Friday, December 12, 2008

New Belgium Tripel

What we enjoy in life helps to add character to who we are. For me, a place becomes more tolerable when it has a decent beer selection. When I say place, I can mean anything from a gas station to a restaurant to a town.

For example, we were going to a business dinner one night at a Mediterranean restaurant (Sahara in Michigan City). I figured I would probably be drinking water there because they more than likely were not going to have anything except American Lager. I was suprised to find Rogue Mocha Porter and Bell's Two-Hearted Ale there. The dinner was great, of course, but the beer selection made it even better to me.

When I travel to see my folks in a small town in southwestern Missouri, I know there's not going to be a lot going on. It's nice that way, because really, I am there just to see them. However, at the end of the 8-hour drive I know that I'm going to be able to go into my Dad's fridge and find a variety of New Belgium and Boulevard beers there.

Before coming up for Thanksgiving, my Dad said they had loaded their old treadmill into the back of the truck and he was wondering what else they could bring. I told him I wanted some New Belgium 1554 and anything else he wanted to bring. He ended up bringing me some New Belgium Tripel.

I thought that a Trippel was a Trippel. Then I remembered over the Labor Day weekend, I had two really good Trippels at a friend's house in Illinois, and one average Trippel. La Fin Du Monde and Victory's Golden Monkey rate up there with a nice flavor, and a decent alcohol kick. I have to say the New Belgium Trippel was just okay. Not as strong as the two mentioned, and not as spicy as say the Dark Horse Sapient Trip Ale or Flying Dog Kerebos versions I had in Illinois.

Also, that yeast that they use I suppose I've gotten used to, but the harsh bite of dirt is there with the first drink. I can't describe this any other way. Can I say "Earthy?" Mayhap that will do.

Still, it kills me that the old man can buy cases of New Belgium beers at his local Sam's Club. I guess I shouldn't complain, I can get 4 kinds of Three Floyd's at my local Jewel grocery store.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Beer Social Networks - Sharing the Love

I wanted to let everyone know about a new social network called Must Love Beer. I found this through a facebook link. It looks like it's just starting up. I already frequent the boards on Northern Brewer and I think some Bud drinkers must be hacking, though. It's been crashing a lot lately. And someone took my Cheap Trick icon down.

As you may already know, blogging about beer isn't an original idea. I've got a few bloggers listed to the right, and most of them are from people who have linked to me or left comments. One thing I am kind of interested in are women who appreciate craft beers. Let's face it, for the most part, it would not appear that there are as many women interested in different styles of beer and brewing as men are. I'm not saying that there aren't ANY women out there who really like beer and want to try a lot of kinds, I'm just saying, you're not showing up in large quantities. This, of course, is reflected in what American society considers as beer, and depending upon what you read, when all the men went to war in Europe and Asia from 1941 - 1945, this affected how brewers made their beer (lighter, less hoppy).

Here's what fascinates me most: Women homebrewers. What kind of styles do they like to brew? Are they pretty much the same as most men? (Although, I have to admit, some homebrewers out there pick some pretty boring and standard stuff to brew). Do they do a better job with their ingredients, are they more creative? I'm not sure, but I bet you the folks over at Beer for Chicks could tell you. Obviously, as I don't possess the correct equipment, I am not privy to this site. However, that does not stop me from supporting the cause.

Another good place to check out is the forums at Northern Brewer. I've received good advice from the brewers over there.

Places like Must Love Beer, Beer Advocate, and Rate Beer all allow you to talk about beers you've tried, and also look up beers you've heard about to see what people think and maybe determine if you want to find something new. Plus, if you're one of those youngsters out there who has some kind of mobile internet device, you can check out BA or RB right at the store, if you can get a connection. Find out right on the spot if you're getting something great, or pisswater.

Have an excellent weekend!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Trip to Southeast Ohio

Sorry about not posting last week. I was in meetings all day for two solid weeks and then I had to go on a business trip to the southeast Ohio/West Virginia area.

I flew into Columbus and rode with some other people to Marietta. At the airport, there was a Columbus Brewing Company restaurant just outside my gate. I had two hours to wait for my co-workers, so I decided to see what kind of beer they were serving.

They had two offerings from Columbus (as well as offerings from Budweiser and Miller), a pale ale and a porter. I got the pale ale but wish I would have tried the porter. I was feeling like something hoppy, though. I thought the pale ale was reminiscent of the Sierra Nevada pale ale. Good, but not very original.

Marietta is a cool, little town. There are lots of good restaurants and it's sort of an "artist's town" if you know what I mean. Two rivers run next to it, the Muskingum on the west, and the Ohio River to the south. Very hilly, and lots of cool bridges. Across the way in West Virginia are small towns, curvy two-lane highways, and a good bit of industry. Still, this is small town, rural Ohio and West Virginia, and the fridges of the people around here are like most small town fridges in the U.S., full of Bud Light.

During the trip, I had the opportunity to eat at the Marietta Brewing Company. It would appear that they don't keep their website up to date, or they had a massive turnaround of their beer since last Tuesday. At the time, they had 5 beers of their own on tap, plus Woodchuck Cider. The beers, as I remember, were the Marietta Pale Ale, McLaren's Scotch Ale, a raspberry wheat, a smoked porter, and a "weiss" beer. I was able to sample each of these.

The MBC knows the people in the area, and having to stay in business, caters to these tastes. I was told the place was packed on the weekends, and it was doing good business on Tuesday night.

The MBC pale ale was similar to the Columbus pale ale, in the way it tasted pretty much like Sierra Nevada pale ale. In my opinion, it's pretty much the standard for American pale ale.

I didn't care much for the Raspberry Wheat. I like a good fruit beer, but this reminded me too much of the raspberry tea that I've had in certain chain restaurants while travelling.

The Scotch Ale was dangerous. No alcoholic aftertaste. This batch was 7.8% ABV, and I was told by a person I was eating with that it had been higher. I told one of my co-workers to be careful with this one. Sweet and malty, and disguising the higher than average ABV. He didn't listen, and subsequently was looking around the opposite end of the hotel parking lot the next morning for the car. He didn't drive the night before.

The smoked porter was very smokey, almost had a "hammy" taste to it. This was very nice.

The "weiss" beer tasted like a Belgian Wit, even though the waitress said it was a German weizen beer style. The ingredients are pretty close in those style of beers, but the yeast tasted to me like a Belgian. Whatever. My palette hasn't always been as true to me as I've wanted.

The food at MBC was excellent. I can't recall any specifics other than decent burgers, even a buffalo burger, other sandwiches, and full entrees. I know it was pretty standard stuff, but solid.
Definitely support the local brewer if you're in this area. Also check out The House of Wines up 3rd Street, as they have over 400 beers in the shop, but no "Make your own 6-pack" option.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Special Thanksgiving Post

Seeing as I was out last Friday, I decided to make it up to the couple of you who come here. If you're here on Thursday, let me wish you a safe and hangover-free Thanksgiving.

I thought I would pass this awesome article from The New Yorker on to you while you drink your coffee. It's long, but it will give you some insight into the minds of a couple of Craft Brewers, especially Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione.

The regular Friday post is back tomorrow. Enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Rocka Rolla Woman for a Rocka Rolla Man

Here's another Magic Hat beer that was a pleasant surprise. The Roxy Rolles smells so good, I thought that maybe I mis-judged amber ales altogether. While that might be a little out of hand, this is really a good beer.

In fact, it is so good, that I thought I would like to clone this and keep some around. The ingredients from the Magic Hat page are simple: Pale malt, Caramunich, and crystal malt. With an ABV of 5.1% and the gravity of 14.5 Plato (1.059 SG), I determined that the FG would be 1.022. Is that right? I would think you could get the FG down to at least 1.016, if not 1.012. Maybe my ABV calculator spreadsheet is incorrect. If anyone has a simple method of determining ABV from OG and FG, that would be helpful. I'm using two equations to get there.

It would appear from this fellow beer blogger, that they have changed the recipe, though. Looking at the hop profile, which is 20 IBU, the same as the Jinx, I was kind of confused. They use CTZ hops in the jinx, and Brewer's Gold and Simcoe for the hop profile on the Roxy Rolles. It only takes about 0.75 oz BG hops and 0.25 oz of Simcoe (at 15 minutes) to go over 20 IBU. Then I remembered how hoppy the aroma was and thought maybe they dry-hopped the beer with Simcoe. The above article confirms this. Also, I can make more sense with the older recipe's IBUs.

