Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thursday Night - A Hoppy Time At My House

On this past Thursday, several of us gathered at Maison Nate for some beer tasting and joke telling - the latter improving (at least that's what I perceived) with more of the former.

Eli was the first to arrive, and he brought with him two Port Brewing/Lost Abbey beers: High Tide Fresh Hop IPA and Wipeout IPA, and also a nice chunk of bleu cheese. Next came Dave, who brought a few homebrews (Show Your Hoppy-ness (sp?) and Justin's Rising Sun Ginger-Sesame Red Ale), along with a Three Floyds Gumballhead, and an AleSmith IPA and YuleSmith (Winter) Imperial Red Ale. He contributed some olives, crackers, and a hunk of asiago. Justin showed a bit late after his drive from the Burgh, bringing DFH Palo Santo Marron, Pizza Port Hop 15, and Port Brewing Old Viscosity. Jon was the last to arrive, but not too late.

Oh, and I supplied a Full Sail Nugget Special Read Ale that I'd brought back from out West on a trip last July and some OK cheddar.

Very nice evening sipping quality beers, telling raunchy jokes, and eating good food.

Handbook of Brewing

So I purchased some books the other day for work (both research and teaching) and threw in a couple of on-the-border titles (meaning I don't use them yet at work but I might) that I found particularly interesting. Couple of food chemistry books, one on malting and mashing, and then Handbook of Brewing (2 ed) by Priest & Stewart.

Holy crap, what an awesome book for beer/science geeks. It's a CRC publication under the Food Science and Technology series (with almost 100 titles ranging from food analysis, drug residues in food, food toxicology, dairy science, and oenology, etc.).

Anyway, I think at some point I'm going to have to teach a food/brewing chemistry class as an elective. Fascinating stuff considering we're putting this in our bodies several times a day.

Belgian to Secondary

I had the chance yesterday morning to rack the Belgian golden over to secondary. Still very cloudy, despite the irish moss, but it tasted fine and has a gravity of 1.020, down from 1.072 - making it just under 7%abv.

Still gotta get that coffee porter into bottles, but it seems happy enough to sit in the basement for now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Fine Cup of Coffee - New Territory

So my local coffee shop, The Commonplace, has added to their arsenal of fine coffee-making machines: The Clover. And of course, trendsetter that he is, as soon as TJ bought one of these for the shop, Starbucks bought the company that makes these machines. C'est la vie.

Anyway, I had the chance on Tuesday morning to try my first cup from this machine. Got an 8oz Honduran? Cup of Excellence blend. I didn't know what to make of it right away because:
1. it's highly filtered so the body is lighter than the French-press stuff
2. it's much more fruity and other flavors I've never experienced in coffee now come through
3. it's the first cup of straight black coffee that I truly enjoyed, rather than endured (normally need cream)

So, I look forward to testing more coffee varietals and having them alter the dwell times of the machine - and I look forward to acquiring a new taste in really good coffee. Cheers to TJ & The Commonplace!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homebrewing a Blonde Abbey Ale

It's pretty crappy out today, like it has been all week, and the rain just keeps coming. Well, what better activity to chase away the March blahs than beer brewing!

This evening, I'm making a partial mash-extract Blonde Abbey Ale, based on a Leffe Blonde clone recipe.

To start, I'm adding 3.5qt of 155 °F filtered water to: 2.5lb 2-row pilsner malt; 4.0oz each Belgian biscuit, Belgian aromatic, German Munich malts; and 2.0oz honey malt.

I let that sit at ~141 °F for 30 minutes. Now, I'm borrowing a simple picnic cooler and putting the grains into a grain sock, so adequately mixing the grains is difficult and I'm sure I'm going to have cold spots in there which will affect the efficiency. But it's my first partial mash (PM), so not everything is optimal. My next step will be to buy my own mini cooler (this is Dave's cooler) and add a screen at the bottom so that I don't have to keep using grain socks.

While this was going on, I brought 2 gallons of filtered water to a boil on the stove. By the time 30 minutes was up, the water was down to about 200 °F. I added roughly 1.5qts of this into the cooler to bring the temperature up to ~150 °F, and I let that sit for 60 minutes.

At this point Jon arrived, and we chatted for a bit over a Weihenstephaner Korbinian, a German Doppelbock. He stepped out for an errand, and I prepped the sparge water by bringing the temperature up to ~178 °F.

Sparged and drew off enough liquor, as best I could ... difficult without a true grain bed. Regardless, I got at least 1.5 gallons of wort. Brought this to a boil, then added 6lbs of Extra Light DME, then added enough water to make ~2.5 gallons for the boil.

After the hot break, I added about 5oz of clear candi sugar and 1oz of Brewers Gold (6.8%AA). Boiled for 45 minutes and added irish moss and about 0.7oz of Hallertau Hersbrucker (3.3%AA) for flavor. Meanwhile, Jon had returned with Autumn, and we watched some goofy crap on YouTube, like Star Wars kid and the Sarah Silverman/Jimmy Kimmel video war (with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck) ... all the while sipping a nice Nils Oscar Imperial Stout, which I'd had before during a hedonistic RateBeer Summer Gathering in Stockholm (Jul 04). Good to try it again.

