer and the reporter hung out to see what it was exactly that we do.

The article ran today and features my mug front and center, both face and glass. Good write-up, with quotes from all four members of the "executive board".

You can take a look at the article on the Homebrew Club website.

This is the second article on homebrewing published by the Gazette, the first published almost exactly a year ago. More coverage can't be a bad thing.


Belgium Comes to Indiana (PA).

Meeting Provisions

Wednesday night, as Nate has already noted, the jokingly self-dubbed executive board of the Homebrew Club got together to figure out what exactly we were going to talk about at our next meeting. Nate's summary describes the evening well.
...there was some nice spicy sausage, Gruyere and Havarti cheese, then some St. Andre triple cream and a Spanish bleu (forgot the name) wrapped in grape leaf. Some apples and pears provided a sweet touch - and the hot appetizer for the evening was pieces of pheasant (courtesy of Eli) and pepperocini (sp?) peppers wrapped in bacon.

More Provisions

All were full of fine spirits, good humor, quick wit and B.S. On hand were a lovely selection of brews, all of which are rather rare, especially around these parts.

The Big Bottles

1. Lost Abbey Lost & Found, 750mL (Dave)
2. 2004 Westvleteren 12, 330mL (Nate)
3. Russian River Damnation, 750mL (Justin)
4. Russian River Redemption, 750mL (Justin)
5. Russian River Salvation, 750mL (Justin)
6. Oskar Blues TEN FIDY, 2x12oz cans (Eli)

The Russian River beers seemed to be a big hit, but the personal highlight for me was the 04 Westy. Definitely worthy of the hype.

Westy 12 Bottle Cap

As you can see from the picture, I was pretty much at a loss for words.


A Different Sort of Fermentation

Pickling, that is.

Cebollita Recipe

This is a recipe from BBQ Guru Steven Raichlen's book The Barbecue! Bible.

Since seeing Alton Brown's Good Eats show on pickling I've been interested in pickling. So Sunday morning, while I was throwing together the ribs, I made a quick batch of there pickles.

Now hardly being an expert on the technique, let me say that I'm not even sure this recipe involves fermentation or its just more of an infusion. Can anyone clear that up?

Pinted-Up Pickled Onions

All I know is that it was quick and easy, and the onions turned out quite tasty.


Oven Smoking

While this doesn't directly relate to beer, I use beer throughout the processes (processi?!), so I think I'm safe.

I've always wanted to try smoking, meat of course. I'm a huge fan of grilling and outdoor cooking, in general, from the simple hot dog to the more creative, grilled pizza. I have multiple (yes, more than one) gas grills, but have yet to expand beyond that medium into charcoal and wood.

Still, not letting that stop me, I've come up with a pinch-hit method to smoke meats in my oven. Its not a very elaborate process, basically I take a large aluminum pan, add my soaked wood chips and then levitate the meat above it in some fashion.

Pork Ribs Above Wood Chips, Unwrapped.

The first cut I used with this method was a beef brisket, weighing in at a little under 5 pounds. Big enough to feed a crew, small enough to be manageable. I rubbed the brisket with a cocoa-ancho pepper rub that I found in The Best of American Beer & Food book by Lucy Saunders, that link being the online companion. I'd repost the recipe but I don't have the book handy and perhaps it will encourage you to seek it out. More on that handy text later. Into the oven in went, at 250°F for most of the day, all wrapped up and sitting in a Pyrex above the wood chips, hickory soaked in North Country Brewing's Catherine the Great Imperial Stout. The meat turned out very tasty and rather tender, though I think I could have gone lower and longer. The leftovers ate very well thinly sliced and made into sandwiches. Note for next time: make sure I drain all the liquid before starting, so it creates more smoke than steam.

Super Bowl Sunday the meat of choice was two racks of pork ribs. I had made a full recipe of the above spice rub so I went that route again, followed up with bastes of Yuengling Lager Sauce. Again at 250°F, this time for about 6-7 hours, all told. This time I used mesquite as the chip of choice and poured in some Rivertowne Pour House (easily heading toward my favorite western PA brewpub, more on that later, too) Espresso Porter and propped the meat over top using a baking rack, which worked wonderfully to infuse the flavors.

Super Bowl Meal: the Above Ribs, Beans and Oven Fries

Kim, lovely wife, said they were the best ribs she's ever had, so there's an endorsement for you. The Espresso Porter was a nice match for the eating, too.

Rivertowne Espresso Porter

Forgive the above faux pas, that is a Rivertowne beer in a Red Star glass.


Hop King or Storm Wallop?

Victory Black and Tan

Inspired by a recent topic at Beer Advocate and having plenty of time to 'just hang out' this weekend, I got creative and poured myself a Black and Tan that was 50% Victory Storm King and 50% Victory Hop Wallop.

