Monday, January 18, 2010

Brew Years Resolutions '10!

Hello and happy late new year! As we all enter this new decade, we need to think of what we would like to further learn about our great friend beer. I have personally been putting together some brew years resolutions and am excited to attack them in the new year! But first, a review of how I did last year. Here's my resolutions from 12 months ago (with my comments):

Brew a cider, mead, and barley wine every year at the end of december or beginning of January I didn't get to the cider or mead yet, still looking around for a 3 gallon carboy. And still haven't made the barley wine for this year either. Damn

Brew my first beer of the year all grain! successfully done! Liberation Pale Ale came out great!

Build a kegerator Nope. Sad

Brew AT LEAST twice a month didn't do too bad. I made 15 beers in 2009 even with my crappy 5 month hiatus

READ, READ, READ about your favorite beverage Needs work. I did read a bit, but more is better

Enter numerous completitions I pulled away with 9 ribbons in '09!

Take a beer to the NHC (link) I got 2nd place in the northwest region with my stout!! but, I never got a beer brewed up and kegged that I was proud enough of to take :(

Get as many friends as possible to come the GABF (link) with me HA! I think we had close to 15? with friends from Alaska Hawaii South Dakota all over Colorado and New Mexico

Learn more about beer and food pairing Didn't get to far on this. I'm hoping the Cicerone (link) program comes out with a book sometime this year

Learn more about glassware didn't get anywhere on this one. But got some good new glassware

Remember on brew day beer is not a substitute for food I was able to take this one to heart. Thank goodness :)

And so for this year, I have put together a short list that is pretty much just revised from last year:

Brew a Cider and Mead this year. And get The Penthouse Barley brewed before the end of January

Build a Kegerater.

Continue to read as much as possible about beer

Enter MORE competitions

Brew a few out of the box beers. I really like keeping beer simple, but something wacky could be fun :) and a good learning experience

Take a beer to the NHC (link)

Get MORE friends to come to the GABF (link)

Work to becoming BJCP certified (link). [I've volunteered to judge as an apprentice for the northwest first round judging for the NHC which is in Seattle this year! And also the pudget sound pro am!]

Trying brewing with the little barrel I picked up at the second hand store

And I'm sure there's more. I'll try to just add them on when I think of them.

As for recent beer, Blitzen's Ale was very well received at the homebrew meeting last week, which I'm very very happy about. All the beers that everyone brought were really great too! There was even 2 (that's right 2!) very different very tasty gruits. The last batch of black hole is now all but gone and the Porter is just getting ready to drink. I had one two nights ago and it's FANTASTIC :D I'm really excited because my good friends Morgan and Christy are in the works of opening their own bakery (check it out here!!) and on monday nights they cook for each other and I've been joining them occasionally bringing beer over, so I'm going to take the porter over tonight or maybe next week and see what they think.

The Pudget Sound Pro-Am is right around the corner again! So I need to start thinking about what I'd like to make up to put in there. I think I'll most likely put in The Penthouse '08, and then I'd like to make a belgian pale ale and a german hef. So I better start planning for those.

The plan was to brew the Penthouse Barley Wine yesterday, but a trip I'm taking to Arizona in a few weeks is getting pretty pricey, so I'm trying to save cash for the time being. I am however going to check out a few breweries while I'm there, which I'm very excited about. One is called sonoran and this is the beer pasted all over their website:

19.37% alcohol, whoa. So that's sounds interesting. There's also a brewery called Four Peaks that seemed to have some really really great looking beers. I sent them an e-mail asking if maybe I can have a look around while I'm there, so hopefully that'll come through.

Last night also, a friend invited me out to a party where I met several homebrewers! One of them gave me a beer to take home and try, a burbon vanilla porter i believe, and i'm really excited to try it and also nerd out on beer with some new people!

I suppose that's all for now! And I think it's time for a beer.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Long time no blog, Wooops

Hello again, it's been a while eh? I guess I've been busy? It was the holidays - I don't know. Anyways, I've still been brewing though not as frequently as I would like.. About 3 weeks ago I brewed up a new version of Barack Obeera. In this one I toned down the chocolate malt and added a half pound of Crystal 80L to get a darker caramely flavor to it. I also upped the wheat malt for some nice creaminess and upped the IBUs with a lower alpha, neutral flavored hop to cut the sweetness a tad and keep everything balanced out nicely. I bottled it a few days back and I'm thinking it's going to be a mighty tasty beer :) Blitzen's HolidALE (name in progress? hahaha) came out really well!! I think I definitely made the wrong choice not getting fresh ginger and something to grind it with. I used pre ground ginger and even 1/2 tsp seems to have been just a little bit over-powering. The beer overall came out great though! I mashed in a little bit too high so it came out pretty thin and watery but the breadiness came through well and the spices were subtle and complimentary. The stout ended up coming out alright as well! I can't for the life of me get it to taste as good as that first time, but it's still a tasty brew.
The future is still begging for a barley wine. The Penthouse from last year is tasting AMAZING. Very good brown sugary, oxidized, carmelly sweet deliciousness. The really strong anise flavor it had around month 7 finally fell mostly out, which I'm pleased about. I'm not a fan of that flavor. I still really need to make the '08. The plan was to make it on the 29th of December, but it was a busy and expensive month so it didn't get done. I'm going to hopefully get it together this weekend though. Same recipe as last year but all grain (with 6 pounds of extract so as not to totally waste everything in the mash tun). Then I would really like to get a Belgian Pale Ale together. I have been thinking about these since NHC this year. They were all over the place and absolutely DELICIOUS! I have a recipe together I just need to find the time and money, as always.
I suppose that's all for now! There's a club meeting on Wednesday I'm taking my Holiday Spiced Ale to, I hope it's well recieved. The Penthouse was adored at the last meeting. It was very cool to see so many people light up after a sip of something you created. Belgian Fest is also right around the corner. I'm thinking that'll be a good time.

Next time: Brew Years Resolutions! Plus: A recap of if I followed through with last years!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Keeping Things On Track

Ahhhhhhhhh, it's a sweet breath of relief to be back in the swing of things again. I'm back on my 2 beers a month schedule and have a head swimming with ideas for future beers! A few days ago I got my holiday cheer mojo into beer action and put together a recipe for a xmas seasonal. I knew from the start that my intention was to keep the beer at a sessionable level since 1. I've been overwhelmed as of late with ~10% holiday beers and winter warmers (Bifrost, Old Wooly - tomorrow anyways, The Abyss, Anchor's Our Special Ale, Black Butte XXI, ect. ect.) and 2. Xmas is only a month away and I wanted something to celebrate with. So I put together a 5% bready brown ale/red ale and added nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves at 10 minutes into the boil. Brew day went mostly with out a hitch too! Naturally the recipe changed up until it was in the fermenter, but with the exception of a high temperature dough in and a pretty thin mash every thing came together just right. I hope to move it to the secondary tomorrow or the next day, and after tasting it may even add some more of the spices in the secondary to add a tasty nose.
Today I also bottled Black Hole. It was tasting reaaallly astringent with bitterness from the roast malt going into the secondary and less so, but still noticeably too much into the bottle. I'm thinking I really should have added CaCo3. I'm reluctant too though because I didn't with the initial batch and it tasted so good, but naturally different batches will come out differently, especially since I have now made this beer on 3 different 'brewing systems'. Regardless, I'm finally happy that I'll be drinking homebrew on a regular basis again and am excited to get, well excited about beer.
I suppose that's all for now! I'm at a toss up between an Imperial IPA, Belgian Dubbel, Belgian Pale Ale, and Porter for the next brew. I will however be brewing The Penthouse Barley Wine again at the end of December. Last year's batch has been coming along veerrrry nicely. I feel it was best in September, but I'm taking a few to the homebrew meeting on Wednesday and am excited for some feedback.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

(Mostly) Successful Brew Day!

I FINALLY got everything together and brewed Black Hole on Friday! It was a long overdue adventure I'd been (not so) patiently waiting for. I suppose the reason it took me so long to get back to it was my skepticism about whether or not my apartment would even let me do a decent job. My kitchen is actually smaller than my last, and actually even older. So, the stove top didn't look like it would hold my brew pot with 7 gallons of wort it in; my faucet didn't have an easy hook up for my chiller and I couldn't find space to make a decent gravity fed set up. BUT I did it by golly. I got a hook up for my faucet and ran a test boil on the stove. Also fixed up my storage shelving to hold my HLT and Mash Tun.

So, on Friday the 13th at around 11 I made my way down to Bob's Homebrew Shop and it unfortunately, now that I live in Capitol Hill instead of the UD, took me two hours round trip on the bus. Ugh. So at about 1 I got my strike water heating up on the stove and was off! My stove actually surprised the hell out of me. It got hot and I had my water ready in about 20 minutes.
So I ran my mash at 152F for an hour and then sparged with water a little bit hotter than I usually use. At the National Homebrewers Conference I had a discussion with some fellow WAHA brewers about my poor efficiency and it was pointed out that when I sparge I lose a lot of heat transferring my water from the boil pot to the HLT, then in the HLT and also in the transfer to the Mash Tun. So I bumped up the heat and according to my calculations increased efficiency by about 5%! Awesome.
Everything was going great at this point! I was getting things cleaned up and put away. I was ahead of schedule. And even got some video game playing in during the sparge :) BUT it finally happened to me: I had a boil over. Usually when it gets to that point I can just stir super hard and subdue it. Buy alas, not this time. In the long run it looks like I lost about half a gallon of beer and made quite a mess.. At the time it was happening I actually laughed at the fact I had my first boil over in 25 beers on Friday the 13th. I even considered running for the camera! hahaha. But once I got that straightened out everything ran smoothly. I ran my chiller though (which was much slower with the faucet than the hose I used to use) I ended up with a little over 5 gallons of yummy wort at 70 degrees and tossed some Wyeast 1084 in to eat away :)

All together then, it was a great brewday! And now I know it's not only possible, but actually quite accommodating to brew at my new place. Let the beer run like water!

Yum Yum

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting it back together

After much much too long it looks like I've got everything back together to brew again! I got a trial gravity fed set up put together in my kitchen and got an adapter for my sink for the chiller. Brew day was scheduled for tomorrow, but it turns out my cute little girlfriend has the day off so we're going to play laser tag, obviously. So now Friday will be brew day. I wanted to have a nice familiar beer to "test" out the new set up so I'll be brewing up a batch of Black Hole. Which I think is a good plan because I love that beer, and haven't had it in far too long. Come back on Saturday and I'll post some pictures and notes on how everything went :)
Wish me luck on getting going again! And come have a beer with me, I'm going to have a lot to give all too soon!

Finally back,

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A long "Break"

Holy Crap! Not only have I not blogged in almost 4 months, but I haven't BREWED in 4 months either! It's getting terribly depressing and I'm going to use this blog as (hopefully) a jump start back in to things.
As a quick back story, I recently (well, 3 months ago) broke up with the girl I was dating and living with. Finding new housing AND a brewing arrangement has been a wee bit tricky. That art studio I had where I brewed previously was split down the middle with her too, so I had to move (mostly for money reasons) out of there as well. So now I'm living in a nice hardwood floored apartment on Capitol Hill and haven't gotten to figuring out how to connect my wort chiller to yet another impossibly old sink faucet. Not to mention needing to find out if my stove top is going to be able to cut it....
There has been one glimmer of hope though! I recently met someone who has an art studio that has a garage, a GARAGE, that I might be able to use! YAY! So, if that works out I'd be sittin' pretty :) In the mean time though, I'm pretty damn busy with work and travel so brewing is unfortunately still number 2 on the list of a million number 1 things to do.
I also don't have internet access in my new apartment unless my wireless can pick something up (which is rare) right now too. So, I haven't really been doing the blogging thing. But I think it's past time to get back to it! So, friends family and fellow brewers wish me luck on my adventure back into the love that is homebrewing.

Brew It!

Monday, June 29, 2009

NHC '09!!

Well, NHC was amazing. So much good stuff happened! I'll cut to the chase:

Day one was Wednesday, June 17th and it started at 8am to get on the bus for the "Iron Liver Tour"! This was a 'pre-conference event' that was hosted by the the Heart of the Valley homebrew club and I was one of the lucky 45 people that payed to go. It was a bus tour that started at the Oakland Convention Center and went up to Santa Rosa making stops at Triple Rock, Lagunitas, Russian River and 3rd Street Aleworks. The bus was stocked with amazing beer as well to keep us entertained on the way there too :) The first fun surprise was that Sam Calagione was also one of the lucky 45 that payed to go! For those of you who don't know him, Sam is the mastermind behind Dogfish Head Brewery. Here's a picture of us together on the tour:
and here's me with my first beer at 8 am. The new Sierra Nevada Kellerweis.
It was quite dealicious! First stop on the tour (after several beers on the bus, including Mirror Mirror YUUMM) was Lagunitas!
The tour of Lagunitas was awesome! The owner took us around and talked about everything that was going on and even let us all grab a beer right off the bottling line before it got labeled. It was a new beer of there's called Little Sumthin'. And it was goood! Fresh from the source :) Next we made our way to Russian River where Vinnie himself was there to serve us EVERYTHING they had (in pitchers) with lots of delicious pizza! Pliney, Consecration, Supplication droooool. After that we went over to Third Street for a quick drink and then it was down the road to Triple Rock where I had an amazing russian imperial stout called Keyser Soze. Oh boy was it a treat! Then we hit a really nice bottle shop and got back to the convention center. By then, it's very safe to say that despite my honest effort I was very drunk. Getting back to Alli's parents house on the BART was very interesting that night.

