Thursday, October 29, 2009

Earth Bread + Brewery Delivers

I suppose you could take that title to mean a few different things, but this past Monday evening, it was quite literal! Indiana Homebrewer Co-founder Emeritus Jon (aka santoslhalper) came back to western PA for a few days from Philly. On Monday night, he stopped in Indiana to visit a few of us who remain in town. Jon is now an assistant brewer at Earth Bread + Brewery in Philly.

'Round about 7pm, Jon and the rest of the crew (Dave, Justin, James, and Joe) popped over to my house for a tasting. Jon brought with him four growlers of Earth Bread + Brewery beers: Durham Strasse (a Berliner Weisse), 2bok4sur (a Doppelbock), Resin 2 Smile (an IPA), and Biere de Septembre (a biere de garde).

After those, we opened up a bottle of homebrew from an acquaintance of mine from work - it was superb sour Belgian ale and I hope that we'll get more soon. Finally, we cracked open the last four homebrews that a few of us have been working on with the 10-gallon all-grain system. We had a bitter, a saison, a lager, and pale ale.

All in all, a great evening. A big thanks to Jon for hauling growlers across the state for us. He left with a case of our homebrew, but I think we still got the better end of that deal!

Monday, October 05, 2009

2nd RateBeer Pittsburgh Gathering

I didn't get a chance until now to write up something about the terrific beer tasting I went to back in August at the Sharp Edge Creekhouse. You can check it out at The Hop Press.

That was a good day!

An Oktoberfest Wedding

On Saturday, my wife and I went to the wedding of one of her former coworkers/classmates. The reception was interesting in that it was an Oktoberfest theme. After the mass, we all went across the road to the hall, and the attached pavillion.

Before dinner, we all gathered at the covered, outdoor pavillion where a polka band played various German-Polish music. There were hot pretzels with mustards, and a veggie tray, and two beers on tap (Bud Lite and Yuengling, not real German beers).

The reception hall was set up with 10 different rows of tables. Roughly four tables per row. Each two tables were given a German region name, and each table of the region was given a German city name. This was a cool way to seat guests - find your region and city. Once you found your seat, the wedding 'table favor' was a nice dimpled beer glass with your name on a ribbon. Voila, you automatically had a way to get your beer for the rest of the reception.

The food was OK - brats, roasted chicken, potato salad and potato pancakes. And, of course, a German-chocolate cake.

The final touch - it was held in New Germany, PA.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Hop Press

There's a new feature over at RateBeer, if you're not a frequent visitor. They've started a new blog/media service called The Hop Press for some of the more frequent contributors, rather than sticking with the weekly articles. It's still in some development, but the content frequency has increased and will hopefully offer more correspondences from beer geeks 'on the street'. The few articles I wrote (about one year) have been archived at Nate's Notes. I hope to add articles a bit more frequently now.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Busy Brew Night

Last night was our first brewing night in a couple of weeks and our last for a couple of weeks. Between some conflicts and travel plans, getting four of us together at once gets to be difficult sometimes.

Regardless, last night was productive. Joe brewed up a 10-gallon batch of pilsener, and while he was doing that, Dave and I were packaging a back log of brews. First, we bottled a 5-gallon batch of Joe's first pilsener. Next up was Dave's first 10-gallon batch of a bitter, which we split into half - two cases of bottles and a five-gallon keg. Finally, we ended with my last 10-gallon batch of saison (tasted great!), with five gallons going into a keg, and two cases of bottles.

Had a good brew night and finished all the bottling/kegging within our normal brewing night time. I have to say, I hate bottling and last night was not my idea of fun, but I'll appreciate it more when I can crack open a few of those bottles and enjoy some great homebrew.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My First 10 Gallon Batch

Short post. Tonight I made my first ever 10 gallon all grain. It was a simple saison recipe that I scaled up from a 5 gallon recipe that I did a month ago. The first batch of saison that I made on July 28 was kegged up two weeks ago and served at a party at our house. With 50 guests, several of them beer lovers and homebrewers, it took all of 3 hours to kill 5 gallons.

So, tonight I scaled up to 10 gallons. The only major changes were, hopefully, improvements. Last time I used a little wheat DME. This time, it was all grain. I used 16 lbs of pilsner malt, 2 lbs of wheat malt, and 2 lbs of honey. I used Hersbrucker and Hallertauer, and a touch of crushed coriander. Pitched with saison yeast.

I doughed in at 5:40 and pitched by 9:50, so not too bad for double the liquid volume!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Another IPA with Erick

Today I helped Erick make an extract IPA. We started with 1 lb Crystal 60°L and some leftover Belgian aromatic malt, crushed with a rolling pin and steeped for 30 min.

Once that was sparged, we boiled and added 3 lbs. XLDME and 4 lbs LME.

1 oz. Phoenix (60 min)
3/4 oz. EKG (15 min)
3/4 oz. Cascade (15 min)
1 oz. Cascade (1 min)
1/2 oz. EKG (1 min)

O.G. was a little lower than we'd hoped for at 1.040. Pitched at 70°F with 1056 American Ale, and he'll dry hop in secondary with another 1 oz. Cascade.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

14 Years and a Good Steak

Yesterday was my 14th wedding anniversary. Hard to believe sometimes, but then again both of our 20th high school reunions were/are this summer. Anyway, to celebrate we went for dinner last night to Nap's Cucina Mia here in Indiana. We try to get to Nap's once a month and we never have a bad meal there. Nick, the son of the owners, spent a year in Italy for part of his culinary training. The menu is small, compared to other places in town, but the food is just freakin' outstanding. Homemade pasta & sauces, fresh local produce and meats, prepared while you watch (the kitchen is behind the 'bar' and place only seats perhaps 50 people).

