Monday, July 8, 2013

2013 Summer Party Beer Descriptions

One of my favorite events of the summer is brewing beer for and attending my friend's crab and clam party, held just after the Fourth of July.  John and I have a good deal of fun picking beer styles and brewing them for the event.  The creativity of naming them usually falls to John, though inspiration often comes from brew day events.  To cap it all off, I write descriptions of the beers that hang near the kegerator to provide information about the beer, and a little humor.  As in years past, I wanted to provide these descriptions for the enjoyment of our readers.




Cicada Invasion West Coast Red Ale - The moniker “West Coast” usually means a hoppier and higher alcohol version of the normal beer style. Cicada Invasion has the malt base of traditional American Red ales but an increased hopping rate, making it the hoppiest of offerings at this year’s party.  The ale is hopped with Magnum for bittering and equal portions of Cascade and Centennial, which bring a delectable citrus and floral note to the beer. We hope you enjoy the deep and smooth malt notes along with the hop forward finish of Cicada Invasion West Coast Red Ale. Cicada Invasion was inspired by the intense song of this summer’s most talked about insect, the cicada. At its peak the sound reminded us of an alien space craft landing, thus the name. The cicada’s eerie red eyes match the deep red hue of the beer which hopefully you will not have to wait 17 years before seeing again. No insects were harmed in the making of this beer.
6.3% alcohol     IBU: 66     OG: 1.061     FG: 1.014

The Experiment Chocolate Oatmeal Stout - Oatmeal stouts are derived from dry Irish stouts, through the addition of oatmeal in the grist.  The oatmeal provides a rounder and less edgy finish, which is often described as a “slick” feeling on the palate. Oatmeal stout all but died out as a style in Great Britain until the famous beer writer Michael Jackson wrote about it in the late 1970s.  Since then, the American Craft Beer movement has embraced the style and it is once again commonly brewed. The Experiment has been aged on a large bed of cocoa nibs, which are the agricultural product that ends up as chocolate. The cocoa nibs give the stout an intense chocolate nose and flavor.  John has been using a stout tap to serve oatmeal stout and other dark beers since 2008. The stout tap uses a nitrogen/CO2 gas mix to carbonate the beer, which provides it with a rich and velvety finish and a dense foamy head. The Experiment is named for a brewing gadget that John has been perfecting to control hot water flow rates into the mash tun, a wonderful invention. We hope you let the stout Experiment with your taste buds and leave them wanting more.
5.6% alcohol     IBU: 36     OG: 1.058     FG: 1.016

Fallen Spring Belgian Pale Ale - Belgium was once described by the famous beer writer, Michael Jackson, as the “Disneyland of Beer.” The small nation has an expansive beer history, ranging from beer brewed in monasteries for Lenten fasting to beer brewed for thirsty farmhands in the heat of summer. Flavor profiles range all over the spectrum, from fruity, to spicy, to smooth and clean. Some of the more famous Belgian Pale Ales are associated with the City of Antwerp. They feature a wonderful balance of Belgian yeast spiciness and smooth drinkability, with an almost lager like finish. The style has much to offer the Maryland crab connoisseur, with the slightly spicy aroma complimenting the Old Bay spice on the crab, but the smooth aftertaste washing some of the heat away. The recipe, modified from last year, was created during our exceptionally short real Spring season this year – the part between the wet and cold and the hot and humid weather. The brew day was cool and crisp, clear and breezy, a perfect fall day. But it was spring, therefore, Fall in Spring. We hope you will remember this year’s Fallen Spring and fall in love with this complex, but cleanly flavored ale.
4.9% alcohol     IBU: 25     OG: 1.047     FG: 1.010

Tater Tots Vienna Lager - Germany is arguably the originator of almost all recognized lager beer styles. Lager, which translates roughly to “cold storage”, occurred because of the invention of different malting processes that produced pale malt, and by extension, pale beer. A mutated ale yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, thrived in the colder temperatures in which the pale beers were stored. This produced a beverage with a cleaner and drier flavor than the dark ales of the time. The light clear beer, when viewed through glass mugs that were also becoming more available, made lager an instant phenomenon. The malt produced around the City of Vienna had a bready and slightly sweet flavor and was kilned darker than the malt in other areas. The resulting lager beer was amber in color and featured a wonderful malt grainy softness, making it an excellent companion to food. Our Vienna lager’s name has nothing to do with the beer, the brew day, or any significant event. It is rumored to have this name because John thinks it is the beer that his girlfriend Mary will like the most. Since Mary has done a little Tater Tot bashing on her blog ( - oh and you can also buy her book through the main site), John decided he would like to hear her say "I really like Tater Tots the best; I would like some more and I would like to give some to my friends." Again, this is just a rumor.
5.6% alcohol     IBU: 26     OG: 1.056     FG: 1.014

