Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Big Ol' Pittsburgh Beer Tasting

This past Sunday, I drove down to the Sharp Edge Creekhouse for a beer tasting, dubbed the RateBeer Pittsburgh Gathering. Participation was certainly not limited to site members, and luckily so: more people to meet, more people to bring good beer, and more people to help drink all of that beer!

We were fortunate to have some "insiders" at the Sharp Edge who could set up a private area, ice for keeping bottles/growlers cool, snifters, and rinse water .. along with some pitas and other munchies. My thanks to Hart and all the Sharp Edge staff who put up with us on that afternoon.

So, there were approximately 15-20 of us throughout the afternoon, with some late arrivals and some early departures. I, unfortunately, had to head back to Indiana before all the beer was sampled, but between the road conditions, the 90 minute drive, and my tolerance - it was good that I left when I did.

Here's what we had:
1. East End Smokestack Heritage Porter, on tap (courtesy of the brewer himself, Scott Smith)
2. Rivertowne Honey of a Nut Brown, growler (courtesy of Bob)
3. Castelain Blonde Bière, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
4. Heavyweight Lunacy, bottle (courtesy of Hart)
5. La Moneuse, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
6. Bière Darbyste, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
7. Church Brew 120 Shilling Smoked Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, growler (courtesy of Joyce)
8. Rivertowne Bringing It Bock, growler (courtesy of Paul)
9. Uitzet Tripel, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
10. East End Three, bottle (courtesy of Dennis)
11. Piraat (10.5%), magnum (courtesy of Nick, Emily)
12. Cantillon Bruocsella 1900 Grand Cru, bottle (courtesy of Hart)
13. North Country Psychedelic Nightmare, growler (courtesy of Dennis)
14. Aecht Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
15. Gouyasse Tripel (aka Goliath), bottle (courtesy of Ryan)
16. Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold, bottle (courtesy of John)
17. New Belgium La Folie, bottle (courtesy of John)
18. 3 Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek, bottle (courtesy of Alan)
19. Alaskan Smoked Porter, bottle (courtesy of Alan)
20. Church Brew Mexican Mole Stout, bottle (courtesy of Joyce)
21. Southampton 10th Anniversary Ale, bottle (courtesy of Jason)
22. North Country Liquid Love Stout, growler (courtesy of Dennis)
23. General Lafayette 275th Anniversary Ale, bottle (courtesy of Jason)
24. Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon First Edition, bottle (courtesy of Hart)
25. Church Brew Cherry Quadzilla, bottle (courtesy of Dennis)
26. Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 200?, bottle (courtesy of Nick)
27. Southampton Abbot 12, bottle (courtesy of Nate)
28. Otto's Jolly Roger Imperial Stout, bottle (courtesy of Nate)
29. Thirsty Dog Siberian Night Imperial Stout, bottle (courtesy of Mark)
30. Hurlimann Samichlaus (1995), bottle (courtesy of Mark)

I also took a few bottles of homebrewed coffee porter to pass around. I didn't get a chance to try the last 5 on the list, but was only really bummed about the Hurlimann Samichlaus!

Anyway, it was a great afternoon of socializing, trying outstanding beers, and appreciating good beer in the company of others who do the same. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to do it again soon.

PLCB Article in Post-Gazette (part 4 of 4)

Und endlich, hier ist das letztes Stück.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

PLCB Article in Post-Gazette (part 3 of 4)

The third part is found here.

There's also the public comment/forum here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

PLCB Article in Post-Gazette (part 1 of 4)

For those who don't normally look at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, today starts a four-part series on the monopoly that is the PLCB. Check it out.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Added the Coffee

A big thanks again to TJ at Commonplace Coffee ... he gave me a quart of cold-pressed Sumatran Mandheling coffee extract to add to the porter. I brought it up to boiling, then quick-cooled before adding to the secondary fermenter. Going to give it a couple of more weeks before bottling. Gotta get it ready for Febtoberfest!

Edit: In answer to Eli's question in comment 1: Yep, I boiled it last time, too. You're right in that boiled coffee can be harsh, but the difference here (at least I think it is) is that boiling/hot water was not used to extract anything from the beans, which will give that bitterness. Rather, the coffee was extracted using cold water, then the extract was brought to a boil. I suspect that if I let it boil for a while, the "cooking" reactions would impart harsh flavors, but it was just to do a quick sanitize and I cooled it down immediately. Only time will tell if this batch comes out as nice as the first one!

Edit: Adam, check out Toddy Coffee; this is the little device that my buddy TJ uses to make cold extracts. They use it for making really good iced coffee in the summer. It is indeed smooth!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

IPA and Coffee Porter to Secondary

My buddy Erick came over after work today and I helped him rack his first batch of homebrew to secondary. The gravity was at 1.010, so looking good. Tasted pretty good. We dry hopped it with 1 oz. of Cascade flower at 7.4%AA.

After that, I transferred my coffee porter to secondary. I'll be picking up the coffee extract (going with a quart of cold-pressed Sumatran Mandheling from Commonplace again). Porter gravity was at 1.011 and tasted super.

Can't wait for both of these to be done!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beer, Books, and Yogurt

Both brews from this week (porter and IPA) are finished bubbling vigorously, but I didn't get a chance to rack to secondary today. With IUP's semester starting tomorrow, there were just too many others things to attend to.

Over the weekend, I was point towards a cool book site, where you can 'rate' and review books that you've read, share lists with friends, join discussion groups, etc. If you're a bookworm, and haven't already found it, check out It's a free account, and you just need a valid email. I've kept a list of books that I've read over the years because every time I go to the library, I need to remind myself if I've read a book or not. It's particularly a problem with all the popular fiction I read where authors tend to make similar titles - like John Sandford's "Prey" titles, or James Patterson's nursery rhyme homages. I really need to read some more 'classic' literature, but by the time I get done with a day of technical reading, I just wanna unwind with books I don't have to think about.

Finally, in the spirit of fermentation, I broke out the yogurt maker tonight (first time in a long time), and made a batch for the week. One of these days, I want to try to make cheese!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Symphony of Bubbling

Walked into my kitchen this morning to find two 5 gallon primary buckets bubbling away nicely, with the metronomic clicking of two airlocks (not in synch, however). 'Tis a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Homebrew #2 for 2008 - Teaching a Friend

Two days in a row of homebrewing broke my dry spell quite well (hadn't brewed since August '07!)

Today, I tutored a buddy on extract brewing. Erick, also neighbor/colleague and fellow Indiana Homebrewers Club member, wanted to get started in brewing. He purchased ingredients for an IPA, his wife (for Xmas present) bought a carboy and bottling bucket, and I supplied some miscellaneous gear and my kitchen.

Erick came over at 2pm and I walked him through the extract brewing process ... by 5:30, the yeast was pitched and we were cleaned up. A bit shorter than yesterday!

Here's the recipe for Erick's IPA:
- 4 lbs. pale LME
- 3 lbs. extra light DME
- 10 oz 40 °L crystal malt
- 1.5 oz Nugget (60 min)
- 3/4 oz. each Northdown, Willamette; 1/4 oz. Nugget (15 min)
- 1/4 oz. each Northdown, Willamette, Nugget (1 min)
- pitched with Wyeast 1056
- O.G. 1.051

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Warm January Day: Brewing, Tasting, Homebrew Club

Some days just beg to be taken advantage of ... and today is one of those days. This is going to be one long post; edited periodically.

10am: Filling up the brewing keg with filtered water and got the burner going. It's a bit windy on the porch, but sunny and warm.

11:30am: Just started the mash for my Commonplace Coffee Porter in a converted picnic cooler. 12 lbs 2-row pale; 1 lb British chocolate malt; 12 oz 60 °L crystal; 6 oz. dextrin malt; 4 oz. black malt; and 1 oz. roasted barley. Added 14 qt of 155° water and brought mash up to ~144° Letting it sit for 30 min.

While that's steeping, I'm trying out the connections of my newly-crafted wort chiller (same one from before, just better fittings). ... :( ... one of the hoses will fit but the other won't. That's confounding, as they're both garden hoses, and both fittings are the same. Well, the input hose is leak free, so I'll just have to hold the output over the porch railing. Back to the drawing board for that!

12:10pm: Just added 6 qts of 200° water to bring mash up to around 150° which is a tad low. In keeping with what I did last time, I'm going to take a few quarts of the mash and boil, then add back to the mash. I think it gives it a bit more maltiness - like a decoction mash.

12:15pm: Just finished adding the water above when the phone rings ... it's a reporter from the local paper wanting to know if he and a photog can come to tonight's homebrew club meeting. This day is just getting better and better. Time for a lunch break.

1:30pm: The starch test was good, ready to sparge. Forgot how much my keg cools down, so I have to wait a few minutes to get my sparge water up to temp again. I'll wait while sipping a Stone Pale Ale.

1:45pm: Startin' the sparge.

2:30pm: Sparging is done. Pulled off approximately 6 gallons of wort, then started the burner.

3:25pm: Windy out ... took a bit longer to get the boil going. After the hot break, added Cascade and Northern Brewer (used 3/4 oz. each) in a hop sock. Let 'er go for 45 minutes. Added the irish moss, and put in the wort chiller to sanitize.

4:40: Started chillin'. Got the primary bucket ready & sanitized.

5:05: Chilled to about 90°, transferred to primary bucket. Got just under 5 gallons, so I added a bit of cold water to bring to 5 gallons. S.G. at 80°F was 1.058, so that's 1.060 at 60°F. Pitched Wyeast 1056 and locked up.

7:00pm: Went up to Dave's for a pre-meeting meeting. We (Dave, Justing, and Eli) sampled a Three Floyds Dreadnaught and a 'black lager' homebrew. From there, we all went up to the Coney for the January Indiana Homebrewers Club meeting, where we watched a DVD on all-grain brewing after getting some pictures taken for the local paper. After the video, we sampled four different beers from various members.

All in all, quite a nice beer day.

Monday, January 07, 2008

First Homebrew for 2008: A Repeat Recipe

I absolutely cannot pass up this unseasonably warm weather and the opportunity to brew on the porch tomorrow. I'll be making a second batch of the all-grain Commonplace Coffee Porter. I've only got five bottles of the original and must have more!

Wednesday, I'm going to help a friend & neighbor brew up his very first batch of beer - an extract IPA recipe. Once the coffee porter comes out of primary, I hope to brew a partial mash Belgian ale before January is out. Gonna be a busy brew month!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Head of Steam

I'm sipping a glass of Eli's steam beer (not the Imperial Steam, as he corrected yesterday). Steam beers, sometimes known as California Common beers, tend to be lagered, if I'm thinking straight - but I believe this batch is an ale. Correction thanks to cptvideo!: steam beers are fermented with lager yeasts at ale fermenting temperature. Thanks!

This has a nice aroma to it, with a bit of fruitiness to the hops and just a bit of DMS (nothing like last time!). Mild sweet malt and a bit of offness that's phenolic in character. Golden amber body, with mild haze, topped by a lasting, lacing, off-white creamy/foamy head. Medium body with medium carbonation. Starts with a nice rounded soft maltiness that is gets hit pretty quickly with grassy & rubbery (phenolic) hops. Mild bitterness to finish and a fairly clean after ... a bit sweet and not very much bitterness at all. I didn't find any weird aftertaste to this one, and think that the only detraction is that bit of phenolic character. Great second beer!

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Night Off From Beer (Gasp!)

This is the first Friday in a long while that I've not had a frothy pint (or bottle). Why, you ask with mouth agape?

I learned the hard way not to mix beer in the same evening with another drink - champagne. That's a hard bit of research, let me tell you, when living in Reims and having friends who make their own champagne ... but also have grocery stores where Chimay Bleu is cheaply (sob) available. Mixing the two, not even in great excess, was a bad thing.

So, with dinner and a movie at home tonight with my better half, we polished off a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Brut from our former home town. So my apologies to Eli, for promising to try his Imperial Steam Beer tonight and not making it. Tomorrow!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Ad is Placed

So the Homebrewers Club ad is now circulating in town! Hopefully, we'll garner some more interest for our January and February meetings!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Onorato Tax

I was watching the Pittsburgh news last night and of course one of the big stories was the start of the new 10% alcohol tax imposed on 'poured drinks' in Allegheny County. They had the manager of the Big Burrito Group on the report, showing that at all of their establishments, the tax on the bill was listed as the "Onorato Tax". Many bars in the area had signs outside telling customers to "Thank Dan for your higher drink prices".

The restaurant and bar association members tried to have a judge put a hold on the action last week, claiming it unfair because there are certain exemptions (like casinos for example) to those who can be taxed. The biggest exemption, of course, is the state run monopoly that is our liquor store system. Of course, for consumers, it's nice not to have to pay more when buying spirits, but the local pub or restaurant is getting hosed.

I think the whole mess sucks. Pennsylvania has probably the highest, if not THE highest, taxes on alcohol (including the 18% Johnstown Flood tax). Now, for those rare times when I actually get to enjoy a fine pint of Belgian or micro beer in Allegheny Co., I'm going to have to pay $0.40-$0.80 more. All to fund a mismanaged and corrupt Port Authority transit system, which I never use.

Here are some links for more information:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Snappy New Beer!

Snappy New Beer ... wished on me by a colleague and fellow Indiana Homebrewer at midnight. It's probably been around, but it was honestly the first I'd heard it and seemed appropriate.

So anyway, Happy New Year to all and may 2008 bring you happiness, success, and lots of good beer!