Boiled another 15 minutes, killed the heat, and put the pot in the sink to chill. Brought the volume up to ~5.2 gallons and checked the O.G. (1.072!). I then added a slap pack of Wyeast 1214 Abbey Ale and a year+old pack of Wyeast 1762 Abbey Ale II. Temperature was about 65 °F, so I capped it off and set the bucket next to the radiator.

And that, for a rainy Wednesday, is that.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Super Tuesday (for beer, not voting)

Yesterday was my Spring Break beer-related day, starting with a road trip and finishing with a homebrew club meeting. It wasn't quite the journey from last year, but it was a great day.

I picked up Justin (aka Naka) at 10am, and after grabbing some caffeinated sustenance at The Commonplace Coffeehouse, we headed west on Rt 422 towards Kittanning ,Butler, and New Castle. At New Castle, we hung a left toward Boardman, Ohio, our first destination.

Why Boardman? Well, because of an absolutely wonderful beer & wine store named Vintage Estate Wine & Beer. First, we had lunch up the road at a place called Rocknes Pub & Restaurant ... a run-of-the-mill pub like TGI's or Chili's or "Chotchkies". The food was fine but uninspiring. In fact, the whole strip of businesses and restaurants all along Rt 224 in Boardman was the most bland yet eclectic collection of businesses I'd seen in a long time: Home Depot next to a mall next to Olive Garden next to a mattress store next to an adult store called "Ambiance". The whole area kinda sucked the spirit out of you. But I digress....

Vintage Estate!! Man, worth the two-hour drive from Indiana. The beer selection was phenomenal and the prices, compared to Pittsburgh beer stores and the asinine Allegheny Co. Onorato tax, were very, very reasonable. I had a wish list and some cash from Eli, whose order I filled first. Justin was busy gathering his stuff.

After getting Eli's stuff, I picked up the following:
  • Ølfabrikken Porter

  • Haandbryggeriet Norwegian Wood

  • Nils Oscar Imperial Stout

  • Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout

  • Mikkeller Big Worse Barley Wine

  • Chouffe Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel

  • Mad River Steelhead Scotch Porter

  • Tripel Karmeliet

  • Allagash Curieux

  • Bottleworks Van den Vern Grand Cru

  • De Dolle Arabier

  • De Dolle Dulle Teve

  • Left Hand Milk Stout

  • 't Smisje Grande Reserva

  • Weihenstephaner Korbinian

  • Weihenstephaner Vitus

After making the purchases and loading the car, Naka and I headed to the back of the store for a sampling of some of the beers that Ron Bush (the proprietor) had on tap. He rotates six different ones and yesterday there was:
  1. Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot

  2. Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale

  3. Founders Pale Ale

  4. New Holland Night Tripper

  5. Bell's Consecrator Doppelbock

  6. Lagunitas The Hairy Eyeball

I'd had the Lagunitas and Weyerbacher before, so I tried the other four.

After a great time at Vintage Estates, we hit the road and drove straight to East End Brewing in Pittsburgh - making it just in time for growler hours at 5pm. There weren't many people to show up between 5-6, so we hung out and chatted with Scott and Richard, tried a few samples (including the soon-to-be-released Monkey Boy, a German Hefeweizen). I left with a growler each of the Best Bitter and the Dubbel Trubbel.

We left Pittsburgh and headed home. After dropping Justin off and stopping home for a bit, it was time to head uptown to The Coney for the March meeting of the Indiana Homebrewers Club. The article about our club, published in the local paper last month, helped get us six new members last night! We talked about the hop shortage, tried some great homebrews and the two East End beers, and I ended up staying until midnight.

In all, a great beer day!

Monday, March 03, 2008

100th Post, Erick's IPA, and A Two-Week Rollercoaster

Wow - the 100th post here. Hard to believe that a) time has gone so fast and b) I had that much to say.

Well, I'm sitting here sipping on Erick's IPA that he and I brewed together in January and bottled on Feb 11. Pretty darned tasty. Not harsh, nice dry-hopped bitterness and floral aromas. Great head and retention, and cleared fairly well. I'll be savoring this six pack of it! I'll do a 'rating' later.

Quite a few weeks it's been. On Friday, 2/22, Justin, Jess, and Dave came over to the house for one wicked tasting. We enjoyed:
So the four of us polished those off over a few hours while watching comedians on YouTube, BS'ing, and starting an episode of the original Police Squad. Great evening!

Last week was busy at work and my wife was fighting a wicked head cold while doing 12-hour rotations at the local E.R. On 2/28, I got another year older, but celebrated with Erick and Betsy (and Dana) at The Coney with some bottled Nugget Nectar.

The real downer was yesterday, however, when my 57 year-old aunt Debbie passed away after battling with lung cancer, which had spread aggressively to her brain and her bones. My dad's only sister (she was ~14 years younger) and my only aunt (Mom's an only child). She lived her adult life in Woodbridge, VA but will be buried in PA next to my grandparents on Saturday.

Such is life, though. For those of you who smoke: you're idiots.

In other news, we're trying to decide what to do next week for our March Homebrewers club meeting. IUP is on Spring Break next week, too, so I'm hoping to brew a batch and perhaps do an encore Spring Break Beer Road Trip.

Oh - finally. Happy Birthday to my brother Jason!