Monday, January 21, 2013

Rockit Cup Grinder’s Mild Brewday

Time to punch my Rockit Cup ticket for the month, which also coincides with my first brew of the year. Hooray coincidences! Hopefully there will be some new people who brewed this at the upcoming DRAFT meeting. If not, then damn them all to hell. No, seriously—I mean it.

137. Rockit Cup Grinder’s Mild
6 lbs. Maris Otter
½ lb. Torrified Red Wheat
¼ lb. rolled oats
¼ lb. Muntons Dark Crystal 150° L
2 oz. Crisp Pale Chocolate
1 ½ oz. Simpsons Roasted Barley

Mash @ 155° F for 60 minutes w/ 2 ½ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 1 ½ gallons @ 1.064
Batch sparge @ 161° F for 20 minutes w/ 3 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 3 gallons @ 1.016

Collected 4 ½ gallons; topped off with 2 gallons RO water, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 oz. East Kent Golding leaf 4.6% AA
½ oz. Sonnet Golding leaf 4.1% AA

w/5 to go: 4 oz. dark brown sugar

Chilled, split into two 3 gallon carboys, and pitched:
137a. Wyeast 1968 London ESB
Brewed: 1/21/2013
Secondary: skipped
Bottled: 2/3/2013 w/ 1.0 oz. Turbinado cane sugar

OG: 1.034 @ 70° F; dropped to 66° F before fermentation took off
FG: 1.008

137b. Wyeast 1728 Scottish
Brewed: 1/21/2013
Secondary: skipped
Bottled: 2/3/2013 w/ 1.0 oz. Turbinado cane sugar

OG: 1.034 @ 70° F; dropped to 66° F before fermentation took off
FG: 1.008

Tasting Notes: This beer was moderate to OK; I drank it, but never bothered to take notes, as it wasn’t as good as other mild recipes I’ve made in the past. Thus, we’ll be chalking this one up to “experience,” and leaving it at that. I did learn via this beer that Wyeast 1728 Scottish is a poor, poor substitute for White Labs 028 Edinburgh. Yes, I know they are supposed to be equivalents, but in this case, the White Labs version far out-performs the 1728. I really felt let down by 1728.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

554. Yazoo Hop Project Ale

This beer tastes like victory. I won this six-pack from my friend Bill after we bet on the 2010 Oregon/Tennessee game, which the Ducks won 48-13 in Knoxville. Yes, it has taken a while to pay off this bet. The other interesting caveat of the bet: we determined that pitting Oregon beer against Tennessee beer offered an unfair advantage to Bill, so if I lost he agreed to let me pay him with Ohio beer—both of us agreed that was a more evenly balanced bet. Plus, getting a six-pack of Black Butte Porter would be rough in either Dayton or Knoxville. This is not our first time trying Yazoo beers, although this six-pack is certainly fresher than the last ones we tried. Thus, as we surmised, our drinking experience was much more enjoyable this time around. Oh, and Yazoo Brewing Company is in Nashville, TN. This is also our first beer from Tennessee, which somehow I find shocking.

Hop Project IPA pours a dull luxurious copper with a thick mousse-y white head that laces the glass. In the nose we found caramel, spicy hoppiness—there was mostly spice, but behind that there was a bit of pine—and a bit of bright creaminess. I initially suspected Centennial—the nose has that slight sour tang of Centennial—but there is little to no citrus in the body, and instead comes across more like Chinook or Columbus. Flavors follow the nose quite closely, although there is a good amount of hop bitterness throughout the profile of the beer. Thus, it started out with soft bread dough on the malt side and lighter hop bitterness in the front that gave way to a spicy more aggressive bitterness in the middle, which carried on into the finish. The middle was also malty, with a rounded malt character consisting of caramel and candy with a touch of creaminess. There is a slight shift towards pine in the finish, and an enjoyable lingering bitterness. Carbonation is medium and helps build a rounded, creamier mouthfeel. The body might be a bit sticky, specifically the middle, but the bitter finish is nice, even if it is a tad sharp. We had a pint of this in Knoxville before picking up our winning six-pack, and it is even better on tap than out of the bottle. There is one downside I feel compelled to mention: I love the idea of being able to look up the specific hop blend for the different batches, but as you can see from the above picture, the bottled-on date isn’t as legible as it needs to be to be able to determine the date it was bottled (although, ahem, there might be a problem with this as well—see below). Such a nefarious foil to an otherwise masterful plan! And that was the best one in the six-pack.

From the six-pack holder: “In the spirit of experimentation, every batch of out Hop Project IPA is brewed with a different blend of spicy, citrusy hops. It’s a hophead’s dream, a super hoppy beer that never gets boring! To see what hops we used in this batch, check the bottled-on date and visit our blog,”

I couldn’t find the hop listings for different batches on either their website or their blog, but since the bottled on date was also illegible, this merely makes it the perfect storm of obfuscation. I guess it is an awesome idea only until someone tries to look up any of the information. Sorry for the snark, but I was disappointed. I sent them an e-mail regarding this, but I have yet to hear back.

