Archive for October, 2007


Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

OK, tonight was a double-hesitation-WTF. I have hesitated for quite some time now on trying to re-bottle-condition the Saturday IPA. Well, tonight I tried.

IPA Shiz-dizzle

Well, sort of. I had all practical intentions to try and re-bottle-condition roughly 40 bottles of the Saturday IPA, I mean come on seriously, WTF. What’s the worse that is going to happen? I ruin about two cases of beer that I wasn’t drinking anyway? I waist a bunch of my time and money (and Garrett’s too)? I create two cases of bottle-bombs and the shit hits the fan? I was tired of not drinking my delicious nectar. So I gathered my things from the basement to re-bottle about two cases of beer. I was going to sanitize everything, carefully pour the beer down the side of the bottling bucket, measure the beer, run the volume / temperature equation through pro-mash (which seems to be working), boil my priming sugar, add that to the beer, add a half pack of dry yeast, and re-bottle. It seemed simple, logical, and easy. Yes, I know I would heavily oxidize the beer, but I didn’t care. If it carbonated properly then I would probably drink it in two weeks or so, especially if I “had to”. Anyway, I had just opened the first bottle to dump in and pftssst! The sound of carbonation. It must be a flook, opened a second bottle and pftssst! WTF! OK, now I’m feeling a little crazy, what’s going on with this beer? I try both samples, neither are fully carbonated both had good mouth feel and are definitely carbonated. Now, I hesitate, WTF!? I decide to abort mission and call fair is fair. As of now the IPA is “somewhat carbonated”. Who knows what I’ll do, WTF . . .

Villains, Bad Guys, and Evil Characters – Oh My!

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Last night (10.26.07) was another high-brow tournament. This time it was the best fictional villain / bad guy / evil character of all time, again non-seeded and randomly drawn.

Villains, Bad Guys, and Evil Characters

Click the tournament picture and you’ll find the results of a few hours of us being idiots.

Things were run very similar as last time with the Greatest Front-Man Tournament. It was Robert, Mitchell, and myself again, Wooly was suppose to be there but something happened and he couldn’t come. I think we had 155 names to start with this time and we had to wean them down to the top 128. Again the names were randomly drawn from a bowl to flush out the brackets, two at a time and then that was the match-up. After the initial 64 match-up the tournament would run as a normal tournament would, well except for out “nah” rule.

Our rule kind of went like this, in the first round each of us were given two “power nahs” in which we were able to say “nah” to any match-up that was pulled out of the bowl. If we used a “power nah” then that match-up would be thrown back into the bowl to be re-pulled in a different combination later. This was typically used to keep heavy hitters from going up against each other too early. For example, if Darth Vader and Megatron went up against each other in the first round then someone might use a “power nah” to throw their names back into the bowl so a big decision like that wouldn’t have to be made too early in the game. After the first round each of us was also given two regular “nahs” that could be used in the second, third, and fourth rounds. What these “nahs” did was basically give the loser of a match-up a second chance. The winner of the match-up had to get a 2 out of 3 vote to stay in verses the normal 50/50 chance – make sense?

Now remember, none of us fully agree with this, this is just what happen when the three of us ran this tournament. It would probably be different with any three people and obviously with any random drawing. There were actually a couple really tough match-ups, a couple that some people totally disagreed with, and a couple that I looked at afterwards and thought ‘how did that happen?’ Regardless, I’m not going to argue with these results, but I am going to say there were a few surprises. If you don’t recognize some of the names go ahead and ask or look them up yourselves, you may be surprised who did and didn’t make the cut. And just for fun, I’ll include the “Jobbers” bracket too. This is the bracket of guys who didn’t make the initial 120 out of the 155 and had to really fight to get one of the last eight spots, whatever. Click on the picture for a larger shot of it.

Villains, Bad Guys, and Evil Characters - Jobbers

Happy Halloween!

BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #10

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #10, is the first of the BA mags (I think) that doesn’t have a title, and if it didn’t have any beer reviews I couldn’t think of another way to improve it (joking, . . . mostly).

BeerAdvocate Magazine Issue #10 - Michael Jackson

Honestly, one of the best magazine covers I have ever seen.

