Tuesday, December 31, 2013

584. The Bruery Tart of Darkness

What better day to break out some fancy beer than New Year’s Eve? And nothing say jubilation around these here parts like the Bruery. So let’s get this party started! I bought this bottle last year, so it has had a chance to do it’s own thing in the basement ala Heavy D. And just like old school rap, the Bruery will never let me down. PEACE! Anyway, we can add this to the list from the brewery I love to love, including Oude Tart, Rueuze5 Golden Rings, Marrón Acidifié (a collabo with Cigar City), Autumn Maple, Humulus Session, 3 French Hens, Saison de Lente, Rugbrød, Hottenroth, Orchard White and Saison Rue.

Tart of Darkness pours a clear dark chocolate with ruby highlights and a thin tan head; the nose is leather, berry, and tobacco up front—and by berry I mean it is a jam bomb—with lingering acetic sourness and oak coming in at the end. Still, there is enough pucker in the nose to make my mouth start to react, specifically along the sides of my cheeks. And the tartness drops once it hits your lips: I get vinegar, oak, and red licorice up front, followed by lactic and citric brightness accompanied by vanilla from the oak in the middle and lots of berry flavor. Oh, and my cheeks started blushing almost immediately when I put glass to lips. The finish is has a slight mineral roast grit, dark fruit, and an acetic acid twang along with a tannic oak and sour roast bite. Still, it finishes rather clean, with some lingering pucker in the back of the cheeks. The beer has a thin body, but the oak and sourness provides the illusion of a bigger body than the beer actually has, in part from the slick and vinous mouthfeel on the palate and from the roast bite as well. While this may initially have had some roast in the aroma (as per the description below), it currently reads more like a darker Flanders Red—the hints of roast grit, sour roast bite, and slightly darker color being the only real elements keeping it from falling completely into that category. And even then, it is not very stout-y or stout-like. Although that is most likely not a surprising claim. Basically, this beer is another vote for yeast being the most important contributing factor to beer—well, and also a vote for time, the illusive fifth factor in the traditional quartet of yeast-malt-hops-water discussions. Maybe the best comparison is to Oude Tart, with this being the darker and more aggressively sour version—specifically in regards to the acetic acid—with more red licorice and juicy berry flavors as well. Still, a pucker-y delight that I’m certain will leave my cheeks wincing before it’s finished. As it should be.

From the bottle: “With a roasty aroma and a tart finish, this sour black ale is a contortion of style and flavor, creating an unexpected delight.”

ABV: 5.6%

P.S. I want to call this beer a colonialist fantasy in my mouth, but I’m afraid no one would get the joke.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Great Brett Experiment II, part 1 Brewday

So the starters I made in early November for the first round of the Great Brett Experiment II finally finished up, which means it is time for another round of starter sampling. And brewing—let’s not forget that. I was also able to take some initial gravity readings for the first four yeasts. EBY008 continues to struggle—I’ll keep hope alive and wish for a miraculous turn around in the next stage, but I’m not holding my breath. As I note below, this is either Dekkera or the yeast was compromised. I’m going with the former as there was much more activity in the initial starter of this one. But who knows. EBY009 continues to be the best of this grouping of four; now that I have moved these four yeasts along, I’ll start growing up the next four shortly.

Gravity readings from starters (with an OG of 1.030):
EBY002: 1.010
EBY005: 1.006
EBY008: 1.026
EBY009: 1.006

Second round of tasting notes: these are pretty similar to the first round, although EBY008 was more sugar water than beer.

EBY002: The nose is slight hints of citric acid and earthiness; flavors are cracker, biscuit, and fruit—grape specifically—so all in all quite similar to the last version, although possibly more subdued. This is the wateriest of the four, and second best in regards to overall quality, even though it is a bit drab.

EBY005: Candy and goat in the nose, along with dirty feet. Flavors have improved, but the lingering goat and dirty feet in the finish have increased—it tastes better in the first two thirds, and worse in the last third. There is also some lingering sweatiness that doesn’t mesh well with the malt flavors. Third best yeast of the four.

EBY008: I suspect that this yeast might be Dekkera instead of Brettanomyces; the mold in the last one was the tell I missed. Either that, or this yeast got compromised, died, or something, as the overall lack of activity. The nose was still cooked vegetables and baby diaper, although more subdued than last time, while it tasted like corn sugar water with a hint of gaminess, followed by oxidized paper in the finish, so at least it was a marked improvement over the last version. Still, worst of the lot.

EBY009: Still the best of the lot, and it has further improved: of the four, this is the only one I finished. The nose is a bit smoky with cereal and cracker, but the acidity has increased in the flavor: there is citric tartness in the front along with the tropical fruit and the finish has a more acidic bite. Less Fruity Pebbles now—it tastes more like Honeycomb with hints of bright pineapple acidity to cleanse the palate.  

165. The Great Brett Experiment II, part 1
8 lbs. MFB Pilsen
3 lbs. Breiss White Wheat 
2 lbs. Weyermann Light Munich
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 152° F for 90 minutes w/ 4 ¼ gallons RO water & 6 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¾ gallons @ 1.092
Batch sparge @ 165° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 6 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.032

Collected 6 ¾ gallons; topped off to 9 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:

w/60 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding pellets 3.2% AA 
½ oz. Czech Saaz leaf 2.4% AA

w/10 to go: 1 ½ oz. Czech Saaz leaf 2.4% AA
2 White Labs Servomyces capsules

Chilled, split into 4 three gallon carboys, and pitched EBY 002, 005, 008, and 009 starters

Primary: 12/28/2013 

OG: 1.050

Update (2/27/2016): This project got lost amongst others: half of 002 and 009 got blended into a Beer & Sweat Brett blend beer (2014); 005 and 008 got blended as a part of Old Beer Blending Party; and the remaining 002 and 009 became 224. Cleaning Up: they were blended together, added to 3 gallons of new wort, and pitched onto 2003. One Last Lambic Hurrah.

