A Belgian Inspired Imperial Porter

A new beer will soon be debuting at Black Bridge. Here’s a quick encapsulation. 

Remember in Star Wars (okay, Episode IV: A New Hope) when Luke and Han and Chewie and the droids that everyone was looking for were in a control room on the Death Star and R2-D2 locates Leia and Luke wants to rescue her and he’s got to convince Han to help?


 Luke tells Han … “She’s rich.”   That’s the new Belgian inspired Imperial Porter, Shuggah Momma, that’s on its way.    It is, essentially, the daring rescue of Princess Leia from the bowels of the Death Star.  In a bottle.  Without the trash compactor part.

What An Incredible Smell You’ve Discovered

The Belgian candi syrup powers the nose of this beer. It was immediately redolent of soda. Seriously, I thought they just gave me a Dr Pepper. 

Your Eyes Can Deceive You

Brownish orange really, the color seemed eccentric.  In other words, it’s not as dark as my perceptions make a porter. The Belgian motif, I would say, is at play here, too. The color is half trippel/quad, half brown porter. 

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

 It is lighter than I expected and not as roasted or rich as I imagined but it was intriguing. It’s full of two row and crystal malts.  It’s sweet, but not tropical or fruity.   Low carbonation, finishes dry, not much hops presence when I sampled it. 

I Sense Something

It’s a complex beer.  Where is it going?  What does it want to be?  Thematically and stylistically it is something it might not be but is. Confused? Delighted? Exactly. Well, anyway, make your own choice about it when it arrives.  These are just my initial perceptions and could be totally off. And after having aged for many weeks, the beer could transform into something other. Art lies in the realm of ambiguity and that’s what we have here. And at  10.9% abv Tom continues his strong beer — ah, I mean Tim. Tim continues his strong beer legacy.   

Sometime in June it’s supposed to be ready. Maybe sooner, maybe later.  Watch for it. 

Notes On Bottle Conditioning, Carbonation and Storage For Your Beer

How long should you bottle condition your home brew?  How long should you age it after bottling?  There appears to be no definitive answer to these questions.  But, that should be no surprise. As one brewer told me, “there are no facts in brewing.” In other words, making beer is all about experimentation.

To be sure, there are some facts. Home brewing does have specific routines you will want to follow (habits in cleaning and sanitization) regularly and precisely. There is science that explains what potential gravity may be extracted from grains and temperature ranges that work best for the mash and laws that govern the absorption of carbon dioxide into a liquid. When it comes to bottle conditioning a beer and how that will affect taste and how it applies to beer styles, well, now we are delving into the realm of subjectivity.  So, here goes, some notes on bottle conditioning, carbonation, and storage. 

Carbonation is one of the purposes of of bottling. Obviously, then, a crucial point is to determine what level of carbonation you want in your finished beer. There are historical levels for various styles and there are charts that can be found online. These charts will help you to determine how much priming sugar you should add to your beer to produce the right level of carbonation. As you know, there are yeast still in suspension in a beer that has completed primary fermentation. Once a charge of sugar is added to the beer fermentation begins anew at very low levels, enough to produce the carbon dioxide needed for proper head in your finished beer. The common maxim is bottle and let them sit for two weeks at room temperature to achieve carbonation.  According to John Palmer in How to Brew, “small beers like 1.035 Pale Ales will reach peak flavor within a couple weeks of bottling.”

However, when your original gravity exceeds that level, when you start getting into the 1.050 and up range for stronger beers such as imperial stouts, bocks and barley-wines, it seems that longer maturation and conditioning can be beneficial. These beers have much more malt and hops than a smaller gravity beer. That complexity and higher alcohol levels need time to mellow out and blend together. Beers like that can take anywhere from a month to six months or more to reach the taste profile that you prefer.

