Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rogue Shakespeare Stout

My buddy Chris Mc. generously brought over a Rogue Ale's Shakespeare Stout for sampling. The sad part of the story is that Chris had to leave for Washington before we had a chance to share. The happy part of the story is that I didn't have to share. A bitter sweet story kind of like the beer.

Stout gone Rogue

This is a serious American stout with a claimed 77 ibu's to balance the thick malty flavors packed into the 22 oz. bottle. Words that come to mind while drinking this stout are thick and full with flavors of molasses, coffee, tobacco and oak, dry fruits like prune and raisin that linger leaving a sweetness on the palate that is lightly cloying with a bitter sweetness of toffee. It's an imperial like beer in that the flavors are large and bold.

The alcohol content is not stated on the label but the original gravity is 15 plato
(1.060), and seems to have finished with some residual sugar or in other words it's not dry at all. So I would make the assumption that the abv is around 6%.

A very enjoyable beer and it's easy to drink a bomber in one sitting.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Brew Fest At The Rio Cafe

Some brave California souls ventured out into the intimidating Aptos fog today to attend the 2nd annual Oktoberfest at the Rio Cafe. On hand to serve beer were a couple of the local Santa Cruz favorites, Uncommon Brewers and Ale Works.

Uncommon Brewers pleases with pints.

The Ale Works pouring the love.

Uncommon Brewers was serving up their Siamese Twin, Golden State Ale and Baltic Porter to an appreciative crowd while the Ale Works had on tap their classic examples of an American hefeweizen, pale ale, stout and a great IPA.
A few yards down the street were the new kids on the block, Corralitos Brewing Company who was serving no less than 10 different beer on tap including a hefeweizen, Belgian golden, stout, helles, oktoberfest, IPA, IIPA, kolsch, smoked porter and a red ale. I was particularly
impressed with the IIPA with its ample hop flavor and bitterness supported by a big malty backbone. A couple of the brewers, Luke Taylor (no relation) and Michael Smith were on hand to explain to the crowd the differences in the beers as they poured samples from a massive wall of taps. This is a new start up brewery for our area and from the examples on tap today, are showing great promise for the future. I'm looking forward to quaffing a few pints of their ales when they get their operation up to full production early next year. Head brewer Luke Taylor expects to supply his artisans brews to the locals sometime early spring of next year. 2010 is shaping up to be a great year for craft beer in Santa Cruz county. I hope to do a more in depth review of Corralitos Brewing Company in the future with an interview with head brewer Luke Taylor. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homebrew Emotions

Moving is making me sad. Packing up all my stuff again to put into storage means I have to repeat the experience of nostalgia that always comes as I go through some of my more personal items. We'll be heading off to Mexico again for the winter and I can't shake the regret of leaving behind my lovely things not to mention my precious brewing equipment. It gets packed and stored with everything else into the diminishing care and accumulating dust of the 10x12 storage unit.

As I get ready to put my electric guitar in a box I can't help but sling it over my shoulder and start playing off key lead parts to the Coldplay song that pitches out of my stereo. I only stop when I discover it's out of tune and I'm too depressed to fix it. I place it gently in the box and tape the opening closed, all the while getting that 'Christmas is coming to California' sensation as the warm rain falls gently outside the window. Now Norah Jones is singing 'Come away with me' but I don't want to go, not now. I want my selfish desires to come to me, gift wrapped and without atonement.

But this sense of loss is an acceptable if not disagreeable part of the process for the life I have chosen, because there is not enough Mexico here in this quiet, neatly trimmed and well stocked California suburb. Yes, below the current of my present melancholy is the memory of the dry and noisy air of San Miguel and the prospects for brewing like a renegade again. Creating beer related events based on cerveza made with the local ingredients. And this year I'm encouraged with the benefit of knowing the locations in Mexico that provide the essential ingredient, malt. No need to fill most of my luggage with dry malt extract, I can use that space for other brewing ingredients and equipment.

My personal possessions will be packed relatively quickly because some of it hasn't been unpack after my return trip from Mexico last year. I won't pack up my brewing stuff until just before we leave because I have a class to teach next week for one and also, I want to brew twenty gallons of strong Belgian ales to put in the kegerator to lager while I'm gone. Now, as I consider the task ahead of me and the feelings it invokes, I realize that they will pass as quickly as they came followed by the newness of the freedom and possibility of life in Mexico, two things that challenge my sense of safety and comfort found here in the familiar. I'm beginning to recognize this pattern as I begin my third year of heading south for the winter. But recognition does not displace the emotion as much as reinforce, and I am left to let it run its course through me.

