Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wild Wet Hop w/ Coffee Brewday

Today was National Coffee Day (I’d never heard of it, either); I found out when I stopped by Press to get some coffee and say hello. And since it was National Coffee Day, I decided it was appropriate to punch this ticket today. Oh, and not surprisingly (well, unless you live in a hole), this brew is another homage to Press Coffee. You’re goddamn right.

129. Wild Wet Hop w/ Coffee
8 lbs. Weyerman Pilsner
2 lbs. MFB Vienna

Mash @ 152° F for 65 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 6 oz. wild wet hops

w/15 to go: 4 oz. wild wet hops
1 tsp. Irish Moss
8 oz. Turbinado Cane Sugar

w/10 to go: 4 oz. wild wet hops

w/5 to go: 4 oz. wild wet hops
8 oz. Press coffee concentrate (1/3 Ethopian, 2/3 Honduras)

w/0 to go: 4 oz. wild wet hops

Chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched mason jar of Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale from 127. Wild Wet Hop 2012 

Brewed: 9/29/2012
Secondary: 10/13/2012
Bottled: 10/27/2012 w/ 3.0 oz. table sugar; added 2 oz. Press concentrate to the last gallon to make a version with more coffee to compare

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.010

Tasting Notes (12/10/2012): This beer was inspired by Brett from Press asking me to make him an IPA with coffee. Now, while this ain’t really up to IPA hoppy standards, it is certainly an interesting interpretation. Wild Wet Hop w/ Coffee pours a dirty tan/gold—the coffee didn’t add that much color, but it is a bit dark for an almost all pilsner malt beer—with a clean white head that offers decent staying power. The nose is grassy hops, some slight cocoa, musty earth, and hints of jam and berry fruit. Basically, the wild hops are weak enough that the coffee is more prevalent in the nose, although you might not peg the aromas as coffee if you didn’t know that was the source of the cocoa and berry fruit aromas—a couple of people I’ve run this by were surprised when I told them. That is, I think, the beauty of the cold-pressed coffee—the other aromas and flavors are more clearly expressed and in the front of more traditional coffee aromas and flavors. As it warms, more coffee does start to come out, but even then it is restrained. Flavors start with cocoa and biscuit before moving into a grassy and slightly vegetal hop bitterness that is clean and brisk. There is also some jam and dried berry fruit, along with some slight candy sweetness from the malt, before the beer heads into the finish, where the clearest coffee flavor comes across, along with biscuit and more cocoa. There is some lingering alkaline mineral bite on the tongue in the finish as well. The body is light and dry; the carbonation enhances the lightness of the mouthfeel, as does the clean bitterness. I’m not really sure how I’d classify this beer, although I do like it—I like it more than the 128. American Bitter that got coffee in the last gallon—this has more depth and subtlety of flavor. I’ll be interested to try this beer in comparison to the last gallon that got extra coffee—I decided to just focus on this one for now. As well, I’m also looking forward to getting some more coffee concentrate from Brett, and throwing a good chunk of it into a proper IPA to see what that does—I think the cocoa and dark fruit would play well with herbal and resin forward hops. I’d say Nugget, but I already tried that with the Black IPA. Actually, this coffee and a good dose of Millenium would work nicely together. As well, the coffee accentuates the bread and biscuit malt character of the Pilsner and Vienna malts, so that is something to think about as well.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Rockit Cup American Bitter Brewday

Time to step up to the Rockit Cup once again, and start serving suckers. Last time we had
From here.
two participants, which means there were a whole lotta suckers out there. A whole lot. Hopefully this time, there will be more brewers and less suckers. But I’m not going to get too excited yet. After all, suckers like multiplying. Never fear, though: what we’re drinking is still bringing the mad skills.