The original pale ale in London, that morphed into what we now call India Pale Ale, was evidently aged for a year or more prior to being shipped to the colonies in India, a trip which itself took months. So highly hopped beers may benefit from longer aging. Be cautious, however, with aging beers too long. A friend told me recently of an imperial stout he sampled after aging for ten years. The beer looked more like a brown ale and the bottle was full of trub and there was no hops profile at all. Aging can be dangerous.

You also want to determine if you want to condition in the bottle or in a secondary fermentation vessel.  This means that instead of bottling when primary fermentation is finished you rack the beer to another vessel and let it sit there prior to bottling.  Or you can do a mixture of both. Just make sure primary fermentation is complete prior to bottling otherwise there may be some explosions. 

Another consideration seems to be the yeast that is used. If primary fermentation was prolonged, it may take a little longer for the yeast to produce carbonation. Recently I did a saison which took a good three weeks to ferment out. At two weeks in the bottle the carbonation still seemed pretty light. One more week made it more drinkable and it got better each week thereafter.  We are dealing with a living organism and one that will do what it wants when it wants and will continue to develop in the bottle. The best thing to do is try your beer at two weeks and determine if it needs more time in the bottle. Experimentation with storage times is the only way to determine exactly what works for your beers.

To summarize: after bottling, let your home brew sit for two weeks at room temperature to develop the carbonation levels required. Then refrigerate and enjoy. For lower gravity beers such as small pale ales, amber ales or wheat ales, this may be all the conditioning necessary. For stronger beers, such as stouts, barely-wines or IPAs, let them sit for a month and then sample. If you think it will benefit from longer maturation, let it sit. Also give thought to your cellaring temperatures. Higher alcohol level beers can be kept at around 55-60 degrees, the temperature can be lowered as alcohol levels drop.

Enjoy your experimentation and leave comments about anything I described incorrectly above or about insights you have on this stage of brewing. 

Sources:
https://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/101/store/
http://howtobrew.com/book/section-1/fermentation/using-secondary-fermentors
https://byo.com/mead/item/546-diacetyl-homebrew-science

Tasting Notes: Katastrophic Humiliation

These notes will be in media res, unedited, rough drafts.  They happened at the tapping party, with friends, in the crowd. 

For those who don’t know, Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, entered several beers earlier this year in the Arizona Strong Beer Festival. The gold medal went to Katastrophic Humiliation, a barley-wine style ale made by Black Bridge.  To celebrate and commemorate the win, the brewery had a tapping party for the newest iteration of Katastrophic tonight, May 12, 2017. This is not the recipe that won gold but a new version. 

Brewer Tim Schritter has always been inspired by the beers at Stone Brewing. This is evident in his hop-forward, high alcohol interpretations of every beer style.  For Katastrophic, he followed the Stone ideal of recipe tweaking and added some different hops to the 2017 version of Katastrophic. 

Here are my notes and impressions. They are not final verdict on the beer, simply my thoughts and those of my drinking compatriots. Support your local, y’all, go find out for yourselves if it’s gold medal worthy. 


That Smell…

It smells tropical. Interesting. I didn’t catch that during the sneak drink earlier this week. There were no hops evident at all then. So, this soft tropical, maybe papaya smell, that’s gotta be the Mosaic hops, which is the new ingredient this year.  I am right.  Seriously, it smells fantastic. I love Mosaic. Brilliant hops. 

In Appearance…

Reddish copper body. Good head retention.  Red and purple appear. Hmm. Okay, well, my wife and a friend were wearing purple, so maybe I am biased. But the color was solid.  Just what a barley wine should be.  

But The Taste …

Tastes of plum.  Maybe Jamaican coconuts … hahaha, anyway.  No not really. No coconut.  That reference was for something else.  The tropical taste was there, the … melons, let’s say, are very apparent. There are a few readers who will dig that reference.   (Wink-wink,  nudge-nudge, say no more …).

Its got a medium body, but feels heavier.  High alcohol, I’m guessing.  It is incredibly sweet and a little tart.  Just like a good wife….

Almost like a Reisling?  Hmm.  Well, it is a barley wine, so that’s cool. 

