Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Homebrewing Year in Review - Jeff

I'll have to admit that 2011 was a huge year for me, but just not in terms of brewing.  We purchased a new house back in March/April, which sapped up the lion's share of my free time.  Additionally, in November I left the job I had been at for 6 years for a new opportunity at a different company.  With all this going on, my brewing efforts seemed to get the short end of the stick.  Compared to prior years, my numbers were down (25 and 19 batches brewed in 2009 and 2010 respectively).

The Congdon Hill Brewery

From an equipment standpoint, this year saw no real major brewery upgrades either.  There was actually a bit of a downgrade to be truthful.  My fermentation freezer (stand up freezer with a digital temp control) did not make the move with us.  This now leaves me with only with a temp-controlled chest freezer to ferment as well as house the tap system.  This poses a bit of a problem as all the kegs have to come out of the freezer for 1-2 weeks when I am fermenting a new beer.

In the same vain as roll ups from prior years, here is what my brewing operation looked like in 2011: 
  • Number of Batched Made: 9
    • Number of Beer Batches: 8
    • Number of Cider Batches: 1
  • Number of Gallons Made: 53 gallons
  • Most popular beer style: American Ales - Cat.# 10 (n=2)
  • First Brew Day of the Year: January 3, 2011 (Ordinary Bitter)
  • Last Brew Day of the Year: December 29, 2011 (German Pilsner)
  • Homebrew Competition Medals Earned: 5 Medals - Silver, Boston Homebrew Comp (Belgian Golden Strong); Silver, Ocean State Homebrew Comp (Irish Red); Bronze, Boston Homebrew Comp (Midnight Wheat); Bronze, Boston Homebrew Comp (Ordinary Bitter); Bronze, Ocean State Homebrew Comp (Standard Cider).
  • Average ABV Across Batches: 5.7%
    • Highest ABV: 9.6% (Belgian Golden Strong)
    • Lowest ABV: 4.1% (Ordinary Bitter)
  • Number of 'Cloned' Beers Brewed: 1 (Timothy Taylor's Ordinary Bitter)
  • Favorite Brew: Ordinary Bitter - besides being a great drinking beer and winning a bronze medal, this beer was selected by my homebrew club to represent it at the AHA's battle of the bitters.  What made this so special was that Tom's club sent his bitter to represent their club as well making it a Unique Situation for us. 
  • Least Favorite Brew: American Pale Ale - not because the beer came out poorly, but this was the second beer in a double brew day resulting in a very fatigued brewer.
  • Approximate amount of grain used in 2011: 91 lbs
    • Most popular base malt: US 2-Row (40.3 lbs)
    • Most popular specialty malt: Munich Malt (3.25 lbs)
  • Approximate amount of hops used in 2011: 1.2 lbs
    • Most popular hop: Hallertauer (5.1 oz)
From both Tom and I, we wish everyone a wonderful New Year and many more brewing sessions to come.



"Let us drink for the replenishment of our strength, not for our sorrow."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why Local Breweries Rock For Homebrewers

I have been making plans to brew a German Pils for while in order to work on my lagering process.  To get the right yeast pitch, I made a starter with two vials of yeast with plans to brew at the end of the week.  Then, about 1-2 days later, the starter just went bad for some reason, which deep-sixed my brewing plans.

On a whim, I sent out a message to one of the local brewers I know from an area brewpub (Coddington Brewing Co.), in the hopes that he might have some spare lager yeast.  Being the accomodating guy that he is, he hooked me up with a growler full of lager yeast (Saflager S-189) from a Dopplebock he brewed a week and a half ago.  Score!

And this is what I love about most crafter brewers - they love beer and they are always willing to help out others who share the same passion.  I am sure there are exceptions, but as a homebrewer, there are lots of dividends for interacting with and getting to know the local brewers in your area.  Whether its for information exchange, help with some materials, or just hanging out with like minded individuals, get to know your brewers.  You would be missing out on a great resource and comrade if you let it pass you by.

My hat is off to you Marshall - thank you very much for saving my brew day.



"We brewers don't make beer, we just get all the ingredients together and the beer makes itself."
-Fritz Maytag 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Poll: Ideal Beer for Holiday Feasts?

