Archive for October, 2008


Sunday, October 26th, 2008

So between yesterday and today I got three transfers done thatneeded to get under way.


Back in April I believe I brewed a 20 gallon batch of American Wheat beer withGarrett. We split the batch and I left 5 gallons of my beer ‘plain’ and I added fruit to the other 5 gallons. I have just kegged the 5 gallons of fruited wheat beer, sheesh I’m a slacker. Two down sides to this scenario, (1) I would have rather of had this beer available in the summer, a fruit-wheat beer just screams summer-time, and (2) the beer has taken on a slight sour flavor. I am not alarmed, I do not think the beer is a drain pour or anything, there just appears to be a slight sour fruit flavor present that I don’t remember from when I transfered the beer to it’s third fermenter. I kind of like it, like a tart sour cherry, but there is no cherries in it, it was predominantly pomegranates and blueberries. We’ll have to see what cooling this beer down and adding carbonation to it does, but I think it could be a neat tart treat. I also transfered both ciders to secondaries today. I am trying to stay on top of these ciders and am planning on drinking them ‘young’ and having them ready for Thanksgiving. The cider fermented with the S33 finished at 0.0998 and the cider fermented with the US56 finished at 0.0996 – talk about some dry stuff. I think I am going to keep the S33 cider ‘traditional’ because it should have a little bit more complex flavor profile on its own, and I think I will try to back-sweeten and/or try to pump-up the appleness in the US56. I’m going to have to do a little research on the back-sweetening aspect, but I know others have done it so it shouldn’t really be a big deal. My plan is to keg and force-carbonate a good number of bottles to take around the circuit on Thanksgiving. Typically my beers are well received from the people that like craft beers, but I’m hoping the ciders will hit a larger palate range, but again the problem is that these are not you ‘normal’ ciders so it is still a sell, whatever, it’ll be Thanksgiving people will shove anything in their mouth 😆 .


I also pulled off 6 bottles of the Plain Porter on tap right now. I am going to try and do this with every batch. I want to do this more to have a stock of beers for the annual Fool Circle beer tasting more than anything else, but I suppose if there is some competitions in between that could be useful too, like this one in two weeks, the Inaugural Stoney Creek Homebrewers Amateur Brewing Championship.

Imperial Amber Ale

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

So on Sunday (10.19.08) my buddy Garrett and I got together to brew another 20 gallon batch of beer, this time it was an Imperial Amber Ale for lack of anything else to call it.

We got started a little after 10AM mashing in over 50lbs and grain into one of his gigantic 26 gallon stainless steel kettles (he has three). Besides a metric-ass-ton of grain, this brew also had a choking amount of homegrown hops, 2lbs of whole hops. The brew day went rather well, no major catastrophes. The biggest problem we ran into was with trying something new. Garrett had been designing, prototyping, working on, blogging about, and test-driving part of his master control system for his future brew sculpture. The part that he’s been working on the most is the box that will control the grant and the pump that makes the grant work. Since we were not going to use the grant, but wanted to play with it anyway we decided to try and use it to help automate moving the wort from the mash tun to the brew kettle. Moving 25ish gallons of 160ish degree wort is no simple task. Normally we fill his 15 gallon kettle up twice and pump it over. This time we were going to try and use his grant as an automated smaller version of this. Basically the way that his grant is set up is that the wort comes in the top and goes out the bottom, but there is also a float valve at the top and bottom. So essentially when the grant gets too full it hits the top float switch and it tells the fancy-thinking-box that Garrett made to turn the pump on and send the wort over, but then when it pumps over enough it hits the bottom float switch and it tells the box to turn the pump off. The grant is a gallon or two so it would do this several times, but really it is kind of a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working right. Of course it had worked great every time in a controlled environment run with water, but the first time we try it with wort – no bones. According to Garrett’s website it looks like he has it figured out and it was something relatively simple, so next time Gadget, next time. Other than that, like I said, pretty painless. I have 10 gallons of dark Imperial Amber Ale chugging away in the basement, 5 gallons on WLP001, 5 gallons on US56.

^ Fancy-Thinking-Box ^

Hard Cider

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

On Monday (10.13.08) I made two 5 gallon batches of hard cider, I am very excited about these!