Rocka Rolla Ale (a Magic Hat Roxy Rolles clone - sorta)
5 gallon boil

8.0 lbs Pale Malt
2.0 lbs Crystal Malt 90*L
1.0 lbs Caramunich

1.00 oz Brewer's Gold @ 60 min.
0.25 oz Simcoe @ 15 min.
0.50 oz Simcoe dry hop in secondary

California Ale V Yeast

O Gravity: 1.058
IBU: 35
SRM: 23

I went with the California Ale V yeast because I like the American style yeast more for hoppy beers. I will check how my Jinx clone turns out, though, and if I like the London Ale yeast, I will go with that. Oh, and the name of the beer is a play on the original as well as the title of a Judas Priest song and album.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Three Floyds IPAs

As recent as Labor Day, I've had a friend who has shared two newer Three Floyds IPAs with me. I love Three Floyds. They truly do make some excellent beer. But these two IPAs? They're just fine. I don't think that they're all that great to write home about.

In case you weren't aware, Three Floyds makes what is probably the best American Pale Ale out there called The Alpha King. If I weren't interested in trying every beer in the world out there, this one would be a staple in my home, along with Bell's Two-Hearted Ale. If you're a beer novice, Alpha King will rock your world. It's got an amazing body and hop profile.

Then they went out and released this Blackheart IPA. I saw this at Pat's and at first was tempted to buy it ($10.99 for a 22 oz bomber), then I saw it was a British IPA. There was a bottle of the Three Floyd's Dreadnaught (an IMPERIAL IPA) for the same price. I've had the Dreadnaught. It's very nice. So why would I pay the same price for a British-style IPA? British-style IPAs and Pale Ales just don't jump out at me like the American versions do. They're okay. They're usually good beers, but I'm not going to spend $10.99 on a 22 oz bottle when I can get a better beer for the same price, or a sixer of the Alpha King for $8. What? You got a well-known California tattoo artist to design your label? Yay! You've just become the Magic Hat of Indiana.

Anyway, I tried the Blackheart, and it was pretty good, but still not $10.99 pretty good. I've had similar IPAs for less.

Then I had noticed that they released an 11-year anniversary beer called Fantabulous Resplendence XI. I had the Fan Res X (An American Strong Ale - whatever that is) and it was one of the best beers I ever had. I swear it was more along the lines of a Belgian strong ale, but then, that was over a year ago, I just read my notes on and I raved about the thing like it was the second coming.

So as I was saying, I saw this thing in the store and thought it was going to be awesome. I went home to find out what kind of beer it was on and found out it was an IPA. Huh? Maybe they're saving the special beers for the big anniversaries (10, 20, etc.).

My friend, Gumbo, brought this one over just this last weekend. I was still kind of hoping it would be good, but had forgotten it was an IPA. I seriously thought it was a Belgian pale ale when I drank it.

Both of these IPAs were not as hoppy as I thought they would be, but British IPAs don't usually knock me out with the hops anyway.

Just a note to Three Floyds: Maybe if you're going to make average beers, don't spend so much money on the label art, then you won't have to charge us $11 for a bomber. I know we love capitalism, I'm down with the cause. Just don't expect me to spend that much money on a bomber when there are plenty of others at Pat's for $5.99 and $6.99 that are just as good, or maybe even better than these.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Indiana Apple Cider or Scarecrow Graf

There's this series of Stephen King books I love called The Dark Tower. I really like the character of Roland in these books. He's a gunslinger. The story crosses different time periods, and may seem goofy if you're not familiar to King's works, because in this seven-book series, he pulls out characters from other books. Unfortunately, he even writes himself into the books, which is sort of a downfall. It's sort of a The Good, the Bad and the Ugly meets Lord of the Rings.

But I didn't come here to write a book review. In The Dark Tower, they drink something called graf, which is supposed to be some kind of apple beer. Leinenkugels made what might be considered an apple beer, called Apple Spice. In my humble opinion, it sucked! Fortunately, for all of us, they retired it, and apparently make a brown ale in its place now, which appears to be getting rave reviews.

A few weeks back, I was fortunate enough to talk to one of our friends' dad, who owns property with quite a few apple trees. He told me he was making cider the next week, and I asked if I could fill a 5-gallon carboy up with some. He said sure. I went the next week and worked for two hours moving apples around and throwing them into the cider press. Then I found this recipe, which I call Scarecrow Graf.

Scarecrow Graf
5 gallons fresh, unpasteurized apple cider
3 lbs Indiana honey (from our friend, Ken, who raises bees)
3 lbs Dark Brown Sugar (from the ultra-mega corporate Domino Sugar company)
2 packs of Five Star dry champagne yeast
Several cinnamon sticks for secondary fermenter
Optional handful of raisins for secondary fermenter

You have to get fresh cider. That stuff from the grocery store apparently has some kind of pasteurization going on that will actually kill your yeast, so get your cider fresh from a farmer's market or the like.

I looked around the internet for recipes, and the first 4 ingredients were used in one recipe I found. I thought the cinammon sticks would add a nice touch. I'm still not sure about the raisins. Nothing out there really about sanitation, and nothing really about bringing the cider to a boil. Instead, I opted to bring 3 gallons of the cider up to a temperature of 100 degrees, stir in the honey and brown sugar, and then mix it back into the carboy with the remaining 2 gallons of cider. Follow the directions on the yeast pack, making sure your mixture of cider is around 70 degrees, and then pitch the yeast. I think we did the whole "brew" in about 30 minutes. The original gravity on the thing was a 1.100.

When I move the cider to the secondary, I will add probably 3 cinammon sticks for a hint of cinnamon. After a week in the secondary, we will bottle, and hopefully this stuff will be ready by Christmas.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Smells Like Monk Basement

You may have read here that I like to rate the beers that I drink on For the most part, I'm not very creative when I describe the quality of the beers I drink. I mean, you can only use so many of the same words to describe the same beer 500 other people have also described.

However, on my discovery of Belgian Tripels, I found a smell that I could only describe as "monk basement." I guess the proper European term would be "cellar," but tell me, if you keep beer stored in your house, and your specific geography allows for certain types of domestic construction, don't you usually keep, or ferment your beer in a basement? That is the first thing that came to mind when I smelled the yeast of those golden, strong, Belgian ales. I thought, "This has a smell reminiscent of all those damp, European cellars I occasionally found myself in when I lived over there." But to call the smell "European cellar" was not quite colorful enough for me.

Most Belgian styles of beer, according to my limited study of the style, were made by monks, so why not give them credit?

So please, I ask you kindly, use my terminology to describe the smell of Belgian ale yeasts. It's more prevalent in tripels, dubbels, and strong ales. Seek it out. Enjoy it.

Here are my favorite North American-influenced Belgian-style beers:

1. Pere Jacques (4.4) - Goose Island Brewing Company
Pours brown with a slight haze. Smells of toffee, caramel, and slight licorice. Taste is strong alcohol, but with a caramel back.

2. Hell Hath No Fury (4.1) - Bell's Brewing Company
Beautiful beer. Pours almost black. Smells fruity and slightly of monk basement. Tastes are many here: chocolate, coffee, fruit, licorice and dirt finish. I like it. I think it’s a decent example of the style.

3. La Fin Du Monde (4) - Unibroue
Nice blonde beer, with a little white fluffy head. Sweet smell. I notice the carbonation followed by a yeasty taste and slight alcohol burn.

4. Maudite (4) - Unibroue
Dark amber pour with a nice head. Fruity and raisin aromas. Nice mouth feel typical of all Unibroues.

5. 1554 Brussels Style Black Ale (3.9) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Black ale with a tint of red when held to the light. Beautiful. Smells of monk basement, malty, some nice chocolate overtones, and finishes with a "pinch of dirt" taste I always get from NB beers. I think I actually like aftertaste now.

6. Trois Pistoles (3.8) - Unibroue
Dark brown pour with fluffy white head. Has a fruity wine smell to it. Nice smooth, flavored mouthfeel.

7. Raison D Etre (3.8) - Dogfish Head
Dark red color. Slight head, no real lacing, just fades quickly. Smells like a sugary beer. Taste is malty, derived from raisins, and somewhat biscuity. Palate leaves a nice finish, and with two bottles, you can feel the alcohol burn.

8. Springboard Ale (3.3) - New Belgium Brewing Company
Pours a hazy light yellow. Nice white head that dissipates quickly. I can’t quite place the smell, but the yeast is nice. Has a nice citrus aftertaste and is an overall nice average summer beer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Audit This Week - No Real Post Here

I've had a Safety Audit all week, so I didn't get a chance to write anything here. Should be done with the audit by 12:30, hopefully.

We have a friend whose dad has a bunch of apple trees. They're pressing cider on Saturday, so I'm going to try and get 5 gallons of that and order a cider yeast.

Have a good weekend!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Green Bottle Hell - The Sweet Smell of Skunk

It's hard for me to understand why some companies still use green bottles. If you've ever drank Heineken, you might have noticed the skunky smell that accompanies this. I was at a party a few months ago where the host had two of those little kegs of Heineken, and a guest poured himself a glass and said, "Hey, this doesn't taste like Heineken, it tastes...good." I asked him if the skunkiness was missing, and he said that it was. I then told him, "It's because it's not in its usual green bottle."

