Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beer Travels to Portland, OR

As I sit here at home, after another day at graduate school, instead reading for seminars and research, I decided to just catch up on blogging. I feel that home is sanctuary away from work, so I don't generally do any. If I do take work home with me, then I end up going to a coffee shop, but every once in a while I do work (but I rather stab my eyes out). You may ask, Where is he going with this?" Right now, I'm not really sure.

So, graduate school allows me to travel to conferences. It is a benefit, but with a limited budget, I find ways to cut cost. One thing that I don't cut cost on is seeking good beer. This is the third conference that I travelled to this year. The last one was to Lincoln, NE, though not a beer town, it wasn't that hard to find good beer. This past 5-10 August, I got to go to, what I like to call on of the meccas of beer, Portland OR for a conference.

One way I learned to cut costs is to couch surf. There is an excellent website called couchsurfing.org that I used, though my friends are sketchy with this as they think that I'll wake up in a tub of ice with organs missing. Eh, it's perfectly safe.

So I met my host (Dan) in the airport and he gave me keys to the house and car because he was flying out to Hawaii. The only requirement for me to do is to take care of his dog. What better way to stay, have a four legged friend and a house all to myself! So while at the airport, I got to talk with Dan, his finance, and some of their friends. It was really nice to meet them and they bought me a beer. My first beer in Portland was the Inversion IPA from Deschutes Brewery. I very much enjoyed the face full of hops at the very beginning. If only I could live here and enjoy more of the West Coast beers.

I got to Dan's place, which was across the Columbia river from Portland in Vancouver, WA, got into the house, met up with the dog, and settled in. I felt really bad leaving each day to go to the conference, or other adventures that I would take, because I would have to con the dog into going into the garage (which wasn't a bad situation anyway, because he had carpet to lie on and it was cool).

That night I went on my first beer adventure.

My first adventure was to Deschutes Pub. Deschutes is a brewery from Bend, OR, but they have a pub and small brewery in Portland. I got to the pub and found a seat at the bar. Even though I haven't had any of there other mainstay beers, I had to go for something special. They had quite the line up of beers. I have been craving sours lately, so I went with the Mis Spelt Sour. It was tart, light on the palate, and had some fruity esters. After I got my food, I ordered a second beer, the Rye-T-On. It was an amber rye beer that was on cask, which made it ever more so enjoyable. This is the only way a real ale should be served. It had a nice caramel backbone with bold bold hop flavour of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand.

That night was the only bad time while there. Good thing that I got some food and only had two beers, because, while driving a strange car and watching my GPS, I got pulled over for something moronic that I did. Driving on I-5 back over to Washington, I was in the right lane, keeping track on my GPS. Then all of the sudden, I noticed that I was on a exit only lane. Idiot me, sped up and cut over a double white line back into traffic, even though I saw the cop get off the freeway right before me. So, a $260 ticket and a sobriety test I was on my way back to where I was staying.

The next day, I was up early, wanting to see what different things that I could find before the conference started that day. I ended up at StumptownCoffee Roasters for coffee and Voodoo Dougnuts for a breakfast pastry. Then another day I went to Pine State Biscuits for breakfast.  Again, why am I not living on the West coast? I went aboot the day enjoying what I could do before I made my way to catch a bus for the first field trip. I won't bore you with my geekhood of taking a trip to see Mt. St. Helens and the blast zone ... but it was AMAZING.

I ended up meeting a few Canadian folks and went out to dinner with them to Rogue Ales Public House and Distillery. There I was able to order one beer, the Younger's Special Bitter on cask because they were insanely busy. It was wonderful to drink cask beer again. The bitter had light bready noted with some fruity undertones and soft hop bitterness.

Over the next couple of days, I was really busy with going to talks and seeing posters. At each of the poster section, they had beer for sale. Over the those couple of days I got to try C-Not Imperial Pale Ale by Lompoc Brewery and Rotator IPA: X-114 IPA by Widmer Brothers BrewingCompany.

To finish my time in Portland, I went out with a ex-colleague of mine and some of her friends. I ended up at Deschutes again and did a flight of 4-oz. tasters Extinction Stout, Chainbreaker White IPA, Flagline Ale, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Deep Red Belgian Specialty Ale, and Black Butte XXIV Anniversary beer. I ended up taking home a glass and a bottle of the Black Butte XXIV Anniversary and stopping along the way one evening at a beer store called Belmont Station and grabbing a Firestone Walker Double Jack and a Russian River Salvation.

My last stop was at Laurelwood Public House and Brewery. There I had the Workhorse IPA, a very balanced IPA with a slight sweet finish that balances out the bitterness. The second beer that I had was the Organic Deranger Imperial Red Ale that had a caramel malt backbone and complex layers of hop bitterness.

Leaving Portland, I took a flight to Oakland, CA to meet up with a buddy. It was really great to see him for a while and wonder around Oakland, San Fransisco, and Berkeley, and hike the Berkeley hills. Even though I didn't get a chance to meet an icon in the brewery industry, The Beer Wench, I did get out once to taste some good beer. After a day of hiking we ended up at Schmidt's Pub in Albany, CA where I had a classic Fuller's ESB at a classic English pub.

This was a great beer trip that was an addition to the ecological conference that I signed up for. I was just a little more enjoyable than the trip to last year ESA in Austin, TX, and most likely better than the one that I will take next year to Minneapolis, MN if I stick with my studies and don't get a job in the brewing industry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brewing to Style and the 2012 Cincinnati Malt Infusers Homebrew Competition

I love to brew, there is no other way to put it. I also love to brew to style. I think that putting my beer into competitions is a way that I challenge myself to brew to style. There is a lot of negative talk on forums aboot BJCP and how brewing isn't a competition. One recent interaction with an individual happened in a forum, where I was asking aboot new guidelines. I wasn't asking for opinions or anything of the like. A very rad individual, Denny Conn, spoke that I should write to the BJCP forum with this question and I may get some answers. Then that individual that I previously spoke of, decided to input some of his own thoughts, not advise, not facts, but pure opinions. It was voiced thar “My taste-buds are my guidelines. Football, baseball, soccer, etc. are competitions, brewing is a passion.” Yes, this maybe true, but don't be an ass and don't interject things that I did not asked questions on.

This is what originally turned me away from this particular forum, because all of the bashing of ideas and people. This forum (notice how I am not mentioning the name of it, because I am not one to do this, to give it a bad name, because you can happen across some great individuals and advise) was a very insightful, and still is, but I thought that I would give it another chance. Since that happened, now I see that it hasn't really changed. I may come back to it, but not when I have to deal with morons like the above.

Okay, I just wanted to rant a little (but maybe I went on a little longer than I originally intended to), but this was not the original intent. To get back on track, because I usually do get sidetracked, this was really aboot my excitement of placing 2nd in two categories in the 2012 Cincinnati Malt Infusers' Oktoberbest Homebrew Competition. This is my third year entering, placing 3rd for a Porter last year, and not placing, but scoring high, for a Saison in 2010. I entered three beers this year, a Spice Ale (category 21A), an Ordinary Bitter (category 8A), and a American Barleywine (category 19C). I generally number my beers to what recipe it is, so I have not came up names. Spice Ale is #26, Ordinary Bitter is #25, and American Barleywine is #12. Now what the judges said!

Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer: #26
Judge #1: BJCP rank Certified
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (8/12): Moderate chocolate/cocoa aroma with some esters. Hints of peppery spice.
Appearance (2/3): Dark brown – clear around edges with small bit of tan head around edges.
Flavor (15/20): Moderate malty flavor with well balanced amount of pepper spice. Smooth chocolaty flavor. No hops. Finishes clean with just a hint of bite from the pepper.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium body, low carbonation, creamy, and smooth.
Overall Impression (8/10): Easy drinking, well balanced but a bit restrained on the spices and cocoa flavor and aroma. I would expect more of a bite from a pepper beer.
Total (37/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Master
Descriptor Definitions: Estery – Aroma and/or flavor of ester (fruits, fruit flavorings, roses)
Aroma (10/12): Nose is dark malt with a very slight som (sic) tinge to it. I get some chocolate, some light fruitiness and some spicy hot notes.
Appearance (3/3): Very dark brown with garnet highlights. Clarity looks on (sic). Pours with low ivory that falls
Flavor (12/20): Malty with some slight roast and choolate tomes. Very good spice pepper flavors that have a broad range of flavours. Very light fruity esters.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium + body with a moderate led (sic) of carbonation. Very warm spices. Clean finish, not too astringent on palate.
Overall Impression (8/10): Enjoyable beer. I'd like more body and more richness to blend with the complex pepper notes. The chocolate I do get is good but I want more! Clean, well made beer. Listing a style is always best practice.
Total (37/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 37 Silver Medal

Standard Ordinary Bitter: #25
Judge #1: BJCP rank Not Disclosed
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (9/12): Medium/light sweet malt aroma. Very light earthy hops. Hints of fruit. No DMS. No Diacetyl.
Appearance (2/3): Golden copper. Very good clarity. Strong fine white head with very good retention.
Flavor (10/20): Sweet bready malt up front. Moderate hop bitterness starts in the middle and lingers into a balanced finish.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium light body. Medium high carbonation. No warmth, creaminess, astringency.
Overall Impression (6/10): Very good bitter. Could be a little drier for style (lower mash temperature/grain bill).
Total (31/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Cerified
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (7/12): Perfumey floral hops. Light caramel malt maybe a little to hoppy for the style.
Appearance (2/3): Clear light copper color with a huge ivory head that lingers.
Flavor (12/20): More floral hop character, bitter but tea-like herbal and fairly bready malt backbone.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Stight (sic) light in body with significant carbonation.
Overall Impression (6/10): A little too hoppy for the style. Try about ½ the flavoring hops next time.
Total (30/50): Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 31 Silver Medal

American Barleywine: #12
Judge #1: BJCP rank National
Descriptor Definitions: None
Aroma (8/12): Malt dominates – nondescript. Low hops. No fruit.
Appearance (3/3): Deep copper color. Fair-medium clarity. Off white head that dissipates quickly
Flavor (14/20): Rich malt (caramel), hop flavor (citrus), and light fruit combine upfront. Malt sweetness and hop bitterness continues into the middle and hop bitterness continues into the finish and aftertaste.
Mouthfeel (4/5): Full body, medium carbonation. Light alcohol warmth without the burn.
Overall Impression (8/10): Very enjoyable beer. A small serving on a cold night would be very much enjoyed. Nice example of style.
Total (37/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.

Judge #2: BJCP rank Undisclosed
Descriptor Definitions: Oxidized – Cardboard Sherry like aromas and flavors.
Aroma (10/12): Rich malt aroma dominates. Fruity, some alcohol noted. No apparent hops. No diacetyl noted.
Appearance (3/3): Copper colored with tan rocky head. Has legs. Good clarity.
Flavor (10/20): Hop bitterness is evident in a very dry finish. Alcohol warmth present. Moderate carbonation. Moderate fruits. Oxidized cardboard taste. No diacetyl.
Mouthfeel (3/5): Moderate / high body. Creamy and warm. Dry palate sensation and some astringency.
Overall Impression (7/10): A good beer to style but the aging process in now adding cardboard characters that takes away from the sherry etc...
Total (33/50) Generally withing styles parameters, some minor flaws. Very Good score.
Assigned Score: 35

Again, I was very pleased with my showing. I sent in the American Barleywine last year and it was really hoppy, so I aged it a year and the hops oxidized, but still had a great score. I wonder what it would have done if it wasn't oxidized. The ordinary bitter was a second running beer that Miles and I brewed after we brewed an American Strong. I wasn't sure where to put it in at, it was either going to be an Ordinary Bitter or a Mild Ale. The Spice Ale didn't score as high as I hoped, but I am really pleased with the silver medal I got.

Well, a few more blogs (4 or 5) and then I'll be caught up.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A day in the industry at Avaitor Brewing Company and a review of Hogwild IPA

This past 2 August, I had the chance to interview for a cellerman position at Aviator Brewing Company. I got invited down to Fuquay Varina, NC to hang out and work for the day, while they see how I worked with others in the company. While I did not get offered the job, it was a great experience. Once I arrived, I talked with the owner, Mark Doble, about the company and what there plans were for the next 5 years. He has a great interest in the types and kinds of beer that he brews and is overall, down-to-earth. He asked me about my experience, which I have none in the industry and am looking at getting in, but have plenty homebrewing and science knowledge. 

After talking for an hour I got to meet up with some of the people that works at the brewery. I got asked to work with a couple folks and started cleaning kegs. It is really different from hand washing corny kegs and all it is really is hooking the keg up to a machine, with rinses residues out, then washes it. Then it is hooked to the other end, where it is sanitized and filled with CO2. After completing that task for a little over an hour, I got put on the task of filling kegs. Again, it was really simple to do, but the hard thing was lifting the kegs after they were full (since they probably weighed as much as me). The only problem that kept happening was that the coupler kept getting sticky and would shut off before the keg was filled. We had to constantly knock it on our palms to get it cleared out. 

The people that works at the brewery are super nice.  So, it was a great experience to get to spend some time working in a brewery and would love to get a real job doing this as a career. I had another interview yesterday that I'll blog about later.

While at Aviator, I got to try many of there brews and they sent me home with a few bombers. This is my review of Aviator Brewing Company Hogwild IPA:

Aroma: Before I even got it up to my head, I got huge wafts of citrus and piny hops. The hop aromas were followed by bready and sweet malty notes.

Appearance: A golden copper colour with a two finger bright white head that settles down to only a millimeter off of the beer. A white lacy film sticks to the side of the glass with every sip. Carbonation is very present as the glass sits.

Taste: A barrage of hops of all sorts up front. A lot of piny and grassy notes with the lightest touch of citrus. The more hop-heavy flavour plays well with the bready/semi-sweet malt background. This is a very solid beer.

Mouthfeel: Starts off medium body with carbonation that plays on the tongue. The hop heavy beer leaves the tongue dry as the beer goes over the palate.

Overall: A very solid well made IPA that makes me sad that I cannot get any more living in Ohio.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Michigan Beer Cup

This past August, I submitted two beers into the 3rd annual Michigan Beer Cup. This state wide competition that promotes brewing through education and brewing. I was curious how some of my brews would fair in different homebrew competitions, though the competition is still only in the Midwest.

In this competition I did not receive any medals, though I did score the highest that I have ever scored for a beer that I submitted.

The first beer is a Spiced Beer. I used Mexican Hot Cocoa mix, Chili Powder, and Cayenne Pepper in this beer to make it a Chocolate Mole Beer in a style of a Oatmeal Stout. I received a honorable mention with a score of 40/50.

Judge 1: Experienced (not in BJCP)

Aroma (8/12): Nice spicy nose, has very little chocolate malt comes through nicely

Appearance (3/3): Color is spot on for all the chocolate, nice and clear

Flavor (16/20): Rich flavor with little chocolate finish, pepper comes through as a warm spicy finish

Mouthfeel (5/5): Warming smooth with the correct carbonation, a little spice is nice

Overall Impression (8/10): Very nice stout comes forward, roast malty flavor was unexpected but maybe the chili powder flavor, not to peppery.

Total 40/50

Judge 2: BJCP rank pending

Aroma (10/12): Roasted malt immediately evident. Also some spicy pepper almost equal. No hop aroma noted. No esters or other aromatics

Appearance (3/3): This beer is very dark brown and clear. Head retention is low, with very tiny bubbles.

Flavor (16/20): Roasted malt character dominates at first, but is quickly over taken by a spicy pepper character. No hop flavor detected. This beer is balanced a little to the bitter side and finishes dry and mildly hot.

