Thursday, February 09, 2017

State of the Homebrewery Address, Early 2017

 Belgian-style Tripel
It's February, and, as usual, several of my beers are in various stages of fermenting or conditioning. Here's what's currently in progress:
  • Primary: Rye pale ale w/Centennial and Chinook hops
  • Cold secondary: altbier
  • Newly bottled: Belgian pale (v2) for MS Brew Movement
  • Bottled but sitting for additional conditioning: Brett B Saison (probably 23 flip-top bottles)
  • Bottled and ready to drink: Schwarzbier (20ish bottles)
I also have an assortment of bottles still on hand from previous brews:
  • Festbier (probably 2-4 bottles)
  • Kolsch (probably 4-6 big bottles and a small one)
  • Belgian pale v1 (probably 3-5 bottles)
  • Belgian tripel (4 or 5 bottles)

2016 Successes
  • Festbier (really, really tasty...maybe the best thing I've brewed)
  • Science of Beer pale (good clean, hoppy pale ale)
  • Belgian pale v1 (really improved with age)
  • Kolsch (I'm almost always happy with that style)
  • Whole hop pale ale (one of the better hoppy beers I've brewed)
  • Zwickelbier (first go at decoction)
  • Hefeweizen (decoction mashout)
  • ESB v1 (solid)
  • ESB v2 (different yeast, slightly more flavor hops...smooth and refreshing - and won the DeNeuville contest!)
  • Quick German pils (kind of threw it together for 4th race, but pretty refreshing)
2016 Failures
  • Hoppy wheat ale w/citrus zest (ugh)
  • Hefeweizen w/raspberry and blueberry (some bottles didn't carb, others were bombs; the OK ones were actually kind of boring)
2016 TBD
  • Schwarzbier (though I think it's going to be good)
  • Brett saison (super Brett-y...not much saison flavor. Interesting, not sure I hit what I intended)
  • Belgian tripel (not bad, but just never really mellowed out the way I wanted...a little harsh to my taste)
  • Belgian pale v2 (used 3522 to ferment...very nice at bottling time)
  • Altbier (way too early! really a 2017 beer anyway) 

2016 Miscellany
  • I kegged a beer (pale for Sci of Beer) for the first time in a couple of years. It tasted good and I liked having beer on tap, but a spigot mishap led to several quarts of beer spilling onto my rug and wood floor, so I'm not too motivated to keg again anytime soon!
  • Relatedly, I acquired and then discarded a used dorm fridge--leaked condensation. I'll miss the extra lagering space, but the leaking was a bad deal.
  • Quick lager fermenting (ie, fermenting cold till just over 50% of attenuation has taken place and then letting temp rise) has served me well, as has the ice-pack method of temp control.
  • I continue to be inpatient with bottled beer--let those bottles condition, son!
  • Brewing with friends (eg, Joel, Donnie) is fun, and so is brewing alone. I need to mix in a few more social brew days in with my solo outings.
  • As usual, I ended up with more beer in the fridge than I could drink. I need to give more away and buy less commercial beer!
  • The sump pump/ice bath technique (thanks Jeff K!) really helps me get wort temp down to lager fermentation range.
  • I still struggle with constructive criticism of my beers--I'm way too defensive and am my own greatest hindrance in becoming a better brewer!
So...what do I want to brew this year?
  • ESB/bitter (w/seasonal yeast - split batch between 2 yeast strains)
  • Small saison (no brett...maybe use base recipe from brett one, and really ramp up finishing temp...dry is good)
  • More lagers! I'd love to give a triple-decoction Czech-style pils a go, and I wouldn't mind brewing a German-style pils around the same time for side-by-side comparison. I think another festbier or a Maibock would also be great. A couple of nice lagers would be suitable for Italian Fest.
  • Another fruit this time!
  • Another witbier (for Cortney's wedding, but maybe also a trial run beforehand)
  • A traditional bock



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Travelogue 2015

Let's see...Cindy and I took the following trips in 2015:

Madisonville, TN (twice)

New Orleans (by train)