First, lets talk about this cover – WOW! – comes close to summing it up. This is a drawing (touched up on a computer) of a famous black & white photo of Michael Jackson the Beer Hunter. Not only did the artist do a great job rendering the photo into a piece of art, I feel as though he captured the color that did not exist before. Plus, to have a guy who died just over a month ago (August 30th) already on the cover of a magazine (released first week of October) is very fresh, and very current. Most magazines don’t work in that close of a time-frame to reality. I bet most of the other beer magazines (BYO, All About Beer, Zymurgy) won’t have large cover articles on Michael Jackson until next month. OK, so the article inside the mag wasn’t that large, the cover says it all. If BeerAdvocate or the artist ever decided to make prints of this cover I’d buy one, maybe with the proceeds going to Parkinson’s Disease, even better. Below is a copy of what I believe is the original B&W photo this drawing is based on with a doctored B&W version of this cover next to it for comparison.

Michael Jackson Beer Hunter

In the Beer News section there was neat little article on a new program the Brewer’s Association is putting together, the Cicerone Certification Program. Essentially it wants to be the equivalent of the Sommelier Certification Program for wine, but for beer. It sounds like there will be different levels of certification from Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone. To me this is exciting news, especially if it is widely excepted throughout the industry. For the first time since the magazine came out I wasn’t overly impressed with the 9 Steps to Beerdom section. I think it probably had to do with the fact that I didn’t previously know this brewer, Tod Mott from Portsmouth Brewery, but the article on him was still interesting.

There was an interesting article in the Innovation section about how some breweries are trying to find ways to turn waste product into usable product, specifically waste water to electricity and usable water again. This article focused on Foster’s in Australia and how they have received  some grants and help to install equipment to convert used brewing water into electricity and “fresh” usable water again. They called them microbial fuel cells and explained how they have filters and bacteria in them and that is the super condensed way on how they work. Sounds expensive, but sounds way cool.

The feature article was one I was looking forward to reading, it was titled “Beer a Beacon of Light in the Dark Ages” by Horst Dornbusch. This dude is a serious beer historian/writer and I have always loved reading his beer history articles on BeerAdvocate’s website and have always wondered when they were going to bring that type of dynamic to the magazine. It’s a neat article that talks about things in the Dark Ages from a different perspective, from the perspective of how beer got better and why.  A lot of it has to do with the European monks (and nuns) and the fact that they made their own beer, were educated men, and welcomed outsiders onto their estates for drink, food, and rest. With the spread of the monks to different missionaries so spread the education of good beer. And as the missionaries grew from small pit-stops, to full “hotel/tavern” environments, to even larger establishments that could be described as campuses so did the need for beer, and the monks had the good shit.

For me that was the bread and butter of this issue, the cover, the Cicerone Certification Program, the beer to electricity article, and the beer history lesson about the Dark Ages. Sure there were plenty of articles I didn’t even touch on this time, but that’s OK, they were mostly better than fluff but not as good as what has already been mentioned. I say keep up the articles from Horst Dornbusch, one of my favorites so far.

Spoils of the Brewer

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Sometimes it’s good to be the brewer.


Tonight I enjoyed a 2005 MacRae Strong Scotch Ale.


Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Yesterday (10.20.07) I brewed a Belgian Tripel style beer. Also, while brewing, I bottled the Small Beer from the second runnings of the Imperial Stout.

Small Beer

Things with the Tripel went well as soon as I got my butt in gear. Per usual I have one time set in my head as the starting time and then one thing leads to another and before you know it I’m starting two to three hours later. I need to be more strict with my time guidelines, or just stopping caring about it so much. Anyway, I finally started around 11PM. To me a Tripel is a simple beer to brew, the trick lies with the yeast and letting them work their magic on the wort you created for them. The recipe I created used only Belgian Pilsner malt and clear sugar mashed at a quite low temperature to create a very fermentable environment for the yeast. I also only used European Noble Hops (Hallertauer and Saaz) and a pure Belgian yeast strain WLP550. The OG was 1.082, and everything felt like it went smoothly. I was finished and cleaned up by 5PM, a nice clean straight forward six hour day.

While the mash was mashing I got things prepped to bottle the Small Beer. I was lucky and Karen was home to give me a hand which usually makes bottling feel smoother. The bottling seemed to go off without consequence. I tasted the beer of course (see picture above) and it was OK. I really don’t know what to expect from this beer so it is hard to be disappointed or really excited at this point. It tastes light in flavor and body, the nose is weak and the appearance is dull as of now. I know, I make it sound very appealing don’t I. So I’m hoping with some carbonation and temperature adjustments it’ll be a nice easy drinking, smooth, session beer (maybe close to a Mild, maybe).

