Friday, November 20, 2009

Update on Monster versus Rock Art

A repost of an email I received:

Hansen Beverage Company and Rock Art Brewery today issued the following statement in connection with a recent trademark issue:

Hansen Beverage Company and Rock Art Brewery have reached an amicable agreement under which both companies' respective products will be protected - Hansen's Monster Energy® line of energy drinks and Rock Art's Vermonster beer products.

> Rodney Sacks, Hansen's chief executive officer, said: "We are pleased that we were able to resolve this matter expeditiously and put the concerns that had arisen behind us so that both parties can concentrate on their day-to-day businesses, selling their respective high-quality products. Our intent in this matter was simply to protect Hansen's trademarks and prevent any likelihood of confusion arising in the future through potential product extensions and was not to prevent Rock Art Brewery from selling their Vermonster beer."

> Matt Nadeau, owner of Rock Art Brewery, said: "Once Rodney and I were able to talk to each other we quickly appreciated each other's points of view and he acted reasonably, which allowed us to rapidly come to an agreement we are both happy with and allows both of us to move forward positively."

You can read more about it (it's a little too "rah-rah" for me) at Rock Art's site.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Corporate Terrorists vs. Craft Brewing

Apparently, Budweiser isn't the only company throwing out frivolous lawsuits against craft brewers.

Hansen Beverage Company, the maker of Monster Energy Drink, has apparently filed a lawsuit against Rock Art Brewery to stop them from using the name THE VERMONSTER for their Barley Wine.

I can totally see where someone might be confused:

You have GOT to be fucking kidding.

Although the owner of Rock Art Brewery has consulted 5 trademark lawyers in various states who say he has a good chance to win the case, the fact is it will still cost a lot of money to fight it.

My favorite line comes from their lawyer, though: "Escalator, aspirin, celluloid were once trademarks and they became common jargon because the owners didn't defend them or find a way to stop people from using those names," Riley said.

Yeah. Except MONSTER isn't exactly an original term pertaining to your product. The actual term is ENERGY DRINK. Maybe if you called your product ENERGERIZER or somesuch, you might have a point. As it stands, however, it is a bad analogy.

I think it would be hilarious if people dressed up as the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and Dracula then walked into the Hansen Beverage headquarters with a lawsuit claiming they own the term "Monster". Or better yet, General Mills slapping a lawsuit on them for people getting their drink confused with the Monster Cereals. I hear Boo-Berry is pissed.

I personally don't drink energy drinks. They're full of sugar and other chemicals I don't care for. If I want energy, I exercise and get sleep. If I need a pick me up, a cup of coffee does nicely.

If you drink Monster, you might want to find an alternate beverage until they knock this off. In fact, it's probably a good idea to stop drinking all Hansen beverages (funny how they don't have the Monster products on their product web page. Also funny is that the Monster product website is "under construction" - what's up guys, getting some pressure?) until they stop their corporate terrorism on Rock Art.

Me, I'll be printing copies of the article out and sharing it with management at different retailers, letting them know what's going on, and then asking them to tell their customers why they're not carrying Monster products anymore.

Pass it along. Let's make this thing viral...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Budvar - The Original Budweiser

I recently discovered that there was a monthly series regarding beer topics, courtesy of The Brookston Beer Bulletin. I am thankful for the inspiration, and will probably hit on one of these each month in the future. You will know that it's part of The Sessions by the logo at the top. Other than that, it will start out like this:

Eastern Beers

I'd like to think that I had two beer awakenings in my life. The first was when I lived in Germany and learned to drink beer there. I got about 3 good years of beer drinking done before we moved back to America. As I finished out high school, I just went along with the crowd, pretty much drinking whatever cheap American lager we pooled our money to buy.

My parents moved back to Germany in 1989. I was in my 3rd year of college and on Christmas break when I returned with my best friend. My mom and dad took us to Sachsenhausen, where we toured the bars, drinking Hefeweizen on tap (for some reason, most places only served these in half liter bottles. The guy told us some story about needing proper pressure to have it on tap. I wonder, now, if that was a casked hefeweizen we drank). The beer that really stuck with me that night, however, was a draft of Budvar.

I remember it was the last bar we went to, and I believe I still had my senses about me. I had both the Pilsner Urquell and the Budvar at this place, both "vom fass" (from the tap). My buddy, Paul, said he thought the Urquell was the best beer he'd ever had in his life. I was kind of shocked, because I felt the same about the Budvar.

A big, fluffy head, and a nice Saaz hop bitterness with a somewhat fruity and dry finish. I still remember how crisp it was to this day. While I've had it in the states, I don't think you can really compare the bottle version to the kegged version. Also, it is difficult to find it in a brown bottle. It really is a shame that both the Urquell and Budvar come in green bottles. They actually had Urquell on tap at U.S. Cellular field for a time. I would gladly walk halfway around the stadium and stand in line for 10 minutes to get that.

There is an ugly side to this story, as well. See, this beer is actually known around the world as Budweiser-Budvar. Adolphus Busch apparently stole this name around 1876, from the town of Budweis in Czechloslovakia, where Budvar had been made in some form since 1245 A.D. As a result of this thievery, the original Budweiser has had to put up with fighting to keep its name in various countries worldwide.

In the U.S., you can find this beer under the name "Czechvar". It is still worth trying, if you want to get an idea what this beer is all about. However, I will always look forward to a future day when I can once again taste the original on tap.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Few Words About Gumballhead Wheat

I'm revisiting this old favorite for a couple of reasons. I recently did a beer trade with a Jay in California. I'm not sure if he's ever had the Gumballhead Wheat, and second, this just may be THE "Gateway" beer that I use to convert people to buying craft beer.

Over at, this beer gets a 96/100. That is pretty damn good for a "wheat" beer.

I first had this beer in April of 2007 when I attended Dark Lord Day. At the time, it was a summer seasonal beer brewed by Three Floyds. Now I can get it at my local Jewel grocery store year-round. I remember another guy in line tasting the beer and speaking as though he was reading my mind with the first taste: "Wow, this almost tastes like an IPA, although it is a bit lemony." Later (about halfway through the beer): "Wow, that really mellowed."

Yes, I do believe still that it is a sensational beer, even though the surprise has somehow worn down. This is one of my favorite smelling beers. I could walk around the house all day with this under my nose. It's loaded with Amarillo hops, which give it a really big hop nose, along with the wheat yeast, which gives it a nice bubblegum background aroma.

I have a friend at work who I would get to try hoppy beers just to see him pucker up and watch his nose freak out. One Friday after work, we stopped by a local liquor store in Michigan City, King Richard's (which we refer to as "Little Richard's") to check out their beer selection. He wanted some help.

I told him to get a sixer of the Gumballhead.

I said, "Take this home and make sure it is nice and cold. Then, seriously, pour it in a glass. Look at how great it looks. Then stick your nose in it. You will want to walk around the house all day smelling this (yeah, I know, I'm redundant). When you drink it, it's going to knock you down with the hoppiness. Stick with it, when you get about halfway, it's going to mellow. You're gonna like it."

He called me about 3 hours later and said, "It's just like you said it would be!" About two months later, he was drinking high-hopped ales like Three Floyd's Alpha King and Bell's Two Hearted Ale. Dude really likes Imperial Stouts and Double/Imperial IPAs now.

Gateway, I'm telling you. Gateway beer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

White Orchard is Pretty Thinned Out

Beer #2 that I tried from my man, Jay, over at HEDONIST BEER JIVE, was The Bruery's White Orchard. I've always been a fan of White Ales. In fact, as craptastic as it may sound, I think both Blue Moon and Sam Adam's White Ale really got me interested in the whole craft beer movement.

White Ales are pretty simple. Usually, they are made with some pilsner malt, wheat malt, and a bit of oats. They are hopped with central European hops most of the time(known as Noble hops), and then there are usually some spices thrown in at the end of the boil. This is where the originality comes in. Orange peel or Curacao orange peel is common. I've seen lime and lemon peel used in others as well. Coriander is sometimes added, or other spices. I put an ounce of cloves in my first-ever brewed wit bier and it was overbearing. Drinkable, but really, really clovey.

