December 14, 2011

Chicago, IL - Beer School Day 2

On Day 2 of the Siebel course, we hit the ground running and dove straight into some spreadsheets. Tim Lane of Goose Island Brewpubs led the session and guided the class through various charts, sales projections and cost analyses, demonstrating how important the math can be when running a restaurant.

Just a few of the things you need to ask yourself if you want your pub to be successful: What's the average check amount? How many turns of the tables each day? What's the profit margin on each menu item? What are your projected sales minus the total cost of goods sold and payroll and other expenses? Bottom line: Serving food really complicates things.

December 6, 2011

Chicago, IL - My Kind of (Beer) Town

Finally, I've had a chance to check out the city Sinatra's been singing about -- Chicago.

I was in the Windy City last week taking a Start Your Own Brewery course through the Siebel Institute.  The 3-day seminar was held at the Goose Island Pub in the Clybourn neighborhood and covered a wide range of topics, including business plan development, site selection and construction, brewpub operations, starting a packaging brewery, distribution, marketing, and much more.  The class was moderated by Ray Daniels, author of the highly-rated homebrewing manual Designing Great Beers.  For each segment of the class, Ray brought in different players from the Chicago and Midwest beer scene to talk about their experiences.  I was pleasantly surprised with both the breadth and depth of the course.  Hearing from people who had actually been successful in the beer business was both inspiring and eye-opening.

DAY 1 started with a brief overview of the course and introductions by each of the students in the class.  The 53 students came from all over the country.  I noticed the class was about 80-90% bearded male, a trend commented on here and inspiring this brewer and his blog.  Anyways, I digress.

November 22, 2011

Terrapin Brewery Sells Share of Company to Miller Coors

Hopefully we won't see "Brought to you by MillerCoors" on here.
I can see where Terrapin is coming from, but I can't help but be a little disappointed to hear this news.  I hope that they are able to maintain the personality of their brand and the quality that makes their beers what they are.

Of course I can't blame Miller Coors.  With macro beer sales waning, they need to find new ways to pay for all those pricy NFL commercial spots.  Just look at all the different brands they've got their hands on.

November 15, 2011

Homebrew for Hunger Festival Recap

First of all, welcome to all new subscribers!  Glad to have you on board!

This past Saturday was the 1st Annual Homebrew for Hunger Festival and it was a blast! I really enjoyed sharing my beer, getting feedback, and talking to people about homebrewing in general. Best of all, the event raised close to $6,000 and collected about 200 pounds of food for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. That's enough for over 25,000 individual meals, or three meals a day for over 8,500 people dealing with hunger!

November 5, 2011

Homebrewing for the Holidays

It's that time of year. The leaves are changing and it's getting nice and cold. With this weather comes stronger beers to keep us warm, and with the holiday season approaching it's a good time to add some celebratory spices to our brews.

All cliches aside, I'm getting to work on a Winter Spiced Ale. It's from the Winter Wassail recipe found in the Homebrewer's Garden, scaled down to 3 gallons and with few minor tweaks:

8 oz. 2 Row Carahelles
8 oz. American 6 Row
4 oz. Crystal 120 malt
4 oz. Crystal 60 malt
3 lbs. Golden Light LME

.5 oz. Cascade :40
.25 oz Cascade :20
.5 oz. Saaz :2
(Here's where it gets a little crazy)

October 23, 2011

Homebrew for Hunger

Hey folks, just want to share with you an event happening next month.  The first annual Homebrew for Hunger festival will place on November 12th in Chapel Hill, NC, benefitting the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.  Homebrewers from around the area will be sharing their concoctions.

WHO: Sponsored by several North Carolina businesses, the event will feature over 30 homebrewers and at least four craft breweries teaming up to support the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
WHAT: A beer festival focused on homebrewing, with tastings, educational sessions, and raffles.  Tickets are just $20 ($25 day of the event).
WHEN: 12pm-5pm, November 12th, 2011
WHERE: West End Public, 462 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC
WHY: To share the art of homebrewing while preventing hunger this upcoming holiday season.

Homebrewers who bring their beer can get into the festival for free.  Also, attendees may earn free raffle tickets for bringing in a canned food donation (max of 3).

