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!

 

 

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Containers and the Local

The city council meeting tonight, July 5, had one item on the agenda that could have deleterious effects on the craft brewing scene locally.  It was this:

  • Public hearing and consideration of Ordinance No. 1828 amending Subsection 26.820 of the Zoning Ordinance of City of Kingman to allow storage containers on properties in the C-2 zoning district and prescribing certain standards and limitations

    Subsection 26.820 SECURE STORAGE UNITS, CARGO, FREIGHT, OR OVERSEAS CONTAINERS of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of
    Kingman permits portable storage containers in the C-3, I-1 and I-2 zoning districts with certain conditions.   Containers are expressly prohibited in all residential districts and the Recreational Open Space “O” zoning district. On June 13, 2017, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend approval of Ordinance No. 1828 as written. The City Manager believes that containers should be either allowed everywhere in C-2 and not separate out the Entertainment District.

This ordinance would mean that a business in the Entertainment District could not have containers.  There is one business only in that District which would be restricted by this ordinance and that is Black Bridge Brewery.  They have two containers on site.  The city council did recognize that this was directed towards the brewery and that compliance with the amendment as proposed would create a hardship for them.  There would be a lot of engineering and architectural costs involved.

It could have interrupted our supply of beer.  This is bad.  Bad!

However, the city council seemed to be mostly supportive of Black Bridge.  They proposed revising the ordinance to remove the restriction on containers in the “entertainment district” and would define the “repurposing” of containers; i.e., adding refrigeration and electrical power, etc., essentially means the containers are not for storage.   The council seemed to acknowledge that Black Bridge is not really using the containers for storage, rather it is for operational purposes.  This was stated at least twice in the meeting.  Additionally, having two 20′ containers would be considered equal to having a single 40′ container.   Changes that made actual sense.

The council mentioned that if the containers were already in place and permitted then none of this would apply.  The business could continue as is.  However, Blake Schritter explained that they have tried to get the required permits but have been repeatedly denied with no explanation.  The mayor and building officials are supposed to meet with the Schritters on Thursday, July 6 to sort out this matter.

Aesthetics came up several times in regard to the containers.  In other words, the containers make the neighborhood look bad.  That’s what I got from it.  Not sure if those who added that bit to the ordinance have really looked around Kingman much, but, you know, there are some places that are pretty trashy – without the containers.  In other words, lots of “aesthetic” work could be given to other areas in the town.  First.  A couple of people did speak and gave examples of other sheds and storage buildings in their neighborhoods (and at the Fairgrounds) that were permitted but were terribly unaesthetic.

So, basically, Black Bridge can continue to operate with the containers … if they are given permits.  Evidently, though, this matter of permits has come up before in council meetings and still nothing was done.  Let’s hope it gets completely resolved this time.  We will all need to drink extra beer to accommodate any permit costs.

Anyway, at least a partial victory for your local!  Containers stay.  Beer continues.  The city council seems to be supporting the brewery and that’s good news.

Cheers!

Mohave County Beer Festival – Year Five

We arrived at Mohave Count Fairgrounds punctually.  The sun shades were placed on the dash and windows rolled down fractionally as our group debouched from the car.  The sun was far from shy on this hot Saturday afternoon.  With temperature was in the mid to low 90s we were anticipating a few hours of good beer.  It didn’t take long to present our admission tickets and get our sampling tickets and then we were inside the Fairgrounds for the fifth Mohave County Beer Festival.

There were six of us.  A variety of perspectives. A variety of tastes. Alas for you, readers, you only get mine.

My imbibing began at the Black Bridge booth. Because local.

Poppin’ Cherries. Black Bridge Brewery
This is Stout Chocula with cherry extract added.  It’s dark and, surprisingly, seemed undercarbonated.   A function of temp?  Ah, well, it did not adversely impact the beer.  The cherry flavor is not domineering making this a sessionable stout, I feel, that doesn’t completely fill you up.   I would be back to the B3 tent throughout the afternoon.

Cucumber Sour. 10 Barrel Brewing
10 Barrel had two beers available, both sours.  I am not sure what drew me to the cucumber rather than the raspberry.  The beer is like a vegan tart.  The cucumber flavor hits right away,  and then the sour chases it off like a jaded spouse.  It’s not picklish, as one might suspect (it’s a thought I harbored, briefly).  It’s a salad with an attitude. Very refreshing for the summer, actually.

Redlands Red. Hangar 24
It’s red. Dry and IPA like. Bready finish.

Mariner Double IPA. College Street
This was offered at the Rickety Cricket brewery’s booth.  It is another Kingman brewery due to open in the downtown area.  Alas, they had none of their own beers to sample.  The owner mentioned that they are heavily involved in construction.  Still, I would have liked to have tried their creations.  Beer first, I told him, everything else will follow.  But I understand they are busy.  Next year they should be there.

So, on to the Mariner … it is very, very, dry with a strong malt presence and no hops aroma evident.  Interesting for an IPA.  I was told there was apricot, but I believe a server was confused.  No apricot.  Tough beer.

Trip in the Woods. Sierra Nevada
Holy fantastic, Beerman.  So, this was not the usual Sierra Nevada conglomeration of hops.  The light brown body had caramel and vanilla from oak barrel aging.  Really good!  It’s nominated for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Breakside IPA. Breakside Brewery

Well done.  No fruit.  Straight, dankish IPA.

Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Belching Beaver
Not as weird as you might think upon first hearing the name. Peanut butter is evident but not dominant. Medium body. Worth a second round.  Nominee for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Sunbru.  Four Peaks
Kolsch.  Still good, but … AmBev.  Or AB Inbev.  Whatever that giant conglomerate is called.

Hollywood Blondie. Golden Road
Whoa.  Okay, I love Belgians (fine, their beer; I don’t personally know any Belgians).  But this version, this was hard.  Hard to drink.  It was like expired vinegar.  Old, wooden, musty, wrong.  I honestly could not drink the whole thing.

Selene Saison. Victory Brewing
Victory Brewing has been around the craft world for a while; I’ve heard the name and always associated it with good things.  They are now part of Artisanal Brewing Ventures.  So that’s private equity.  Kinda like what Dogfish Head is doing.  I do not know a great deal about the business structure but Selene Saison was utterly beautiful.  A dark, roasty saison with a little funk and a little smoke. That heavily roasted characters wraps around the rye it seems and gives it a bacon characteristic.  I don’t even like rye.  But I do for this beer.  Another nomination for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Tart Ten was another offering from Victory and it was good and all, but no Selene.

What else can be said about this year’s beer festival?  It had better music.  The Swillers were the featured band.  They have good energy and play the crowd really well. Good range of music. Their interpretations are fast and eclectic and approachable. Gotta love it.  The food was meh.  There is a lot of opportunity to improve in the food vendor arena.

It didn’t seem as populated this year, either, and last year I noted that the crowd was down from the previous year. I have no statistics to bear this out, just my impressions. I now want said stats since that seems to be a bad trend. It wasa fairly quiet crowd that did not ebb and flow in noise and population as last year.

Also, aside from the Black Bridge group it didn’t seem that there were any other brewers on site.  It was all just volunteers from the area serving bottled or canned offerings.  No kegs, no cool side-of-the-booth chinwags with other brewers.  Seems like a bad trend.

Well, anyway … here’s what everyone’s been waiting for … Bottled Roger’s Favorite Beer of Fest …

Let’s recap the nominees:

  • Trip In the Woods
  • Peanut Butter Milk Stout
  • Selene Saison

The clear and unequivocal winner was … Selene Saison.

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! 

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.