Normally we get pasta, but last night I finally got the filet (mignon), frequently a special, and it was without a doubt the best piece of steak I've eaten in town. It's not cheap, but it is delicious. Superb crust, seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe something else. Rich and buttery on the inside, and almost fork tender.

So if you're local and haven't been, or if for some reason you plan to visit Indiana - do yourself a favor and have dinner at Nap's.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brewing Update

So a couple of us have gotten together the last few weeks and brewed some all grain beer. Tonight was my turn as Der Braumeister and I opted to make a saison. Dough-in to yeast pitch was 3:45, and my new mash tun worked really well. Our efficiency was a bit low, but I think that might be a result of the milling.
  • 8 lb 2-row pilsner malt
  • 1 lb aromatic
  • 1 lb extra light DME (boil)
  • 1 lb wheat DME (boil)
  • 1 lb honey (5 min boil)
  • Hersbrucker (1 oz @60 min; 0.75 oz @20 min; 0.25 oz @2 min)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • WL Belgian ale pitched at 70°F
The O.G. was 1.050, which was just a bit lower than I wanted, but that was also because we had a little over 6 gallons, rather than 5.25.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

One More Reason to Despise the PLCB

So we went to State College yesterday to visit the Arts Fest and People's Choice Festival (in Boalsburg) and so there had to be the requisite stop at Otto's for a bite and pint. I enjoyed the Munich Dunkel and a pint of Arthur's Best Bitter, and held back from getting some 2009 Jolly Roger. I was disappointed to see the Triple D IPA gone from the menu, and hope it'll come back again for me to try.

The reason for the snide title, however, is because of the ludicrous classification of Otto's new venture, Keewaydin Cider. It's available in 22 oz. bombers for just over $6, and you can get a taste of it - it's good. However, after dinner as I was about to settle up, I learned that those handy 22 oz. bottles can only be consumed in the restaurant! Why? Because the PLCB considers their cider to be a wine, and therefore Otto's lacks the correct license to sell it for take-out. So Woodchuck and Bulmers and tons of other ciders are fine to buy in sixpack stores - but somehow PA-made Otto's Keewaydin cider is a wine.

I wish Otto's the best of luck in unloading over 700 cases of this stuff by restaurant-only consumption - hopefully they can sell it to other restaurants? Or maybe I'll be able to go to the local liquor store soon and buy some.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Gorillo's in Butler

For those who might be curious after reading the previous post, we did indeed kick the keg of Belgian ale I took to the family reunion. After it carbed up, you could detect a bit of age (not surprising since it sat in my basement since April 2008) but it was drinkable.

On Thursday last, I drove to my parents' place and met up with my younger brother. We played 18 holes at Hiland golf course, despite some Belgian-like gray and rainy weather. We got pretty wet, but enjoyed playing. It was my first game in 8 years, and the best I could do was bogey 30% of the holes. My aim was off, but I was hitting them straight ... I guess an 8-year hiatus helped get rid of my slice.

Anyway, after golf we drove into Butler to check out Gorillo's Pizza (129 South Monroe St., Butler, PA). Through this and the Indiana Homebrewers Club blog, I was contacted by John Cirillo who owns the place. Since I was going to be very close to Butler, I couldn't not stop in to check it out (the paucity of good beer places in that area is disgruntling when I visit the folks).

I believe it was an old convenience store, and now it has the beer place on the left and a hot dog shop on the right. The pumps have been removed and there is a decent amount of parking. The late Friday afternoon crowd was moving through quickly, with just about everybody picking up 6- and 12-packs of light beers and macro lagers. A few were grabbing tall boys and 40s of malt liquor. OK, so what? Well - the gem of this place is the small selection of craft beers offered at rock bottom prices.

Hoppin' Frog, Victory, Bear Republic, Lagunitas, Voodoo, Chimay Bleu, Ommegang, etc. All priced very aggressively and some were several dollars cheaper than I've found in Pittsburgh or Indiana. In addition, he has three taps and fills growlers of Magic Hat, Shiner Bock, and East End Black Strap. In fact, a growler of Black Strap was going for $6.99!! That's a few dollars cheaper than if you go to East End yourself. Mixed six-packs of craft beers are $9.99.

Although you can sit and have a pint, it's not the best place for ambiance unless you like watching some interesting people. They also have a short food menu. So, if you're in Butler, this is the best place I've found yet to pick up some good beer at great prices.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My First Kegging Experience

So today, finally, after a long wait to get my equipment and some time, I kegged homebrew for the first time. And I am excited. Ever since my first few batches, I have loathed and continue to loathe one step in all of homebrewing: bottling. I do it; I help others do it. But I don't like it. Hence my excitement for kegging. And actually, the delay in kegging has affected my homebrewing output. I swore to myself that I would not brew another batch of beer after the Belgian ale (sorta Leffe clone) in April 2008 until I kegged it.

Well, short of helping some others brew and teaching the Brewpub and Brewery Operations course, I have not brewed at home since batch 08B03. Sad, I know, but I'm stubborn sometimes.