Mouthfeel (5/5): The body is medium-plus, carbonation is low. Any alcohol warmth is masked by the hot pepper. No creaminess or astringency, the pepper feel pretty much dominates.

Overall Impression (6/10): Very drinkable hot pepper stout. The pepper is pronounced, but not excessive. Unfortunately I don't taste any chocolate over and above what would normally be found in an oatmeal stout.

Total 40/50

The second beer that I submitted was the Saison that I took third with at the Siciliano'sHonebrew Competition. At this competition, this beer did not fair as well as it did in Grand Rapids, because it foamed out of the bottle once opened.

Judge 1: BJCP rank pending

Aroma (5/12): Pilsner malt sweetness, some DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide), kind of barnyard aroma.

Appearance (1/3): Hazy, gold, head with huge bubbles that quickly dissipates.

Flavor (15/20): Sweet that does lingers into the finish. Not much fruit. Some alcohol flavor. Spice

Mouthfeel (3/5): High carbonation, medium-full bod, some astringency and creamy.

Overall impression (7/10): Needs to be drier, there are some off flavors in it, little tartness.

Judge 2: Non-BJCP

Aroma (7/12): High fruitiness present and a slight sour, with a little to no alcohol, mustiness present may be off flavor

Appearance (2/3): Pale color, cloudy, with light head, but low retention.

Flavor (13/20): Sweet character but lacks complexity and character.

Mouthfeel (4/5): Very high effervescent quality with light body and tart finish

Overall Impression (5/10): The carbonation was very high and bubbly, the beer did not mave much flavor profile for this style.

Overall, I was happy with the results, though a little perplexed by my Saison. Some competition say that it should be drier, some sweeter. I think that something was wring with the bottle and I need to drink one to see how it fairs to my taste. Also,everyones taste is different.

Yes, this is a post that I should have blogged a while ago. I need to catch up on my blogs. I have three more in mind that I want to get done in the next few weeks.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Brewing of a Belgian Golden Ale

A little over month ago, a few of us homebrewers got together to brew up a batch of beer for this year's homebrew party at my buddy Matt Aerni. To start, Matt and I wanted to think of a beer, something that would not to take to long to mature into a good beer, but something that would definitely age if a bottle or two is held back. The original thought was to develop a sour recipe, but that would take way to long to mature. After spending some time looking at different recipes on the Internet, it was that a Belgian Golden Ale would do good.

This recipe design and most of the brewing process I was able to refrain myself from taking the reigns and taking over. The idea, design, and the whole brewing process I let Matt take over. Plus, this is the maiden brew for Matt's new system, plus we decided to start a homebrew club (in which I will talk aboot later).

For this beer, it was decided to do a longer boil to do some caramelization. Another thing that we did was to use an additional adjunct malts to give more aromas and better mouthfeel.

Malt Bill:
14# Belgian Pilsner Malt
0.5# Melanoiden Malt

On brew day (Sat. 21 July, 2012), we began with boiling water and pre-heating the mashtun. The grain was crushed the night previously. We decided to keep the recipe simple by doing a single infusion with a batch sparge. When water reached the optimal temperature (165 ºF), we mashed in while stirring to reduce the amount dough ball that could form. We let the mash steep for an hour.

When running off the wort from the mash, we preformed a vorlauf to clear the beer. This process clears the wort by using the grain bed as a filter for the wort. We then sparged with 170 ºF water to rinse the grain of any left over sugars. Our final volume before the boil was around 7 gallon with a pre-boil gravity of 1.066.

Once the wort started to boil we added 2# of Clear Candi Sugar. We let the wort boil for 90 minutes while adding the following hops with the scheduled times:

Hop schedule:
Stryian Hops (60 min.)
Styrian Hops (30 min.)
Saaz Hops (20 min.)
Saaz Hops (15 min.)
Saaz Hops (10 min,)
Saaz Hops (5 min.)

