Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beercation: Stop #2 Pittsburgh, PA

I was in Pittsburgh for business the week after our great Pacific Northwest adventure. While there I thought I would do my best to explore what the city had to offer.
My first side trip started with a trail run through McConnell's Mill State Park (had to earn my beer that night). This place is gorgeous with a nice path along the river in a dense forest. I didn't look at the map very closely and ended up running a lot further than I was planning. I was shooting for 30-45 min and was out for over an hour. But the scenery was a nice distraction. I wish I had my climbing gear because this place is just amazing for rock climbing.
Afterward I headed up the 76 a little bit further into the town of Slippery Rock. I went to check out the North Country Brewing Co. From the outside it has a nice woodsy, country look to the place. And inside is similar but it well put together and was pretty packed for a Wednesday Night. They had about 10 beers on draft and even one on cask. I order the 6 beer sampler and was very impressed with their beer. The beer that really stood out to me was the Slippery Rock Dew which from what I understand is basically a braggot. It had a great wild honey smell and a nice but subtle sweetness. And I happened to hit the place on Wing night (2lbs for $6).
The next big side-trip was my journey into downtown Pittsburgh. The stadiums are amazing, built right next to one another (I'm keeping me fingers crossed that San Diego soon follows suit). I did a bit of exploring through Washington Park (which is the Pittsburgh equivalent of Balboa Park in San Diego). I also got lost driving around but it was a neat way to see the city. I eventually found what I was looking for ...Church Brew Works.
I read about this place and knew I had to go. This is hands down the most amazing Brewpub I have been to. I arrived near twilight which was perfect to see the light coming through the stain glass windows. The church was built in the early 1900s and has high ceilings and a great courtyard with hop vines. All the brewing equipment is out for display on the altar and the bright tanks are located behind the giant bar. This is a must-go. Now onto the beer, had their sampler with 5 regulars and 3 seasonals. The regulars were all good but "Brewpub Safe" (meaning nothing that really impresses the beer fan). But their seasonals were interesting and the Imperial Irish Red was a fantastic beer. I found most of their beers too sweet for me but it worked for the Irish Red. To make this experience complete, I had one of the best pizzas I've ever had. It was a Pierogi Pizza (Pittsburgh is semi famous for their Pierogis, which are traditionally dumplings with potatoes and cheese)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Beercation: Stop #1 Portland, OR