Between brewing and bottling I also did a couple other “beer chores” and cleaned three carboys that were sitting with cleaning solution in them, rearranged some beers in the cellar (which desperately needs some attention), and tried the Amarillo Amber for the first time full on. The carboys were no big deal, just one of those things that need to be done. The attention given to the cellar was actually in preparation to see how many empty 12oz. bottles I would have available after bottling the Small Beer, like less than half a case. I also pulled out a bunch of painted 22oz. bottles I had (think Rogue) and threw them out deciding it wasn’t worth the effort to try and remove the paint to use the bottles, plus I’m not too big on bottling in 22oz. bottles. But in doing so I came up with about a case worth of Belgian-style 750ml. bottles that I put aside to give to Garrett. He likes to bottle-condition some of his Belgian beers in these type of bottles, so they’re all his. And the Amarillo Amber seemed like it’s going to be an easy drinker. The Amarillo hops seemed to have already mellowed some and are leaning toward the orangey-citrus side versus the cat piss type of aroma they can develop sometimes.

By the way, looks like I’m going to need some help drinking some beer soon. I have about two cases of American Brown Ale, two cases of Peached American Brown Ale, four cases of IPA (only very lightly carbonated, but tasty), two cases of Amarillo Amber, and two cases of the Small Beer. On top of that there is the Vader Imperial Stout ready in December, the Linvilla Hard Cider ready in November, and now the Tripel probably ready in December. When are you available?

Transfers and Stuff

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

So tonight I accomplished four beer related activities, three of which were homebrew related. I drank the growler of Rhode Island Blueberry Ale from Coastal Extreme Brewing, I made a started with WLP550 to brew a Tripel this weekend, I de-labeled and sanitized two cases of bottles to bottle the small beer from the Imperial Stout this weekend, and I transfered the Linvilla Hard Cider and Vader Imperial Stout to secondaries.

 Cider, Small Beer, Imperial Stout

I’ve been dying to crack into one of the growlers from RI sometime this week. Always a concern with growlers is ‘how fresh will it be for how long?’ Fortunately I have had good luck with storing growlers. I always arrive with clean and sanitized growlers, I try to use the plastic lids which I feel you can get a better seal on, and I try to use electric tape to seal the outside of the growler if I know it is going to be more than 24 hours before I drink it. I split the growler of the RI Blueberry Ale with Karen tonight and it was pretty good. Her remark was it tasted like a blueberry breakfast bar – sweet, blueberry, and grainy – I couldn’t agree more. After about the first pint the beer really began to grow on my, kind of like the blueberry version of #9 from Magic Hat.

Originally I was hoping to brew the long anticipated second beer with Dave, an Oatmeal Honey Stout – Zog’s Grog Uncle Tupelo Honey Stout. But with the way the world works it was still not meant to be, yet. I think the original beer with Dave we made was like in 2004, geez how the time flies. Come on, Dave, we should at least make this annual  ;-). So instead after I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I made a started of WLP550 – White Labs Belgian Ale – to brew a Tripel this weekend. I don’t think I’ve messed around with Belgian-style beers since the old Double Dubbel trip and haven’t messed with a Tripel in particularly since 2002.

I also realized it has been about three weeks since I brewed the Small Beer and the Imperial Stout and I knew I just had to bottle the small beer. With a beer that small/young/fragile I really probably should have bottled it last week, oh well. At least now the bottles are clean and sanitized and ready to go. Hopefully Saturday morning the deed will get done, but we’ll see.

Also I transfered the Imperial Stout and the Hard Cider to secondaries. The Imperial Stout dropped just a smidgen to 1.035, still a little high, but it actually tasted pretty good. I’ll probably leave this beer alone to age to at least the beginning of December in preparation to bottle and serve between Christmas and New Years (estimate, fingers crossed). The Cider should be finished fermenting, it’s SG was at 0.0996, quite low honestly. Last time my Cider finished higher than that (0.0998) and was bone dry and quite un-apple-licious. This time I tasted the sample and it was kinda-appley and sorta-sweetish. So who knows, the numbers don’t always tell the truth. I’ll let this one sit in secondary until at least November in anticipation of bottling and serving for Thanksgiving. We’ll have to see how that goes. I still have a trick up my sleeve to help this bad boy clear if it decides to be difficult.

Rhode Island

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Last weekend (10/12-14/07) Karen and I went up to Rhode Island to visit her brother and his family for they were Baptizing their fourth child, Christopher. So, since we were going to be there for the whole weekend I looked into what good “beer things” there were to do in the area.