Friday, December 27, 2013

583. New Holland Incorrigible

New Holland’s Incorrigible is described as a “white sour ale” on the label, and is part of their Cellar Series. While I’m not sure what a “white sour ale” is—my best guess is that New Holland is taking their cue from the current white IPA craze and trying to create their own niche—I am something of a sucker for sour beers, so what the hell. Plus, it has been a while since we’ve tried anything from New Holland, although this is our seventh beer from our windmill and tulip loving friends to the north. Previous victims of our rapacious thirst include Hopivore, Beerhive Tripel, El Mole Ocho, Dragon’s Milk, Golden Cap Saison, and Envious.

Incorrigible pours a crystal clear and brilliant straw; there is a thin white head that quickly disappears, although the tiny clear bubbles continue to run up the sides of the glass. The nose initially starts earthy and musty, but gives way to bright acidity with some doughy malt as it opens; I get the gummy Lactobacillus of a good Berliner Weisse mixed with the acidic sharpness bite of a young lambic, and a touch of earthiness from both. As the beer warms, you also get hints of oak and an almost chardonnay-like wine butteriness. Flavors start with candy malt and a slight sour tang; the middle has some clean acidity that is bright, crisp, and almost cider-like. There is a bit of wheat gumminess and bread dough hiding in the middle as well; the finish is clean and dry with hints of bread crust and cracker malt mixed with acidity that is just short of citric and has some pleasant game-y hints. The beer starts soft on the palate in the front; the acidic bite in the middle gives the body some brightness that carries into the finish, and the carbonation cleanses and clears the palate, allowing the clean acidity to wash over the tongue, lingering briefly before disappearing. A delicate yet complex beer that is enjoyable as it is subtle. The carbonation does disappear a bit too quickly, but you’d hardly know it via the tart flavors that keep the beer bright on the tongue. The nose on this beer is particularly impressive; it kept changing as it opened, offering new layers to sort through and enjoy. Well done, New Holland.

From the bottle: “Incorrigible celebrates the beauty of mischief. Wild yeasts, and bacteria run free in our sour-aging cellar, the house of funk, creating vibrant sour and acidic character in this delicate, yet complex wheat beer. The refreshingly tart session beer will tease your palate with a subtle, layered nuance.”

ABV: > 4.0%


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Saison w/ Juniper Berries Brewday

We’re already into round two of the Great Saison Chain of Being, and it ain’t even the New Year yet. And this is the first seasonal saison—or saisonal, which is a new term I am coining—that will be part of the Great Saison Chain of Being, aka next year’s extended brewing project. I can’t say all saisons all the time, but they’ll be more saisons than you can shake a stick at. And that is quite a few, let me tell you.

164. Saison w/ Juniper Berries
6 lbs. MFB Pilsen
3 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated
1 oz. crushed juniper berries

Mash @ 152° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 gallons RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected almost 2 gallons @ 1.078
Batch sparge @ 163° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.028

Collected 6 gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (70 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 2 ozs. Citra leaf 13.4% AA

w/10 to go: ½ lb. table sugar
1 oz. crushed juniper berries

Chilled & racked onto yeast cake from Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse from 162. Saison w/ Spelt

Primary: 12/24/2013 @ 76° F
Secondary: 1/3/2014 @ 1.010; added 1 oz. juniper berries
Bottled: 1/31/2014 w/ 4.0 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.050
FG: 1.006

Tasting Notes (6/17/2014): So I’ve been a bit negligent in updating many recent beers. I wish I had some compelling justification to offer, but alas, I do not. Mostly life, and the likes. So on to the beer! Saison with juniper berries pours a hazy but bright golden straw; there is an abundant white head that has good retention and laces the glass nicely. The nose is peppery and spicy with an underlying floral creaminess that is almost herbal and almost evergreen. As it warms, these do coalesce into a more distinct juniper aroma, but initially, the juniper is rather hard to pick out. Flavors follow the nose; the front is dry and crackery on the tongue, quickly shifting to floral pepper and spice with evergreen and herbal hints in the middle. There is also some hop bitterness in the middle, and a dry, creamy spiciness that runs into the finish. Both the body and mouthfeel are dry, accentuated in part by the bright carbonation and the spicy evergreen. Still, the floral and creamy elements do hang around, even as the beer warmed. As a whole, this is a good beer, but not quite what I expected. The juniper is much less apparent in this beer than I anticipated; while it is there, it blends almost seamlessly with the yeast and the hops, coming across more as yeast-derived pepper and spice and/or hop-derived herbal and evergreen flavors than anything that might definitively be labeled juniper. And it was this way when I had the first beer as well—it is not like the juniper has been lost since it was bottled. In one sense, the harmonious marriage here is quite pleasant; while dry, the beer is balanced and has interesting flavors. On the other hand, the distinctiveness of the juniper is lost amongst the many other flavors present in the beer—if you didn’t know you were supposed to be looking for juniper, it would easily be lost in the shuffle. The juniper does come out a bit more as the beer warms—halfway through the bottle (which was a 750 ml), it became more distinctive in the final third of the beer, and even lingered a bit on the back of the tongue and the throat. As well, while there is  residual mouthfeel via the glycerol production of the yeast, it is certainly drier than some of the other saison yeasts I’ve experimented with, specifically 3711, which, while dry, always comes across as more juicy and rounded, even with a lower FG. Maybe the auxiliary ingredients in this beer (specifically the juniper) have influenced my perceptions of other elements of this beer as a whole. I’m not certain. What I do know is this: this yeast warrants more experimentation. While it may take me a bit to get back to it, I certainly intend to revisit it, as it is worth understanding this yeast in more detail. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sour Coffee Brett w/ Blackberries Brewday

