Archive for August, 2007

Michael Jackson 1942-2007

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Michael Jackson the “Beer Hunter“, writer, and the original beer geek died this morning in his home in England.


I’ve always respected Michael Jackson’s views and insight into beer. He has been doing this “beer thing” much longer than most of us and was the original “rock star” on the beer scene that I can remember. I am sure his studies, travels, books, lectures, articles, and other teachings will long be influential. We have lost a mighty leader today.

BYO Magazine – September Issue

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Normally I’ll sit here with the magazine in front of me as I review it, but this time I happened to forget it, so don’t be surprised if there is more added to this post later.


Also, BYO is the worst about keeping their website up to date. Since I breezed through this issue in one lunch (per usual) I have been sitting on it for about a week waiting for BYO to throw a picture of the new cover up so I could use it here. Didn’t happen, so now I took the lame picture above to use in the post.

The cover actually grabbed my attention for once. Professional brewer on the cover (Great Divide president/brewer), the promise of 10 gold medal clones, and brewing with coffee – all things I am interested in. Brian Dunn (the Great Divide guy) brews great beer so I was waiting for an interesting article, guess what? No article, just a paragraph or so of him talking about how to properly brew an Old Ruffian Barleywine, which happened to win a gold medal, which happens to be one of the 10 clones. Then there was nine other snippets from nine other non-exciting brewers about nine OK sounding beers – double let down. Then there was the article on coffee and beer. It was mostly interesting, but felt very opinionated. Like I was looking for more of a scientific approach where he would brew the same beer repeatedly and use different kinds of coffee additions and or even different roasts or regional coffees. Like I could think of three ways to incorporate coffee: beans, ground, and brewed. And also multiple times to add these forms of coffee: to the mash tun, to the boil (different times), to the fermenter, to secondary, at bottling – it was a little lame honestly. He basically told you what he liked best through his trial and error but never really explained the trials, oh well. Other than that I don’t remember the articles being very remarkable, so they probably weren’t. Though this is the magazine I bitch about the most, I still enjoy reading it, it’s the fluff of the beer magazine community, to me.

Erik Mitchell and the Band

Monday, August 27th, 2007

I know Erik Mitchell and the Band sounds a little awkward, but I know he doesn’t want to be referred to as The Erik Mitchell Band, but I think there should be a designation between Erik Mitchell playing by himself and with the band. Can I say Erik Mitchell any more times?

 Erik Mitchell

View more pictures from these two shows here, including multiple, short, poor quality video with poor quality audio (I’m sure they love this)!

Regardless. Fortunately,  Karen & I have gotten to see Erik Mitchell and the Band play twice in the last three days in Delaware, it doesn’t get any nicer than that! First, we got to go see Erik, Robert, and Corey play over at the Brandywine Zoo in 103F weather. Erik and Robert have played there acoustically a few times this summer already, but this was the first time they were allowed to plug-in, so they did it up and brought Corey down to help rock the animals. It was really a lot of fun hanging at the zoo and watching the band play. But, I will remind everyone that it was 103F on Saturday, so it was very still and very moist fun. I honestly felt kind of bad for the band, the only one that didn’t look like he was going to melt was Corey. After the zoo and a short air conditioning break we all met back up at Mitchell Square Gardens and had some good grub, some good beers, some good company, and some good ol’ cornholin’!

Today at Rockford Park was just as much fun as on Saturday, only a little shorter and a little cooler. Not only that, this time Mitchell was able to muster up John Conahan to come down and sit in on keys with them. John adds a nice dynamic to the flow that these guys kick out and the harmony vocals are typically pretty nice too. Not that he didn’t contribute in a positive fashion this time, but his keys sounded a little “sharp” sometimes tonight. I hope that this four-set looks into playing more shows together because they seem to work together well, some more in Delaware would be especially nice for us locals. It was neat seeing a show at Rockford Park, I didn’t even know they had a summer concert series, go figure. Plus, they open the tower during the performances so we got to climb to the top and check things out, great view of Wilmington all around.