Doing about 5 minutes of research on the interwebs, I found that really, there seems to be only two reasons that companies use green bottles: First, it is all about marketing the product. Yep, nevermind that the beer has that skunky effect, it looks good in green. Second, the company may actually be going for that effect, as some people actually like the skunk. For those people I ask, "Where were you when the skunk fell into my window well last spring?"

The best information I got was from, of all places, a Yahoo! Answers post answering the question, "Do green bottles really make beer skunky?":

Not the green bolttes but UV light. Brown bottles do the best at filtering out the UV light. Heineken beer was once known for this defect and built its world reputation on peoples' ignorance of it. Many people thought the "skunkiness" as normal and a quality beer aroma and flavor...

Lots of really decent information in that whole answer.

I'm not really a fan, honestly, of most beers in green bottles, but there are a few pilsners that I think I would enjoy a whole lot more if they were only in brown bottles. Jever, Czechvar (Budvar), and Pilsner Urquell taste so much cleaner from the tap.

As far as Rolling Rock, Heineken, Stella Artois, and Beck's go, they can keep them in the green bottles, since I don't drink buy those. I saw a Beck's commercial during a Monday Night Football game giving examples of things that said "no" then it came to "Beck's - The beer that said no to compromise" or something like that. What a sham. You compromised your beer with a green bottle!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hop Harvest

I started out this spring with 5 hop rhizomes in pots, and in May moved them over to my garden. Over the summer, I added onto existing garden trellises and let the bines just grow. I only got a couple of bines out of the Willamette and Cascade. The Mt. Hood, Magnum, and Zeus bines seemed to grow the best. However, only the Zeus bines bore any hops this year.

This is before I dried them. Afterwards, I was able to stuff them into two quart-sized bags and stick them in the freezer. I need to get a scale and weigh them. I'm guessing, if I'm lucky, I got 2 ounces. However, all I'm hoping for is at least 0.66 ounces, so I can make my Jinx clone I talked about last week.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I'm a Jinx, Bedlam Follows Everywhere

It's been close to a year since I mentioned The Jinx, a beer brewed by Magic Hat in Vermont. The good news is when I went into Pat's about 2 weeks ago, they had six packs of #9 and The Jinx. So, naturally, I picked up a sixer of The Jinx.

It does not appear to be showing the purplish hue I remember from last year, but it could be the glass that I drank it from. I need to pour it into more of a traditional pint glass and verify it. The smell of smoked peat malt is there, as is a tiny aroma of CTZ hops that they use. Since I harvested my Zeus hops (more on that next week), I can identify the smell easily.

A note about Magic Hat: A lot of people find their beers to be wimpy. I have even read and heard people say that they make "beer for women." Whatever. I find that they make good, interesting, lighter ales. The Circus Boy is my 2nd favorite American Wheat (to Three Floyd's Gumball Head), even though some would call it a vegetable/herb beer since it uses lemongrass.

Where I do agree with most critics of Magic Hat is the way they're so into marketing. That webpage of theirs is a mess, and they're always promoting events. I bought a Jinx t-shirt for $20, and boy, was it a dissapointment. Looking at the photo, looks like a decent shirt. When I got it, it was an XL, but the collar was tight, and the material was not like a beefy-T (No, I don't need a 2X. Most of my t-shirts are XL, and my collared shirts are usually L). It was closer to the kind of white t-shirts you get at your local five-and-dime in a package, 3 for $5. I know you hippies are trying to expand your brewery and all, but Christ, if you want me to support your company, don't try to fuck me in the ass.

But I digress.

Using both Beer Smith and ProMash software, I believe I have been able to build a clone recipe for this curious ale. Somehow, using the ingredients given by Magic Hat for the Jinx in the Google search engine, I came upon this recipe, which is a Scottish ale, that has some of the same ingredients. Substitute .33 oz of CTZ hops for boil at 60 minutes, and another .34 oz of CTZ hops at 15 minutes, and you get the same IBUs. Using dark brown sugar seems to give it the color it needs. The dark Belgian candy sugar made it too dark. Adjusting the black malt and the sugar got me within 1 SRM of the color Magic Hat says the Jinx is.

A guy named Wahoo who posts over at the Northern Brewer Forums, posted this about the yeast I want to use:

London Ale Yeast attenueates well and does not produce large amounts of esters the way Ringwood or Special London (Wyeast 1968) do. It finishes dry enough to be excellent in IPAs and Pale Ales, the "minerally profile" Wyeast refers to makes it great in a stout, and I have no reason to think it is anything but the absolute best choice for a London Porter (a style which I haven't brewed in a decade). It does attenuate very well so if you are doing a low OG recipe such as an Ordinary Bitter or Dry Stout, you may want more Crystal or Cara-Pils than you would use with a yeast that leaves more residual sugars in the beer.

The low flocculance of this yeast makes for a beer that is not as easy to get crystal clear as some of the other strains you might use in some these styles. However, I find that as a homebrewer, "working" with the yeast (harvesting, pitching, etc) is easier if it does not make an extremely compact yeast cake, and in that respect the low flocculation of 1028 is somewhat of an advantage.

What Wyeast Says: Rich with a dry finish, minerally profile, bold and crisp, with some fruitiness. Often used for higher gravity ales and when a high level of attenuation is desired for the style. Flocculation: Medium-Low Attenuation: 73-77% Temperature Range: 60-72F, 15-22C Alcohol Tolerance: 10%ABV.

I did read somewhere that Magic Hat uses a Ringwood Yeast, but I liked the description of the yeast above, and how the Wahoo guy is really into this style of yeast.

Based on all of this, I give you my recipe for Samhain ale, since I can't exactly confirm that it is going to be exactly like the Jinx, it will be slightly different, and therefore not a Jinx clone, per se, but pretty damn close, and hopefully even better:

Samhain Ale
Partial mash

8.3 lbs Pale Liquid Extract
1.5 lbs Caramunich Malt
0.5 lbs Crystal Malt 20L
0.10 lbs Chocolate Malt
0.13 lbs Peated Malt
1.0 lbs Dark Brown Sugar

0.33 oz Zeus @ 60 min.
0.34 oz Zeus @ 15 min.

Wyeast 1028 London Ale

OG = 1.080
IBU = 20.1

Put grains in a couple of muslin bags and steep at 155* F for 45 minutes. Bring to a boil and follow hop schedule. Substitute Columbus or Tomahawk hops if Zeus are not available. Add extract and sugar at end of the boil. Cool to 70*F and pitch yeast. Suggest making a yeast starter or pitching two Activator packs. Ferment at 65 – 70*F.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Two New Brews

On Tuesday, we racked two new beers: one was an Amarillo Pale Ale, made with 2 ounces of Amarillo hops, and the other was a Czech-style pilsner.

The Amarillo ale is looking good. It's clear, nice color, and currently has a gravity of about 1.014. It will probably end up around 1.012 in three weeks. We had this one in the conical for about 2 weeks, and it's now in the keg. We're still doing partial mash recipes at this time. For this one, the recipe is as follows:

Amarillo Ale
6.8 lbs Pale Malt Extract
1 lb Briess Caramel 60L
1 oz Amarillo Hops @ 60 minutes
1/2 oz Amarillo Hops @ 15 minutes
1/2 oz Amarillo Hops 5 @ 5 minutes
1 TSP Irish Moss @ 5 minutes
White Labs California Ale V (WLP051)
We loaded up about 6 gallons of water and heated it to about 160F and turned off the burner. Put the Briess Caramel grains (freshly cracked from Shoreline Brewery, thank you, Sam) in a muslin bag and let them steep for a good 35 minutes. Added the PME and brought it to a boil and added the hops. Chilled the wort to about 70 F and then pitched the vial directly into the conical. Added a drop of olive oil and oxygenated it for about 90 seconds. I'm looking forward to this one.

For the pilsner, I used a variation the partial mash recipe from May-June 2008 issue of Brew Your Own magazine. This is the recipe:

Wiesbaden Pils
6.0 gallons distilled water
5.0 oz Pilsner Malt (2-Row)
2.0 lb Caramel Pils Malt 2*L
1.5 lb Munich Malt 10*L
3.0 oz Acidulated Malt (0.375 cup)
4.0 lb Generic Light Malt Extract - Light (stir in at end of boil)
1.25 oz Vanguard Hops (60 min)
1.50 oz Vanguard Hops (15 min)
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (15 min)
0.25 oz Vanguard Hops (0 min)
Wyeast 2000 Budvar

O.G.: 1.049
F.G.: 1.014 – 1.018
IBU: 42

Put cracked grains in bag and steep in 3 gallons of distilled water for 45 minutes at around 150*F. Rinse the bag with a quart of cool water. Raise total volume to 5.5-6.0 gallons and boil for an hour, adding hop additions. Be sure to stir the extract in at the end of the boil.