Like all our prior blog polls, this post takes a moment to memorialize the results we received on the most recent blog poll.  The readers' responses to the question "What Is Your Ideal Beer To Pair With Holiday Feasts?" are presented below.

Total Votes: 21

Cold weather always seems to make the taste buds yearn for something a bit stronger than the rest of the year, and that is certainly apparent here. Belgian ales, which are typically a bit more potent by nature, or Stouts were the clear winners in this poll, with the occasional barelywine coming in third. Cheers to the season for sure!

The popularity (or lack there of) for Spiced Ales was a bit of an outlier from my expectations.  All the "Noel" style beers are mulled or spiced for the most part, but yet they do not seem to nake it to the tables of those who responded.  As long as these offerings are not overspiced, the seasonal beers always seem to pair well with the robust and favorable foods of the holidays, in my opinion.  I would have expected them to be more popular.  Huh.

Let us know what your thoughts are on the topic.  And if you are reading this, our next blog poll is up and awaiting your participation.



"A wise son brings joy to his father, but the wiser son brings beer."
-Mad Mordigan

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Brewmaster's Night Before Christmas

This is a reposting of the poem "The Brewmaster's Night Before Christmas", which came from the Homebrewers Association site.  The poem's many homebrewing and craft beer references gave me a good chuckle.

The AHA is a great resource from homebrewers, and is definitely worth following through its RSS feed (how I saw this humorous farce in the first place).




"Twas the night before kegging, when all through the pub
Not a carboy was stirring, not even a blub;
The hops had been added to the wort with care, 
In hopes that a 50/50 soon would be there.
I was nestled all snug in my bed, 
While visions of blue ribbons danced in my head;
The spices were added, allowed nicely to steep, 
And I was all settled down for a long night's sleep.
When out in the pub there arose such a clatter, 
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter;
Away to the brewpub I flew like a flash,
Tore open the door and tripped on a sash.
The glow of red on teh pool table so bright,
Gave me pause as I saw an unbelievable sight;
When what to my wondering eyes should appear, 
But Santa and eight reindeer, drinking my beer.
With a belly so round and his hat all askew,
I knew in a moment, he'd had more than a few;
More rapid than eagles he lifted his mug, 
And he whistled and shouted, and took a few chugs.
"More Belgian! More Porter! More Kolsch and Stout,
More Amber! More Wheat! More Bock and Alt."
His eyes, how they glazed, his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
The hair from his cap was in need of a comb,
And the beard on his chin was covered in foam;
My eyes flew to my kegger, holding eight kegs of beer, 
Sipping each tap was a tiny reindeer!
The glow in the room flashed on my night clothes,
It was Rudolph, I could tell by the red of his nose!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
I yelled, "Dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
Brewing barrels of coffee, I begged them partake,
They sipped the hot joe and they jolted awake!
Now up to the house top the coursers they flew,
Old Jolly and reindeer yelled, "Thanks for teh brew!
Warm cookies and milk await us tonight,
Your homebrew was perfect, the flavor just right!"
As I stood in stunned silence, and was shaking my head,
I thought, "Did I dream or fall out of my bed?"
My thoughts were confirmed, as I heard out in the night,
"I'm a convert this Christmas. To heck with 'beer lite'!"
© 2011 Matt Collins

Monday, December 19, 2011

Who Owns Who - A Graphical Representation

I've always had a soft spot for graphical representations of concepts - I've blogged about it a number of times (charts, maps, etc).  So whenever I find a new and interesting graphic about beer, I take notice. 

While reading Jay Brooke's blog, Jay turned me on to a new graphic that I found facinating enough that it was worth sharing here.  Dr. Philip H. Howard, assistant professor of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resouce Studies at Michigan State, created this great bubble chart that details the major players in the US beer market. 

Click on the image or go here for a larger version of the image. 

What I love about this infographic is how the clustering starts to show patterns in each of the companies business plans.  When belgian beer became mainstream, AB picked up brands like Hoegaarden and Leffe.  Or how Diageo has surrounded itself with "irish" brands, including Red Stripe?!? 

Let us know if anything interesting pops out at you when you check out the chart.  See any of your favorite brands and wished they resided under a different owner (i.e. Bass, Pilsner Urquell)?  Furthermore, if you happen to bump into other beer-related infographics, please point them out to me!