Today’s beer was a collaborative project with Brett Barker from Press Coffee; he wanted to see the brewing process from start to finish, and make a sour coffee Brettanomyces beer with blackberries. What more reason do I need? Press Coffee is no stranger to these parts—I’ve used their coffee in beers multiple times, including Coffee Mild, Press Coffee Black IPA, and Wild Wet Hop w/ Coffee—so this is just one more in the long litany of beery homages to Press Coffee. We started with the Lactobacillus and the coffee concentrate, adding the Brettanomyces three days in, and then we’ll toss the blackberries in the secondary—the plan is that the acidity of the coffee and the blackberries will blend well with the yeast-derived tartness.

163. Sour Coffee Brett w/ Blackberries
4 lbs. MFB Pilsener
3 lbs. MFB Special Aromatic
2 lbs. MFB Pale
1 lb. Best Malz Spelt
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 152° F for 70 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.080
Batch sparge @ 164° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water & 4 g. gypsum; collected 4 gallons @ 1.030

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (70 minutes), & added:
w/70 to go: 1 oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA 

Chilled, adding 10 ozs. Press concentrate at 180° F while chilling, and pitched Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus @ 100° F

Primary: 12/19/2013 (with Lactobacillus; added mason jars of Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois and custersianus on 12/22/2013)
Secondary: 1/7/2014 @ 1.004; racked onto 3 lbs. of blackberries

OG: 1.050

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

582. Brouwerij West Saison Extra

The label features a cat playing pinball. Let me repeat that: a cat. Who is playing pinball. Pinball. Awesome. This beer is from Brouwerij West, which is located in San Jose, CA. Not surprisingly, they are Belgian-influenced; as they note on their webpage, “We make beer in classic Belgian style with mostly Belgian ingredients. Our beer is dry and refreshing. We make no IPA and have no barrel aging or spices.” While I’m not sure why barrel aging and spices are identified as outside of the “classic Belgian style” since both are a part of that tradition—unless this is a dig at American brewing’s love of wood and over-spicing—I do understand the choice not to make an IPA, although that is no longer shocking. Still, I’m willing to let it go if it gets me more labels like this one.

Saison Extra pours a hazy but brilliant gold; the head is thin and white, and disperses quickly, leaving tiny islands and a ring. In the nose, there is musty earth and fruit—pear, apple, and grape, to be specific—along with some candy Pilsner malt, followed by wafting hints of bitterness. As it opens up, there is bread crust and some floral esters that complement the other aromas. Flavors follow the nose, starting with candy Pilsner sweetness that dries out into bread crust and fruitiness. The middle is juicy and lightly bitter—sort of a dry, musty bitterness that is just short of oxidized paper, but in a good way—while the finish is cracker, pepper, and slightly spicy bitterness. The mouthfeel is bigger than I would like—it could be easily dried out several points to brighten and dry the beer on the tongue—and the carbonation is a bit low, although it does bite nicely in the finish. The bitterness in the finish cuts out some of the juiciness from the yeast, which Elli appreciates—she is not a fan of the juicier saisons, preferring those leaning towards Saison Dupont, although she is always game to try a new saison. For me, the base beer is good: I like the combination of cracker, candy sweetness, and mustiness. But I would like it better if the body was drier and the carbonation was brighter. Both would make this a stronger saison overall. Still, a pleasure to drink: I’d happily drink more, even without the cat label. 

From the Brouwerij West website: “Brouwerij West is excited to announce the release of our Saison Extra in 500 ml bottles. As always, we use only imported Belgian malt, German noble hops and our Brouwerij West yeast. We chose not to duplicate the standard ‘peppery/spicy’saison profile and instead go after bubble gum esters and noble hop aroma. Extra is Bright and malty, with a firm bitterness and a dry finish. Hazy gold in color.”

ABV: 6.5%
Bottle: 7483/10000


Friday, December 13, 2013

Rockit Cup Mini-Cask Fest Recap

Again with the with Rockit Cup hijinx. But I can’t help myself. For the Rockit Cup Mini-Cask Fest, we had six gullible suckers participants willing to remake a mini-keg of a previous recipe, including Brian Gallow with the December 2012 Northern English Brown, Jake 
Our beardless winner.
Browning with the February 2011 Alt, Wes Davis with the February 2013 Grinder’s Mild, Jeff Schell also with the February 2013 Grinder’s Mild, Jon Vanderglas with the April 2013 Single-Hop Session IPA (he used Galaxy), and myself with the December 2012 Northern English Brown. Two beers got doubled up. 

Because the Rockit Cup is kind and just and willing to indulge seasonal holiday good feelings, we let everyone judge this Rockit Cup even though they didn’t brew. Being kind hurts, doesn’t it? Smaller numbers allowed us to rank all six entrants. Yes, I like the shaming, even when it comes my way, as it undoubtedly does:

1st: Jon Vanderglas
2nd: Brian Gallow
3rd: Jake Browning
4th: tie between Jeff Schell and Wes Davis
6th: myself

Jon’s decision to brew, in his own words, “something everyone would like,” i.e. and IPA, certainly paid dividends here. I thought Brian’s beer was the best, but it will do him good to get second once in a while. I also do find it appropriate that the two versions of Grinder’s Mild tied. And I scored another last place finish with a barely carbonated beer. That’s what I get for trying to rush it and carbonate it in the mini-keg in a week. Still, I brewed, which means I did better than everyone else who was too lazy to try something new. And since the beer I brewed was under carbonated, I just closed the bung at the top of the mini-cask to let it actually carbonate. Hopefully, the yeast will scrub out most of the oxygen that got in the headspace while it was open, and won’t oxidize the beer too much. And if it does, well, after all, it is a British beer, so no one will notice.