The Bruery puts lavender in theirs, and they do it right - you should be able to get a hint of the spice, but it shouldn't overtake the aroma or the flavor of the beer. I spilled a drop of this beer on my finger while pouring it and picked up the lavender. It was nice. After that, I couldn't really smell or taste it any more.

This was truly one of the most non-offensive beers I've ever had. I don't necessarily think that is a good thing. At times, I describe Belgian beers as "stinky" or having a "hint of monk basement". While these terms are not necessarily pleasant on a day-to-day conversational basis, this is what I expect from Belgian beers. They need to have character.

This wasn't a bad beer, by any means, but it wasn't really a good beer, either. It was just sort of...there. I could pick up a little hint of the yeast. There were banana flavors there, but it wasn't as ester-y as I would have liked. Overall, it was sort of like drinking a seltzer-water with a bit of a yeasty flavor.

This might be a good jumping-off point for those of you interested in trying out Belgian-style beers, but for me, it wasn't all that exciting enough to put into a 750 ml bottle, when a 12 ounce bottle of this would suffice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Holland Night Tripper - Not a Big Deal

I first had a sample of the New Holland Night Tripper on Dark Lord Day, back in April. A friend of a friend cracked a year-old bottle at the tent. I thought it was quite good. After brewing my own Imperial Stout, I saw this at my local Wise Way grocery store for $5.99. I thought it was a pretty good deal. So I stashed it in my fridge in May.

I decided to give this a try, even though it had not aged a year. Nothing says that it had to age a year, I just knew that the sample I tasted was aged that long, and I remembered it being good.

Actually, though, I think it's a pretty average Imperial Stout. Sort of along the same lines as Stone's Imperial Stout. It's not a bad beer, but it just doesn't jump out at you. All the flavors are subdued - you get a little chocolate, a little coffee-ness from the roasted malt, but there's no dark fruit here like I've had in some Imperial Stouts.

For the price, it's not bad. Who knows, that whole Dark Lord Day kind of imparts a euphoria on a person, so it's likely that my mood was different, which can make all the difference when you're trying something new. I just remember the beer being a bit more complex than this.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

AleSmith Grand Cru

According to AleSmith, their Grand Cru is:

Our other famous Belgian-style offering is our Grand Cru. As with Horny Devil, it is fermented using yeast which originated in a Trappist monastery in Belgium. A darker type of Belgian candi sugar gives it more color and a richer complexity of flavor, consistent with the Belgian style.

So, yeah. I got this beer in a trade with a guy named Jay, who reviews all sorts of beer and places to get beer at Hedonist Beer Jive. Jay's been good enough to send me plenty o' beer for reviews.

This is my first AleSmith beer. The IPA gets rave reviews on ratebeer. Other than that, I'm not sure. Just another California brewery trying to outdo all the great Indiana and Michigan breweries I have access to. But this Grand Cru is mighty nice.

Unlike the photo, it pours a dark brown with reddish hues. It smells of molasses, caramel and dark fruit. Tastes this way, as well, with hints of licorice and chocolate. It reminds me a lot of the Chimay Blue I had the first time, around Thanksgiving 2007. I've had the blue other times, but it wasn't as good as this beer.

It's definitely a sipper at 10.5% ABV, and while my wife could tell it was strong, I could only taste it in the finish. According to the Stan Hieronymous book, Brew Like a Monk, Belgian ales should aid in digestion, and this one was carbonated enough, but not fizzy, to do just that.

I drank this one in a goblet, and it was a nice beer to look at. Check out the surface lacing in the photo as well as the nice lacing ring around the side of the glass. Very nice.

Thank you, Jay. And thank you, AleSmith!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Simpler Times Pilsner

Just for fun, I picked up a sixer of Simpler Times Pilsner at Trader Joe's last weekend. It was only $3.99 and I thought I would give these a try, to see if the Pilsner was better than the Mountain Creek Lager, which was right next to the Simpler Times.

You know what? I'm kind of impressed. Sure, I've had better Pilsners. Vicotory's Prima Pilsner is good. Budvar in Europe is my favorite. But if you had the choice of buying this, or a sixer of Bud Light, Busch Light, PBR, or MGD, I would definitely pick this.

I poured a can into a German tulip-shaped pilsner glass. Big, white head that is gone in aboutt 30-60 seconds. Smells of pears. This is the most awesome thing about the beer. It actually has a decent Pilsner yeast smell. I figure the IBUs around 30-35. Not sure if they triple-hop it, but that's about triple the amount of IBUs in a Miller Lite.

If you had all your beer drinking buddies over to sample PBR, Bud, Busch, Coors, and MGD, I'd bet you $2 and a half eaten bag of Doritos that this would edge them. Although, those are lagers, so I guess that's to be expected.

Friday, July 31, 2009

White House Beer Summit

I have to hand it to our current Pres for being so visible on the beer front. I remember at least one other time that he was in public, drinking a beer. I can't remember which campaign stop it was, but he ordered a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I do have fond memories of Pabst, especially during my visits to Marquette University in the 90s, visiting friends there. I think you could get Pabst in bottles for less than a dollar, or only a dollar, and cold Pabst in the bottle was probably as fine an American lager you could get. Although I still think Leinenkugel's is the best mass-produced American lager (Sam Adam's Boston Lager is also very good, but that's more like a Pre-Prohibition Lager rather than an American Lager. If you like that style, check out Brooklyn's Lager, it seems to use Cluster hops, which are more of a traditional style of hop for that style, from what I've read, whereas the Boston uses Hallertauer. New York vs Boston? I think so.)

I found it hilarious how they released to the media the exact kind of beer each person was drinking. My stance on the situation is irrelevant. It appears that Gates and Crowley have worked it out, and also that both parties involved escalated the issue further than it needed to go. Here's a funny footnote: Blue Moon, the beer Crowley chose, is known as a Wit Bier, or Belgian White ale. I'm just sayin'.

It would almost appear the beer lobbyists found out about this and took a huge opportunity with it. Gates originally wanted to have a Red Stripe, but must have had to settle for a Sam Adams Light. Being from the Boston area, that might have been a politically correct thing for him to do. It was also the best beer at the table, in my opinion.

The Pres disappointed me with his choice of Bud Light. Here's the most powerful man in the world drinking one of the worst beers (really, you want to tell me there's a difference between Miller Lite, Coors Light and Bud Light? Taste tests show people can't tell the difference, despite the billions of dollars these people spend on trying to differentiate themselves from one another) in the world. I would suggest that he import some Three Floyds into the White House. Why not? Hell, work it out so that a local bar could host a keg of Alpha King, Gumball Head Wheat, and Robert the Bruce, three of the four standards.

I'd actually like to set him up with a chest freezer and temp controller, modified with taps and able to serve up 2 or 3 corny kegs of homebrew, any style of his choice. You want 3 light American lagers? I can set that up for you, Mr. President. I'll be your personal brewer. The White House legacy will be set for all eternity.

Seriously, call me! We can change what people drink in this country.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Homebrewing Etiquette

I have an acquaintance on facebook named Eric who is trying hard to get a brewery going. He discusses his efforts here. The other day Eric posted a status stating he was enjoying one of his Mayan chocolate black ales. I asked what kind of ingredients he was using because it sounded kind of inspiring. He replied he was keeping this one "secret."

I thought this was kind of funny, because (a) he shared his Imperial Stout recipe with me, and (b) even though I know that he’s trying to start a brewing business, I could probably concoct similar ale by tasting it.

I did not use his Impy Stout recipe, but wanted to get an idea of the balance before making my own. I think I reviewed 6-8 different Impy Stout recipes. In the end, most of them confirmed my original recipe, although I did use information in some of them for targeting certain amounts of an ingredient, such as molasses. If I could taste his ale, I would, however, I don’t plan on visiting Minneapolis any time soon.

This brings me a question to brewing etiquette. I understand if someone has a secret recipe that they don’t want to share because giving up the recipe would possibly allow someone else to make money off of it. However, with beer, this is always going to vary because of the variables involved when brewing beer. The water I use in my town will be different from water used by someone even a couple of miles away. My brewing system could have different quirks, the temperature I mash at, the amount of water I mash with; these are just a few things that would make a difference between two people’s version of the same beers, even if they used the same recipe.

