Sunday, January 20, 2013

Project: The Hold Steady Beers

I’ve opined to several people over the past few weeks about how this hobby of home brewing beer is a blessing and a curse.  To me, it’s nice to have an end product to drink, for sure, but the draw for me is making 5 gallons, or 2 cases, if bottled, of a beer that I can’t get commercially. What is funny is that one of my favorites (IPA) I can buy in various varieties, but I am getting to the point where, if I can get the hops that I want, I actually prefer my IPA to the ones I can buy, even those are very good.

But no, I am drawn to brew black lagers.  Dunkelweizens, and Saisons.  Try going to your local grocery store and buying a case of a dark wheat beer.  It ain’t happening.  So I read, and I start to think, and the thinking becomes 5 gallons of beer that I am glad I made, but not necessarily something I’m excited about drinking.

In 2012, I started finding really good deals on hops.  Once I got a grain mill, I could buy 50 lb bags of grain and then focus orders on crystal malts and other grains to add character to my beers.  All of the sudden, I felt I needed to start getting various varieties of hops to have on hand.  Once I started harvesting yeast, it all went to hell.  Because you want to use that yeast up before it goes too long in the Mason jar.

I started memorizing my hop and grain inventories in my head.  Then I would lay in bed thinking about beers I could make.  I would drive to work and think about the beers I would make.  On a drive home, while enjoying a playlist by the Hold Steady, it came to me…I would make 3 beers and bottle them.  I would give half away in six packs to friends, 2 of each beer.  I would design sixpack holders and make CDs of my favorite Hold Steady tunes to go with each six pack.  I WOULD CONTACT THE BAND AND SEND THEM A SIXPACK.

I will say that I got a number of the bottles labeled.  At least the ones I would give away (an operator error – ME- caused there to be more labels for one of the beers, and not enough paper in inventory).  I decided to forget about the sixpack d├ęcor…I have many sixpacks, but if I mail these, I don’t see the point in adding a cardboard carrier.  And the CD?  Well, let me know if you’re interested.

So, here are the beers I came up with to make based on 3 Hold Steady memes.  I have posted some rock videos with their songs in here for your listening entertainment. 

Charlemagne in Sweatpants

He asked what happened to Charlemagne. She just smiled all polite-like and said something vague. She said ‘Charlemagne got caught up in some complicated things.’ She wiped at her nose and she winked.” –  “Don’t Let Me Explode”

5.5 gallons
OG: 1.052
SRM: 10.2
IBU: 29.3
Efficiency: 68%
60-minute boil

8 lbs American 2-Row
2 lbs Belgian Pale Ale Malt
1 lb CaraMunich I Malt
0.19 lb (3 oz) Special B Malt

0.25 oz Herkules at 60 min.
1.00 oz Styrian Goldings @ 30 min.
1.00 oz Crystal @ 15 min.

Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes (2 L Starter with 200 g light DME)

I had been jonesing to make a Belgian Pale Ale ever since I read a review about an Antwerp Belgian Pale Ale made by De Koninck.  Remember what I said about having all these hops and yeasts to make these beers?  Well, I didn’t have ANY of that stuff to make a Belgian Pale Ale.  Hell, what I REALLY wanted to make was a Belgian Dubbel.  But I thought it would be a good idea to make a smaller beer first, get a HUGE yeast cake, and then make the Dubbel from that.  Enter “Charlemagne”.

This beer turned out nice.  It’s balanced, and maybe a bit more in-your-face Fat Tire.  Still balanced.  Do I find it exciting?  Not really.  But it IS well-made, and it’s an easy drinker.  There’s this funk that hits you with the first drink, then after that, it goes down easy.

Ybor City

“Don't tell my sister about your most recent vision
Don't tell my family, they're all wicked-strict Christian
Don't tell the hangers-on, don't tell your friends
Don't tell them we went down to Ybor City again” – from “Slapped Actress”

5.5 gallons
OG: 1.055
SRM: 4.2
IBU: 48.6
Efficiency: 68%
60 Minute Boil

11 lbs American 2-Row
0.38 lbs (6 oz) CaraFoam
0.19 lbs (3 oz) Munich Malt
0.13 lbs (2 oz) Aromatic Malt

1.25 oz Ultra @First Wort Hop
0.50 oz Ultra @15 min.
0.50 oz Ultra @10 min.
0.75 oz Ultra @0 min.