When the boil was complete, the beer was cooled to 80 ºF. It took long enough to get it that low, being 90 ºF outside. The original gravity came out to a whopping 1.104. The wort was poured into a sanitized fermenting bucket and a flask of yeast starter with WLP570 Golden Ale Yeast was poured into the bucket. 

After 3 weeks the beer was transferred to a glass secondary fermenter. A week after the beer was bottled in 12-oz. Bottles with a FG of 1.016. That gives this brew a ABV of 11.8%.

EDIT:  I have to give credit to Alex Allegree for all of the photos.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dreams of a Brewer

I have been homebrewing consistently for around 6 years now. My buddy Jeff and I first started in 2002, but with undergraduate school and partying, we lost interest pretty quickly. I started homebrewing because I wanted something other than the fizzy yellow beer that I have been drinking for sometime. I found this beer shop in Grand Rapids called Siciliano's Market that had a wide array of beer that I started drinking. At that time I fell in love with beer and Siciliano'sMarket.

Our first homebrew was an IPA. We inherited ... umm the last roommate left behind ... a homebrew kit. Siciliano's Market, on top of there top notch beer selection, they also sold homebrew ingredients. With not knowing what we were doing, we bought a beer recipe kit at Siciliano's Market. From what I remembered, it tasted pretty damn good. So we went out and made another extract recipe, with help from the folks at Siciliano'sMarket. At this time is where we lost interest and this batch sat in the bucket 8 months until we moved out.

Fast forward 3 years, living again with my buddy Jeff, we decided to try homebrewing again. We bought a homebrew kit and beer recipe kit and made our third beer. This time we didn't lose interest and started consuming knowledge aboot beer from books. We took a class from the now defunct Michigan Brewing Company and learn how to brew all grain. From that time I was hooked and Jeff and I made 5 more batches before, being nomadic, I moved out to start graduate school at Miami University in Oxford,OH. After moving out, Jeff got a brewing job at Hopcat, and I was sort of envious. At that time I started dreaming.
Fast forward again 4 years, now receiving my Master's of Science in Zoology studying beneficial insects and two years into my Doctorate, with my buddy Jeff the head brewer at Pike 51 Brewery, I've continued dreaming and been looking into brewing jobs. People keep talking as though I should start my own brewery and that is where I really start dreaming …

Starting a brewery, it would start small. What I mean being small, it would be 10-gallon batches. The brewery (haven't thought of a name as of yet) would have 5-7 mainstays, both ales and lagers, doing multiple styles. I would have a hand-pull cask beer, of a classic English style and also multiple experimental styles. This will allow for growth to a larger system, keeping the smaller system for experimental batches. I would explore a of of styles, barrel aging, and using different ingredients than the norm.

Along with beer, it would have to be paired with food. This is where I lack knowledge. I know what I would like to have as the main cuisine, but pairing and knowledge of having a restaurant is a whole new story. The main cuisine would be wood-fired pizzas with appetizers that would complement both the cuisine and beer.

The placement of the brewery is important. It would have to be well accepted in the community in a place where the beer culture is strong. I would not want it in a place that is already saturated with breweries, but a place where it would complement other breweries and allows for collaborations. 

Paying to start up my dream is something that I lack. There are small business loans, but I have school loans and it would be painful. Investors and partners would be nice, but I would not want to with connected with people that only think aboot how much money we would be pulling in and have a dominant personality. Nor would I like to be partners with people that are inconsistent, indecisive, or passive. I might be asking too much …

So right now, I'll continue to dream. Maybe I'll be able to get some experience in a brewery and go from there. I know this is the path that I want to go down currently because of the passion that I for brewing. I know that I will not just continue to dream and I will seek out my passion. I'm interested to see where this path will lead me.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ode to Grand Rapids, How I Miss Thee...