Now I love drinking for a good cause, but I'm also bringing down three of my latest brews to get some feedback from the public:

Walker's Chocolate Stout - a dark, roasty stout brewed with cocoa powder
Oregano Hoptoberfest - a smoky pale ale with a heavy dose of oregano - won 2nd Place in the Spice, Herb, Vegetable Beer Category at the Virginia Beer Blitz!
Amarillo Pale - This is a remake of the base beer from the Amarillo Peach I did a while back.  The original came out pretty well; this time around I want to reduce the body and increase the hops.

It should be a great event!  More info at the festival website.  Go ahead and get your tickets here.

October 7, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Wrecking Bar Brewpub

Have you ever been to a restaurant where every single thing you try is fantastic?  That's what happened this past weekend at the Wrecking Bar Brewpub in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta.  I discovered what is possibly the best brewpub in the South.

October 3, 2011

Athens, GA: Terrapin Beer Company

It turned out to be quite the beer-soaked weekend in Georgia. On Saturday, my girlfriend and I visited the Terrapin Beer Company, makers of the tasty Terrapin Rye Pale Ale. I was curious to sample some of their other offerings.

We arrived at the brewery right around sunset, along with about half of UGA's undergrad population dressed in red. Undeterred by the crowd, we picked up our souvenir pint glasses and got to sampling. Terrapin had five beers on tap that day:
  • Terrapin Rye Pale Ale - The flagship beer, Terrapin Rye won 1st Place American Pale Ale at the Great American Beer Festival in 2002 (its first year in production).
  • Hop Karma Brown IPA - A combination Brown Ale and India Pale Ale, Hop Karma had a great balance of hops with caramel malts.
  • Hopsecutioner IPA - Aggressively hopped with a huge dose of citrus flavor.
  • Golden Ale - The most sessionable beer of the bunch, the Golden Ale went down smooth.
  • So Fresh & So Green, Green - This was my favorite. Wet-hopped with locally grown Challenger hops, it had a very unique hops flavor that was far from overpowering.

September 29, 2011

Atlanta, GA: Red Brick's Laughing Skull

I'm down in Georgia for a spell, and that means the opportunity to try out some new brews.  This six-pack got my attention (wonder why...).  When I noticed it was made locally that sealed the deal.  Like the bottle caps say, "Beer from around Here" is what I'm all about.

This amber ale from Red Brick Brewing Company (formerly Atlanta Brewing Company) is downright pleasant.  It's relatively light-bodied so it won't weigh you down.  The dominant flavor is toasty, roasty malt -- tastes like fall.  Ya know, it's nice having a simple beer once in a while that doesn't take a whole lot of thinking.  This is a refreshing beer that goes down clean and easy.

Just the thing to take to a UGA tailgate or fall cookout.

Red Brick distributes to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Stayed tuned for more Georgia beer!

September 27, 2011

Walker's Chocolate Stout

My Oregano Hoptoberfest is still chugging away, but with a new carboy in the mix I thought I'd go ahead and get started on another batch. To stay on the experimental streak, I'm making a chocolate stout and will divide the batch into two parts. Half of it will stay as is and to the other I will add a type of mint I have in my garden called Walker's Low. Adding mint was partially inspired by the "dry-minted" Black & Red from Dogfish Head, but I've found Eric Steen's work out in Colorado encouraging as well.

Here's the recipe I came up with:

1 lb. Briess 2-Row Caramel 60L Barley Malt
0.5 lb Roasted Barley
0.5 lb Crisp Black Malt
0.5 lb Crisp Chocolate Malt
6 lbs. Briess Golden LME
1 lb. Lactose Powder (non-fermentable sugar for sweetness)
4 oz. Cocoa Powder
1 oz. Northern Brewer hops (at start of boil)
1 oz. Fuggles hops (at 15 mins to go)
White Labs Irish Ale Yeast
1 oz. Walker's Low (leaves added to secondary fermentation for half the batch)
Estimated ABV: 5.9%

Just blowing off some krausen.
I mashed the grains for 1 hour and tried something new: I did a vorlauf, brew-speak for running the wort back through your spent grains to improve clarity. I mixed up the cocoa powder in about a cup of water before adding it to the boil so as to avoid clumping. I had some technical issues with my new carboy, so I had a hard time getting precise reading of volume and temperature. As a result, I think the wort was a little warm for when I added the yeast -- the next day I had krausen (foam) coming up through the airlock. To prevent some kind of disaster, I rigged up a blow-off tube to give all that foam a place to go.

