Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2K11

Oh the weather outside is sunny,
I don't miss my nose all runny,
I don't have much better to do...
Let it Brew! Let it Brew! Let it Brew!

The burner's lit and burning,
My tun is warmed and churning,
Adding hops and right on queue...
Let it Brew! Let it Brew! Let it Brew!

When the wort is finally cool,
I'll pitch the yeast and shake like mad!
The cork & airlock's new,
To the chest in the last spot i had!

Now the airlock's slowly bubbling,
There's nothing to find that's troubling,
Pull a draught off tap number two,
Let it Brew! Let it Brew! Let it Brew!

Cheers!


Merry Christmas from your favorite brewers here at A Tale Of Two Brewers! I hope you all are having fun opening gifts and drinking home brewed beer. Have a safe and happy holidays.

See you next week!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Question to the Community: Can Conditioning?

I originally thought of the idea of can conditioned beer on our trip to Colorado two years ago. I talked to the brewmaster about it at Keegan Ales last October (and promised him he could be the first to do it.) He told me he'd ask another brew master about it and get back to me. Well it's been over a year and he never responded to my follow up email, so I guess it's time to let the cat out of the bag.

There's a lot online about Bottle Conditioning and if you've ever had a really fine Belgian ale (or brewed your own beer without using a secondary fermenter) you're probably very familiar with the results. There's a layer of sludge in the bottom that, while not poisonous, can cause some very undesirable results in your lower GI should you drink it. Some people have no problem downing the bready residue but it's never recommended.

My question is this: since canning beer is the new rage in craft brewing, can you "can condition" a beer and still achieve carbonation and a quality product?

I can think of a few potential negative effects of using this method. These are all uneducated guesses (are they ever not?):
  • The top of the can is held on by pressure (like a bottlecap) but might not have the same threshold.
  • Pouring beer out of a can might agitate it a lot more than pouring from a bottle (resulting in more sediment being poured out.)
  • You can't see the sediment layer so it's hard to judge when to stop pouring
  • With the total absence of light, the yeast might not perform correctly.

A quick google search on the topic results in several hilarious yet unhelpful results. This was my personal favorite:
  •  Can conditioning my hair with mayonnaise really help prevent hair loss?
While you work on that gem and discover quickly that body heat makes mayo go rancid all that much faster, if you've ever tried bottle finishing a beer in a can please let me know in the comments below. Even if you've never commented below but think you know the answer, I'm dying to know your guess.

Monday, December 19, 2011

If a tree falls in the woods...

What a weekend.

I went into this weekend with a case of Miller Lite, a keg of "Saa-wheat" homebrew, a 6-pack of Terrapin's Hopsecutioner, and a 4-pack of Keystone Ice.

And it's all gone.

Needless to say I'm writing this post with a pint of H2O versus my usual pint of beer. I went camping to celebrate a birthday party this weekend. Of course, when I say camping, I mean I stayed in a cabin with running hot water, a fridge, and a small kitchen. That's about as rustic as I get. Of course I'll raise a pint for anyone's birthday, it's always a good reason to do so. But for Nikki and I this weekend was so much more.

The exam the you may remember me complaining about for the past 6 months was finished at the end of October, and Friday we got the results. Words will not explain the emotion we both went through...

Because we both passed that stupid, stressful, and long exam. And for it we are now both licensed engineers in the state of Florida. We wanted to crack a beer right away, but we still had 2 hours to drive to the campsite. After finding out we passed, I wasn't sure if we had enough beer!

So this week I leave it at that. I'm going to go back and crash on the couch now, before I fall asleep and start typing junk on the keyboard.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beereview: Stone Double Bastard

"Ye Shall Know The Bastard and The Bastard Shall Set You Free."

First I want to apologize. I was feeling under the weather Sunday, which is when I usually blog to my heart's content. I even had this beer that I was very excited to review. But I decided to end the night with a shot of Nyquil at 7 o' clock. I was out like a 60 watt incadescent, planet-killing, pepper spraying, light bulb. Thing with Nyquil is that it always leaves me incredibly groggy in the morning. Today was no different, except the grog never ended. Hopefully there's no brain damage.

To the point, I apologize. I know many of you count on coming to work and starting your Monday's off on the right side of the bed by opening up A Tale Of Two Brewers at 9 AM eastern, and read what exciting adventures I've been on. I feel responsible for all the heartache and lost productivity that may have occured.

Yeah right.

So I'm pretty stoked at a recent development. Our Publix really isn't that great. I could go on and on really. But I wont. The deli line is the worst however. It's so painfully slow that I can't help but imagine pushing the woman's face through the plate glass display when she's order 1/4 lbs of everything in the @%(*in freezer. I digress...

Well we were in the market for a new market. So I went to our new Publix just on the other side of the highway. To my delight, in it's shining glory, was a Knightly Spirits Liquor store. Oh yes. Finally at my front door do I have a stock of high quality craft beers. With a full selection of Stone's finest I might add. The gentleman there also assured me that if there was anything I was looking for that he could have it shipped, free, from their main store across town. Which has of 1,600 different beers. Oorah!

Which is where the Stone: Double Bastard comes in. Keep in mind, I can't handle Arrogant Bastard. I've said before, and I say again, the label rings true in saying that this beer is too aggressive for me.

Enter the SWMBO (she who must be obeyed), the SO (significant other), mission control, and any other words or phrases you might use (appropriate and not) to refer to your wife, Nikki.