Tasty stuff, almost like a Black IPA but much more body and much more chocolate-coffee flavor.

Pretty cool that it almost looks like a latte art pour on the head.

What Might Have Been...

Sierra Nevada 2008 Bigfoot (unopened)

(Or How I Missed the Session for Barleywine.)

I even had a nice, researched entry planned out. Oh well.


It's Burns' Day.

Hey its Robert Burns birthday!

If you're out that way go to the Sly Fox event. They'll be releasing their Scotch and serving haggis. Sly Fox always seems to put together such fun events, and this is one I wish I could attend.

It's that day again--Kilts! Poetry! Haggis! And the release of Gang Aft Agley Scotch Ale (both draught AND bottles this year).

Instead, I'll probably be making Shepherds Pie and drinking some Erie Brewing's Ol' Red Cease and Desist.

Both Beer Advocate and Rate Beer reviewers place this brew fairly middle of the road.

Funny story behind that name. The beer used to be named Red Ryder and Red Ryder Big Beer. After being ordered by the law to change the name from that of the famous BB gun maker, the brewers at Erie came up with the current name.

Here's a bit more on Erie's Scottish Ale from an older article in the Pittsburgh Trib.
This deep amber-colored ale has rich malt and caramel flavors and ample hop bitterness balancing a whopping 10.1 percent alcohol.

Want to do your own Burns Night? A good resource is this page from the BBC, which includes everything from a brief bio to recipes and even a limerick contest(!!!).


Weekend Wrap-up Collage

Some hackwork in Photoshop.

Clockwise from top left: Pirate Puzzle, Hopping Frog BORIS, Airport Puzzle, Pint of Nugget Nectar, Pancakes with Blueberry-Maple Syrup
Center: North Country Brewing Catherine the Great RIS

Very, very cold here this weekend, so what better ways to pass the time.



The Nectar has Arrived!

Hoorah, its time once again for the yearly release of Troegs Nugget Nectar, truly one of my favorite. beers. ever. But wait, its not the end of February, is it?

This year Troegs released the Nugget early, way early. A scheduled release of February 1, but its in Pittsburgh on Monday and hear in Indiana, PA on Thursday January 17? I'm not sure if this is time travel trickery or what, but I'm not complaining. Its just as good as I remember and oh so fresh, having only been bottled about a week ago.

So whats this brew all about?

Troegs says:

Squeeze those hops for all they’re worth and prepare to pucker up: Nugget Nectar Ale, will take hopheads to nirvana with a heady collection of Nugget, Warrior and Tomahawk hops. Starting with the same base ingredients of our flagship HopBack Amber Ale, Nugget Nectar intensifies the malt and hop flavors to create an explosive
hop experience.

That sums it up quite well. Speaking of explosive hop experiences, am I right that the bottle neck label this year is a little different, more of a fireworks of flavor feel to it?

Photo evidence, as well as tasting notes coming soon.

Bottom line, go! Get some now!


Linkage: Red Star Review

No time for a real blog today, so instead I'll just link you to Pub Crawlin's review of their brunch at Red Star.

I appreciate the first line:

You wouldn’t know it from their website, but the most fabulous brunch in southwestern PA is held on Sundays from 10 AM - 4 PM at Red Star Brewery & Grille in Greensburg.

That's my biggest gripe with the place, too.


Linkage: How to Drink a Bottle of Beer.

Essential instructions, provided by Clipper City' Hugh Sisson. (Link via BA.)

Pour the beer straight down the middle of the glass, intentionally creating a thick collar of foam, degassing the beer a bit, and releasing the subtle aromatics. You will probably have to let the beer settle for a few minutes before you can fill the glass completely, but such patience will definitely be rewarded when one progresses to the next step – smelling.

This part is interesting, since I've always (except with pilsners) done the angle pour to the straight pour, as I've always thought that was a proper pour. Maybe I am just being impatient?


Experimenting with Beer and Tripod

This is a Stoudt's glass filled with Otto's Double D IPA, fresh out of the growler.

A Day Trip to the North Country

As I mentioned Tuesday morning, I was heading north for work that day, to McConnell's Mill State Park, which luckily enough is nearby Slippery Rock, town of the same name as the Creek in the above photo, a very popular run for paddlers.

Slippery Rock is also home to North Country Brewing, one of the most aesthetically pleasing brewpubs I've ever been too. Its got a nice funky vibe, the place being entirely rebuilt from the ground up, mostly by hand. The craftsmanship is evident as soon as you see the place, let alone walk inside. There's a pretty heavy hippie-ness to the place, in menu, nomenclature and general attitude, but not so much that its annoying. Unfortunately, I was an idiot and didn't take my camera in, despite it being on the back seat of the car, so you'll just have to go see for yourself.

