Beers for the Week

Since this week will see the publication of sundry posts regarding German wheat beers, I recommend finding one.  And drinking it. Here are some you can find locally:

  1. Wheatever. A weissbier, home brew, in bottles at my house. Should be ready in a week.
  2. K-Town Weiss. A kristall weizen available at Black Bridge Brewery. I wrote about it here, mostly. It was a hefe weissbier version at the time. This latest iteration has been filtered.  It was also mentioned recently by Tap That AZ.
  3. Chocolate Banana Nut Hefe & Hefen’ A.   According to Rickety Cricket Brewery’s website, both these beers are weissbiers and are on tap. I’ve not had either, so can’t share any thoughts on them.  Obviously I need to get to them this week.

Other suggestions if you don’t get to a wheat beer:

  1.  Backwoods Bastard & Dank Wood.  The former is a barrel aged scotch ale and the latter a barrel aged imperial red IPA by Founders Brewing.  Evaluations pending.
  2. Hell Bitch.  A Belgian strong golden ale from Black Bridge Brewery.  It’s nearly perfect.

Those are the beers on my radar for the week.

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Brew Day at Black Bridge

Supporting your local brewery can lead to great beer and brewing experiences. Recently the good folks at Black Bridge Brewery let me spend a day with them and brew K-Town, their understated and charming weissbier.

I arrived there on a Friday at approximately 8 am. Kevin was there, transferring some of their old ale into kegs for transport to an event later in the day. Hops, the the fawned-over-feline and possibly official mascot of Black Bridge, peeked around the stage shortly after my arrival to see who was present to worship him. Well, Kevin was there, so …

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A little before Tim was to arrive he called and had Kevin start up some mash water, so I followed him over to the vessels and watched him work a couple of valves and, voila, hot water started to fill up one of the tanks. Once Tim arrived with more malt we fed that into the grain mill which had been attached to the mash tun. I’m used to working with around five pounds of malt instead of fifty and I usually purchase mine already cracked and have never milled it myself. There’s nothing complicated about that step in the process, dump the bag in the hopper and let the electric drill attached to the crank do the hard work, but at least I can say I have milled grain now. I’m sure there are other aspects to it, such as determining how fine you want the barley cracked, but that was not part of this brew day.

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Once the grain was milled the hot water was transferred to the mash tun and the grains were stirred and temperature reached and …. time to wait, just like brewing at home. While waiting I got to see some new sound equipment that had been delivered and tried to help research a couple of other pieces the brewery was seeking. Around this point, Heather arrived and started going through her routine of opening up for the day.

Then it was time to sparge – rinsing the mashed grains with more hot water to extract all the sugars out of the grains. After recirculating a portion of the mash water a copper ring is attached to the mash tun. Hot water is sprinkled from this arm onto the mash and mash water is transferred to the boiling vessel.  The hot water is added via this sparge arm at the same rate the mash water is transferred into the boil kettle. It was nice to see this method, continuous sparging, in action. I’ve read about it and understood how it was supposed to work. But in my home brewing I’ve used the batch sparging method. So, in a sense, this was new for me, too.

Once the mash tun was drained it was time to clean it out while waiting for the temperature to rise in the boiling vessel. That’s right, cleaning and waiting. Just like home brewing. Oh, and of course there was some beer consumed. K-Town, in fact. I adhered to the head brewer’s pattern of drinking what was being brewed. Good call.

By this time, the doors were open and people were arriving. Tim was mingling with his customers, Heather was pouring beers, Kevin was either playing with Hops or cleaning some fermenting vessels. I think I tried to help him a little, but I may have just had another K-Town.

Speaking of hops, once the boil was reached the hops addition was measured out. I was taught the proper way to tie a string around a mesh bag. The hops, in the properly tied bag, were immersed in the boil. And then there was more waiting. Finally it was time to chill the wort and transfer it to the fermenter. After adding the yeast strain to the fermenting vessel, the wort was transferred through the plate chillers to the fermentation vessel. And we were done.

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All this is just an every day routine for brewers, like Tim (and he did keep reminding me about that).  But it was great fun for me. I was able to see some brewing methods at work that I’ve only read about.  Professional nano-brewing is like brewing at home, just on a bigger scale.  There is much waiting and relaxing and drinking.  Sure, maybe there was not pH testing of mash or water treatment or refractometers – but whatever. The end product speaks for itself.