As I foray deeper and deeper into beer brewing and zymology (the study of zymurgy, fermentation), I've discovered Nikki to be a hop head. Starting tame with beers like Red Hook IPA, she fell in love. Slowly we climbed the ladder. Before I knew it we had already bypassed greats like Terrapin's Hopsecutioner, Stone IPA, and Lagunitas IPA. Finally we were at a bar and I decided to test her. I saw on tap Stone's Arrogant Bastard and ordered her a pint. She took a sip and.... didn't even flinch. She proceeded to devour the pint like it was a lump of tofu at a vegetarian pie eating contest. Challenge accepted.

So today I bring you Stone's Double Bastard. This is I calling Nikki out. It's time to pop the cap. Double Bastard weighs in at a hefty 10.5% ABV. While I wait for the foam to die, I'll make a note that the head is thick, stout, and resiliant. Aroma is surprisingly faint of hops.

Needless to say she loved it, but it made her pause for at least a second to give a wide-eyed look of surprise and an audible "whoa." The hop bitterness isn't much stronger, if at all, than Arrogant Bastard's. I must note that while I write this she's poking and mocking me, and asking if she needs to finish it for me. No. Of course I can finish it woman. Go watch the X Factor woman. Really, Double Bastard isn't an intense IPA, but more so Stone's version of an Arrogant Bastard Barleywine. The body is thick, full, and chewy. The lacing grips to the glass long after the beer recedes. The hop strength is balanced with that alcohol punch to the larynx. Definitely a sipper (for me). It may be true that Nikki will be finished by the time I walk out into the living room...

Check out what I say about Double Bastard at my Pintley site here. If you'd like to follow Nikki on twitter she's at @NikkiDJ27. And please, if you think there's a Hop-Crazy beer that can take her down, please recommend it below. I need a suggestion.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Public Service Announcement and Beereview of Flying Fish Grand Cru Winter Reserve

We usually try not to bring non-beer related topics up on this blog unless it's important. Having been victims ourselves of a malicious attack which nearly resulted in a total loss of all our posts however, means this new information is something I feel is important to any of you using Google accounts.

Google has recently made available two-factor authentication across all their products. What does this mean? It means you need to authorize individual computers, iPhones, iPads, Commadore 64s, Wiis and anything else you might obsessively check your email from to login to Google. This might sound like a pain in the butt unless you think about what is specifically denied access. Basically, unless somebody steals your mobile phone or goes through a pretty rigorous password recovery process any PC, mobile device, Russian spy satellite, or Chinese bot network that you do not own cannot access your account.

If you use Gmail for your email then that means anybody who gains access to your account can submit lost password requests to PayPal or your banks, read all your email and chat logs, or make really embarrassing posts on your Facebook account. If those reasons aren't good enough for you, then I wish the person luck who inevitably steals your identity and leaves you with a bill from QVC for $1,000,000.

What can you do to protect yourself? Enable two factor authentication. Right now. Do it. Thieves would need to steal your mobile phone AND password to get access which is a lot better than just having to guess your kids birthdays or your name backwards.

Ok. off the soap-box and onto the six-pack.


Beereview: Flying Fish - Grand Cru Winter Reserve

Being a New Jersey-ite more by necessity than desire means it take a little longer for that Jersey Pride to build up to rabid levels. While I haven't tried any fake tan yet, eaten copious amounds of pork roll (basically SPAM made of pig who-knows-whats,) or actually bothered to complain about Jersey Shore I do enjoy a good beer. I'm proud to say Flying Fish makes a good product down in Cherry Hill NJ (which is more than I can say about White Castle for those of you who remember the first Harold and Kumar.)

This Winter Ale pours a bright amber color (totally clear) and is very active. There isn't much head initially but it maintains about 1/5" due to the high volume of bubbles. The aroma is sweet and cirtus with a slightly malty undertone. It doesn't smell sour or hoppy, just mellow.

The flavor is initially very sweet with a slight grapefruit bitterness underlying. It's initially very refreshing and smooth with no alcohol harshness. There isn't much of a lingering aftertaste and this seems like it would go very well with food. I'm not sure what Grand Cru is, but it tastes like a very good sweet lager.

Overall I like it a lot and can highly recommend it, especially considering a 6-pack is around $9.




Have any of you had Flying Fish? What'd you think? Let me know in the comments below!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Your One Stop Wishlist

Alright so maybe you don't want to give someone glassware for Christmas. Maybe they're the bottle sort of person. Maybe they have a tendency to break things made of glass. Maybe their cupboard is overfilling of pints, pilsners, boots, and chalices. What can you get that special brewing someone? Lets break it down in price ranges...