Sandersville and Atlanta

St. Louis

Iowa City/Minneapolis/Red Wing/St. Louis

Rosemary Beach

Some thoughts:
  • Other than the first trip to Madisonville (which I took alone to see my grandmother one final time), all trips were with Cindy. Traveling together is much better than traveling separately. 
  • Compared to recent years, we traveled less, but we took one longer-than-average trip (Iowa/Minnesota/Missouri) and two other longish ones (Georgia and Florida). 
  • We did not take a single flight in 2015. I really do not mind long road trips, especially if I am the one doing the driving; fortunately, Cindy does not particularly care to drive, so I drove pretty much the whole way on all of these trips.
  • Cindy and I are blessed to have the same preferred rhythm and pace when we travel: both of us have learned, through experience, that we enjoy our trips most when we can balance variety of activity with simple down time. Sometimes, it's better to leave a few possible attractions unvisited, a few meals uneaten, a few beers undrunk. I think our trip to Rosemary Beach was our most "successful" in that sense--much of what we did was within walking distance of our rental, and we started every morning on the late side with a bike ride and ended every day with a walk on the beach. 
  • Although I had my share of good beer (especially in Minnesota), I didn't treat any particular trip as a "beer-cation" in 2015. I love visiting breweries, tap rooms, and brewpubs, but, by and large, I'm less keen on making those visits the main focus of our trips. (That said, I'd very much enjoy a beer-centric return to St. Louis one day!)
  • We traveled with our nephews twice in 2015--and took them on their first just-with-Cindy-and-me vacation (to St. Louis) in May. They boys really do travel well and are also old enough to enjoy a variety of food/restaurants, making for a fun and relaxing trip for both them and the adults.
  • It might go without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Cindy and I are blessed to have the financial means, time off work, health, and inclination to travel; we're both way more interested in traveling than we are in acquiring stuff, and I'm so thankful that we can share our adventures.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oregon Beer Inventory

Here are the beers I tried in the Portland area this past week:

Mash Tun
Campfire Kolsch
Galena IPA

Widmer Brothers
Amber Ale


Roguenbeer Rye
7 Hop Cider
Dirtoir Black Lager
Smoke Hop Bomb IPA

Breakside IPA
Woodlawn Pale
Passionfruit Sour
Double IPA

Obsidian Stout
Cask India Red Ale
Fresh Hop Oktoberfest
Fresh Hop Kolsch*
Nitro Cinder Conde
Fresh Hop Mirror Pond

Base Camp
Fresh Hop in the Pool Helles Lager*
Lost Meridian Wit*

Hop Valley
Imperial Red

Hair of the Dog
Lila Maibock
Ruth Pale Ale
Adam Dark Strong Ale
Fred Golden Strong (w/rye)


*Right beer, right time

Friday, February 14, 2014

State of the Homebrew Pipeline Address

Four different homebrewed beers are now making their way through my pipleline, the most I've had going at any one time. Here is the roster, from most recently to least recently brewed:

Racked to secondary this week: Pale Ale with Rye
I hesitate to call this beer a "Rye Pale Ale" or a  "Rye IPA"; I used rye more as an accent than as a main part of the grist, and though I aimed for malt balance, I'm not sure this one quite qualifies as an IPA of any sort. That said, I really wanted to see how the rye combined with Maris Otter malt, which calls more attention to itself with its bready, almost nutty flavor than either 2-row or Pilsner malt, and the piney and slightly spicy flavor of Chinook hops (which I combined with the citrusy Cascade for flavor and aroma). On my first taste at transfer time, I definitely caught a little (though not a ton of) rye flavor and could really taste the Maris Otter in the finish; the hops hit first and were sufficiently prominent to make me consider scaling back the amount of dry hops I plan to add in a week or so--I'd like the finished beer to be fairly balanced, with no one flavor masking the others. This one should be about 6.5% ABV and should be ready to keg by next weekend.

Racked to secondary last week and currently cold conditioning: California Common
I love this style. I made only minor tweaks to a recipe I've been working on for awhile, adding a little carapils for better mouthfeel and dry hopping with a small amount of Cascade hops (which I'll add in a week or two) to add a citrus roundness to the more earthy Northern Brewer hops that help define the style; pre-Cascade, it was already in good shape, with a good smoothness from the cooler fermentation. I'll let this one condition for a total of 3 or 4 weeks (so another 2 weeks at least) before kegging it; it should be about 5% ABV--a good session beer.

