Sunday, December 28, 2008

No reason to stop brewing

In this article I would like to explore the reasons we start the hobby of homebrewing and how we keep the hobby alive which ultimately leads us to more brewing knowledge and practices and consequently, better results in the quality of our beer.Most of us are motivated by a number of personal reasons when we start out making our own beer.
Some might be...

1. The idea of duplicating a favorite beer
2. The challenge to creatively express ourselves through brewing
3. Saving money
4. Impressing family and friends
5. Furthering personal knowledge of the world we live in
6. The novelty of making an alcoholic beverage name a few.

No matter what our individual reasons are for beginning the hobby of homebrewing we all share a common desire, and that is to succeed in our efforts. To end up with something that is, if not an outstanding example of our favorite beverage, at least a halfway decent drinking beer that prompts us to move forward in our efforts. I'm not really sure what motivates the average homebrewer to continue with the hobby year after year but I suspect that it's the same for most as it is for me, which is best described as a passion and to stop brewing would be to let myself down. To disappointment me. I think we all have very personal reasons when we consider the the longevity of our hobby, but again I think passion is at the root.
I do have a pretty good idea why some do not continue brewing and it usually revolves around some initial failure in the first or first few attempts. A bad batch, bottles blowing up, beer related intestinal distress, just plain taste bad, etc., but what I think it really comes down to is the passion. Sometimes you just have it, but I would say to the new brewer that sometimes it takes time and many brews to develop the passion that leads to years of satisfying beers. It will be necessary to move beyond some of your brewing failures, don't let it be the cause for you to throw your hands up and look for another hobby. Growing the passion is about plowing through the bad batches and learning from them.
I am continually encouraged in my brewing endeavors whenever I come up with a good beer or bad. It gives me hope for the future and enlivens me with the prospects of future successes. I want to build on the experience and carry the feelings forward in my attempts to educate myself, design more recipes and improve on the mechanical applications.
Begin your brewing with simple styles using one type of malt extract and hops. Many times a new brewer will want to recreate a beer style that he loves but one which may be difficult for even the most experienced homebrew. Lagers in particular should be brewed after some experience. Ignore the tendency to regard a bad batch of beer as a person failure. Discard it and move on. When you brew a good batch, celebrate your achievement and share it with friends who will appreciate it. Brewing beer that you like and that is acknowledged as good by people who's opinion you trust, validates your efforts as a brewer. This in turn drives the desire to expand on the hobby by building bigger and/or better brewing equipment, challenging yourself into attempting to brew more difficult styles of beers, the courage to trust your wisdom and to pass it on to those curious about brewing.
There is nothing more rewarding for me then to see the smile appear on a friend or family members face when they take that first sip from a beer that I made with my own hands. Holding the glass up to the light to see the golden clarity as pearls of carbonation rise up to support a foamy head.
Finally, there are a couple of simple suggestions that I would like to pass on to help the new brewer continue the hobby beyond the initial excitement of the first few batches, good or bad. These few tips are often overlooked at the beginning but have a big impact on the outcome of your beer.

1. Keep to simple recipes to begin with
2. Use an abundance of healthy yeast, if the recipe calls for 1 pkg of dry yeast for 5 gals. use 2(a large yeast colony will outperform any spoiling bacteria)
3. Ferment cool (65f.-70f.) Not above 72f. (pitch yeast after wort is 72f. or below)
4. Sanitize fermenter and after boil equipment thoroughly

Can you recommend other simple tips? Let me know.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Mexican barley at last!