Anyway ... I've had five Corny kegs sitting in my basement for a while now, gracious gifts from my friend Tom, whose cousin gave him about 40 of the things from the Pepsi plant. A few weeks ago, I placed an order with for some connections, O-rings, and a few other gadgets in order to wash and recondition the kegs. Last week, I cleaned up two of them, then placed an order with for a CO2 tank, regulator, and a couple of picnic taps. The tank and regulator arrived via FedEx this afternoon, and I got the 5-lb tank filled at the local oxygen gas place for $10.

So, after sanitizing two kegs with iodophor, I racked the beer from the carboy into the first keg that I'd purged with CO2. After putting some pressure on it, I submerged the bottom quarter of it in a bucket of ice water to try to cool it down as much as possible. For non-chemists, carbon dioxide gas dissolves much easier (i.e., with less pressure) in colder liquid than in warmer liquid. I've got about 10 lbs pressure on it right now and I shake it periodically.

After is cools down some more, I'm going to force the beer from the first keg to the second sanitized keg while holding pressure. This mixing/moving should help carbonate the beer more quickly that placing static pressure on it. My friend Tom does this up to four times (hell, he has enough kegs to do it). Hopefully then, the beer in the second keg will be cold and better carbonated, then I can really shake it up, roll it on the floor, etc. in order to mix in the gas. It should be ready for serving on Friday and Saturday for our family's reunion.

The beer itself? Well, it started out as a Belgian blonde-ish Leffe clone, but after 15 months in the basement, it's gotten a little richer than that. I took the final gravity today at 1.008, that's down from 1.072 - so we're looking at 8.4% abv. And it tastes darn fine ... can't wait to drink it in two days, rather than waiting three or more weeks had I bottled it.

Now all I need is a counter-pressure bottle filler ;)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Asheville, Hilton Head, and the Triangle

After my diligent blogging in May with the brew course and Pints for Pets, I feel so lazy this month; partly because I was out of town for a while, which is a bummer because Adam and I might have been able to hook up for a pint.

Anyway, I did manage to drink and bring back some good beer because of my travels. My wife and I did a week on Hilton Head with her sister and her family. Amy and Jeremy and our two nephews, Jackson and Jude, had a great time at the beach. Did a lot of biking, sunning, and eating.

On the way there, Dana and I stopped for a day in Asheville, NC. I got to try some beers from Green Man Brewing (Jack of the Wood) and we of course hit the Thirsty Monk for some nice selections on tap. Of particular enjoyment was Ommegang Grand Cru Rouge, a wonderful sour ale on tap.

Before leaving town, I also hit up Bruisin' Ales, the best beer store in Asheville if not the state of North Carolina. I grabbed some Carolina beers and found some others not available easily here, such as a Struise Black Albert.

On Hilton Head, the only brewpub is the Hilton Head Brewing Company, which has been around for quite a while (mid 90s), yet every time we go there it consistently amazes me how they stay in business. The beers are usually mediocre and the food is hit or miss, but the service is usually good. There's just no WOW factor, but I guess as they don't have that much competition beer-wise, they get by.

On the way back from vacation, we broke up the trip again by overnighting in North Carolina, this time in Cary. We lived in Chapel Hill for a year and Cary for two, and this was the first time we'd been back since 1999. Other than some friends, we don't miss the Triangle. We drove around a bit to see what had changed, but didn't spend much time there. Beer highlights included buying two mixed six-packs at Trader Joe's for less than $12, and I also found some goodies at the Whole Foods in Raleigh. It amazes me that Victory Wild Devil sells at Whole Paycheck in Raleigh for $8.49, when it costs me $9.50 here in my own town in the same freakin' state in which the beer is brewed. Maddening.

We did hit the Weaver Street Market in Carrboro on Saturday morning for lunch items for the ride home, including a small piece of chaource cheese that we can't get in PA.

Anyway, the trip was good and I ate tons of great seafood and oddly, drank less alcohol than on any other trips to the beach ... must have been the sobering influence of my nephews :)

In other news, the remaining parts to for my new mash tun came in and so I hope to finish that this week in order to all grain brew a saison or a tripel in the next few weeks. I still have to buy a CO2 tank and regulator and clean out some kegs in order to keg batch 08B03 (yes, it's been sitting in a carboy this whole time) which still smells terrific. If I mess up the kegging, I won't feel too bad. I'd like to be able to take a keg to my family reunion on the 4th of July!

Finally, Dave seems to have made good use of my brew keg, burner, and wort chiller this past week for a barley wine and second runnings 'table beer'. Can't wait to taste those.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pints for Pets Was Terrific

Just a quick post - the 2nd Annual Pints for Pets was terrific (again). The early session was laid back and not crowded at all, although I understand the later session was close to sold out. Tons of great brews available - more than I could try in 3 hours. I tried several good ones, but the stand out beer was Bullfrog Frambozen. It was a raspberry lambic, blended from two separate batches. I felt like I was back in Belgium drinking something special from Cantillon or Drie Fonteinen. Sour, funky, and full of raspberry goodness.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 15

We had a packed last day of class! Tom and I met early to chill some beer and get a few things ready for the food-beer tasting. Unfortunately, one of our students opened the fridge a bit fast and we lost two bottles of bitter ... sniffle. Anyway, after that clean up, we started class with the final exam, which covered beer brewing, styles, etc. This took most people between 30-45 minutes to take.

Next, we got to our four group presentations on brewpub or brewery feasibility studies. I have to say all five in the past two days were quite inventive and well-presented. I'd visit all five of them if they were to open (of course it didn't hurt to find a couple of beers named in my honor).