P.S. Maybe the new motto should be “Join, or Get Shaved by This Guy.”


5th Street Brewpub Local Tap Takeover

Yes, I know this event was yesterday. But I’m lazy and I hate crowds. Plus, showing up at lunchtime the next day means I can get a full run of sample-sized pours to taste and contemplate at my leisure (make sure you pronounce it the British way, too: with a soft e rather than a hard e so that it sounds like pleasure and not either—it makes my gadabout ways seem even more luxurious and delightful). I even took notes, which is really not that shocking, although it did garner odd looks from my fellow patrons. But that, my dear readers, is the price of learning.

There were nine beers from seven breweries featured at the Tap Takeover, although I am only going to discuss six of the beers here: I am intentionally leaving out the three from Yellow Springs. After all, some might claim that it would be a conflict of interest for me to include reviews of Yellow Springs Brewery beers. Which is probably true. I do regularly volunteer at Yellow Springs. However, that is not why I am excluding them. As you can see in the picture I clearly had all nine beers. I’m no fool—I went to sup on our growing number of local beers, regardless of producer. Still, I am choosing to exclude them because they were by far the three best beers of the flight. Yes, all three of them. Consider this analogy: when you were 14 and your younger sibling was 8, backyard sports games were, most likely, a one-sided ass-kicking of humiliation. For you. At least I hope so. Sure, maybe someday that younger sibling will grow up and beat you senseless like you most certainly deserve. But not today. Because today 14 crushes 8. And in this scenario, Yellow Springs is 14. So while my biases do exist, so does quality. And, yes, for the purposes of this post, I’m equating beating up your little brother with quality. If my analogy still confuses you, let me know and I’ll build you a diorama. Or draw you a diagram. Or you can just cry me a water planet, freeze it, and call it Hoth. Your call.

So, without further ado, the other six beers. They broke pretty easily into three distinct gradations, which I’ve dubbed The Good, The In-Between, and The Not-So-Good. Sorry, but due diligence calls for brutal honesty. So really, I’m not sorry. I see good beer as a civic responsibility.

The Good:
Star City Milk Stout: Not the milkiest of milk stouts, but clean and drinkable; more akin to a sweeter dry stout than a milk or sweet stout. Or maybe a chocolate stout, but now I’m just being silly. There is a nice balance between roast malt and chocolate malt, accompanied by some biscuit and bread crust malt flavors. As the beer warmed, flavors turned towards cocoa. Smooth and well-made.

Lock 27 Mouth Breather IPA: Nice hop nose, with orange, citrus, and earthy aromas. There is a touch of metallic, but only slightly. The body features lots of hop flavor: it starts with orange and citrus, runs to resin and pine, and finishes with lingering bitterness. As the beer warmed, the bitterness started to run towards lacquer. While there is malt present, it mostly stays out of the way and merely functions as a backdrop to the hops.

The In-Between:
Cellar Dweller Orange VV Wheat: There was fruit and phenolic in the nose, specifically, clove and a touch of plastic. Bread dough flavors in front and finish; there is a slight plastic phenolic bite in the middle, as well as a zesty citrus accompanied by a touch of spicy pith that was the highlight of the beer. The body was a bit muddy in regards to the flavors—as was the nose with aromas—but the finish was clean.

Dayton Beer Company—or Kettering Beer Company, as Nate refers to them—Broken Trolley Blonde: In the nose I found candy and biscuit malt, along with grape and orange pith. The body was cracker malt with a touch of graininess in the flavor and mouthfeel. The biscuit and cracker in the finish was pleasant; the beer was mostly clean, and it was balanced well.

The Not-So-Good:
Toxic Abbey Tripel: While a tripel is a bigger beer, it should be drier with a lighter malt character on the palate and bright carbonation. Tripels are notoriously deceptive, in that they drink like a much smaller beer given their other characteristics. This beer had none of that: it was big, flabby, sticky, and under-attenuated. The body sat on your tongue. Heavily. It did have some of the creamy mouthfeel you look for in a tripel, and some pleasant fruit, specifically pear and grape, but none of the spicy phenols and peppers that serve to balance and brighten the beer. On the positive side, it had none of the infected adhesive plastic flavors found in previous Toxic beers, so that is a plus. Still, this is closer to a Belgian Strong or an Old Ale.

Hairless Hair DIPA: The most distinguishing characteristic of an IPA is the hop aroma, flavor, and bitterness. Without this, it is not an IPA. In the nose, there was a slight metallic orange hop aroma, but mostly malt: caramel, candy, and bread dough. There was a touch of the orange in the flavor, although it was mainly swallowed up by the heavy-handed caramel flavors, and very little bitterness in either the middle or finish. This, in other words, was a malt bomb. While the malt was nice—it was chewy and rounded, with some complexity—there was not even close to enough hop presence.

The first two beers I would happily try again. In fact, both impressed me enough to warrant the vague and indistinct promise of a visit to the actual brewery at some point in the future. I’ll continue to try beers from the other four breweries—that, too, is my civic duty—but probably not so jovially. Still, a man of leisure (remember, British pronunciation!) like myself needs just such a challenge to stay on top of his game.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bicycle Beer Delivery for New Belgium

Yes, this post is as cool as it sounds: today I helped deliver the first 22 cases of New Belgium beer in Dayton via bicycle. I even foolishly—and intentionally—chose the longest and hilliest of the three routes: up to Belmont Party Supply before rolling down Wayne to end at 5th Street Brewpub. Why, you may ask? Because I’m a glutton for good times! Along the way, we also hit Tank’s, South Park Tavern, and Dublin Pub.

I was told to show up at Bonbright Distributors at 3:00, so I put on all the warm clothes I could find, strapped the panniers on, and rolled out. Once there, we got everyone organized into three groups, and packed up all the beer. Sadly, I did not plan effectively as others in regards to strapping the beer down on the bike (sorry, I was last minute), and instead had to break open the case of deuce-deuces and put them in the panniers. So lame. Thus, I didn’t get to roll around with the beer strapped to the back of the bike. Stupid bad planning! We did take the now empty box along for delivery purposes, though. Once we headed out, it was straight up Steward Street for the long slow climb to Belmont. We took a break on the way up at Tank’s, and then rolled to Belmont, where Gus Stathes happily took our delivery. The one upside after leaving Belmont was that it was all downhill the rest of the way. The one downside to all that free coasting, however, was the wind chill and dropping temperatures from the disappearing daylight. Still, the coast down Wayne Avenue was less
annoying than most other road biking in Dayton as there was a mass of other riders and we were also carrying beer—there was none of the usual honking and cursing I’ve come to expect from my fellow Daytonians for foolishly deciding to ride a bike on the road. One of my favorite moments of the afternoon was watching Rob from Thai 9 and Giri from Cavalier try anhttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=621015004603006&set=pb.390682290969613.-2207520000.1387405746.&type=3&theaterd hide from the camera when we were delivering beer to South Park Tavern. You know, that whole conflict-of-interest thing. Hilarious! After a quick delivery to the Dublin Pub, we hit 5th Street Brewpub, where we stopped long enough to toast our success and drink a couple of bottles of the Fat Tire we just delivered. Delicious! It was then onto Brixx Ice Co. for Ranger IPA and Fat Tire on tap, and to trade delivery stories with the other two groups, and hear about the trip down to Jungle Jim’s, which would be quite a trip in this weather! After a couple of pints of Ranger, I called it an evening and headed towards home. All in all, a super-awesome event, one that I wish happened more regularly. Tom Helbig, one of the riders in my group, made a video of the event you can find here. Bikes and beer, beer and bikes. Word.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Belgium and Dayton Metroparks

New Belgium is finally coming to Ohio, and last night was one of the initial roll out events celebrating this fact. While I am not cool enough to score an invitation, Elli certainly is. Specifically because she works at K & G, which is a local bike store. In case you weren’t aware, New Belgium loves bicycling. And sustainability. And, it would appear, Five Rivers MetroParks: for every case of New Belgium beer sold in Ohio in 2014, $1 will go to Five Rivers MetroParks. That’s some solid commitment. Hells yes.

So last night I enjoyed the burgeoning fruits of new beer distribution in the state. Besides Ranger IPA, I got to sample Accumulation, their winter seasonal White IPA. I’ve had Ranger before, so there were no surprises there, and Accumulation is precisely what you would expect—light, bright, slightly tropical, and very drinkable. So good stuff. It’s even better when free, but we all already knew that. I’m more excited about the potential for Lips of Faith beers, but lets not put the cart before the horse. I also heard about the initial distribution plans for New Belgium beer tomorrow via bicycle, which sounds certainly worth getting dressed up for in all my wintery finest. Cold, yes—it is supposed to be in the mid-20s tomorrow—but certainly worth it. I’ll keep you all posted tomorrow how it goes!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lexington Recap

For the second to last cyclo-cross race of the season, we headed to Lexington. And since Lexington is just far enough away to make driving home after the race a real downer, we decided to get a hotel room, and sample some of the beer offerings about town. After a muddy, muddy race day, we headed to Gratz Park Inn, our domicile for the evening. After some de-mudding, we hit the town.

Our first stop was Country Boy Brewing. Initial web-based research had indicated they had a Gose on tap, so I was especially excited. While I’ll admit I wasn’t surprised when it wasn’t on tap when we got there, I was still disappointed. Enough so that I didn’t take notes on the sampler we had. I just kept thinking how I really wanted to try the Gose. Color me predictable. Anyway, our second stop was West Sixth Brewing Company. Yes, the one that has been in the news as of late. We had a sampler of their beers, including PRHBTN Lemongrass Wheat, Saison, IPA, Double IPA, Smoked Mild, and their Christmas Ale. The best two were the PRHBTN Wheat and the Smoked Mild. PRHBTN Wheat was surprisingly not gummy—it had none of the usual downsides of American Wheat beers—and instead crisp and bright. The lingering lemongrass (as opposed to hop bitterness) was an especially nice touch. Smoked Mild was my favorite: the smoke malt was in the nose and the finish, and the base beer was excellent, with chocolate, cocoa, and hints of toffee to balance the light hints of bacon greasiness from the smoked malt. Well made and delightful. The IPA was solid, but you all know about that. If not, go pick up a six of the cans. Elli did note that it was more subtle when fresh, which, I will note, is a high compliment from her. The Double IPA was more of the same, but bigger. I was disappointed by the saison; it was slightly phenolic without much else in the way of yeast character, followed by under-attenuated candy Pils malt. It had neither the mineral bitterness or juicy dry body you find as the most common splitting point between saisons. Instead, it was just blah and in between with too much body on the tongue. Finally, the Christmas Ale was pretty much a Christmas Ale—big, malty, and sweet with spices—although not an offensive one, which was nice. After these two stops, we headed to the Village Idiot for dinner, followed by a final couple of beers at Lexington Beerworks, both of which were within walking distance of the hotel. I was excited to see Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere on tap at Lexington Beerworks. Color me served. And afterwards, sleepies.