Under $10
  • The Autosiphon - if the special brewer in your life is still transferring beer/wort/whatever from one vessel to another by sucking on the tube like he's stealing gasoline out of a cop car, he needs an autosiphon. Every brewer needs one. Not only is it more sanitary, but it is exactly 12.5 times easier than trying to manually siphon with a plane ol' racking cane.
  • The Thief - basically an autosiphon without the racking cane. I understand if you're as stingy with your beer as I am, you don't want any to go to waste. Even that little bit you dump into your test jar so you can measure your gravities. The thief you drop in, pull out, measure, and let the beer back into the fermenter. Someone was thinking, the thief is sized to fit a standard hydrometer inside.
  • The Blow Off Tube - it only takes the krausen shooting out of your airlock once to run to the store and get one of these. Never worry about getting your jackets nasty from fermenting in the closet again.
Under $50
  • American Homebrewers Association - like the NRA in the fact they fight for our right to brew. Not like the NRA in the way no one dies in their articles.
  • A Propane Burner - get your homebrewer out of the house! Nothing is so convincing then to spend an hour cleaning sticky wort off your kitchen floor. But seriously, these are a must-have for a brewer. Unless your brewer doesn't want one. But then he/she may also enjoy riding the Ol' Model T to work as well. Time to come up to the times of advanced brewing!
  • A Homebrew Keg - Depending on the situation, this could double as a prank gift. Once the homebrewer kegs his first beer, he's never going back to bottles. Even if he doesn't have a kegerator, get him a keg. It wont be long till he gets one. No matter what the SO (significant other) says.
$100-ish
  • A Beer Pump - All grain brewer? No pump? Put that man out of his misery and get him one. Simplifies the whole process... until you can't figure out why the stupid thing won't prime.
  • Mash Tun! - Nothing will thrust your brewer into the wonderful world of all grain like his own mash tun. Comes in any color you want, as long as it's orange.
Under $500
  • The Fermenator - You're spending $500 bucks on your fellow brewer? Don't expect me to reciprocate that gift. Well if you insist, dive into the king of fermentors. By Blichmann!
$5000
  • The Brew Magic System - Seriously? Seriously?!?!? Before diving into this, about halfway down this page there's a lovely "donate" button. Check it out. It's a really cool link. You're either married to your brewer, or about to get a restraining order. An awesome brew system that costs as much as your beat-up Honda Civic. A cheaper option would be to get him a Brutus 10 for $3... the plans for one that is.
You either love brewing or hate money. If you hate money, there's a donate button on your right.
Got any other great gift ideas? Let me know. Want to get me a gift? Lets talk.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Only Holiday Buying Guide You'll Ever Need

Toss away that Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. Shred the Sharper Image. This holiday season make that $20 for somebody you really like or $10 for somebody you only kinda like get the best present with the least amount of thought or effort (since that's what holiday shopping is all about!) With only $20 you could probably get "The best toothpick" or something from Hammacher Schlemmer, so why not get an awesome holiday beer pack instead?

I love holiday beer packs. It's all the awesome beer I usually buy with a free cup! What could be better than oddly shaped cups that fit poorly in the cabinet next to regular cups than free oddly shaped ill-fitting cups? Without any further ado, here's some of this year's winners (continuing with some of the Hammacher arrogance in order of worst glass to best).:

From left to right, the flute,
the pint glass and the Chalice
Beereview: Free Glassware!

#4 The only flute glass you'll ever need.
Ommegang 4-Pack
Just like most things in catalogs the title is probably a little misleading here. This is sort of a last resort glass for me because it's awkwardly shaped and doesn't hold an easily eye-balled measurement of beer. If you're not using a matched set it's inevitable that whoever ends up with this glass is going to get a much smaller pour.

#3 The world's sniftiest snifter.
Duvel
I love duvel and I love feeling fancy. Nothing feels quite so fancy as drinking Duvel out of a brandy snifter wearing only socks. While you can skip the socks and still achieve the desired effect, the snifter is a solid way to enjoy the sweetness and pleasant aroma of Duvel. It doesn't really feel like a beer glass though, which is why it's only in the middle of the list.

#2 The most English pint glass.
Samuel Smith
Now this glass feels like a beer glass! A kinda flimsy, thin, easily broken glass but still, it holds an entire bottle of Samuel Smith's! This is a really nice way to enjoy a beer that's not meant to be sipped or sniffed like some kind of sissy barleywine. It's the only way to truly enjoy oatmeal stout, so when it inevitably breaks it's time to just get another one!

#1 The Monk's best beer chalice.
St. Bernardus 4-Pack
This pack combines some of my favorite beer with an awesome chalice just like the monk holds in the picture. There's no better way to savor a Belgian Abbey ale than out of one of these oversize wide mouthed vessels. They hold about 12 ounces each, so a matching pair is a must when you're splitting that bottle. Chimay comes with a similar glass, but I personally prefer the St. B's!

Special Mention: Jones Soda
If you're purchasing a gift for a young child, beer and glassware are probably both poor choices. This Jones Soda deserves a special mention for it's sheer oddness. They have candy cane and pear tree soda! Watch out though, knowing Jones it probably tastes more like the tree than the pear.

What's the best thing about Holiday Gift Packs? They can be given to the same person every year!

Is your cabinet full of these types of glasses? What's your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!



Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Roundup

Welcome back to all who have survived Thanksgiving. Little do people know that Thanksgiving is probably one of the most dangerous holidays. To you that are still reading today: you have survived the trials and tribulations of many, if not all, of the following...

1 - Deep Fried Turkey Bombs
2 - The In Laws
3 - Burnt Stuffing
4 - The Inevitable Food Coma
5 - Gridlock Traffic / Airport Terminals
6 - Spilled Gravy
7 - Hunting Season
8 - Black Friday
9 - Cyber Monday
10 - "Occupy Thanksgiving"

Again, congratulations all you continued readers. If you know another reader who hasn't made it, my apologies. But don't bother unsubscribing him from his site membership, we love the inflated numbers.

Brewing update! My spiced witbier is about ready to be thrown into the secondary which I will end up doing tomorrow. It smells fantastic, and if it tastes half as good as it smells, I may be on to something.

Carbonation via the shake until your balls drop approach (see "the impatient method" here) worked quite well. I've carbonated both my wheat and my blonde and I'm relatively happy. I'm afraid the wheat might have too much citrus in it, which I'm hoping will age out of the beer. The blonde ale is quite malty, maybe a little more malty than I was expecting. I need a second opinion.