The final bit of class was a beer-food pairing. Most all of the students brought in food dishes ranging from chili or nacho dips to wings, ribs, cheese, and pasta. All in all, a great spread and the beers both turned out well.

Tom said that this was the best group of students in the three years he's taught the course. They did an excellent job, had some fun, learned a lot, and were generally pleasant to work with. Hopefully, I'll be invited back to help out again next summer - and will gladly do so!

Thanks for reading - we now return you to your normally scheduled blogging.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 14

Next to the last day! I took up the first half hour discussing more on beer styles, trying to link characteristics to those we'd tried during the course. I showed the students a couple of beer websites (like RateBeer and Beer Advocate that have their own style guides but are both influenced by the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines.

Next, we had some student presenters give small talks (as make up work for missing class) on various subjects. The first student talked about marketing as it relates to brewpub/breweries. The second gave a talk on the calculation of ABV from specific gravities and its relation to the density of ethanol and water. The third gave some history on just a few breweries/brewpubs in PA.

After this, the students hit the computer lab while Tom and I met with individual groups to go over their feasibility study slides. At 11, we all re-gathered in the main lecture room to listen to one of the five feasibility studies. It was an idea for a brewpub in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. They included initial costs, types of equipment, beer menu (with names), food menu, and an overall plan.

Tomorrow is the last day and we start with the final exam.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 13

The majority of today's class was taken up by a great talk from state police Sgt. J. Jones, a member of the Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, which under no circumstances should be confused with the PLCB. Sgt. Jones talked for almost 90 minutes about all of the considerations of running a licensed establishment, including the rules and regs for serving, open hours, gambling, and ID checks. He finished the talk with a segment on fake IDs and how to spot them. He also passed around several confiscated IDs from different states. It's amazing how poorly some people try to create a fake ID.

After Sgt. Jones left, one of our students gave a brief presentation (as make-up work for missing a field trip day) on safety in brewpubs/breweries. He's a safety science major and so this brought some new viewpoints to the operations side. Next, we assembled everyone in the computer room for more group feasibility project work. Tom and I met with some students about their presentations that are happening tomorrow and Friday.

Tom and I also cracked open a bottle each of the bitter and the lager that we brewed in class. Both had carbed up pretty well and should be good for Friday's final tasting/food pairing. Each could use a little longer to optimize, but we're dealing with a tight schedule.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 12

We started today's lecture with a bit of talk on yeast in a bit more detail than I'd covered before during the brewing process.

Our scheduled guest speaker to was Linda Chicka from ARIN IU-28 to talk about alcoholism - including the signs of alcohol addiction, how it affects work/productivity, and what to do about employees under your supervision who may be alcoholics. The facts and figures on the cost of alcoholism to taxpayers and businesses is, if you'll forgive the pun, sobering. It's a hard problem.

Finally, students handed in their brew tour journals from last week's trips. I spent the afternoon reading over those and editing the final exam. Tomorrow, we'll have a member of the state police talk to us for a while, then get in depth with more beer styles.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 11

Today was more class time, down in the computer room. First we finished the Beer Clean Glasses video, which explained the proper way to clean and test for cleanliness in beer glasses in addition to pouring a good head. A bit cheesy in its production value, but informative nonetheless.

Following this, we let the students work in their groups on the feasibility studies for their PA brewpub. As they worked, we also brought up some helpful websites for them to look at, including: RateBeer, the U.S. Census Fact Finder, the PA Restaurant Inspection Database, and the PLCB license search. You can find a lot of neat information on these sites, although you may NOT want to know what health infractions your favorite eatery has been sited for!

With a bit of remaining time, I lectured on water quality and its role in the brewing process. Tomorrow we're having an outside speaker talk about alcoholism and dealing with employees who may be alcoholics.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 10

After four days of road trips, it was nice to be back in the classroom. We started today with an hour-long debriefing on all the places we visited this week. It was a good chance to have a discussion about the different brew houses, menus, etc. and find out what students liked and disliked.

After a short break, Tom handed out several papers on food-beer pairing, and also an equipment pricing sheet for brewing equipment. After a short discussion, we headed to the computer room to watch a video of a Food Network show on brewpubs, hosted by Al Roker.

Finally, we organized the work groups for the brewpub feasibility studies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 9

The last day of field tripping was also the shortest. Today, we left at 9am and drove to Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville. We started the visit with a tour of the facility and then headed to a small meeting room for a presentation by brewers Andrew and Barrett (Sean, formerly of Johnstown was also there, but he was brewing).

For about an hour, Andrew and Barrett gave us a talk on all of the considerations you must take into account when opening a brewpub versus a microbrewery - from operating expenses, material costs, employee costs, licenses, utilities, etc. Quite enlightening, and considering some of the archaic PA laws, it's amazing that anyone would even venture into this type of enterprise. Well, kudos to those who do and we're thankful for it!

Afterwards, we enjoyed a great lunch and some beer, then headed home. Tomorrow, we pick up with lecture again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 8

Today was day 3 of 4 for field trips and we found ourselves back in Pittsburgh. We left a bit later today because our morning plan to go to North Country was scrapped. The class has gone there in the past, but this year despite repeated calls, no one would get back to us. Hope everything is OK in Slippery Rock!