All in all, a pleasant and enjoyable evening. While we didn’t make it to Blue Stallion Brewing, there is always next time; I’ll try to be more upbeat regarding Country Boy next time as well. And I can tell you when next time will be: while down there, I was excited to find out about Jeff Rice’s upcoming conference on beer writing: Craft Writing: Beer, The Digital, and Craft Culture. You know I’m already registered. So here’s to the next opportunity to try out Lexington’s finest, and hear some damn fine speakers to boot!


Monday, December 2, 2013

April 2014 Rockit Cup: Imperial Stout

For the Three Year Anniversary of the Rockit Cup, we’ll be making our first big beer. And as with any big beer, it should have some time to properly age, hence providing the recipe now. Or, you can be like me, and brew it around the middle of March and hope for the best. Sure, that will be cutting it close. But I’ll still have brewed it.

This recipe comes courtesy of Jeff Fortney. And as per his instructions, I’ve also included the low gravity session British Bitter recipe he plans to use to generate a sufficient yeast cell count for the Rockit Cup Imperial Stout. Jeff notes: “If you have a stir plate, 2 vials in a 1.0 liter starter should be sufficient. Also I highly recommend proper oxygenation. (Something like 30 seconds of direct inject through a diffusion stone) immediately at pitching the yeast.”

April Rockit Cup: Imperial Stout
Calculated for 5 gallons @ 70% efficiency; if your mash tun cannot hold 20 lbs. of grain, then cut the recipe in half and brew 2.5 gallons.
OG: 1.100
FG: ~1.020
IBU: 87.5
Color: 91.5
ABV: 10.5%

10 lbs. British Pale Malt
4 lbs. White Wheat
2 lbs. British Chocolate Malt (Fawcett or Simpsons)
2 lbs. British Roasted Barley (Fawcett or Simpsons)
1 lb. Crisp Crystal 77L
1 lb. Dingemanns Special B (or Simpsons Extra Dark Crystal)

Mash @ 150˚ F for 75 minutes. Add half of the Chocolate Malt and Roasted Barley at the beginning of the mash as normal. Add the other half with 2 minutes left in the mash, prior to sparge.

60 minute boil

1.8 oz. Northern Brewer @ 60 minutes
1 oz. Northern Brewer @ 30 minutes
1 oz. EKG @ 15 minutes
1 oz. Northern Brewer @ 5 minutes
1 oz. EKG @ 0 minutes
1.2 oz. Northern Brewer dry hop

WLP007 Dry English Ale

Ferment @ 66° F; do not let this beer ever get above 68° F; start at 60-62° F and keep the temperature controlled until after high krausen

Carbonate to 2.3 volumes

And the low gravity session British Bitter recipe:

April Rockit Cup No Name Best Bitter
O.G. 1.044 @ 70% efficiency
F.G. 1.012
IBU 37.2
Color: 12
ABV: 4.2%

7 lbs. British Pale Malt
¾ lb. Weyermann Caramunich I
½ lb. Flaked Maize
½ lb. Amber Malt
2 oz. Briess Chocolate Malt

1 oz. Challenger @ 60 minutes
½ oz. EKG @ 15 minutes
½ oz. EKG @ 3 minutes

Mash at 156˚ F for 60 minutes

WLP007 Dry English Ale

Ferment @ 66° F

Carbonate to 2.1 volumes

Beware the Ides of March!

Friday, November 29, 2013

581. New Glarus Black Top Black IPA

More New Glarus. Which is always special. And as with the last large influx of New Glarus beers, I have Veronica to thank. Which I do. Profusely. We’ll add this one to an ever-growing list that includes Cherry Stout, Staghorn Octoberfest, Saison, Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale. Here’s to former students that reward me with beer.

Black Top pours a crystal clear chocolate brown with a creamy eggshell head that has excellent retention; there are also garnet highlights from the light through the glass. In the nose, there is evergreen and the fresh, bright pine sap of newly-cut Douglass fir, followed by a hint of creamy roast and bread crust. Flavors open with chocolate, brown sugar, and toast before the pine and evergreen assert themselves in the middle. There are also hints of roastiness, licorice, and molasses in the middle and onto into the finish, which features a lingering spicy resin bitterness along with a soft twang from the roast malt that leaves an almost minty feel on the back of the throat. The carbonation is bright but gentle; it rounds the beer on the tongue, and carries the roast malt flavor from the middle into the finish. The citrus in the nose that the first couple of bottles had has fallen by the wayside, but I think I like it better without it: the evergreen, roast, and dark sugar flavors play well off one-another, creating a delightful beer just short of aggressive. This is one of the more approachable and enjoyable Black IPAs I’ve had—I would happily drink this all evening long. The bitterness is prominent enough to clean the palate with each sip, and yet still allows the myriad of other flavors to play across the profile of the beer. Excellent job, New Glarus.

From the bottle: “We invite you to discover this newest beer style Black IPA. Political debate rages over the origins of this jet black beer as both coasts feel they deserve credit. Our Black Top is a pleasant road connecting Villages and Communities statewide on a ride of Black IPA discovery. Expect this beer to pour a hop forward jet black brimming with aromatic bitterness. Brewmaster Dan skillfully weaves molasses and chocolate malt undertones with a soaring rush of clean citrus and pine hop notes, to deliver a drinkable Black IPA. Savor Black Top, like Wisconsin’s miles of licorice ribbons of ink that meander through armies of corn and bovine fields. Enjoy the journey on a road less traveled.”

ABV: 6.9%

Oh, Robert Frost.


Saison w/ Spelt Brewday

Since I liked the last version of this, I’ve been thinking about trying it again, but figured that I would wait until early next year to get started. Then Wyeast had to go and release another saison yeast—Wyeast 3726-PC Farmhouse Ale—as one of their seasonal Private Collection options. Consider that dice cast. And the yeast was nice and fresh too: that smack pack blew up like an offhand comment by Sarah Palin. Y’all know the routine: consider this my early X-mas gift to myself.