So it seems that every blog that I read has just vacationed in Portland in the last week or so. Well there is good reason, the weather is traditionally nice in August. And our trip last weekend was no exception.
I knew I was going to like this place before we ever left and I knew I was going to want to come back. We were traveling with another couple and were only Portland for only a day and a half. We had to be at a  wedding in Northern Washington by Saturday.
We arrived pretty late on Wednesday night but also very hungry and for me thirsty. We threw our stuff into the hotel and started our hunt for rations. Portland is a very walkable city so we were soon at our first bar, Henry's Tavern. Nice, upscale place with a good bar area. The beer list was decent with no memorable beers but the food was great, I had fancy hotdog sliders (seriously tiny wieners, tiny buns).
We were on our way to the hotel since everything else seemed to be closed. When a nice business man suggested we try to get a drink on the 30th floor, called the Portland City Grill. Why not and up we went. What a view and a great way to get an idea of what the city looks like.
So the next day was our big day to see the city. We started with a quick walk over the Willamette to check out Hair of the Dog. Unfortunately the don't open for people ready to drink beer at 10:30 am on a Thursday. I'll be back for this one. After a hearty breakfast, we started on our epic brewery / brewpub crawl. Check out the map. These breweries don't necessarily have the best brews in Portland. But this was a good way to see a good handful while still having a nice walk through the city. (For example, I really would have liked to go to the Raccoon Lodge, where Cascade beers are made.)
So we decided to start with the long walk so when we were tired from drinking we would have a much shorter walk home..(Also as a Pre-Face I am not a Hop Head and this is big in the Pacific NW)
Stop#1 Laurelwood  - As we arrived the sun started shining and the two stand out beers here were there award winning Golden Ale and the ESB. Both had nice clean malt bills with a great taste/aroma of NW hops. $10 - 8 tasters.
Stop #2 Old New Lompoc - Just a few blocks north, and has a great patio with hop and grape vines everywhere. Another taster rack, not too impressed with this beer but the LSD was an interesting beer and may be fun to make a homebrew version of.
Stopped by the local farmer's market to taste fresh berries and some cider.
Stop#3 Lucky Labrador - Probably my favorite place on the trip when comparing the beer quality and the atmosphere of the place. People do really bring their dogs and it makes for a neat time. So here we tried a double taster of all 12 of their beers on tap. Most were NW hop bombs but a few I still really enjoyed. I think I had my favorite Bourbon Barrel beer, the Red Baron. It was also nice to taste this beer as it warmed up. This is the first bourbon barrel that the nose wasn't too boozy and truly blended with the beer. And another great ESB.
Stop#4 Bridgeport Brewing - This has more of a restaurant feel and had good food. They had all solid beers, kinda reminds me of a Karl Struass in San Diego. All brewed to style and high quality at that. Again the favorite was the ESB.
Stop#5 Rogue - Probably my other favorite on the crawl. And I knew it would be going in. They had a lot of beers on tap and allowed you to mix match your own samplers. They had a brand new beer just released that was a favorite of the whole day, their Double Chocolate Ale. The Morimoto Soba was quite nice and different.
Stop#6 Deschutes - This was our last brewery stop and that meant dinner time. Which was perfect because this Deschutes location is mostly a restaurant. Nothing new on tap here but I am a big fan of their beers.

Stop #7 Bailey's - just because I was really craving a sour beer. For some reason, they didn't have any Cascade beer. So we went with a nice bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo Especial. It was new to me and I have been impressed with everyone of their beers so far.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dreg Series: Belgian Single Sour

I have been waiting to make this one for some time. A good friend of mine bought me a 2009 Allagash Confluence Ale for my birthday this year.(Sidenote: amazing beer, the beer completely changes as it warms up from a great Belgian Strong to a nice funky almost Saison) I knew this was bottle conditioned and I also know that it is a mixed ferment with their house Belgian yeast and house Brett strain. What I didn't know is if the yeast in the bottle was this yeast or just some bottling yeast. Well one way to find out. Since this bottle was a 2009 I decided to make a small starter (1/4 cup DME, 1 cup Water). After about a week I really didn't see much activity but I decided to give it a good shake and I say CO2. So that was a good sign.

So with the starter already in a gallon jug. I poured off the wort from my Belgian Single after boiling for about 25 minutes into another jug. I cooled this quickly with an ice bath and poured it into the starter jug. And with 12 hours I had a pretty good fermentation. I really hope that this yeast is their house blend. I will keep you updated with notes.

Also I am debating increasing the gravity with a few additions of candi sugar overtime since the OG = 1.034.

Day 1

Day 3

Day 5
9/8/10 Gravity Reading - 1.000 - wow, that mixed culture is a monster. So it looks like there really isn't any more food for the Brett to keep funkifying the beer. Something will need to be added. Also tasted this beer and it was very clean and well boring. Ideas?