Next day was the beginning of the conference!! I got there at 8 to register, but judging was until the opening toast at 1. So I went with Alli's dad out to Anchor, which was closed and then to Speakeasy where all we could get a a small talk with the delivery guy because they're only open for 4 hours on Fridays to the public. So then I came back the the convention center for the opening toast!
Charlie Papazian had a great speech to listen to while drinking the event specific beer, "Sippin' on the dock of the Bay" IPA, and then we were off and rolling! I got started by going to listen to 'Wood Aging' by Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker. It was awesome because he talked about how to do it at home for cheap too. Then I went and listened to Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River talk about "funkification" or brewing with bugs. It was great. And after that it was Pro-Brewers Night! Which was just basically a really good beerfest. Here's some pictures:

That night was a complete blast and I had dozens of amazing beers, but found myself posted up at the Deschutes booth for most of the night because they were pouring Mirror Mirror. YUUM

The next day was by far my favorite day, not only for the conference either, maybe ever! The first two seminars were fairly hard to get to because of the hangover I was nursing from Pro Brewers Night, but completely worth it. They were duel seminars with Randy Mosher and Ray Daniels. They were called "making better beer" and the two played off each other really well and had tons of awesome information and entertainment. I could listen to Randy Mosher talk about just about any thing for very long periods of time, he's a great speaker. Here's me and Randy and a view of what the seminars rooms were like:

After their first two seminars was Ken Grossman's Key note speach. It was really cool. He talked about being a homebrewer starting at a very young age and all he went through to get to where Sierra Nevada is now.
After that it was back to the seminars and Randy and Ray had two more sessions that were great. At 5 that night I got together with the WAHA gang and was lucky enough to sit in with them for an interview with Basic Brewing on the decoction mash experiment they did. Basically, if you don't already know, WAHA held a decoction clinic for people who wanted to know more about decoction mashes and then from that decided to make 3 of the same beer using different techniques and see how they tasted finished side by side. The beer was a dopplebock and the first beer was made normal with a single infusion mash, the second with a three step decoction mash and the third was a single infusion mash but with 4% melanoidin malt substituted. It was a lot of fun, and cool to get to drink their beers there.
After that it was time for club night! I have honestly never had so much fun at a beer event! Here's some pictures:

As you can see, there's a picture of me with all the WAHA guys, and all the WAHA kegs, and the WAHA booth. They rigged up 2 espresso machines to flow beer through as a "northwest randal" One had espresso in it and had a stout running through and the other had fresh Hop Union hops with a tasty IPA running through it. There's some pictures of the fun people and cool booths also including the toilet that was pouring Jamil's amazing Flanders Red and a video of the homebrew slot machine. We didn't win any thing in this video hahaha if you won there was one of two beers and sizes of pours depending on what you spun! awesome. After that the WAHA booth was in the hospitality suite most of the night, but after god knows how many of those flanders reds and all the other amazing beer I was tuckered out and headed back to the girlfriend's parents place.

The next morning was really hard. I was sitting on 3 straight days of drinking and was definitely feeling it. Then the day seemed to be stacked with the most not attention grabbing (interesting none the less) seminars of the whole deal. First was water chemistry that was completely packed in a very small hot room at 9 in the morning. I didn't make it too far in that one. I caught most of it, but needed to get some air and water a few times. Then was John Palmer talking on protiens. Poor John Palmer isn't the greatest public speaker. He's a really smart guy but it was hard to stay completely awake through that one hahaa. Then I did two seminars on yeast health, nutrients and culturing that were also fairly sleepy.

That night was the awards banquet but I didn't get a ticket in time and as it turned out my really great friend who lives in Santa Rosa was in San Fransico that night celebrating her birthday, so I went and had a good time with her instead of the banquet.

All in all it was a totally amazingly fun experience. BIG BIG THANKS to the guys with WAHA. It was awesome to know some guys there and they even let me chum along with them and pour beers at their bar!