So, why not tell someone what ingredients you’re using? For example, I am going to develop a recipe based on Harpoon’s Saison Royale, which they have an ad for in the most recent issue of Beer Advocate. The ad tells me what malts are used, the hops, and even a style of yeast strain. To top it off, the bottom of the ad has the IBU, OG and ABV numbers, all of which can be used to determine how much malt and hops to use. If I build a beer from this information, will it taste EXACTLY like the Harpoon version? It might taste close, but most “clones” I’ve made or tasted, have different nuances. The clones are still good, and sometimes even better, but they’re not the same.

There’s this guy named Denny Conn out there on the internet, and he frequents various message boards. He’s so well known that Wyeast even developed his house yeast for mass packaging, on a limited basis. Denny has stated that he just wants a simple, hands on approach to brewing, and he’s really helped me not to worry as much as I do, since he posts his recipes to the forums, people make them, and comment about how great they are. His recipes are so popular, that Northern Brewer is actually building beer kits you can buy based on two of his recipes. Denny doesn’t aspire to “go pro” and he probably should get paid for providing therapeutic beer brewing advice (in my opinion).

If you ever want any of my recipes, let me know. Also, if you ever want to trade beer, let me know, I don’t mind hand delivery as long as it’s not outside a 30-mile radius.

The other question I have is, Is it ethical to enter a beer made from a beer ingredient kit (such as those from Northern Brewer) into a contest? My fellow brewer, John, was saying he wanted to enter a Dunkel lager that he made from Midwest Brewing into a contest. I said, “You can’t do that!” He said, “Why not?” I said, “You didn’t make that up!” He told me, “You’re really not doing anything different when you enter any of your recipes into a contest!” I was kind of taken aback by this. Of course I am! I did the research, put the ingredients together myself, and made the beer.

But I think I see his point. Based on my argument above, Northern Brewer could sell 30 of their Pale Ale kits to 30 different people and each one of them would be a little bit different. So maybe I’ll relax my stance on this, but I’m really curious to know from people:

1) Do you share recipes?
2) Do you enter kit beers into contests?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monk Basement Black Sabbath Tasting

As I've mentioned, I brewed a Russian Imperial Stout a couple of months back, along with a second beer, using the partigyle method, where wort for the main, or bigger beer is collected first. Once I had about 7 gallons of wort, I boiled it, and then collected enough wort for a second, lower gravity beer, this time, approximately 5.5 gallons.

The Mr. Crowley beer turned out to be a stout, but I did dry-hop it with an ounce of Simcoe hops because I thought it would turn out more like a black ale. The roasted barley made sure to keep me focused, though, and so a stout it is, albeit dry and floral-wood smelling. I was very happy at how this one turned out, as it was a total shot in the dark, without any specific recipe, but now I know what to expect, and when I make this beer next year, I'll plan hops accordingly, and may even sparge some more oats and drop in a little dry malt extract to the boil to give it a little more "oomph." It pours black with a head like soft serve cone of ice cream.

I waited exactly three weeks after I bottled the Imperial Stout to try it. It finished at a final gravity of 1.021, or 9.7% alcohol by volume. Not the 13% I was going for, but then, it started at 1.094, not 1.125.

As I poured it into the snifter, I wondered how much of a head I would get on it. Turns out, in a German pilsner, which sort of looks like a tulip, I had about 1 finger-thick worth of tan head on it. Very nice.

After 3 weeks, I can taste chocolate, coffee, and dark fruits, with just a touch of cherry in there. It still has not mellowed yet, but I expected this, since this is a beer that should age well. I would have to say this turned out less like the Dark Lord, but more like Bell's Expedition stout.

I think this may very well be one of the best beers I've brewed. If anyone is looking for a decent clone recipe for Dark Lord, I would recommend the recipe I posted. Hopefully, your efficiency will be better than mine, and you will get closer to the Dark Lord than I did.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Parallel Lines Blonde Ale

I wanted to make a simple ale after concocting the Imperial Stout I made a few months back. So I looked up a whole bunch of Blonde Ale recipes and built one from scratch. It’s been in the bottle just 4 days shy of 3 weeks, so I tried one yesterday, and it turned out well:

Parallel Lines Blonde Ale

10 lbs Golden Promise Pale Malt
1.5 lbs CaraHell Malt

1.0 oz Liberty hops @ 60 minutes
1.0 oz Sladek hops @ 20 minutes

US-05 Dry Yeast, sprinkled into carboy

OG: 1.062 (Looks like I got about 62% efficiency, so I ended up at 1.052, which is fine)
IBU: 28

I like it, although I’m not sure it’s a true Blonde ale. The IBUs are a little high because I didn’t account for the Liberty hops being in pellet form, and that seems to make a bit of a difference than if they were whole leaf hops. I should have used Saaz instead of the Sladek to correct this issue, but you know what? I like hops, so I don’t mind the IBU on the high side. This still doesn’t have the same level of IBUs as Sam Adams, or at least it doesn’t appear to be, since I had a Sam Adams after I had one of these. I would say this hop combination would be better served in a lager or pils, though, so I will keep that in mind when I make one of those styles of beer.

I bought all of the ingredients except the yeast from Shoreline. I never tried Golden Promise before, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Seemed appropriate for a Blonde Ale. Golden Promise is a bit darker than Marris Otter and even more so than American 2-row. So it’s more of a dishwater blonde.

The Liberty hops are a nice Hallertau substitute that I wanted to try. I wanted to try the Sladek, as well, because I like Saaz, but Sladek is more potent, it has a higher alpha acid. No, it’s not Triple Hops Brewed, but it’s got twice or three times the IBU of Miller Lite.

I calculate this one at 5.2% ABV. It’s a swell summer-drinker.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What Does Triple-Hopped Really Mean?

We were at a party a few weeks ago where the guest had a keg of Back Road Brewery's American Pale Ale. I think this beer is a good example of the style. The hops used in the beer seem to be a bit more catty than your typical APA that uses Centinniel and Cascade hops, trying to copy the original Sierra Nevada pale ale. However, there were quite a few people at the party, so after the keg was gone, the host asked for donations and brought back a keg of Miller Lite. As I may have stated, I would rather drink water than Miller Lite, so I was kind of bummed out about this.

Fortunately, my friend Chris R, showed up with a sixer each of Alpha King and Hoegaarden, and was gracious enough to let me have an Alpha King. I said, "Yeah, unfortunately, we had to get a keg of Miller Lite," and Chris said, "It's tripple-hopped, dude!"

I was wondering what the whole "Triple Hops Brewed" ad campaign was about. The average person probably doesn't even know what a "hop" is, let alone what they add to the beer. Miller uses a lot of words on their web page to describe what hops add, including "flavor" and "spiciness", but never do you see the b-word ("bitter").

That's right! Hops make a beer bitter. When I brew beer at home, and it depends on the style, some are more hoppier than others, but I would say, that on average, I use at least three hop additions (thus, triple-hop) in a batch of beer. The wort, which is beer without the yeast in it, is boiled, usually for 60 minutes. I add hops at the beginning of the boil (60 minutes), somewhere in the middle (30, 20, 15, or 10 minutes left of the boil), and usually at the very end (5, 2, or 0 minutes - 0 being where I turn the fire off under the kettle and throw the last ounce or so of hops in). Then I cool the wort down, and pitch the yeast. Yeast eat the sugar in the wort and poop carbon dioxide and alcohol.

The hops added at 60 minutes are called the bittering hops. That's right. That is the correct technical term! In fact, a calculation is used based on the alpha acid content of each hop, multiplied by the amount, multiplied by the time in the boil to give you International Bittering Units, or IBUs. This will make no sense to you unless you already know that hops cause bittering, and have tasted many beers to get an idea of how bitter each number means.

However, this dude explains it with in this article , and discusses IBUs as simply as it can get:

Today’s Budweiser and Miller might take their inspiration from true pilsner, but they lack key elements. Number one is malt. A great pilsner or lager should be based on nothing but. Instead, many light lagers are made with cheaper substitutes like corn and rice, which can be fermented to produce alcohol, but they lack that sweet richness that only malt can provide.