I've always found the food here to be rather tasty, and while the service can be slow at times, usually when I am in a hurry, its worth the wait. The emphasis of the menu is on locally sourced ingredients as much as possible, with a generous amount of vegetarian options, as well. They also have some interesting choices beyond the typical pub grub fare, including this week's dinner specials: Paella Cakes, Portabella en Croute, Chicken Pad Thai, Wild Orange Chicken and Pork Andalusia. That being said, their burgers and sandwich are damn tasty too.

On to the beer! The one fault I (and others) have with North Country is this: there tend to be beer dry spells. They have their standard, always-on offerings, which range from just okay to very good, but there are times when that is all they are offering. When Nate, Dave and Justin did their mini-tour of Western PA, I think they came away a little underwhelmed with the beers. When I was their on Tuesday, they have on five, yes five newish limited release beers. If they were able to stagger those releases a little more, I think they would be more successful in wowing the beer geek community. Now since I got lucky, a few brief reviews follow:

7-Hop Imperial IPA
The brewer used 7 hops for this high gravity beer. If you’re a hop-head you will enjoy it. There’s a limited amount because we’re holding some back to age in the cellar for a while.
My, this one was tasty! The pour is hazy orange, an aroma is sweet honey and super hoppy citrus and pine, very aromatic.
The taste is full of hops and a nice background sweetness. A lot of good apricot flavor. Good mouthfeel and very drinkable, an excellent beer and quite possibly my favorite North Country beer.

The Other One
Our brewmaster’s version of old ale, A.K.A. strong ale. The malty characteristics mask the alcohol flavor.
Dark red brown, smell is of dark fruit, especially cherry. Taste is smoky and fruity with more of that tasty cherry flavor coming through. Kind of light in the body, but rather good.

Wee Heavy Imp Ale
A Scotch Ale, not to be confused with a Scottish Ale, this beer is maltier (sweeter) and a lot stronger in alcohol content.
Pour is dark red with a light tan head. Smell is smoky, peaty and malty. Taste is much the same, very much like a good scotch, a touch fruity and a bit of alcohol. Nice mouthfeel too, another good one.

Embalmer 2007
Back for a limited time, this batch has been aging since last January. Be careful our Barleywine has a high alcohol content--you never know what spirits you might see!
Pour is an amber brown, smell is kind of boozy along with some brown sugar sweetness. The taste has noticeable alcohol, some rich maltiness and a bittersweet hop finish. Not quite as complex or full-bodied as most barleywines, but rather good overall.

Now for the bad news, of the five new beers only one was available for growler fills. Reason being, I suppose is to keep the sales in-house. That does give more people the chance to try it, while at the same time boosting revenue, as a fill does cost less than an equal volume of sold pints. My thinking falls the way of, I'm already a customer in the pub and ready to spend more money to take some home. Business/economics not being my forte, I'm not sure what makes more financial sense, but rules are rules.

I did get a growler fill of the last new beer, North Country's Imperial Stout, Catherine the Great. Check back for a review of that beer soon.


Nate Reviews My Steam Beer

Friend and homebrewer Nate takes a look, smell and taste of my steam beer. A quote:

Starts with a nice rounded soft maltiness that is gets hit pretty quickly with grassy & rubbery (phenolic) hops.

What I am not sure of is why I'm getting that rubberiness. Could it be the pellet hops?

I'll research more later, but for now I'm off to Slippery Rock, with hopefully a side trip to North Country.


Review: Four Beers From Brooklyn

On the way home from work on Friday I stopped off at a local sixpack shop, one that also happens to sell singles. As soon as I walked in, the lady mentioned to me that they had some new stuff in the cooler. I've obviously been in there enough that they know I'm looking for more than the usual sixer. New to the Indiana beer market: Brooklyn Brewery.

They had four different brews in the cooler: Brooklyn Lager, Pilsner, East India Pale Ale and Brown Ale. I picked them all up along with a couple other new brews. I popped open the Brooklyn brews Sunday throughout the day, while watching the NFL playoffs (Boo Steelers!!!) and playing with the kids.

Brooklyn Lager is Brooklyn Brewery's flagship beer, the first beer they produced when they formed in 1987. A Vienna lager in style, the beer pours a rich amber with a nice fluffy head. Smell is a bouquet of floral hops. Taste is malty, with a medium full body, washed away with a light bitterness in the finish. A tasty beer, an excellent flagship and a very good foil to my mini-burgers and tiny twice baked potatoes, leftover from last night's Steeler debacle snacks.

Next up was Brooklyn Pilsner.