Ah, Grand Rapids, it has been 4 years now since I have lived in your wonderful graces. For those whom do not know of the city that I speak of, here is a glimpse. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan behind Detroit. The city is a lively place, exhibiting (I think) more that 7 breweries (Founder's, Hopcat, The Hideout, Schmohz, Brewery Vivant, JadenJames, Harmony) within the city and up to 6 more (New Holland, Pike 51, Rockford, White Flame, Saugatuck, to name a few) within a 30 minute drive. Beside that scene of breweries in the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, home brewing is locally supported by a homebrew/beer store named Siciliano's Market. Other than that, it has many bars, places to eat and other attractions (but this is a beer blog).

The reason for this 'ode' is for one things only. It recently tied (statistically) for “Beer City USA” with Asheville, NC (their fourth year being first or tied for first). This is a pretty good feet, caused by the recent explosion of craft breweries in Michigan. Out of this title, a few of the breweries of the area collaboratively made a “Beer City Pale Ale” out of celebration.

I'm proud of my old city (and proud of the people who brew in this wonderful city).  I do miss you.  I will see you soon enough though!  Just give me a week...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Traveling, and thus having trying some local microbreweries.

Recently, I had the chance to travel. Travelling for a graduate student is mainly one purpose only, research related. This trip was to present research at the Entomological Society of America North Central Branch Annual Meeting. The location for this year was in Lincoln, NE. Now, thinking about this trip to Nebraska, the only thing that comes to mind is corn. I don't think of Nebraska as a place for good beer. But, luckily, I have two friends of mine that are currently living there or had lived there. So they know how to get me to what I want.

I had no idea how small Lincoln was. My first thought was, state capital, pretty big, maybe close to 1 million, not 250,000. Being end of the spring semester at University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the city is pretty dead. No worries though, I have connecting.

The first brewery stop was on my first day there. Granite City, is a chain brewery, and because I have eaten and drank at one before in Mishawaka IN, I kind of knew the menu. For being a chain brewery, it is decent. At least you know that they are consistent. The down side to drinking and dinning in Nebraska is that nearly everything is meat. Being a vegetarian, that doesn't sit well.

For this, I am not going to go and do a complete description, because there are a few beers. First beer was the Broad Axe. I would give this 3.5 out of 5. A dry stout, that had lots of roastyness to it and was nice and heavy, plus low on alcohol. Then the second and last beer of the night was the IPA, Duke of Wellington. Again, I would give a 3.5 out of 5. Crisp, light, and very dry hoppyness. Definitely higher in alcohol content, so I went back to my friends place with a nice buzz.

After the conference starter, I made my way down to Lazlo's Brewery and Grill, home of Empyrean Brewing Company. I made it here twice, both times for lunch, so I did not drink a lot because I had to be presentable at the conference. The first day of the conference, I made my way down to Lazlo's. Being Sunday, the restaurant was open, but they couldn't serve alcohol until noon. Every state is different.

With a delicious veggie wrap with fries I had the Luna Sea ESB. Nice and fruity with English hops. The English yeast gave off the fruity esters that were great on the palate and English hops gave somewhat of a dry finish. I give it 4 out of 5.

Day three of the conference, I found myself at Lazlo's, with a few University of Kentucky people. Having the veggie wrap again (only found maybe one thing that I could eat every place I went), I wanted to finish it with an IPA, but being sold out, I had to go with the Burning Skye Scottish Ale. Sweet from the grains, but generally lack hops. I found it unbalanced, but I'm a hophead. I gave it a 3 out of 5.

The trip was successful, because I network well. Only downside to the trip being question by a security officer at the airport because I was profiled with my big beard.  Next trip, Portland OR in August!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 Siciliano's 9th Annual Honebrew Competition

It has been a very long time since I have last written on my blog. Hopefully after 31 May, 2012 I will be able to do a lot more writing on this, because after this date I will be done defending on Master's Thesis. This will give me a lot more time to catch up on the past brew that I have done, some with collaboration with friends, others done on my own. It will give me some time to brew also. My time will not be totally free, because, currently, I am hard at work at my Doctorate in Science. My goal is to keep to write at least once a month starting in June of 2012. Let see how that works.

