Monday, September 29, 2008

Come try my beer

I had the privilege of serving a keg of homebrew to some friends last night. Some old friends, some new friends. It was well received, though I'm going to keep tweaking the recipe. The feedback was very helpful. We kicked the keg in about two hours.

I was calling the beer an American Red Ale, though it was really more like an American Brown in the BJCP style guideline sense. I often think back on the beers that I drank in brewpubs back in the mid-90's when brewpubs were first coming on the scene here on the east coast. It seemed like every one of them served a Red Ale - ruby colored, full bodied, slightly hoppy - and this was the kind of beer that I was trying to conjure up.

I felt like I missed the mark, but I wasn't really all that far off. It was too dark, a bit too chocolatey, a bit too bitter, and maybe not malty enough. I took another stab at brewing it yesterday. This one will be served at Brewtopia on Friday night at the NYC Homebrewers Guild table. If you're there, stop by and say hello.

Here's the recipe I went with yesterday:

7 lbs Briess Organic 2-row
3 lbs Weyermann Light Munich
.5 lbs Munton's Medium Crystal
.5 lbs Munton's Dark Crystal
.25 lbs Weyermann Carafa Special

Mashed at 148º for an hour, 3:1 liquor to grist ratio. Added approximately 2.5 gallons boiling water to raise temperature to 168º. Recirculated until clear, sparged to collect 7.25 gallons wort. Boiled about 2 hours and 20 minutes down to 5.75 gallons (stupidly collected too much wort, plus boiling on the stove top is not the most efficient and I like to make sure I drive off all of the DMS) .

17 grams Target hop pellets, 10.4%AA for bittering
5 grams Willamette whole hops, 4.5%AA added with 20 minutes remaining in boil
5 grams Willamette whole hops, 4.5%AA added with 10 minutes remaining in boil
5 grams Centennial whole hops, 9.7%AA added with 5 minutes remaining in boil
5 grams Centennial whole hops, 9.7%AA added at flame out

Added whirlfloc tab with 15 minutes remaining in boil, rehydrated yeast nutrient with 10 minutes remaining. Whirlpooled briefly, cooled to 63º and collected about 5.5 gallons in primary fermenter. Pitched ale yeast slurry and gave about a minute and a half O2.

The big differences between the beer served last night and the one that will be at Brewtopia are:

1) Used Carafa Special this time instead of Chocolate Malt. Hopefully this cuts down on the chocolatey finish and brings out the maltiness a bit more.
2) Used Target instead of Summit for bittering hop and shot for lower IBU.
3) Used Willamette instead of Northern Brewer as flavor hop.

Come to Brewtopia on Friday night to let me know what you think of it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jersey's finest...

Jeff over at Beer Stained Letter does a great job of calling attention to this really lousy write-up of Jersey brewpubs that appeared in Inside Jersey magazine. I won't rehash everything that Jeff already covered - he does a much more thorough job than I ever would have. The basic recap is that it's amateurish, inaccurate, and in no way helpful to people interested in learning more about NJ brewpubs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cask Ale Fest recap

Friday night at the Cask Ale Fest was a very good time. By all appearances, it was quite a success. To the left you see the Harviestoun Ice Maiden - first one I sampled. I was definitely surprised at how hoppy it was. This was more of a British bitter, not a Scottish ale like you might expect to come out of that particular brewery.

Jersey represented very nicely with casks from Harvest Moon (Elmes' Mild Manor is one of my favorite brewpub beers, a treat to try it from the cask) and Pizzeria Uno. And the Chelsea beers were also very nicely done. The 1000 Gyle Imperial Mild is aging very nicely and their wet-hopped beer was tasty too. I had a chance to chat with both Chris and Mark, the brewers at Chelsea, for quite a while. Nice guys.

Saturday, after visiting the Raptor Trust in Millington, took a trip with R to the Trap Rock. Had the sampler again, as it's impossible to choose from all eight of their great and varied beer selections. Food was excellent as always.