The Replacement Rye Session Ale - The term “session ale” means a lower gravity beer that is designed for easy drinking, as part of a social gathering. A drinking session, in British terms, is a gathering of friends at a local pub, where the friends take turns buying rounds of drinks. Because it has lower alcohol (usually under 4.2%), yet is a flavorful beer, it is enjoyable but does not leave the drinker in a condition adverse to carrying on a conversation. One typical fault of session beers is that they lack mid-palate mouth-feel and flavor, which makes them come across watery or bland. The Replacement is an attempt to counter this issue by “replacing” some of the base grain with flaked rye, which adds mouth-feel in the beer and leaves a nice light spicy flavor on the palate. Partnered with a blend of spicy and citrus hops, the Replacement should leave you wanting more. The Replacement is named because Tom had some concerns that the Vienna Lager would not be finished in time for the party, so he decided to make a back-up beer, just in case. This beer is no second stringer, so fill up your glass and enjoy the game.
3.6% alcohol     IBU: 40     OG: 1.040     FG: 1.013


  1. Tom,

    I'm planning on brewing my first batch of pumpkin ale soon and to make it easier on myself, I was going to use canned pumpkin. Any thoughts on whether it is better to add the canned pumpkin to the mash and use a pound of rice hulls to avoid a stuck sparge, or just dump the cans into the collection pot and avoid the stuck sparge potential altogether?


  2. JB,

    I have only made one pumpkin ale and it was a disaster. I added the canned pumpkin to the boil and it made a viscous sludge that was very hard to siphon out of the kettle. In the end, it did not add much flavor (and I think that you get much more flavor from the subtle pumpkin pie spicing than you do from pumpkin itself). So, I would add it to the mash with rice hulls and try that method.

    Good luck,


  3. JB,

    I'll throw my opinion in as well. I've done 2-3 pumpkin beers at this point and with all of them, I've added the pumpkin into the mash. Absolutely add rice hulls to the mash and get ready for a slow sparge. Keep your sparge tempurature hot (as close to 175F as you can) to help minimize the mash from being too "gummy".

    Also, I completely agree with Tom that the pumpkin (whether canned pumpkin or if you roast the whole pumpkins yourself) adds very little flavor too the beer. You'll have to resort to using the classic pumpkin pie spices to get flavor contributions that will remind the drinker that there is pumpkin in the recipe.

    Lastly, as an alternative, many people have had lots of success using other squashes in their beers, which generate more flavor - butternut squash is a favorite. Also, yams or sweet potatoes (if they are roasted good beforehand) work well too.

    Good luck and let us know how it turns out.


  4. My thanks to you both for the great advice. Somewhere I read a suggestion to brew an American style amber ale and just add pumpkin spices. I made the Northern Brewer 'Smashing Pumpkin Ale' extract kit last year and found it to be a bit 'thin' for my taste. I tend to prefer beers with more body to them so I thought adding canned pumpkin might do the trick.

    I'll do the rice hulls and maybe throw in a roasted sweet potato from the garden as well. I pulled a monster one out of the garden last week. Or maybe I'll put three cans in the mash with the hulls and one in the wort.... Or maybe I'll just make a pumpkin pie and pour a warm ale based sauce over it. I'll let you know!

    Thanks again.

  5. OK, the results are in. I did two cans of pumpkin in the mash along with the rice hulls and had no problems with the sparge. OG was 1.073, FG was 1.010, cold crashed it, added 5.5 oz of corn sugar and bottled.

    After 7 days of conditioning in the bottle, I opened one and it was flat - delicious, but flat. Bummer. Took them upstairs to warm up, turned them over to stir the yeast and at 10 days, they are still flat.




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