Wyeast 2000 Budvar Lager (4L starter, 400 g light DME)

Never been to Ybor City, but I was in Tampa for a work thing once in the 90s.  Had I known about Ybor City, I would have checked it out.  Hell, I didn’t even have a computer that early in the 90s.

Thing about the south is that they’re coming along with the craft beer, but it seemed so much of it was centered around the heat, and not drinking heavy beers.  For a while there, a lot of the beer that they sold (and still sell) seemed “watered down” to me.  So I had some Ultra hops around and saw that they were a higher alpha acid, but a decent Hallertauer substitute.  So I decided to go with my favorite Pilsner yeast, Budvar, and used the Budvar clone recipe from the book “Clone Recipes”, except I ended up using 2-row malt instead of Pilsner malt.  Because I wanted to see how that worked out.

Turns out, it worked out pretty well.  I let the bottles lager for 3 weeks after letting them carbonate for 3 weeks, and this is as decent as any pilsner I’ve made.  I can’t find Ultra hops for sale anywhere, but they do strike me similar to Vanguard or Mt. Hood, just more Alpha Acids.

Your Little Hoodrat Friend

“While she was at the citadel, he was getting high as hell. When she came to in the matinee, she was asking round for someplace else to stay. While he was down in Lowertown, she was feeling out the 5:30 folk mass. And the night that she got born again, he was getting with her little hoodrat friend.” – “A Multitude of Casualties”

5.5 gallons
OG: 1.054
SRM: 12.7
IBU: 44.4
Efficiency: 68%
60 minute Boil

6 lbs American 2-row
3 lbs American Red Wheat malt
2 lbs rye malt
0.33 lb Carawheat
0.33 lb Chocolate Rye

1.00 oz Sorachi Ace @First Wort Hop
1.00 oz Sorachi Ace @5 min.

Wyeast 1007 German Ale (2L starter with 200 g of light DME)

This one gave me fits. I had these 2 oz of Sorachi Ace hops that I wanted to use.  I read enough about them to know that these hops were divisive; either people loved them and discussed the flavor as “lemon cream” while the opposite stated they imparted onion and garlic and were overall very harsh.  I decided to stay positive and think about what kind of beer would be good with lemon cream and remembered Sam Adam’s Coastal Wheat, which used lemon peel in the brew, and honestly, was a well-made beer (even though I’m not much of a wheat beer fan).  So I actually was leaning towards making a wheat beer with these for about 1 day.  Then somewhere along the way, I decided that I’d like to make an Alt beer.  I bought the yeast.  I thought I would love to drink an alt beer, and wasn’t sure I wanted to give half of it away.  Maybe I’m starting to bore you with the details here.

In the end, I decided to make an alt beer with a twist; half of the base malt would be a mixture of 2-row, red wheat and rye malt.  Then I decided to make it red, so I added a little chocolate rye and carawheat for color.  2 additions of Sorachi Ace hop, and alt beer yeast.  Done.

I think the issue I may have had with the first few beers was that they were only in the bottle 3 weeks before I tried them, and I was getting a lot of hop harshness.  To top that off, the mocha imparted by the chocolate rye was at war with the garlic-ness I was perceiving.

Flash forward 3 more weeks and the beer has balanced out.  There’s not really any malt coming forward or hops.  I’d be interested to hear what other people who try this think. 

Why the Hold Steady?

I love rock music, and I love storytelling.  When you can tell a story in a song and develop characters into episodes, then that is truly amazing talent to me.  The Hold Steady has found the perfect blend of all the rock music I’ve grown up with, the sleazy, enjoyable stuff that used to be frowned upon at highbrow establishments that can now be found on the people who run these places iPods.

Craig Finn is a lyrical genius.  He mixes great literary, music and film mythology into his characters and brings the seedy side to the surface.  He references the bible a lot, but not in a Christian Rock type of way.  He twists it and gives it the “Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll” treatment.  I always chuckle when people say, “The Hold Steady are Christian Rock.” Yeah, if that’s the case, then I guess Slayer is sort of Christian Rock in that way as well.

My beers have always been influenced by rock and roll titles, imagery and art.  I thought this would be a fun project.  I will always continue to have rock and roll titles, such as making Black Sabbath albums the names of my Imperial Stouts.  However, I am not sure I will ever make these recipes again, so if you were lucky enough to get some, I hope you enjoy them.

“They did wade in the water into ‘One Tin Soldier’. She started to cry. Youth Services always find a way to get their bloody cross into your druggy, little, messed up, teenage life.” – “A Multitude of Casualties”