Archive for June, 2007

Past Time Pale Ale

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

(Working Name) – Anyway, I just finished brewing another Pale Ale about an hour ago. The day went really well without any major problems. This should be a pretty easy-drinking Pale Ale thus the ability to be able to drink it during your favorite past time, like Cornhole!


One of the problems with brewing Pale Ales is that Karen doesn’t really dig the bitter factor of Pales Ales. So, this time around I tried to brew a less bitter but still just as hoppy Pale Ale. I used a very simple malt bill and a hodge-podge of hops, some Willamette, some Cascade, some Perle and I’m going to use some Magnum to dry hop with. Firstly, more as an experiment, I decided to flip the order I’d use the hops in. Typically people use high alpha acid (AA) hops toward the beginning of the boil and low AA hops toward the end, so instead I did the opposite. Plus, I also didn’t add ANY early addition hops, I waited until there was 30 minutes left in the boil to add any hops and then hopped accordingly from there. I’ll take credit for the AA flip may it be a good, bad, or fun idea, but the holding off on hop additions isn’t my own.

I’ve read a few threads on line recently that talk about how on the West Coast there is a movement right now (at least in the homebrewing community) to get more of the bitterness from late addition hops which is supposed to be a smoother bitterness versus the sharp bitterness some early addition hops can give you. They have been using this technique a lot with Double IPAs mostly. Another technique I have been reading about, that even some breweries are using, is a mash time of half of what we’ve been told to use, 30 minutes. And that appears to almost be more of a habit than not with one brewery claiming they can convert their grains in about 10 minutes! Wild.

WLP550_Yeast.jpgAlso, today I got to transfer the Saison to a secondary fermenter. That thing was a monster of a fermenter so I am going to give it a little extra time. Plus, though the SG right now is low, I’d like it lower. I want it dry and crisp and refreshing low. I want it low enough that it makes you thirsty for another one while your drinking the one in your hand. Anyway, the OG was 1.074 and today it was at 1.014, I’d like to see 1.010 honestly. Also, it was still a little cloudy so hopefully it’ll fall more clear. I wound up saving the yeast from this batch too. Maybe I’ll plan on something Belgian sometime soon; Tripel, Dubbel, Specialty, “Dirty-Dirty Scarry Farmhouse Crazy” – dunno. I need to buy/order more ingredients anyway some time soon.

Book: Starting Your Own Brewery

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Boy am I in trouble. This is only book number three of the year (which is half way over) out of the twelve I promised myself I would read. I guess it is time to turn the computer off a little earlier at night and pick up my book more regularly. Below you’ll find the review I posted on 


“What worse way to describe a book than, ‘It was OK’, it’s like someone telling you your best atribute is that your ‘nice’. But that’s just it, for what it was supposed to be ‘The Brewers Association’s Guide to Starting Your Own Brewery’ (think about it, that’s a lot of weight in that title) it was only OK. There was some nice insight from brewing professionals whose opinions I already respect, there was some rough ideas of what to expect, and some sections with great detail about things I couldn’t care less about at this point – the point of ‘I’m still reading books to plan a brewery’.

I would have really have liked to have seen more real money and real equipment talked about. Basically they broke it down like this: it is hard and expensive, but if you can pull it off it is sooo worth it. That’s not enough for me. Oh, I will mention there was a very detailed business plan which could be a great reference to the right person, but it reads like a business plan, go figure. Real snoozer of a way to end the book.

One last thing, this is an $80 book that as an AHA member I was able to buy for $50 from the Brewers Association so I at least felt like I got a deal, but to now see Amazon with it for sale for $50 kind of burns me up. This isn’t an $80 book (think college text book) nor really a $50 book (think high school text book or instruction manual), it’s more of a decent $25 book (think normal informative/opinionated book). So, all in all I am not saying don’t get this book, but I would only get this book if you are seriously contemplating opening your own brewery and only as one more reference, not the be-all-to-end-all.”

It’s an OK book. Some of it is enjoyable, some of it funny, some of it boring, some of it informative, some of it repetative – dunno, it’s a weak second addition. The first addition came out 12 years ago (which I have never read), I think in the last 12 years they have enough resources to make this book awesome, it was not.