A B3 patron was cognizant enough to have a sample of the 2016 gold medal winning beer on hand. There are not enough thanks we can give this craft beer enthusiast.  Here is the comparison:

The 2016 gold medal beer is vastly superior. Fine. Not vastly. Just mostly.  It has a splendiferous malty and bready body, clean and precise at the edges like a dense Dostoyevsky novel. Gorgeous and intimidating.  Age gives it a brilliant attenuation and a cleaner, crisper taste. There are no hops apparent in the nose or the body.  The Mosaic hops softens the character of the 2017 batch.  That is not in any way derogatory. After a year of aging, this new batch could easily outshine the 2016 version.

The Conclusion of the Matter …

Wow, what to say about this beer. According to BJCP guidelines for English Barley Wines, the aroma should be “very rich and strongly malty, often with a caramel- like aroma in darker versions or a light toffee character in paler versions. May have moderate to strong fruitiness, often with a dark or dried fruit character, particularly in dark versions.”  This isn’t really a dark barley wine; however, those elements are present. Vinous and complex alcohol flavors definitely present themselves.  American barley wines should have hop flavor and bitterness. This one has just the flavor. It does possess a well integrated alcohol presence. It also has the alcohol warmth and chewy complexity of a British Strong Ale and the raisin/apple smell and taste of a Belgian dubbel. 

Schritter has again produced a beer that is just what it should be, yet something it shouldn’t be. If this beer were a book, it would be a Lovecraftian work, a libation of expectation and madness and something you know has completely altered your palate.

I’ve got to give him homebrew cred, too. He realized in the midst of brewing that he did not have the hops he wanted. But there was no going back; the beer had to be made, had to have hops.  He improvised.  The Mosaic hops were on hand and in the quantity he needed.  How many times does that happen to us as homebrewers?  You’ve just got to work with what you have. And how often does that brewing crisis lead to a beautiful beer?  Most of the time!  And that’s the case here.  The universe wants good beer, y’all!  Deny it not. 

If it were a book it would be, if not Lovecraft, Cloud Atlas

If it were a movie it would be Inception

I’m still not a fan of the beer’s name. It’s cadence just doesn’t work for me.  And I still hold to what I said four years ago. This beer has no “attitude” in the arrogant, supercilious sense.  It is dignified and sure of itself.  That is so much cooler. It is what it wants to be, which is not what you think it should be.  Very well done. 

Cheers, B3! 

Sale of Lagunitas Brewing

Evidently, Lagunitas Brewing finally gave in and sold the rest of themselves to Heineken.  I will not discuss the merits or demerits of said sale, that is for you, the drinkers to decide.  I occasionally enjoyed Lagunitas beers, but they were never in the upper echelons of my “To Drink” list.  But the brewery has been around for a long time.  It’s name is, if not venerated, prestigious

Now we can continue the debate regarding the compromising of craft beer.  Are the big, older breweries simply following the American vision of growth and expansion?  Is this the “manifest destiny” of brewing?  Or are they following the money?  Is the sale to a global mega-corporation bad if the beers don’t change in character?  I have no idea what the answers truly are to those questions.  (But writing “global mega-corporation” gave me dystopian sci-fi conspiratorial goosebumps).

I did find a comment from Lagunitas owner, Tony Magee, unsettling.  He’s writing here regarding Lagunita’s sale of half the company in 2015 and the remainder of it this year.

“Some who don’t fully understand it all may say it is selling out.  Truth is that we did then, and are now ‘buying in.’

 


More Humiliation

Prior to knowing anything about Tim and the B3 crew, when my insular mentality was sure I was some kind of beer authority, I wrote this:

Black Bridge’s Katastrophic Humiliation has an awkward name, to be sure, a Stone Brewing riff sans rhythm and attitude but it was easily the best of the beers. It was an admirable 10.9 percent concoction with a sultry orange and amber body. It had a barley-wine-ish slash strong ale look and feel. This beer had verve and wants to be a star. The alcohol doesn’t hit right away, the hops are subdued, currents of strong liquor and caramel are well balanced. Let this beer have a spotlight.

