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