Tim would be a good educator, by the way.  He walked me through his steps, explaining each valve and why he wanted it to do what it did, explained his motors, talked about the equipment he’d like to have and how it would change his process. While eating lunch with his friend and mentor, Jason Fuller (to whom this town owes a debt of beer gratitude), he talked about hops experiments he did and how those did or did not change the bitterness and aroma values of the final beer.  He was encouraged, during his mentoring, to question everything he reads or hears about brewing, test it, and just brew beer that is his.

I learned a thing or two I can incorporate in my brewing.  I also feel a little more invested in the product being served at Black Bridge.  In addition to all that, it was enjoyable getting to know Tim and the crew a little more.  So thanks to all for the day of brewing.  Now I wanna brew more … another beer at B3 and plenty of my own.

Get to know your local, people, you never know what cool things can happen.  And if you are new to home brewing, definitely get to Black Bridge and hang out.

P.S.  The day after the brew day above we checked fermentation on this batch.  Well, that yeast was vibrant and healthy and working away.  Can’t wait to have some of this batch of K-Town!

 

Old Pricks by Black Bridge Brewery

“They are to varying extents dark, rich and sweet, typically with suggestions of soft, curranty fruitiness and blackstrap molasses.”  – Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion

What’s new is old again.  An old ale will be on tap this weekend at Black Bridge.  It’s called Old Pricks, which is an homage, of sorts, to the prickly pear beer brewed by the women of B3.  That one is called No Pricks Allowed.  This one is brewed by the old men of B3 and they wish to release it just prior to tax day.  I’ll leave you to suss out the pun therein.

What do we look for in old ales?  They’re beers meant to be cellared, or aged.  So you would taste that time in the body.  There will be some oxidation giving it a papery, stale, sherryish flavor.  Imagine an amber or brown beer kept in a cask for several months or more.  They would pick up the quality of the wood.  Additionally, any leftover yeast would act on the beer, continuing to ferment and bequeathing a winy characteristic.   The beer family these ales reside in, mild and barley wine, are oft considered “winter beers,” so releasing during early spring is … bold, maybe?  It’s cool, to be sure, craft beer will be unleashed whenever brewers decide it is their desire.

It should be a malty, complex, stale delight.

That Smell ….
Muted and subdued.  Mostly, I could identify bread.  The pale malt comes right through in the nose.  As successive glasses warmed there was maybe a little caramel  and a slight ester character.  I want to say it was prune that I pinpointed, but I’m not that positive.  It was that kind of “dark fruit” smell, at least.

In Appearance …
Old ales should be darker beers.  Not stout level but a it should have some woody chromatics.  This has a gorgeous spectrum of red, orange and brown and possesses outstanding clarity and sports a sound ivory and tan head.

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But the Taste …
Strong malt sweetness.  Not overpoweringly so.  Also a dry-ish finish.  The oxidation, the staleness I sought was a specter in the aftertaste.  I’d like to see that more pronounced, but that’s a subjective wish, isn’t it?   The body does seem a bit light.  Aging for extended periods can produce such an effect so in that regard, well done.  It was only aged for 3-4 months, maybe some ruggedness will appear.  If not, it does have a slight creamy mouthfeel that is pleasant and at 6.6% abv it does produce a warming alcoholic effect.

In Conclusion …
Another corking entry to the B3 taplist.  It was only aged a few months, so I really want to see what this will be like when it gets a good amount of age on it in the keg but I really enjoy it now, too.  It’s reminiscent of 80 Shilling, neither aggressive or assertive.  Perhaps you remember the bready goodness of Oktoberfest; Old Pricks is like that, darker in overall tone, color and flavor.  B3 has done an altbier in the past to which this might be similar.  I could only find this note about that beer:  “It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty.”  Old Pricks is just as tasty.  But it resembles some of the barley wines, mostly, though heavier in mouthfeel and not quite as hefty in alcohol.

History indicates an old ale should be nurtured quietly in the glass, near a fire and steeped in quiet conversation or contemplation.  Old Pricks has that character.  It adds to the pub culture engendered at Black Bridge, not requiring in depth analysis to enjoy but not fearing it either.

 

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.

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.