Unfortunately, we did this brew starting around 8:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. The reason we did this was because we bought a big Activator pack of the Budvar yeast and smacked it on Thursday night. We've had a terrible time with this yeast. The first time we tried to brew a Pilsner, we just pitched a single vial of the White Labs version of the yeast and we didn't get fermentation, we got a bunch of growing things on the top of the carboy. So I bought all the ingredients and a Propagator pack, figuring to make a starter. I smacked the pack and gave it 3 hours. Overnight, the yeast did nothing in the starter bottle. So we ordered an activator pack, smacked it, and waited. On Sunday (three days after we smacked it) the pack began to swell. We made a starter on Sunday evening, and had to brew Tuesday.

Instead of just 3 gallons, when I got to John's house, he had 6 gallons going, and I managed to get all the grains into one bag. Looking back, we should have just done the 3 gallons and divided up the grains into several bags for more surface area coverage. I think I'd just prefer to do an all-grain version of this recipe. The gravity ended up at like a 1.039, when we were looking for a 1.049. The nice thing was we had whole-leaf hops for this brew, and they were awesome. Before racking it and putting it back into the fridge at 38 F, we sampled it. It's golden, light in body, but a hop monster. Not overhopped, but hopped like I remember a good pilsner being in Germany. The Budvar yeast is nice, it's very fruity. I'll have photos of these up in a few weeks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Upland Brewing Company Samples

Upland is a brand brewed in Bloomington, Indiana. I was first introduced to Upland when we moved here and went to a party where some of this was in the fridge. I think I had a Pale Ale. I thought it was good, especially for "being brewed in Indiana."

That's not the last time I would say that. It's funny, though, because I think there are some really great brewers in Indiana. Indiana was also 2nd in the amount of hops grown prior to prohibition, only second to New York. So that phrase is really kind of an insult.

About a year ago, I decided to try the Upland Maibock, and I don't know why I haven't bought any more. I remember thinking how great and malty the beer was. I think it was because it was around the fall, and the date on the beer was at least six months old (Thanks, Jewel, for rotating your stock!). The beer tasted fine, though. I think I saved quite in my fridge until there was nothing else to drink, so that I might enjoy them.

The Shoreline Brewery did some kind of trade last month with Upland and a couple of other brewers as part of some spotlight on Indiana beers. One of them was the Upland Infinite Wisdom Tripel. While this beer wasn't as golden as some of the Tripels I've had in the past, the smell of monk basement was there, which is what I look for in Belgian beers (it's actually the yeast), and it packed a wallop, without leaving a hot alcohol aftertaste. It was very nice, again, "for being brewed in Indiana." I just haven't had many tripels brewed in American breweries.

I'd been wanting to try the Dragonfly IPA, since I like IPAs and the Upland brand had not let me down. So my wife called me from the store and asked if I wanted any beer. Fortunately, the Wiseway had Dragonfly on sale. Pure destiny. This beer doesn't get the highest ratings on ratebeer, which is a shame. Overall, it's a decent IPA, but the great thing about it is that there's some sort of smokey flavor to it. I won't say it's like the smokiness you get from a Rauchbier, but there is some smokiness or some kind of spice combination there.

Either way, it's definitely moved it's way up my list of beers that I would like to keep in the fridge on a regular basis.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Paulaner Salvator

When I was a teenager, I lived in Germany. To cut to the chase, we had access to all the great beer over there, but mostly, and quite honestly, we were purely interested in getting hammered. At least I was. So I missed out on a very educational opportunity. During my time during high school, I basically knew about three kinds of beer: Pils, Export, and Weizen. Pils took a lot of time to pour, and it was more bitter than Export, so generally, I just stuck to Export until I found out about Weizen beer.

When I returned during my college years to visit my folks, who had moved back over, I was a bit more educated. I knew about Pilsner Urquell, the original Budweiser (Budvar) and I liked those, but I also discovered Dunkel Weizen, which was very nice.

One style I never really got into was Doppelbock, or bock beers. Which is a damn shame, because right now, those, along with Schwarzbier, are my favorite kinds of German beer. I really like the maltiness of the bocks. A foremer classmate of mine from Germany reminded me of this style on a forum post when he mentioned "Salvator" being strong. I think I had a few of these at a Bush Party over there and got completely hammered. I was lucky enough to find this at King Richard's over in Michigan City. The guy gets it all the time.

Pours a dark gold, or golden brown, with a nice head. Smells biscuity and caramel, and tastes the same, but I detect a slight licorice flavor as well. The alcohol is there, but it's not "hot" tasting. This thing is all kinds of yummy.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hops Update - August

I started out the season growing five different kinds of hops. While all of them are sending out bines, the best of the bunch is definitely the Zeus. You may have seen some brewers using CTZ hops. CTZ stands for Columbus, Tomahawk, Zeus, since I guess they're all pretty much the same kind of hop with the same level of alpha acid. You can click on the photo there and see the hop cones, or flowers starting to form. They haven't become "papery" yet, so they still have a few weeks to go.

I was told not to expect much from the first year harvest, but I still thought that with the way these things are growing, I would get something from each one. Unless things start picking up these last couple of weeks, though, it looks as though I'll only have enough hops from the Zeus for a couple of batches of beer. The recipe I've created for the Magic Hat Jinx clone should only require half an ounce, total, of CTZ hops. They've got the bittering units (IBU) set at 20, which is pretty low for using such a high alpha acid hop.

Please leave your recipe suggestions for Zeus hops in the comments section.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wisconsin Beer Remembered - 1992

Pronounced Ly-nin-koo-guhlsMy first experience with Wisconsin beer (other than all the mass-produced stuff like Miller and Pabst) was Leinenkugel's original lager. I first got mixed up with this when I went to my favorite watering hole (underaged, I might add) at Iowa State called Under Where? I remember one fine evening when Mel was working the bar. I saw they had a special on Leinenkugel's: Get 5 beers in a plastic bucket and keep the bucket. I asked him where Leinenkugel's was from. He told my friend, Kurt, and me that it came from Wisconsin.

Granted, I really didn't know much about beer back then. I considered Miller Genuine Draft a fine beer. But I really liked this stuff. To this day, I consider Leinenkugel's my favorite American Lager. While Sam Adams might be better, this remains my standard, when I can get it where I live. I was so excited when I moved to Illinois. The first thing I did was go to Wal Mart, and sure enough, there was Leinenkugels right on the shelf.

Oh, and that bucket became where I stored all my bathroom crap during college and for a few years afterwards.

The Green MonsterMy second favorite American Lager also comes from Wisconsin. Made by Heileman's, who also brewed Old Style, is a beer that came in green bottles called Special Export. I usually would get this on tap at The Lost and Found Lounge when I became "legal". Dave Loose would serve you a liter mug if you asked for it.

I'm not going into great detail about Old Style in this post. Old Style is fine, but it's not one of my favorites. My friend, Duder, was not keen on any of the Heileman's stuff. In fact, in a discussion about a certain person from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, there was also some cross talk about Old Style and Heileman's. He declared, "I am a firm believer that anything that comes from LaCrosse sucks." We lived with that quote for some time, but never mentioned it when we had to go shopping there.

I discovered Blatz while interning at Speed Queen in Ripon, Wisconsin. My room mate brought home a case of it. The name wasn't too appealing to me, and besides, I could get all the Leinenkugel's I wanted living in Wisconsin, even in cans! I said, "How is that?" He said, "Pretty good for $5.99 a case." I had only heard about cases of longneck bottles of beer in Iowa for $4.99, and that was for Red, White and Blue, made in Dubuque. Everyone said it was terrible. Later, I would try RW&B and discover that while cold out of the bottle, it was a pretty decent beer. However, this had not occurred yet.

One weekend, though, when I was in the apartment alone and had not yet bought beer for the weekend, I thought, "What the hell, I'll give it a try." Halfway through the bottle, I said out loud to no one, "Hey, that's pretty good for $5.99."

I took a case of this down to Davenport for a weekend trip with Tommy Tune to visit my friend, Amy, and Tom's twin brother and my best friend, P-Mart. Amy and P-Mart were like, "I'm not drinking $5.99 beer." Then they tried it. They said, "Hey, that's pretty good for $5.99."

Point absolutely cracks me up, because nowadays, Point is a microbrew. In Wisconsin it was as cheap as Special Ex or Leinenkugel's. I saw point for $6.99 a sixer in Pensacola. This was in the late 90's. I almost bought for the sheer nostalgia, but I stopped myself. I just couldn't do it. I like the novelty of Point, but I just can't take it seriously. It's not really that good. I even bought a sampler 12-pack a couple of years ago, and wasn't all that impressed. Too bad, Steven's Point seems like a cool little Wisconsin town.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Good Friend Buddy Weiser is Going to Belgium

Did you think I was just going to sit out on this one?