Number two is hops, which adds bitterness. Bitterness is measured in International Bitterness Units (IBUs), and according to Sapsis, a true pilsner should have anywhere from 25 to 45 IBUs. Pilsner Urquell, for example, weighs in at about 40 IBUs. Miller Lite and Bud are somewhere in the 10–12 range.

So basically, even though you triple hop your beer, if you're only getting 10-12 IBU, that's really not a big deal. It's unfortunate that a company has the need to trick its customers into believing that they're drinking a quality product, when they are not. It's too bad that the Macro-brewers in this country spend BILLIONS of dollars on advertising, trying to show how different they are from each other, when they could be spending that money on making good beer, and using better ingredients.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mr. Crowley Black Ale - Now with Big Coffee Flavor

This week has been a new learning experience for me in regards to homebrewing. As I might have mentioned, a couple of weeks ago I brewed a huge Russian Imperial Stout. I decided to try to make another beer from the second runnings, because I knew that other people had done similar things, and it turned out pretty good.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I added honey to the second beer, which I dubbed Mr. Crowley, figuring it would help out with the gravity. I used a dry yeast, and it went from a starting gravity of 1.042 to a final gravity of 1.012, or about 4.2% ABV. Not bad. Didn't figure it would be a very heavy beer. Initial tastings of the final gravity were chocolatey and coffee-like. I thought it was...interesting, but still drinkable. I threw it in the fridge for a week to clarify it; it's something I've seen done to ales and I thought it would be cool to try, since if the fermenter fit, it would enable me to also lager in the fridge.

I took the beer out of the fridge and decided to dry hop it with an ounce of Simcoe hops. I sanitized a hop bag and shoved it into the carboy. I think next time, I'll just dump the hops in and siphon through a hop bag when I put it in the bottling bucket. A day after I did this, little floaties started to appear on top of the beer. Not a lot, and after the third day, it appeared that they were disappearing. Not sure what this was all about, but I thought it meant the beer got infected, which doesn't mean that you'll get sick if you drink it, just that the beer will have some off-flavors.

Last night, after 5 days, I pulled the hop bag out, and took a gravity sample. The aroma of Simcoe hops coming out of the top of the fermenter was amazing. Still at 1.012, which I expected. Poured the sample in a glass.

It smelled like coffee. Serious coffee. And it tasted like coffee, as well. Strong, black coffee that was 66 degrees. It was definitely not infected.

I walked the glass two blocks to my fellow brewer's house. He drank it. Swished it around. He said, "Did you put coffee in this?" I told him I did not.

I'm not sure I should still bottle this, but I'm curious as to find out what it will taste like after being bottled.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Goose Island Mild Winter Ale

I got a case of this beer in November. As of today, May 29, I still have 2 left in the fridge. I've gone back and forth with this beer. Overall, though, I'd say it's better than average, and at times, I think it's decent.
At first, in November, I wasn't all that impressed. It was definitely mild. Sort of watered down tasting, like a lower gravity (watery) brown ale, with some kind of Christmas beer spice thrown in. Not sure what kind of spice, but maybe something cinammony or cardemom or something that you'd find in a Christmas ale.
I kept looking at it. Who will help me drink this beer that is just okay? That's what I would ask myself when I would see the label in the fridge. The boy helped out with its cause. He's always liked the label. He'd say, "Dad, I will go and get you a beer." How can you refuse an offer like that from a seven year-old? Without fail, he would always return holding a bottle with a goose on the label. Over time, I thought, "This is a lot better than I thought it was." Maybe it just needed to age a little. The flavors really started to come out. A little chocolate, a little fruit, a nice bitterness. It seemed less watery.
In some ways, it is good that I got a case of this. It got to age. Would I have had a sixer of it, it would have been drank within a month's time and not allowed to develop. I would have written it off.
Goose Island has some decent beers. I don't seek them out, but they seem to pop up at various potlucks and parties, and as gifts.
My favorites still remain the Pere Jaques, the Matilda, and the IPA (although the IPA is pretty average. Average IPAs are like the standard beer for me). I would like to try the Demolition again, and the Bourbon County.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black Sabbath Imperial Stout and Mr. Crowley Black Ale

Last weekend I was able to pull the trigger on making my version of the Three Floyd's Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. I found a couple of recipes online, but not one that could be verified. So looking at the two recipes, as well as doing some research on Dark Lord, and finally checking some reliable Russian Imperial Stout (RIS) recipes, I was ready to go.

When I was doing research, I found that Three Floyds actually makes a beer out of the second runnings of the grain from the Dark Lord. That is, the beer is so big, that they actually have enough "runnings" or liquid sugar converted from the grains to make a lighter beer. This is called the Slave Princess, and it is described as being somewhat chocolatey and hopped up. So I knew that if I was going to make something big, dark, plodding and heavy, I would have to name it after the forefathers of big, dark and plodding, Black Sabbath. I was going to call the secondary beer Dio ale, or Holy Diver ale, but it just wasn't working for me. Then I decided that Ozzy left Sabbath first, so he should really get some credit, and at this time I went looking for some Ozzy CDs and thought, Mr. Crowley would make a great name for the beer.

The recipe:

Black Sabbath Imperial Stout

20 lbs 2-row malt (went cheap, could've done Marris Otter)
2 lbs roasted barley
1 lb chocolate malt
1 lb Crystal malt, 80*L
1 lb flaked oats
1 lb flaked barley
1 lb, 3 oz Duneland honey
8 oz Grandma's Original Unsulphured Molasses
2.5 oz Magnum hops (13.6% AA) @ 60 minutes (102.6 IBU)

Wyeast Imperial Blend 9093-PC Yeast

Targeting an Original Gravity of 1.125

The only difference between this brew and other all-grain brews I have done is that I had to use John's equipment. He's got a couple of old kegs that he bought at the junk shop and converted into a mash tun and another that we use as a hot liquor vessel.

Usually, I can put in the number of quarts of water per pound in ProMash, and my dough-in temperature is spot on. That is, I wanted to mash the grain at 154*F; the grain is reading 62*F on the thermometer I got sticking out of the grain, and therefore, at 1.4 quarts per pound, I needed a total of 9.1 gallons of water at 168*F. That's when I'm using my plastic 48 quart cooler/mash tun. This is stainless steel, so when I doughed-in (dropped all the grain into the water), it ended up mashing at 158*F for an hour. You might be thinking that 4*F shouldn't make all the difference, but 154*F will yield more sugar from the grain. I just let it ride. I figured I was maybe 5 lbs over the amount of 2-row that I needed, so screw it, I'd be okay.

Everything did go fine. I ended up starting the boil with 6.5 gallons of wort, but my boil wasn't as vigorous as I thought, so I ended up with 6 gallons instead of 5. Original gravity (OG) was 1.094, a bit lower than the 1.125 I was targeting, but that's what I get for 1) mashing at too high of a temperature, and 2) not boiling down to 5 gallons.

We ran it through the counterflow chiller and pitched the yeast at 68*F. I made a 1.25 gallon starter. We decanted the yeast and threw it in there. After 3 hours, I was starting to see some action in my sad excuse for a blowoff tube. I modified a ferment lock and had a 3/8" hose running into a quart mason jar. In the morning, I had a surprise.

As I made my way to the basement, I could smell the molasses. It smelled great. As I rounded the corner into the mancave, I saw about 12 ounces of dark wort on the ground and the top of the conical lid being forced off:

Mind you, this photo is from after the first cleanup. I actually tried putting a 10-lb weight on the lid to see what would happen, and sure enough, the blowoff tube started working somewhat. Then the lid blew off again. So I said, screw it. I was going to go get a 1-inch blowoff tube from the hardware store, but it didn't open until 8:00 a.m., so I just decided to relax and not worry about it.

I got home, sanitized the lid, used a clean rag doused in sanitization solution, cleaned around the lid, dunked the blowoff tube into the sanitizer and put it back together. Soon, it was chugging one bubble per second, keeping perfect time with the clock. The black ale was moving at about the same speed.