Sunday at Giants Stadium was the long awaited seafood fest tailgate. Old Bay Shrimp boil for the first course. I just do the standard steamed shrimp recipe from the back of the can and I use red wine vinegar. Cooked with shells on, of course. Second course was grilled clams with a butter and shallot sauce for dipping. Third course was New Orleans style BBQ shrimp - recipe (more or less) based off of the one found in the recent issue of Beer Advocate. Sopped up the gravy with a biscuit (sorry, no luck finding the clip from Coming to America). Lots of homebrew. Great stuff.

Friday, September 19, 2008

TONIGHT - 2nd Manhattan Cask Ale Festival and Chelsea Brewing Co

At the NYCHG meeting this week I had the opportunity to chat up Alex Hall, the man responsible for the cask ale fests at Chelsea and also tri-annually at the Brazen Head in Brooklyn. He gave me a peek at an advanced copy of the list of casks that will be pouring tonight, and it was quite impressive. Looks like the full list is up there on his site now. Hopefully there will be one imported cask on tap, a Scottish Ale from Harviestoun.
It's a pay as you go thing, so hopefully I'll be able to control myself this time around (as opposed to last week's beer festival). I definitely recommend going with the 8oz pours. A lot of these beers you'll never get the chance to try again, so might as well keep the volume of each small in order to get to as many as can reasonably be gotten to.

Also, looks like there will be a few from some unlikely Jersey candidates - Pizzeria Uno out of Metuchen, and New Brunswick's Harvest Moon. I'm sure that the availability of Jersey casks has something to do with the recent cask fest that was held at Uno's. (Yes, there's a Pizzeria Uno that brews beer. They're the only one in the country. Another story for another day/post.)

As for this afternoon, it's the last day (for me, anyway) to hit the San Gennaro Festival. I think I'm going to check out one of those very intriguing cheesesteak sandwiches on garlic bread. Looks like R will have to put up with some fierce breath this evening.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's Uinta, you intiot!

Special thanks to Mikey of the Utah Beer Blog for pointing out my mistake on the name of Uinta Brewing. You'd think I would have caught that. It's not like I posted a big graphic with the brewery's logo up there or anything...

Went over to the Blind Tiger last night and sampled two of the Uinta beers. I'm not really loving the whole beer review thing these days - there are a zillion beer reviews out there, I don't think that mine are any more or less interesting or qualified, so why bother? But anyhow, here are my notes:

Uinta Solstice Kolsch: Brilliantly clear golden straw color with a thin white head. Definite wheat in the nose. Sweet, grainy in flavor and aroma. Some mild noble hop flavor. Low bitterness. Dry finish with a wheaty aftertaste. Easy drinking and flavorful, great late summer beer.

Uinta Gelande Amber Lager: Clear amber with a thin, quickly fading white head. Chocolatey. Super clean. Think a nut brown ale brewed with a lager yeast. A touch of hops in the finish. Interesting beer, again, very drinkable. Only flaw might be a very slight paprery oxidized note in the aftertaste.

I wish I could have hung around to try more. The two that I had were great, clean, easy drinking beers. Right up my alley.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Unite for Unita!

There's a Unita Brewing event tonight at the Blind Tiger and I'm going to try and stop by to sample one or two. Unita is a brewery in Utah that has to adhere to some arcane law about beer not being greater than 4.0%ABV/3.2%ABW. Why am I not surprised?

I haven't been able to find a list of the beers that the Tiger will have on tap, but I think I'd be most interested in trying the Brown, the Pilsner, and/or the Kolsch. No particular reason why. And what's up with the Cutthroat Pale Ale and the Angler's Pale Ale? What's the difference? Looks like the same label, same beer, different name. I'll see if I can get to the bottom of it...

One other thing about Unita that I think is particularly cool is that they are 100% wind powered. I can't find much on their website other than boastful claims to that effect, so I'll try to get to the bottom of that one too. I wonder if they have anything on site or if they're just buying wind power from the local power company. I'm quite sure the latter, but it's kind of cool imagining a brewery with a bunch of wind turbines in the parking lot. If I were them I'd throw in some solar panels too. Heat the sparge water. Just a thought.