So, we left at 11:00 and drove down to the Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh by 12:30. We were seated at two adjacent tables and enjoyed a great lunch of German fare, with some great beer to boot (well, no one got a boot glass, but that's another story). After lunch, we met with Ed, the head brewer, Eckhard, the brewmaster, and Tom, the general manager. They gave us an informal presentation on the store, the brewing, etc. After which, we got a small brewhouse tour. Interestingly, all the beer is brewed on site here - except for the Maibock (now on tap) and the Oktoberfest. Both, because of licensing issues, must be imported from Germany.

After our tour, we drove across town to Church Brew Works. Here we were greeted by Brant, the head brewer, and given a quite thorough tour of the facility and a great presentation on the brewing process. We even got to see the yeast lab. After a brief taster, it was time to wrestle through rush hour traffic and head back home.

A big thanks to Ed, Eckhard, Tom, and Brant!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 7

Another day of field tripping today - this time everyone went to the same places. We left IUP at about 10:30 and drove to Edgewood to visit D's Six Pack & Dogz, arguably the best bottle shop in the Burgh. The students were able to find many more styles and brands of beer that just aren't available to us over here in Indiana, and most walked away with some bottles of good stuff. We also met briefly with the owner (and I just completely blanked on his name - sorry!) and Hootie, "The Executive Director of the Nectar".

Next, we drove over to the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium on St. Clair Street for a late lunch and tour of one of the best Belgian beer bars. Hart, the director of beverage acquisitions for the 4-store chain was there to talk to us about the locations, their beer selection, and all the challenges of running a place in the Pittsburgh area. He was also gracious in giving us happy hour beer flight prices! After a great lunch, we got a tour of the place, including the beer storage area.

Finally, we made our way over to our final stop, East End Brewing. Scott and his assistant brewer (sorry - forgot his name, too!) were on hand to tour us around the brewery and offer up some samples of their beers. When the tour was over, the students (and the instructors) purchased a growler of stuff to go (in my case, two growlers and two bottles). We hit some rush hour traffic but did make it back home in fairly good time.

After a long day on the road, I then had to host the May meeting of the Indiana Homebrewers' Club. Students from the class were invited, but only one showed - not surprising since they'd been with either Tom or me all day: why ruin their evening ;)

Anyway, a homebrewer and former student of mine was the guest tonight and he showed us how to build some nice mash/lauter tuns and hot liquor tanks from picnic coolers using PEX tubing. Other than missing a few pieces not available at Lowe's, I'm just about done with mine. I'm anxious to start the all-grain brewing for the summer again.

Thanks to our hosts today at D's, Sharp Edge, and East End! Tomorrow, it's off to Pittsburgh again for the Hofbräuhaus and Church Brew Works.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brewery and Brewpub Operations: Day 6

Today was the first day of field trips. Tom started early and left at 6:45 with his group to go to Red Star Brewing in Greensburg. Afterwards, they were going to go to Rock Bottom in Homestead at the Waterfront.

My group left just a bit later at 7:20 and drove to Marzoni's in Duncansville. Bill was brewing a batch of Avalanche IPA today and we arrived in time to see the transfer of the mash liquor to the brew kettle. Bill graciously and patiently answered several questions from the students, gave them a tour of the facilities, and then took us to the bar for a sampling of the Marzoni's lineup. Today's specials were the Scotch Ale and a great Maibock. After the sampling, several students took turns raking grain out of the mash tun.

We left Marzoni's at about 11:15 and drove to State College. We arrived at Otto's Pub & Brewery at 12:15 and started with a round of drinks and lunch. The Bourbon Barrel Aged Jolly Roger was still on cask, but unfortunately the Double D IPA was off tap for a few hours. After a terrific lunch, we got a tour of the brewing operations. Charlie was off premises today at a fly fishing tournament, so Nick was happy to step in for all of the questions from the students.

A big thanks to all of the brewers and other staff today for their patience and great hospitality.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Zeno's and Otto's Never Fail to Please

Yesterday, my wife and I went to State College for the first time (together) since last year's Arts Fest. After enjoying a good lunch at Faccia Luna and driving around to see what had changed, we parked downtown and did some walking around and shopping.

Of course, after walking around for a while, one does tend to build up a thirst. So into Zeno's we went for a refreshing draught. I was anxious to try a couple of Zeno's brews - brewed by Otto's. The first was the Rye Ale, a nice specialty grain brew that was very nice - great hoppy character. The second one was a Schwarzbier aka Black Lager. It was a bit sweeter - almost like a porter - than other German Schwarzbiers that I've had, but very tasty. While I was drinking those, my wife enjoyed a glass of Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux saison from draught! Delicious.

As I ordered our first round, I notice a gentleman sitting at the bar taking some notes on the beer he was drinking. I struck up a conversation only to find out that he was another RateBeer user (frothingslosh) from Greensburg whom I'd talked to on the site several times but never got to meet in person. Small world.

We left Zeno's and did some more stuff down town, then I got dropped off at Otto's while my wife did some more shopping at Target, etc. I walked into the bar, only to sit down next to frothingslosh again! Luckily, the Bourbon-Barrel Aged Jolly Roger Imperial Stout was still on cask. Absolutely delicious and sublime. Following that, I had some cask Arthur's Best Bitter.

All in all, a successful beer day. After a quick appetizer, we headed over to see the new Star Trek movie, which was really good despite the fact that neither of us is a Trekkie.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A New Blog and A "New" Beer Place in Indiana,PA

Our good friend, homebrew club founder emeritus, and assistant brewer at Earth Bread + Brewery, Jon, has started a new blog: Proclamations of a Malt Lover.