That was four years ago. Hmm. Was The Rog right?  A gold medal for this beer at the strong ale festival says, yes. Slightly.

This beer does deserve stardom.

So, tapping party this Friday for B3’s Gold Medal beer. It’ll be time to update tasting notes.

Further Research Into Tiswin, A Native American Beer

Despite dwelling in the desert for decades, I did not know the following about Saguaro cactus:

  • When a saguaro reaches 35 years of age it begins to produce flowers.
  • An adult saguaro is generally considered to be about 125 years of age. It may weigh 6 tons or more and be as tall as 50 feet. The average life span of a saguaro is probably 150 – 175 years of age. However, biologists believe that some plants may live over 200 years.
  • It is estimated that a saguaro can produce some 40 million seeds during its lifetime. However, few will survive to become a seedling. Fewer still will become an adult. The low survival rate of seedlings is due to drought, prolonged freezing and animals eating them.

These silent sentinels beneath Sol’s bright eye are impressive plants and can be adjuncts, or maybe the base, of tiswin, a Native American beer which I began writing about here.  Now, I know quite well that I am an amateur and novice in this field of tiswin and Native American life and culture. I have not made nor even sampled the libation as yet.  I’m collecting information. So, I apologize for any errors I may write. Please comment on this post (or any future ones) and let me know where I was wrong and give me some advice and guidance.

Tiswin seems to also go by the moniker “tesguino” (apparently pronounced tes-ween-o).  At first I thought the two names represented two distinct alcoholic drinks: 1) tiswin, a beer produced with corn; 2) tesguino, an alcoholic drink produced with fruit from the saguaro.  But I think that in actuality the twain are the same libation¹.  I also found the spellings “tezvino” and “tizwin” and references to “tulpi” and “tulapa.”  All seem to refer to a maize based drink to which other ingredients, such as the aforementioned saguaro, may be added².  Yet, adding to my confusion is this publication from the National Park Service.  In that brief brochure it mentions a “Saguaro fruit wine imbibing ceremony to bring the summer monsoon” performed by the Tohono O’odham people, a native nation you can read about here.  There is no mention of the name of this fruit wine, so it may just be me conflating two separate drinks.  The Saguaro fruit wine would be great to sample.

Another helpful article that has a brief discussion about tiswin is  Tepache & Tesguino, at Edible Baja Arizona. I believe it was that article that lead me to information on the Tarahumara Indians, also known as Raramuri, whom may best be known as the pinnacle of long distance runners. They, too, make tesguino and brewing it and drinking it is a spiritual act for them. They sound like good people.  “Their ancient theology was not based on dogma or abstract concepts; nor is their new Christianity. Rather it is a day by day practice of living in harmony with nature and their fellow man.”³  Of course, there are many that claim to do the same and the world is still the world we see today.  But I suppose that’s another story.

 The Raramuri say to one another bosasa which means “fill up, be satisfied, be contented.”†  Kinda like saying “cheers.”  Therefore, bosasa, beer friends!


¹ That confusion came from this source:  http://www.oocities.org/xxi1933/recipes-exotic.html.  It notes solely saguaro fruit juice as the ingredient in the drink.

² This is helpful index of native, undistilled liquours by American anthropologist Weston La Barre.

³ http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/1924-the-tarahumaras-an-endangered-species

http://www.npr.org/templates/text/s.php?sId=4532569&m=1

Brown Beers Matter

IMG_0953The Session this month is a brown study; participants have been in ‘a state of deep absorption or thoughtfulness’ about the color brown and maybe even induced a moody daydream about brown beers.