ABV: 5.7%
IBU: 75 - ??? (and yes, it seriously says that on the website)


Saturday, January 19, 2013

AHA Club Only Competition: Un-Session Beer Judging

This was one of the American Homebrew Association’s Club Only Competitions, and the theme was Un-Session Beers. While I’m not quite sure what that means, I’m always happy to help out Frank Barickman when he needs extra judges. The competition was held at Barley Hopsters in Delaware, Ohio, and I judged a flight of Belgian beers (Category 16, mainly Belgian Specialty Ales, and one lone Pilsener) with Jeff Lewis from SODZ. We had a pleasant time, and got yelled at Frank for judging too slow.
Winning beer in our flight was a Saison aged for six months on chardonnay-soaked oak; it was a delicous beer with a lot of intangibles that made the beer stand out—the oak and white wine characteristics were subtle and well-balanced, and the Belgian yeast character brought the beer together nicely. I might have liked a bit more attenuation in the body, but still a solid beer. I’a picky bastard when it comes to saisons. There were several other well-made beers in the flight; two, however, took themselves of competition by entering themselves as 16E. but providing no actual information as to what they were. Gordon said it was appropriate and acceptable to make fun of them in the Overall Impression section of the scoresheet, which I appreciated. Afterall, to quote the BJCP Style Guidelines for 16E. Belgian Specialty Ale, The judges must understand the brewer’s intent in order to properly judge an entry in this category. THE BREWER MUST SPECIFY EITHER THE BEER BEING CLONED, THE NEW STYLE BEING PRODUCED OR THE SPECIAL INGREDIENTS OR PROCESSES USED(23). The key word here being understand: if you don’t understand intention, it is impossible to judge in any practical manner. I do like the all-caps yelling in the second sentence—which is the way it appears in the style guidelines—as it mirrors my feelings everytime I judge this category and people enter beers without any type of description or information to identify the beer (my favorite 16E. entry of all time: the entire description of the beer was orange.No style descriptions or any of the other potential details, just orange”).
After we finished judging and the BOS was completed (results are posted here), we all sampled some of the beers available at Barley Hopsters, both on tap and cold out of the case. A nice time, and I do hope to have a reason to return.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

553. Swamp Head Batch 300 Tripel

I warned you. After all, how long did you think I could continue to sit on this liquid gold? While we’re saving the Swamp Head/Cigar City Roosevelt American Barley Wine we also picked up for later (I know—what a tease, right?), this is tonight’s lucky victim. It is not our first beer from Swamp Head Brewing, but it is the first we’ve condescended to write about. How’s that for pompous irreverence?

Batch 300 pours a slightly hazy gold with a profuse white rocky head; the nose is a mix of spicy phenolic yeast and fruit, specifically banana, along with a fair amount of doughy wheat and Belgian candy. Jeff calls it a dull perfume, which I think is an apt description—it is both perfume-y and spritzy in the nose. Flavors start with a slightly spicy wheat and Belgian candy that has a touch of gumminess; at the start, there was a fair amount of bubblegum yeast flavor, but it quickly bled off. The middle is creamy with a slight chewiness, and the finish is dry with a bitter tang. The bright carbonation makes the beer dance on the tongue, and helps foreground the delicate aromatics. At the same time, the creamy, rounded flavors, sit pleasantly on the tongue. The intangibles are off the chart—malt character, yeast character, Belgian character—and all work to delicate and delicious effect. My only real critique is that the body could be a bit drier to better fit classic examples of the style, but it is certainly drier and cleaner than most of the other American tripels we’ve tried. But besides a bit more attenuation, this is a well-made and enjoyable beer—solid within the style, and also elicious in its own right. I knew I should have bought a second bottle so I could have more of it later.

ABV: 7.0%


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2013: Small is the New Big

My beer-related hope for 2013: small becomes the new big. It is about time for American craft brewing to abandon the “bigger is better” model and stop trying to offer imperial versions of every type of beer under the sun. You know what a lot of residual sugar, a big sticky body, and alcohol covers over? Subtlety. Complexity. Flaws in the beer. Take your pick. This model, more than anything else, contributes to the Grand Canyon Effect in beer nerd circles: by making beer consumption the touristic equivalent of a novelty t-shirt, the goal is more about laying claim to having tried a particular beer than engaging the quality or merit of the beer itself. To quote my man György Lukács, it’s just more of that false consciousness stuff. I know, I know, the complicity. Which hurts. And even more disheartening: big beer fetishization is merely the illogical flipside of the domestic brewing most beer nerds so avidly rant and rail against. The only difference is that beer nerds are clamoring to get these beers while simultaneously proclaiming their perfection. I’d enjoy the irony, but it’s not ironic—it’s just stupid. Let’s get back to the craft in craft beer.