Coastal Extreme Brewing

I found three things I was interested in the very near area, all less than five miles from their house. There was a brewery, Coastal Extreme Brewery (CEB), a brewpub, Coddington Brewpub, and a winery, Newport Vineyards. I got to visit two out of the three, the winery’s tour schedule didn’t fit our time-frame, but we kind of knew that from the get go. I visited the CEB on Friday night. They do a tour and tasting every Friday night @ 6PM limited to 75 people. I got to the brewery about 5:30PM and there were only 4 other people there, when they opened the doors at 6 there were maybe 30 of us there. The deal is you get the tour (about 45 minutes), a pint glass, and a full pint “taste” of everything they have on tap (typically 4 beers) for $5, sounds like one hell of a happy hour to me. Plus on top of that they have reasonably priced growlers (one of my pet peeves), $10 for new jugs and a fill or $5 for just a refill, plus they filled growlers from other breweries too.

The tour was pretty typical as far as brewery tours go. It was given by one of the four owners, Brent, and lasted about 45 minutes. He started by pouring us all a beer, there Blueberry beer (the crowd favorite), and then got on with his spiel. It was very typical in the sense of he went over the ingredients used to make beer, the equipment they use to make beer, and the general brewing process. It was interesting that after eight years it seems as if they still run things about the same as they originally did. There equipment is small, all used brewpub equipment, but it appears as if they max it out. They also have a hand bottler and hand canner. The bottler does a case at a time (I think) and the canner does two cans at a time. They sell their bottles in RI, MA, and CT with like 75% of their sales in RI. They only can one beer and just for the summer time, luckily for them. After the tour was the tasting, they had the Blueberry, their Summer seasonal an IPA, their Winter seasonal a Porter, and a test batch which was an Irish Stout. All four were pretty good, I think the Porter was my favorite though. Before I left of course I got some growler fills, and of course I brought my own. I brought four growlers and got one of each beer, now all I need is some help drinking them all. Later the next day I stopped at a package store and bout two more of their beers they didn’t have, Frank and Gloria from their Cyclone series, a White and Pumpkin respectively. Overall I’d say these guys are a solid contribution to Rhode Island.

Coastal Extreme Brewing Beer

Saturday we had a lot of family stuff to do so I wasn’t even going to push the stop at Coddington Brewpub, but I figured it was worth inquiring about. So on the way back to the hotel at 10:30PM I asked if Karen would be interested in stopping, she wasn’t really but she decided to take us anyway. All I really wanted was the sampler, just to get a taste of their beers. Well, their sampler was eight 7oz. servings for $8, almost four pints for $8, geez these guys from RI do craft beer cheap on location. Anyway, in the sampler was a Gold, Amber, Blueberry, IPA, Pumpkin, Oktoberfest, Nut Brown, and a Stout. All of the beers were decent, but none of them were exceptional. The Gold actually was a little rough, it was way to grainy (not malty, grainy). My favorites were the IPA and Stout, go figure. Also, what’s up with New England and blueberries in their beer? This was the third New England brewery where they had a blueberry beer: here, CEB, and Sea Dog Brewing Co. in ME when I got to try it for the first time like 5 years ago from a trip to ME from Robert.

Overall it was a good trip, both family and beer-wise. I have to give thanks to BeerAdvocate for helping me out with ideas for stops in Rhode Island thanks to this thread I started.

moe. @ Ram’s Head Live!

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Last Thursday (10-11-07) I went down to see moe. play at Ram’s Head Live! in Baltimore, MD. My night didn’t go quite as planned, but I had a great time all the same.


Originally I was supposed to go to the moe. show with five other people. The guy who bought the tickets wound up with an extra and asked if I knew anyone who would be interested in going the day of the show. My buddy Mike volunteered and seemed excited to go. Kind of unexpectedly the people I was originally supposed to go down with suddenly decided they were going to leave two hours earlier than originally planned and I was on my own. At first I was bent out of shape, but the more I thought about it the more it became to my advantage. I figured I didn’t have to work on their time-frame (they are notorious for leaving shows early) and I got to enjoy the show with Mike instead of being pulled between two different groups.

The show was pretty good, I can barely remember the last time I saw moe. (maybe 1/20-21/06), it seems so long ago, anyone care to remind me? I found a copy of the show already on, so you can listen to it or download it if your interested. Anyway, here’s the setlist:

Set I: Shoot First> Tailspin, Stranger Than Fiction> Time Again, Faker> Head
Set II: The Ghost Of Ralph’s Mom> Wormwood> The Ghost Of Ralph’s Mom, Water> Kids, Sensory Deprivation Bank> Down Boy> Recreational Chemistry
Encore: Akimbo

I had a blow out on the way home too. It was about 3:30AM on my way home on 495 and I was on the phone with the DJ from WMMR because I just called in and won a package of Eric Clapton stuff, and as I was talking to him the belts in my drivers side front tire blew. I got out and checked and the tire wasn’t flat, the belts had just busted through. So I decided to drive at about 30MPH the last five miles home. It was bizarre.