In my limited experience a color divide remains in beer audiences, light versus dark.  Of course, brown beers fall right in the middle of this divide – darker than a pale ale but not yet donning the black.  One of my friends who accompanies me to Kingman’s local brewery, Black Bridge, was at first ambivalent about this craft beer experience on which I was leading him. He only knew the macro’s. He drank some a cream ale that they offered at the time and was still on the fence. It was K-Town Brown that converted him.  It wasn’t overpowering but it had actual flavor and nuance.  Now he tells me that he’s been “ruined,” he can only drink real beer. I smile knowingly. Brown beers are good gateway beers. Well, in this instance, at least.

In the beer world we have brown ales, brown porters, altbiers, schwarzbiers and rauchbiers, perhaps; mild ales and barley wines sometimes have a solid brown color; to me, some reds seem to border on brown but maybe it’s just the school I attended.  There are certainly more. They are not all suited to the gateway experience as noted above; it would be a dubious experiment to introduce a beer novice to the woody smokiness of a rauchbier.

Stouts and porters are my favorites but a brown beer is just as tantalizing and neither drab nor boring. I have a home brew recipe for a dark mild which I have made several times; perhaps that’s why I’m partial to British browns, dark mild ales and the American brown. These beers all seem to have a sunset at their edges, orange and calming. Generally they have a faux ivory collar that’s a little sticky. It is as sugary at commencement as it is dry at denouement, like a Stirling engine of taste. Sometimes walnut flavors arrive. K-Town Brown noted above was enjoyable and Wagonwheel, also offered occasionally at Black Bridge, is one of my all-time favorite brown ales.  Ask for them when on tap, you will not be disappointed.

Brown ales also pair well with food. Pretty much any food. It is a beer for all ages, for all tastes, for all occasions.  I used to drink Pete’s Wicked with every dinner.  Well, it seems so in memory.  Pete’s was a wickedly delightful brown … .  Newcastle is overrated.  I hope that does not cause a ruckus.  It’s just my opinion and can be dismissed if you disagree.  Cheers.  Samuel Smiths Nut Brown Ale is a good choice for a brown.  Oh, and Oak Creek Brewing in Sedona, Arizona has a Nut Brown Ale, too, that’s worth a pint.

For more discussion of brown beers and Black Bridge’s contributions, listen to  the first half of the first episode of the Cartoon Casual podcast.  It’s produced by two locals, Joe Fellers and Paul Gaines.  And as both Joe and Paul will tell you, the show could be offensive to some so use discernment.

The color brown is a study in contrast. It is the hue and tincture of earth and soil, wood and bark, hair and flesh. Earth is our source and home, the surface upon which our diverse temples are built. These bodies are our avatars in this reality allowing concourse and conversation. Logic would indicate we hold these things in high regard.

Therefore, brown can represent quality. The best food, the best drink, the best friends. “Some browns can show a degree of sophistication or elegance, depending on other colors associated with the brown. For example, brown with a soft white or ivory can appear stylish and classy,” states the website Empowered By Color.  Not convinced?  Here …

iu-2Hepburn.  The epitome of stylish and classy.  In a brown hat.

Yet, … “According to public opinion surveys in Europe and the United States, brown is the least favorite color of the public; the color most often associated with plainness, the rustic, and poverty.” Brown can be perceived as drab and boring and even as stingy or cheap. Quite a contrast!

Maybe browns just seem common, wonted.  I mean, they were pretty much the only kind of a beer for a time.  Isn’t that one of the reasons pilsner became such a thing?  People were all, “hey,  it’s …. yellow.”  Indeed, there is an everyman motif to the brown beer.  There is no creative flair associated with them, peradventure. In other words, no awesome hops bouquet or astronomical IBU rating. No heavily roasted grain profile. No eccentric ingredients.  I have nothing against the aforementioned qualities; they all have their rightful place in the beer pantheon.  Browns are honest, straightforward beer.  Of course, that does not mean none of those things can be added to the brown.

Oh, another aspect of brown – people with brown eyes “are the greatest kissers of all.”

Pretend that glass of brown beer is a kiss from your favorite brown-eyed girl … or guy.  And introduce them to a possibly overlooked beer style.


Sources: