July 30, 2011

Homebrewers: Need Your Input for My Next Batch

Up until this point, I've only made beer using a pre-made kit or recipe.  I've made some minor modifications here and there, but I think it's time to build my own recipe from scratch.  Here's the plan:

These guys are going in...
I'd like to make a good summer beer - a pale ale, not too hoppy (something that would sell well).  I'm planning on dividing the 5 gallon batch and experimenting with adjuncts.  In the largest container I'll have the basic recipe - the only additive will be a cup of light brown sugar to the boil.  In the two other containers I'll add hand-picked peaches from a local Virginia farm, peeled, pitted and frozen, with different proportions in each of the smaller containers.  What do you think?  My main question is, what type of hops should I use?  I think I want to finish with Willamette, and maybe use Cluster, Centennial, or Tettnang to bitter.  What's your suggestion?  Feel free to comment on the blog or Facebook, or send me a message on Twitter.  Thanks!

Here's my recipe so far:

0.5 lb Flaked Wheat (mashed)
0.5 lb Flaked Oats (mashed)
4.5 lbs Briess Light LME
2.5 lbs Briess Wheat LME
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 oz Centennial hop pellets at 30 mins to go
0.5 oz Willamette hop pellets at 20 mins
0.5 oz Willamette hop pellets at 10 mins

WLP041 Pacific Ale Yeast

0 peaches per gallon on secondary A
2 peaches per gallon on secondary B
4 peaches per gallon on secondary C

Estimated OG: 1.068
Estimated FG: 1.017
Estimated ABV: 6.6%

July 29, 2011

Live from Legend Brewing Company - Richmond, VA

The last time I wrote about Legend, I was reporting from Barret's Seafood Restaurant in Williamsburg.  This time I'm going straight to the source.  To start things off, I went with the old standard, Legend Brown Ale, which according to the Legend website poll is preferred by over a third of responders.  To chase that down, I ordered a pretty respectable Kabob sandwich with a side of Brown Ale sauerkraut.  Believe it or not, you can actually taste the beer's influence on the kraut.  I understand not everyone is a fan of boiled cabbage, but if you appreciate the German culinary influence I suggest you give it a shot.

Next up, a cask-conditioned Pale Ale: smooth, with a substantial foam head and dominated by citrus and floral hop notes.  Given that this beer is made with four varieties of hops, it does demonstrate a pretty complex flavor.

And to round things out... I sampled a Smoked Chocolate Stout, and while I dig the smokey beers (something of a novelty in the States right now), I'm not too keen on drinking a whole pint of it at the end of a session.  Maybe at a barbecue.  I'm going for the IPA instead.

Surprisingly less hoppy than the Pale Ale, clear and golden, it's a little spicy and has the mouthfeel of a lager.  I like it!

Unfortunately, Legend only offers tours on Saturdays at 1pm, so I won't get a chance to see the inner workings of the brewery this time around.  I'll have to make that happen next time I'm in the area.  Stay tuned!

July 28, 2011

Whitsett, NC - Red Oak Brewery

Speaking of fresh, let's talk about Red Oak Brewery in North Carolina, my next stop after visiting Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta.  Situated on I-85/40 between Greensboro and Chapel Hill, Red Oak is all about the fresh, Bavarian-style beer.  They adhere strictly to the German Purity Law of 1516 (aka Reinheitsgebot), which mandated that all beer made in Germany could only be made using barley, water, and noble hops (yeast hadn't been discovered yet).  Red Oak brews three varieties of unfiltered, unpasteurized lager:
  • Hummin' Bird - the lightest option, made with Pilsener malts and Tettnang hops
  • Red Oak Amber - their flagship, brewed with Munich malts and Spalt hops
  • Battlefield Bock - Red Oak's darkest beer, made using Dark Roasted malts and Czech Saaz hops
After sampling all three, I couldn't resist the chance to buy a growler of the Battlefield Bock.  Having just bought one, I didn't really need another growler, but the smooth coffee and chocolate flavors were right up my alley.  I guess I'm just destined for a growler collection.