BYO Magazine October Issue

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Just finished the BYO Magazine October issue today on lunch. It was a quick and fun read, but nothing that shook the homebrewing community to its knees.



In the “Tips from the Pros” section Andy Tveekrem from Dogfish Head speaks about dry hopping with a Randall. It really wasn’t anything new, but towards the end he mentions they are working on a Randall version 2.0 which started as a senior engineering project with a group of Bucknell University students – whoa! I believe I saw said prototype at the DFH Bocce Tournament, not in use or on display, but sitting next to a pile of tools and hoses. It looks more pneumatic, like the beer will be more forced through the Randall versus pushed. They also had it all doctored up to look like a green dogfish with a clear body so you could see the hops, pretty neat.

Per usual I was delighted by Jamil Z.’s “Style Profile” on Scottish Ales. This article did two main things for me. One, I wish I had ordered ingredients to brew my MacRae Scottish Ale for this fall, and two it basically confirmed that I will buy Jamil’s book, Brewing Classic Styles, when it come out. After Jamil’s article there were two big articles on partial mashes and extract batches. I read both of them and they were interesting, possibly pretty useful for some brewers, but to me I was waiting to see what was next. Plus Chris Colby, the aurthor for the partial mashes, writes as if he gets paid by the word, boring.

After that was a funny little article called “BSI: Brew Scene Investigation” by John Palmer, a good beer author. The article itself I thought was kind of lame in it’s explanation and follow through, but the way it was written, very Dragnetish, was hilarious. It was basically a spoof off of most cop-buddy scenarios thrown into a homebrew situation and what came of it all. Toward the end of the magazine was an article that I enjoyed but felt was lacking any meat called “The Spirit of Belgium”. This article asked only four questions to seven of the American industries craft Belgian style beer makers. Good idea, but often there was too much overlap in the answers, even throughout different questions, which made the article feel a little fluffy. Some of the people interviewed were: Tomme Arthur from Lost Abbey, Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River, and Rob Tod from Allagash. The rest of the magazine which included articles on specialty grains and hop utilization left me wanting more. They did a great job reiterating what I already know but I wanted to learn something new, oh well, not this time.

Linvilla Hard Cider

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Sunday I ran out to Linvilla Orchards to scoop up some fresh apple cider to make a second attempt at making a hard cider.

Apple Cider

Last time I made hard cider was October of 2005. I followed some simple “rules” I found online and kind of went from there. This time I am essentially using the same “rules” + “experience”= to make a “new” hard cider. I still like the idea that hard cider should essentially be just real apple cider and yeast, that’s it. The only other thing I added was a yeast nutrient to help with fermentation. No additional sugar or spices or other bizarreness.

I bought the cider Sunday and let it sit out at room temperature all night to come up to ambient temperature. When I got to it after work it was 70 degrees, perfect. I dumped the five gallons of cider into a sanitized five gallon carboy, took a gravity reading (1.052), hit it with about 60 seconds of O2, dropped in an opened Servomyces capsule (yeast nutrient), and pitched my yeast. That was about it. Maybe 30 minutes worth of work, 60 minutes if I include the time it took to sanitize the O2 aeration stone and moving slowly. Hard cider, at least like this, is just about as easy as it gets.

Linvilla Hard Cider

Last time I used an Champagne yeast which made the cider very dry, beyond crisp. The original cider was decent for a first try, extremely crisp, tart, English cider like according to some people. But, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I wanted something with more flavor. One option would be to try and make a sweet cider like commercial American ciders, but without the capacity to force-carbonate the cider this would be dangerous. The reason it would be dangerous is the fact that the extra or additional sugar plus the yeast necessary for bottle-conditioning would lead to the possibility of exploding bottles from over carbonation, or as us homebrewers call them “bottle bombs”. So this time I figured I’d get a little crazy and use a pseudo-Belgian-style yeast with the cider, Safale-33. It could be great, it could be awful, I guess we’ll all find out together.

I’m also going to try and not age it as long as last time. Last time I bulk aged the hard cider for like nine months then bottle conditioned it for like three before serving based off of the online “rules” from before. This time, I’d love to have it on the table by Thanksgiving. Really I suppose I should be aiming for an earlier “brew” date for the cider so it could be around for Halloween and Thanksgiving time, but oh well. The biggest issue will be if the cider will clear by then or if I’ll be willing to bottle and serve it still “cloudy”. If it ferments and clears by the first week of November we’ll be looking good. Until then…