5th Annual Fool Circle Beer Tasting

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Saturday was the 5th Annual Fool Circle Beer Tasting. Per usual it was blast. This year all of the Inner Circle were able to attend, so in attendance was myself, Karen, Dave, Richard, Todd, and Robert. These have pretty much been the people with the strongest connection to Fool Circle since the beginning, thus at some point along the way during one of the tastings they were dubbed the Fool Circle Inner Circle. Dave also made “backstage passes” for us all this year which turned out to be a hit, if you look through the pictures you can see the included graphics. Below is a slide show of the pictures from the night, but if you’d rather look at them individually you can see them here.

For the tasting I decided we would do the blind-side-by-side variant. In this way, all the bottles are marked before hand with what beer it is, then they are all placed in brown bags. The bags are all mixed up and each person has an opportunity to re-mix the bags too, in this way no one can no where any one beer is in the line up. This year we had 16 beers to taste with an additional 3 not making the cut, so it had the potential to be 19 beers, but that didn’t happen. The 3 that didn’t make the cut were the Pike Creek Pale Ale, the Angler Ale 2, and the Cocoa Pebble Oatmeal Stout. The first two didn’t make it because I forgot to save one of each for the tasting (oops!) and the last didn’t make it for it was a failed experiment that met its doom down the drain.

I had stated before the tasting that I was not going to be able to win this year. The first three years I had declared I was not allowed to win. Then last year I thought of doing it as a blind tasting (previously I poured each beer in a seperate room) and decided that I would allow myself to win if I guessed the most correct and everyone was OK with that. Last year I guessed 10 out of 12 correct and was happy I had won, but felt a little bit bad for I won by a large margin. So, this year to help keep things fair I decided I could not win. Richard brought up the point that if I got a perfect score (16 out of 16) that I should be able to win, and all agreed. 16 out of 16 would be unheard of, so I decided that was fine.

The pouring was great, it took a good 15 minutes or so to pour all the beer and you could feel the anticipation building for no one was allowed to taste until all were poured. Everyone was sniffing and commenting about the beers, but only spoke in reserved comments as not to elude to heavily to what any one beer was to not give someone else an advantage. Since I was pouring and not sniffing it was killing me to hear the comments, I really wanted to know what they all were. Once all the beer was poured the tasting commenced and the whole feel of the room changed for a good 10 minutes or so, with everyone much more serious than before. I initially sniffed all 16 beers too prior to tasting and knew 7 of them just by smell, it was really neat. After that first 10 minute period though, things got good and goofy as expected. Each person gets about 2oz of 16 beers, so a little under three 12oz beers in about a 15-20 minute span, it makes it quite intersting fast. Overall the break-down went like this: Richard with a big 3 correct, Karen & Todd both with 8 correct, Dave with a big 10, Robert with a huge 12, and fortunetly (and unfortunetly) Brian (me) with an unbelievable 16 out of 16 correct!

It was great! Not counting Richard (who is really going to shark us all one year) any of the other scores could have been winning scores in the past, this was a HUGE scoring year. Part of that I think goes to the whole side-by-side factor so you can compare and contrast, versus in the past it was one-at-a-time and it was an all or nothing guess. Additionally it was crazy in the sense of there was like 4 different Pale Ales and 4 different Stouts that people had to figure out. No one really grumbled too much after I won since they all had agreed that if I got a perfect score I would win, but I did feel a little guilty. As others pointed out to me, I am the one who made all the beer, have drank multiples of each beer, and have a recognized BJCP palate. Oh well. As a major token of appreciation, not because I guessed them all right, everyone chipped in and bought me a $100 gift certificate to More Beer, my favorite homebrew resource – I was stoked and flattered.

After the tasting it was obvious everyone was starving, so Robert and Todd both had brought stuff for appatizers so we had a warm chili dip and grilled Old Bay BBQ shrimp – both were delicious. I don’t know if it were the appatizers, the beer, the Cornhole, or the medicine but somehow we didn’t eat dinner until about 9:45! Once again, everyone was starving. We had two differnt London Broils, some grilled Vidalia onions and Portobella mushrooms, au gratin potatoes, carrots, rice, and something else. We had tons of food and it was all delicious. Unfortunetly, since it had gotten later than anticipated, Todd was not able to stay for dinner for he needed to get home to his children.