Brooklyn Pilsner is brewed in the pre-Prohibition American style, meaning its very rooted in traditional German malts and hops, Perle and Hallertauer. Man, this poured just like a good pilsner should, straw colored and full of carbonation, a nice puffy head blossoming over the rim of the glass. Spicy hops in the nose, though not the explosion of aroma I get from some other pilsners. Still it's pretty tasty and quite drinkable.

Later that afternoon, while having a snack with Zach and Ella, I popped open the East India Pale Ale.
We cut up some Golden Delicious apples, some Wisconsin Cheddar and threw some Triscuits on a plate. Worked out very well with the IPA, which is definitely an English-style brew. Brooklyn chose to show off East Kent Goldings on this brew, making it both grassy and citrusy. There's a nice maltiness to balance out the hops, as well. What's funny, I got Zach into swirling and sniffing his cup of grape juice.

Last up was the Brooklyn Brown Ale, the first Brooklyn beer I ever had, and really THE beer I think of when I think of Brooklyn Brewery, along with their delicious Black Chocolate Stout. Had this one with dinner, grill-roasted turkey and baked potatoes. Worked together pretty well, the malty nuttiness complimenting the grill char and the hops quenching the smoky saltiness of the crisp chicken skin. A very good example of an American brown ale.

All in all, I enjoyed each of these beers. I'm not sure I'd buy them all regularly, but they are good examples of their styles and a welcome addition to small town western PA.


The Session #11 Doppelbocks: Troegenator Double Bock

This month's edition of The Session is being hosted by Brewvana, with the theme 'Doppelbock: the Illuminator'.
For my contribution, I chose to focus on one of my favorite doppelbocks, or double bocks in the case of Troegenator. Brewed by Troegs Brewing Company out of Harrisburg, in the center of this fine state of Pennsylvania. I'm certain Troegenator was the first doppelbock I ever tasted and remains a go-to for the style, not only due to its availability (found on tap at a certain bar in rural PA that's home to the 'World's Largest Burger') but its high quality and great taste.

Troegs describes Troegenator as:
The Troegenator Double Bock, is a dark, strong lager (8.2% abv). It pours into a glass with a bronze to brown color, fluffy white head and bready malt aroma. The Troegenator leaves a rich, warming feeling and subtle spicy flavors. The style, Double Bock, dates back a century or so ago. During periods of fasting without solid foods, the Monastic brewers relied on the double bock; a stronger, richer beer to fulfill their basic nutritional needs. Known to them as "liquid bread," a double bock has a strong malt aroma and chewy rich body. Traditionally these brewers ended the name of their double bock with the suffix "ator", ex. Celabrator, Illuminator, Subliminator... In the spirit of the tradition we give you the Troegenator to provide warmth and richness through the early spring months. A double bock of epic proportions, beware, the Troegenator is deceiving smooth and delicious.

The Troegenator I poured for this Session was picked up at a place that used to have a less than reputable beer selection. They recently expanded their offerings and added a singles cooler, as well.

Here's to Troegenator and the Trogner brothers for recreating a fantastic example of a classic German beer and making it readily available in rural(ish) Pennsylvania. Prost!


Storm's A-comin'!

Clipper City Heavy Seas Winter Storm Category 5 Ale

We've had our first touch of snow since November(?) in the past few days. Nothing too heavy, but the Category 5 is tasty nonetheless. Plus, who doesn't like pirates?

Is It Possible to Dry Hop for Too Long? Plus, a Homebrewing Update

Last night I bottled up my Imperial Amber, 38 bottles total. It had been in secondary for a month, having been transfered onto the two ounces of Cascade on December 2nd.

What I am wondering is this: did I defeat the purpose of dry hopping by leaving it in the carboy too long?

Meaning, is there a limit to the mount of time you can dry hop? A point at which the process tapers off and then starts to fade?

I'm interested to see how this one tastes, if it turns out "like the others", I think its time for a switch of some sort, either with process or ingredients. What do I mean by "like the others"? Perhaps the beers are too young, my mature batch having only been in the bottle for a month and a half (bottled 11/14/2007).

I've tried a bottle of each of the other brews and while they are both still quite young: a month in the bottle for the Imperial Steam and less than three weeks for the IPA.

After tasting my Steam beer, Dave talked to me about his use of liquid malt extract and the flavor issues he had using it. We also talked about priming with corn sugar versus dry malt extract.

That leaves me with two variables to improve (at least), but I'm thinking I may hold off on brewing again to see what these current brews turn out like.

That being said, there's no reason I can't keep charging forward, improve on those two aspects and see what happens.



East End Snow Melt Winter Ale

or... Happy New Beers!

Things to do for 2008:
Post more.
Brew more.
Take more 'artistic' beer photos