Monday, September 15, 2008

NY Brewfest Sh*tshow

And by sh*tshow I mean two things - the combination of rain and crowd that made for a less than ideal experience, and the general state of my being by the time the thing was over.

The folks at the NY Brewfest corrected two of their biggest problems from last year's event. One, they allowed people to check-in before the actual start time of the event, which made getting in a heck of a lot easier. Two, they arranged for each brewery to have enough beer to last the event. At the end of last year's Brewfest there were huge crowds around the few remaining tables that still had beer. You can imagine what a mess that was, so hat's off to them for correcting it.

Unfortunately there's not much that they could have done about the rain. It rained steadily for most of the evening, which was a real drag, but made a bit more bearable when we scored some cheap ponchos. And like last year's event, the crowd just got huge about halfway through. It would be nice if they could do something to control the size of the crowd, but being completely out in the open in a public space, there's really not much they can do. And besides, I'm sure they're not really interested in selling fewer tickets.

Didn't really try any memorable beers. Seemed like every other one was an amber lager this year for some reason. I did speak to some very friendly people, like the reps from Abita, Otter Creek, and Kelso. And one complete dick - the guy from Dundee who, when asked "what are you pouring?" responded "who cares, it's good".

Of course, by the time it was said and done, I went and got myself completely wasted, falling into the trap of trying to get my money's worth. At this point I'm feeling like I probably wouldn't go back next year. But who knows. By August of 2009 I'll be all pumped up for the Brewfest again.

Going to try and make it to the Blind Tiger on Wednesday for the Unita thing. And we'll be at Chelsea for the Cask Ale Festival on Friday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I hate that feast with a passion

The 81st Annual Feast Of San Gennaro is now on, right around the corner from my office. Contrary to the title of the post, I do not hate the feast. I just can't think of a Feast in Little Italy without conjuring up Robert DeNiro in Mean Streets. That's one of those movie lines that goes around and around in my head, over and over again at nonsensical hours of the day for no reason at all.

The Feast means two things: Sausage and Peppers with Broccoli Rabe, and Mozzarepas. I like to get my sausage and peppers with a little broccoli rabe thrown in. It makes me feel good about myself because there's some green in there. Hey, you have to be able to hang your hat on something. As for mozzarepas, there's not much to explain. They're delicious and awesome and awesomely delicious. And absolutely horrible for you.

Try a mozzarepa at The Feast on Mulberry Street some time between now and the 21st. Good street food and carnies. Can't beat it.

As for tonight - see you at the NY Brewfest...

These numbers look good

Interesting post today from Lew Bryson on the recent state of macro/micro sales. Looks like folks are really pumped about no longer having to cut up lime wedges and trying to do that trick with your thumb over the opening of the bottle where you flip it over... you know, that one that your cousin never figured out how to do and he still sprays beer all over everyone at the family barbecue every summer. Anyway, you knew that all of the hand wringing over Bud no longer being "American" would blow over in no time.

Gotta love the continued success of the craft brew segment. Just keeps growing and growing. Keep it up, people of good taste.

Monday, September 8, 2008

How much beer would a beer gun bottle...

The beer gun got a good workout over the last couple of days. The bottles you see before you were all filled - pale ale, dunkel, and cream soda beer for competitions, and the entire batch of dubbel, which was primed in the keg. I thought it would ever end. Big time props to R for being capper extraordinaire.

I finally took a taste of the dubbel tonight, and if I've learned one thing, it's that I can't taste my own beer objectively. It's a strong belgian beer, so it's going to have some phenols. But would I describe it as medicinal and unpleasant if I tasted it in a competition? Or would I call it spicy, and therefore well brewed? I guess I'll have to pass some off on to some unsuspecting victims in the next few weeks. If anyone wants a bottle of homebrewed dubbel, please send a SASE to...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saturday in Allentown for the LVHB competition

R was kind enough to accompany me to Allentown yesterday for the Lehigh Valley Homebrewers' Malt Madness competition held at the Allentown Brew Works. We braved Hanna and drove out to eastern PA at the crack of dawn. (Personally, I thought the whole Hanna thing was way over blow. Sure, it was a rainy day and all, but where were the torrential downpours? The sustained winds?)