Check out my Brewing 101 post for a more detailed description of the homebrewing process.

There's a New Brewery in NYC

I just found out from Twitter that's there's a new brewery in the Big Apple.  The Bronx Brewery started production this summer with their flagship Bronx Pale Ale (6.3% alcohol).  Has anyone tried it yet?

Click here for a list of where your can find it.

I wonder how the Brooklyn Brewery feels about the competition...


September 23, 2011

Holland, MI: New Holland's Farmhouse Hatter

What? The bottle says it's a Farmhouse IPA -- so is it a Saison or an India Pale Ale?

Well, it's both. On a recent trip up to Ann Arbor, Michigan, I stopped by Whole Foods to see what "the Wolverine State" had to offer. This 22 oz bottle from New Holland Brewing grabbed my attention -- the label is great, and the description was pretty intriguing:

"Fermentation character from Belgian-born yeast envelops bright hop character with a spicy, tart farmhouse funk. Pairings: seafood, fennel, mushrooms, pickled veggies."

Lacking any seafood, fennel, mushrooms, or pickled veggies, I had to try the Farmhouse Hatter straight up.

As you can see, the beer poured a huge head which continued bubbling up for several minutes. There was a big citrus and floral hop aroma -- Cascade, if I had to guess, but don't hold me to it. Also a caramel sweetness in the smell. My first reaction when I tasted the beer was that it was way out of sync with the smell -- a bit of a shock. The main taste was the tartness, the "farmhouse funk" that comes from the Belgian yeast they used.

As I went deeper into the bottle other characteristics started to come through. I found there to be more hop bitterness than hop flavor, but there was still some citrus action in there. Overall, I thought the beer was highly sessionable, despite all of the unusual flavors mixed together. Very similar to the Springhouse Ale I had a couple weeks ago, and for a beer with an identity crisis, it turned out to be very interesting and easy-drinking -- not an easy feat!

Cheers to New Holland for pushing the boundaries!

Here's a close-up of the character on the bottle:

Sorry Johnny Depp, this guy's way cooler.

September 13, 2011

Oregano Hoptoberfest

As promised in my Oktoberfest post, it's time to fill you in on my latest homebrewing experiment: an Oregano Hoptoberfest.  It won't be an Oktoberfest so much as a Pale Ale -- an Oktoberfest is a malt-driven lager whereas this will be (hopefully) a hoppier ale.  With oregano.  The name I came up with is as much a salute to the season as it is descriptive of the final brew.  In any case, it's got a nice ring to it.

My recipe was inspired by the Oregano Pale Ale recipe in The Homebrewer's Garden, which you can find here on the Brewlog.  I made some changes to try to get the beer closer to an IPA, but with still a bit of German influence:

6 lbs Golden LME
1 lb Organic Munich Malt 10L (catch the German reference?)
1 lb Organic Caramel Malt 20L (gotta love organic)
.75 lb Smoked Malt
1 oz. Northern Brewer hops for 60 mins
1 oz Centennial hops for 30 mins
.5 oz Tettnanger hops (German) for 15 mins
1 oz fresh, locally grown oregano for 15 mins
.5 oz Tettnanger hops for 5 mins
Wyeast American Ale yeast

Estimated IBUs: 65
Estimated ABV: 5.8%

Alright, so there's a lot going on here -- some malts to give the beer a copper color and a hint of smokiness, some stronger American hop varieties paired with a more mellow German one, and of course the oregano, which I found to be pretty pungent.  I'm very curious to see how it all turns out.  Here's how things went down on brew day (exactly two years after my first brew day!):

Here are the different hops and the oregano, all ready to go, in the order that they'll be added to the boil.  The camera flash really brings out the difference between the hops.

Then we mash the grains (in other words, steep at around 150-155F for 45 mins):


Next, the grains are strained from the wort and rinsed with hot water: 


We add some filtered water to get the boil volume right, then add the liquid malt extract:


Now we're cooking!  The hops start going in, following the recipe schedule:


Now the oregano.  I had this straining bag that's gonna save me the trouble of trying to remove the oregano leaves.  I tasted some of the run-off from the bag and boy was it bitter!:


At the end of the 60 minute boil, the wort cools, the yeast gets thrown in, and then we wait.  I should be
 able to bottle this batch in about two weeks, then it should age for about a month to let the oregano mellow out.