162. Saison w/Spelt
6 lbs. MFB Pilsener
4 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
1 lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 152° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 6 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.068
Batch sparge @ 163° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 ¼ gallons @ 1.024

Collected 6 ½ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (90 minutes), & added:
w/90 to go: 1 ½ oz. Cluster leaf 7.6% AA

w/20 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

w/10 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Goldings leaf 2.9% AA

w/0 to go: 1 oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

Let stand for 15 minutes, chilled, & pitched Wyeast 3726 Farmhouse

Primary: 11/29/2013
Secondary: ; dry hop w/ 1 ½ oz. Styrian Golding leaf 2.9% AA

OG: 1.052

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brett-tastic Brewday

I’m running out of superlatives to describe all the Brettanomyces beers I’ve been making. Which is a good thing (I think), although since more are on the horizon, who knows? Chalk it up to experience and a basement that needs filling.

161. Brett-tastic
4 lbs. MFB Pale
4 lbs. Best Malz Spelt
3 lbs. MFB Special Aromatic
½ lb. Weyermann Acidulated

Mash @ 151° F for 120 minutes w/ 3 ½ gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 2 ¼ gallons @ 1.082
Batch sparge @ 168° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.030

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 ½ oz. EKG 5.41% AA

w/5 to go: 1 oz. EKG 5.41% AA

Let stand for 10 minutes, chilled, and pitched slurry from 145b. (100/ECY04)

Primary: 11/27/2013

OG: 1.052

Tasting Notes:

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rockit Cup Mini-Cask Fest Brewday

As promised, my Rockit Cup beer for the December Mini-Cask Fest is the December 2012 Northern English Brown, the one Rockit Cup beer I didn’t make. Check that one off my to do list. After this, it will be back to finishing out all of the other Brettanomyces projects I have cluttering the house, and then on to next year’s focal style: for 2014, saison is the beer of the year.

160. December 2012 Rockit Cup: Northern English Brown
8 lbs. Maris Otter
12 oz. Caravienne
12 oz. Special Roast
4 oz. Chocolate
4 oz. Pale Chocolate

Mash at 154˚ F for 60 minutes w/ 3 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected almost 2 gallons @ 1.084
Batch sparge @ 165° F for 20 minutes w/ 4 gallons RO water; collected 4 gallons @ 1.026

Collected 6 gallons; topped off to 7 gallons, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
FWH: ½ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

w/60 to go: ¾ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

w/ 10 to go: ¾ oz. EKG leaf 5.41% AA

Chilled, racked to carboy, and pitched Wyeast 1098 British Ale

Primary: 11/20/2013 @ 70˚ F

OG: 1.050

Tasting Notes:

Friday, November 15, 2013

580. Modern Times Lomaland

This beer is courtesy Brian Gallow, who sent me a text message asking if I was interested in splitting a couple of four-packs of Modern Times. To which I obviously said yes, although it was a tougher decision than you may have thought. For while I love the Mad Fermentationist (for information like this), I am annoyed and disgusted by the gratuitous use of “cock-staggeringly” in Modern Times’ advertising prose. Which started pretty much right out the gate. Still, they do offer “open source” brewing, which means all their recipes are open and available to the public. But no matter how cool the cool things are, the repulsion keeps creeping back in. I guess I will have to find some way to live with myself. I still feel dirty. 

Lomaland pours a crystal clear straw—look at that clarity in the picture—with a fluffy white head that offers moderate staying power. The nose is a mix of sweet candy Pils and corn; there are earthy hints of phenol pepperiness mixed with a perfume-y juicy Belgian yeast character and just a dash of Noble hop bitterness lingering in the background. Flavors start dry and crackery, although there is a slight sweetness, almost like you left a saltine cracker on your tongue and the acid in your mouth started converting the starches to sugars. The middle is peppery phenols and light hop bitterness; there is also some slight scratchy graininess on the tongue as the beer heads towards the finish via the carbonation, and there is also a bit of the corn grittiness that sits on the back of the tongue in the finish along with the hop bitterness. While flavors are bright, there is some soft roundness in the mouthfeel of the beer itself even with the dryness and attenuation—that’s the flaked wheat and corn talking—specifically in the front, although the sharp, clean carbonation hides the softness. This is a good beer, albeit a bit rough on the palate. I’m guessing, though, that’s the “rustic” referred to on the label—it is a bit outside the “classic” vision of a saison invoked by the likes of Saison Dupont, Fantôme, or even Ommegang Hennepin, but it is certainly in line with the burgeoning American farmhouse saison that is all the rage with the kids these days. Still, approachable and very drinkable, even with the poorly chosen verbiage to describe the brewery as a whole.

From the can: “Lomaland is an earthy, rustic Belgian-style farmhouse ale that’s both complex and quaffable. It smells like hay, pepper, and friendly sunshine. Its dry, cracker-like body and lightly-hoppy finish make it a beautiful compliment to food. We named Lomaland after the brilliantly crazy utopian community that was the first settlement built in Point Loma, the San Diego neighborhood where our Fermentorium is located.”

ABV: 5.5%
IBU: 30
FG: 1.006


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Brett Experiment II, part 1: Tasting Starters

I am finally getting around to stepping up the first four yeasts for The Great Brett Experiment II. I know, I know: pathetic. My only real excuse is the lack of carboy space in my house—I’ve tried to draw the line at fourteen three gallon carboys, but you know, some lines in the sand are meant to be crossed. Anyway, I used 375 g. of DME in 1.2 gallons of water, and split it into 4 half gallon growlers for a 1.030 OG. After sanitizing the mason jars, I poured myself a small sample of the starter fluid for tasting purposes prior to swirling the yeast into suspension and adding it to the growler.