Si! Viva La Cebada en Mexico!
Finally. It seems like it should have been an easy task to find a supplier of malted barley in Mexico, but it was quite difficult. I did extensive internet searches using English and Spanish words and phrases like malt and malto, barley and cebada, malta de cebada, l├║pulo para elaborar la cerveza with no results until the other day. I was at the point of not caring if I found malt in Mexico or not when I just happened to stumbled upon
The website indicated an entire inventory of brewing related materials and equipment but lacked details like individual items and costs. They did list a phone number and address (estamos en la ciudad de pachuca hidalgoparque industrial canacintra av. b lote 14 a). I became very exited with the possibility of finding a source of malt, and rushed out to purchase a phone card to make the long distance call to their office. Returning home I scribbled out pertinent questions on a note pad. Do you have malted barley? Can I buy it locally? How much? Etc. Because my Spanish is so limited I solicited Susan to call and habla espanol with whoever answered the call. I waited for Susan to finish talking and hang up before insisting on every detail of the conversation. Turns out that Maltayderivados is located outside of Mexico City but is willing to ship anything I want to San Miguel. They have a 50 kilo minimum order for malted barley and the cost per 25 kilo is 350 pesos ($35 us). They also have all of the specialty grains and Cascade hops. In addition to materials, they sell brewing equipment. The salesman 'Luis'
said that he would follow up with an e-mail giving more details on the costs of grain.
I'm very excited to finally know for sure that I can get the materials that I need for brewing here. I will plan on developing my contact with 'Luis' over the remainder of my time here this year.
In the mean time I discovered a source for malt extract
on the web but have yet to make contact with them. I will purchase another phone card soon and follow up with them.
And if all this good news wasn't enough, I also came across a homebrew supply place in Mexico City that appears to have the basics albeit a limited inventory.
In my future trips to Mexico I may be able to pack my bags without the need to save half the space for brewing ingredients!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mexican bottling system

Drilling a hole by hand
with a paddle bit.
Using two packages of the Safale s-33 created quite the fermentation fury doing its job and settling out after only four days so I was able to bottle two cases of beer today. I once again have renewed sense of appreciation for kegging as the process of getting the beer into bottles was very labor intensive. Soaking the bottles over night, removing the labels, scrubbing inside and out, rinsing and sanitizing. Then racking the beer into another bucket with preboiled sugar, bottle filling and finally capping left me exhausted and thirsty for a good ale. Alas, I settled for another, you guessed it... Barrilitos.
Now for two weeks of patience before I can enjoy the fruits of my labor. Of course I did some tasting during the process and I think this will be a good beer. The hibiscus addition was most evident with a tart dryness and since it is so young the flavor of yeast and residual sweetness is up front. The phenolics that I was expecting is very subdued. I can't wait to taste this after it has conditioned for awhile.
In the mean time I've got another couple of batches to brew and I can't waste any time so I plan to do my Agave Pale Ale tomorrow. I'll be using 50 ounces of Agave syrup this time and Centennial hops throughout.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jamaica Wheat

In my attempt to use local ingredients to add the flavor of the Mexican culture, I'm going to start with a wheat beer with the addition of jamaica (dried hibiscus flower) and tamarindo. Each has its unique flavor but they both impart a sour or tartness to the taste.The hibiscus is mildly tart and with tangy fruit and flower hints. The tamarindo is boldly tart with strong dried fruit flavors.
I am using a Belgian style yeast (safale s-33) that should contribute a large phenolic flavor and I'm hoping that the hibiscus and tamarindo will accent and support that with their tartness. Naturally, I was concerned about using too much of either of these so, I went with a conservative one ounce of the hibiscus and about a quarter cup of the tamarindo in my five gallon batch. The original gravity for this beer is 1.046 and I hope that it will ferment down to 1.008 but this beer is new territory for me so I will be happy if it ends up drinkable. One thing I was expecting to happen that didn't is that the hibiscus flower did not impart the red color to the beer that I wanted. I had made a small tea of some of the flower earlier and the color in the water after steeping for only a few minutes was very beautiful. If I'm lucky, some red highlights may show up in the finished beer.
I chilled the beer in an ice bath that brought the temperature down to 70f. after 25 minutes or so and I aerated the wort by pouring it back and forth several times between the boil pot and the fermenter. As you can see in the background of the picture of the boiling wort, I have amassed a couple of cases of beer bottles in anticipation of bottling this beer in a week. I'm also realizing that I better get busy making another batch soon because of the delay in letting the beer condition in bottles. We will only be here until the end of February and I want to get fifteen
gallons of beer bottled, conditioned, drunk and shared with friends and some local business people before we leave. Which reminds me, I bought a phone card today and have phone numbers and addresses for three different grain suppliers in Mexico. I've asked Susan to habla the espanol for me to some of these businesses so I can finally put an end to
my search for a supplier down here. Keep your fingers crossed.


Friday, December 12, 2008


Dancers with Barrilitos on their heads.