128. Rockit Cup American Bitter
7 lbs. Rahr 2-row
1 lb. Breiss Special Roast
½ lb. Breiss White Wheat
½ lb. Breiss Caramel 10

Mash @ 149° F for 60 minutes w/ 3 gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 gallons @ 1.072
Batch sparge @ 168° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.022

Collected 6 gallons, added ½ gallon; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go:1 ½ oz. Willamette leaf 7.8% AA

w/15 to go: ¾ oz. Willamette leaf 7.8% AA
1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/5 to go: ¾ oz. Willamette leaf 7.8% AA

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Willamette leaf 7.8% AA

Chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale from 127. Wild Wet Hop 2012

Brewed: 9/28/2012
Secondary: 10/7/2012 @ 1.008; pulled one gallon and bottled w/ .6 oz table sugar

Bottled: 10/27/2012 w/ 2.4 oz. table sugar; added 2 oz. Press coffee concentrate to last gallon

OG: 1.042
FG: 1.006

Tasting Notes (10/12/2012): I bottled a gallon of this so that I would have some for the Rockit Cup at the DRAFT meeting; there were five people who brewed: Jeff, Jeffrey, Ben, Brian, and myself. All of the beers were remarkably similar, with a couple of slight differences: Jeffrey’s use of several ounces of fresh Willamette was pretty obvious, and my use of Special Roast instead of Victory—sorry, there was no Victory, so I grabbed what I could—was detectable, although a lot less than I expected. The other three were quite similar, although Ben’s was clearly the best version on the table. The final tabulations: Ben in first, Jeffrey in second, myself in third, Jeff in fourth, and Brian in fifth. I could tell you how the stewards scored the beers—after all, I came in second in their rankings—but I don’t want to reward their lack of brewing. That’s right, I’m reserving the right to represent the voices of those who brewed. Isn’t that democracy in action? All in all, another successful Rockit Cup.

(11/8/2012): This is my first tasting of the remaining four gallons of the American Bitter; I added 2 oz. of Press coffee to the final gallon to see what the introduction of coffee did to the beer, and I am drinking a bottle of each—regular and coffee—side by side. The color is a hazy burnished gold with a fair amount of tan in it—the two are almost imperceptably similar, although there is a touch more orange in the coffee version. Both have a thin, wispy white head. The nose of the regular American Bitter is husky and grainy with a touch of sour apple, due in part to the sourdough tang that comes with Special Roast, while the coffee version is far more subtle and beguiling; there is a touch of jam and fruit playing across the huskiness with soft coffee hints behind that. The slight sour apple starts to come out if the beer sits, but a slight re-rousing brings out the delicate jam and coffee aromas. Flavors are also rather distinct, although draped across the same basic framework: the regular version starts with bread dough in the front before giving way to sourdough and gentle bitterness with a hint of cleansing mint in the middle; the finish is husky and dry with more of the bitterness, but a bit more front and center. The coffee version starts with coffee and bread crust—almost biscuit—and then gives way to wine and jam flavors (that’s the Ethiopian coffee talking, certainly) mixed hints of bitterness. The sourdough and biscuit come out in the finish, along with the slightest hints of the apple found in the nose of the regular version, and a gentle lingering bitterness. While this version is probably less traditional, I do like it better for the flavors across the profile. The body on both is medium, although the coffee gives that version a more rounded and even mouthfeel, at least partially because the apple tartness is minimized, while the gentle carbonation offers a soft creamy and husky mouthfeel in both beers. I am somewhat surprised that there is not more hop flavor or bitterness in the beer, as the Willamette I used in this beer were 7.8% AA. The lesson learned here: small subtle additions (like 2 oz. of coffee in a gallon of beer) can have distinct effects across the entirety of the beer’s profile. In this light, I’ll be interested to try the Coffee Wild Wet Hop—not only did I add a fair amount of coffee up front, but I also added another 2 oz. to the final gallon like I did here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

532. New Glarus Staghorn Octoberfest

This is officially treasure-trove of deliciousness, part two. Although there’s not much left of that treasure-trove. In addition to last week’s Saison, we’ve also tried Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale from New Glarus.

Staghorn pours a crystal clear harvest-hued copper with lots of orange and yellow. I’d normally just call it amber, but since they used that in the description, I didn’t want to come across as derivative. The head is thin, eggshell, and has decent retention—it is, in all honesty, quite lager-like in the partial coverage of skiffs and small islands. There are bright, small bubbles running up the sides of the glass, and the nose is biscuit and bread dough from the malt, and just the faintest waft of hop bitterness—I’m almost tempted to call it earthy and musty. As the beers opens up, some graininess and huskiness also emerges from an otherwise clean beer. Flavors start with biscuit malt and drop into dry cracker in the middle; the carbonation bite drops to cleanness, offering the faintest kiss of sweetness from the Munich malt. As the slight sweetness fades, the hop bitterness comes to the foreground, closing with a touch of graininess and biscuit mixed in at the end. I get less of the lager hop soapiness I find in other lagers/Oktoberfests, but this is certainly a lager—my guess is the touch of sweetness covers it over, even as I would still describe the finish as dry and crisp. The ever so faint grain-derived grape fruitiness—and I want to emphasize that it is faint—is there, albeit less than there was in the Lakefront Oktoberfest. Lakefront is also a good comparison overall: I like New Glarus Staghorn slightly better, while Elli prefers Lakefront a bit more, but both beers are the cream of the American Oktoberfest crop. The old school label on the bottle—the deer in silhouette in front of a harvest moon—is another nice touch on a beer that offers the total package: a crisp, clean, and malty Oktoberfest that fits well with the brisk bite of chilly evenings. Prost!