I don't care that Bud got sold to a foreign company. Miller and Coors sold a few years ago as well. Bud took advantage of that. I recently saw a somewhat faded sticker on the glass door of a cooler in Oklahoma that said, "Budweiser - the only brewer still owned by Americans" or something like that. Guess they better send those people a razor blade and get them to start peelin'.

If Bud drinkers are so offended by this, then I'm glad. Proud of you, really. No matter what kind of Budweiser you drink, you are drinking an inferior product. Sorry. The beer is brewed with rice. It's a cheap adjunct.

The thing that really pisses me off is all the marketing around macrobrews. Even though they're losing their share of the market to craft and mirco-brewed beers, they still continue to market themselves as great. I'm here to tell you that whoever owns who, as far as American Lager goes, Budweiser (and if you want to throw the light versions of beers in there, Bud Light) is at best, in 10th place. I'm sure, though, that I can find at least 10 American Lagers better than Bud.

I've been telling people the old story of how Great Grandpa Anheuser stole the name Budweiser from the Czechs in Europe, then made a recipe (was he cloning it? Not sure, through whatever process changes over the years took place, it's not at all like the original Budvar-Budweis) and this is what you're drinking now. Can the original compete in America under the original name? Sorry, no. In fact, it appears that there is an agreement with the original (now referred to as "Czechvar") company to use Anheuser-Busch's marketing and such. I'm not sure, though. I haven't really seen any ads for Czechvar in the states. Seems like this "agreement" is similar to when a record company signs a band to a contract and then does nothing with them. How are the major labels doing these days?

So to recap, I don't like Bud and Bud products overall, because: 1) They stole then tarnished a good beer's name; 2) It's not real beer because it's made with rice; 3) It's not the Great American Lager like you see on billboards.

If the current Anheuser-Busch was truly interested in making good beer, he'd take his money, and go invest it in Schlafly, down the street in St. Louis. Now that, my friends, is some decent American beer.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Missouri Session

I went on vacation last week, visited relatives in Oklahoma, then stopped by my folks place in Missouri on the way home. While there, we went to Wal-Mart, of all places, to buy beer. There we got Boulevard Pale Ale, Boulevard Lunar, and New Belgium 1554. Why can't my Wal-Mart carry good beers like these?

On the way back from the store, my sister wanted a bottle of liquor, so we stopped into a liquor store to get that. I also picked up a sixer of New Belgium Blue Paddle. Here's what I thought of these:

Boulevard Pale Ale

Apparently, I have tried this before, since I already reviewed it on I said it was a good example of the style, and one of the better Pale Ales I've had. I wouldn't say it smells/tastes like a Sierra Nevada, but it's that same style. It has a decent smell, and just the right amount of hops.

New Belgium Springboard

Dad already had these in the fridge when I got there. This was a nice example of a simple Belgian Ale. Not necessarily a whit, not a triple, just a light ale. A decent summer beer.

New Belgium 1554

I had just a sample of this at the Flying Saucer in Houston one time. I thought it was a Schwarzbier. While it looks like a Schwarzbier, it finishes more like a Belgian ale. Nice yeast in this one. Light, but dark in color with ruby highlights. I really started to appreciate this when I got near the end.

Boulevard Lunar

The description on the outside of the box would have you believe this was a brown ale. As I drank it, I thought it was a bit clovey for a brown ale, but something was familiar about the style, I just couldn't place it. So I looked it up on and sure enough, this is a dunkleweizen. A very good example of a dunkelweizen, too.

New Belgium Blue Paddle

I've been looking for a decent American pilsner. My favorite German and Czech pilsners all come in green bottles, which skunks the beer, and disappoints me. This one was in a brown bottle and was very nice, with a great hop profile, golden clear in color. I totally recommend this one.

On the way home we stopped at Trader Joe's in Orland Park where I was able to pick up a mixed six pack of Victory Hop Devil and Victory Prima Pils. I'll give those a try and let you know what I think.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Leffe Brune

Another one of the Belgium 5 in my fridge disappeared. This time, I picked the Leffe Brune (Brown). This reminded me of both the Chimay blue label and Goose Island Pere Jacques, which is odd, considering this is supposed to be an Abbey Dubbel when the above-mentioned beers are supposedly Belgian Strong Ales (must be because of the alcohol content). The Brune comes in at 6.5% ABV, which is not bad.

This thing poured into a tulip glass with a big, rocky head, which slowly disappeared. Smelled of Belgian yeast and sweetness. Nice caramel malt flavor.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Question for Miller Lite

Hey, Miller Lite, how's it going?

I just wanted to stop and ask you how you did in the 2008 World Beer Cup? I've been hearing these commercials how you won the Gold for the category of American-Style Light Lager several times.

What? You're kidding. You didn't even fucking place this year? I can't believe it! What a travesty. Well, who won the gold, silver and bronze?

Gold - Old Milwaukee Light
Silver - Lone Star Light
Bronze - Natural Light

Wow. You couldn't even beat Natty Light for the bronze? You know, it's not my job to tell you how to market your beer or anything, but to say you won that prize in those commercials, with those kinds of beer beating you, well, I don't know if that's such a good idea. It's like "Hey, we won the Gold medal for piss!"

I guess Old Mil Light and Lone Star Light are both owned by you. Still, I think I see the following billboards being placed where Miller Lite is sold (read: Nationwide).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beers for P-Mart

I got an email today from P-Mart today.

I need to find some good beers for quantity drinking. 2 pale ales or IPA's are about all I'm good for now. Bring on summer!

He also linked up a bunch of ESB reviews from the New York Times. I'm not real big on ESBs. There might be better ESBs than Goose Island's Honker's Ale, like the anniversary versions of ESB they make, but this one is fine. It's a beer-beer.

Here are some recommendations for summer drinking. Some are good for sippin', others for large quantity consumption. Make sure you designate a driver if doing the latter, or just consume at home with your spouse or room mates.

Clipper City Heavy Seas Red Sky at Night

Saison ales are nice. This is a decent example of one. Golden in color, a little tart, with a dry finish. This one has an ABV of 8%, so you don't need to quaf too many. P-Mart may want to see if he can get Boulevard's Saison, since it's in his backyard. Try out the George Brett as well, if you can get that one, it's a little less of a head-cleaner at 6.5%, but still very nice.

Another good style of beer to try in the summertime is Koelsch, or Kolsch with umlauts over the "o" for all you Deutsche Sprachers. This is usually a lighter, cleaner style of ale made originally around Cologne (Koeln, again, for you Deutsche Sprachers). Snubbed by most of the snobs on, this is a pretty simple beer to make, and quite honestly, is the closest thing to light American beer as you can get without actually drinking something owned by Bud/Miller/Coors. I had a Groovy Brew by Pioneer Brewing Company out of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. It wasn't bad. Just a smooth beer. Very quaffable.

Czechvar (Budvar Budweiser)

You want a nice, clean beer with a fruity yeast and a nice hop profile? You can't go wrong with the original Budweiser, from the Czech Republic, not St. Louis. Thanks to the largest brewer in the world, the original brewers had to change the name to get it sold in the U.S. So look for the Czechvar label, and try to get the brown bottle, because green bottles let green rays of light in, and that "skunks" the beer. You get this with clear bottles, blue bottles, every bottle except brown bottles. Another of my favorite Pilsners, Pilsner Urquell, comes in a green bottle. It tastes way better on tap. It tastes even better on tap in Europe. Anyway, go with a Czech pilsner if you can get it.

Finally, for summer drinking, for something different, try the often misunderstood American wheat beer. I am beginning to understand and enjoy American wheat beers a little more now that I understand they are not a straight across the board Weizen beer. If you're looking for that same bubblegum smell and banana-ester essence in an American wheat, you're likely going to be disappointed. The best American wheat beer, however, that I have had, does have a bubblegum smell. Hello, Gumball Head wheat ale, from Three Floyds. This is like a thirst quenching IPA. You can drink several at a time, and they are well worth every enjoyable sip. You should give Magic Hat's Circus Boy a try as well as Boulder Brewing's Sweaty Betty. I had some Sweaty Betty last fall, and here's what I wrote about it:

12 oz bottle. Pours straw-yellow, typical looking American Wheat. Smelled of toast, with peanut butter??? Yeasty. Tasted the same. I think I’m starting to get a flavor for what American Wheats are all about. Definitely not a Weizen. Taste reminded me of the Magic Hat Circus Boy.