Today I did a gravity check, and it's down to 1.040. Still pumping a bubble into the jar every 3-4 seconds. The beer tastes great. At first I thought the hops were too big, but then I returned to the sample about 15 minutes later after the sediment had settled and it was just right. I could taste the roasted barley, chocolate, and some cherries in there. Plan is to let this finish, harvest some of that yeast so I can make an Imperial IPA in the future, then dry-bean it with some strong coffee and a vanilla bean. I think this beer will definitely be one that will improve with some bottle conditioning over the years.

The black ale started at 1.042. Not bad. I used the runnings from the mash tun as well as added the same amount of honey to this brew. Hops used were 0.5 oz of Magnum @ 60 minutes and 0.5 oz of Columbus @ 20 minutes. I'll likely dry hop it with an ounce of Simcoe. I will taste it first, once it is racked to see if this might add to the beer. If not, I'll rack it to secondary, wait two weeks and bottle it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

April Events

Sorry to have been out of the loop for so long. I sit when it is quiet and realize that I do have plenty of things to write about. Here are two events that I attended last month:

On April 16, I went to see the world premier of Beer Wars: Brewed in America. I don't know what the deal was with this movie; were they trying to raise funding for wider distribution? Trying to pay for the manufacture of the DVD? Perhaps because there was some live satellite feed going on before and after the movie, they needed to pay for that, but it cost $15 per ticket. This might have accounted for there only being like 20 people in the theater where I saw it in Michigan City. Or it just could be that there aren't a lot of craft beer geeks like me in LaPorte county.

As a documentary about craft beers goes, it's good. There was some great information about the big 3 brewers (Bud, Miller and Coors) in there, like the fact that Budweiser and its ventures account for 49% of the beer sales in the U.S. I've seen reviews that talk about how this is the small brewer verses the big brewer. While the two main breweries (Dogfish Head and Stone, and probably Yuengling is mentioned more than Stone) are not the smallest craft breweries vying for space on liquor and grocery store shelves, I felt they were good choices.

I think the most hilarious part of the movie is where they take three people in two different settings whose favorite beers are Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, then do a blind taste test on them. No one can tell the difference in these tests. In one of the scenes, a guy actually smells the beer. As a habit, I will smell all the beers I drink, however, when you smell any brand of light lager, I find it difficult to smell anything – it’s mostly corn and cardboard. But then, my nose has lived through about 8 years of paper mills, and I'm allergic to a lot of pollen, so it doesn't work very well at times.

I’m a little late in delivering my review. Some bloggers have taken the director to task over her selections of people shown in the movie, as well as the fact that she is allergic to alcohol and can’t drink beer. Also, she was the president of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and she considers that part of the beer industry. Some bloggers disagree with this, and I would tend to agree, but that is not important. Because of that background, she has a great insight into what the larger corporations are doing, and that gives her credibility, in my opinion.

Another criticism is that she chooses to show the story of Rhonda, who is pushing Moonshot, but also started out her own business with Edison Light. Rhonda used to be Sam Koch’s right-hand woman at Sam Adams but left to start her own business. I liked Rhonda’s story in that it showed her working her tail off to sell her beers, bar-by-bar, liquor store-by-liquor store, when she could have continued to cruise with Sam Adams. The thing that is off-putting is that the beer she is trying to sell is pretty much everything the craft beer industry is NOT, in my eyes: Making good beer, and furthering the art of tasty beer. Both Moonshot and Edison Light are basically Pilsners. I wouldn’t be surprised if Moonshot is the Edison recipe with caffeine. In a brown, as opposed to a clear bottle. Reviews on compare Moonshot with the flavor of Budweiser. Does the world need another trendy beer? I guess it’s good for those who want to be a wide-awake drunk…

I’d recommend the movie for how it shows the big guys, but especially Anheuser-Busch, use creepy tactics, that are even sometimes illegal, to push out the little guy. I’m all for capitalism, but let’s all play by the rules.
On the last Saturday of April, I took my Golden Ticket for Dark Lord Day over at Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure that the GABF and other beer festivals are awesome, but I’ve only been to Dark Lord Day. I think it’s like going to Beer Mecca! This was my second time. 2007 was okay, but this year, it seemed like it was organized better. There were more places to get a beer outside in the lot, and people carrying around Three Floyd’s four beers that they sell in six packs (Robert the Bruce, Gumball Head, Pride ‘n Joy, and Alpha King) around for $5/pint. A little steep, considering you can get a sixer for $8 at Jewel.

With the Golden Ticket, I was able to get about a third of a glass of the 2008 Barrel-aged Dark Lord. I got my sample and moved into the line waiting to get in to buy bottles. I believe I cut. Sue me.

I smelled then drank the sample, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Dark Lord is pretty complex coming straight from the bottle. Lots of dark fruit, cherries, coffee, vanilla and other flavors in there. The barrel-aged version completely took the edge off the beer. It was smooth, oakey, and bourbon-flavored. I guess that’s a nice quality if you’re looking for that in a beer, but I would hope it would ADD to the original flavors, and not detract from them. A shame.

So as I stood there with my empty glass, I noticed this guy with a 750 ml bottle of Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA. From 2003. Yes, a six-year old bottle of this awesome, 21% ABV ale! He said to me, “Hey, you don’t have a beer,” and poured me about 2-3 ounces. It was so smooth, and sweetish. Sort of like drinking smooth honey.

You can go up and start talking to anyone at these things. Everyone is there to enjoy beer, and there are bottles of beer everywhere, from everywhere. I walked around after I got my beer (plus a bottle of Popskull and Dreadnaught) and talked to a few people. I even ran into a few of the young Notre Dame guys who are mug club members at Shoreline.

Even if you are unable to get a Golden Ticket when they sell them next year, I would totally recommend checking this out, especially if you live in the Chicago area.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Apricot Ale - 9 and a Half Weeks

If you read this with any regularity, you will notice that I seem to have a love/hate relationship for Magic Hat beers. A lot of people are down on Magic Hat, mostly because a lot of people don't really dig fruit beers, and Magic Hat promote the hell out of their #9. It really doesn't help that they also include the Circus Boy wheat beer (and let's face it, because they throw lemongrass in it, it's really not a hefeweizen per se, it's more like a Spice-American Wheat beer, but that's just a technicality) in every sampler. So, if you're a newcomer to the brand, you buy a 12-pack sampler and get only 3 of the SeasonAle (Jinx, Roxy Rolles, etc.) and 3 of whatever Odd Notion they are putting in there (and for the most part, all of these have been outstanding; I've had a Belgium Dubbel, a Braggot, and a mild ale. Only the mild was sort of disappointing, although it was pretty). I find both the Jinx and the Roxy Rolles to be excellent beers, although I have recently discovered that the Jinx is mostly a Scottish Ale, which I'm getting interested in, but when I discovered it, I didn't know of the style. Roxy Rolles changed my attitude towards what an Amber ale could be. I always found them pleasant, but never anything compelling.

For the most part, I think that Magic Hat's #9 is a fine ale. It's a fruit beer, and for the most part, I enjoy a fruit beer now and then, but I don't really want to sit around all day drinking fruit beer. If you look at their ingredients on their website, Magic Hat also says that they use a "English Ale" yeast. According to various homebrewing forums out there, this appears to be a Ringwood-style of yeast. This yeast provides sort of a funky, old, London Dungeon sort of character to the beers, but more to a greater degree on the #9.

My first all-grain beer I brewed at home was a clone based on Magic Hat's Jinx, called Samhain, and it turned out pretty well. I was also reading about re-using yeast at the time, did some research, and got a wild idea to use the yeast by making the #9, because I never made a fruit beer, and thought it would be fun and simple. Instead of the Ringwood yeast, I used Wyeast's London Ale. I was a little scared of performing a diacetyl rest, which some people said was required of the Ringwood yeast. This would appear to mean that you just have to allow the beer to rest a little longer in the fermenter, but I have not researched this thoroughly.

I have an advantage to re-using yeast because I have a conical fermenter, which allows me to draw the yeast off into a mason jar quite easily. I sanitized a jar and lid, then after the yeast completed fermentation, I pulled some off, tightened the lid, and put it in the fridge. I made sure to crack the lid every 2 days - there is still gas build up. After two weeks, I made a starter and used it.