While sampling the brews, a helpful employee gave us some history on Red Oak.  What made the biggest impression on me was Red Oak's commitment to doing one thing well.  They're not trying to be the next international brewing conglomerate.  Of course, because of state regulations Red Oak is only available in North Carolina.  See, if they brew more than 25,000 barrels of beer, state law requires that distribution be handed over to another party.  So Red Oak is going to hang right around 24,999 barrels a year and distribute their own product, thank you very much.  That way, they can make sure their beer gets where it needs to be in the proper condition.  I must say I respect Red Oak for sticking to their guns while they battle over the status quo.  With a number of breweries (like this one) selling out to the majors, Red Oak's calculated decision to limit production for the sake of their craft is to be appreciated.

July 25, 2011

The Philosophy of Beer Tasting

When the average beer drinker reaches into the fridge to pull out a cold beer they probably aren’t considering the philosophical ramifications of their choice. That’s acceptable and reasonable. It may be that in order to enjoy the refreshment of a “cold one” it helps to not get mired in philosophical muck... Perhaps the adage should be: “We drink because we like to drink not because we like to think.”

Whether or not we have a Cartesian “clear and distinct” idea of the beer we’re about to drink probably isn’t as important as how that brewski tastes. According to
Derek Boyd, Descartes had a “clear and distinct idea of God because ... God causes us mere mortals to have such a clear and distinct idea of His existence--[i.e.]...God is perfect and so He doesn’t deceive us.” The same might be said for beer, right?

The Perfect Beer Doesn’t Deceive Us

Aside from the fact that Descartes leads us into the illogical world of what is known as a “Cartesian circle,” in Professor Boyd’s interpretation, Descartes’ God is
a priori defined as the most benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient being imaginable; this is not, then, a premise we should bother refuting (though we may be able to refute the other premises of St. Anselm’s argument). To be sure, Descartes accepted the rationalist notion of a priori knowledge: it is possible to know something without experiencing that “thing.” So, we must ask, if we do not refute the definition of a “perfect beer” because it is a definition, do we indeed have an a priori clear and distinct idea of what the “perfect beer” tastes like? Well folks, though we may think we have a clear and distinct idea of what the perfect beer is all about, I submit to you that in order to really know, it will be important to put what we “know” to the test.

Yep, it’s time to taste some beer!

But first... for an introduction:

If you’re guessing that David didn’t write this post (or at least hoping he hasn’t gone off of his rocker), fear not... My name is Anton and I will be guest blogging on the Local Beer Blog. The goal of my posts will be to approach the topic of beer from many angles: the economics of beer, the philosophy of beer, the science of beer, and the X of beer, where X is some random variable.

I’m pleased to be adding my opinions to this blog and hope that readers will enjoy reading about beer as much as I enjoy writing about it. So, continue to read the Local Beer Blog as we begin posting more content. For my first post I will wrap up the philosophical notion of why we should embrace beer tasting we've started in this introduction... so stay tuned.

Have a great day with a great beer.

Take it easy,



Derek Boyd: http://philosophy.gmu.edu/people/dboyd5
Rene Descartes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Descartes
Cartesian Circle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_circle
St. Anselm's Argument: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument

July 21, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Sweetwater Brewery

Like Ray Charles I had Georgia on my mind, so I went down to Atlanta to visit my girl and check out the Sweetwater Brewery.  Many a Sunday afternoon in college were spent enjoying 2-4-1s at the Broadway Brewhouse in Nashville with a basket of chipotle chicken wings and a glass of Sweetwater 420 (this may sound familiar - my first beer review took place under similar circumstances).  I was pumped to see where the beer I remember so fondly was created.

July 13, 2011

DC Day 3: Dogfish Head Alehouse

OK.  Now I know what all the hype is about -- and why the line for Dogfish Head at the American Craft Beer Fest was out of control the whole time. With a brewery based in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Dogfish Head also has three restaurants in the DC area: two in northern Virginia, one in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I walked in, went straight for the bar, and ordered up a glass of their 90-Minute IPA.  The Dogfish IPAs are pretty well known among IPA fans, aka 'hopheads'. Dogfish does a 60-Minute, a 90-Minute, and a 120-Minute IPA, the 'minutes' referring to how long the beer spends boiling with hops. But rather than listen to me tell you about it, why don't you let the Dogfish Head founder, Sam Calagione, tell you himself?