So there you have it; some suggestions for some good summer style beers. If the evenings are still cool in your area, I also recommend a decent Belgian, or Belgian-style beer. The blue Chimay is excellent, as is Goose Island's Pere Jacques, and for that single sippin' beer experience, I totally recommend Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Gift from Belgium

Had a conference this week that I hosted. One of my guests brought me a gift from Belgium:

Hoegaarden Grand Cru, Leffe Blonde, Belle-Vue Gueze, Leffe Bruin, Trappist Rochefort 8
There was a sixth bottle that was broken in the transit, unfortunately, and it was the one that my guest really wanted me to have, the Brugse Zot Blond, which won the gold in the Belgian and French style ale category at the 2008 World Beer Cup. Bummer.

Unfortunately, these aren't long for this world. I had the Hoegaarden Grand Cru last night. I have never had the Grand Cru style before. Not sure if this is a great example, but I did enjoy it. Nice yeasty smell I expect from Belgian beers, that damp, stinky, monastary basement smell. I know this may not sound appetizing to you, but it is very appealing to me. Golden in color, very hazey, with a big fluffy white head that disappeared over a few minutes. Nice lacing as I drank it. Definitely a sipping beer, weighing in at 8.5% ABV. Fruity aftertaste with the monastary basement stench and a swell dry finish.

I'll elaborate on the others as I get to them. I hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

'Nuff Said

This picture says it all for me:

That's some mighty tasty PBR you got there. It appears that the blonde is drinking some kind of cloudy beer. You think that might be a hefeweizen? I think so. Meanwhile, somewhere on the Hillary trail...

It's probably going to take something a lot stronger than whiskey to catch up to Big O, now.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Magic Hat #9 Found Across the Border in Michigan

I was dorking around the other day on the Magic Hat website, and I found a link to "Find Our Beers" or something like that. It's been just over 6 months since I discovered this brewer. I've been trying to develop a clone recipe for their Jinx. I found that the closest Magic Hat beer was in New Buffalo, Michigan. Right up the road from where I work in Michigan City. For fun, I went up there during my lunch break to see if it's true. The name of the place has changed, but they have this stuff at Lighthouse Liquors for $8 and change. It was cold, and I was actually going to get some but thought my wife would kill me if I got some of this since just last night we got 2 cases of Sam Adam's Summer Sampler. Now, one of those cases is for a potluck we're having this weekend, so I expect that to be gone.
The thing is, while the #9 is enjoyable, what I would really love to have is their Spring Sampler. It has #9 in it as well as the Circus Boy wheat, which are palatable, but I'm more interested in trying the hIPA and the mystery beer, which looks like a spring version of the Jinx. So I told the person working the liquor store that I wanted the sampler, and could she ask the distributor to bring some. So she said she would, and it would be there next Friday, unrefrigerated and waiting.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tongue Splitter photo

I know, wrong glass for a "pale" ale, but it sure is pretty. We brewed a Saison a few weeks ago. Put a drop of olive oil in the yeast starter and it was done fermenting in 3 days. It's in the keg and has about 3 more weeks before it will be prime. I think John brewed a brown ale last weekend.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Growing Some Hops

Magnum, Willamette, Mt. Hood, Cascade, ZeusI have planted a total of five different kinds of hops in buckets. I plan to transplant them into the ground a little later this spring. I just planted 2 more that I got last Thursday (Zeus, Magnum) and am going on a week with three others (Willamette, Mt. Hood and Cascade). This photo was taken before I mowed. The grass has grown really well on this side of the yard. I'm hoping the hops will do the same. I think I may need to raise the soil level to get them maximum exposure.

The Willamette came with a shooter on it already. It was white from being in the fridge for 2 weeks, but as you can see, it's really starting to take off. That thing was sticking out only an inch and was white when I planted it.

I wish I could say the same about the Cascade and Mt. Hood. I need to get on Northern Brewer's forums and start asking questions. I planted all of these in fertilized potting soil and mixed in some organic hummus I had lying around to boot, then watered them with some Miracle Grow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

When Black Friday Comes

The thing I enjoy the most about this homebrew hobby is creating recipes. I'll just be going about my business, driving, eating, or performing some other exercise that can allow the mind to wander, and I'll start thinking about making a beer, doing research, and creating my own recipe. Unfortunately, most of these end up as a Word document stashed in my Beer Recipe folder.
I've been hankering for a good Pils style beer. I've got one in the fermenter, made with both the White Labs Czech-Budejovice yeast and the White Labs Pilsner yeast. It's a long story, but suffice to say that lagers do better with yeast starters.
So I googled "Pils beer recipe" today and found a listing with a recipe for a Black Pils. I was discussing Chris' Black IPA with my dad, and he told me that once, in Germany, he tasted a black pils. So this recipe piqued my interest. It's an extract recipe, though, and so I opened up Promash to see what kind of equivalent all-grain recipe it would be. As listed, they were a little low on gravity (I guess, I think they're using closer to 6 gallons of water, whereas I calculated the gravity based on 5 gallons). They calculated a 1.044, whereas I got 1.055. IBUs aren't as high as I would like in a Pils. I want it HOPPY. However, with my inexperience, my first shot was to put CTZ hops as the main boiling hop, but had to back off the ounces, since it was coming in at over 100 IBU. The combination below gives me an IBU between 60-62. So here's the recipe. I would appreciate your opinions:

Black Friday Pils
(All Grain Recipe)
5.5 - 6.0 gallon boil
7.0 lbs German Pilsner Malt
2.0 lbs CaraPils Dextrine Malt
4.0 oz Black Patent Malt
16.0 oz Crystal Malt 120L
1.5 oz Mt. Hood @ 60 minutes
1 oz Cascade @ 15 minutes
1 oz Cascade @ 2 minutes
Wyeast 2000 Budvar Yeast
Yeast Starter Recipe: 2.0 lbs DME, 4 liters of water
Original Gravity: 1.055-1.056

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Visit to Florida

I recently made a trip to Florida with the family to visit family. I was kind of wondering if I was going to be able to get any beer I couldn't get elsewhere. Fortunately, Santa Rosa county has become "wet" over the past few years, so there was actually a liquor store close to my in-law's house called Fusion Fine Wine and Spirits and they had probably close to 75 different kinds of bottled beer available. They also had a select few bottles on the shelf that you could make your own sixpack. I was impressed to see that they had a lot of Bell's beer here. I totally didn't expect to see Bell's this far south. They had a lot of the standard Bell's stuff, but they also had the Cream Stout and the Two-Hearted Ale.

I opted for a cold sixer of Shiner Black, which is a fantastic example of the style. I recently had some of this from tap in another state, and I think that there was actually more of a coffee flavor to the tap version. That flavor seemed more subdued in the bottle version, but it could be I had an old sixpack, since I don't think most of the residents of Santa Rosa county get past the Budweiser aisle. The Saaz hops are apparent in this beer, and the hop/malt balance is awesome.

This is a very nice beer. For those of you uninitiated in the style, black lager is not as "heavy" as a porter or stout. It is just that, a lager that appears black. Just as Sam Adams and Budweiser are examples of lager, this is a lager as well, only the ingredients include Carafa, which is a super dark malt. So depending on what is used, and my guess is that in addition to Carafa, they are probably using some roasted and chocolate malts for that bit of coffee flavor, you get a lager, but with some slight properties of a stout or porter, but with more of a hop bite than a porter or stout will get you. I would call it a "bonus" lager, because instead of just drinking a normal lager, you get a really cool color, and a slightly different flavor.

I also put together a sixpack including two beers from Sweetwater, which is out of Atlanta. I got the Blue and the Hummer. The Hummer is a white ale, and really just an average example, which isn't a bad thing, just not anything super exciting. If you were at a pub and wanted a white ale, it's not a bad call.

Just a side note on white ales: I had been sort of down on Blue Moon for a while, mainly because it was a pretty mainstream beer (not to mention it is owned by Coors). I had a 12-pack in the fridge leftover from New Year's and had been avoiding consumption because I was hoping that my wife would have taken care of them, but NYE had a curtailing effect on her beer drinking. So I had some Unibroue Belgian style ales and a couple of Goose Island Belgian copies (which I should discuss in and of themselves, because both the Matilda and Pere Jacques are awesome in their own right) and figured I would see how the Blue Moon compared. I have to admit, it is a very decent example of the style. The Sam Adams version is similar, and I would almost have to give Blue Moon the nod in a side-by-side comparisson.

The Sweetwater Blue was a light ale with blueberries added. The aroma was overwhelmingly blueberry muffins. Smelled some wheat in there along with the blueberry muffins. It was a nice thirst quenching brew, which you would expect from a brewery out of Atlanta, with hot weather. The blueberries were not as much in the taste as the smell, which is a good thing. This is a proper fruit beer.

I got two Flying Dog beers, the Road Dog Porter and the Snake Dog IPA, both of which were pretty average. Nothing to see here, move along.

