Tuesday, April 23, 2013

562. Victory Swing

A session saison made for easy, enjoyable drinking? I think I’ve got some of that summer love thing going on for Victory right now. Or, as Art puts it in Justified, I’ve got a little bit of a “marshal stiffy” for Victory Swing. I know, I know. But that was a joke that needed making. Scarred or not, you’ll live. Previously from Victory: Saison du Buff Trifecta, Summer LoveHeadwaters Pale AleYakima Twilight (now Yakima Glory), plus Prima Pils, Baltic Thunder, HopDevil, and WildDevil.

Swing pours a faint, slightly hazy straw with a meringue-like white head that carries solid staying power and laces the glass in nice rings. The beer is active in the glass—lots of small tight bubbles streaming up the inside of the glass, making for a pretty visual. Aromas open with cracker mixed with hints of Pilsner malt sweetness; there are floral and citrus fruit yeast esters that smell similar to 3711, although I am not completely convinced that this actually is 3711. As well, I get a touch of lurking hop bitterness accompanied by the light mineral mintiness I find in Styrian Goldings. All in all, a complex, delicate, and entrancing aromatic performance. Flavors follow suit and are equally engaging, starting with cracker malt, floral esters, and a lemon-y mintiness in the front; the clean mineral bitterness comes to the forefront in the middle: light, bright, and clean into the finish. The body is light and dry while the carbonation is bright and lively; it cleans the palate and sets up the gentle mineral bitterness and slight pepper bite of the finish. There is also a slight creaminess in the mouthfeel that suggests oats or another similar adjunct to build some residual body to help compensate for the attenuative yeast; while I do love a dry saison, here the contribution balances the beer on the tongue by helping round and transition between the different elements of the beer: the dry cracker body, the mineral bitterness, and the bright carbonation. And this is a damn fine beer for this kind of attention to detail. While it does lose a bit of its snap as the carbonation bleeds off in the last couple of sips, it is an excellent example of the fluidity and possibility of saison as a style. And as a session beer, this beer rocks as well—it is another example of American craft brewing expanding the palates of craft beer drinkers beyond the “bigger is better” mantra that currently holds sway in several circles. So thank you, Victory, for the beer. And for the hope. Craft brewing needs more beers like this.

From the bottle: “Swing. It’s a lively jazz rhythm, a vigorous
sway, a change of view or even a roll in the proverbial hay. Now, it also means the welcome jolt of joy you’ll experience upon your first sip of this session saison. Bracing but benign, this Belgian-style ale enlivens any experience with a spicy, aromatic start, citrus snap and fresh finish. Swing into spring with taste!”

ABV: 4.5%


Sunday, April 21, 2013

AHA NHC Zanesville 2013 Beer Judging

Ah, beer judging. Promise me you’ll never let me down. This weekend featured the opening round of the American Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition in Zanesville, OH. Sadly, my beers didn’t make it here—they ended up in Milwaukie. Oh well. At least I got them entered. Judging was held at Weasel Boy Brewing. The good thing about Weasel Boy Brewing is that it has nice spaces for judging. And since there was lots of beer to judge, Jeff Fortney and I got a room at the luxurious and fanciful Baymont. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Saturday morning started early. I mean real early. On the road at 6:15 am to be in Zanesville by 9:00 am. Can you feel the dedication, dear reader? Once the coffee kicked in, though, things got better, especially since I was to be judging 16. Belgian and French Ales in the morning, followed by 17. Sour Ales in the afternoon. Perfect judging selections as far as I am concerned. The only downside to the morning session was that none of the good beers came my way. While I sampled several well-made beers, nothing really stood out: the two beers we passed along to the mini-BOS got booted right off the bat, much as I suspected they would. Still, an enjoyable set of beers. After a quick lunch, it was on to 17. Sour Ales. Again, another pleasant round of beers. I got to try several different cherry lambics, which was nice, but the best beer of the lot was an unblended lambic (17D) that had nice tartness and complexity mixed with a fresh oak vanilla oak bite. Sadly, the judges for the mini-BOS put it in third. But it is still moving on the final round, so I won’t complain. Much.