I'll keep you posted!

UPDATE:

10/24/11 - Oregano Hoptoberfest placed 2nd out of 12 entries in the Spice, Herb, and Vegetable Beer category at the 5th annual Virginia Beer Blitz!

September 11, 2011

Reflection

I just want to take a quick moment to say how much I appreciate being American, all the freedoms that come with it, and the people that make freedom possible.  In a country like this one we enjoy a great many liberties, and even things as simple as "cold beer on a Friday night" should not be taken for granted.  Or no beer, if you so choose, because in the United States that's ok, too.

Take it away, Zac Brown Band:


September 10, 2011

Remembering Oktoberfest 2006 in Munich

Exactly two years ago yesterday, I brewed my very first batch of beer, an Oktoberfest Märzen. It was the right time of year for the style, but it was also a great way to remember a 2006 visit to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. So, last night, to commemorate two years of brewing, I made an Oregano Pale Ale, dubbed Oregano Hoptoberfest and inspired by a recipe in The Homebrewer's Garden. I'll get into that shortly, but first, a trip down memory lane...

Oktoberfest was one hell of a celebration. The event typically lasts for a couple weeks and draws millions of visitors. I had a week off from classes, so I bought a Eurail train pass and visited Holland and Germany. I met up with a college buddy, whom we'll call Double G (aka Gregg), and we descended on Munich without much of a plan, but with a massive appetite for beer.


I was surprised to find there was more to Oktoberfest than just beer -- there were rides and games and really incredible food, too, but of course we started with beer: Spaten Oktoberfest in giant, 1-liter steins.

After several liters of beer, a few turkey legs, a roller coaster ride, and a bratwurst or two, we took a quick break to recharge for the evening festivities.


Our mission for the night was to get into one of the giant beer tents, which we were able to do without too much delay (I seem to recall sneaking in).


That's when things got a little out of hand...

PROST!!!
Soon after this picture was taken, Double G and I followed some Australians to figure out our accommodations, but we managed to get split up.  I ended up sleeping in public areas all over the city: inside the train station, outside the train station, in an ATM kiosk, in a church.  But we met up again the next day and an Erdinger Weissbier made everything better:


We even got to see some sights:

A famous clock, the Rathaus Glockenspiel, at Marienplatz.
View of Marienplatz, the inner city square, from a tower in the Frauenkirche.
The sun going down in the English Gardens.

Oktoberfest was a blast and I wouldn't change a thing about that trip.  I would, however, like to return and plan the accommodations ahead of time.  I plan on going back sometime in the next three years.  Anyone up for an adventure?

Thanks, GG, for the photos and the good times.

Alright, next up, the Oregano Hoptoberfest experiment...

September 9, 2011

Check Out This Great Blog

Logo borrowed from traderjoes.com
Trader Joe's fans - this is for you.

I just wanted to take a quick break from making some beer to share a great blog I found recently, What's New at Trader Joe's.  Husband and wife team Nathan and Sonia are on a mission to sample everything Trader Joe's has to offer and review it. They've only gotten as far as reviewing a few of TJ's somewhat marginal lagers, but I think the site and the concept is fantastic.

Maybe they'd let me do a guest post on some of TJ's other brews?

On a side note, I hope Trader Joe's will expand their selection of local beers.  While the one in town has Williamsburg AleWerks, I'd love to see some Legend Brown Ale, St. George's IPA, or maybe O'Connor's El Guapo IPA.

Curious what I'm homebrewing?  Stay tuned...

September 8, 2011

AleWerks Scores Big at the US Beer Tasting Championship!

I'm pleased to announce that my hometown brewery, Williamsburg AleWerks, has recently been deemed a Grand Champion at the US Beer Tasting Championship!  They beat out breweries from around the country to win the Belgian/French Specialty category with their Springhouse Ale.  Here's the category description from the USBTC Website:

Ales brewed in traditional Belgian/French styles including saison, biere de garde, 
farmhouse ale, Belgian pale ale, and Abbey single ale.  Excluded from this category are
Belgian Wits (included in its own category-below), Abbey/Belgian Strong Ales (tasted in 
Winter Session), and Belgian Bruin/Red Ales.