After the tasting and before dinner and after dinner and before we called it a night, the rest of the night was basically filled with playing Cornhole in the backyard. Cornhole is an addictively simple bean-bag toss style game that is too much fun to play, quite simple, and easy to play while drinking. We actually had two sets to play with for Dave finally acquired his promised set from the door prize from the Delaware Digital Scavenger Hunt. We basically only played with one set since we had either 5 or 6 players, not really enough to merit a second set. But we did try a varient on the game and played with three sets of bags so all could play at one time on oneset. The play went relatively smoothly, it was the scoring that was a little hairy. Fun to try, but not something I would suggest we try again. We pretty much played until past 1AM when we were “asked” to stop playing by some of Delaware’s finest, I appologize to the neighbors. After that things quickly rapped up. Robert hit the road and everyone else stumbled back to a bed to stay the night.

It was really a great time and I look forward to it each and every year. If you’d like to recap the past you can visit these posts here: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003. And in our usual style, there are a few colorful quotes that have made it through the tasting. Either we weren’t writing down as many, people weren’t as witty as usual, or I can’t read Dave’s handwriting, but here are the few we have:

  • “I just drew on my face with permanant marker.”
  • “You’re a cheesy-belly.”
  • “Fuck the scoring – Whoever can get them down fastest is the Grand Pooh-Bah”
  • “#14 – Smoked Shreaded Wheat?” (MacRae Scotch Ale ’05)
  • “You should have seen her on that pole with her wheelchair.”
  • “OK – What the fuck was THAT!?” (Gnarleywine)
  • “Ugh – It makes me want to take a bite of bread.” (Gnarleywine)
  • “We have enough food to choke two donkeys.”

BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #6

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Just finished the June issue of BeerAdvocate Magazine, ‘The Travel Issue’. Seems like these are becoming quicker reads or something, I finished this one on two lunch breaks, cover-to-cover (well, except for every sentence in the reviews area.)bamag6.jpg

 The issue per usual was good, but not quite as fresh feeling as some of the earlier issues. It felt as if they almost pieced some stuff together to call it the ‘Travel Issue’ without writing much about traveling for beer or beer meccas or any of that jazz. The issue started with a Top 50 list from Jason & Todd that really didn’t make 100% sense and then when they were questioned about it on line they basically said ‘deal with it for what it is’. Not really a cool attitude for a list that obviously was missing some of the Top 50 American Breweries. Drew lost me a little on his homebrewing article. He was talking about how aromas and scents are important, and then rounds things off with a ‘soapy’ sounding homebrew recipe for  a jasmine-orange ale. 9Steps to Beerdom once again was my favorite, this time with Mike Stevens from Founders Brewing – blazin’ beers! The next article that is worth mentioning is actually one of the few traveling-type articles in the magazine with ‘Nine Great Beer Towns You Didn’t Know Were Great Beer Towns’. Easton, PA & Frederick, MD both made the cut and both are about two hours from here. OK, Easton has Weyerbacher, worth the trip at least once. Frederick has two brewpubs and a brewery nearby, maybe worth another trip back. Ten pages of beer reviews again left me feeling thirsty and empty at the same time, that’s a lot of space to give to reviews . . . Nice little article on beer bread followed too, from a very simple recipe to ones that are a little bit more intensive, but none that are overly complicated. And I must say one of my other typically favorite articles ‘Last Call’ was pure shite! The writer called it ‘Ranter’s Block’ and talked about how peachy the beer world is for him, must freakin’ be nice you lucky bastard, enjoy! Anyway, still a great magazine, probably not there best issue, but still already anticipating next months issue.

More Saison News

Monday, June 11th, 2007

Not too much to say except that it has been eight days since this beer was brewed and it is still fermenting like mad with a huge fluff kaursen. It is actually higher then in these pictures now, these were taken yesterday. It is a really dense but fluffy kaursen too. Hopefully this will translate into an incredible head on the actual beer.


BUZZ Off Pt2

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Yesterday was the 14th Annual BUZZ Off Competition. This years competition was once again a qualifying event for the prestigious MCAB event, well prestigious in the homebrewing world. Also, it was hosted by both Iron Hill Brewery, the West Chester location, and the Brewers Unlimited Zany Zymurgists again.


