Gender Roles and Brewing

One of the first axioms learned in home brewing is Charlie Papazian’s Proverb:  “Relax.  Don’t worry.  Have a home brew.”  Two weeks ago I heard that refrain on the Brewing Patio at Black Bridge.  A Belgian Blonde was being brewed by two women, Rachel & Sharon.  They were both questioning temperature as the beer was being transferred to the fermentation vessels.  They were told to ‘not worry so much.’  Their response was, ‘we’re women.  We worry.’

The declaration made me wonder: do women, in fact, worry more than men?  What is the objective of their worry compared to men?  Are they concerned about their reputations?  Or are they concerned about the well being of those they serve? Or is it pointless to even make that a thing because, we are all, you know, people?  After all, let’s not forget it was a man who penned the above warning regarding worry.  Many men have read that warning and have had to remind themselves of it during a stressful brewday.

Before you continue reading, I feel I must warn you – there are no answers to the above questions.  At least, not from me.  Go forth, then, and have a full discussion of gender roles.

Traditionally women have been entrusted with domestic management.  They have always been concerned about how and known the way to take care of their family.  An important part of family life is centered around food and drink.  Beer – or wine, or mead, or alcohol of choice – has always been a part of human life; from ancient times women were usually bread makers and beer brewers. It was a home activity. Once it became a profession or an industry men arrogated it.  More women are becoming involved in the commercial brewing industry now.  Women may especially worry about their performance in this industry and others because they are working in what has now become a man’s environment and they feel they must prove themselves.  Whose fault is that?

The point?  Humans have brewed.  Humans are brewing.  Maybe we should just leave it at that.  Gender politics should not be a thing.  Therefore, I have mixed feelings on whether I should write this up the way I am. But here I am doing it.  Fine.  I’ll throw this in – one difference I noted in the Belgian brewday was the number of selfies happening.  I have no idea how that fits into the gender role discussion.

As noted above the beer being brewed was Belgian Blonde with additions of prickly pear.  That’s right, No Pricks Allowed has returned.  While the female brewers of the beer were different than last year there have been no other stylistic to the beer.  From what I recall, it was a beautiful beverage – outstanding clarity and bright purple color.  It had a light body and drank quickly and easily.  It’s Belgian-ness was not overpowering, nor was the prickly pear.

Here we are in the post-modern information age and still arguing over race and gender.  I’m simply going to argue that No Pricks Allowed was a good beer last time around.   And If I recall correctly, last year’s iteration of this beer encouraged Janelle to begin her own home brewing adventures.

Politics, gender or otherwise, may be a verboten subject at the brewery (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not true) but beer and brewing is always on the table so check for this Belgian Blonde in the coming week.  Raise a glass to the people in your life.

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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.

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!

 

 

On Imperial Stout – Most Notably, Angry Elf

In his book Brewing Porters & Stouts author Terry Foster enumerates several stouts that he had readily available at the time of his writing or that were in his locale.  Some of the names are renowned and acclaimed:  Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, Yeti Imperial Stout, Narwhal.  Foster consecrates an entire page to sundry stouts and then declares:  “You should have no difficulty finding other versions of this style in your own area.”

That was no fallacious declaration.  Verily, in our small town we can find our own imperial stout.  Angry Elf is that stout; brewed initially by Kingman home brewer Mike Hinman and now often offered on tap at Black Bridge Brewery.   There should be no qualms about putting it amongst the other beers noted above.  It was last on tap late last year (2016) and a portion of this inky potation secreted away in forgotten vaults.  I am grateful I was allowed a sample of this well aged beer.  It was outstanding.

It pours an impenetrable black, a darkness that even the sun cannot pierce, with a dense brownish bay of foam for its head. Only at the edges of the glass can you discern some brown and red accentuations.  The bouquet is redolent of dark fruit and high alcohol like a brandy or cognac or some other liquor of which I am ignorant.  This smell portends its alcoholic potency.  (Yeah, don’t really remember the alcohol content; knowing Tim & Mike it’s probably like ten to twelve percent.)

The first sip:  surprisingly, it’s very soft; not as aggressive as one might think after gazing upon it and recalling its name (Angry Elf).  It’s more like Will Ferrel’s Elf.  There’s a slight nod to vanilla and hops are palpable at the edges of the tongue; a bitterness intended only to offset the hedonic, malty power of the body but not to be harsh or resinous.