After a week in San Miguel I'm starting to relax into the Mexican way of life. We spent yesterday at the thermals enjoying a day of soaking in the hot springs and laying about the warm lawns playing cribbage and sipping cerveza. Today we went to a church gathering in a barrio north of town called Mexiquito for a celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Food vendors sold home made gorditas, enchiladas, tamales and chicharron while throngs of proud parents paraded their young boys, (whom they've dressed up like the historical Juan Diego after he had his vision or the Virgin), around the courtyard. In the mean time, I haven't done much in the way of preparing for brewing except to browse around the markets looking for the materials that I will need for my upcoming brews and considering the local foods that can possibly be used for added flavor and cultural appeal. Since arriving in San Miguel I've been drinking a beer (lager) called 'Barrilito'. Produced by Modelo (of course), it is the only one that comes in non-returnable bottles and perfect for re-using to package my homebrew. Barrilito is the lightest of Modelo beers in terms of color and flavor, unfortunately, but is perfect if your goal is to collect the bottles as quickly as possible. The other up side is that it's cheap and has the distinction of being in bottles that I don't have to pay a deposit on and can re-cap, so I buy it and try to enjoy it. The fact is that most of the beers here are considerably lighter than what I'm use to drinking, and accepting that fact dispels the disappointment that may rise from experiencing Barrilitos. The majority of the beer in Mexico is sold in the bottle and it is required that you return the empties to the outlet that you bought it from. The idea being that you pay a deposit on the bottle and when you return for more beer you simple exchange the quantity of empties for your new purchase. I get my beer from the local 'Modelorama' aptly named because it sells all brands of Modelo exclusively. A modern day Mexican 'tied house'.
I'm getting a lot of good ideas about adjuncts and flavorings that can enhance the beer I will brew and look forward to sharing my final product with some of the local business people that I have discussed homebrew with recently. One restaurant suggested presenting a night of food/homebrew paring and just down the street from there, a store that sells flavored rum products made by a local family, was interested in selling locally brewed beer.
I'm still searching for a source for malted barley but I have an increased sense of hope since discovering a major wholesaler in Mexico City.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Duvel clone

The Duvel clone is in the fermenter and should be ready to be racked to kegs in a couple more days. I used 17lbs. of am. 2-row and 6lbs. of beet sugar for this 10 gal. batch of beer. Again, no Pilsner malt, which is what is called for and instead the 2-row because I want to use it up before my hiatus for three months. In the mean time, I am going to adapt the light socket in the storage unit where I will be stowing all my crap, to accept a 110v. outlet so that I can plug in my kegerator to lager the Chimay and Duvel clones. On another note, I received my Dry Malt Extract, bottle caps and dry yeast from the homebrew supply place and have gathered together some essential miscellaneous brewing materials that I can't purchase in Mexico (bottle capper, refractometer, etc.). The larger items like the boil pot, buckets and burner I will purchase down there at the Tuesday flea market. I will be using some local ingredients like 'meil de agave', honey, and chiclets (just kidding), to suppliment the original gravity of these beers.
Did You Know? The Ancient Mayans chewed a sapota tree resin called chicle, which is the basis for modern chewing gum.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beers on oak

As zymurgeeks, we meet once a month to share and discuss the fruits of our brewing efforts and enjoy the company of people passionate about the hobby we enjoy the most in our lives. This month we met at member Brad's house for his homemade porter infused chili and and to partake in an assortment of oak aged beers presented by Dave Bossie. I can appreciate oak flavor in beer just like I appreciate the history from which those flavors are derived. The flavors of a time before the advent of stainless steel when the typical fermenting vessels were necessarily made of hardwood. But I have to say that I have a problem when the dominant flavor in a beer is of the vessel in which it is matured. Fortunately, all of the beers we tasted had supportive flavors of oak, adding to the character and complexity of the beer rather than overpowering. I was impressed with the Stone Brewing's 'Arrogant Bastard Oak' as having a balance of malt and oak flavors with good hop bitterness. The other beers I tasted, the oak was subdued. Those beers include Petrus Oud Bruin which is a very nice Flanders sour and the J. W Lees 'Harvest Ale' that had a bourbon/malt character and hints of a subtle oak flavor.