If I recall correctly from the last couple years, this current state of mind is coupled with the dread and fascination that comes with what seems like unlimited possibilities, and exhilaration that can only exist alongside a sense of danger. It reminds me of the time when I was a young boy living in rural California. I was perched on the top strand of a barbed wire fence. One hand grasping a split rail fence post while extending the other out into a thicket of blackberry bushes just beyond my reach, trying to pick the dark full fruit. The wire began to sway under my feet and I tried to save myself from the fall by grabbing the wire and jumping back. My hand snagged on one of the barbs on the way down and ripped the flesh from the joint at my index finger and began to bleed profusely. I looked at the wound confused before panic set in. As I desperately ran home along the path that followed the fence I stopped dead in my tracks when I came across a stripped snake sunning itself on the dirt directly in front of me. I was captivated by the beauty of the creature, its scaled skin gleaming, reflecting the late summer sun and I felt the warm earthy breeze. I immediately forgot about my bloody wound dripping into my shirt.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Storing Hops

In my preparation for returning to San Miguel De Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico I am gathering some special brewing equipment and materials to take with me. These are items that are difficult or expensive to get down there.

One item that is particularly difficult to get are hops. You can buy them from a couple of homebrew stores like Homebrewing Mexico and Fermentando but their prices are ridiculously high. So, today I spent some time packaging hop pellets for the trip. I have a FoodSaver V2040 food packaging system that is perfect for my task. I buy my hop pellets by the pound from Hops Direct so first I needed to break those down into manageable 4oz. increments, (Hops Direct ships in a foil package that would probably be picked up on the airport scanner as my suitcase is going through so I don't want to use the original packaging). In any case, 4oz. should fit in a legal sized envelope for mailing and lay flat in my baggage without attracting too much attention.

Weighing out the hops

Cut the bags to size and seal one end

Fill the bag with hops and lay open end across the vacuum sealer

The FoodSaver draws the air out of the bag and then seals the other end

Compact packaging

I'm concerned about taking plant material like hops into the country and getting through customs. The last time down I got the red light. Standing in the line watching the people ahead of me I calculated my odds of having my bag searched. I figured a high probability of having to open my case, exposing all my contraband in the form of a variety of different degrees of roasted malted barley.

As it happened I was searched and the grains appeared highly suspect (not to mention bundles of dry malt extract). I pleaded that I be allowed to enter the country with them and soon a supervisor was brought into the equation. He smelled and tasted the grains and concluded that since they were 'toastado' that I could keep them. Well, they may not be as generous if they see vacuum sealed packs of what looks like illegal vegetable matter. So I have a back-up plan, I will place half of the hops in legal sized manila envelopes and mail them down to my p.o. box before I leave the States, thus avoiding the high surcharge or duty on packages entering Mexico and hopefully bypassing any serious inspections. I will plan to mail six envelopes each containing four ounces of hop pellets and take as much in my luggage. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Until then, I'll keep them in the freezer.

Hops ready for the trip

Monday, October 12, 2009

Class Finals At Brew School

This last Sunday, I ended another great series of homebrewing classes for the Brew School conducted at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. We had a potluck and homebrew pairing to celebrate. We enjoyed the Hefeweizen, American pale ale and the Dry stout that we brewed during the early classes in this intensive course on homebrewing. And the consensus was that the quality of the beers were in the 6 or 7 range on a scale of 1-10. The judges may have been biased. Additionally, the students brought in food that they thought would go well with the beers and most of the dishes were home made and delicious. One student brought in an exceptional plate of brownies that were made with Guinness stout.

Class of Fall 2009

Most of the students are trying out the lessons learned at school in their own homes and several already have beer in the fermenters or bottles. I look forward to sampling some of these new beers.

In the mean time, I will take the lessons that I learned in teaching this class and put them to use in future classes. I have some revisions to make to the program and also some minor changes to the recipes since we modified them (for the better) in the field as we brewed them. I'm also looking forward to teaching in Mexico and am making preparations to fly down in mid November. Can't wait to get started. If you live in Mexico near San Miguel De Allende, or you're in the state of Guanajuato, contact me to share a homebrew and find out what my Brew School schedule will be while I'm there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stone Vertical Epic Ale

I was in the neighborhood of the Shoppers Corner market and took a look at their selection of beers just for the hell of it when I came across a bottle of
Vertical Epic Ale.
Stone Brewing Company the makers of 'Arrogant Bastard' in Escondido, California is responsible for this beer. I haven't seen this in any of the other local grocery stores so I picked up a bottle to sample. First I'll tell you my experience with this beer but you can hear all about it directly from the brewer Lee Chase at Stone by clicking on the video at their site.

This is a Belgian style Wit beer with plenty of yeast induced phenols along with peppery spiciness, coriander, juicy fruit gum, sweet orange, light caramel,a hint of alcohol and a lingering bitterness. Moderately carbonated, the head on this beer is small and dissipates rapidly. I fairly enjoyed this beer although from the website I discovered that it is best after aging for several years. In fact the whole premise behind this beer is that you purchase some from its limited release each year so that in the year 2012 you will have 10 samples (one per year) of each to compare. Hence the name 'vertical'.