My burner paint job is still holding strong save one area. The burner itself (not the stand) is showing a little rust where the flames come in closest contact with the paint. This is acceptable to me! So it still looks great.

My oak aged beer is not fairing so well. After two months of aging the beer still tasted like garbage. Ok, not exactly like garbage, because I dont think my dog Sam would even drink it. I could be wrong. Well I decided to hop the crap out of it and eliminate any oak taste. Well hop the crap out of it I did. Now it tastes like you're drinking a bottle of lemon fresh Pine Sol, without the lemons. Which I suppose would just be Pine Sol. Now I really have to figure out what to do with it and get on to brewing more beer!

Any good close encounter turkey stories out there? Put your brewing pot to it's use of it's original calling? Let me know! Post below!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't Kill Yourself!

If you're anything like me you're probably scrambling around to pack your few scant possessions into a sack so you can get ahead two cars in the five hours of traffic awaiting you. Sound familiar? If not, I'm jealous. 3G hasn't gotten so good that I trust myself to make a coherent blog post in the car let alone my house, but I sure trust the spell checker at home better.

Being that tomorrow (or today for you readers) is Thanksgiving I'd like to wish you a happy one and leave you with this review - Gnomegang is awesome. Not enough? OK here's the real dirt:

Beereview: Gnomegang from Ommegang and Brasserie d ‘Achouffe

What's better than two of my favorite breweries getting together to produce a fantastic beer? Two breweries on two different continents, obviously. Ommegang has always seemed a little odd; they brew great Belgian style beers in Cooperstown, NY. I always wondered what the Belgian brewers thought of our American homage; apparently it's flattery.

Gnomegang is a unique pairing of the Chouffe Yeast in the primary fermentation and the Ommegang yeast in the secondary wrought by American Brewers. For a lover of Belgian styles and domestic pricing, I really couldn't go wrong. The fruity and spicy character of a Chouffe beer is preserved even though it was brewed to the high standards of brewery Ommegang. If nothing else, this partnership really shows that brewers are a global society with flavors and techniques that transcend local geography. But how did it taste?


Real Beereview: Gnomegang

Gnomegang is a very spirited beer and foams up quickly when poured. The aroma is fruity with a touch of grapefruit, typical of other Chouffe offerings. There's a slight yeasty aroma but nothing bready or unpleasant. When poured, the head sticks around for as long as needed and the dry spicy grapefruit aroma remains adding a pleasant nose to the entire experience.

The taste is very fruity; it's sweet without a lot of maltiness. It's initially spicy with the taste of cloves and more closely resembles La Chouffe than Ommegang. The main flavor seems to be citrus and fruit without any alcohol flavors (although it's 9.5%). The aftertaste is slightly bready but quickly yields to a citrusy sour sweet rush.

Overall this is a great Christmas Ale and I highly recommend it!

Have you tried any similar pairings from cross-continental breweries? Did you try Gnomegang? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Can't stand the heat?

I'm not going to lie. This is going to be a shorter post than usual. Stayed out late last night in down town Orlando, and I'm paying for it today. I don't know how my wife bounces back so quick...

I did get the chance to brew this weekend! This Saturday morning I brewed what I think is going to end up being a spiced witbier. We'll see. My idea was to have a spiced American pale ale, minus the hops. That landed me right in the realm of witbier and Belgian wheat beers. Currently my concoction is bubbling away in the closet.

While brewing I also took the time to try the more common method of force-carbonation that seems to be popular on the internet. My buddy Jeremy clued me in on this method which I had been ignoring for some time. Brute force. Crank up the regulator and shake the crap out of the beer. Results have yet to be determined.

I am excited to say that my new paint job on my Bayou burner is working fantastic. These burners are fantastic. I'm willing to bet money on that it's the first accessory home brewers buy when starting up. If you don't have one already, go out and get one. Especially right after Thanksgiving when they'll probably be marked down. The downside to these wonderful cookers are the paint job. If you've ever purchased a gas grille that cost less than $100, you probably know what I'm talking about. When you fire it up for the first time, all the paint burns off, leaving you with bare, rust-prone metal. Well I came across a can of high temp (2000 F) Rustoleum paint. I was skeptical whether or not the propane flame burns hotter than that. I suppose looking back I could have done the research, but I didn't. Well I gave my burner a nice coat of black paint and gave it a whirl. This stuff works awesome. After my first brew day which consists of almost 2 hours of heating the mash tun, and an hour and a half heating my wort, not a single bit of paint flaked off. So after 3 and a half hours of almost constant heat, this stuff stuck strong. It doesn't look like it plans on coming off either. For the love of god, if you have a burner, and I know you do, go pick this stuff up. For the $5 it's worth, it's no question whether or not to get it. Plus you can give your burner a little flair, since it comes in a few different colors. If you're burner's rusty, and I know you aren't going to brush any of it off, that's ok. Since it's Rustoleum it loves that stuff. Below is a photo of my burner after the 3.5 hours of burning. It looks great.


Stick a fork in me, I'm done. Use those burners for something good. Maybe even use it for what they're made for, and deep fry a turkey this week. Please though, don't blow yourself up. We don't have a huge cult of loyal followers yet, so we need every one we can get. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Post Yeast Roundup

YEEHAW!

*ahem* Excuse me. It's been a long weekend of moving out the mother in law and taking care of things around the house. Not having the exam anymore is a blessing and a curse. Now instead of exercising my brain untill it's a pile of Gak, I'm exercising my body, laboring and doing stuff around the house that's gone to hell while I was studying.

Lets recap. Last week I talked about fermentation times. I've picked up some contradicting information in my few years of brewing and I decided to compare the few. The three opinions were "7 day fermentation," "7+ day fermentation," and "4 day fermentation." Check out the post last week before you read on, if you haven't already. But you guys are good readers. So I know you have. Right?

Here's my take. There's three (ish) very not distinct phases of yeast fermentation. Aerobic (with oxygen), Anaerobic (without oxygen), and the stationary phase. In the beginning we deal with all aerobic activities (not jogging). Yeast is taking in oxygen, minerals, and nitrogen in this phase to build up proteins to create healty little yeasties to get ready to send off to their first day at the booze plant.

I bestow this knowledge to you. Beware. I know chemists.
The anaerobic phase is when the yeast really starts kicking some tail. This is when the most important magic happens and alcohol is created. The yeast breaks down sugars, starting with the simplest, and finishing with the most complex. But like you or I, when the yeast do all this heavy lifting, there's byproducts. For us, it's sweat, poo, etc. For yeast it's chemical compounds like diacetyl, acetaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide. All byproducts that give the beer a funky flavor. ALSO like us, given time, yeast will...

Clean up after themselves! Yes, unlike your gross college roomate, given time, yeast will clean up after themselves. They will reabsorb the above mentioned diacetyl and acetaldehyde. Given time the yeast will start to flocculate (fall out of suspension). Conditioning the beer all along.

If you couldn't tell already from the article, I am for the method of thinking that letting your beer sit on the yeast for a while is a good thing. 4 days is too fast, probably even 7 is too fast. The yeast need time to call out the laborers and dispatch the janitorial staff. Once your yeast is done bubbling like crazy, give it a few more days. Let it condition. This is another case for secondary fermentation, something which I'm a firm believer in. Sorry, BYO, but I'm going to have to disagree with your article.

Also thank you to the authors of Brew Chem 101, and Yeast. Both books I have read and honed my knowledge of fermentation with. You can find both books talked about right here at A Tale Of Two Brewers.

What do you think? Is 10 days way too long? Argue with me. I dare you. I know chemists.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Beereview: Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale

What will they think of next? There seems to be an assault on every season with some type of "X Moon" beer, and now they've even started adding suffixes. Don't be fooled into thinking Blue Moon is some kind of craft beer; it's made in huge batches which probably do double-duty for Coors light. Since we obviously have no standards here, why not review the latest from our Corporate Overlords Of Rotgut Spirits? (COORS, get it?)

Prejudices aside, I do like the original Blue Moon (usually at a chain restaurant when there's nothing more interesting,) so I was intrigued when I saw the mutant offspring of it and my favorite variety, Abbey Ale. It's sort of like hearing that your dog is going to make you dinner, you know it'll be disappointing but it's definitely worth a taste and probably won't kill you.

Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale

This ale pours a dark reddish tan with a head that (much like other mass produced beer) goes away totally in about 5 seconds. The aroma is sweet and malty with a somewhat sour yeasty smell, probably due to the wheat. It actually smells a lot like Sam Adams, which I found somewhat odd.

They claim "a touch of wheat for a rich caramel flavor with a smooth toffee finish..." let's see...

The initial taste is sweet caramel which quickly gives way to a kind of funky wheat taste. It has a somewhat soapy undertone on an otherwise pretty forgettable flavor. There's just not much here to review. I would say that given the style they are claiming it's best enjoyed room temperature (but given the way it tastes I'd have to say stick it in the snow for a few hours prior to consuming.)

The aftertaste is yeasty and somewhat sour, although there's a pretty overwhelming sweetness covering it up. At 5.6% this beer is on the higher end of the X Moon family and I suspect they had to sweeten it up even more than usual. Another review claimed it was somewhat "bisquity," which confused me at first but now I think it's dead on.

Overall, I can't recommend this to anybody. Adding wheat (the signature in Blue Moon) to other seasonal varieties smacks of marketing rather than craftsmanship. I'd wager that they didn't necessarily call this Abbey Ale until it was already in bottles and based more on market research than flavor.

Have you tried this beer? What's your favorite (or least favorite) X Moon? Let us know in the comments below!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yeastbound

Life after the exam is wonderful. I got so much crap done this weekend it was amazing. So much so, I almost didn't have time to blog. Sawdust was flying, nails were shooting, and a lot of stuff got painted white. Most importantly, I still have all my fingers. One of my kegs got kicked as well, so that means brewing soon. Probably next weekend, but I have to wait for a parts order from MoreBeer.com to come in. I did a small rebuild on my mash tun, and I'll finally have a disconnect for it instead of my hose permanently attached to it. It doesn't sound like a huge deal, which is probably why it lasted so long. It's going to make life a lot easier. But for now, my mash tun is in 10 pieces. So no brewing right this second.

Got word from a fellow blogger on the internet. Raven over at at CookEatDelicious.com sent me a message the other day about a list she was putting together. So I went over and checked out her blog, and it's very nicely laid out. A lot of fantastic looking recipes. I brainstormed an idea about linking some of the beereview and food recipes, but that's tough cause I don't know squat about food, and she admittedly doesn't know squat about beer. Regardless, I'm sure some of you enjoy this blog for the beer sampling aspect of it, so go check out CookEatDelicious.