And wonder of wonders, one of our existing bars here in Indiana has stepped up its game in the craft beer arena... Boomerangs (formerly Kangaroos to us older folks) has just this week installed a 20-tap system! Although it's not up to Pittsburgh/Philly beer bar quality, it's going to give The Coney and HB Culpepper's a run. In addition to several standard macros and macro imports, there is Hoegaarden, Brooklyn Brown Ale, RedHook CopperHook, Lagunitas IPA, Magic Hat #9, and Lindemans Framboise.

There's hope for this town yet!

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 5

Today was bottling day for the most part. Tom and I and a few students were in early at 8am to sanitize equipment and bottles. Once the rest of the class showed up, we started the explanation of and demonstration of the bottling process - then turned the students loose.

Both beers smelled and tasted pretty good having only been fermented since Monday - both had pretty good attenuation. The lager went to 1.012 and the ale to 1.015. We got just under two cases for each, and they're now safely conditioning in a store room until two weeks from today, when we'll crack them open. Keep your fingers crossed.

After cleaning up, we went to the classroom to take the RAMP exam, which Tom will score and process for us. We then started watching a rather commercialized video on beer clean glasses until the VCR-computer combination stopped working. Hopefully we can finish that up next Friday. Why wait until next Friday? Field trips start on Monday!

Tom is taking one group to Red Star in Greensburg to watch some brewing, then heading to Rock Bottom. I'll be taking a group to Marzoni's to watch some brewing, and then head up to Otto's for lunch and a tour. Should be fun.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 4

So today I got a break from teaching and got to do some learning. After figuring out who is going with who next Monday for the field trip, Tom started into the Responsible Alcohol Management Program (RAMP) training.

Essentially, the training goes over what alcohol does to the body, what occurs to the body at different BAC levels, what factors affect BAC (body mass, time, alcohol dosage, etc.), and what to look for in a patron who has had too much.

In addition, we covered several legal aspects of RAMP, including what forms of ID are acceptable in PA, what liabilities are assumed by the bar and its employees, and what specific laws apply to restaurants and clubs in PA with regard to hours of operation, last call, and alcohol service.

So, in PA if you're 21 years old or older, you can bring your child (of any age) into the bar as you drink. If you bring your niece who's not your ward, you cannot drink if you're not 25 or older. If you're 21 and married to a 20 year old, you cannot sit at the same table with your spouse if you wish to drink. Some odd, odd logic in this state.

Tomorrow, we're going to bottle the beers that we made on Monday and take the RAMP exam. For passing the exam, we get a two-year certification in RAMP.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 3

Day 3 went well. I basically talked about beer for 2.5 hours, which is always fun. We finished up the main discussion of the brewing process during the first half of class, and although I skipped over some detailed slides, I think they got the main ideas. If I get more lecture time later, I can revisit a few sections.

At the half way point, we started into a discussion of beer styles. I used the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) as a reference to discuss what makes a style and how you can experience a beer in terms of style. Last night, I went out and bought three six packs to showcase three styles. When I got to class this morning, one of the students actually said he'd brought a six pack, too.

So, for the latter half of class, we discussed four styles of beer and some of their close relatives. First, we talked about American Wheats and did so while enjoying Leinenkugel's Summer Wheat, donated by a student. For each of the beers, we discussed the characteristics and 'vital stats' of the style, and cited characteristic examples. Not a bad way to spend the late morning...

As for the other styles that I brought: the second beer was Victory Golden Monkey as a Belgian Tripel; the third style was an American IPA and I was lucky enough to find a six pack of Stone IPA - an excellent beer; and finally, the fourth style was a stout (probably more of a sweet stout) exemplified by Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. The students seemed to enjoy all of the samples and I think it was an eye opener for the majority to experience some beers more complex than Guinness or Old Milwaukee.

Tomorrow, I get a break from lecturing so that Tom can start into the Responsible Alcohol Management Program or RAMP.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 2

Today's class was mainly lecture, by me, about the brewing process. We discussed the overall processes involved in malting and the chemical components of malt and got about half way through the mashing process before calling it quits. At the midpoint of lecture, we went down to the kitchen lab to check on the status of our beers from yesterday - happily bubbling away. Tom also had the students fill out proof of age forms.

We then had a small tasting. I didn't make it out last night to the store, so I shared two homebrews with them: the Fantome clone from 2007 (still gushing) and the second (2008) batch of Commonplace Coffee Porter.

Tomorrow I'll be wrapping up the brewing process and starting into beer styles, so tonight I'm going to buy six packs of three different styles of beer that we can taste and discuss during lecture. Rough job, I know, but someone's gotta do it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: Day 1

Today was the first day of May intersession classes that run from May 4-22, and marks the beginning of HRIM-404 Brewpub and Brewery Operations (actually, that course number was only recently approved so it's still really HRIM-481, but that's neither here nor there). Anyway - it was the first day of a three-week course about beer!

I'm team-teaching this course with another instructor (Tom) who specializes in the drinks management, beverage service, alcohol awareness portions of the class. I bring the geeky chemistry and home brewing knowledge to the table. Tom and I arrived at 7:30 to set up all of our ingredients and equipment in the kitchen lab of the food & nutrition/HRIM building. I picked up all of the ingredients at our local homebrew supply shop, Montgomery Underground Winery. Tom Montgomery (a different Tom), the proprietor of the shop, was kind enough to let me borrow a grain mill for crushing our whole malts.