I also got a Blue Moon Honeymoon, which basically tasted like the original, only they added some honey, which appears to have made the ABV about 0.2% higher than the original.

The final and best beer of the sixpack was the Sam Adams Doppelbock, which, at 8.8% ABV will knock you on your booty if you drink too many on an empty stomach. Nice example of the style, malty and sweet. Pretty color.

The other beer event on this trip was dinner at McGuire's Irish Pub in Pensacola. I never really tried their beers when I lived here, which puzzles me. McGuire's is kind of a trendy tourist place, but they do have pretty awesome food, and a wide variety of food styles. Also, there is a tradition of people marking up dollar bills and stapling them to the walls and ceiling of the place. The photo shown here is from the Destin location. It's really a cool place.

We went on a Wednesday night, which is mug club night, and members get a full mug of beer for $1. I wasn't a mug club member, but still, my 12-oz beers only cost me $1.88 with tax, which is pretty damn cheap for a glass of beer anywhere. I tried thier light beer (yep, it's for the Bud drinkers), red ale (good red), porter (pretty traditional, a good example) and their seasonal, which appears to have been their ESB. This confuses me, because it was way more hoppy than an English style of pale ale, or ESB. Lighter in color than most ESBs as well. Either way, it was just a great beer. I really enjoyed the flavor of this one.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Homebrew Update - March 08

This month, we did a couple of brews including a kit from Northern Brewer called the Tongue Splitter, which I mentioned in a previous blog. I also plagiarized a couple of Czech Budvar Budweiser recipes and ordered my own ingredients. This is a lager-style of beer, so it requires that the brew be refridgerated during fermentation. In case you weren't aware, Anheiser-Busch took the Budweiser name from the original beer, and it is not allowed to be sold under that name in this country, even though it is clearly the better of the two. You can find it under the Czechvar moniker. I've had it in the past 3 years, and it was pretty good, but if you ever get to try this beer or Pilsner Urquell on tap in Europe, you will walk away thinking that it's one of the best beers you've ever tasted.

While in college, my folks lived in Europe, and I had to go there during Christmas break. My buddy, P Mart, came over for a couple of weeks, and one night, my dad took the whole family to Sachsenhausen, which I believe is a part of Frankfurt. There were quite a few bars there, one which served hefeweizen on tap, and supposedly, this was a big deal, because everywhere I ever got a weizen, it was from a half liter bottle poured into a big glass. One of the last places we went had the two Czech beers mentioned above on tap, and both P Mart and I looked at each other and said that the beers were not only the best we had that night, but probably in our 22-year old lives.

Unfortunately, I cannot say anything good will come of my own version. After 2 days, the beer had not begun fermenting, and on the fifth day, John told me that there was a white funk growing on top of the liquid. I told him to pitch it on the curb. Better luck next time.

I also recently went to Pensacola, and I will be writing about some beers I tried down there.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chris' Beer

I had to go over to John's and dry-hop the Tongue Splitter ale yesterday, so I took over the two bottles of beer that Chris gave me on Friday night. This is actually the first homebrew someone else has given me since I started the hobby. I thought I would review it here.

Oatmeal Stout: First of all, I need to preface this by saying that I'm not a huge stout fan. I can appreciate a good stout, but I will rarely order a stout to drink. Usually they are very filling, and therefore you drink one, and you're done with that style for the evening.
I thought Chris' stout was pretty good. The bottle made just a little hiss, very quick, when opening (Chris asked me to check that as he just recently bottled this) and had a nice tan head on it. It was definitely an opaque black. Nice flavor, left a nice film on the mouth. John thought it didn't have enough body. Honestly, I couldn't agree or disagree. It went down smooth, and that's about all I know.

Black India Pale Ale (India Black Ale): I mentioned to John twice that this was an India "Black" Ale, yet when he poured it, he was like, "Whoa, why is this so dark?" I told him it was an "I - BEE - A" and then he was cool. Same deal with opening the bottle. Both beers did not seem flat, in case you were wondering, Chris. This beer was just AWESOME. It had that hoppy smell that I associate with Amarillo hops, but then, I don't really know my hops that well, but it smelled sort of like a Three Floyd's Gumball Head, and I know they use Amarillo hops. Bitter as all get out. Really a hop head's dream. Nice tan head that stuck with the beer in the glass all the way down. Another opaque black beer. John said, "We should get the recipe for this."

Good job, Chris!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Chesterton/Region Homebrewers UNITE!

Went to Shoreline tonight with the family and John the Brewer. John had a beer and left, but not before meeting Chris, who also brews. I've been meaning to write Chris, but you know, that whole apathy thing came into play.

Anyway, Chris was telling us that he does all-grain brewing with some modified Coleman coolers. So we were pretty rapt with attention. Chris says, "Later," then John left. Chris returned with two 22-oz bombers of his oatmeal stout and India Black Ale (IBA). I couldn't believe it! So awesome to finally get someone else's beer to try. I told Chris I would return his bottles full of my own recipes. I was gonna post a photo here of the two bottles in my fridge, but apparently, my 13-in-1 card reader has decided to go on the fritz.

We also just brewed a kit I got from Northern Brewer this last week. I guess the Tongue Splitter kit I got for around $26 just went up to $41. Whew! Just got in under the wire for that one. I was actually gonna try to brew my own hoppy pale ale, but I was looking at spending $47 to do that with about 4 different kinds of hops. I figured I would just check out the kit at a lower price and get some more experience under my belt. This is only the 5th beer we've brewed. John brewed an Alt (another NB kit) on 12/31 with another friend. I had to work. I think I'm ready for all grain now. I've read enough about it, now it's time to do it.

Here's the Tongue Splitter recipe:

Tongue Splitter Pale Ale
Grains and Fermentables
0.5 lbs Dingman’s Caramel Pils
0.5 lbs Simpson’s Caramalt
6 lbs Pilsen Malt Syrup
Hop schedule
1 oz Nugget @ 60 minutes
1 oz Glacier @ 15 minutes
1 oz Cascade @ 10 minutes
0.5 oz Cascade @ 2 minutes
0.5 oz Mt. Hood @ 2 minutes
Dry Hop
0.5 oz Cascade
0.5 oz Mt. Hood
Wyeast #1332 Northwest Ale Yeast

Steep grains in 6 gallons of water @ 160-165*F for 15 minutes. Add syrup and bring to a boil. Start Hops additions.

OG = 1.045
Optimum Temperature: 65-75*F

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Some Good India Pale Ale (IPA)

I think the first time I ever heard IPA mentioned was when Brian (Mitch Cumstein) was describing another beer and said something to the effect of, "This tastes almost like an IPA." I don't recall the beer in question since this conversation likely occurred sometime between 1995 and 1997.

I do remember being in Asheville, North Carolina, however, for a friend's wedding, and discovering Highland Kashmir IPA. I remember thinking, "I should get some of that, it's supposed to be a good style of beer." After our mini-vacation, where I also sampled Highland's St. Therese's Pale Ale, and the Gaelic Ale, we returned to Pensacola with 13 bottles of Highland, one of which was a 22 ounce bottle of their IPA. When I tried it, I thought, "Wow, that's got some bite to it." But I did enjoy it, and thought that IPAs would be my new favorite style of beer.

Beer desolation in Pensacola along with the fact that I was still mostly pining how I couldn't get Leinenkugel's in Florida kept me from pursuing IPAs. On my many moves over a five year period, I tried an IPA here and there, was reminded how much I liked them, and then hit the motherlode when I finally moved to Indiana.

Here then, are some interesting IPAs to try:

For Beginners: The Loose Cannon, from Clipper City Brewing, or Heavy Seas. I wish they would stick with one name on the label. This one will be hoppy for those used to Budweiser, but will not totally blow you away or scare anyone off. Nice mouthfeel to this one.

Long Hammer by Red Hook is a pretty good beginner IPA as well. It's very mild.

Once you get into IPAs, you'll move along into more interesting ones. Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA is pretty decent, a good standard. I think Bell's Two-Hearted Ale is a great example, if not the prime example of what an IPA should taste like. For the heavy hitters, I suggest the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA, which is probably hands-down the top IPA I've ever had. Very fruity and very smooth. The hops are there but they don't sting you.

Then there are the "extreme" IPAs: Things like Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA at 21%ABV, which should probably be enjoyed with a friend. And that's the 12-oz bottle. Hopsickle by Moylan's was one I tried at the same time I had Three Floyd's Dreadnaught IPA. I thought the Moylan's was a bit hoppier. Three Floyd's doesn't officially make a regular IPA, but their Alpha King is close enough. It's probably one of the better "pale ales" if not the standard everyone should be trying to copy.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Places to Drink Beer in Downtown Houston

If you have to go to Houston on business, and must stay downtown, I suggest the Magnolia as a place to stay. There are a couple of places I visited that I'd like to share with you that are both about a block away from the hotel, so you don't even need a car.