I'm way behind on my magazines, as I may have mentioned before. I've been finally pounding through a bunch of them and I came across an interesting article on yeast and fermenting. In the September 2011 issue of Brew Your Own says that a four-day fermentation is just right. Hm.

Why do I ponder you say? Well, maybe I just like to ponder thinks. To think, therefore I am right? So if I spend extra time thinking, that means I must really be somebody. It doesn't mean whatsoever that I'm stupid or anything... Nooooo. But I do have reason to ponder. When I first started brewing I had an idea drilled into my head by my how-to beer material. That idea was, once yeast has done their business, which takes a period of seven days (ish). Once those seven days go by, most of the yeast is dead. So if you leave your beer on the yeast, it's sitting on a vast graveyard of yeast corpses and will pick up some off-flavors and/or tannins in the process. Makes sense to me.

After a few books and an article or two I read another idea in multiple sources. Leaving your beer on the yeast after fermentation has stopped (remember yeast-graveyard) is actually a good thing. You see, the yeast isn't actually dead after the fermentation stopped. It's just tired and out of sugar (like a tween after Halloween). The yeast continues to do their thing slowly, cleaning out and conditioning the beer. Making the beer better by leaving it after fermentation is done. At this point in my education, this made better sense to me. If yeast was truly dead, we wouldn't be able to bottle-carbonate with priming sugar.

So now! I read an article that says a four-day fermentation is just right. Here the idea is that yeast has come a long way from the older days of a dried packet stuck under the lid of a can of malt extract. Before yeast starters. Before Wyeast "Smack Packs" and White-Labs' cool little tubes (which are a lot bigger than you expect them to be). For the old yeast, it took time for the yeast to get started. Now we pitch at hiiiiiigh cotton (er Krausen), and the yeast is hitting the ground running when it gets in your wort. Effectively starting on day three from my originally mentioned seven day cycle.

I'm going to leave you in suspense. I'll let you know what I think next week. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Check out the article, relate to your brewing processes and knowledge, and comment below!!!

(Important note: don't google image search for yeast, do google image search for white labs. Actually, let me handle it.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Welcoming Winter... with Beer!

Wow, winter this year is really using some guerrilla tactics. I can't remember a time when we've had a snowstorm before Halloween, so either I have a terrible memory (likely) or this is some el nino with the squiggly "i" stuff. For now we're back to peaceful fall, but before I know it we'll be under 3 feet of snow until it turns to 6 inches of ice, dirty black rocks, and leftover salt in June. It's time to get ready for winter!


How you know winter is coming:
  • You start craving turkey, the least flavorful and most sandpaper-like of meats
  • You finally hang up the flip-flops (unless you're a 15-20 year old girl or 75-95 year old man)
  • You're ten minutes later to work because you have to scape frost off your car with a tool that barely works
  • You start seeing tree shaped Reeses Peanut Butter Cups at the register instead of pumpkin or turkey shaped ones (before the heart shaped ones, or cadbury eggs)
  • You can't find any pumpkin ale to review, but there's lots of winter lager
Since it seems a little too early to review a Christmas Ale (of which there are tons available right now) I was looking for something a little more seasonally appropriate. Using the register candy as my guide was no help since liquor stores don't generally carry Reeses (although they are one of the only places to carry pork rinds, go figure.) I toured the store and realized that after writing this blog with Gene for a couple years I've reviewed most of my favorite all-year beers. After giving up in the normal fridge, I hit the Christmas section and dodged a bullet. They had the perfect beer to review for this time of the year...

Beereview: Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale

I've always had a soft spot for Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout and they are one of the first breweries to have a widely available organic lager. Sam Smith's also tend to not be too expensive even with all the fancy gold foil around the top.

The bottle claims that this ale is fermented in "stone Yorkshire squares" and contains Fuggle and Golding hops. If that's not some Harry Potter stuff, I don't know what is. It makes sense that Hogwarts would have a brewery for something other than butter beer. Seriously though, Fuggle Hops? What the heck is a Yorkshire square? If you know, let me know in the comments.

This ale is an unclouded rich amber color with a foamy head that decreases to about 1/8" and stays there. The aroma is malty with hints of caramel and peach or apricot. It's a nice fresh clean smell with none of the beer mustiness from lower quality brews.

The initial taste is a burst of sweet followed by dryness and slight bitterness. It's almost like the flavor a Belgian Abbey Ale or dry champagne but much more mellow.

Overall this beer is very refreshing, and at 6% ABV is well suited to enjoying around a fire on a cold winter evening. It's much less heavy than a spiced winter ale. I can definitely recommend this beer!

Have you tried Sam Smith's Winter Welcome? Do you have a Yorkshire square in your garage? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beereview: Pumking

I had a little qualm in my head today. One part of my brain said, "screw the Halloween post, you've actually got some material to write about!" The other half said "tradition is tradition, lets celebrate this holiday." As sure as a Jehova's Witness at 8:30 AM on a Saturday (for the love of god!!! the new generation sleeps in past 7am!!), tradition is tradition, so I'll pick up some little tidbits I've learned for next week.

Currently I postponed my blogging for about an hour because one thing I do like about Halloween is carving the pumpkins. I hate scooping out the guts. There's a reason why I'm no forensic pathologist. I do like that I get to use my power tools (particularly my reciprocating saw), and I try to come up with incredibly nerdy pumpkins. In case you haven't noticed already there is a pretty big inner geek inside me. Some that know me might not even think that it's too "inner" per-say. Last year I got noticed on the block with my Pumpkin-Pi pumpkin (noticed by nerdy adults, and no one under 12). I've got a few ideas for this year, but we'll see what pans out.

Today we have a beer from the Southern Tier Brewing Company which is located, as you probably guessed, out of Lakewood, New York? Someone's a little confused. Regardless, I picked up a bottle of their "Pumking" just for this occasion. I love the bottle. It's got all the information a beer geek such as myself drink up (pun intended). 8.6% ABV. Made with 2 row pale malt, caramel malt, and pureed pumpkin (ok pureed pumpkin sounds gross). Hopped with Magnum and Sterling hops, and should be served in a goblet at 40 degrees. My pint glass and 36 will have to do. It's also got a nice little anecdote regarding the Puca, some mythical beast. But I'll let you read that for yourself. Lets rock.

The beer pours a nice copper color, and retains a pretty decent off-white head of foam. The smell is... Well... Pumpkin-y. No hops, no malt, all pumpkin aroma. Which... smells kinda gross. The first taste... made me gag. This beer is pretty revolting. I could see if you're a big fan of eating pumpkin innards, but this tastes nothing like mom's pumpkin pie and everything like the inside of a pumpkin. Sorry Southern Tier, the taste is very unique. Too unique for my taste. I just can't stomach this one. I'd rather go scoop out some pumpkin innards. Which I'm now going to go do.

Disagree? Let me know! Post below!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wait... Guinness makes more than one kind of beer?

Maybe it's the Irish in me, but there's really nothing better than a nice cold Guinness. As a nation where the national sport is drinking and the national animal is a leprechaun, they know a thing or three about good quantity beer. We talk about quite a few mass produced beers on this site (usually with derision) but in this case Guinness is in a class all it's own. Or so I thought.

With the luck of the Irish on my side, I went to my local beer store to see what I could get to review this week. As you may not be aware, the luck of the Irish is particularly BAD luck so it's no surprise that this store's rather limited collection of Coors, Bud, and Colt 45 didn't have much to offer on the micro side that I haven't already reviewed. I was about to pick up something terrible just for the heck of it when I noticed something a little odd: a bright silver pack of Guinness. My suspicions were that Guinness might have released a commerative bottle or something, since they'd never in a million years release Guinness lite, Pumpkin Guinness, or Guinness with clamato juice.

Upon closer inspection I saw that what I had picked up was indeed Guinness, but it was not stout. All I've ever seen on this side of the pond is Guinness Original Extra Stout and Guinness Stout. This happens to be a Black Lager. What what whaaaat? It's almost like you picked up a Coke Milk. Does. Not. Compute.

Anything that seems this unusual is definitely worth my nine dollars. After a quick check of wikipedia, I discovered that this particular beer was test marketed in Northern Ireland and Malaysia. Why Malaysia? I have no idea. Probably for the same reason that they sell Malta Guinness (a non-alcoholic soda produced in Nigeria) in Malaysia. If it's anything like Malta Goya, I'd sooner degrease my engine with it than drink it but I digress.

How'd it end up in my local store? I have no idea but you read it here first (even before wikipedia): Guinness Black Lager is in the USA! And it's cheap!

Beereview: Guinness Black Lager

This lager pours a midnight black with a think creamy light caramel head. It foams up like a glass of champaign (or guinness) and the foam sticks around until well after you're done with the glass. The aroma is straight Guinness with hints of caramel and smoke.

The initial taste is sweet, smokey and creamy with notes of coffee and caramel. The only real difference between this and Guinness is it's a much heavier beer and a lot less dry.

Overall, this a great ordinary beer. If you like Guinness it's just different enough to be interesting but keeps the same great character and flavor. I highly recommend it at your next party!

Are you part of this test marketing? Have you tried other varieties of Guinness? Let me know in the comments below!





Monday, October 24, 2011

Beereview: Magic Hat Double Header

So Halloween is coming up. Whoopie. I've never really liked Halloween. I can't tell you why. My wife asks every year. I just don't. So now we have a tradition of pumpkin carving and candy-dispersing. I'll carve a pumpkin with her, just as long as I get to use any power tool I've got. She hands out candy all night, while I sit in the back yard occupying the dogs so they don't go ballistic on a kid. People will liken my distaste for Halloween from some incident that happened in my childhood. Nope. I was going to dress up for work this year, but it turns out my big licensing exam is the day of our party. Idea fail.

Looking back at that paragraph it sounds like I'm in an awful mood. I'm really not. Especially since I'm about to crack open two new and exciting beers! Lets leave the whole Halloween thing at this. I don't like it. I will do the obligatory seasonal ale review next week, but not because I like it! Because this is bigger than me, it's about you. The readers.

Where's my Academy Award?

No real news from the world of beer this week. As you're reading this at your desk while you're not doing work (it's cool with me, just don't let your boss catch you), my beers are being submitted to Heart's for the Sunshine Challenge. Results will be at the end of November, hopefully I can return with some great news! Also, thanks to "Firsttraxx," I've realized there's a carbonation stone out there that's supposed to make carbonating a lot easier. I'm putting an order together in the next few weeks... That just might be on it.

Lets crank out these beereviews! (My wife, again, is breathing down my neck for a new beer to try)

I'm delightfully impressed by these Magic Hat beers. I had a Magic Hat back in the day, pre-beer englightenment, and I didn't like it. For years, I never came around to picking up another bottle. But those 12 pack samplers get me weak in the knees every time (but that's probably just the degenerative bone disease). But these Magic Hat's are great. Now lets see if I eat my words after opening up these next two bottles.