Kind of last minute I decided I was going to go up and judge. I really like to judge, but it is always a very long day and difficult to judge the way you need to. There was about 270 entries this year which broke down to each judge judging about 25 beers per person. That’s 25 little 2oz samples that you are supposed to fairly and professionally judge as quickly as possible. I try to do the best I can, but in all honesty by the end it’d more like ‘this one was better or worse than that one’ and that’s about it. In the morning I judged Maibocks, Bocks, Eisbocks, Northern German Alts, and Dusseldorfs. I have never judged these categories nor brewed any of these styles but have tasted most of them, so it wasn’t an easy table for me to judge. In the long run, unfortunately, pretty much every beer we judged in the morning was OK to worse. In the afternoon I judged Robust Porters and Baltic Porters. Again, I have never judged these styles, but I had a much better idea of what I needed to judge. I would like to mention that for the morning and afternoon I did have a set of style guidelines with me so it wasn’t as if I were shooting blindly. The Porters ranged from a little less than OK to very nice. There was actually three of us judging in the afternoon so that was different. The one guy was a Grand Master level I so he knew his stuff, but was a little intimidating to contradict if you didn’t agree with what he said or he didn’t agree with what you said. Overall, good time judging, long day Saturday.

After it was all done and said I got to pick up my results. I was lucky and scored a third place with the SAW Pale Ale in the American Pale Ale category. The funny part is I felt as though this beer was way out of balance to the hops side and used non-traditional (though not inappropriate) hops for a Pale Ale. Here’s some more:

  • SAW Pale Ale – American Pale Ale – 40/40 = 40 = 3rd Place. “Very enjoyable and drinkable.”, “Very good example of style.”
  • Witbier – Witbier – 26/26 = 26. “A fairly easy drinking Wit that is refreshing, but lacks the expected flavors of the style.”, “Sweet malt flavor overpowers spices to some degree.”
  • Hazelnut Brown – Specialty Beer – 32/35 = 33.5. “Hazelnut is a tad big for the body.”, “A nice drinkable specialty beer, overall a strong effort.”
  • Oak Aged C-Hop Pale Ale – Wood Aged Beer – 32/34 = 33. “A nice Pale Ale, hops are distinctive.”, “Interesting, like a flower bed in my mouth.”

Dance of the Seven Ales

Friday, June 8th, 2007

What the hell is the Dance of the Seven Ales!? It had to be one of the most unorganized-zany-fun-stoopid-cool-off-centered Dogfish Head / Grey Lodge Pub events that exist. I have never been to the Grey Lodge Pub before but have heard good things, and as you know I am a huge Dogfish Head fan – so it seemed like a good idea to check it out.

So, Robert and I went to check it out, this is how it was billed: “Dogfish Head Dance of the 7 Ales with Sam Caligione. The Grey Lodge Pub and Dogfish Head will present Dance of the 7 Ales. Separately Dogfish Head and The Grey Lodge Pub are known for crazy (OK “stupid” might be more accurate) ideas and events, so a combined event should be extra “stupid”.

There will be 7 dances, on video, to go with each beer. And patrons are invited to create their own interpretative dance (costumes are a bonus) for a Dogfish ale or ales of their choice (bring your own music). There will be prizes for the most creative dances.

And of course there will be amazing 7 Dogfish Head ales on hand, some super rare, some less so but great nonetheless. Dogfish Head ales have been known to be effective in the aiding of dancing.

Sam will be bringing Dogfish’s Hoppy the Clown dart board game. Clowns are scary, but this seems to be OK; we can throw darts at the clown. For some of the time, Scoats will likely be wearing an old mummers costume, which was fun for everyone but him last Groundhog Day. Most likely there will be additional idiocy as well.”

Of course they had great Dogfish Head beers available: Black & Blue, Festina Peche, Fort, Raison d’Etre, 90 Minute IPA, 60 Minute IPA, Red & White, and World Wide Stout. I believe the beer rotation went R&W, Festina Peche, WWS, B&B, Raison, and then a 60 Minute. The WWS was priced basically at store price and the B&B was $20 a bottle, not a cheap night to say the least. Basically the idea was that they paired YouTube videos with the different beers. So essentially everyone gathered around a computer screen to watch the videos. The funny thing is, that is exactly what Robert and I were doing before we left – Pickle Surprise!

Later, Mitchell came up. We played many a round of Cricket. The Grey Lodge had a dope score board called the DartMaster III. After abusing the Grey Lodge for several hours we wound up at Kildaire’s Irish Pub for a while. Drank some more, ate (sliders, nice), and played more Cricket. It was a good long night, things got started about 6PM and I got home around 2:30AM. It’s going to be a long day at work. Check out some of the pictures above.