From the bottle: “100% Natural—great Midwest barleys, the world’s most expensive hops, fresh yeast from Germany, and dear Wisconsin water make our Staghorn Octoberfest ‘Wisconsin’s Real Red.’ You will find absolutely no additives, preservatives, or artificial agents of any kind in this bier. Staghorn is brewed using the time honored methods and Krausened to release the smooth flavor of our roasted malts. This Octoberfest combines a smooth amber body with a clean crisp finish. Be sure to hold this one up to the light of nay harvest moon and enjoys ‘Wisconsin’s Real Red.’ Vielen Dank!”

ABV: 6.25%

Great Saison Chain of Being. That’s still awesome.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

531. New Glarus Saison

When good things happen to bad people, I’m usually indifferent. Or maybe I’ll muster some faux ire and indignation, even if it feels a bit forced. But then it’s quickly back to being indifferent. Because let’s be honest: I think most people suck, and yet good things still keep happening to most of them whether they deserve it or not, and not that sharp stick in the eye that they really actually deserve. But when good things happen to me, well, quite frankly, I’m always somewhat shocked. So imagine my surprise last Friday when I found a rumpled grocery bag outside my office door filled with New Glarus beer. And not just any New Glarus beer—there was a mixed six- and four-pack, plus a big bottle of the Belgian Red. Six different New Glarus beers. My name was even on the bag, confirming that this wasn’t just some galactic mix-up or cruel hoax. Then began the contemplation: who would do something so incredibly nice? And for me? After all, to quote my dear, departed mother, I am something of an asshole. I won’t lie to you, my dear readers—the thought did cross my mind that the beer was poisoned, and this was an elaborate ruse to kill me. But then I realized I didn’t care, because a) they were beers from New Glarus, and b) besides the dreamy, dreamy Belgian Red, I hadn’t tried any of them. Thus, if I died, I would die happy, with a tummy full of delicious and exciting new beer. So home they went, and right on into the refrigerator.

New Glarus Saison pours a delicate, hazy straw; the white, creamy head is augmented by tons of tiny streaming bubbles up the side of the glass. It is clear enough to leave orange highlights on the table, but cloudy enough that your fingers are more a shadow on the other side of the glass. The nose is equal parts grainy, perfume-y, and spicy with an underlying fruitiness that imparts both banana and pear—combined, it gives the beer that brut champagne earthy and musty aromatic quality. Flavors start with light bread dough malt and creaminess in the front; the banana from the nose is there as well, but not quite enough to call it banana bread. The carbonation quickly strips the palate clean, clearing the way for the dry husky graininess and hop bitterness found in the middle of the beer. Touches of cracker malt return in the finish, and there is that soapy hop bitterness flavor found in lagers, but here it is shot through with apple and pear fruit hints—again, spritzy via the bright, crackly carbonation. This beer does a nice job of combining delicate aromatics, effervescent carbonation, and loamy, earthy flavors. I’m glad to see that a gentle hand added the grains of paradise—like the rest of this beer, harmony and balance are the watchwords for spice additions as well. My only complaint is more personal: I would like this beer better without the banana aroma and flavor. I find it a bit more intrusive than the other fruit components of the beer, and it gives the beer a certain sweetness that doesn’t quite match the dryness of the body and the earthy malt and hop profile. Nonetheless, a solid beer—it fits somewhere in-between Hennepin and Saison Dupont in the Great Saison Chain of Being, with the creaminess and rounded malt character of Dupont—albeit with a drier body—and the banana yeast esters found in Hennepin, along with the brightness and freshness of the carbonation. So besides being delicious, this beer keeps good company.