My efficiency doing batch sparging wasn't very good. I thought my original gravity would be about 1.054, but ended up at 1.045, which is actually closer to what the #9 is, so I was pleased. Also, I think I need to tone down the gas use during the boil. I had about 6.5 gallons, but only got 5 in the fermenter after I added the 2-quart yeast starter. I was hoping to get the final gravity down to 1.009, but only made it to 1.011, which was still fine.

The differences between my clone and the original are as follows: The yeast is cleaner, and the hops and tartness of the apricot flavoring come through without distraction. The #9 is actually lighter looking than mine. I'm not sure if Magic Hat uses Marris Otter as their base malt, but I did, because I like the biscuity flavor and roundness Marris Otter gives ales.

9.5 Weeks Apricot Ale

9.0 lb Marris Otter Pale Malt
0.5 lb Crystal Malt 30-50*L (This is what my LHBS has)

0.5 oz Cascade @ 60 min
0.5 oz Columbus @ 15 min

4 oz Apricot Flavoring in bottling bucket

OG: 1.054
SRM: 7.9
IBU: 21.4

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beer Wars Movie

My wife was looking for a movie we could take the kids to yesterday, and found out about a movie called Beer Wars. I would really like this to show up in as many theatres as possible, but as it is a documentary, I'm not sure how lucrative it would be for theatres to show it.

Here's the trailer:

The website for this (so far) is called Beer Wars Movie. Do what you can to get this in your local movieplex.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Crash Course in Home Brewing

I’ve had a couple of friends over on Facebook mention that they were interested in trying my beers or brewing their own beer. The main factor for them (or as it is considered in beginning any new hobby) is “How much is this going to cost me?”

Brewing beer, like any hobby, can cost as much or as less as you want it to. You can buy a used set of golf clubs at a garage sale, and depending on your local public course greens fee, can probably golf relatively cheap. On the other hand, you can spend tons of money on new clubs, goofy looking balls, a golf cart, accessories, join a country club, etc. Personally, I think I’ve golfed 4 times in my life. I like the part of being outdoors and hanging out with people, but I don’t really feel the need to go chasing after a little, white ball.

The best thing for you to do is look for local brewers in your area and ask them when they are brewing so you can see how it is done. I had a buddy who had all the equipment, so I started out buying a piece here and there until I finally splurged last fall and bought the equipment I really wanted.


When it comes down to it, you probably have what you need to do the actual brewing part of beer in your house: A good-sized kettle and a big spoon for stirring. I had a 3-gallon aluminum kettle that always burned my jambalaya when I cooked it. Some people say you should use stainless steel, but recently, I’ve read on various forums that some people have used aluminum pots for the boil for years.

I would suggest getting at least a 9-gallon kettle. Ingredient kits are made for brewing 5 gallons of beer, which should yield you about 2 cases of beer, and you have to boil the beer (wort) for 60 minutes (sometimes longer), so you want to be able to put about 6 or 6.5 gallons in your kettle.

You’re also going to need (at a minimum) a hydrometer and a tube or vessel to put the wort in so you can measure the gravity, so you know when it’s done fermenting, some kind of fermenting vessel so it can ferment, a ferment lock, a bottling bucket, caps, a bottle capper, and some sanitizer. It might not hurt to buy some muslin bags for the grain and some hop bags for the hops.

You should shop around, but both Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies have some decent basic starter kits. If you live in a bigger city, there may even be a local homebrew store (noted in most beer forums as LHBS)


If you’re going to go at this alone, I would suggest buying a kit or two and brew those. Both the Northern Brewer and Midwest Supplies have their own kits. I would recommend trying NBs Kolsch, or the Wit Bier. You can try the other recipes, but these two extract kits don’t come with any specialty grains. You just heat your water up to about 150, stir in the syrup or extract, then bring the whole thing to a boil. Then you follow the hop schedule.

Extract kits with specialty grains aren’t difficult to master. They just require one extra step, and you just need a thermometer. See “Brewing” below.

If you really want to make a certain style or clone a recipe, you can usually find one out there by googling the name of the beer and using the words “clone recipe” or just “recipe” after it. Some breweries will even list the ingredients. You can use beer brewing software to help you figure out quantities, and get close, or even nail it. This is an medium-beginner technique, though, and you shouldn’t worry about it yet.

Once you get your kit, take the yeast out and put it in the fridge. Don’t freeze it. I always put the hops in the freezer, but if you’re brewing in a week’s time, I wouldn’t sweat it.


Here’s what you need to brew:

The biggest pot you have
A big spoon
A stove or one of them turkey fryer burners (I have a turkey fryer burner because I can do the boil outside and not stink up the house, plus, they have a higher BTU rate than the big BTU burner on my stove, and they kick ass).

If you’re using a Wyeast product, follow the instructions on smacking the pack. Do this up to 8 hours before you use it, or no less than 3 before you start brewing. If the package doesn’t look like it’s puffing up, then you might have a bad yeast, and you may as well call of brewing unless you can get another one right away. The White Labs are little test tubes that you shake up. Take it out of the fridge and set it on the counter before starting to brew, to warm it up. I’ve never used dry yeast, but it’s probably the easiest. I recommend the Wyeast products.

Like I said above, you’re going to follow the instructions included in the kit, and basically do the following:

If you have specialty grains, put them in the included muslin bag. Set this bag of grains aside in a bowl or outside on the porch, because dust will fall out of the bag.

Depending on how you are going to chill the wort will depend on how much water you use. If you plan on immersing the pot into a tub or sink of ice to cool it to 70 degrees after the boil, then I would use about 3 gallons max for the boil. If you have some kind of immersion chiller or a huge bank of snow, then I would pour 6 gallons into the pot, if your pot is that big.

Get your water heated up to 154 degrees and then turn off the heat. Put the bag of grains in there and let it sit or steep, for like 45 minutes (check the instructions, sometimes it’s longer). Keep an eye on the temperature. You don’t want it to go above 160, but you should try to keep it about 154-156.

If you got the Wit or the Kolsch kit, you won’t have to worry about this step. Instead, as the temperature gets up to about 140-150, start pouring in the extract syrup and stir it vigorously for about 5-10 minutes. You don’t want the syrup burning on the bottom of the pot.

Bring it to a boil. Watch the kettle here. It will help if you have a thermometer on a string that goes into the kettle that you can pull out and read, or one they sell that looks like a big meat thermometer. When it gets close to boiling, you may need to lower the heat so you don’t have a boil over. This is another reason I do this outside, and not in the kitchen. I also had a buddy tell me that he screwed up his girlfriend’s white kitchen cabinets brewing inside. I’m just sayin’.

Once it starts boiling, note the time. You will note the hop schedule will look something like:

2 oz Strisselspalt (60 min)
1 oz Coriander Seed (10 min)

You’re doing a 60 minute boil. So, you’re going to boil the 2 oz of Strisselspalt hops for the whole 60 minutes. 50 minutes later (at 10 minutes left in the boil), you’re going to throw in the Coriander seed. I know this seems backwards, but that’s just how that bird sings.

Depending on how you are going to transfer the wort to the fermenting vessel, you may want to use nylon hop bags that they used to include in kits (but no loner appear to do so). Whole leaf hops actually serve as a nice filter, but you can’t exactly pull them out of the steaming wort at the end of the boil if you’re pouring it into a bucket. Pellet hops (most common style used in kits and for availability) need to be put into bags, as they turn to mush.

Once you’ve reached 60 minutes, cover your kettle and turn off the heat. This is where stuff gets interesting.

Chilling and Pitching Yeast

You’re going to have to get the wort down to 65-70 degrees. Some people say cool the Kolsch wort as cold as you can get it and let the temperature come up. I’ve never tried this, and I wouldn’t recommend it for your first brew, unless you’re crazy like me, in which case go ahead.