First of all, magnificent job by the folks in the LVHB for running a great competition. Everything was on time and moved quickly. We were hooked up with breakfast and lunch, which is always appreciated. And second, it's really great to see a place like the Brew Works being so supportive of the homebrewers. They were really very accomodating, so I tip my hat to them too.

I judged strong Belgians in the morning and Saisons in the afternoon. (I really have to start brewing these styles so that I don't wind up judging them in EVERY competition.) Though none of the entries were really mind blowing, I was very impressed at the lack of stinkers. Of the 26 or so beers that I judged, there were maybe only one or two that were poor. So great job by all of the homebrewers out there whose beer I was lucky enough to sample.

Your favorite author had a nice showing at the competition with a first and a second for an American Pale Ale and ESB respectively. The competition had some generous sponsorship, so I snagged a gift certificate to Porter's Pub in Easton and treated R to dinner immediately following our stay at the Brew Works. If you've never been to Porter's Pub, go. Go now. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go directly to Porter's Pub. The beer selection is great and the food is even better. And the gift certificate covered an app, a sandwich, an entree, three beers, and a soda. The turkey dinner sandwich is truly a thing of beauty. What a great spot.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Best pizza in New Jersey

I'm far from an aficionado, but for my money, Grimaldi's in Hoboken is the best pizza in Jersey. Went there with R on Friday night. They use fresh mozz, as you can see in the picture. The sauce is sweet, tangy, and not overly spiced. And the crust - well, the crust is the best there is. Crunchy and doughy at the same time, and with just the right amount of charring from the coal oven.

And you can't beat it with a Climax IPA (aka Grimaldi's IPA). This might be the best pizza and beer pairing ever. Climax IPA is a perfectly balanced IPA with a great Centennial hop aroma and flavor. It's rich and malty with just the right amount of hop bitterness. Think an Irish red ale with a big citrusy Pacific Northwest hop presence. Great stuff.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day brew

Took the opportunity to brew yesterday, what with the holiday and all. Here's the recipe:

9.5 lbs Briess Organic two-row
1 lb Briess Victory
.5 lb Briess Special Roast
.25 lb Simpsons Medium Crystal
.25 lb Simpsons Dark Crystal

1 oz Ahtanum pellets 5.5%AA boiled 90 min.
.25 oz Centennial whole hops 9.7%AA boiled 20 min.
.25 oz Northern Brewer whole hops 8.5%AA boiled 15 min.
.25 oz Centennial whole hops 9.7%AA boiled 10 min.
.25 oz Northern Brewer whole hops 8.5%AA boiled 5 min.
.25 oz Centennial whole hops 9.7%AA at flameout

Mash at 150°F for about an hour. Recirculate until clear, sparge to collect 7.25 gallons wort. Boil 90 minutes down to 6 gallons. Add whirlfloc tab with 15 minutes remaining in boil, add 1/2 tsp. rehydrated yeast nutrient with 10 minutes remaining in boil. Cooled, pitched White Labs California Ale Yeast slurry, gave about 1.5 minutes O2. Ferment at 64°F.

This was the first time I ever used Briess Organic two-row and I noticed that my extract efficiency was much lower than usual. I'm usually in at around 75-80% or so. This brew was around 70%. We'll see if the trend continues with future brews (I've got a 55lb sack of the stuff).

I made the yeast starter with my new 4000ml Erlenmeyer flask. Isn't that exciting?!?!! It was a bit of a challenge to decant the wort off of the yeast, but I think I'll get the hang of it with time. This week we'll be bottling a ton of beers and prepping for the Giants home opener. You can't throw an important tailgate together in one day, you know.