From the bottle: “A few times a year we cut Dan loose to brew whatever he chooses. Always handcrafted, the bottle you hold is brewed for the adventurous soul. This is a very limited edition and we make no promises to ever brew this style again. Saison, the original Farmhouse Ale, was the refreshing invention of thirsty Belgian farmers. Wisconsin pale barley brewed with Grains of Paradise in this bright new copper hued ale. Deceptively approachable, its complicated fermentation incorporates a blend of three Belgian yeast strains and is fully bottle conditioned. Fresh hops snap with lemon zest and peppery ginger notes, lending to its enigmatic personality. Enjoy, as this sassy Wisconsin Saison is at its best thirst quenching drinkability now.”

Oh, and I forgot the normal organizational mumbo-jumbo: yes, we’ve tried New Glarus before, including Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale. And this particular beer is from the Thumbprint Series.

Thank you, Veronica.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Wild Wet Hop Brewday

Two years ago, I made a Wild Wet Hop beer using hops I found growing on the local bike path. I missed out on the wild hops last year, so I was excited to see that this year was a bumper crop for those delightful green devils—Elli and I picked a little over three pounds on Sunday, and we didn’t even put a dent in what was out there. I held out on using all of them in this beer, which was a good idea, since the two pounds of fresh hops I did use took up more space in the boil kettle than I expected. I plan to head out again Thursday to pick another couple of pounds to use in another Wild Wet Hop beer—this one with coffee, ala the Press Black IPA experiments from earlier in the year. So many hops! And so little time!

127. Wild Wet Hop 2012
8 lbs. Weyerman Pilsner
2 lbs. MFB Vienna

Mash @ 153° F for 65 minutes w/ 4 gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¾ gallons @ 1.070
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 8 oz. wild wet hops

w/15 to go: 6 oz. wild wet hops
1 tsp. Irish Moss
8 oz. table sugar

w/10 to go: 6 oz. wild wet hops

w/5 to go: 6 oz. wild wet hops

w/0 to go: 6 oz. wild wet hops

Chilled, racked to carboy, & pitched Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale

Brewed: 9/17/2012

Secondary: 9/28/2012 @ 1.012; dry hop w/ 2 oz. wild hops (frozen)
Bottled: 10/4/2012 w/ 3.0 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.050
FG: 1.010

Tasting Notes (11/10/2012): Wild Wet Hop pours a slightly hazy soft gold with a prolific and dense white head. It is clear enough to see the streaming bubbles inside the glass, which offers a nice visual effect when held up to the light. The nose is mainly bread crust mixed with grass, hay, and a slight spiciness that is part pear and apple; it does start to veer into a vegetal and chlorophyll aroma, which is probably in part from the two pounds of wild wet hops that went into this: that might have been a bit of overkill. Flavors start with bread crust and a touch of apple; there is a touch of the grass and chlorophyll, but further back. The middle is lightly spicy with more of a green apple bite, which lingers into the finish. There is toast and a fair amount of spritzy spiciness in the finish, although the beer finishes bright and clean with a touch of lingering hay and grass. The light body and spritzy carbonation works well with the beer—this worked well in trying to create a beer that allows the light delicate flavors of the wild hops to shine through. I’m going to call the beer a moderate success, although I am guessing most people are going to complain about the vegetal flavor and ignore the delicate pear, apple, and spicy flavors playing across the profile of this beer. Two main things to improve this next time around: cut the overall volume of hops, specifically the 60 minute addition, and collect them later—in going for still green and colorful hops, I may have erred on the side of young—the flavor from the last version is in this beer, but it has a more vegetal and green taste to it. Oh, and dry hopping with frozen hops: bad idea. Dry them out first. I’m not sure how much the vegetal flavor is a product of the dry hopping with frozen hops, but it did taste much better going into the secondary (i.e. prior to dry hopping) than it did going into the bottle. Lesson learned.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dayton DRAFT Brewfest Judging 2012

Ah, Brewfest. That time of year when I get to lay claim to the second bottle of every one of Jule Rastikis’ beers that didn’t make it to the BOS. And believe me, since the perks of being Cellar Master are few and far between, I make use of my marginal powers every time I can. Thus, all four of Jule’s beers are now safely tucked in my refrigerator at home. Don’t worry—you’ll be hearing about them sometime soon.