My new insight from today’s judging: Gordon Strong might be on to something when he argues that brettanomyces doesn’t belong in saisons. While I’m not yet fully convinced, between the 16E and 17D & E beers that I tried today, too many of the saisons with brettanomyces tasted more like lambics than saisons: while the flavors were interesting, they had lost the characteristics that would make them saisons. While I do still think that there is space for a saison with brettanomyces, to be successful it will need to maintain hop bitterness to accompany the dryness and tartness. Because without that—as with the samples I tried today—the dryness and tartness come across more like a lambic/gueuze than a saison. The two flights back to back highlighted this quite well.

After we finished judging, Fortney and I headed to the Baymont for a quick nap before dinner. After all, a day of beer judging + an early early morning = nap time. You try that math. By the time we got back, Weasel Boy had started to swing: the new flavor of the evening was ironic mustaches and patchouli. After dinner and doling out the awards for the day, Jeff and I did our best to introduce several new people to the appropriately patented and trademarked “Worst In Show” beer drinking game (the dump bucket was for the “Worst In Show” winners not even worth drinking). After a couple of rounds, we headed back over towards the band and the influx of ironic mustaches. More discussion was had, which led to the following snarky gem of the evening comes courtesy Frank Barickman. We were discussion IPAs, and someone mentioned Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Frank’s response: “90 Minute IPA? Guys that like that are the guys who trade beer on RateBeer.” I offered a high five for that one. Not surprisingly, it continued to go downhill from there. No wings, though.

The Sunday morning flight was quick and easy: 1. Light Lager. I ended up judging with Fortney, which made the whole process run even smoother. After all, once you drink beer with some one for several years, you start to pick up on the way they will respond to beers. So after rolling through our section of the flight and passing along our beers to the mini-BOS (nice beer, Phil), it was time to hit the road and roll for home. We did stop in Columbus for brunch at the Northstar Café. Who can resist the sweet siren song of brunch? Not this guy. And since I was driving, neither could Fortney.

(4/20 & 21/2013)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

June Rockit Cup: Rye Pale Ale

Rockit Cup: the newest sensation sweeping the nation. Want to be involved? Want your chance to sit at the table jam-packed full of beers? All you need to do is brew! June’s recipe is courtesy Travis Lewis, winner of the most recent Rockit Cup fiasco.

June Rockit Cup: Rye Pale Ale
OG: 1.052 @ 70%
FG: 1.012
IBU: 42
Color: 7 SRM
ABV: 5.2 %

7 ½ lbs. Briess 2-row
2 lbs. Briess Rye
¾ lb. Briess Caramel 20L
¼ lb. Briess Carapils
¼ lb. White Wheat

Mash at 150˚ F for 60 minutes

60 minute boil

½ oz. Columbus @ 45 minutes
½ oz. Cascade @ 30 minutes
1 oz. Cascade @ 10 minutes
1 oz. Columbus @ 5 minutes
½ oz. Cascade dry hop
1 ½ oz. Columbus dry hop

White Labs 001 California Ale

Ferment @ 67.0° F

Carbonate to 2.0 volume

Let the odyssey begin!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Yellow Springs Brewery Grand Opening

Finally. Today was the day Yellow Springs Brewery was going to officially start crafting truth to people’s mouth. And, not surprisingly, I volunteered to help. I pitched in two weeks ago for the soft opening for locals, which was crazy nuts. So I was expecting more of the same today. Let’s just say it: it got brought. Big time. From the official opening at 1:00 pm to almost 8:30 pm, there was a solid line of people waiting to be served—sometimes running as many as 20 deep out the door. Sure, at times that line became almost manageable—almost—but mainly it was the beast that needed constant care, vigilance, and attention. I haven’t had to be that helpful, well, umm, ever, and I was a bartender for five years. Maybe this will help provide perspective: we sold out of growlers.