(Plug time) To read and hear more about Erik Mitchell and his band check out some of his websites for all the information you’ll need including set lits, upcoming events, music to listen to, and music to buy.

Malt Madness #1

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

This year there appears to be a new homebrew competition on the scene, Malt Madness presented by the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers. Of course, I didn’t want to bypass an opportunity!


So, between Garrett and myself we’ll be sending in 6 beers for this competition. Garrett is entering 2 on his own, 2 in conjunction with me, and I’ll be entering 2 on my own also. He is entering his  Travelers & Tourists and his Abbey Brown both in the Dubbel category. We’ll be entering the Gnarleywine in the Barleywine category and the Saturday IPA in the American IPA category together. And I’ll be entering my Saison in the Saison category and the Hazelnut Brown in the Specialty Beer category as a Rogue Hazelnut Nectar clone. We’ll see how it all goes, there’s a lot of very drinkable beers in that group.

I’m not too worried about Garrett’s beers, they are both excellent with the T&T as a stand-out to me. The Gnarleywine I am excited to here some feed-back on that one. The IPA I AM worried about though. It is an excellent beer, very big and fresh still, but I am once again having issues with bottle-conditioning for carbonation. I just tried one the other day and we had actually decided to not enter it because of the lack of carbonation, but at the last minute tonight while preparing the beers for shipping I said “screw it!” and decided to enter it anyway. I figured it’s till two weeks away from the competition and maybe the carbonation will come up, because otherwise I think it is an excellent IPA. So, we’ll see. The two I entered on my own I have mixed feelings about. I think the Saison is good, but not really a Saison, so I am waiting to get reamed a new one by the judges on that. I was going to enter it as a Belgian Specialty Beer but could not justify how it was one, so I’ll take an ass-kicking instead. And the Hazelnut I expect to do decent (like a 30 or so), but I can’t imagine there won’t be more stand-out-ish beers in the specialty category that will push mine out of placing. The Hazelnut will be “too normal” next to a Prickly-Pear Sage-Infused Braggot or something ridiculous like that. I was thinking of going up and judging, and I still might, but the competition is all the way up in Allentown and that’s a little far to go early in the morning and then again later in the afternoon after judging all day.

On another note/update it appears as if there is minor secondary fermentation going on in the carboy of ABA with the peaches. I have not pulled the bung or anything to see how things smell in there. Just looking at the carboy makes me think this is going to be a bitch to rack and I’ll have the easy potential to lose at least a gallon of beers, poo.


And on a side note, I’m not sure how much time I am really going to have this week, but hopefully I’ll be able to put up a new post almost every day this week. I really do like it better when the website is used, so check back everyday so as not to miss anything!


Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Well, I transferred the American Brown Ales over to secondaries and decided I was going to twist one of the five gallon carboys.


With the ABA we brewed and fermented everything identically. So as to not have ten gallons of the same beer (without knowing what it was going to be like) I decided to twist half of the batch in the secondary fermenter. I added fresh peaches, now that’s a twist! I thought a darker brew with the bright sweetness of peaches sounded good to me, I hope I am right.

Originally I had planned on cutting and grilling the peaches to kill any bacteria and acquire all that lovely melanoidin grilled flavor and the syrupy goodness that would have came from the peaches. But at the last moment I remembered something about heat setting the pectins in fruit, or something like that, so that in homebrew the beer won’t fall clear. Not my biggest concern, but no one wants to drink a cloudy beer that is supposed to be clear.  So instead I decided on freezing the peaches in hopes of killing any bacteria and to help burst the cell walls of the fruit hopefully releasing even more fruity goodness.

So the original transfer date was to be Saturday, that fell through. Then Sunday, fell through too. Then Monday, instead was the day the peaches went into the freezer. So Tuesday morning the peaches came out of the freezer and into the fridge to thaw during the day. Tuesday night it was time to cube the peaches. They started as three pounds and ended as two and half after pitting them. After they were cubed I decided to take it one step further and pureed the peaches to hopefully have maximum peach exposure in the beer.