Kegged this week: Oatmeal Sweet Stout
I came up with my first oatmeal stout recipe last fall for my friend Billy to brew for a party; the flavor was good, but the finished beer was a little thin in the mouthfeel for my preference (I like the creaminess of stouts on nitro tap and from the cans with the "widget"--again, just a personal preference). I thus added lactose (milk sugar) to the boil to give it a fuller, creamier mouthfeel. I just kegged it Tuesday and tried a sip yesterday: it's not fully carbonated yet, but WOOOOO I'm really happy with the mouthfeel and flavor. My goal is to let this one sit till Pascha (ie, late April) and then bring it out for Bright Week. It'll be an easy drinker at about 4.5% ABV.

Kegged and ready to serve: Belgian Blonde with Mosaic Hops
This one, which I brewed for the MS Brew Movement Event (next Thursday), is the oddball of the group. My original intention was to simply add American citrusy hops to my basic Belgian Blonde recipe; I started it that way, keeping the overall bitterness low and then dry-hopping with a little Cascade, but since the Cascade did not cut through the way I'd hoped it would and because I had a bunch of Mosaic hops left over from a previous brew, I just chunked them into the carboy to see what they'd taste like. The result? Now the imbalance is on the hop side, with the Mosaic hops (which are fruity but also kind of dank) dominating the flavor, pushing the spicy, delicate Belgian yeast flavors way into the background--they're still there, but the hops are mainly what I taste first, second, and last. Fortunately, I like Mosaic hops, and I think it's a pretty tasty beer and should go over well at the event--but it's not exactly the beer I'd planned to brew.

Next Up: Sticke Alt (stronger version of an Altbier) for the AutoZone Brew Fest and maybe a Maibock for my own enjoyment.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 365 of 365

I had intentions of posting some sort of sprawling reflection on the past year today. I may or may not get to that this (New Year's Eve) evening, which promises to be a wild party of running the Wolf River trails, walking Cy (see below), washing at least three loads of laundry, watching the Tigers basketball game, and, eventually, grilling burgers stuffed with blue cheese for a late night supper with Cindy, who will work till at least 9:00 and probably much later as folks try to fill all the 2013 prescriptions they can.

Cindy worked late the first New Year's Eve we spent together, too; we ended that night an actual couple, so I'm pretty much OK with a reprise nine years later. Overall, though, my New Year's Eve history had been pretty uniformly poor, including the following highlights:
  • Staying home, along with my brother, while not being allowed to spend New Year's Eve with our favorite cousin because the (illegal thus immoral) shooting of fireworks within the city limits would be involved
  • Being stood up for a date when I was 16
  • Watching the Tigers lose on television while I was home with a cold when I was 20
  • Pining for some (other) girl and drinking to the point of falling asleep under a tree in a friend's front yard during a party when I was 22
  • Making my one and only foray into the world of drugs harder than alcohol or pot at the same house the next year
  • Arguing with my (then) girlfriend because I didn't want to take her to a party (which was at the house in front of which I'd passed out two years earlier and at which I'd snorted the cocaine the year before)
  • While we were dating, talking to Cindy on the phone while each of us was lying on our respective sofas with the stomach flu, unable to move and hardly able to talk.
It's a sorry history, for sure, and it'd be a depressing list except for the fact that each of the events described was pretty much the low point of each preceding year; the high points were, no doubt, on days on which I did not feel social or other pressure to celebrate only for celebrating's sake.


For now, I see 2013 as, among other things, the Year of Separate Travels for Cindy and me. The two of us did enjoy our semi-annual visit to the San Francisco area in May and were able to sneak away for a couple of longish weekends to the Mississippi Delta and Hot Springs, but otherwise most of our travels were done without the other. Cindy's trip to Alaska with her childhood best friend was long overdue, and I definitely had no place to complain about her being away, as I took five trips without her this year. Sadly, that number doesn't differ too much from those from previous years, but, maybe because I was on the left-at-home end for once, I felt the weight of the days spent apart more acutely this time. More than once, I thought to myself, "I miss Cindy in my bones"; it was not lust or even missed affection, just a feeling of emptiness, way deep down.