The trick here is to cool the stuff as quickly as possible. I have a counterflow wort chiller, which is this kickass tool that allows the beer to flow through a copper coil that is inside a larger plastic hose where cold water from my faucet flows over the copper pipe cooling the wort to the desired temperature. That, coupled with a thru-mometer, which gives a colored readout of the temperature, is just great. You also have some other options:

Using a thermometer put the kettle into a sink full of ice and water. Obviously, don’t fill this to high, as you will overflow the sink if you do. Move the kettle around in the water. You may have to add additional ice and water to cool the wort (which you should check by keeping the thermometer in it). Keep the kettle covered. Banks of snow work surprisingly well for this application as well. I was able to chill some wort for a yeast starter in about 5 minutes, but then, that was only 2 quarts of water.

You can also buy an immersion chiller, which works kind of the opposite of a counterflow chiller, in that one end of a copper coil is attached to a water source, while the other comes off the other end and either goes into your sink or onto the ground (my buddy has an area in his yard where the kids can dig. When we started brewing, this is what we used. It usually resulted in something like 20-30 gallons of water onto the ground, creating an excellent mudpit for the kids).

Probably even simpler is to reduce the size of your boil to maybe 3 or 3.5 gallons so that you end up with 2.5 gallons of hot water. Then, in your fermenting vessel, have the coldest possible amount of water to make up 5 or 5.5 gallons. Pour the hot liquid on top of the cool liquid. You may have to wait a couple of hours or so to pitch your yeast to get it down to 65-70 degrees, but this is easiest.

The most important thing is to try and keep a lid on the kettle to prevent outside organisms from getting into the wort. You’re no longer boiling, so you don’t have a sanitized environment. That’s why the counterflow chillers are so great. We sanitize ours with boiling water before each use, and so the wort flows from the hot, boiled kettle into a clean copper tube, into the fermenting vessel.


When you buy a kit, if you’re going with the cheapest version, you will get a fermenting bucket. These are nice in that the top is a wide open bucket so you don’t need a funnel to pour your hot wort into. If you get a big plastic bottle (I have 2 six-gallon Better Bottles), you will probably need a funnel with a screen on the inside (to prevent excess hops and other particulates).

Once the temperature is 65-70 degrees, pitch the yeast. Have yourself a bucket (fill the bottling bucket or fermentation bucket with up to 5 gallons of water and add an ounce of sanitizer or whatever they provide in the kit) of sanitizer set up, either while you’re brewing, or while you’re waiting for the temp to fall in the fermenter. In this bucket, put in your ferment lock. It’s important to make sure the wort is going to touch sanitized surfaces. If you haven’t sanitized your fermenting vessel, you will also want to do that before you pour the wort in there (not an issue if you did what I said at the top of the paragraph). Let that sanitizer set for a good 15 minutes or more.

Siphon some of the wort out of the vessel into the big hydrometer test tube in your kit, and drop the hydrometer in there to check your Original Gravity. Compare it to the O.G. on the kit to see how well you did.

When using liquid yeast, shake the hell out of it before putting it into the fermenting vessel on top of the wort. If you’re using Wyeast, dip the end of the bag you’re going to cut into the bucket of sanitizer and then pour it on top. Follow instructions if you’re using dry yeast (usually bring a small amount of water to about 70 degrees, shake yeast on top, stir it up and then pour mixture into wort).

Fill the ferment lock with some water about halfway and secure it onto the top of the vessel.

Next, you will need to get oxygen into your mixture. If you have a bucket or a plastic bottle, pick it up, making sure the ferment lock is held onto and shake it for about 30-60 seconds. Glass ferment bottles are available as well, but I have read horror stories about these breaking for no damn good reason. I mean, really, do you want to be dancing in your basement with about 50 pounds of glass and liquid? Me? Not so much.

You can also buy an oxygen stone (around $40) from a beer supply place and a small red tank of oxygen (about $10) at your local hardware store. Sanitize the oxygen stone (not the tubing, stand over a small pan with boiling water) by immersing it into boiling water for 5 minutes. Cover the stone with foil and put the tubing into the sanitizer without dipping the stone into it for about 5 minutes. Also avoid immersing the filter. I usually dip the stone (without the foil, of course) into the fermenting vessel for about 2 minutes. By that time, foam is usually pouring out of the top.

Set the vessel in a corner where it’s going to be at least 65 degrees until the fermentation stops. We’ve done this using space heaters, heating pads, blankets and such in the winter. In the summer in NW Indiana, my basement temperature goes between 68-72 degrees, which is perfect.

In about 24 hours, you should see bubbling in your ferment lock. If so, congratulations, you are making beer! If not, shake it up some more and wait a day. Hopefully it will work out for you.

As the days go by, check your vessel and the lock. Once the bubbling has gone to less than one bubble per minute, it’s likely done. Use a siphon to once again check the gravity. If it’s around 1.009 – 1.016 for those kind of beers you have, it’s probably done fermenting. Make sure by seeing if you get the same result 3 days in a row.

I recommend having a second vessel for secondary fermentation. This step gets the beer off the dead yeast and other crap that has floated to the bottom of the primary fermentation vessel. Using a siphon, set the primary vessel on something higher than the secondary vessel, which should be placed on the floor. Allow the beer to flow from one vessel to the other. Then set this vessel aside without worrying about the temperature. Ideally, you’d like the temperature to be between 35-55 degrees. This will help with the clarity of the beer, unless it’s supposed to be cloudy, then you don’t have to worry about it being so cool. Just don’t allow the temperature to get around 80 or above, because this will impart some off-flavors to your beer.


After a week or two in the secondary, you can bottle the beer. Prep by cleaning around 50 bottles. I would recommend making about 10 gallons of sanitized water and placing the water in a clean cooler that you use for picnics and outdoor festivals, something that can hold 50 bottles lying on their sides. Immerse the bottles in the sanitized water. I have a bottle washer that I use that goes on a sink in my basement. You can buy and adapter for your kitchen sink as well. This is a handy tool that I use after the bottles have been immersed for at least an hour. I usually do this the day before, though.

Next, you will need two pans. In one, put about 55-60 bottle caps and cover them with water. Boil the caps for 5 minutes, and then take the pan to the place where you will be bottling.

In the second pan, boil 2 cups (16 ounces) of water and put three-quarters of a cup of PRIMING sugar (don’t use normal table sugar, as this will fuck up your beer) that came with your ingredient kit and also boil for five minutes. Do not put more sugar than this into the mixture, as it is likely to cause exploding bottles.

Siphon or pour your beer into your bottling bucket. Make sure you have sanitized your beer filling wand (that came with your kit) and the hose that connects the wand to the bucket. You can put these in the cooler with the bottles.

Pour the sugar water into the bottling bucket on top of the beer. Don’t worry about stirring it in.

Fill your bottles and cap them, then set them aside.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Usually, in 10 days, I pop a bottle and check the beer. Most of the time, it’s decent. What I mean by this is that it has some what of a head and tastes like beer. The beer usually becomes perfect after 3 weeks in the bottle. By then, you’re getting a decent head, good carbonation, and the flavor has developed.


I totally recommend reading a book or two on the subject in conjunction with brewing a batch or two with someone who knows what they’re doing. Some homebrewers are choosey about who they let drink their beer. My friend, John, told me after I had bought my first batch that we brewed and I was going to take 12 to a party that I shouldn’t. I ended up finding bottles of my beer that still had a good third of the beer in the bottom of the bottle. This was a lighter, hoppier ale, and it was bitter, so there’s no doubt that it was an acquired taste.

Understand that this is the shortest I could make this article. There are tricks and tools out there that I didn’t mention. Mostly, I just wanted to give you an idea of what was required to brew beer. It’s definitely more work than going to the grocery and picking up a sixer of a microbrew. I enjoy it, though, and want to spread the joy as much as I can.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dark Lord Day '09

Three Floyds has actually developed a website and a new system for buying the Dark Lord here. Dark Lord Day will be held on April 25 this year.

I'm working on a post that should be up, as scheduled, tomorrow. Sorry for not getting one up last Friday.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Update - February

When I got back from my Christmas Break, I had a bunch of ideas to post about, mostly reviews, and some stuff focused on homebrewing equipment. I've sort of become uninspired by the beer review thing. I still like to try new beers, but I'm tired of buying pale ales and reviewing them. I mean there are a lot of pale ales out there that are great, and worth mentioning, but there's nothing really new going on with the style.

