Thursday, May 28, 2009

Berliner Weisse woes

So about two months ago I brewed a Berliner Weisse. I had three gallons of 1.032 wort, 50/50 wheat/pilsner malt ratio, which were the second runnings from my American Wheat beer. I pitched a full pack of Wyeast lactobacillus at about 78 degrees and let it sit for about three days. I didn't really see any activity in there, but then again, I don't really know what lactobacillus looks like in a fermenter. After the three days I pitched a bit of Wyeast 1007 (German Ale yeast) slurry from a previous batch. The whole thing sat in the fermenter for about three to four weeks and was bottled with some priming sugar.

Well, after letting the bottles prime for about four weeks I cracked one. I also managed to track down some waldmeister syrup - no small task - at the Schaller and Weber deli on the Upper East Side. And the final beer is more than a little disappointing. No sourness at all. If anyone has any experience with the Wyeast lactobacillus culture and can offer some advice or tips, please comment below. Otherwise I think that my next run at a Berliner Weisse will be a traditional no-boil mash.
Update, 5/29: I got an e-mail back from Wyeast who said that their lactobacillus strain is inhibited above 10 IBU. My Berliner Weisse brew was somewhere in the 8-12 range, so they suggested that this could be the reason why and advised me to give it another couple of months to see if I get some slow acid production.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The real Beer Wars

It's on, folks. After reading Jeff's post at Beer Stained Letter the other day, I also received the following in the AHA's daily Tech Talk mailing. From Charlie P:

"Some of you are aware of the headline discussions in Washington DC
this week and last week regarding proposals to dramatically increase Federal
Excise Tax on brewers and other alcohol beverage industries. Brewers
Association staff and those who are working on behalf of the Brewers Association
in Washington, DC are in daily and regular communications on how to best
represent small brewers concerns in these very critical discussions.
Dramatic excise tax increases would be harmful to both small brewery
businesses and to the existing American beer culture of enjoyment and

In order to gain strategic ground before any
Federal Excise Tax increase was proposed, the Brewers Association earlier this
year teamed up with the Beer Institute to help introduce two bills advocating a
reduction in Federal Excise Tax. These two bills are House Bill H.R. 836 and
Senate Bill S.1058. They are helpful as both a defense and as a proactive
initiative. H.R. 836 has 178 co-sponsors. S.1058 introduced last
week has an initial 7 co-sponsors in the Senate. These two bills can help
us push back on proposals to dramatically increase excise taxes on small brewers
and the industry as a whole.

Earlier this year small brewers were
asked by BA to call their Representatives and ask them to sign on as co-sponsor
of H.R. 836. Soon they will be receiving information asking them to
call their Senator to become a co-sponsor of S. 1058.

In addition
to the threat of Federal Excise Tax increases, the Administration's new budget
outline proposes the establishment of annual user fees to fund TTB's agency
budget, which in effect would be an additional tax on brewers and other related

Brewers Association is involved in expressing concerns
on behalf of small brewers and beer enthusiasts on these two legislative
matters. You may hear from us in the near future regarding actions which
you can be involved in on these matters.

The Brewers Association
feels it is of utmost importance during these critical times that the beer
industry present a united and coordinated effort on the federal level.
This is why we have teamed with the Beer Institute to help us represent
our constituencies. If you are involved or are considering being involved
in any other Federal initiatives that would be relevant to American small
brewers, please let us know about them."

So there you have it. Stay aware. Take your vitamins. And get ready for war!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adventures in the Southern Tier

Took a trip with R up to the Binghamton/Ithaca area for a few days, so I've been away for a while. All in all, it was a fun time. A few general observations first:

Had a lot of fun at the B-Mets game, the Ross Park Zoo, the Kopernik Observatory, and a few other little things here and there. But trying to find something to do in Binghamton is quite a chore. Sadly, it's a pretty run-down place. Which made it all the more remarkable that just about every one of our dining experiences was great - Crepe Heaven and Whole In The Wall stood out.
Owego and Ithaca are very cool towns. Owego is very small, but packs a lot into its downtown. And we definitely could have spent another day or two in Ithaca. Plenty to do there, both indoor (restaurants, bars, antiques, miscellaneous unique stores) and out (the falls, the TOTALLY AWESOME Sapsucker Woods Bird Sanctuary, Buttermilk Falls State Park).