Cindy rarely complains about my being away, though I know it bothers her. It doesn't help that my absences seem to coincide with unfortunate occurrences at home. In 2012, Mr. B locked himself in and pretty much destroyed our bedroom during one of my trips; Cindy had to have him put down--in my absence--during a second 2012 trip. This past year, Cindy had to deal with a backed-up sewer line while I was away for Thanksgiving. In each case, she gave me her blessing to travel, but I still kick myself for not being home when she needed me there.

These separate trips will most likely still be necessary at times, a consequence of Cindy's rigid work/vacation schedule and my desire to visit family and friends when I can. But I'll do my darnedest to make sure 2014 is a Year of Shared Travels. Or at least the Year of Shared Time at Home.


On the plus side, this guy joined our family in October:

Even though I accidentally refer to him as "Mr. B" or "Bubba" now and again through old habit, Cy is decidedly his own man. The best leash-walking dog I've known, Cy will walk at my pace without my needing to tighten the leash, even walking alongside me when I simply place the handle end of the leash in my right coat pocket. He also knows how to work his way out of his kennel, which led to a problem-solving session similar to the one I needed back when I learned that Bubba could open an unlocked refrigerator. He's already pleasantly clingy and, like B, seems to prefer Cindy (though he wants to be near both of us). I suppose it's a luxury of childless folk to talk about the pleasantness of once again having a feeding and potty schedule give shape to one's day in reference to a four-legged companion, but it has been a surprisingly easy transition after a dogless year.

He'll be my companion for most of my activities this evening. I could not ask for better company.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

November Nashville Beer Tour

So it's been a couple of months since our beer tour of Nashville (technically, it was the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives Plus Brewery Tour, since we also ate at several restaurants we saw profiled on DD&D). Life and general busy-ness blocked my original intent to blog, but I'll post just a few pics and thoughts here. 

Just for starters, Nashville seems to have a vibrant, if fledgling, craft beer scene. We visited three breweries (see below), but a separate trip could've taken us to at least three other brewpubs (Blackstone, Boscos, and Big River), and at least two more production breweries are either off the ground (Little Harpeth) or getting there (Broadcast). We started our tour with the Elder Brother of Nashville Breweries, Yazoo.

Doubling up on Dos Perros

Our tour guide, Seth Green (actual name!)

We enjoyed our ($7) tour, which included 3 fairly generous samples (even more generous for those of us accompanied by a spouse who doesn't drink!). The on-site tap room was a happening place, with a line of folks looking for late Saturday growler fills extending nearly out the door; I left with a growler of Rye Saison, maybe my favorite of their beers.

After dinner at a Greek diner (Athens Family Restaurant, which was fantastic), we headed to our favorite part of town, East Nashville, where we stopped by Fat Bottom Brewing.

Fat Bottom's branding has rounded into shape

The Fat Bottom sampler

The Fat Bottom sampler boasted several styles, and thus nice eye appeal. My favorite was the seasonal Rye Pale Ale, though the Black IPA was super tasty as well (all others were solid). Unlike Yazoo (and Jackalope, although food trucks service both of them fairly regularly), Fat Bottom boasts a full-service restaurant on-site. We were full from dinner, but decided that we'd try something from the menu the next time we're in town. (I took home a growler of the Rye Pale.)

On the way out of town the next day, we tried Jackalope, which is located in the Gulch District within site of Yazoo.

The Jackalope sampler

When I received the Jackalope sampler, I was initially worried that I'd received four pours of the same beer, since the four I'd ordered (Rompo Red Rye Ale, Bear Walker Maple Brown, Thunder Ann American Pale Ale, and a seasonal IPA) were similar in hue. Fortunately, the beers ended up being very distinctive and probably were my favorite overall from the weekend, the Rompo being especially good (enough so to take home a growler of it; I must've really been in the mood for rye those two days!).

The tap room at Jackalope was super laid back; my wife and I played Scrabble and munched on sticky buns (made locally and offered for sale at the counter) while I lingered over my beer. Jackalope is also in the process of expanding to include a coffee bar, which makes me like them even more (and makes it likely that we'll stop by there more than once next time we're in town).