Weekend Beer Recommendations

For October 6-8, 2017

Here are my recommendations for what you should be drinking.  You do what you want, of course.

Homebrew.  If you have it at home it should be your first choice.  Prime your weekend of beer with a brew of your own.  I have Shistory Saison.  It’s a very brown saison with a little pepper in the background as it warms.  This batch suffers from overcarbonation but that seems to be subsiding as it ages.  Still good.

Local Beer.  At Black Bridge, I’d recommend a couple of beers:  first, Oktoberfest.  I agree that this should be a year-round beer.  It’s a sunset-copper color, sweet & malty but not overly so.  Basically, this is a liquid metaphor of the change in seasons.  The other recommendation would be Li’l Orange Van, the orange vanilla weiss beer.  Yes, it’s a creamsicle in a glass; drink one of those as a shout out to summer, then Oktoberfest to say goodbye to summer.  All right, bonus recommendation – for you weirdo’s who like the pumpkiny stuff, Heckedy Peg will be arriving soon.  It’s fine, for a pumpkin beer.  If that’s your thing, well, super, I guess.  Just don’t talk to me about it.

 Other Commercial Beer.  Both options above may be unavailable to you, or maybe you eschew them and just want a beer from the shelf.  If so, drink a Sam Adams OctoberFest.

This weekend has supervenient beer events.  The 2017 Brews and Brats Oktoberfest will be held at Metcalfe Park.  Black Bridge will be providing the beer again.  In addition to the Oktoberfest noted above, a schwarzbier will be available and also Go To Helles, the brewery’s faux-lager yellow fizzy clone, which is terribly popular and really quite good.  And on Sunday, the Sunday Funday Breakfast will return to Black Bridge.

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Learning To Brew

Learning to brew
Is the coolest thing
Making a wort
That’s worth drinking

 … Hasta La Vista, Tom Petty …

Recently I reconnected with some old friends (hi Rob & Dom!).  It takes not long to determine that I am obsessed with beer and brewing and even dabble in the alchemy we call homebrewing myself.  Therefore, one of these old friends asked me how to get started in this hobby.

I was happy to provide some starting advice and it occurred to me that I really hadn’t written up anything like that on this blog.  I’ve talked about the homebrewing adventure and some of my experiences therein but I have not included any kind of resources for anyone wishing to delve into this hobby.   Therefore, I hope a few of the following notes will be of assistance to any who wish to get started.   Once you’ve begun, well, doubtless the DIY zeitgeist will possess you and then there are many other resources to be found to help you build your system.  So this is just for the novice.

And, please, if you are a home brewer reading this and you think of a resource or advice that needs to be added, please leave a comment.  Thanks & Cheers!

Home Brew Supply Store
If you have a homebrew supply store near you (and by that I mean in the town or city within which you dwell), fantastic!  This store will be full of all the equipment and ingredients you need to begin homebrewing.  More importantly, the owners of the store will likely be experienced home brewers who can answer your questions and walk you through your brew day.  If there is not one nearby then you’ll need to consult the all knowing oracle of our time, Google.

I use Brewers Connection in Phoenix, AZ.  There’s also More Beer.  No doubt you’ll be able to find one in your state that can ship you the things you require.  These online outlets may also have various books and brochures available that describe the brewing process.  Buying online may give you the ingredients but likely you’ll still need, or want, tutoring.

Local Brewery
For pointer, experience and encouragement you need go to your local brewery.   Make friends with the owner(s) and brewer(s) there – in fact, with the entire staff.  This crew will be very knowledgeable about beer making, beer styles, beer appreciation, beer everything.  They will be ridiculously happy to help you in the homebrew journey.

Homebrewers are usually among the most ardent supporters of the local.  The staff of the local, likely homebrewers themselves, can point you in the direction of the homebrew community in your locale.  Maybe a club even meets at the brewery.  All of them will be able to give you superb guidance to making the best beer possible.  Your local may also be able to act as a surrogate home brew supply store on a brew day that goes wrong, too.

I’ll take this moment to give a shout out to Kingman’s local, Black Bridge.  The crew there is outstanding and I am indebted to them for furthering my beer knowledge.  For a very long time, I thought I knew this town and beer.  The local has helped me to realize both those postulations were false.  The best lesson you can get is that you know nothing.  Then you can move on.  So, thanks to everybody there!