On my last trip to Houston, the Flying Saucer was recommended to me. Actually, they have a lot of beers here that I hadn't tried, and you can make a sampler so you don't end up trying to decide how many pints of beer to drink, but instead try 5 different 5 oz beers. On the flight down, I thought about what kind of different food I could eat in Houston, and remembered I had some excellent Sushi on the north side of town back in November 2006. I ended up getting two Sushi rolls the first night at Azuma. I sat at the sushi bar and was served very quickly. They seemed to be having trouble with a salmon order at the bar, which from overheard conversation was taking at least 15 minutes. The rolls were good, but I didn't think as great as the place I went to on the north side, whose name I cannot remember.

As I look for links to these places online, I mostly find local reviews. It would appear to me that you don't want to eat or drink anywhere in downtown Houston on a weekend night, or else, people just don't understand that these are the two busiest nights of the week, and therefore, are probably not the best times to go downtown. I've been to these places between Monday and Wednesday, and they were fine.

On my second night, I wanted Mexican food, but the only place close that was open that resembled Mexican food was Chipotle. Say what you want about Chipotle, I could eat there every day. I love a big burrito, and they have tasty ingredients. Right next door, underneath the historic Rice Hotel was Shane McElroy's Irish Pub. I actually checked the entrance to this place before going to Chipotle to scope out a menu, if one existed. Nope, its strictly a drinking establishment, and their little chalkboard had a Chimay logo on it, so I decided to get a burrito and then come back afterwards.

They've got a really decent vibe. There are apartments of varying sizes for rent in the floors above, as this used to be the historic Rice hotel and is now know as the Post Rice Lofts. JFK stayed here the night before he went to Dallas and was assassinated. They had some decent beers on tap, what you would expect for an Irish pub (Guiness, Harp, no Bass) plus others like Smithwick's, a local St. Arnold's Amber, Full Sail IPA out of Oregon, and the typical Bud and Miller products. In bottles, they have the red label Chimay, Duvel, Hoegarden, and I think maybe one other Belgian. Of course they have Mexican beer, such as Corona. Plus they have a full bar of wines and liquor as well, which is very nice. Pretty woodwork, cool layout, and one of those new-fangled jukeboxes that allows you to use the internet to find songs. I played Slobberbone's "Butchers" and Drive-By Truckers' "Lisa's Birthday". Heh.

Tuesday at the Flying Saucer is Trivia Night. I sat at the bar and had a conversation about stuff with a fellow named Bruce, who had retired from Halliburton about 5 years ago and was working at a satellite communications company. I told him my grandpa retired from Halliburton in 1984.

I came in two questions behind everyone else playing trivia, but decided to play anyway. As I was answering one question, I said to Bruce, "Man, I wish I had a laptop, this place has wireless and I could google this stuff." Bruce then pulled out his Blackberry. We came in second, which was a $25 gift certificate. I gave it to Bruce since it was time to head out, and I wasn't going to be in downtown Houston in the next 3 months.

Beers that I enjoyed on this trip: Avery White Rascal, Duvel, Victory Hop Wallop, Sierra Nevada Porter

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Top Rated Beers for 2007

I was sitting there thinking the other day that I should make a list of my favorite albums for the previous year. But most of what I bought or listened to in 2007 was not released in 2007. I still might do something along those lines next year. I will have to track what I listen to in 2008 to make sure I have a valid list.

What I can do is go to and look at all the beer I rated in 2007. Looks like I didn't really start rating beers until April, which looking back, totally makes sense, because I was trying not to drink beer the first 3 months of 2007. Ha! I think I still went to people's houses for parties, potlucks, and whatnot, so I know I didn't stick to that rule. Unfortunately, I probably didn't drink anything new during that time, anyway.

I dig ratebeer. There's also, and that seems to be the one a lot more people are hooked up on, but I like the layout of better, and I found it first. One day, I just might get bored enough to copy all of my ratings over. But I doubt it. Either way, these are cool tools to help you track what you've drank, and also find similar beers to ones you like, and find out more about each beer through the ratings of other users.

Looking at my ratings, I think I might have rated some of these a little different after understanding what I was drinking a little more. I went to see what I rated the Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA, because I had been avoiding this brewery since 2002, when I must have got a bad bottle of it, or else I didn't like really hoppy beers. The review was hilarious. Anyway, here's what I got for 2007:

Rated at 4.9/5.0

St. Arnold Elissa IPA - I really liked this beer. Overall, I think IPAs are probably my favorite traditional style of beers. I only had a sample of this in Houston, right next to the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA and I think I liked both equally. The beer drinkers in Houston said that this brewery wasn't all that great. I did try their Lawnmower, which was their Kolsch, and was a little disappointed. But maybe it was a bit of a flavor letdown after all the hoppy beers.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - I had the 120-Minute this year, shared it with 4 friends. It was good, but at $8/12 oz bottle and 21%ABV, I wouldn't be drinking a lot of that. But the 90-minute version is probably the best IPA out there by far. Maybe the Elissa shouldn't be so high, but it was their hometown I was drinking it in, so I gave them the benefit. Clean finish on the 90-minute. Quite amazing.

2007 Three Floyd's Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout - Stood in line at Three Floyd's down the road in Munster to pick up 6 bottles of this. Cracked the first one in October, the day we brewed our first homebrew. This is quite amazing. It's not something you're going to sit around and quaff all day, but it's special. Black as old motor oil, I like seeing other people drink it and watch how it stains their lips. Almost looks like they're drinking black blood. Lots of awesome flavors in this: cherry, coffee, chocolate just to mention a few. Nice warm alcohol afterglow (what would you expect at 13% ABV?). Quite honestly, a work of art. Voted in the top 5 beers in the world consistently at


Three Floyd's Gumball Head Wheat - Not sure if I would call this a wheat beer. It's very clear for a wheat beer, and doesn't taste like a hefeweizen or an American wheat. It's zesty, and the smell is just awesome. This beer makes me want to grow Amarillo hops, which is what this is made with. Starts off almost tasting like an IPA and then changes about halfway through the beer as it coats your tongue. I would have to recommend you drink a full 12 oz glass of this to get the whole story, as a 3-sip sample won't do it justice.


Shoreline Lost Sailor Imperial Stout - I had this at the Shoreline Brewery about a week before Dark Lord Day. Not as much flavors as the Dark Lord, but it was sure black as midnight and very nice. Viscous as all get out.


Bell's Two-Hearted Ale - A very nice IPA. It probably should be rated higher, but still, 4.6 is a great rating. This one has a great color and nice palate.

Bell's Cherry Stout - I covered this one in it's own blog back in '07 when I discovered it. Awesome stout, but not something you're going to drink 6 of in one setting.

Three Floyd's Alpha King - This is now my "standard" pale ale. Best pale ale ever. Outdoes even the classic Bass Ale.


Dogfish Head 120-Minute IPA - As mentioned above, drink one, go to bed. 21% ABV. Very smooth. It's beyond an IPA, actually. The alcohol almost burns as it goes down.

Three Floyd's Fabulous Resplendence (aka: X) - This is their 10th anniversary ale. It was awesome. Nice chewy, dry palate.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - I had this when I was still living in Pensacola, and maybe when I lived in Iowa once or twice. Hard to remember. I think it was giving me reflux at one time, when I wasn't used to really hoppy beers. I remember shying away from it. Had it at a potluck back in September and thought, "Hey, this is pretty good." Then realized I never rated it. Shame, I would have liked to see what I had written circa 1999.


So there you have it. The beer I gave the lowest rating to in 2007 was Point Light, which had absolutely no redeeming qualities. Light yellow, beer-flavored water. I gave it a 0.8.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Shoreline Mug Club First Ever Chili Cookoff

Seventeen people brought crock-pots (okay, well, maybe SIXTEEN people brought crock pots. One guy brought a kettle of chili. Needless to say, it got cold). Only three people would walk away winners. I'll save you the suspense...I wasn't one of them. But I tried the chili recipes that won, and they all kicked my ass. Even some of the other ones that didn't win were pretty good as well. Nothing I'd push away from if given to me.

Oh, and there was beer.

Not hard to find your mug, as they're all original.

Here's the first place dude. I'm completely terrible with names, so I'm sorry. He said, "My mom's gonna be pissed. I told her I had some left over, but now it's all gone."

I remember these people, though. From left to right, Jessi, Jim, and Sarah.

Again, I can't remember names, but the woman on the rightwon third. I talked to her and her husband (not pictured) about restaurants in Valparaiso, and taking kids to restaurants.

Nicole and Chris. Chris gave me a short sample of his homemade oatmeal stout. Nice.
Buncha people.
We watched the Colts lose.

Sam, Jim and Steve