Bacon Cheesecake courtesy of Scott Young

This year’s event had a bit smaller of a turnout than in previous years: we ended up with 168 entries in total, broken into 15 flights. As noted, I foolishly agreed to be the Cellar Master again, but the sweet siren call of Rastikis made it impossible to say no. Everything went smoothly, and—shockinginglyest of all—we actually started on time at 9:00 am. We also might have even finished a little bit early. It was almost like we knew what we were doing. Then again, let’s not get too crazy. I was pleased to see that my Scottish 80 Schilling—the Edinburgh version from the 80 Shilling Yeast Experiment—did as well as it did in the overall judging. I’d also like to pillory Ashley for not knowing what a Belgian Quad is, but we all know the parable regarding the beating of a dead horse, and, well, that horse is dead. Even if Ashley was the one who killed it. Oh, and the overall results are listed here.

Thanks to all of the out of town judges who made the time to come to Dayton and help us out. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know I’ll be happy to return the favor. Thus, I know where I’ll be on October 20th. That’s right—enjoying the rotating restaurant in the Covington Radisson. Slow revolutions are the best revolutions.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Dayton Art Institute Oktoberfest Beer Judging

Today was a quick round of beer judging for the Dayton Art Institute’s Oktoberfest—I was coerced by Jeffrey to participate, even though I was trying to get ready for tomorrow’s Frankenbike, which, while not beer related, is ever so much more potentially painful and scarring. And by that, I mean good. Painful yes, but good. Anyway, flights were small and quick: Jeffrey & I (yes, we were paired together to judge) rolled through Alts, Oktoberfests, English and Imperial IPAs, and part of the Specialty Beers category. Some good beers, and also some bad ones, but all in all a good time. That Midnight Sleigh Ride was a fantastic voyage. And an easy point on the day, unlike this coming weekend. For all the results, see here.

Highlight of the day: writing on a score sheet that the malt profile of an English IPA tasted “too American,” and then finding out that it was Chris Wyatt’s beer. Ah, the deliciousness. For those of you that don’t get the joke, Chris Wyatt is—how to best put this?—proudly and unabashedly British. As in from England. And for those of you who still don’t get the joke, well, too bad. I’d offer to draw you a diagram, but since I don’t really mean it, that’s just bad faith. Coming from the man whose comedy touchstone is the enjoyment he finds in explaining his own jokes, that’s saying something. And if you don’t get the concept of bad faith, then you’re probably a Republican. Can I get an amen?


Friday, September 7, 2012

The Session #67: How Many Breweries in 2017?

As Derek notes in the the announcement to this Session, “the latest brewery numbers recently released from the Brewer’s Association, [...] counted exactly 2,126 breweries in the United States. To put that into context, you have to go way back to 1887 when the United States had that many breweries. It’s an astonishing 47% increase from just five years ago in 2007 when the tally was a mere 1,449, despite the United States slowly recovering from a serious recession over this period. And according to the Brewers Association, another whopping 1,252 breweries are in the planning stages.” To clear everything up, I can tell you that there will be 2589.5 breweries in the United States in 2017. The half is to prevent ties. 

If I were to base my guess on what is happening in Dayton, OH, the town I live in, I’d actually have to go a lot higher. When I moved here in 2006, there was nothing in terms of local breweries. While there was a fantastic German-American brewing history, and there had even been some recent attempts and failures prior to my arrival, no one was up and running when I showed up on the scene. All that should change shortly. Currently, there is one small brewery that has recently opened, Dayton Beer Company, as well as several others that are in the planning stages: Yellow Springs Brewery, Toxic Brew Company, Fifth Street Brewpub (which is planned as a co-op collective, and yes, I am a member), Eudora Brewing Company, and Vitruvian Brewing Company. There may be more I don’t know about as well. Will they all actually end up open? I don’t know. Can they all survive? Again, you’re probably asking the wrong guy. But I will say that it is exciting to hope. I do think that higher numbers are sustainable, albeit with at least one big caveat: it will depend upon how these breweries market themselves on the local scale. I do think that 3-4 local, small scale breweries can be sustained within a city the size of Dayton, specifically if there is not cutthroat competition by one or more to take over and drive the others out. If growth becomes the model that these breweries pursue, however, I would expect to see the numbers drop, not only locally, but nationally—I think that the caveat I am offering here plays well beyond the Dayton region limits. I would like to imagine Dayton—and the United States writ large—with more local, fresh, and most importantly good, beer. And while I understand that markets dictate a need to sell beer as a product, the dream of becoming the next big thing is certainly not sustainable with the numbers provided by the Brewer’s Association. Then again, I read books for a living, so what the hell do I know?