"When we drink, we get drunk.  When we get drunk, we fall asleep.  When we fall asleep, we commit no sin.  When we commit no sin, we go to heaven.  Soooo, let's all get drunk and go to heaven!"
-Brain O'Rourke

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Monticello Reserve Ale

While perusing the beer section of a local supermarket, I stumbled upon a bottle of Starr Hill's Monticello Reserve Ale.  The label displays an image of Monticello's famous facade, which was once the home of Thomas Jefferson and is a popular local historical attraction.  The label also proclaims the Reserve Ale is the "Official Beer of Monticello."  Intrigued, I purchased the bottle, intent on doing some research and posting tasting notes.

From the bottle label: "Beer produced on the Monticello plantation was served during dinner, with wine served after the meal.  From her first arrival at Monticello in 1772, Jefferson's wife Martha oversaw the periodic brewing operations, producing fifteen gallon casks of small beer - beer with low alcohol content - about every two weeks."

"Larger scale brewing began with the appearance of a British brewer detained in Albemarle County during the War of 1812.  Captain Joseph Miller improved upon the equality and quantity of Monticello beer, introducing ale, stronger beer better suited to storage.  Joseph Miller trained the enslaved Peter Hemings in the arts of malting and brewing.  Hemings - a brother of Sally - carried on the brewing operations, making one hundred gallons of ale every spring and fall."

Starr Hill's site lists Monticello Reserve Ale as an unfiltered American wheat beer, made solely with wheat and corn.  It is moderately hopped with East Kent Goldings (27 IBUs) and weighs in at 5.5% ABV.  It also won a silver medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, in the Indigenous Beer category.  According to a blog post by Levi, one of the Starr Hill brewers, the beer was 8 years in the making, as Monticello and Starr Hill worked out the legal and other details of brewing an official Monticello beer.  Levi collaborated with the Monticello staff and utilized a historical text to come up with the final recipe, including the exclusion of malted barley, which was not grown at the plantation.

The beer poured an incredibly light straw color, almost as light as a cider.  The pour left very little head in the glass, which is surprising given the large wheat component in the malt bill.  The carbonation of the beer appears fairly light, given the low levels of foaming and bubble formation during the pour.  The beer had an extremely mild aroma, though my perceptions were dulled by the end of a head cold.  I did detect a mild floral smell, perhaps similar to jasmine or honeysuckle, along with a slight herbal character along the lines of fresh mint.

The initial flavor of the Reserve Ale was strongly floral and slightly harsh.  Honeysuckle and chamomile explode on the palate in an interesting manner.  If I had not read information on the beer ahead of time, I might have thought it a gruit flavored with flowers.  Some bitterness appeared mid-palate, but it was fairly subdued.  The flavor finished fairly dry, though the floral character of the beer lingered for almost a minute afterward.  I also detected a slight corn flavor at the end of the taste, which was interesting, but slightly distracting.

Overall, the beer was enjoyable and different than anything I had tasted from Starr Hill before.  However, the lingering floral character continued to build throughout the pint, and it was slightly off-putting.  While interesting, I do not think I would order another pint in the same sitting.

Thanks to Starr Hill for undertaking a historical beer of this nature and making it available in quantities that the local general public could taste.  Have any of you had the opportunity to taste a historically-based beer?  Leave a comment and let us know about your experiences.



Monday, December 12, 2011

Fun with Art V: Drywell Art

It is always a pleasure to see an up-n-coming artist find their niche.  That's exactly what happend to Alyson, the artist who writes the Meat Sections blog that I've posted about previously.  Even though her success has caused the Meat Sections blog to be put on the backburner, she's still doing some great beer art.

Below is another great example of her work that was recently completed, wherein the Anantomy of a Beer is sectioned out (with prints available here).   

While Meat Sections is on hiatus, Alyson's main blog (Drywell Art) is regularly updated with plenty of 'Food' related art and features the beer-friendly artwork from time to time.  Check out out prior posts about Meat Sections to get a few more examples of why I've been a fan of Alyson's site.