After setting up, we met our students in a lecture room and went over the syllabus and orders for the day. All 18 students showed up, which was encouraging. After everyone got changed into proper kitchen attire, we headed down to the kitchen to start the brewing. With that many students, we set up two brewing stations - one for the British bitter and one for the Czech lager. I had typed up a recipe/instruction sheet for each so the students could take them home and also to use while brewing. Tom and I talked the students through the entire process, from some crushed grain steeping to the yeast pitching. We did run a bit late, but I was pleased to see most of the students could stay longer than 11:30 to finish the job.

Both batches are hopefully bubbling away in the storage closet and will be ready for bottling on Friday.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Brewpub & Brewery Operations - Prepping For Class

Today and tomorrow I will be preparing for the Brewpub and Brewery Operations (HRIM-404) class that I'm co-teaching from May 4-22. On Monday (Day 1), we're brewing two 5-gallon batches of beer so that we can (hopefully) have some to drink by Day 15.

The first recipe is a British bitter, from which the majority come from Dave's notes. In honor of his contribution, I've named the recipe Hwart's Bitter (small inside joke). Why a bitter? Well - because of scientific research: I had three chemistry students do water testing on our local water this semester. They looked for certain ions that define water quality, then compared our levels to those of famous brewing waters. The result was that the best beer to make here in Indiana, PA is a bitter. We'll see how it goes.

The second recipe is a Czechvar clone, a bit lower gravity and using only Saaz hops. Also, we're going to try to use California lager yeast to ferment, since it knocks out a bit quicker and at a bit higher temperature. Keep those fingers crossed!

Both batches will be brewed on Day 1, bottled on Day 5 (Fri.), and opened for drinking on Day 15 (last Fri.).

In order to aid in that process, today I'll be making two yeast starters. Going to use about 4 oz. of DME in 1 qt of water for the wort. We'll see how it goes. Tomorrow, I'll be filling up my sanitized brew bucket with 5-6 gallons of my filtered tap water to use for the bitter. My colleague is bringing in 5-6 gallons of well water for the lager.

Sun May 3 update: The yeast starters are bubbling along quite nicely and should be ready to pitch tomorrow morning. I have all of my ingredients boxed up and ready to pack in the car, and I'm filling up the brew bucket with water in just a few minutes. I've been working on slides all days, but my lectures don't start until Tuesday, so I have a bit more prep time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Brewpub and Brewery Operations: A Preview

How the time flies - over a month since my last post! Well, the semester is just about over and we're ready to send some graduates out into the world - not the best time in this economy, but many of them are going to grad school.

Normally, I would not look forward to teaching a course in summer. In fact, I try to avoid it so that I can catch up on research. However, this year a special opportunity was offered to me and I could not turn it down. For three weeks, I will be co-teaching a 3-credit course on Brewpub and Brewery Operations (HRIM-404) with a colleague from Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. The course has been offered in past years - always during our May intersession, but this is the first time I've been involved. The gentleman whose position I'm taking will be off to his daughter's wedding ... lucky me!

Tom, the HRIM faculty, is responsible for all of the aspects involved in alcohol service, etc. I, as the homebrewing geeky scientist, am responsible for the brewing process and styles lectures. Together we will also guide them in costing and designing a brewpub, and take some field trips.

This week, I've been polishing and adding to the slides on my lectures and today I picked up the ingredients for two five-gallon batches of beer that we're brewing on Day 1. Both Tom and I have been talking with regional brewers to set up visits during Week 2.

So, I will make every attempt to narrate what we cover in class from May 4-22 in order to share what the class is about (for those of you who wanted to take it but couldn't).

More to come!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pints For Pets Is Coming Back!!

The second annual Pints for Pets is coming to the Blair Co. ballpark. This time with two sessions, from 12-3 and 4:30-7:30 on Saturday, May 30.

Mark those calendars!

In Pittsburgh Steht Ein Hofbräuhaus

Ich kann nicht glauben. Vor drei Jahren, ich hab' gehört "es kommt bald", "nächste Monat", usw. Aber jetzt das ist endlich hier! Gestern meine Frau und ich haben besucht das Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh für Mittagsessen. Es erinnert mich auf dem Münchner Hofbräuhaus, aber ein bischen kleiner. Die Brezen sind OK gewesen, aber die Bierkäse hat toll geschmeckt! Die Speisekarte hat eine gute Sammlung - Burgers, Salaten, und viele Wurst zum Beispiel.

Das Bier ist genau so wie man erwartet gewesen. Alles ist dort gebraut - ausser jetzt der Hefeweizen ist in München gebraut. Andere Biere sind Dunkel, Lager, und Light.

Wenn Sie in Pittsburgh sein, Sie müssen der Hofbräuhaus besuchen. Klassiker Essen und Trinken, und traditioneller Tischplan (und Musik!).

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Back to the Brewing

Just a short post - but last night I assisted my buddy Erick in the brewing of a Belgian pale at his place. Looking in my brewing notebook, it was the first brewing I'd done since March of last year! How in the world did I go that long?? I'm not sure, but of course the bathroom renovation project had a lot to do with it.

Next up, I'm going to be making a Dubbel here, then Erick is going to brew the IPA we make first time last year. I'm excited to get back in the game!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A Nice Beer Tour of Pennsylvania (Part II)

see below for Part I

Fri Jan 2: I went on another road trip to visit some friends down East. After having lunch with my wife in Johnstown, I hit the Turnpike and headed East. First I stopped off in Mt. Joy, where one can find Bube's Brewery (pronounced boo-bees). Tried their five samples and while all were fine, I enjoyed the seasonal Santa's Helper the most. From here, I stopped by the Iron Hill in Lancaster. Iron Hill always offers up solid beers and I tried the seasonal sampler. Standouts included the dark saison Permanent Midnight, an Imperial Coffee Porter, and a Schwarzbier.