If you've ever sampled Belgian beers, you know that this category can cover quite a lot of ground.

Obviously I had to get a hold of this Springhouse Ale (what AleWerks calls a Belgian-style Farmhouse Ale) and try it for myself.

First impressions: Really like the label.  Pours slightly cloudy and orange with a bodacious, frothy head; very fragrant, almost smells like a white wine
The taste: Wow - very complex.  Good thing I have a 22 oz. bottle to dissect this thing!  Flavor has a lot of that same dry, white wine-like aroma, likely derived from the yeast strain, with just a touch of sourness.  There are some various spices in there but the beer is so well-balanced it's difficult to pick out any in particular.  Hardly any discernible hops flavor.
About mid-way through: Jeez, what's the ABV on this guy? (9.4% alcohol) Wouldn't have guessed it by the taste - and that's a good thing.
Final impression: This is one of the most challenging beers I've ever reviewed.  There's just so much going on, that as they say on the AleWerks website, "this is an interesting ale that deserves your attention."  Very well done.

With that, I'm going to savor the rest of this bottle and suggest you try it for yourself!

Check out the other winners of the 2011 Summer USBTC here.  Have you tried any of them?




September 5, 2011

More Consumers are Drinking Local

In a recent report from the Brewers Association, it is noted that buying local has become much more important to consumers:

"NBC's Trendtracker and Supermarket Guru declared at the National Grocers Association annual meeting that the consumer value of local has moved from fad to trend to mainstream. Beer drinkers want to support a local company that employs their neighbors; they want a tie-in to their area agriculturally through the food they eat, and, where possible, to the agricultural products in their beer."

Support the trend - support your local economy.

To read more about this and other trends in the beer industry, check out the full article here at CraftBeer.com.

September 4, 2011

Afton, VA - Blue Mountain Brewery

I visited Blue Mountain Brewery last month with on a day-trip to Charlottesville, VA. I was particularly interested in checking out this brewery for its hop farm, where they grow Cascade and Centennial hops to use in a couple of their beers. Blue Mountain sure had a great location, with fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains all around. Only about 20 miles west of Charlottesville, the place was doing pretty good business.

It was about 105F that afternoon, so cold beer was definitely in order. We opted for a couple of flights, which included (from right to left) Blue Mountain Lager, a Belgian White Ale called Blidö de Blanche, Rockfish Wheat Ale, Full Nelson Pale Ale, Mandolin Artisanal Ale (a Belgian Tripel), and a Kölsch.


To pair with our sampler, we got a cheese plate of local meats and cheeses as well as a selection of fruit. The salamis and cheeses really helped to bring put some of the beers into context.

The Classic Lager was just that - classic - and very refreshing. The Belgian ales, the Blanche and the Mandolin, were respectable. The Blanche was very light, making use of a champagne yeast, which seemed to give it a bit of lemony tartness. The Mandolin, on the other hand, was pretty sweet, with strong caramel and toffee notes. The Kölsch seemed very accurate to style, with a malty lager/pilsener taste accented by noble Hallertauer hops. The Rockfish Wheat was very nice for 100 degree weather - it was a filtered wheat so lighter bodied, crisp, somewhat sweet, with a hint of citrus. My favorite of the bunch though was the brewery's flagship beer, the Full Nelson Pale Ale. Using the brewery's own Cascade hops, this beer was just what the doctor ordered on that sweltering afternoon. Copper in color, it had a nice malt background with a burst of fresh Cascades - very well balanced.

Sufficiently cooled, we stepped outside to check on the hop vines real quick. We had just an hour to make it to Starr Hill Brewery before it closed for the day...