12/11/10 Gravity - .099 - Well the Brett is coming to play. It is starting to have a nice aroma but the flavor is still much to be desired. I just found some Muscat grape juice from a local vineyard. I added the whole 750 mL. And I am getting very excited about the possibilities. Check again in another 3 months.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Session Beer Series: Belgian Single, Patersbier, Enkel

Call it what you want to call it.
Here is another session beer. I am truly excited about this one. It seems like such a great style that appears to be completely over looked. It is not really made commercially. A few of the Trappists make this style but either don't distribute or distribute very locally. (Chimay Doree, Orval Petit, Witcap Paters, Westmalle Extra). Through my internet research there seems to be a bit of confusion as to what to label these beers and also what the difference is between each. So that's why the name has three titles just so I have my bases covered. Actually some also call it a Table beer.
The history I could find behind this beer is debatable like everything in history. One idea is that these beers were the second runnings from the Triples or even Dubbels that the breweries made for the public. They would ferment these beers the same but would just be for the Monks to drink. The low alcohol allowed them to drink while still working (I wish this would still fly).
I made mine a pale version but my research showed that they can vary greatly in grain bill. The other purpose for this batch is to propagate yeast for my whole line-up of Trappist beers. Also if interested in entering this is competition, you may get away with entering it as a Belgium Pale but it seems most enter into the Belgian Specialty Category.
This one was a fun one to research and I came up with the recipe with this thinking. Belgian Pilsner  for the base malt, no explanation needed. The Wheat Malt is mainly to add a bit of protein to help get that rocky Belgian head on the beer that I really like. The CaraMunich is used to add a bit of complexity and toastiness I also like in Pale beers. Then the Acidulated Malt is added for a few reasons, one is to lower my mash pH since this is such a pale beer, but it should also help the beer have a nice crisp finish. The more I read the more it seems like the bittering hop matters very little, for this batch I used Northern Brewer because it was left from my California Common. Then for the flavor/aroma hop I used Saaz as it should give me some nice spice to match up well with the Belgian yeast. Also this is my first Belgian style beer so I decided to start with WLP500 or the Chimay yeast. I like the idea of using this for the entire Trappist series. And my plan next year is to brew the same grain bill with another yeast like WLP550. It will be fun to see the differences and maybe even try a vertical tasting in a few years.

Recipe: Belgian Single / Patersbier / Enkel
O.G.-1.039  F.G.-TBD   IBU-16.6 
SRM-5   ABV-3.8-4.2%%   Cal-127

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
5 lb Belgian Pilsner Malt (71.4%)
1 lb Wheat Malt  (14.3%)
.5 lb CaraMunich Malt (7.1%)
.5 lb Acid Malt (7.1%)

.25 oz Northern Brewer, 8.8%, pellet, 80 min 12.1 IBU
.5 oz Saaz, 6.4%, pellet, 15 min 4.5 IBU

White Labs WLP500 Trappist Ale (Chimay)

Brew Day:
Brewed: 8/14/10
Kegged: TBD

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet per 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.4 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 2.5 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 164F
Batch Sparge Volume: 5 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 7 gal
Boil Time: 90min
Post Boil Volume: 5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.043 (I got 78% efficiency)
Ferment Temp: 66-69F
Length: 14 days in primary

Day 2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Donate Your Medals

At last year's Wildflower Triathlon I learned about this non-profit organization, Won for One. I thought it was genius immediately. They will take your medals that you have "won" (I have never been close to winning) and give them to kids in hospitals.
I think the medals have a much better purpose this way than staying in some drawer in my house. I have the memories from the training and racing and there is no need for medal to remind me. It also makes your achievement more gratifying knowing you earned this medal that will now bring happiness to someone else.
So I urge all of your that have medals collecting dust, to take 5 minutes to fill out the form on their website and mail them off.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dreg Series: Black Jolly Sour