From here, I went to my final destination of the night, my friends The Meyers. Dave was a college roommate and fraternity brother and it'd been a couple of years since we'd gotten together. His two girls were waiting at the door for me and I got a warm welcome. That night, we drank quite a bit of Allagash Dubbel from Dave's kegerator in the basement.

Sat Jan 3: First order of the day was a trip to State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. This is a beer Mecca and I always find way too much stuff that I can't buy. Sigh. In any event, I walked out of there with a dozen good bottles of stuff and a case of Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen for my wife. For lunch, we went to a nice little pub called The Whip - very English themed and I had a couple of pints (Tetleys, Smithwicks) over lunch of Scotch eggs and bangers and mash.

We had some running around to do and ended up driving quite a bit. I was able to sneak into Victory for their Abbey 6 and see how things had changed since the renovation - good job, Victory.

Sun Jan 4: After bidding the Meyers au revoir, I headed up to Phoenixville for lunch at Sly Fox. Good food, and the standout beer there was definitely the Rauchbier. It's hard to find smoked beers on tap, let alone really nice ones.

Next, I drove over to General Lafayette Inn. What a cool place - I'd love to stay here some time. Sampled a few here (unfortunately the Framboise was kicked!) and enjoyed the Sunset Red on cask and the Raspberry Mead. Great ambiance!

Killed some time hitting some book stores and a few other places before heading to dinner at Earth Bread + Brewery in Mt. Airy (Philly). Our "local boy makes good", Jon, works there now supervising the kitchen and helping out Tom Baker in the brewery. I tried Earth's four offerings, including Jon's pseudo-eponymic Santos L. Halper. The pizza is really good, despite the fact that Jon made it ;)

After Jon was done working, I got the nickel tour of the place. I'm only sorry that I'll not get to taste the Sahti or the Wee Heavy currently bubbling away. The final stop of the evening was McMenamin's, just down the street. Quite a lively Sunday night crowd, and between conversation with Jon and some locals (including Doc Holliday), I was able to try both Affligem Nöel and Long Trail Triple Bag on tap.

Mon Jan 5: One last stop before driving home - lunch with Jon at Manayunk. Had a nice salad and tried the Title Bout Stout. Jon got a sampler of stuff which looked decent.

All in all - not a bad few days of beer and travel. Apologies to the folks who regularly write about the Drafting Room and some other places down that way ... many of the visits were 'spur of the moment' and not planned. Next time, I'll try to coordinate better and perhaps we can meet up for a pint.

A Nice Beer Tour of Pennsylvania (Part I)

It's that time of year ... some time off between semesters. This is the time I get to catch up on stuff around the house, hang with the families, and do a little touring with my beer geek friends to get our 'fix'. The shower is tiled and ready to be grouted and we should be showering again by Sunday (fingers crossed). We had a nice Christmas and got to spend time with both families - and my brother even decided last minute to come in from Idaho.

Tues. 12/30: But on to the beer! On the Tuesday after Christmas, we (me, Dave and Justin) drove up to Williamsport by lunch time. We started at The Bullfrog Brewery, where we met up with Bill (of Marzoni's) and Mark (homebrewer and regional beer writer). The funny part was that Bill was in Indiana just the day before delivering yet more Avalanche IPA to The Coney (he's now bringing over half kegs instead of sixtels, so it's selling well) and over lunch we each found out the other would be at the Bullfrog the next day. Anyway, Terry (Bullfrog brewer) had given Bill and Mark a tour and we got a round on him. Thanks, Terry!

I tried a few new beers over lunch, including Bruggetown Blonde, XXXX Quad, Fast Eddie's Pale Ale, and a Coffee Cream Stout. I bought a book of Busted Lawnmower to go and a growler of the Quad.

From Bullfrog, we drove across the river to Duboistown to have a few samples at Abbey Wright - once again running into Bill and Mark. I tried another sampler here, including two new ones - a Kölsch and a saison. After the samples, we chatted with Bart (the brewer) for a few minutes before getting back on the road.

Next stop: State College. Neither Dave nor Justin had ever visited Zeno's. If you've not been, you must! One of the best beer bars in PA, and I'd put it up against Eulogy and Sharp Edge - maybe not as many Belgians on draught, but quite a selection. Here, I sampled Otto's Scottish Ale (on cask), De Ranke XX Bitter, Hair of the Dog Ruth, 3 Fonteinen Doesjel, Deus Brut des Flandres, and Voodoo Big Black Voodoo Daddy. Fantastic!

Our trip finished out at Otto's, where we once again ran into Bill and Mark. Here I picked up a growler of the Apple Tripel and enjoyed a glass of Jolly Roger.

Wed 12/31: Did have a couple of pints of Avalanche IPA for lunch at the Coney with my good friend Mike (also former college roommate and my best man). He was in the region for Xmas, having driven all the way from Santa Fe. He brought me a 20th anniversary wooden collectors box from Santa Fe Brewing containing: Sangre de Frambuesa, State Pen Imperial Porter and an Imperial Yippee IPA. I look forward to trying these soon. Thanks Mike! I of course sent him home with some goodies.

More to come in Part II.