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.