August 31, 2011

Beer Book: The Homebrewer's Garden

The Homebrewer's Garden: How to Easily Grow, Prepare, and Use Your Own Hops, Malts, Brewing HerbsThis book was written for the true Do-It-Yourself-er. The Homebrewer's Garden is all about growing and using with your own ingredients for making beer. The authors explain clearly and in depth what it takes to grow hops, grains, and herbs for your homebrew. Included are diagrams and complete instructions for:
  • building a hop trellis
  • planting hops rhizomes and caring for the bines
  • building an oast (for drying your hops)
  • growing over 40 different herbs to use in your beer (including basil, coriander, mint, and rosemary)
  • growing, harvesting, and malting your own barley and other brewing grains
The authors also include over 25 recipes to get you started brewing with your homegrown ingredients: Mixed Berry Porter, Oregano Pale Ale, Ginger Ale, Quinoa Bitter, Chicha de Jora, Pumpkin Ale, and Dandelion Stout, just to name a few.

Whatever your skill in brewing, this book will open up countless new possibilities! Check it out!

Mad Fox and Chili Dogs!

Guest post from Anton:

Made another trip to the most local brewery I know... Mad Fox, set in a nice little part of Falls Church, VA, just minutes from my apartment.



Mad Fox is a great place for lunch, dinner, or the quick growler fill-up. I was at Mad Fox for the last of these options.

Feeling culinary, I went in to grab a nice beer to go with a special chili recipe that I had just created--man do I love cooking! Anyway, the chili was supposed to be for eating straight from the bowl; however, it turned out more like the kind of chili meant for chili dogs.. and spicy ones at that! Adapt and overcome, right?




So, after asking the Mad Fox bartender to recommend a beer for spicy foods, I ordered some wings and a cask Porter. Yum!

Within an hour and a half, notes in one hand and growler in the other, I set off for a delicious adventure!

Here is my recipe for Mad Fox Porter (Inspired) Spicy Chili Dogs

At least six hours before eating:

Turn on some tunes
Clean Crock Pot
Add to Crock Pot:
½ cup water
3 Jalapeno and Cheese Sausages (diced into bits)
1 Frozen Turkey Patty
2 Tbsp Strawberry Preserves
¼ Red Onion (diced)
4 Whole Jalapenos (seeded and minced)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
Squirt of Lime Juice
3 Dashes Chili Powder
1 Can Tomato Bisque Soup
1 Can Tomato Paste

Cook for 6 hrs on low

20 Mins before you’re ready to eat

Cook 2 polish sausages in bacon grease recycled from breakfast (BACON!!!)
Add ½ cup of onions and ½ cup of Mad Fox Porter beer to sausage and bacon mix
Toast Buns

Drink beer and chill...e (get it?)

August 24, 2011

Are Today's Lagers Really South American?

Mr. Pasteur himself.
I always thought of Lagers as a distinctly German invention (i.e. Red Oak Brewery's line of Bavarian-style lagers), but apparently strains of yeast used to make today's lagers can trace their heritage back to South America.  The researchers suggest that some yeast from the New World made its way back to Europe and crossed with another strain, which was found to perform well under cooler temperatures.  Of course it wasn't until the mid-1800s that Louis Pasteur discovered that yeast was the active ingredient in fermentation, so I imagine the crossing was accidental.

Maybe an early New World explorer brewed some beer for the trip home and reused those some barrels for another batch when he got back to Europe?  It could happen!

Read more here at Fast Company.

Brewing 101: Amarillo Pale/Amarillo Peach

Since my previous post on homebrewing, I've been mighty busy visiting breweries in North Carolina and Virginia - and working on my next batch of beer.  Several of you offered some good tips, so I made a few modifications to the recipe.  If you're interested in making your own beer, this post will give you a taste of what's involved.

Here's the updated recipe for what I decided to call Amarillo Pale and Amarillo Peach:

1 lb. Flaked Wheat
1 lb. Organic Carapils Malted Barley
3 lbs. Briess Pilsen Extra Light LME (liquid malt extract)
3 lbs. Wheat LME
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 oz. Amarillo hops for 60 mins
1/4 oz. Amarillo hops for the final 15 mins
1/4 oz. Amarillo hops for the final 5 mins
WLP001 California Ale Yeast
The 5 gallon batch is to be divided into three parts, two of which will utilize locally-grown, hand-picked peaches as adjuncts.


1.  The first, least glamorous, but probably most important, step in making beer is to sanitize everything that may come in contact with your beer.  Otherwise you risk getting bacteria or wild yeast in your beer that could ruin the whole batch.