But this blog is about beer, so here we go with the beery things from our trip...
Labatt's and the Guiness trifecta: I know we were technically "upstate", but it still didn't feel like we were that far from the general NYC area. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me that Labatt's was so pervasive up in that area. And, it seemed like every bar or restaurant that we went to in Binghamton had a promotional display for the Guiness/Smithwick's/Harp trio. Strange.

Cyber Cafe West: We checked this place out one night on a whim. Besides, R loves anything "cyber".We were looking for something to do, and I happened to recognize the name from beeradvocate's Binghamton directory. Turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Got a couple of wraps for a late dinner which were pretty tasty, and they had the latest Sly Fox hop project on tap, which kind of blew me away. It was the Polish Marynka hop. Interesting beer, though not a great pale ale hop. Reminded me of black grapes. And the Cyber Cafe West also turned out to be kind of a weird little place for people watching. Thumbs up!

The Belmar: We drove past this place in the middle of an afternoon in broad daylight. We were stopped at a light and again, I noticed the name of the place from beeradvocate's Binghamton directory. I was trying to look in the open door of the place to get an idea of what it was like inside when a fella standing out front smoking a cigarette told me to "just drive your car, don't fuckin' look over here". Needless to say we didn't stop in. Thumbs down!

Doc's Homebrew Supply: Had to show the LHBS some love while we were in town. Assuming that the guy working there was indeed Doc, hell of a nice guy. Picked up some supplies and asked for a recommendation for a beer bar, and after a shared lament over the complete absence of brewpubs in the area, Doc suggested the Ale House in Vestal....

The Ale House: The beeradvocate comments on this place were all generally positive, but most did caution that several of the three dozen or so taps would be out. This turned out to be true, unfortunately. What I was impressed with was the concentration on local beers. A bunch from Ithaca and Cooperstown on tap, as well as other NY brews (Saranac, Blue Point, can't recall the others right away). I also recall a (somewhat rare for the area) Great Lakes offering. A small but friendly place, definitely the best beer selection that we could find in the Binghamton area.

Sam the Beer Man: I always find the upstate NY beer stores to be a bit of a trip. Being in NJ, it's very weird to walk into a store that sells just beer. I came away from here with mixed twelve packs from Cooperstown and Middle Ages, and two six packs from Lake Placid. And, quite impressively, the Belgian selection rivaled anything I've seen in Manhattan.

John Barleycorn Tavern (aka Josh Barrelcorn's): Meet the locals in Owego! Stopped in for one beer at this place and found Cooperstown on tap again (amazing that this brewery does not appear in NYC at all. Ever.) Seemed like a nice crowd and had a pretty cool deck out in back looking over the river.

Tioga Trails Cafe: Not really a bar, but had a few craft taps and a bunch of the Ithaca beers in bottles. Interesting space. They had a pretty large stage and some couches and lounge chairs. Not sure what the nightlife is like in Owego, but something tells me that the Tioga Trails Cafe is probably one of the more upscale spots. Could be wrong.

Maxie's Supper Club: This was definitely my favorite restaurant in Ithaca (sorry, R, but the Moosewood was totally disappointing). I'm a sucker for both oysters and New Orleans style cooking, and Maxie's did both well. Throw in some craft beers on tap (I had a Stone Pale Ale and something from Abita, I think... shame on me) and I'm a happy boy. By the way, the oysters were malpeques and wellfleets.

Ithaca Beer Company: We stopped in the brewery for a tasting - no tours on weekdays. Mike treated us great as he took us through the flight, with the very hoppy pilsner being the highlight for me. I came home with a mixed twelve pack and three bottles of their Excelsior series. It was also great to see them supporting the scene and selling homebrew supplies from the tasting room.

Six Mile Creek Vineyard: OK, so we're finishing up with wine and not beer. Sue me. Six Mile Creek is the closest winery to Ithaca proper, and it was totally worth the short drive if for no other reason than to stroll the very scenic property. We tasted six different varieties each. I'm no wine guy, but the white wines were striking a chord for me. The Reserve Riesling was dry and minerally as advertised, and I could totally see myself polishing off a bottle and passing out in the pond out in back. Which is why I didn't think it would be a good idea for us to break out one of the bottles to bring it down to the gazebo for an early evening drink.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oysters and Rogue (or Rogue and Oysters) at the Blind Tiger

Dumbass that I am, I needed to look at my own blog to be reminded at the last second about this awesome event. I went last year, ate a dozen Yaquina Bay oysters and got bombed on some fantastic Rogue beers. This year was not to be as fun filled and exciting, since I didn't really have the time to spend there. I was in and out in about 25 minutes last night.