American Homebrewers Association
This is a national organization dedicated to homebrewing.  They have a vast database of recipes, lots of tutorials, lists of home brew supply stores and they sponsor Learn To Homebrew Day.  This occurs annually on the first Saturday of in November. This year that falls on November 4 and its express purpose is to propagate the home brewing community.  If there’s an event near you this is a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to a larger community of brewers.

Brew on!

 

 

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! 

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

Brewing Fun

These sentiments recently appeared in an article at CraftBeer.com:

Why do so many people love beer? It’s because beer presents a fun experience to nearly everyone, no matter their background or level of knowledge. Yes, there are people who love beer without really knowing anything about how it’s made. For some, however, the experience becomes more satisfying as more effort is put into learning about beer.

 

If you are truly interested in beer and brewing, whether it’s home brewing or craft beers, your local is the best place to be.  For Kingman, that’s Black Bridge.  Here’s a few things they’ve been doing recently that I thought were fun and have expanded the beer knowledge of their crew and community.

  • Angry Elf.  A Russian Imperial Stout brewed originally by a local home brewer and employee at Black Bridge.  His recipe won gold at a home brew competition and is an outstanding beer on it’s own and is occasionally offered at the brewery.  They brewed it again this year, added cherry puree and some chocolate and called it Sexual Chocolate.  It’s a wonderful stout, highly recommended, especially if you like dessert.  It may already be gone, though, but maybe it’ll come back.
  • Pete LaFass.  A heavily smoked scotch ale.  Honestly, that thing is for hardcore beer fans.  It tastes and smells like a hospital inferno, latex, nitrile and band aids burning in diapers or something. These are all usually bad. But, somehow, it works in this beer.  You may only be able to cope with a small sample, but it’s worth a try. It’s from a local home brewer.
  • No Pricks Allowed.  A Belgian blonde that is a gorgeous pink/purple color, from the prickly pear addition, so it’s using locally found ingredients from a cactus.  A true desert beer.
  • Hop Tart.  Another beer from a home brewer who won a contest at Black Bridge; it’s been a while since I’ve had this beer, so I can’t say a lot about it.  I only remember that I didn’t hate it, so, that’s got to be good.  I believe I read that it’s coming back on tap soon.

 

Anyway, these beers may or may not be on tap at B3 by the time you read this and they are by no means the only beers there.  Doubtlessly, I’ve left off beers that were inspired/brewed by other locals and B3 crew, the above beers are just the ones I know about right now.   The brewery is a place to get good brewing advice, inspiration for your own beers, and to get goaded into a new hobby.  And, really, the point is that the brewery is sponsoring local brewing culture and I think that’s cool.  And I have a self-important blog.  So I’m going to write about it.  Because I can.  And you can even get beer there, fun and all.

Beer Journaling

2016

December 21

-somewhere in the desert

The Week draws close now; the Week of willing sequestration wherein I will eschew all social things.  Responsibility will be a shadow seeking life at high noon.  I shall be a veritable hermit reveling in silence and nothingness.  Now, family is inviolable so my immediate relations will still have access to me.  I have not yet decided how this will affect my relations with John Barleycorn at the local malty grotto.  But I know I shall be in the company of beer whether by visitation of the local, rushing the growler, or my own fine home brew.  Mayhaps I’ll take the time to re-examine beers I have rejected in the past.  The dreaded industrial beers.  Since I’ve been told these past two years that I am a “beer snob” and “self-important” and “judgmental” I feel it may be time to Star Trek my beer universe.  Does “infinite diversity in infinite combinations” hold true in the vast frontier of beer?

It seems, to be sure, that home made neck oil will rule the day.  At home I have two batches bottled and waiting.  One is called Shistory and it is a black(ish) saison.  The black pepper is unmistakable upon warming.  The other beer is called Old Ben and it is a clone of Guinness Stout, without the well known nitrogen.  It is slightly creamy and a little toasty and very tasty.  In addition to drinking said home brewed beers I’ve got ingredients shipped for to make an additional two batches.  One of those batches will be a modification of the stout mentioned above, Old Ben.  Instead of using stout malt for the base I will use Rahr 2-row.  I am intrigued to discover what the difference may be, however subtle.  The other beer will be a Belgian blonde produced with pilsner malt and flaked barley and a Belgian yeast.