2.  Steep the grains if you have them.  In this case I did a "mini-mash" using a pound of flaked wheat for body and a pound of organic Carapils malted barley for flavor and fermentable sugar.  I put the grains into a gallon of water and did my best to keep the temperature between 150F and 155F to pull the enzymes from the mash without over-cooking them.


3.  Next, strain the grains, reserving the water (now called wort) and wash, or sparge, the grains with hot water to make sure you get all the good stuff out.  You can discard these spent grains now - mine go straight to the compost.


4.  Then mix in the malt extract and turn up the heat.  I used 3 lbs extra light liquid malt extract and 3 lbs wheat liquid malt extract, hoping for a light-colored beer with a decent amount of alcohol content.  Most homebrewers lack the equipment necessary to process 10-20 pounds of grain, so a malt extract, either driy (DME) or liquid (LME), is an easy way to get fermentable sugars into your wort.   Homebrewers might start with all-extract recipes and work their way up to all-grain as they become more proficient.


5.  Now the countdown begins.  I boiled the wort for 1 hour, adding the hops at different points in the boil to achieve bitterness, flavor, and aroma.  I chose Amarillo hops to (hopefully) complement the peaches.

Hops for homebrewing usually come in pellet form.
6.  When the boil is over, cool the wort to less than 90F.  Move to your primary fermenter, add enough water (preferably filtered) to make 5 gallons.  Take a reading of the Original Gravity (to calculate alcohol content later), then pitch the yeast.

7.  Over the next several days, the yeast will feed on the sugars in the beer, thus producing alcohol and CO2.

8.  About halfway through fermentation, move your beer from one container to another, adding any additional ingredients that you may have.  In this case, peaches, which I had already sliced, pitted, and frozen beforehand.  Amarillo Pale got no peaches, Amarillo Peach got two, and Amarillo Double Peach got four.

Amarillo Peach on the left, Amarillo Pale, and Amarillo Double Peach.
In ten days or so, we'll bottle it up!

August 12, 2011

A Local Gem: Hidden in the Rough




Hello, all!

It's Anton again and I'm stoked to follow up David's post about the taxation of beer.

Though I want to write more about the economics of beer, I will save that for my next post since I've been delaying the following for some time.

Alas, in this post, I will be introducing some (and perhaps reintroducing others) to one of my new favorite local beers. Kick back, grab a brew, and build up an appetite because I'm putting on my chef hat and cooking locally (with beer)!
---
So, the other day I was in Safeway gathering items for the nightly feast (a.k.a. dinner) and I decided to do something I rarely do. “Today is the day to start from the left,” I said. For the ones who don’t know, at this particular Safeway, the left side of the beer aisle refrigerator is reserved for a very special kind of beer.


Ok, maybe it’s not fair to call it “shitty” beer.. let’s call it “unfortunate” beer. Yes, that's better. The left side of the beer cooler at this Safeway is the land of misfortune.

Fortunately for me, however, I happened upon a gem of magnificent beauty.

Now, since most people reading this blog may not know my prediliction for drinking brew-dogs, let me explain. Where some say, “I love beer,” let's just say I throw up my fists and yell:

“Hooray for beer!!”

I mean, I grew up on beer: the first time I had a beer was [redacted] and that was the Summer I also learned how to ride a [redacted] without training-wheels. So, yeah, I've been drinking for at least [redacted] years. But enough about me, let's get back to the story...

As I stood across from the unforunates, something glimmered in the florescent Safeway lighting; lurking in the shadows, amidst the Miller High Life and Steel Reserve sat a local treasure calling my name.

Mind you, I'm not saying I had a Lord of the Rings moment wherein my "precious" was calling out to me; however, I'm not saying that I didn't have a Lord of the Rings moment either...the important point is what peered out from the wasteland of the unfortunates was none other than a Port City Optimal Wit.






And now for some background:

Port City Brewing Company is a craft brewery located minutes from Washington, DC—in Alexandria, Virginia.

Voted Washingtonian Magazine’s 2011 “Best Brewery Tour,” Port City Brewing Company is a local beer with attitude. ...well, I just made up that whole "with attitude thing"; but, suffice it to say that this beer is bang-a-lang-dangin. It would most likely get a "Very Nice" on my personal Likert scale... so, take that as you may.