Recently returned from
Octoberfest in Munich,
Steve pours a beer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Chimay Tripel

I'll be heading back to Mexico at the end of the Month and I thought that I would brew a couple beers that I can put in storage for the three months that I will be gone. Additionally, I don't want to waste the grain I have by leaving in storage to get stale. I decided on two high gravity beers that would benefit from several months of winter storage. One, a Chimay Cinq Cent, Trappist trippel clone and the other, a Duvel, Belgian Golden Ale clone. Both are in the area of 8% abv. I would normally use Pilsner malt for both of these beers but the grain I want to use up is American 2-row, so I will substitute and accept that the beer will not be as light in color as I would prefer.
Both beers are simply Pilsner malt (in this case 2-row) and light Candi sugar (in this case beet sugar). The Chimay will be fermented with a Trappist ale yeast WhiteLabs WLP500 and the Duvel Whitelabs WLP 570 Belgian Golden ale yeast. I've got the Chimay clone in the fermenter now and the original gravity was 1.076 which is a tad lower than my target gravity but if it ferments down to the final gravity that I want, it will be at the alcohol percentage that I want. The aroma coming from Trappist ale yeast wafting from the fermenter is wonderful and spicy and is giving me ideas about using it in a wheat beer, maybe a Dunkelweizen in the spring when I return. Both recipes include noble hops with the IBU's in the 30's.
In the mean time I will be placing an order from More Beer for some dry malt extract to take with me to Mexico. I will be taking enough to make three 5 gal. batches of ale. Two will be pale ales supplemented with some local agave and/or honey and one 5 gal. batch of hefeweizen. Once in Mexico I will keep you posted regarding my ongoing efforts to procure brewing ingredients locally.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Monterey Coast Brewing

Salinas has a brew pub!
I took the time today to head over to Salinas for a sampling of beers at Monterey Coast Brewing. I entered the historic brick building on Main Street in the 'Old Town' part of Salinas and immediately approached the copper mash tun and boil kettle that are situated near the entrance. The warm atmosphere of the pub was enhanced by the rising steam coming off the kettle.

I sat down at the redwood plank bar and set into tasting the nine different beers on tap beginning with an American wheat that was true to style and very refreshing. I tasted my way through the lighter beers, a Pilsner, Hefeweizen, and an Octoberfest style of lager. Each very drinkable and a little low on the bitterness scale for my taste. I continued my samplings with a nicely balanced 'Scottish Red Ale', a toasty Nut Brown, a Porter and finally a Stout that had a distinctive caramel assertiveness and a sweet finish. The food is your standard pub fare with the added element of the deep fried artichoke hearts that are grown locally on the enormous farms that stretch out across the Salinas valley.
After careful consideration I elected to enjoy a full pint of the Scottish Red while I watched the owner and brewmaster Charles Lloyd go about prepping a bright tank in order to transfer a fresh batch of pale ale. Charles Lloyd, a modest man, opened his doors for business six years ago and said Salinas was the perfect location for his brewpub. Doing business in Salinas is relatively inexpensive compared to other cities in the Monterey Bay area and Salinas didn't have a brewery. To this day, MCB is the only brewery in Salinas. The next closest is in nearby Marina So, the clientele are loyal locals thirsty for fresh made beer. Lloyd confided that the new cineplex that opened next door didn't hurt his business either as there is nothing better than a pint before the show. Also, just half a block away is the Steinbeck museum that usually draws a crowd. I can only assume that those literary types are thirsty for beer along with Steinbeck's rich legacy.
Previous to starting his brewery in Salinas Lloyd brewed in the Pacific Northwest after having a past in English brewing.
I asked about the mash tun. I noticed that there was no grain auger. He smiled and pointed out that that equipment will come when the funds are available so in the mean time the grain is hoisted up and in by hand, an average of a thousand pounds per batch.
Oh, and the steam rising from the boil kettle that I noticed coming in, that will be a Belgian Double.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Last day of School

The final day of Brewing School was literally a bitter sweet experience. The students brought in food to pair with the beers we brewed over the last 5 weeks of classes. First we concluded the lessons by going over the mechanics of making your own kegerator out of a chest freezer. Also, forced carbonating kegs was discussed. Soon, the students guests started to arrive and we moved on to tasting beers, including a bottled Hefeweizen and a kegged IPA from the very first class. Also on tap were the Irish Stout from the third class and finally the All-grain English Ale from the fourth class.

Students discuss the kegerator before the food pairing

My goal when starting the beer school was to teach the students that anyone can make a batch of decent tasting beer with the simplest of equipment and ingredients. I think I accomplished that goal but along the way, as the brewing techniques became increasingly difficult, I found that it was necessary to educate myself along with the students and that as prepared as I thought I was, there is still more that I need to learn to adequately prepare the students for the more advanced brewing skills. In the end though, I received good grades from the students concerning my teaching abilities and the curriculum. I felt a little relieved when the final day was done and I had cleaned up and packed the van with the beer related school stuff. Driving away from the campus I reflected on my efforts as a teacher, a difficult but rewarding job. I learned a lot about how I teach and what I may do in the future to improve. I went into the classes fully prepared with a written agenda and syllabus to guide my way, but quickly realized that I had to be flexible and go 'off-script' when needed. I will be taking away from this experience an improved format for the next series of classes and by the spring I should be rested and mentally prepared to go through the process again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Beers of October

It's not
about size!