While I know better than to hold my breath, the small things give me hope. This year will see the second annual Session Beer Day on April 7th (see Lew Bryson’s The Session Beer Project for more). And I expect all of you out there to do your part as well. Ask for small beers. Drink small beers. Enjoy small beers. And, if you can, make small beers. I’m looking at you, McElfresh. Small things can come true. Here’s to the new big!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Swamp Head Brewery

After the speed visit to Cigar City, we got to hang in Gainesville for several days and relish all that it had to offer. And this included sampling the the wares of new addition to town Swamp Head Brewery. Sure, Swamp Head was around prior to our arrival, but it wasn’t here the last time we were in town (when I convinced a certain someone to abandon Gainesville for Dayton), so we’re treating it as brand spanking new. Historical revisionism is always like this: arbitrary and subjective. Plus, since I miss Gainesville, I get to be nostalgic and no one can make fun of me.

Our first taste of Swamp Head actually came when we were out on the town; we had the Big Nose IPA on tap a couple of times prior to our visit to the brewery itself. And since their saison has gained some online traction, I was excited to sample it, since I hadn’t seen it during our earlier perambulations. Sadly, that dream was not to be fulfilled, for while they had recently brewed the Saison du Swamp, it wasn’t yet on tap at the Wetlands, their tasting room. Trust me, I asked. And snooped around, as later pictures will attest. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Elli and I met Anne, Elli’s sister, at the brewery for a drink or two. The taproom is narrow and deep, and there are several small tables located next to the brewery that are located by open roll-up doors. Thus we went for the almost outside seating. One nice thing about Florida in the winter: outdoor seating is pleasant and enjoyable. Take that crappy Ohio winters! I went for Cottonmouth, their Belgian wheat beer, while Elli went for Stump Knocker, their APA. I think Anne went for the Big Nose, but I’m not certain; you can look at the picture and try and sort out the colors. We all ended up passing around and tasting all of them anyway, so not like it makes much of a difference. All were good; the Cottonmouth still tasted a little too much like an American Wheat to me—the Belgian yeast wasn’t doing enough to cover over the wheat gumminess. But I persevered and finished it. Can you taste the dedication?

We also got to walk around the corner and look at the brewing equipment. A lot of pretty copper. They also has a small enclosed room that contained several barrels and a couple of kegs—I know, since the room had a nice glass window I could take a picture through. If you are reading this, you’re already probably something of a beer voyeur, so don’t look askance at me. I visit breweries to examine how things are set up and organized—what’s your excuse? The beer? Please. After we finished our first round, we grabbed a pint of their Midnight Oil to sample, and I bought a 750 ml bottle of Batch 300, their Belgian Tripel, to take home with me. Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it soon enough. The coffee stout was roasty and clean; the coffee had none of that artificial coffee flavor you find in many beers, which was a distinct pleasure.

I also took the opportunity to visit the restroom, which since it was located back in the brewery, meant I took small license in poking about on the way. It was during this excursion that I found several firkins of Saison du Swamp with various Brettanomyces strains listed in blue painter’s tape. I also got caught by Dan Wade, one of the brewers, taking pictures of those said firkins, which led to a quick albeit very pleasant conversation, during which I found out that I would not be getting any of the Saison du Swamp during this visit to Gainesville. The horror! At least I got it straight from his mouth. And this also gives us a reason—not that we actually need one—to return to Gainesville in the near future. I want to hang out more at the Wetlands!  


Friday, January 4, 2013

Cigar City Brewing

Travelling leads to opportunity. Sometimes, however, that opportunity can only be slightly indulged; that, my friends, is today’s lesson. Today’s trip was from Bonita Springs to Gainesville; along the way, we decided to stop at Cigar City for a quick dose of whatever they had to offer. Like they could let us down.

Since there was more driving ahead of us, we went for a couple of the samplers. The first one was all lighter hoppy beers: Invasion Pale Ale, Itsa Pale Ale, Stine’s Hoppy Wheat, and Mosiac IPA. Of the four, Itsa Pale Ale really stood out for the combination of malt and hop flavor; the others were good, but nothing revolutionary on our palates. The Mosiac IPA was less exciting than we expected—the Nugget parentage seemed more prominent than the Simcoe, which was the inverse of most descriptions.

Our second sampler had less vision: it was a mish-mash of beers we wanted to try, and included Tony Jannus Pale Ale, White Oak Jai Alai, Neal’s Black Saison, and Kalevipoeg Baltic Porter. The White Oak Jai Alai was mainly to get some more, since it is so delicious and we have so few opportunities to drink it, while the Tony Jannus was to round out tasting all the hopy beers. I chose Neal’s Black Saison (big surprise, I know) and Elli picked Kalevipoeg Baltic Porter. The fruity yeast character and the dark malt clashed in the saison—it needed better balance and to choose a direction rather that trying to do everything. The baltic porter was good, but needed a cleaner, more lager-like finish. Still, all were enjoyable.

On the way out the door, we grabbed a couple of 750s and a growler of the Itsa Pale Ale to take with us, and headed for Gainesville. All told, we were at Cigar City for a little under an hour. While more time would have been nice, there is always next time. Plus, good times were waiting in Gainesville.