The Session is a monthly first Friday beer blogging event; this month is hosted by Derek Peterman at Ramblings of a Beer Runner. Drink and blog, y’all.

Can I have my winning beer now, Derek?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Saison w/ Comet Brewday

Time for more saison, the beer that, if he were still alive today, Jesus would be hitting up like Mark McGwire takes out fastballs. Simile me some of that. And yes, I’m calling Jesus a drinker. Water to wine? Puh-lease. I don’t think so. More like water to sweet sweet saison magic. After all, saison saves, just like Jesus. Indubitably.

125. Saison w/Comet
6 lbs. MFB Pale
2 lbs. MFB Vienna
2 lbs. Breiss White Wheat

Mash @ 149° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.074
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.026

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 oz Comet leaf 11.0% AA

w/15 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA & 1 tsp. Irish Moss

w/5 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA
8 oz. table sugar
4 g. crushed coriander
2 g. crushed seed of paradise

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA

Chilled, racked to carboy, & added East Coast Yeast ECY08 Saison Brasserie from 125. Saison w/ EKG

Brewed: 9/4/2012
Secondary: 9/22/2012 @ 1.002; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Comet leaf 11.0% AA
Bottled: 10/4/2012 w/ 4.0 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.002

Tasting Notes (11/22/12): Saison with Comet pours a lightly hazy dull gold with a pillow-y white head; there are streams of small, tight bubbles streaming up the sides of the glass. The nose is spicy resin and citrus; I get orange marmalade and lemon zest along with a touch of grassy hay, plus a whole bunch of other subtle fruit hints—grapefruit, passion fruit, mango. There are also plenty of yeast esters that round the nose and make it delightful: I’m really not sure which aromas are from the hops and which are from the yeast. There is a reason I’ve drank pretty much all of this beer already. Flavors mirror the nose, although there is a slight cracker malt flavor in the front, along with a touch of candy sweetness from the Vienna. But other than that, the hop flavors match the nose, with spiciness in the front and citrus in the middle and finish. The beer is dry and cracker-y on the palate, both from the well attenuated body and the bright, spritzy carbonation. There is a touch of a mineral bite, but it blends in seamlessly with the hop bitterness: both are bright and cleansing. While this beer is something of a bastard in form—it combines a saison body with American craft beer levels of hopping—it hits right in my sweet spot. I think this beer is phenomenal—it is easily the best thing I’ve made in a long time. So not only does this mean that I love East Coast Yeast more than I did already, it means that Comet is the real deal as a hop, and is certainly worth exploring in more detail. And I would like to let the record show that I’m not alone in my assessment of this beer. I entered it in CMI’s Oktobersbest, and while it got justly hammered for being too hoppy for the style (16C), both judges gave me a 10 out of 10 for overall impression. I’ve never gotten a 10 for overall impression before. Ever. I ended up with a 34 out of 50 for an overall score, but both judges loved the beer despite its shortcomings as a saison.

Monday, September 3, 2012

530. Lakefront Oktoberfest

It is that time of year again—you know, when it is acceptable to publicly listen to polka and wear lederhosen in a non-ironic manner. And while I find both of those things psychically scarring, the reciprocal beer options connected to the same time of year make that trauma a little less painful to bear. Just ask my brother, Jason, who lives in Leavenworth, WA, a so-called Bavarian theme-town that makes its living off of marketing a faux-German identity. The town’s mascot is Woody Goomsba, and he has his own YouTube videos. I shit you not. Look it up—after all, that’s what the internet is for, isn’t it? Well, that and squirrels on water-skis or keyboard playing cats. Play ’em off, Keyboard Cat! Which brings me back to the beer, specifically Lakefront Brewery’s Oktoberfest. We’ve seem Lakefront before with their IPA, and they didn’t disappoint. Speaking of awkward, I feel compelled to make some sort of Laverne & Shirley reference, but I can’t think of a suitable transition, so I’ll just move on to the beer.

Lakefront Oktoberfest pours a slightly hazy copper infused with a fair amount of orange. Or, in other words, it’s Oktoberfest in my glass! The head is creamy eggshell; it hangs out a bit, but slowly dissipates to a ring with some skiff islands. In the nose, the beer features biscuit malt with toast and bread crust; there is also a slight hint of fruit/grape hiding in the back, but it fits well with the other aromas—I think it derives from the Vienna malt, but I’m not certain. It is, however, malty goodness in a glass. Flavors open with a combination of bread dough and biscuit malt, before giving way to the slight tang of hop bitterness in the middle that cuts through the malt and cleans the palate. There is a slight fruitiness in the first part as well, but less distinct in taste than it was in the nose; it could also be a combination of nutty and melanoidin or from the Vienna malt—I can’t quite pin it down. It finishes dry and clean, with the slight soapy hop finish I like in a lager, plus a touch of biscuit and nutty malt sneaking through to round the beer as a whole. Carbonation is medium, and picks up bite over the profile of the beer—the malt holds it in check in the front, but it comes through in the finish. This is a well made and enjoyable beer; it is one of the better American Oktoberfests I’ve had—for example, I like it better than Great Lakes Oktoberfest. More importantly, it is actually a lager, unlike some of the other beers passing themselves off as Oktoberfests out there. Nice work on this one, Lakefront.

From the Lakefront website: “This traditional lager is brewed with generous amounts of Munich malt, giving it a wonderful orange hue with a rocky, off-white head. Light hop aromas balance out a slightly floral nose from the German lager yeast. Balanced hop bitterness offsets the substantial malt body, while the lager yeast adds a subtlety of flavor that makes this a great rendition of a German classic. Prost!”

ABV: 5.7%

P.S. Get your Goomsba up. Seriously. If I had any German American heritage, it would be rolling over in it’s grave right now. Oh wait, I do. And it is.

P.S.S. I still hate Bud Selig.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Salmonberry Mead Brewday

I scored the salmonberries in June when I was out visiting my father in Seattle; he has a bunch of them growing on his property, but no one ever does anything with them—well, except the birds. Since they were just coming ripe when I showed up, I picked all I could and froze them so I could take them back to Dayton on the plane. And a humorous anecdote from my childhood: when we were kids, my father told me that salmonberries were poisonous, most likely to keep us from fucking around with them. Since I was a naïve child, I believed him. Fast forward to last summer when Elli and I were out in Seattle; we saw some salmonberries, and she asked about them, and I said they were poisonous. She was pretty sure they weren’t, so we asked my brother Jason, who proceeded to laugh at me for believing our father. When I asked my dad why he told us they were poisonous, his response was classic father-caught-years-later-for-telling-lies-to-his-kids: “Did I say that? Huh. I don’t remember telling you that, but maybe I did. It sounds about right. You little bastards were always eating weird shit, and we got tired of calling Poison Control to make sure you weren’t going to die. So we told you it would kill you. Probably serves you right.” That’s straight-up parenting 101 right there, folks.

B. Salmonberry Mead
44 oz. Robert Irvin raw honey
1 ¾ lbs. salmonberries
¾ gallon RO water

Combined and heated to 140° F; removed from heat and chilled overnight. Racked into 3 gallon carboy & pitched Lalvin 71B-1122 Narbonne yeast.

Brewed: 9/1/2012
Secondary: 10/13/2012

Tasting Notes (12/9/2012): When I racked this mead into the one gallon secondary, there was enough left over to fill one 8 oz. bottle, which I dutifully bottled and put to the side; my friend Tim came over this evening, so I decided to sample it, since he is, well, pretty much a mead guru: for my wedding, I got 6 bottles of 6-8 year old mead. Since it was chilled, it took a bit for it to warm up—I kept it in the fridge in case there was anything for the yeast to keep working on: bottle-bombs are no one’s friend. The mead was a lovely off-orange salmon berry color, and the nose was honey with a touch of fruit tartness and tannic skin character. Flavors followed the nose, with a touch of tart fruitiness—I can say it tasted like salmonberry, but it was more a generic light berry flavor that almost verged into huckleberry for tartness—and there was certainly a tannic skin bite. Once it warmed, there was some alcohol warmth that will need to age out—although already less than two months ago when it went into the bottle—but still, it was surprisingly pleasant. As well, it is probably on the drier side, but not much to do about that now. I look forward to trying more of this in about a year or so once the rest gets into bottles.