Part of the reason is that I think the last beer I bought was a sixer of Shiner Black to share with my friend, John, on Christmas Eve. I still have at least one of those in the fridge. Mostly, I've been focused on putting recipes into ProMash, going back and re-reading my Brew Your Own magazines and throwing the recipes that look interesting into ProMash for later inspiration.

I started out the year making a schedule of beers that I wanted to make. I haven't done a good job sticking to that list. I was going to knock out one beer a month, starting with a Smoked Porter, followed by the Rocka Rolla Amber that I cloned from Magic Hat's Roxy Rolles ale, and in March, make the Pilsner I made last fall, only with all-grain

Instead, I focused on building a Mash Tun, which I will post an article about after I brew this weekend, and I just finished building a fly-sparge arm, which will also be included in that article. Then I had to remake the Jinx.

I decided to remake the Jinx (I decided to call mine Samhain Ale - which I believe was a Pagan celebration of Fall, as well as Glen Danzig's band after the Misfits and before Danzig) because I wasn't satisfied with the more malty version I created in 2008, I had the hops to make it, and I was interested in making something with Marris Otter malt. I've tried it out of the fermenter, and it appears to be very good. By the time I post this, it will be bottled and ready in 3 weeks.

After brewing the Jinx, I decided to utilize my conical fermenter. It's got a valve at the bottom of the cone, where you empty the trub and yeast that is done fermenting. So I read a couple of articles online about re-using the yeast, after another homebrewer I talked to, named Tom, re-used his yeast on two batches of his Sierra Nevada Pale clone.

So I thought that I could use this yeast to make 2 more brews, both Magic Hat clones, the Rocka Rolla, and a version of the Magic Hat #9, which I will call 9.5 Weeks. It appears that Magic Hat uses some generic English Ale yeast for all of these beers, so I figured I would try it to see how regenerating yeast worked.

The obvious choice would have been to do the Rocka Rolla, since I already have 2/3 of the hops for it. However, I got so interested in the #9, and thought it would be nice for my wife to have some beer, AND thought that if the yeast was weak (I will make a starter), the #9 had a low enough gravity that it would probably be the better choice.

So I'm making the 9.5 Weeks on Saturday.

Then, on Sunday, Shoreline is having the Mug Club Chili Cookoff.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Schafly American Pale Ale

My dad was harping on how good he thought Schlafly's American Pale Ale was. I actually had a Schlafly Pale Ale shirt one time. I bought it when I visited their brew pub in St. Louis years ago.
The pale ale I had at his house had a different label, and I didn't remember their pale ale tasting like this. I thought it was more of an "English" style of pale ale. This one had a better hop profile than say, the Sierra Nevada, which I refer to as the American pale ale standard. It was good. I do still like pale ales, but I think I'm going to put them on the backburner as anything I buy anymore, unless it's one of Shoreline Brewery's pale ales, which are just awesome.
Dad also had some of Schlafly Christmas Ale, which appeared to be a brown ale with spices in it. I thought that it was an excellent beer, although I was drinking it out of a stein mug, and therefore didn't get to see what it looked like except from the pour.
Schlafly only distributes to a 300-mile radius, so I don't get their stuff up here in NW Indiana. I used to be able to get a few varieties when I lived in Mattoon, Illinois, which I thought was pretty great for a town that size.
On the way back, we passed a Schlafly truck. I think a trip to St. Louis in the late spring/early summer would be in order to maybe go see the Cubs play down there and visit Schlafly.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What Does This Tell You?

So, is Miller admitting what I've said all along about Miller Lite? There's seriously an underlying theme here that is pretty obvious: It's piss!

Friday, January 16, 2009

My First All Grain: Esseola 181 Pale Ale

We were finally able to get John's new mash tun and boiling kettle up and running (okay, so really, John did his own work on both of these things). He ordered a Roggenbier kit from Northern Brewer, also All Grain, and I made up a pale ale recipe, loosely based on Three Floyd's Alpha King, but also just on the American Pale Ale style I had seen somewhere else, as well as an early recipe I had made up based on what I thought was the hop profile of Shoreline's SumNug IPA. Top that all off with a song by Jolene called "Esseola 181" which reminded me of Asheville, North Carolina with the chorus, "This town in Blue Ridge..." and there you have the basics.

So after fucking up a few recipes, I've sort of learned some things (I would say for the most part, the beers we've made have been good, but there have been shortfalls: I don't know what happened with the Tongue Splitter kit. I think the yeast didn't have enough healthy food. The first Witbier had like a quarter pound of cloves in it, and was definitely overwhelming on that front, and the Pilsner, which actually was pretty excellent, came out about 0.010 lower in the original gravity than I wanted due to me shoving about 5 pounds of grain into one bag instead of 4, for better utilization of the sugars...pretty much everything else except the Jinx clone which turned out not to be a Jinx clone has been very good), including dry-hopping, using yeast starters, oxygenating the beer with a tank of oxygen, etc.

I have also been screwing around with Promash, which is a software for homebrewing. I think it can be set up for businesses, but then those guys know way more than me, so I'm not sure how they do it. I finally bought the whole version instead of messing around with the sample, and life is good. I totally recommend it.

I was also able to use an 1.25 oz of Zeus hops that I grew in my back yard for this. I opted to use these primarily as the boiling hop, but next time might use the Nugget instead, and use the Zeus for flavoring hops. I put 1 oz in at 60 minutes, and used the remainder of Nugget and Zeus in the secondary. I also got an ounce of Amarillo hops for the end of the boil, because I really like Amarillo hops.

So we made the beer, and after about a week in the bottle, John and his family were over for Christmas Eve dinner and he says, "That beer should be ready by now." I'm skeptical. I always like it to be bottled/kegged for at least 3 weeks, and then wait another week for good measure. I'm patient that way. Plus, I was giving my dad a case at first, for Christmas, but then I ended up only giving him 12 plus 6 Tad, 2 Ciders, and 4 beers he can't get in Missouri.

So we try the beer, and there's definitely not enough head on it for me, but it smells good, tastes good, and it's carbonated. Of course, I figured I would wait and see what happened, and sure enough, on January 11, I tried it, and it's awesome. The hop profile is great, plus, there's this underlying caramel taste that I haven't picked up in a pale ale before. It's very nice.

Esseola 181
5 gallon batch - All Grain

11.0 lbs U.S. 2-row Pale Malt
1.0 lb Crystal Malt 60*L
0.5 lb Caramunich
Steep at 155*F for 45 minutes
1.0 oz Zeus @ 60 min.
0.25 oz Nugget @ 30 min.
1.0 oz Amarillo @ 5 min.
0.75 oz Nugget - Dry Hop
0.25 oz Zeus - Dry Hop
Wyeast American Ale II Yeast

Friday, January 9, 2009

Boulevard Smokestack Seiries - Saison

My friend, P-Mart, guest-wrote a blog on this site about Boulevard's Doublewide IPA, which is another of the Smokestack Series. While in Missouri over the holidays, I got to try the above-mentioned beer for myself, as well as try two of the other four in the series. The only one I didn't try was the Long Strange Tripel, mostly because my dad opted for a bottle of this Saison, again, after we had one the first night I showed up. I've been a little tripeled-out, lately, so I wasn't too disappointed. Since it looks like they're going to brew this style year after year, I can probably try that one at a later time.
The Saison pours and appears like you would expect a Saison to pour and appear - golden and cloudy with a nice, white, fluffy head. There is a smell there that somehow reminds me of when I first smelled beer in Germany. I know it's the yeast, but it's not necessarily the entire smell you get from the yeast. You get a distinct sharpness in the nose that tells you this isn't any normal ale or American lager. It's a stinkiness that I enjoyed.
The beer has a smooth flavor with a slight hop bite at the end. It's a very good example of the style, maybe even better than the bottle of Saison DuPont I shared with my dad over Thanksgiving.
This was my Dad's third beer of the first night we were there, and I think he was full. He said, "We should have started off with this one," and left half his glass full. After about 10 hours in the car, which was a longer trip than I expected, due to a driving delay on the ice-rink that I-94 became the day after Christmas, I just wanted to go to bed as well.