I didn't know these rules at the time I bought and drank it but it was tasty non the less. I hope I don't get into trouble. I don't really have the capacity to save any beer that long anyway. I do have an Imperial Russian Stout that I kegged in May of 2009 and am hoping to save it until March when I get back from Mexico. But that is a rare circumstance and the needed disciple doesn't invoke in me any particular pride.

If you've tried Vertical Epic tell us about it in the comments.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beer And Meat Diet

For all those familiar with my now famous 'beer and popcorn diet', that I developed for reducing increased weight due to the consumption of vast quantities of home brewed beer, you will be pleased to know that I have developed a new and improved diet that is vastly more effective on a number of levels and satisfactorily replaces the 'beer and popcorn diet'.

Introducing the new 'Beer and Meat Diet'.

I have found this new diet to be superior in that it provides the important vitamin, mineral and energy that the popcorn lacked. If you are still on the 'beer and popcorn diet', I apologize for this inconvenient and unexpected announcement, but I think you will find that the 'beer and meat diet' is more effective for reducing the unwanted pounds associated with homebrew consumption.
Like the 'beer and popcorn diet' plan, do not consume any calories from carbohydrates other than those provided in your beer consumption. That's right, just eat a moderate portion of meat only for each meal and your normal intake of homebrewed beer. It's that simple. Watch the pounds melt away as you wash down that Tri-tip steak with a pint of pale ale. I've found that half a pound of bacon and a juice glass full of stout for breakfast make for a great start to any day. Caution: an unfortunate side effect of this new diet plan is an increase in the amount of dirty dishes that need to be washed.

At this point you may be asking yourself, "what about exercise? Would that help in any way?"
I can't help but laugh when I hear people say that. Sure you could exercise if you want an early death, I'm just kidding. But seriously, I wouldn't recommend it if you're fairly old. Science has proven that a sudden burst of unexpected exercise brought on by health concerns in older men can dislodge plaque or something from your blood veins that will shoot to your brain or heart killing you instantly. I wouldn't even consider exercise of any sort if you're over fifty. But, that's just me, risk it if you feel lucky. In any case, what would be helpful is the following information to calculate the amount of calories that are in your beer.

Credit is given to Peter A. Ensminger. Condensed from the Home Brew Digest website.

The number of calories in beer, all of which come from alcohol and carbohydrates, can be estimated from measurements of specific gravity before and after fermentation. The ASBC ["Caloric Content, Beer-33" in: American Society of Brewing Chemists, 1992, Methods of Analysis of the ASBC. American Society of Brewing Chemists; Homebrew Digest 800-9] gives a formula for calculating calories in beer:

cal per 12 oz beer = [(6.9 × ABW) + 4.0 × (RE - 0.1)] × FG × 3.55

The first item in brackets gives the caloric contribution of ethanol, which is determined from the ABW and the known value of 6.9 cal/g of ethanol. The second item in brackets gives the caloric contribution of carbohydrates, which is determined from the *RE (see eq. 2) and the known value of 4.0 cal/g for carbohydrates. An empirically-derived constant (0.1) accounts for the ash portion of the extract. Together, these terms give the calories per 100 g beer. This is easily converted to calories per 100 ml beer by accounting for the final gravity (FG, in (g beer)/(ml beer)). In turn, 100 ml is converted to 12 oz by a scalar (3.55, in (100ml/12 oz)).

Example: The original gravity of a wort is 1.070 and the final gravity of the resulting beer is 1.015. How many calories in a 12 oz bottle?

cal per 12 oz beer = [(6.9 × 5.72) + 4.0 × (6.21 - 0.1)] × 1.015 × 3.55 = 230

divide 230 by 12 and then multiply by 16 will give your calories in a pint or 307 (rounded up).

* 2. Real ExtractEthanol has a density of 0.79 g/ml at 20 °C, so its presence in beer, along with the loss of sugars due to fermentation, also reduces the specific gravity of beer relative to wort. The "Real Extract" (RE, in °P) is a measure of the sugars which are fermented and accounts for the density lowering effects of alcohol. The Real Extract is calculated from the initial and final densities (in °P) and an old empirically derived formula from Karl Balling [see Homebrew Digest 880-9]:
(2) RE = (0.1808 × °Pi) + (0.8192 × °Pf)
Example: The specific gravity of a wort is 1.070 and that of the resulting beer is 1.015 (measured at 20 °C). What is the Real Extract?According to eq. 2RE = (0.1808 × 17.06) + (0.8192 × 3.82) = 6.21 °P

Comment if you can read the fine print.

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