The peaches temped out very cold still, 34F to be exact, and I was going to wait to add the beer to them but I was already ready to go. So first I added the peaches to the carboy then racked the ABA on top of the peaches. I gave the carboy a quick stir twice while filling to try and keep the peaches in suspension. I then placed the airlock and have since walked away. I was expecting to see a noticeable secondary fermentation but have not seen much activity at all.

Hopefully this will turn out to be a good experiment. I have only had one real drain pour (Chocolate Covered Cherry Porter), one that kind of turned into a drain pour (The Enigma Stout), and a fifth of a batch that well . . . I saved some taste-buds by getting rid of that one (The Cocoa-Pebble Oatmeal Stout). Thinking back, it has been since 2002 since I made a beer with fruit in it with the Celebration Ale, WOW – 5 years ago!

Bottling the IPA

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

So essentially over the last three days I prepared to bottle and bottled the Saturday IPA.


It was pretty uneventful per usual, which is always good with bottling. Saturday I put four cases of “clean” (read: no mold/funk) bottles in a PBW hot water solution to soak overnight to help with label removal and to help dissolve any organic material that may remain in the bottles that I didn’t notice.

Sunday came along and I sat in the basement for about three hours delabeling, rinsing, and sanitizing all 96 bottles. This part of brewing for me really is a labor of love, I can’t stand it sometimes. The work itself isn’t hard, I just always feel like I’m wasting my time or something, like I should be doing something more productive.

Monday (yesterday) was the actual bottling day. Karen offered to help me which always makes the time go by faster but also puts me more on edge. I’m not sure why because she knows what she is doing, I guess it’s more of a lack of total control during a delicate part of the process. The bottling went well though, I was filling Karen was capping. This was the 10 gallons of IPA that was fermented with two different yeast strains, then later 1oz. of bourbonized oak chips were added to one of them. After checking the FGs of each carboy (1.015 – OO1 yeast & 1.005 – dry yeast) and sampling each one side by side, I was surprised there really wasn’t too much of a difference. The one with the lower gravity was the one that had the chips added to it and I did not notice any flavor profile that suggested oak or bourbon, oh well. Hopefully we won’t see any problems with carbonation, which has been not 100% as of late.


That’s a picture of a quart of the 001 IPA that I was able to enjoy while bottling. I know the thought of warm uncarbonated realatively young beer to some of you is not appetizing, but I quite enjoyed it.

ABA Grand Experiment

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

On Sunday Garret and I whipped up another 20 gallon batch, this time of an American Brown Ale. Hopefully something less hoppy than a brown Pale Ale and less chocolate-roasty than a Porter. Much like the color gray (at least all of the good grays) an ABA is easy to make yet difficult to nail.


Things got started on Saturday bright and early after a mentally foggy and late night before. My plan was to get to Garret’s around 7:30AM, but it was probably closer to 8:00AM by the time I got there and definitely by the time I unloaded the car. This time I brought down some extra stuff with me. Besides the normal carboys I also brought down my burner and propane to contribute to the experiment and the keg of Hazelnut Brown I had since the Scavenger Hunt.

While we were heating the foundation water for the mash I got a crash course in counter pressure filling bottles from a keg. Garret had recently put about a half keg of the Gnarleywine on tap and had decided to CPF the remaining gallon or so into bottles. I have never CPF yet have thought about the possibilities of how useful this technique would be for high alcohol beers that have problems bottle-conditioning (think Double Dubbel and Gnarleywine). It actually wasn’t difficult and made a lot of sense after I say it in motion. Essentially you pressurize an empty bottle so that you add beer at the same pressure that the beer is in the keg, after you pressurize you lay a cushion of CO2 in the bottle as not to oxidize the beer, then add the beer from the keg, and finally quickly cap the bottle. I was quite surprised with the force that the CP filler pushed back with. I think we got 15 or 16 bottles out of what was left.

For the ABA batch we were going to do our first 20 gallon batch in one mash tun, this was the grand experiment. Garret is fortunate to have a lot of stainless steel vessels to try and come up with different configurations on how to make this work. Here is basically what we had and how we did it. We had (2) 28 gallon kettles A & B, (1) 25 gallon kettle, and (1) 14 gallon kettle, two 75,000btu burners #1 & #2 and two March pumps to move liquid around. In the picture at the top the top most kettle is the 28 gallon kettle B, the one below that is the 28 gallon A, and the one below that is the 25 gallon kettle. The one by itself on the right of the picture is the 14 gallon kettle. OK, here we go:

  • Essentially after we heated the foundation water (while we were CPFing) we pumped that water from the 25 gallon kettle to the 28 gallon kettle A. We mashed in our grains and at that point had about an hour to heat approximately 26 gallons of water to between approximately 180-212 degrees.

  • We used burner #1 to heat 20 gallons of water in the 25 gallon kettle to 180 degrees and burner #2 to heat 6 gallons of water in the 14 gallon kettle to 212 degrees. Both burners brought the water to the desired temperature in the time frame we were looking for.
  • We then manually scooped the 6 gallons of boiling water (3 quarts per scoop) into the 28 gallon kettle A with the grains. This was our mash-out water which denatures the enzymes in the grains by raising the temperature thus locking in your fermentation profile, plus making the mash less viscous so it will run off better. The mash then sits for another 10 minutes.
  • We then pumped the 20 gallons of 180 degree water from the 25 gallon kettle to the 28 gallon kettle B. The 25 gallon kettle was then removed from the burner and placed below the 28 gallon kettle A with the grains in it. So now we essentially have a heavy duty 20 gallon gravity fed brew set-up, well set up.
  • At this point we recirculated the mash until it ran clear and then let it run off into the 25 gallon kettle which we were using more as a collection vessel/grant than anything else because both the kettles that were large enough to actually boil the wort were now occupied.
  • This is the first time we had used one of the boil false bottoms in the stainless kettles as a mash tun false bottom. Typically for this size batch we would use (2) 10 gallon coolers. The main benifit to the coolers in the insulation factor, so we wrapped the stainless mash tun up in two sleeping bags to help retain heat which worked perfectly. Definitely better to use one vessel (ease and clean-up) but we were concerned with the differences in the false bottoms. The mash began to slow about 20 minutes into the run-off and threatened to get stuck, so we chose to cut it off, remix the grain, let it re-set-up, re-recirculate and start again.
  • abaweb3.jpgI forgot to mention, Garret has been looking for a better/easier way to mix this huge amount of grains and water together and has adopted and bettered an idea from one of the guys in his brew club. He now uses a paint stirrer called a Squirrel Mixer that just does one hell of a job mixing the grains and water, I was amazed by its efficiency.
  • This time, the rest of the run-off ran just fine. We could only collect about 24 gallons in the 25 gallon kettle and we needed more like 26. So once the wort got up to the 24 gallon level we switched the run-off into two plastic 1 gallon pitchers we have. Now we had all the wort collected, but we needed it in one kettle.
  • We quickly emptied and cleaned the mash tun (which is the 28 gallon kettle A), set it back up as the boil kettle and pumped the wort from the 25 gallon kettle up to the 28 gallon boil kettle now up on burner #1 and dumped in the extra 2 gallons from the pitchers.
  • At this point everything was essentially ready to go it was just all a matter of doing the right thing in the time sequence. We did happen to run out of propane about half way through the boil, but like any good homebrewer Garret had at least one back-up.

After everything was boiled and chilled and transferred we tried a couple of beers. We had already had a few of Garret’s Titless Wits which were quite tasty. We also tried a Unibroue Ephemere apple beer which was pretty good, like a cross between an effervescent hard cider and a lager. Then we tapped the Hazelnut Brown which was nice also. I wish I had remembered to bring a bottle of Rogue’s Hazelnut Nectar with me (which this beer was modeled after) so we could do a comparison tasting, but I did enjoy it none the less. And we wrapped up the beer tasting with a Stone Ruination ale which a wonder-fuckin-ful beer that I was overly impressed with. Those Stone bastards have mastered the hops my friends, oh yes they have. After that we pretty much wrapped things up, I think both of us exhausted and happy with the results. Looking forward to doing another 20 gallon batch as soon as the weather cools down!

Transfer IPA

Monday, August 6th, 2007

So I transfered the Saturday IPA last weekend (I’m a little behind on posts) into secondaries – man does this beer already smell goo-oo-ood! Let me state once more for the record: OVER a pound and a half total whole leaf hops in this beer – nice!


ipatransweb2.jpgipatransweb1.jpgWith this beer we added a 1/2 ounce each Columbus & Simcoe hops to the secondaries, it should be a way hoppy IPA. If you look, at the thumbnail you can see there is a little black spot in the hops today. That lovely black spot is 1oz. of bourbon (Wild Turkey 101) soaked oak chips. These chips have probably been soaking for a good 6 months+ so it should be nice. So that’s 5 gallons of bangin’ American IPA and 5 gallons of bourbon oaked American IPA – SWEET!

Deathly Hallows Follow Up

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

OK, we finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last Saturday, so it is now legal to talk to us about the book. Thanks to all for not ruining anything, I’m sure none of you would have done it on purpose. Our media black-out was a success for the week.


I have decided that not only do I have something to say about this book, but many of you probably do too and may not have a sounding-off point. So, I am going to open the ‘comments’ section of this post to let anyone who wants to give there opinion of the book and see if any discussion starts. *****SPOILER WARNING***** to anyone who has not read HP book 7 (or possibly book 6 also if you are the type that has only watched the movies)! Only click on the comments section if you are fully aware that there will be major plot spoiler information contained within. Remember, you have been warned, don’t blame me when you decide to look anyway.

Fordham Brewery

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

Last Friday Robert & I went down to Fordham Brewing Company in Dover, DE before work to pick up some base grains and a very fair price. We left around 6:30AM so we could stop and get breakfast, get to Fordham, and still make it back to work by 9:00AM.


We already knew where we where going to go for breakfast, Helen’s Famous Sausage House of course! If you have never had a Helen’s sausage sandwich before and you are a breakfast sandwich person, then you are missing out on one of the best breakfast sandwiches ever (heart-attack on a roll). A Helen’s sausage sandwich is two homemade sausage links that are larger than hotdogs deep fried with a fried egg and Cheese-Wiz on a hotdog roll. It is so obnoxious, that I typically take off one of the links and eat it first, then eat the remainder as a sandwich. It is an awfully good treat, but typically my digestive track is correct for the rest of the day.

After Helen’s we continued down to Fordham. We met up with Walter the head brewer there and bullshitted for a little while. We talked about what’s new at Fordham, how things have been in the last year, and when am I going to come down and volunteer again. While we were there (at 8:00 in the morning) Walt offered us some beer samples after a very brief and informal brewery tour. We tried two beers, my favorite their Tavern Ale which is only sold on tap and is a cross between an American and an English Pale Ale and there new summer seasonal which was a Hefeweizen aged on raspberry puree. The summer seasonal was pretty good, definitely something Karen would have liked, but it is unfortunate for them that they missed some sort of labeling approval and could not bottle it this year, so it is only available on draft.

Some of the news I picked up down at Fordham is huge for them. First off they hired two new employees, both brewers, one from Old Dominion in VA and one from the American Brewer’s Guild. Also, Fordham has “bought out” Old Dominion, now owning Old Dominion in VA, Fordham in DE, and all the Ram’s Heads in MD, and reforming under the mother company name of Coastal Brewing Company. On top of that, Anheuser-Busch apparently “bought out” a large chunk (49% I believe) of Coastal Brewing. Supposedly it has to do with a distribution deal, and Fordham and Old Dominion products should soon be available minimally up and down the east coast wherever Anheuser-Busch products are available – which is everywhere. I believe Walt said that Fordham currently produces around 7,500 bbls of beer annual right now and A-B promised them an increase to 250,000 bbls of beer annually in the next five years with the majority of the production coming out of Dover, DE. Take all of this with a grain of salt because it was all spoken about very conversationally and I am only putting down what I think I remember. So enjoy the tasty nuggets!