Monday, June 4th, 2007

First brew day in a while and it turned out to be a good one. Today I brewed what will be my first attempt at a Saison, and if nothing else a Belgian Specialty Ale (catch all). Quick highlights of the day were that Robert was there to tag-along for the brew day and it was a success brew day in the rain.


So the day really started pretty regularly for me: had a game plan of when I wanted to start and over shot that by a good two hours which kind of just sends the rest of the day a little askew. One day I will learn the joys of early morning brewing, but first I have to be awake and mobile enough to meet it there. Since I knew it was supposed to rain today and I wasn’t real big on brewing in the garage, I decided to try and rig up some sort of tarp action. I decided the rain-fly from mysaisonweb1.jpg tent would be the easiest choice because it was a decent size and already had bungee fasteners attached to all the corners. It went up fairly easy and looked alright. After going back down stairs and taking a look from the brew area it looked OK but pushed too far to the left. Unfortunately, there was nothing to attach it too if I wanted to move it more right, so I decided to leave it there and mental note that I want to buy a plastic tarp twice as long and just about as wide for the same application. The rain never got too crazy, though a little heavy at times, and the tarp totally did its job.


This was Roberts first time kicking it while I made a full all grain batch. So he got to help/watch as we did all the things he didn’t get to do before: grind the grains (got a new drill for the mill), heat and transfer hot water with no handles on the kettle while wearing flip-flops, mash-in, sparge, all that happy horse shit. Everything seemed like it went fine. I declared that there should be a bumper stick: Brewers Don’t Wear Flip-Flops. I just think it sounds funny, but it is also a good way to burn your feet.

The reason why I said that this is my first attempt at a Saison, besides that I have never brewed one, is that I always feelsaisonweb2.jpg as if it is more difficult to stay within style guidelines than it is to just brew what you like or to not brew what you don’t like. Typically I would say my favorite “styles” of beers that I like to brew and drink are big and hoppy, experimental and one-off, and Belgian-esque,  specifically Dubbels and Tripels. I brew enough big and hoppy and experimental stuff, so that’s good, but I can’t think of the last Belgian-style beer I’ve brewed versus drank. Probably my last one was the ol’ Double Dubbel back in 2004, I’ll have to break one of those bottles open soon. So anyway, this is me taking a stab at the style, Saison, and like I said, If nothing else it is definitely a Belgian Specialty Ale.

Keystone Homebrew Supply

Sunday, June 3rd, 2007

My brother receives the Keystone Homebrew newsletter (I wonder why I don’t?) and brought to my attention a new event they are kickin’. It is called ‘The KisE (Kissy) Challenge”.


Here’s a little cut and paste action from their website for anyone too lazy to hit the link. Why do I want to take the time to bring this to your attention, well, one Keystone Homebrew and Jason (the owner) are good people so why not promote some brotherly love, two it seems like a neat event, and three it sounds like a twist on a familiar idea. Anyway, here you go: “We are proud to announce the first Keystone is Everywhere (KisE) Challenge: A fun contest, sort of like a scavenger hunt, with real prizes! You’ll need three things to participate: 1. an official Keystone Homebrew t-shirt, 2. a camera, 3. the official KisE Challenge List.

Here is how it will work. Below is a link to the official KisE Challenge List of places, people, and events. Each will be worth a certain point value. Participants will have until June 30 to take pictures of as many KisE Challenge List items as possible. Everyone who participates wins valuable coupons. Collect 50 points and get a free t-shirt. Those with the most points will win:

  • 1st place $100 gift certificate to Keystone Homebrew or a 15% discount on all items purchased at Keystone Homebrew through the end of 2007
  • 2nd place $50 gift certificate to Keystone Homebrew
  • 3rd place $25 gift certificate to Keystone Homebrew

Additionally, more prizes will be awarded for the funniest, most creative, and best overall pictures. Entries must be submitted in electronic format via e-mail or by dropping off a CD or DVD at one of our stores.The official KisE Challenge List, including official rules, is now online! The race is on!”

There you go, Jason, there’s some love for you. Now all I need to do is to get that Keystone Homebrew link up for you, I promise I will. Hope your event works out as well as mine. – B