So I try to make a batch of hard cider every year, which translates to twice in the last three years, oh well. Anyway, on Saturday Karen and I went out to Linvilla Orchards and picked up the cider, ten 1 gallon jugs, about $50 worth of cider. I figured that wasn’t too bad, though I would have liked it if they had a larger quantity option. I had previously contacted them about getting a custom blend of apples, or getting the cider right off the press, or any other suggestions that could make the cider fresher / more unique, but they said ever since the barn burnt down (which had their press in it) they ship their apples out to get pressed and the cider they have is the only cider available.

The original plan was for me to take the cider home, let it sit out at room temperature for about 24 hours (until it came up to temperature) then make the cider. Well, things change. Instead Robert and I contacted each other and punted. We had talked about camping on Saturday down in Sussex County and then running all of the Sussex County Trail Challenge, about 13 miles over five trails. This idea had kind of slipped through the cracks until about mid-day Saturday when suddenly we both were like “do you want to?” So basically we scrambled to throw together our camping gear, get food, and try to find a camp site with availability. The first two campgrounds we called were already booked, but the third was the charm, and we stayed at DE Seashore State Park on the Indian River Inlet. We drank some good beers Saturday night, Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter and Oatmeal Stout, and a Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher Russian Imperial Stout.

Linvilla Cider 2Sunday came bright and early and we almost didn’t get to have coffee, ran out of fuel for the camp stove right before it came to a boil and there was a no open fires rule at this campground. The runs went OK, our favorite run we got turned around on since they had changed the trail, and the two we were dreading the most went fine, go figure. Since we were already down in the area, we took advantage of the fact that we could go to Dogfish Head. So we had a couple reward beers and a sandwich, then I saw something I hadn’t seen before. Floating behind the bar were a couple unidentified unadvertised bottles of beer. I inquired and it turned out to be two special beers, both $20, both had to be drunk in house – drat. One was a beer Sam had brewed with a Danish brewer called Odense Old Style Ale brewed at Nørrebro Bryghus in Copenhagen, the other was a beer Sam had brewed with a group of US brewers called Isabelle Proximus brewed at Port Brewing. We had the Isabelle, an American Wild Ale, and it was ridiculous, I am so glad we bought a bottle, very difficult beer to find. If you are interested in obscure beers / beer adventures I would highly recommend the links to these two beers, cool stories.

Linvilla Cider 3So by the time I got home on Sunday I was completely wiped and the cider still had not been made. I checked all the bottles and the cider did not seem to begin spontaneously fermenting so I figured I had time. I honestly didn’t get to the cider until Monday night at about 11PM, so they had been sitting out at room temperature something like 58 hours! I was kind of nervous that I had just blown the cider experiment and wasted a bunch of money, but as I was taking original gravity readings out of the jugs I tasted most of the cider and smelt all of it and it seemed fine, I was relived. I make a very simple cider recipe: five gallons fresh apple cider, 1 Tbsp yeast nutrient, and 1 pack/vial of yeast – that’s it. This time I used S-33 a Belgian-style yeast in one batch and US-05 an American-style yeast in the other. In the past I have had some carbonation issues, but theoretically it should be a non-issue this time, either kegging it or kegging it and force carbonating the bottles. The plan this time is to keep one cider “traditional” and to back-sweeten the other cider to make it more like a cider-pop American style, like Woodchuck or something. So far the fermentation has been very vigorous, to the point that I have been running them as “open fermentations”. Well, not full-on, but I removed the air-locks from the carboys and just covered the openings loosely with aluminum foil. Why? Well, Tuesday morning I cam down to check on the ciders and there was “apple sauce” inside the air locks, so I figured I’d try to give them a little extra breathing room. I’m really not to worried about it.

Kennett Brewfest 2008

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I know, I know, it was over a week ago and my slacker-ass is only now getting around to posting about the Kennett Brewfest, oh well, deal with it.

So two Saturdays ago (yes, 10.04.08) was the annual Kennett Brewfest, probably the closest and best brewfest that I go to the most regularly. It’s funny, with me, Kennett has a reputation of being either really good or not so good, but never bad, and they seem to happen every other year. Well, since last year was the closest fest I’ve been to at Kennett where I almost didn’t have a good time, you know this one couldn’t suck!

A couple changes were made to help make things better, but really it boiled down to two changes that kind of go hand-in-hand, that being only a limited number of tickets were sold this year and there were no day of sales for tickets. They also happened to have more breweries this year (mostly distributor represented), so between the extra booth spaces for people to visit and the little bit less people it felt a little roomier and generally the lines moved a bit faster. Biggest complaint for this year, which has been a problem for a couple years now, is they have one section where there is an aisle where maybe eight breweries face each other from each side. Well, once the lines form for all sixteen of those breweries it is almost impossible to get through that aisle plus there appears to be a lot of line jumping. It was the only area where waiting for a beer kind of sucked.

Highlights for me? Definitely Voo Doo’s Big Black Voo Doo Daddy, one hell of an Imperial Stout, Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard from Stone never disappoints, and the beers from Oskar Blues were all great. Until next year!

GABF – Local Winners

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Congratulations go out to all the local boys in representing another great year at the Great American Beer Festival!


Category: 5 Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer – 72 Entries
Silver: Pangaea, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE

Category: 7 Specialty Beer – 21 Entries
Gold: Red & White, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE
Bronze: Palo Santo Marron, Dogfish Head Brewery, Milton, DE

Category: 8 Rye Beer – 24 Entries
Gold: Roggenbier, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Phoenixville, PA
Silver: Right On Rye, Rock Bottom Brewery – Bethesda, Bethesda, MD

Category: 18 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer – 27 Entries
Gold: Beekeeper, Bullfrog Brewery, Williamsport, PA
Silver: Cherry Dubbel, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – North Wales, PA

Category: 21 Smoke-Flavored Beer – 31 Entries
Gold: Rauch Bier, Sly Fox Brewing Co., Royersford, PA

Category: 23 German-Style Pilsener – 44 Entries
Gold: Kaiser Pilsner, Pennsylvania Brewing Co., Pittsburgh, PA
Bronze: Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA

Category: 26 Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest – 16 Entries
Bronze: Penn Oktoberfest, Pennsylvania Brewing Co., Pittsburgh, PA

Category: 30 Vienna-Style Lager – 28 Entries
Gold: Vienna Red Lager, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Newark, DE
Bronze: Clipper City MarzHon, Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD

Category: 31 German-Style Märzen – 48 Entries
Gold: Dogtoberfest, Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD

Category: 32 American-Style Amber Lager – 43 Entries
Silver: Old Scratch Amber Lager, Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD

Category: 40 German-Style K̦lsch Р42 Entries
Gold: Wind Blown Blonde, Stewart’s Brewing Co., Bear, DE

Category: 52 Scottish-Style Ale – 24 Entries
Gold: Highland Courage, Rock Bottom Brewery – Bethesda, MD
Bronze: Railbender Ale, Erie Brewing Co., Erie, PA

Category: 60 French- and Belgian-Style Saison – 37 Entries
Gold: Saison, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – West Chester, PA
Silver: Saison, Nodding Head Brewing Co., Philadelphia, PA

Category: 62 Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale – 29 Entries
Gold: Lambic de Hill, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Media, PA
Bronze: Cassis de Hill, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant – Wilmington, DE

Category: 69 American-Style Stout – 23 Entries
Bronze: Troegs Dead Reckoning, Troegs Brewery, Harrisburg, PA

Category: 73 Strong Scotch Ale – 38 Entries
Bronze: Bag Pipe’s Scotch Ale, Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works, Allentown, PA

Category: 75 Barley Wine-Style Ale – 55 Entries
Bronze: Scratch #4 “The Flying Mouflan”, Troegs Brewery, Harrisburg, PA

2008 Michael Jackson Beer Journalism Award Winners:
Trade and Specialty Beer Media – Lew Bryson

So on Saturday (10.11.08) was the GABF and it looks like there was a lot of Mid-Atlantic action in there, especially from our local favorite Iron Hill Brewery – all of their locations! A couple to me that are stand outs are Sly Fox taking a gold in the smoked beers, which notoriously goes to Alaskan Brewery’s Smoked Porter year after year, Victory taking a bronze in the German-Style Pilsner for their Prima Pils where they have usually done really well but were beaten last year by Sly Fox with their Pikeland Pils, Stewart’s going two years in a row with a gold in the German-Style Kolsch which is awesome especially on the system they brew on it makes it really sick, and Iron Hill taking three in the Saison, Lambic or Sour beers (I know I combined two categories), WOW that was inpressive.

Very good job all around, and I can’t wait to sample and re-sample many of these beers. Congrats to Lew Bryson too for winner one of the Journalism Awards there too, nice local writer/beer geek.

2008 Dogfish Head Bocce Tournament

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

So last Saturday (09.27.08) I was down at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE for the 4th Annual Intergalactic Bocce Tournament, and it was ridiculous.

If you want to see the rest of my pictures click here.

This is one of those events where I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s see here. We were invited down again for the entire weekend, Friday and Saturday, but because we all have jobs we were only able to go for Saturday so the band could play, but we did leave Friday night to head down early since Dogfish Head had hooked us up with a hotel room for the weekend. This year the rooms were in the Brighton Suites which is where we stayed last NYE and this coming one also. It’s funny, the rooms are never in the same hotel two years in a row, I wonder what that says about the bocce teams. When we got to the room it was probably close to 10PM, and after checking everything out discovered that there were two 4-packs of DFH Palo Santo Marron beer in the fridge – shweet! So we cracked a beer a piece and then went on down to the brewpub, about three blocks away or so and chilled out for a while.

When Saturday came we all hopped in the van and went on over to the brewery in Milton, about a 30 minute drive. We showed up at just about noon and started unloading the equipment. This year DFH had two tents set-up outside and they had kind of reserved one of them for the band, really cool. So after the band was set-up and sound-checked they began their first of four sets. Each set was probably about an hour and fifteen minutes, so it was about five hours of playing interspersed with beer breaks, including 60 Minute, Black & Blue, and World Wide Stout. While the band was playing I mostly just hung out with the freaks and watched bocce, but as more and more teams dropped out of the tournament (double elimination) there was more and more stuff to do. By the end we had my Cornhole set set-up in the brewery and had almost a mini Cornhole tournament going on.

Some of the other side stuff DFH had set-up this year to keep everyone entertained was a graffiti contest with sidewalk chalk, a breakdancing competition, and a very heated costume contest. In the past all the teams had themes and most of them wore costumes, but it had started to get a little lax with teams just wearing like T-shirts with their team names on them and stuff. So supposedly in the email that went out to the teams they stressed that it was going to be much more important this year to roll with their themes, and boy did some of the teams bring it. Some of the team names I can remember are: El Borracho Mariachi (mariachi theme), Beer Junta (army theme?), Bocce Beer Monks (monks), Mama’s Roast Beef (purple freaks), Alpha Males (Jimmy Buffet), Midas Touch My Balls (old guys), Bonsai Bocce (Karate Kid), Holy Rollers (religious figures), Pallino Pimps (pimps), Punkin Drublic (pumpkin/punks), Catbird Ass Brewery (chicken chokers?), Don’t Touchdown There (Eagles), and Sam’s Team (Village People). The freakin’ old guys from MTMB were ridiculous. Not only were they in costumes, but they were in full character, especially two of them. They had gone so far as to shave the tops of their heads so they looked like old guys with major receding hair lines and wore Depends adult diapers – they were just out of control.

At one point the band had sent out an email saying if any of the teams were interested in requesting a song that they would take it into consideration and see what they could do. They received one email back with one request. The Bonsai Bocce team requested any song from the Karate Kid movies. The Erik Mitchell Band thought it was great and went through the effort to learn Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best Around“. It’s so funny, this song keeps getting stuck in my head ever since they learned it. They did a great job pulling it off in there own way, and everyone at the bocce tournament loved it. It was funny to later on hear people singing it. The band also did the 2008 version of the Bocce Song which is basically an off-the-cuff song Mitchell pulls out of his ass which is freakin’ hilarious. This year he basically gave props to Audrey (the person who organizes the tournament) and then systematically went through each team and several individual players and ripped them. It might sound a little mean, but he does it in good humor and everyone is laughing, so I think all are on the same page.

Near the end of the tournament the band was just wrapping up their fourth set when the cops showed it. It was pretty funny to see Sam walk down to talk to the cop wearing his tight Village People police outfit talking to the real cop. Basically from what I can gather the cops came on a noise complaint because of the band, but he was cool and let the band play one more song. So, for their final song they played “Every Rose Has a Thorn” and invited up anyone who would like to sing along (see above photo). It was too funny seeing everyone singing along, pimps, Jebus, old dudes, monks, Eagles, the band – too funny. After that we packed up the band gear and put the van and gear away for the night. It was just in time to watch the last two games of bocce between Sam’s Team and the Bonsai Bocce crew. Sam’s Team actually beat Bonsai Bocce twice in a row (remember, double elimination), so theoretically they were the winners, but Sam announced that they would not accept the awards (four cases of vintage DFH beer) and gave them to Bonsai Bocce and basically pimped the praises of Bonsai Bocce all night. After that we all loaded into two buses and went back to the brewpub for dinner and the awards ceremony.

To say what I tried to describe is just the tip-of-the-iceberg is about all I can say. Go through the pictures, read the set list, watch the videos – this weekend is simply retarded in the best way possible. And I think as long as there isn’t any trouble that follows from the police showing up, I think the band (and me) will be invited back next year for the five year anniversary. This is my favorite beer event that I get to participate in every year.

If you want to check out more on the band go to Erik’s MySpace page here. There is plenty of band information plus if you look on the left side where he posts his set lists you can see the full scoop of what they played. There is also a video of the band playing “You’re the Best Around” on his page or here. Also, the “Unofficial Dogfish Head Photographer” Jess Daleiden was kind enough to forward links to the pictures she took and has given me permission to post links to her photos. So if you want to see a couple hundred good photos and not just my crappy drunken ones, then here are the Friday pictures and the Saturday pictures from Jess, thank you!

Cicerone Certified Beer Server

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

So a week ago today I took the Cicerone test to become a Certified Beer Server.

And I passed the test with flying colors, 100%! What? You say you have never heard of a Cicerone, well listen up. What is a Cicerone? In basics terms, a Cicerone is to beer as a Sommelier is to wine. Cicerone is a new term for beer, I believe the program was started this year (2008) by the Brewer’s Association, and definitely is run by Ray Daniels. Basically it is a way to independently test beer knowledge and acknowledge that knowledge through three tested phases. Fist being the Certified Beer Server. Second is a Certified Cicerone (which there are five as of now). And third is a Master Cicerone (which there are none as of yet).

So since I essentially want to move my life and my career toward the beer industry I figured this would be a logical move to help prep myself for what is to come. I personally thought the Certified Beer Server test was pretty easy, but I’m sure everyone wouldn’t agree. It was 60 multiple-choice and true-false questions taken online with a 30 minute time limit. I finished the test in 14 minutes and received 100%. I’m sure that homebrewing for the past nine years and being a Certified BJCP Beer Judge helped, but I also believe that just my passion of beer and my ever wanting to know more about it was even more helpful.

The test covered many areas, more broad than I anticipated, thinking it would have been focusing on beer serving and public drunkenness, maybe like the next level of receiving your ABC server training. It covered many different beer styles, beer characteristics including freshness and flavor, serving beer, and the three tier system. A couple of the questions were similar to this style with multiple choice answers: Which of the following is not detected by taste or Which of the following would you not use to describe an Amber Ale? I would actually love to see every employee at a beer bar or a brew pub take this exam, though the $50 price tag may deter some businesses. Maybe they could institute a “business plan” where a business buys into the Cicerone program for say $1000 (20 tests worth) and can test as many employees a year that they want through the program to test to be Certified Beer Servers? Just a thought.

The next step is to test to become a Certified Cicerone, which I really want to do. There is a local test in Philly on Saturday October 25th, and as of now it is written in on my calendar. The prerequisites for a Certified Cicerone are: At least 30 days as a Certified Beer Server plus one year’s experience in the beer industry or one recommendation from a brewer or beer retailer. So since I do not have the beer industry experience, looks like I will have to get a recommendation, could be tricky. And this time the exam format is a written exam with short answers and essay questions plus tasting and a demonstration component, a grade of 80% overall and at least 70% on the tasting portion will be required to pass.The cost this time is $295 dollars, a big step from the $50 from last time. And basically the responsibilities for the test cover a large range, such as that you must have detailed knowledge of retail beer storage and service issues, excellent knowledge of modern beers and styles with some familiarity for historical styles, competence in identifying flawed beers and recognizing appropriate and in-appropriate flavors in modern beer styles, good understanding of the beer ingredients and familiarity with the brewing process and its common variations plus the ability to recommend reasonable beer pairings for common foods.

Some of this information was borrowed directly from the Cicerone website, please follow the link there to find out more information, and wish me luck!