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.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Santa Cruz AleWorks

Today I did a little pub crawl with a friend and some of his friends from the Orthodox church that he attends. From what I can tell, the Orthodox are big drinkers and being an atheist myself I have to give them credit for the huge amount of beer they can consume. We started out at the Santa Cruz Ale Works for a tour of the facilities and a couple of pints of beer.
This is a fairly new brewery in Santa Cruz and the head brewer, Mark, (that's Mark pointing out his mash tun) was the brewer at Seabright brewing before deciding to make it on his own. He says he planned on starting his own brewery when he started at Seabright and now his dream is coming true. On tap are an American wheat which I think is the best American wheat I have had. I don't particularly like American wheat but I have to say that I really enjoyed Mark's take on the style. His pale ale is on the bitter end of the scale but still nicely balanced with a big malty flavor and equally large hop flavor and aroma. Finally, my favorite is the IPA which is light gold in color and a really well balanced malt and hop blend that begs for a second pint.

Next, we headed over to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing They specialize in organic ales and have eight beers normally, however they were out of stock on a few when we arrived and I have to tell you that I look down on a brewery that suggest a large selection but doesn't deliver. The Orthodox were going for the porter but I chose the dry stout and found it to be quite good and very much to style. I tasted one of the porters and thought the roasted flavor was over the top, that didn't sit well with me.
Soon we were on our way to Seabright brewing and I ordered a much needed cheese burger and fries along with a pint of pale ale to wash it down. The Orthodox were not eating meat that day and instead ordered fish of sorts and cheese on bread. The pale ale I had was good and I felt satisfied when all was done. I won't be overly critical of some of the beers that I tasted at SC mountain or Seabright (unless someone posts a comment asking for details) but I will say that each of the beers at S.C. aleworks were top notch and deserving of my patronage in the future. I can't say that for the other two breweries.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Just a quick update on the brewing front. I brewed an Extra Special Bitter several days ago and it is in the fermenter now. It is a simple recipe: 18lbs. of domestic 2-row and 28oz. of Crystal #60. This beer has an original gravity of 1.052 and 42IBU's. The original recipe used Northern Brewer as the bittering hop but because of the hop shortage I had to substitute with Eng. Challenger. I used Kent Goldings for flavor and aroma. Finally, I fermented with White Labs WLP002 English ale yeast at 70f. I'm a little concerned about the ferment because the activity has slowed considerably and the gravity is still 1.020. It this point I guess I will just keep my fingers crossed and hope it drops to 1.010. In the mean time I am trying to get my teaching materials together for the home brewing course I will teach in the fall. As it turns out, there is a lot of paperwork that I need to generate for the students like recipes, brewing proceedure steps, material lists and more. I am also tracking down a source for the beers that I will need to serve for the tasting class.
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