And it was extremely delicious. I followed the IPA with a tasty Alehouse BBQ Burger - two beef patties cooked over a wood fire, bacon, onion rings, and cheese - and spent the next hour or so deliberating which beer to get next. This is where I was just about knocked off my barstool. The beer selection at Dogfish Head was truly mind-blowing. 'Standard' simply isn't part of their vocabulary. Nearly every single beer was made with ingredients that don't typically find their way into commercial beer. I sampled one called Theobroma, derived from a 3,200-year-old Aztec recipe and made with cocoa powder, honey, chili peppers, and annatto (a seed from a tree found in Latin America). I was shocked how light it was - none of those ingredients was overwhelming at all. I tried another beer called Black & Red, which was a strong, dark, fruity beer made with mint - lots of mint. After several samples, I finally decided on the Raison d'Etre, a Belgian Ale made with raisins and beet sugar.  As you might expect, it smelled and tasted somewhat sweet and somewhat fruity -- definitely a unique combination.  At 8% ABV, it also packed a pretty good punch on the alcohol scale.

I would have loved to hang out and try all the beers on the menu, but I figured I'd save some for when I visit DC again next week.  So -- stay tuned...

July 7, 2011

DC Day 2: Folklife Festival and the District Chophouse & Brewery

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is held every year on the National Mall in DC and features three different countries, regions, states, or cultures.  This year the focus is on the Peace Corps, Colombia, and Rhythm & Blues.  I decided to swing by the Festival first, so as not to get too distracted by whatever's on tap at the local bar.

Sandwiched between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building, the Mall was filled with tents for the different speakers and concerts and thousands of visitors bustling between them.  I spent most of my time in the Colombian and R&B sections.  There were dozens of Colombians artisans demonstrating how to make baskets, furniture, and the like, but my favorite part, no doubt, was the Colombian music:

After exploring the festival for a few hours, I walked up to the District Chophouse & Brewery, recommended to me by someone I'd met at Capital City Brewing Company.  Walking into the Chophouse, I was impressed by its swanky feel.  The wait staff was well-dressed, there were stained wood and leather booths, and a very 1920s-style bar was situated towards the left.  Upstairs were the brewery's fermentation tanks. 

After perusing the brewery's impressive beer selection posted on the chalkboard behind the bar (they had 8-10 choices available), I decided to start with their IPA.  It was floral in aroma and taste and it went very well with my Roasted Veggie Pizza.  I followed the IPA with the Saison.  This brew was less tart than some other Saisons I've tried.  I liked its wheaty nature and its peachy overtones - a great summer beer.  I would have liked to stick around drinking beer the rest of the day, but those DC prices can add up pretty quickly.  I'd gladly swing by again for their Happy Hour - Monday through Friday 4pm-7pm.

July 2, 2011

Washington, DC - Day 1: Capitol City Brewing Co.

In DC for the weekend, I wanted to be sure to visit some of the local breweries - that's what I do.  First stop: Capitol City Brewing Company, which has three locations in the DC and Northern VA area.  I visited the one downtown, not far from the White House and the Washington Monument.  Even before I got there I overheard people talking about it on street.

I'll say right off the bat my favorite thing about Capitol City was the feel of it.  Giant windows all the way around and exposed duct work in the ceiling made it very spacious and welcoming.  It had a huge round bar covered in copper that was full of people getting the holiday weekend off to a good start.

The plan was to have a couple beers and head to the Folklife Festival on the National Mall.  Plans, unfortunately, don't always survive in this line of work.  I didn't make it to the Fest, but I did try most of the beers at Capitol City.
  • Prohibition Porter - Relatively light-bodied, with lots of coffee and biscuit flavor.  A good, standard Porter.
  • Belgian Cherry - It had a nice red color to it with a great cherry aroma.  On the first taste, the bitter and cherry flavors just didn't seem to work well together, but it started to grow on me about halfway through.  Pretty tart on the finish.
  • Fuel - Probably the best of what I tried.  This coffee-infused imperial stout packed a punch at 8.5% alcohol.  Strong coffee flavors did well though to mask the higher alcohol content.
  • Amber Waves Ale - A good amber ale with a satisfying hop bitterness and a nice smooth feel to it.
  • Saison - Almost like a hefeweizen - straw yellow and cloudy, but a lot more tangy than sweet.
This bar proved that a good feel and above average brews go a long way to making a winning combination.  Next up: District Chophouse and Brewery.