Granted, I would have been happy had the story ended there, but not only did I find this local beer hidden amongst the shite, however, Port City’s “Optimal Wit” was the cornerstone to the recipe burning a hole in my pocket: The Homebrew Chef's Wit Braised Chicken.

The Homebrew Chef, Mr. Sean Paxton, has the following recipe on his website:


2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 Slices Pancetta, thick cut or bacon (optional)
1 Whole Chicken, cleaned and cut into 6th
(Leg/thigh, breast, wing)
Sea Salt and Pepper
2 TBSP All Purpose Flour
1 TSP Coriander, whole
1 TSP Orange Zest, dried
1 Each Leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 Each Shallots, peeled and diced, about 1 cup
3 TBSP Thyme Leaves, fresh
1 Bottle Wit Style Beer*, 750ml
1 Cup Chicken Stock, preferably homemade
1 Cup Heavy Cream, organic

So, in effort to recreate this recipe with a local twist I modified (and specified) the following:





3 Slices of Smithfield (Virginia) thick-cut bacon
1 Whole Chicken (Locally farmed, free-range, organic)
2 TBSP fresh Thyme from my garden
1 Bottle Port City Optimal Wit
1 Cup Organic Chicken Stock
1 Cup 1/2 and 1/2, organic

The result was delightful; my wife actually claimed it was, "Gravy-licious."



By using spices such as orange zest and coriander, I was really able to accentuate the undertones of the Optimal-Wit. Like most Belgian Wit beers, the Wit beer style of Port City's Optimal Wit has hints of both orange and coriander in its finish. According to Port City,

"Our Optimal Wit is brewed in the Belgian Wit Bier tradition. It is brewed with raw wheat and oats, and steeped with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise. This ale is a pale golden color with a bit of cloudy haze from bottle conditioning. This unfiltered ale offers layers of complex, nuanced flavors that evolve in the glass. It finishes crisp and refreshes the palate."

The Homebrew Chef recommends using: "Blanche de Chambley from Unibroue, Blanche de Brugge, Hoegaarden or Celis White." Though of those beers I've only had the pleasure of sampling Hoegaarden, I can say that if the others are anything near the quality of Hoegaarden, reproducing this recipe with each beer would be a task worth undertaking.

A Hoegaarden on the patio is always a Summer treat:




Now that I've eaten all the Wit Braised Chicken left overs (and I've used the gravy in three meals since), I am ready to go back to Mr. Sean Paxton and see what other delights I am able to create with local beers.

Please feel free to comment or ask clarifying questions on the recipe. I find that Mr. Paxton includes the exact amount of detail an intermediate chef requires. Even so, however, I am pleased to offer any insights or recommendations on this recipe.

Until next time, remember to have a great day with a great beer.

Take it easy,

~Anton





August 8, 2011

Lower Taxes for Microbreweries?

Per the Beer Sommelier, here's an interesting article about a potential bit of legislation that could lower taxes for microbreweries: Schumer Beer Tax.

On one hand, it could stimulate the growth of these small businesses and encourage them to hire an extra employee or two.  But would that justify the reduction in federal revenue?

What do you think?

For more info visit Schumer's website.

If you like this idea, tell your representatives in Congress to support the BEER Act.

August 4, 2011

It's IPA Day - Starr Hill's Northern Lights

After a long first day at my new job, I'm happy to finally be able to indulge in this holiest of beer holidays. OK - I had no idea an IPA Day even existed until I saw it on Twitter the other day, but I'm not going to let that stop me.

To celebrate, I'm reviewing Northern Lights - an IPA from Starr Hill Brewery, which was founded in 1999 in Charlottesville, VA. Today, the brewery is located just down the road in Crozet, VA, which I just found out is not a town but a census-designated place. Odd.

Back to the beer.

Northern Lights pours a nice reddish-amber color, with a substantial head. The smell is hoppy for sure, mostly a sweeter citrus and floral character. The taste compliments the aroma very well. It's not overwhelmingly bitter. The floral and citrus notes give way to a slight malty sweetness that you might expect from an amber or red ale.

I think some hop-heads might want a little more bitterness, but in my book, Northern Lights gets very high marks.

Look for it in Virginia, Washington, DC, Maryland, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

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!