Doors were at 1:00 pm; the first indication of the coming day was the people milling around in the parking lot when Jeff Fortney and I arrived about 12:15. Since we walked straight in, some tried to follow suit. And got denied. Once we got inside and everyone arrived, Jeffrey and Lisa ran everyone through the roles they would be playing. I was told I would taking orders and would be the face greeting them—hence my aforementioned description of the line that was my day-long nemesis. Time for that game face! In addition to the five regular beers on tap, there were also five special beers that would be tapped over the course of the day. Being that I am a wise man, I took the brief respite before the doors opened for business to try the Captain Stardust, since I knew would disappear quickly once it went up. I also tried the Smoked Brown Ale, which I’ve been harassing Jeffery to make since the last time he made it. About time, Jeffrey! Hey, you know what they say about patience, right?

Once the doors opened the tasting room was inundated with people. Everyone figured out their roles, and some semblance of détente was established, aided mainly by drafting those who showed up to work later into earlier service. Yes, it was sheer pandemonium. Which, if you have worked in the service industry before, you always come to expect. Although never quite to this degree. The question I answered the most: “when is Captain Stardust/ English Dark Mild/ German-style Hefeweizen/ Smoked Brown Ale going to be tapped?” The good thing about not being in charge: deferral is always an acceptable answer. When it was time to actually announce the tapping of one of selections, Jeffrey told me to do it using my “teacher” voice. Which I took as license to be loud. Very very loud. After all, I will admit to a certain joy in projecting my voice over that of a loud and boisterous room full of beer drinkers. Especially when that announcement brings cheers.

Besides the tapping announcements, though, most of the rest of the afternoon and evening is a blur. I recall the shock of realizing it was already 6:00 pm, and the brief respite where I wolfed down some fish tacos from the Harvest food truck. Elli showed at around 7:15 pm, and I talked to her briefly, and then it was 8:30 pm, and the first real lull in the day. There is one other thing I clearly remember: poor attempts at homonym humor. Special note to dudes: when there is a Blonde on tap—Towhead Blonde, in this case—think before you speak. I know you think comments like “I’ll have a Blonde, and then I’ll have a beer” or “I’ll have a Belgian and a Blonde, and a beer later” or any of the other numberless variations on this theme are clever. But they’re not. Not at all. If they were already lame and passé the last time I worked behind a bar in the mid-90’s—and they were—then they’re still going to be painful and tedious today. So just let it go. I may smile, and even pretend to laugh, but trust me when I say that everyone involved will be happier if you refrain.

Not surprisingly, the announcement of last call was not met with the same excitement as earlier proclamations. Still, for those behind the counter, it was time to call it a day. After the tap room was cleaned and cleared, there was a short after-hours party featuring a couple of fancy bottles in celebration of a successful day, including Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus and Lou Pepe, along with several other delights. As well, we got to sample the last remaining bottle of Jeffrey’s Orval clone, courtesy of Jeff Fortney, whose cellaring power exceeds my own—I drank the bottle I had stashed away (with both Jeff and Jeffrey, of course) like 6 months ago.

All in all, today’s Grand Opening was a smashing success. Congratulations to Lisa, Nate, and Jeffrey! Your dream is now a reality!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Rockit Cup Single Hop Session IPA: Recap

Mother of all beer samplings! We had 11 brewers and 12 beers for this
Our winner!
month’s Rockit Cup Single Hop Session IPA. Yes, I’m the asshole that made two. Why? Because I can. I don’t want anyone getting complacent. Since we had several new participants, I’m just going to list everyone that brewed along with the hop variety that they used:

Darren Link: Pacific Jade
Brian Sanders: Citra
Chris Wyatt: Magnum
Wes Davis: Zythos
Travis Lewis: Motueka
Chris Baumann: Ahtanum
Jon Vanderglas: U.S. Tettnang
Matt Young: Motueka
Todd Clingman: German Brewer’s Gold
Brian Gallow: Mosaic
myself: Comet & Millenium

To streamline the judging process, everyone ranked their top six beers. My inner beer judge self will confess to enjoying the palate fatigue comments made by several participants. Everyone always thinks beer judging is ever so glamorous, but a boat load of hops can quickly throw a monkey-wrench in that game. The top three beers were:

1st: Travis Lewis
2nd: Brian Gallow
3rd: Matt Young

So with a first and a third, I guess it is safe to say that Motueka is a keeper as far as hops go. There were also more differences between these two beers than I would have guessed: Travis’s version was much more hop forward in terms of flavor and character, while Matt’s version had better overall balance. Brian Gallow’s beer was also excellent: bright and vibrant hop flavors. I was happy to see that my two beers made the top six—fourth for Comet and sixth for Millenium. While I was able to pick out my Comet version quite easily (I just wrote Comet in my tasting notes), I failed miserably at identifying my Millenium beer. My tasting notes indicate I was getting citrus and passion fruit more than the usual herbal characteristics I associate with Millenium, so I’m looking forward to going back to taste a couple more bottles of this version of the beer.

Thanks to everyone who participated! June’s Rockit Cup recipe will be posted soon, so stay tuned!


Monday, April 8, 2013

561. New Glarus Cherry Stout

I will admit it: I miss New Glarus. So I was pleased to find this bottle lurking in the basement—it was a gift from Aaron Spoores a couple of years ago, and I forgot about it until now. A cursory examination of the internet indicates that the second release of Cherry Stout as part of the Unplugged Series was in February 2010, so that would make this beer a little over three years old. May my hoarding instincts never die. We’ll add Cherry Stout to a list that includes Staghorn Octoberfest, Saison, Raspberry Tart, Belgian Red, and Fat Squirrel Brown Ale.

Cherry Stout pours a murky cocoa/milk chocolate brown with a fair amount of red; it has a thin tan head that quickly disappears except for a few lingering skiffs of foam, and the nose is redolent of sour cherries, much like New Glarus’s more famous other cherry beer, Wisconsin Belgian Red. In addition to the cherry, there is a touch of candy sweetness in the nose, but could just be more cherries. Flavors open with sour cherry and a slight citric tartness; there is cherry pie mixed with brown sugar in the middle, and a bright fresh cherry in the finish along with just a hint of sourness that turns to sweetness at the flavors linger on the palate. The body is medium; it is clean and bright on the tongue, helped along by the carbonation. I’m not really sure I’d call this a stout: it is more like Wisconsin Belgian Red with a darker malt bill and a bit more body. It might masquerade as a Belgian Dark Strong—not well, mind you—but even then it would be on the lighter side. While the age could be contributing to the lack of “elegantly smooth chocolate covered cherry” flavor described on the New Glarus website—I get no real chocolate at all—that’s fine with me because this beer is delicious as is. It has that bright, lively tang found in Wisconsin Belgian Red with a greater depth of cherry flavor across the profile. And Elli concurs; she finished hers well before me, and started eyeing my glass soon after. This beer just re-awakens my longing for all things New Glarus.

From the bottle: “Due to popular demand we brought back Dan’s Gold Medal winning ‘Unplugged Cherry Stout.” This ale is aged in Oak barrels to promote spontaneous fermentation. Eight Wisconsin malted barleys combined with Wisconsin Montmorency Cherries make for a complex and sublime taste experience that you may never find again. Discover why Dan is repeatedly recognized as the Best Brewmaster in America.”

ABV: 6.5%


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Osborn Brewing Hop Farm Kickstarter Campaign

As the reigning Fresh Hop King of Ohio, I am very excited about the possibilities of Osborn Brewing’s Southwest Ohio Hop Farm Kickstarter Campaign:

“We are in the process of turning 86 acres of land into a hop farm. This will provide locally sourced hops to area brewers from the hobby to professional scale. This also means that when it comes time to harvest, brewers will have a source of fresh wet hops to use in their seasonal brews. Part of the money raised by your backing will go towards making this a reality. By backing this project, you will help bring us closer to having 100% locally made beers in our area.”
A local hop farm would mean that I could get fresh hops from more places than the bike paths surrounding Dayton, and/or the indulgences of my neighbors. While both are certaqinly sources for fresh hops, something tells me that an actual hop farm would, in the long run, be far more helpful. Far more helpful. Thus, I went with the $100 pledge, mainly because it gets me a full pound of the first harvest of hops. Brent, can I trade the other rewards for another pound of those future hops? After all, that’s what Im down for: the hops. As should all of you out there as well. So go check it out, and throw your support behind something that will help take local homebrewing to the next level.
And Brent, why wasnt making a fresh hop beer with me one of the potential rewards, you cheap bastard?


