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.