It's going to be hard for me to ever say no to this event in the coming years. Next year in Minneapolis and hopefully Seattle soon!

I love beer!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Well, following the NHC I got a horrible head cold. So, for now I'm nursing that. I'm hoping to get a batch brewed on the 29th though, and will have all the pictures and fun times posted on here in a day or two! For now though, here's me and Charlie Papzian:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

National Homebrew Conference

I'm getting packed for my trip to Oakland California for the NHC! I'm really incredibly excited as this will be my first (and hopefully not last) conference. I get to Oakland at 9:40 tonight. Alli's family is picking me up at the airport and I'm going to stay at their place in Alameda. Then, tomorrow morning I get up bright and early for the Iron Liver tour. It's a luxury bus tour hosted by a homebrew club in California that tours up north of San Fransico to Russian River, Lagunita's and more! Then, on Thursday morning at 8am the conference starts! For three days there's seminars including talks on water chemistry, wild fermentation, protiens, yeast culturing and much more from almost all of my favorite beer writers, homebrewers and brewers! The keynote speaker this year is Ken Grossman, co-founder and president of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and the likes of Charlie Papazian, Sam Calagione, John Palmer, Ray Daniels and so many more are going to be speaking as well! Then, on Sunday I have the day free! I was realllly hoping I could tour Anchor Steam with Alli's dad. I called Anchor Steam in the begining of April because you have to reserve a place in the tour and they were already booked solid through July! So, the next brewery I really wanted to see was Speakeasy because I love everything I've tried from them, but it turns out they're only open for a couple hours on Fridays. Oh well. SO, while writing this I got a call from one of my best friends who lives in Santa Rosa and it's her birthday on Monday and she's going to be in San Fransico on saturday night! So after the conference Saturday and Sunday morning I'll get to hang out with her and her awesome boyfriend! YES! Well, now I'm even more excited. This is going to be great!

In homebeer news, I just bottled the Liberation a few days ago and am really excited to crack one open when I get back! I also made the cream ale and kegged the oatmeal stout. I'm not sure exactly where it went wrong but upon my first taste I think the oatmeal stout got infected. Bummer :( Here's the Oatmeal, Liberation and Cream Ale at the space with the last of the Saison and Black Hole in the kegs.

Here's the Cream Ale brew day. It's for my friends Alex and Aaaron Means' 4th of July BBQ and is currently being called the Means Bros Cream Ale

I'm thinking though when I get back I'm going to brew one more beer before July (a wheat wine to open in the summer next year?) and then take July as a brew free month (sort of). I've been brewing a lot lately and it's been taking a ton of time. Now that Alli's out of school though (congrats to the college grad!!!) I'm hoping that a small break from brewing will allow us to hang out more. I have however, decided that I'd like to take on the red heffeweizen in July to have as a birthday beer to myself. Being that I'm half Irish and half German I thought a Irish Red mixed with a German Hef would be great! Ideally I would like to make a Irish Red German Lager (YUM!) but, I can't lager :( I'm thinking then I'll go with a traditional german hef recipe but add some munich and crystal malts for color and sweetness, and then double up the yeast with british ale for a dryness and german wheat for cloudyness and aroma, or maybe even Weihenstephan if I brew with it on the cooler side so I don't overwhelm the beer with banana cloveyness.

So I suppose that's all for now! I'll be back on sunday night with a million pictures and hopefully no hangover hahahaha


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More good results!

I heard back from the Pudget Sound Pro Am a few days back and did really well!! Sunset scored a 36.5!! And got first in the fruit beer category! Black Hole scored a 33.6 and the Witbier scored a 32 giving those two third place in stout and wit! I knew that Sunset was something special :) So that's super awesome news! I'm excited to get my score sheets back to see what the judges had to say. I mailed off the stout today to the second round of the NHC. It was mostly just a sort of thing where I really don't feel I have even a tiny chance, but oh well I guess you never know. I got my ribbon in the mail from the first round though!!! AWESOME! That's really exciting!

Otherwise there's not a whole lot new. I'm going to keg the Oatmeal Stout, and maybe bottle 12 tonight or tomorrow, and rack Liberation over to the secondary as well. And then tomorrow I'm going to be making a cream ale for a BBQ on the 4th of July. I'm looking forward to that because I don't know a whole lot about cream ales and am excited to do some research.

I suppose that's it for now! I'll be back with news on the new brews!