EBY002: The nose is musty candy with slight hints of earth and mineral; there is also some of the stale cracker and biscuit I associate with B. bruxellensis. Flavors are subdued as well; slight tartness, a touch of sweetness, and low levels of gaminess. Maybe some grape and low levels of fruit in the background. Still, it tastes pretty watery.

EBY005: Here the nose is candy, horse blanket, and goat-y. Maybe some dirty feet as well. How do I get the candy in relation to the other aromas? Hard work, my friends. But I do it for you. Flavors are candy and a touch of the dirty band-aid with hints of lacquer and solvent. The nose in this one has more going on than 002, and the flavors have a wider range, although the body is about equally watery.

EBY008: So this one did have a few mold spots that initially grew in the starter before the yeast took off. Still, I’m game. The nose is sulfur and cooked vegetables, plus a touch of baby diaper. All are low, but there. There are some soft fruit flavors mixed with candy—grape and possibly citrus—but this followed by oxidized paper and dirty feet, giving it something of the flavor equivalent of the hot garbage smell found in a sour mash via Lactobaccillus. I do hope this one gets better, or at least more interesting.

EBY009: Probably the best of the lot at this point: candy, tropical fruit, and citrus/citric tartness. There is some cereal and cracker—another variant of the smell I associate with B. bruxellensis—but this one ends up tasting a little like Fruity Pebbles with a hint of lingering spent grain flavor. There is some low-level acidity emerging as well.

I’m hoping all the candy flavors aren’t from unfermented DME; the volume on these was too low for a gravity reading, so I’ll have to wait for the next round of starters to check. You know, more of the hurry up and wait. Boom bow bing, you heard the gunplay


579. TXOPINONDO Sagarnoa

TXOPINONDO is a traditional Basque cidery in Ascain, France. I picked this up because recently I’ve been reminiscing about the dry French ciders I used to buy when I lived in Buffalo, and I was hoping this would live up those memories. It did, and then some. And aged in barrels, too? You had me at French.

Sagarnoa pours a slightly hazy straw with no head (it is not carbonated); the cider in the picture is from the second half of the bottle, so some of the yeast was stirred up, giving it a bit more haze than the initial pour. The nose has quite a bit going on; the initial smell is tart and sharp, followed by an underlying earthy and musty character. Both sides accentuate the apple, albeit in slightly different ways: the initial tartness comes across more as yeast derived, with the crisp, Granny Smith-like apple sour tang coming in underneath that, while the earthy aromatics strike me as apple derived, with the musty dry character reminiscent of classic dry French ciders. Flavors mirror the nose, opening with soft apple before moving into a mineral-ly lactic tartness that brings beads of sweat to my cheeks; this is followed by dry, earthy apple and pear flavors mixed with faint soft kisses of apple sweetness. There is a slight tannic skin bite in the lead into the finish, followed by bright citric tartness combined with a return of the initial mineral tartness and a slight gritty chalkiness on the tongue. The body is dry and clean, with the tartness standing in for the crispness usually provided by carbonation. This is a delightful and nuanced cider. It reminds me of previous French ciders I’ve had—dry, earthy, and crisp—although it does have more yeast presence in the flavor profile than more traditional French ciders, which I’ll admit to liking. This is also certainly nothing like the traditional American ciders of the last decade—think sweet, think cloying, think uninteresting—although this may be something akin to the newest run of Americanciders that Jeff Alworth has been writing about recently. Sadly, Dayton is not on the cutting edge of cider innovation. Anyone want to help me change that?

From the Txopinondo website: “Sagarno (literally apple wine) made in Txopinondo is a fermented beverage made ​​from apples, matured on lees in barrels for a minimum of six months, refreshing and fruity, served cold (approx. 53° F) with grilled fish or meat. We produce it according to an ancient and traditional method from local and elsewhere apples.”

ABV: 6%


Saturday, November 9, 2013

SODZ Beer for [Women] Beer Judging

Today started out rather poorly. A certain unnamed someone (Jake Browning) offered to drive. Since I normally drive, I was quick to take advantage of his offer. Sadly, Jake forgot to heed Sarah’s advice and fill the tank with gas. I know, I know. That’s what a gas gauge is for, right? But said gauge is broken: as we coasted to a stop on the side of the freeway, it still read a quarter tank. Classy. You what is pretty low on my list of fun Saturday morning activities? Walking down I-70 at 8 a.m. in mid-40° F temperatures.

So after walking to the next exit, finding a gas can and walking back to the car (oh yes, the first gas station didn’t carry gas cans—classy touch, no?), we filled up the car, got some McDonald’s for breakfast, and rolled on to Zanesville. Surprisingly, we arrived right as judging started. I’m not sure how with an hour delay we still made it on time. It probably has something to do with the 100+ mph driving to make up lost time. I just imagined we were re-living a scene from Cannonball Run—the original film, not the hack Cannonball Run II. And yes, I expect you all to know the difference. Although in terms of rugged manly looks, Jake Browning is no Burt Reynolds—he’s more a Bizarro Thomas Magnum doppelganger (check out the shot of Magnum hosing himself off; that’s my man Browning’s style). But I digress.

In the morning I judged Belgian and French, followed by Dark Lagers in the afternoon. Easy flights, and a well run competition. After the competition, we sampled a couple of the fine products at Weasel Boy, and then Nate Cornett joined us for the ride home, which included stops at Buckeye Lake and Seventh Son.

And to reiterate: I stand by my complaint from 2011 regarding the title of the competition. Hence my modification of the name. Casual sexism. Results are posted here.