Great, now I’m thinking of Will Ferrel … the relish of candied marshmallow is discernible, maybe, in the next draught?  Along with a little anise?  It is even minutely smoky – as in cigar, not peat.  It dries on the tongue expeditiously while not being astringent.  The warmth of the alcohol is subtle, an alluring fade out.  Roasted malt becomes more apparent as the body warms.  The beer’s body, not mine.

Kingman has some sublimely talented brewers both in the home brew community and at the professional level in Black Bridge.  Angry Elf is a child of both.  It hits all the right markers for the style but is far more than a derivative of those guidelines.  It’s a confident, not arrogant, beer.  Everyone said that aging this beer made it even better (6-8 months, I think?) and they were not unsound in their views.  At all.  It’s a complex beer wherein no one factor overpowers or outshines the other.  Really a superb accomplishment.

(Joe even let me in on a secret:  apparently, this stout has won gold medals at beer competitions!  My shock is not apparent.)*

So, two gold medal beers from Black Bridge:  Angry Elf and Katastrophic Humiliation.  And I’m sure they will be appearing in competition once again.  Beware, other beers.

See below for additional info on what to expect out of any imperial stout you like to drink.

BEER JUDGE CERTIFICATION PROGRAM 2015 STYLE GUIDELINES
20C. Imperial Stout

  • An intensely-flavored, big, dark ale with a wide range of flavor balances and regional interpretations.
    • Roasty-burnt malt with deep dark or dried fruit flavors, and a warming, bittersweet finish.
  • Despite the intense flavors, the components need to meld together to create a complex, harmonious beer, not a hot mess.
  • Aroma: Rich and complex, with variable amounts of roasted grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hops, and alcohol. The roasted malt character can take on coffee, dark chocolate, or slightly burnt tones and can be light to moderately strong. The malt aroma can be subtle to rich and barleywine-like.
  • Fruity esters may be low to moderately strong, and may take on a complex, dark fruit (e.g., plums, prunes, raisins) character.
  • An alcohol character may be present, but shouldn’t be sharp, hot, or solventy. Aged versions may have a slight vinous or port-like quality, but shouldn’t be sour.
  • Color may range from very dark reddish-brown to jet black. Opaque. Deep tan to dark brown head. Generally has a well-formed head
  • Flavor: Rich, deep, complex and frequently quite intense, with variable amounts of roasted malt/grains, maltiness, fruity esters, hop bitterness and flavor, and alcohol. Medium to aggressively high bitterness.
    • Malt backbone can be balanced and supportive to rich and barleywine-like, and may optionally show some supporting caramel, bready or toasty flavors.
    • The palate and finish can vary from relatively dry to moderately sweet
    • The balance and intensity of flavors can be affected by aging, with some flavors becoming more subdued over time and some aged, vinous or port-like qualities developing.
  • Full to very full-bodied and chewy, with a velvety, luscious texture. Gentle smooth warmth from alcohol should be present and noticeable, but not a primary characteristic;
  • The wide range of allowable characteristics allow for maximum brewer creativity.

Brewers Association 2017 Beer Style Guidelines
American-Style Imperial Stout

  • Color: Black
  • Clarity: Opaque
  • 
Perceived Malt Aroma & Flavor: Extremely rich malty aroma is typical. Extremely rich malty flavor with full sweet malt character is typical. Roasted malt astringency and bitterness can be moderate but should not dominate the overall character.
  • Perceived Hop Aroma & Flavor: Medium-high to high with floral, citrus and/or herbal character.
  • Perceived Bitterness: Medium-high to very high and balanced with rich malt character.
  • Fermentation Characteristics: Fruity-estery aromas and flavors are high. Diacetyl should be absent.
  • Body: Full

 

*FOOTNOTE:
Oh, I guess Joe indulged in what we would call “humor.”  Apparently EVERYONE knows it’s a gold medal beer!

When a miner got off his shift after hours of hammering chunks of coal from the rock in a dark, dusty, hot, and dangerous shaft, sometimes 3,000 feet deep, what he needed was a beer he could respect. 

Regarding Adambier, from Zymurgy magazine, November/December 2015 issue. “Adambier – A Modern Day Interpretation” by Horst Dunbusch. 
Along with tiswin, this beer style sounds like a candidate I should pursue in my home brewing.