We (the zymurgeeks) got together with the local mushroom gathering club to celebrate the season of October by combining the earthy flavors of the mushroom with the heavenly flavor of fermented malt to give thanks to these gifts of nature these sacred gifts that make us whole as human beings. An abundance of great homebrew was on tap including a fantastic Vienna lager, two other oktoberfest lagers, a pale ale, IPA's and stouts to compliment a variety of delicious foods. Several of the beers were brewed at the Santa Cruz County Fair in August and were ripe for quaffing in the warm California October air. For a moment, I was nastalgic for the crisp cool air of my past life in the Pacific Northwest. The hint of a winter snowfall blowing in on the northern wind. Rain and sleet pushing me near the comforting flame of a cozy fire in the family room. Then again, 75f. on the deck, with dozens of friends drinking cold homebrew to beat the heat is just alright with me, Oh yeah!
Its tough to really get into the spirit of Oktoberfest in California. I guess you just have to have a different frame of mind when it comes to the idea of a cool time. Californians think of cold when it drops down into the, oh, I don't know, the 50's? So what? To us it's damn cold. Then again, cold or hot it takes beer to make it right. Not temperature.
I don't know about you, but when it come to celebrating the season I love the outdoors and having a nice cool malt beverage under the shade of a scrub Oak in the warm California sun. Sure the cold rains of winter are close behind this Indian Summer but that could be weeks away and with the way things are going we'll be in Mexico before the first winter storm. Then again, I'll be leaving behind some of the best beers in the world.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Brewing class day 4

Homebrew class of 2008

We brewed up 10 gallons of an Extra Special Bitter today using the all-grain method on my gravity feed system. 18lbs. of 2-row and 28oz. of Crystal #60. Our efficiency was huge which required us to add some water to the wort to get down to the gravity that we were shooting for (1.052). This ESB is a very quaffable beer and always scores well in the competitions. In the mean time we tasted the Hefeweizen and IPA from the first class and discussed a method of evaluating the beer. Then we rack the Irish Stout from last weeks class into a keg and forced carbonated it, readying it for the beer fridge to condition for a week before tasting next week at the potluck. The class was very engaged in the all-grain brewing process and all went well until the end when it was time to chill the wort. We had a large amount of pellet hop debris that clogged the outflow valve of the boil pot that required some reaming to correct. Once that was cleared the chilling went forward smoothly and the wort was pumped directly into the fermenter at 70f. We pitched a stepped up English ale yeast (Whitelabs WLP002) and concluded the brewing session.

Friday, October 10, 2008

GABF in Denver

I only wish I could be at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. I have to get by with the stories and images forwarded to me from my friend Chris, who happens to be in Denver working for the Democratic campaign. Chris is fortunate enough to be staying in a condo two blocks from the facility where the festival is being held. I got a call from him as he stood in line to get in on opening night Thursday. I suggested that he head for the gold award winning breweries first and take some pictures for me. I was a little jealous. Later in the evening I got a follow up call, Chris found his favorite beers of the evening and wanted to let me know how wonderful they are and what I was missing. Thanks. Apparently he ranked them in order of Gold, Silver and Bronze.

He liked the Dogfish Head "Midas Touch" for the Gold category

He found that the McKenzie Brewery was worthy of the Silver in his ranking for their "Scottish Ale" which must be new to the taps because I couldn't find it on their website.
And finally he decided that the Bronze should go towards "about 90 others I sampled!!!"

Chris imbibes!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Brewing Class day 2

Over this last week the two beers that we brewed in class, fermented nicely and on time for me to take them back to the classroom for bottling and kegging. The fermentation attenuation was 75% for both beers. I'm used to 80% attenuation when brewing all-grain. I have to assume that the dry malt extract that we used for both beers was the reason for only getting 75%. The wheat beer has a distinctive banana aroma/flavor and some spicy clove. The pale ale we renamed an IPA because of the higher than expected gravity and hop bitterness that we achieved, primarily from boiling down to 4 1/2 gals instead of 5 1/2 gals. I managed to take both buckets of fermented beer back to the classroom without agitating the yeast bed too much.
In the class the students got an earful from me regarding malt bill calculations, hop bitterness utilization and the math to figure the attenuation and alcohol of the beers. We spent some time learning to siphon and cap bottles then went to work bottling the hefeweizen and kegging the IPA. All went smoothly. In the course of the day we also sampled an example of a home brewed ESB that we will be brewing as the class continues into the all-grain techniques in a couple of weeks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Brewing class day one

The brew class at Cabrillo College filled up quick. I limited the number of students that would be accepted to the class to 16 in order for everyone to be able to get some hands-on experience. 20 students signed up to attend, so unfortunately 4 went on standby but didn't get a chance to get in the class this time.

Students hard at work.

The first class was devoted to the importance of sanitation, basic extract brewing and a couple different ways of chilling the wort, an ice bath and an immersion chiller. All went well for the most part as we got our wort up and boiling and started adding the hops. As you can see by the pictures, we have an excellent facility to use for the brewing process. We are on campus in the horticulture room. This room is expansive and the ceiling is two stories high which leave plenty of room for heat and vapors to dissipate. Also, the room has a floor drain and all of the tables and work benches are stainless steel. Very nice.

Reviewing my notes.

As the day progressed the students got the chance to taste samples of the styles of beer that we were brewing that day. I brought in some German wheat beer and a German rye beer so that the students could anticipate the flavors of their classroom brew in the next weeks.

Taking notes about brewing.
In the next class we will work on the math required to calculate our malt bill and hop bitterness along with packaging the beer from the first class and making a yeast starter for the next class.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Beer tasting school

Talking about the finer things in life 'Beer'!

Here I am teaching the fine art of beer appreciation and how to define the subtle aromas and flavors of some classic beer styles on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Aptos, California. Nine students signed up to participate in beer tasting and they were enthusiastic and engaged. I came prepared with nine different beers including: Pilsner Urquell, Duvel Belgian golden, Erdinger S. wheat, Boon geuze, Roggenbier, Mad River pale ale, Moylan's dry stout, Schlenkerla rauchbier and a strong lager, Samichlaus.

Dave Helps define a classic Pilsener.

After getting everyone signed in I launched right into a brief history of ancient brewing, going back to the days of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians. Then discussed some more recent beer history including the American beer Renaissance (micro brew business) brought on by the changes in the alcohol laws the Pres. Jimmy Carter made allowing homebrewing again. Then each beer was generally defined by origin and region while we dissected its smells and tastes. Several of the beers were of from Germany
and a couple from Belgium. Everyone seemed satisfied with the selection and a lot of questions and dialog were generated by the introduction of the unique styles. Many of the students had never experienced these styles of beer.

Dave reviews his notes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fair brewing

The Santa Cruz County Fair is in full swing this week and part of the festivities is the Microbrew beer sampling booth and Homebrew exhibit.

The brew rig
Different members of the Zymurgeeks are taking turns throughout the week demonstrating the techniques of making beer at home. Brewing beer, answering questions, promoting homebrewing are the tasks assigned to the Zymurgeek club each night.
I took my turn at the boil pots on Thursday night and with the assistance of my brewing partner made a double IPA using 25 lbs. of grain and 1.25 lbs. of hops. Our original gravity came to 1.070 with IBU's well over 100. In addition to fielding questions I was pushing for people to sign up for my Homebrewing classes at Cabrillo College.

Brewer Michelle

Firehouse Brewing was on hand next to our booth dispensing four very quaffable beers. For the price of $4 one could sample 4oz. of each beer on tap starting with a thirst quenching American wheat and slightly bitter American pale ale. Also pouring was a very good Oktoberfest that was on the sweet side and finally an IPA with 11% Rye malt that I couldn't stop drinking.

Brewers dress in funny pants!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fair Results

Well, out of the 6 beers that I entered in the brewing competition at the Santa Cruz County Fair I only received a decent score on one, that was the Roggenbier.
I was happy the rye beer made it to the 'best of show' judging and eventually came out 2nd of the top three beers but dissapointed that my pale ale, IPA and hefeweizen all score poorly (27, 23, and 26 out of 50) for various reasons that I concur with. My Dry Stout scored well with an overall 35 out of 50 and my ESB did well with a 38 out of 50. I was confident in the ESB as it was the same recipe as previous years that scored well. I barely got the Roggenbier into the competition. It was kegged the night before it had to be submitted and bottled the next day. Fortunately, two weeks in the bottle before being tasted helped.

Pitchable yeast
from a prior brew.

It still had a pronounced banana aroma that I didn't like but the phenolic flavors were large and the rye added an increased spiciness to the flavor. A very quaffable beverage in my opinion. Judge Mark Ristow gave me a score of 44 and said "Damn good beer!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Schlenkerla Smokebeer


I have to tell you I'm not a big fan of the smoked beers and the Brauerei Heller with their Schlenkerla Rauchbier did nothing to improve my opinion. I was at first surprised and intrigued by the uniqueness of the flavor. A huge smoke taste from beech wood that overpowers the taste of the malts. This beer is sweet with a thick, heavy mouthfeel and medium to high carbonation level. The head forms thick and tan but dissipates quickly leaving the surface without a trace of foam. When I drank this beer I was transported by a memory of an early morning campsite. I've just climbed out of my tent to a cool foggy morning, tempted by bacon sizzling on the coleman stove. I'm wearing the clothes I had on from the night before where we sat drinking around a roaring campfire being chased in circles by the relentless smoke. The acrid smell of the fire and my oily skin imbued in every fiber of my Levi jacket. After clearing my sinus's and spitting into the warm ashes of the fire pit I breath in deep, the sleeve of my soiled jacket pressed against my face, I take in the previous nights celebrations. That to me is Rauchbier.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Anchor Steam Brewing Co.

The American Homebrew Association rally took place at the Anchor Steam Brewing Company in San Francisco to promote membership of the AHA and to promote homebrewing.
Dave Bossie drove his wife, daughter and me up to the event but first we stopped off at the 21st Amendment brewery for a couple of pints and lunch. I had an excellent English bitter followed by a Trumer Pils that was a classic example of a German pilsner, a light crisp lager. The 21st Amendment is famous for their watermelon wheat
(American wheat with watermelon) so of course one was ordered to sample. It goes down easy with a surprising balance of watermelon, wheat and bready yeast flavors. Not something I would have regularly but I enjoyed the experience of the tasting. After lunch it was a short 5 minute car ride to the Anchor Steam Brewery and the start of a memorable afternoon. First things first we headed up to the bar where employees were generously serving up all that was on tap and including some seasonal beers that were in the bottle. I started with the 'flagship' steam beer and savored the fresh taste of a great American classic while I took in the scenery of the taproom. Antique serving trays ringed top of the walls completely circling the room along with numerous framed pictures of the breweries great history. A crowd of enthusiastic home brewers milled about sharing stories and information with one another about their favorite hobby. I sampled a 'small beer' from the tap followed by a 'Liberty Ale' and then a remarkable porter.
A large bottle of a seasonal ale appeared. It had a large spicy, ginger, maltiness to it that lingered on the palate. As a group, we wandered about the facility freely and peered through plate glass windows into the different departments. A tour was organized and then led off in one direction but I stayed behind and headed over to the large open fermentation tanks. Their are four huge, shallow vessels for fermenting, at the time only one was in use. The kraeusen forming white and high like marangue with patches of darker areas. I tried the door but it was locked. I would have liked to have gone in and smelled the air. Further down the hall were bails of hops in burlap bags, mostly Norther Brewer.

The author at Anchor Steam (is that 2 beers?)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beer Tasting

The beer tasting class is coming up soon. I still have beers to drink
to prepare for it. I will be presenting 8 classic examples that I
hope will inspire the students to expand on their choices of beer in the future. I will be introducing the following but not necessarily in this order: Erdinger (S. German wheat), Duvel (Belgian golden ale), Guiness (dry stout), Pilsner Urquell (pilsener), Samichlaus (Bock), Schlenkerla (smoked beer), Homebrewed (German rye) and an American pale ale (brewer?).
Also, a Boon (Gueuze) that I hope won't scare anyone that is not used to Lambik.
I have tasted about half of the above and am using the AHA beer score sheet (checklist version for sensory evaluation) to prepare my own take on each of the beers. I am anxiously waiting for the college to let me know how many students have signed up for the class. I would love 20-30 people tasting and giving impressions of the beers.
In the mean time, I have 10 gallons of the German rye in the fermenter at 64f., I could not locate a commercial example anywhere. I think having home brewed beer to sample will be a plus for those students in the tasting class that will be continuing on for the 5 week homebrewing class. It will give them a taste of the possibilities of homebrewing.
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