Monday, April 1, 2013

Brett Again Brewday

Again! I seem to be making a habit of this, which is fine with me, as this certainly won’t be the last batch run through these yeasts. Especially since lambicus is waiting in the wings ever so patiently. And unlike previous iterations, both the bruxellensis Trois and the bruxellensis decided to do their job: they made it down to 1.004 and 1.002, respectively.

144. Brett Again
5 lbs. MFB Pale
5 lbs. Weyermann Pilsen
1 lb. Breiss White Wheat

Mash @ 151° F for 90 minutes w/ 3 ¼ gallons of RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected almost 2 gallons @ 1.096
Batch sparge @ 166° F for 20 minutes w/ 3 gallons RO water & 2 g. gypsum; collected 3 gallons @ 1.036

Collected 5 gallons; added 2 ½ gallons RO water, brought to a boil (60 minutes), & added:
w/60 to go: 1 ½ oz. Cluster leaf 7.6% AA

w/5 to go: 1 oz. Cluster leaf 7.6% AA

Let stand for 20 minutes, chilled, and split into two 3 gallon carboys:

144a. yeast cake of 136c. WLP644 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois plus 3 Hungarian house toast oak cubes
Brewed: 4/1/2013
Secondary: 9/17/2013 @ 1.000; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Citra leaf 13.4% AA
Bottled: 9/23/2013 w/ 2.1 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.000

144b. yeast cake of 136d. Wyeast 5122 Brettanomyces bruxellensis plus 3 Hungarian house toast oak cubes
Brewed: 4/1/2013
Secondary: 9/17/2013 @ 0.980; dry hop w/ 1 oz. Citra leaf 13.4% AA
Bottled: 9/23/2013 w/ 2.1 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.052
FG: 0.980

Tasting Notes (1/2/2014): I’m trying these two side by side, both for the sake of comparison and to expedite the process: it has been a while and I’ve got a decent backlog to get through. Stupid brewing. Both beers pour a clear straw with a thin white head; 144b. has better retention and brighter carbonation in the glass, although it is softer on the mouth—144a. is much sharper on the palate, although nothing overly aggressive.

144a: The nose is spicy earth and citrus, specifically lemon zest, although the spiciness is the dominant aroma. The spiciness is also musty/musky, although I’m not sure what is hop-derived or yeast-derived. Flavors start with bright Meyer lemon, moving into cracker and biscuit malt with lemon zest and pith in the middle, and a clean, almost neutral finish: it is characterized more by the dryness and the carbonic bite than any specific flavor, although there is some lingering Brett gaminess that lingers on the back of the tongue. Interesting, but not spectacular, and nothing like the Brett Trois IPA—this has too much lemon citrus and pith. If I were to name this beer, I would steal an old school name from Stonyfield Farms Yogurt and call it Lots o’ Lemon.

144b: There is dry mineral, spice, and lemon in the nose, although it is more balanced and harmonious that 144a. Flavors open with slight gaminess and stale cracker, moving into bright lemon zest and candy in the middle, and finishing with a mineral dry bite—a combination of both flavor and mouthfeel. This beer is softer on the palate—although the carbonation feels similar—while the mouthfeel is silkier and smoother. There is a bit of lingering spice and pepper along with the mineral bite, and there is a similar gaminess that hangs around. The Citra hops work better in this version, though; the classic dry mineral cracker character of bruxellensis blends better with the hop flavors, giving the beer more depth of flavor and complexity. Sadly, however, I have no reciprocally clever name for this beer. But it still wins.