Rogue: They're just one of America's best microbreweries. They make killer beer. They have a hop farm. One of these days me and R will make it out to their public house/inn thing that they have out there in Oregon.

As far as last night goes, I only had time for one, so I went with the Northwest Signature, a Rogue beer that I'd never had the opportunity to taste before. I'd describe it as an American IPA that was more evenly balanced. Rather than being hop forward it had some thick maltiness to it. Darker than most IPA's. Great stuff from them, as usual. Also, big props to the Rogue folks (and the Tiger, I guess) for having plenty of full pints on the menu. It's nice to see the Tiger have an event where half the board is filled with $7, 10 oz servings.

Oysters: Hit and miss. They were definitely tasty. Mild, not very briny. The plate that I got varied in size quite a bit. The biggest problem was that half of them were mangled. Busted shells, bits of shell hiding in the meat. Kind of ruins the experience, but the half that were in good shape really hit the spot. And for the price ($16 a dozen), it's kind of tough to get worked up about it. I'd just like to see the Tiger get someone in there next year who knows how to handle oysters, especially considering that the thin shells on the Yaquina Bay variety are more susceptible to breaking.

And special thanks to the dude who let me encroach on his space while I ate my oysters. I was panicking at the thought of trying to handle a dozen oysters in the usual elbow-to-elbow after work environment of the Tiger.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First... IPA... EVER!!!

Somehow, a homebrewer out there managed to go 100+ batches before ever brewing an IPA. And that homebrewer and I share a name - Me.

When I ordered hop rhizomes a while back, I also ordered a bunch of whole hops. There was a minimum order, so I wound up ordering more than I needed. Add that to what I already had in my freezer and the Mt. Rainier pellets that were given out as prizes at Homebrew Alley III, and we're talking about a lot of hops sitting around. What better way to use up hops than brewing an IPA!

So I based the recipe around most of the high alpha hops that I had - Summit pellets for bittering, Chinook, Nugget, and Magnum whole hops for flavor and aroma. I have a love/hate relationship with the high alpha American hops and IPA's. The bright citrus aroma of Centennial hops - love it. The pungent, resinous, piney aroma of Simcoe hops - no thanks.

I originally planned on just using the Chinook, Nugget, and Magnum equally throughout the last 20 minutes of the boil, but tweaked the recipe a bit upon opening the bags of hops. One thing that I really don't like that comes across in some American hops is a catty aroma (yes, cat piss), and I kind of caught a bit of that in the Chinook. So I figured I'd boil those longer in order to minimize the effects. On second thought, I should have just sealed them back up and used something else. But what would I have done with those 2 oz of Chinook hops? Oh, what's that you say, trade them to someone who likes Chinook hops? Yeah, well hindsight is 20/20.

Here's the gist of the recipe:

13 lbs Marris Otter
.25 lb Weyermann CaraMunich I
2 oz Briess Cara Pils

Mash for 1hr at 148º. Collect 6.75 gallons, boil down to 5.75 gallons over 75 minutes.

.5 oz Summit hop pellets, 16.7% AA, boiled 75 minutes
1 oz Chinook whole hops, 13.0% AA, boiled 20 minutes
.5 oz Nugget whole hops, 12.6% AA, boiled 10 minutes
.5 oz Magnum whole hops, 14.0% AA, boiled 5 minutes
.5 oz each Nugget and Magnum added at flameout

Whirlfloc tab added with 15 minutes remaining in boil. Whirlpooled and allowed to settle for 10 minutes after flameout. Cooled to 62º and collected approximately 5.25 gallons of 1.064OG wort in fermenter. Pitched Wyeast 1007 German Ale slurry, gave it 2 minutes of O2.

I was planning on doing 2 oz of aroma hops at flameout, but started to worry that I'd lose too much wort to absorption in the hops. After consulting the Brewing Classic Styles book, which calls for 1 oz at flameout (and 3 oz total finishing hops, just as in my recipe above), I relaxed and had a homebrew.


In other news, I cracked open a bottle of 2000 Brooklyn Monster right before the Pacquiao-Hatton fight on Saturday night. Sadly, it was very well oxidized. Basically all caramel and sherry. I have one more bottle, which I'll hang on to for a little while longer and hope for better things.

Maybe I should have chugged the other one to try and feel like Ricky Hatton at 2:59 of the second round (sorry, no video).