"Beer is a wholesome liquor.  It abounds with nourishment."
-Dr. Benjamin Rush

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CAMRA Iron Brewer Competition

My local homebrewing club, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale, decided to host a club-only Iron Brewer, based on club member experience with the real Iron Brewer competition and general interest in the idea.  We decided to adopt as many of the Iron Brewer rules as practical to make implementation of the contest easier.  The brewing timeline was extended slightly to fit with our meeting schedule.  The club reached out to Peter Kennedy, who runs Iron Brewer, to have him pick the three theme ingredients.  He selected:

In a similar manner to Round 6 of Iron Brewer, I was well-acquainted and comfortable with two of the theme ingredients, and completely unfamiliar with the other one.  The chocolate malt again guided me in the brown ale direction because to use it in any paler beer would not highlight the malt character enough to allow it to stand out.  But, I did not want to repeat another American brown ale, and the Palisade hops provide a fruity, but not aggressive citrus character, that does not match American styles on its own.  So, I thought I would go the Belgian Brown route, but not in the vein of an Oud Bruin.  I decided to use a standard brown ale recipe, but selected Abbey Ale yeast that I hoped would provide some complementary fruit character and some light phenolics to enhance the Palisade hops.  The agave nectar was an unknown factor and I decided to use it instead of simple sugar that is often found in Belgian beer recipes.

The beer is brewed and carbonated and the competition will occur at the CAMRA meeting next week.  I am happy with how the flavors have melded together, though they took a while.  Several flavors are in the background of the beer that I attribute to the agave syrup, which can be primarily described as melon with hints of citrus.  The Belgian yeast phenolics and fruitiness are also there, and in balance with the other flavors.  We will see how it does.  

Have any other clubs out there tried to do an internal Iron Brewer competition?  If so, leave us a comment with the details and how the event was received by your club.




Boosted Belgian Brown
Brewer: Tom Wallace

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 8.0 gal
O.G.: 1.051
F.G.: 1.013
SRM: 22
IBU: 26
ABV: 5.0%
Mash: 151 F for 60 Minutes
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Amt                   Name      
7 lbs                 Pale Ale Malt 2-Row (Briess) (3.5 SRM)      
1 lbs 8.0 oz          Vienna Malt (Briess) (3.5 SRM)  
12.0 oz               Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)    
8.0 oz                Caramunich I (Weyermann) (51.0 SRM)        
8.0 oz                Victory Malt (biscuit) (Briess) (28.0 SRM)
1 lbs                 Raw Blue Agave Syrup      
28.00 g               Palisade [6.70 %] - Boil 60.0 min  
1.00 Items            Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 mins)    
14.00 g               Palisade [6.70 %] - Boil 5.0 min    
1.0 pkg               Abbey Ale (White Labs #WLP530)          

Brewed for CAMRA internal Iron Brewer competition

11/13/2011 - Dropped to lager temps.

11/14/2011 - Added 3 tsp gelatin in 1 cup 140 F water to help clarify.

11/16/2011 - Kegged.  SRM ~ 22.  Beer is very dark brown with no head.  Aroma is faintly yeasty, with some hints of black pepper.  Initial perception of flavor is watery, with mid-palate spice and fruit, followed by a dry finish.

12/04/2011 - Flavors have melded much better together.  Hints of Belgian phenolics and a strange citrus/melon character I attribute to the agave syrup.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shower Them with Beer!

A recent tweet from Firestone Walker Brewing Company and gave me a chuckle and amazed me at people's creativity.  Meet the Shakoozie.  This magical device allows its user to enjoy a beer while in the shower.  Just pause and think about that.  Showers bring hot relaxation and beer brings cold relaxation.  Combine the two opposites together and there must be magic, much like sweet and sour sauce.  The Shakoozie allows beer to be placed away from annoying things like warm water spray and soap suds.  It also insulates the beer glass (please do not drink your beer directly from the bottle) from the heat of the shower and keeps it cool.  Wow!

To be honest, the idea of showering with a beer never occurred to me.  I am trying to imagine the set of circumstances that led the inventor of the Shakoozie down that road.  Perhaps the inventor was trying to recover from a hangover using two different methods, or perhaps the inventor loves to multi-task and just could not put that beer down.  Who can say what the impetus for the invention was, but I can say that reading about the Shakoozie gave me a good laugh during a busy week, which is very appreciated.  Who knows, maybe I will have to try it out some day.


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