For this blog, I wanted supply an update from a homebrew competition that I entered on 5 May, 2012. I entered a Saison ale into Siciliano's 9th annual Homebrew Competition. This is a slight modification from my recipe #19, in which a added 2 grams of Grains of Paradise. It was entry #8 out 10 entries in Category 16, the French / Belgian Style. If you know the BJCP categories, I entered my in the sub-category c. I took a bronze in this category with a score of 37/50,

Let's get on to what the judges had to say on the BJCP Beer Scoresheet. I am writing down exactly what they wrote (sorry if there are incomplete sentences).

Judge #1:

BJCP Rank: Undisclosed

No descriptors marked.

Aroma (9/12): Banana esters dominate with mild clove. Floral. Yeasty.

Appearance (1/3): Good head. Crystal clear.

Flavor (16/20): Spicy phenolics. Acis. Mild cardboard astringency.

Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium-light body. Acidic.

Overall Impression: Crystal clear – appears to have been sitting a while. Lack any hop aroma. Nice flavor. Easy drinking.

Total 38/50

Judge #2:

BJCP Rank: Recognized

No descriptors marked.

Aroma (9/12): A light spice, a bit of citrus fruit. More above there pepper.

Appearance (1/3): A medium gold in color. A slight hint of haze. Small white bubbles. Slight head retention.

Mouthfeel (4/5): Medium body. Moderate carbonation. A hint of alcohol warmth. A little bit of tart as ueele (cannot read what this word is).

Overall Impression (7/10): A tasty drinkable beer, but a bit light for this category. More tart and spice needed. Perkeys (again not sure what this word is) a bit more hop needed.

Total 35/50

My thoughts are that I need more hop late addition and mash at a higher temperature. I need to somehow make this beer more cloudy also. I'll see what I can do with a newer version entered into a competition next year. I will also what to see other comments from this beer after I enter it into Ohio Beer Week homebrew competition in Athens, OH sometime in June.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Story of the Four Meads

Over the past few months, I have acquired two batches of honey, both of which I brewed mead.  The first batch I procured in October and the second in December.  This was my first attempt of making mead, honey wine.

My first attempt I was able to evade disaster.  Two quarts jars of honey was given to me by my college lab mate Kaitlin.  I spent the past summer learning how to tend bees, and the honey was my reward.  Tending bees is quite easy, given the proper equipment.  In fact, this spring, I will be starting my own hive. 

On the stove, I thoroughly mixed a quart jar of honey with 1 gallon of water in a pot.  I repeated this a second time, because i wanted two different batches of mead to taste against one another.  I boiled the honey water for approximately 15 minutes to kill any wild yeast or bacteria.  To the second batch, I added 2 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick.  After the boil I was able to remove the clove and cinnamon and then transferred the honey water to 4 separate 0.5 gallon growlers (that I have bought over the past 5 years from various breweries).

The cooling process is where I ran into problems.   I previously filled up my sink with water and added ice into it.  When I transferred my last growler into the sink, forgetting that the glass is not Pyrex, I heard it crack.  I immediately removed the other 3 growlers and put them into the freezer.  I recovered around half of the honey water from the cracked growler, boiled it, and put it into the other growlers.  So I have a clove and cinnamon meads and 2 blends.  Once it was cooled I added Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead Yeast.  I am set to bottle this mead in March.

A month ago received 14 pounds of crystallized honey.  To liquefy the honey, I heated my brew kettle with aboot a gallon of water to approximately 150°F and emerged the container that had the crystallized honey in it.  It took around 90 minuted to completely liquefy the honey.  After the honey was liquefied, I transferred 12 pounds of the honey into 6 gallons of water.  The other 2 pounds was given as a gift.  I thoroughly stirred the honey into the water and boiled it for 15 minutes.  At this point I was able to cool it with my immersion cooler.  I transferred 5 gallons of the honey water into a sanitized fermenter and pitched WLP720 Sweet Mead Yeast that I made a starter for.  The other gallon I split evenly between two 0.5 gallon and added WLP500 Trappist Ale Yeast and to the other WLP565 Saison Yeast.  These 3 meads should be able to bottle in May.