Alright, I'll work on the name. This was my third trial with using bottle dregs to make a unique beer with the wort from my main batch, Black California Common. This time I decided to take almost a full gallon after the wort had started boiling for about 10 minutes because last time it appeared I only had lactic fermentation. Also with this batch I did first wort hopping with all my hops.
After taking a gallon of boiling wort (be careful) I put the gal into the sink with a water bath. Once the wort was cool, I poured myself a few glasses of Jolly Pumpkin's Bam Noire. (Side note: I don't really like to do beer reviews because I don't really know what I'm talking about. But this beer is great, instant top 10 of all time. The best part of this beer is the aroma, just a touch of funk and sour. This was a pretty young bottle, though. And the beer is actually pretty tame and easy drinking.)
Within 24 hours I already had signs of fermentation and then the thing just took off. I have no idea if it will be that funky but maybe over time. I remember listening to a Can You Brew It show on the Brewing Network about Jolly Pumpkin beers and I believe he uses WLP 530 as his base yeast. I'm pretty sure this is what took off and the rest of the bugs will need some time.
I'll keep the post updated on the progress.
Day 2:
Day 4:
Day 6:
Update 9.11.10

Gravity 1.008
Big roast, taste of "burnt peanuts", just a touch of sour and pretty clean. Adding .25 oz Franch Oak cubes

Update 2.5.11
Gravity 1.010 - ???
HUGE sour, it was in your face and I love it, I touch more acetic than I'd like and I think that may be due to the amount of head space. This will probably get blended but I will see where it is in another 3 months.
Update 6.20.11

Tasted a sample at bottling and the acetic bite is completely gone and the acidity is now pretty mild. The beer is also much more fruity with big English esters. What I believe is happening is that as the beer mellows there is an equilibrium reaction happening with esters, acids and ethanol.

Ex. Acetic acid + ethanol -> ethyl acetate

"Ethyl acetate is synthesized industrially mainly via the classic Fischer esterification reaction of ethanol and acetic acid. This mixture converts to the ester in about 65% yield at room temperature:

CH3CH2OH + CH3COOH ⇌ CH3COOCH2CH3 + H2O " - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethyl_acetate
A formal tasting will follow.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Black / Schwarz California Common

So I wanted to try something new. I have my California Common currently lagering a bit in the keg. So I have a nice pitch of California Common yeast. In my travels to Germany my beer of choice was Schwarzbier with Alt a close second. I thought that it would be neat to try to make a Schwartz beer with this yeast.
So as usual I looked at a few references started with Jamil's recipe but I also found an interesting one at this blog I have been reading for a while, Ryan Brews. I am always shooting for more malt in my beer. This beer uses all Munich 10L for its base malt. And don't worry Munich can convert itself but if you use a lot of other grains that need the enzymes then you will need to add some 2 or 6-row. I was also going to try a couple new techniques. The first idea was to try a decoction mash. I had it all planned out and then realized it will make my brew day over 8 hours. This particular weekend I did not have that much time, so my decoction will have to wait. Plus listening to the Brew Strong guys they did not seem to see any improvement in their beers. Also I wanted to try First Wort Hopping, FWH. I have done some reading and it seems like an interesting method.

Recipe: Black California Common
O.G.-1.054  F.G.-1.013   IBU-27 
SRM-25   ABV-4.8-5.2%%   Cal-182

Grain Bill (75% Efficiency):
9.5lb Munich 10L Malt (95%)
.25 lb Chocolate Malt  (2.5%)
.25 lb Carafa III Malt (2.5%)

.75 oz Northern Brewing, 8%, pellet, FWH - 60 min 27 IBU

White Labs WLP810 San Francisco Lager Yeast Cake

Brew Day:
Brewed: 7/24/10
Kegged: 8/15/10

San Diego (Alvarado) Tap Water
1 campden tablet for 5 gal.

Mash Details:
H2O/Grain Ratio: 1.33 qt/lb
Mash Volume: 3.25 gal
Sacc Rest. Temp/Time: 152F @ 60min
Strike Temp: 166F
Batch Sparge Volume: 4.25 gal
Sparge Temp/Time: 170F @ 30min

Boil Details:
Boil Volume: 6.5 gal
Boil Time: 60min
Post Boil Volume: 5 gal

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.058 (I got 80% efficiency so I will add water)
Ferment Temp: 58-61F
Length: 14 days
Ferment Temp: 65F
Length: 7 days
F.G.: 1.013
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