First! Magic Hat: Humble Patience, an Irish Red! This beer pours a great red-amber, true to style. The head rests at about 1/4" and dissipates in under a minute without leaving any lacing on the glass. The aroma is sweet, with a very very slight hop bite. DRINK! A malty beer. The beer isn't too sweet, but not bitter. It's light bodied and easy to drink. It has a very slight strange aftertaste to it.

NEXT! Magic Hat: Hex Ourtoberfest. Magic Hat's version of an Oktoberfest (get it? ourtoberfest?). The funky label is adorned by some seedy looking gents at a wooden picnic table kicking back steins of beer. It would sure be nice to be doing that right now.... Oh well. Lets pop this top. Aroma isn't strong, and not very present. Slighty sweet. No hop presence. Head is similar to the Humble Patience, initially 1/4" and fleeting. The first sip is great! It's got a slight taste that seems akin to the manufactured craft beers, but barely noticible. The beer is sweet with German malt. Body is appropriate to that of a lager. The beer is easy to drink and satisfies a number of taste buds.

So did Magic Hat make me eat my words? I'd say definitely not.

Humble Patience isn't a groundbreaking beer, but it is easy to drink. The sweet aroma doesn't really come through in the flavor. While a half-decent addition to the Magic Hat arsenal, not the best Irish Red I've had. Would I drink it again? You bet. Recommend it? Probably not.

HeX Ourtoberfest is great. Easy to drink, great appearance, light but still satisfies a bunch of tastes. A good seasonal beer that doesn't take the aspect of "seasonal" and beat you across the face with it. I'd definitely recommend as a light bodied, easy example of an Oktoberfest.

Feeling the Magic Hat? Maybe not? Post below! Let us know!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Review: Labeley.com/beer

A few days ago I received a request from Ana Brady over at labeley.com to take their new beer label designer for a spin. It seemed like a cool concept, and I'm no stranger to web based design tools. If you've ever used vistaprint or a similar online business card maker you kinda know what I mean. Most people are intimidated by programs like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop (or like me, intimidated by their over $1000 price.) Tools like these can really make life easy for non-techie or "normal" people.

The Good:

They have some pretty cool sample designs on their front page, which I'm sure lazier people would definitely like to copy. The color theme presented is pretty indicative of beer, and the clip art style banners, backgrounds, glyphs, label shapes, etc. are spot on. The interface is clean and pretty easy to use.

Areas for Improvement:


There was only one thing that I'd consider a severe oversight and that is the fact that there is no confirm prompt when you click on "reset current shape." This is a one button click that totally destroys all your work and can't be undone.

Since you can only upload one image for the label, there's no easy way to upload multiple glyphs or pictures without creating the label yourself in an image editor. Every other application like this has allowed virtually unlimited picture uploading.

Since there's really not that much clip art to choose from, this is a pretty significant limitation for people who want to make a really custom label. There's only 40 or so colors to choose from as well and uploaded images can't be re-sized or moved. Also, once a label is downloaded it can't be edited again; this means the sample labels can't be loaded and edited, which I thought was odd considering that's what most "normal" people might want to start with.

The number one area for improvement though is label ordering. I assumed that once I had designed my label I'd be able to have them print it and send it to me as some type of sticker. All I was able to do was download a copy (which wasn't print quality) or share it on social networks. I just assumed that they made their money on the printing end of it, but I guess it's only on advertising.


Overall:

This is what I ended up with.
Being a designer, I had in mind what I wanted to make from the get-go and it just couldn't do it. As far as I'm concerned, labeley was a little too restrictive for my tastes. It seems like a polished weekend project which still needs fine tuning. I really liked the idea and I hope the team takes all my comments as constructive criticism.

If I were the type of person who makes huge banners out of nothing but WordArt and Microsoft Clip Art, I'd probably love being able to select from a small list and mix and match. Considering that Facebook and Twitter sharing seem to be their main focus, this might catch on with that crowd (if only to make hilarious labels for butt beer.)

I'd encourage you to take it for a test drive. They are a small team and would probably love to hear your feedback (unless you're a mean jerk, can't type, or have so many viruses on your computer that all you send out are viagra advertisements.)

Where do you get your beer labels? Do you usually design them online? What tool do you use? Let me know in the comments below!


Note for developers:
Uploaded files don't have transparency, unless you apply a round frame. once that is applied, the transparency is a bit strange and the image is permanently cropped. Also, if you apply a frame to an uploaded photo it messes with the original image (requiring a re-upload to fix it.)






Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunshine Challenge 2011

Today was one damn productive day. Not really for brewing, but I'll get to that. The real reason is, for the first time in about 5 weeks, I've done something else than spend most of the weekend studying for my upcoming Professional Engineer's License test. What's that you ask? As an engineer, if you want to release plans for anything that is a public work, you need to seal it. To seal it you need a license. To get that license you need to be in the field for 4 years, and pass this test. In my opinion, there's nothing humane about an 8 hour exam. I don't do anything for 8 hours straight. I haven't gamed for 8 hours straight since I was in high school. 8 hours. That's just Sadistic.

But no, I went nuts in the garage. I cut stuff, ripped stuff, broke stuff down, put stuff together. It was awesome.

More importantly, and much more relevant, I bottled some beer today. You see, November is coming. And you know what that means? No! Not Christmas decorations before Halloween. And not hosting awkwardly large dinners with people you talk to only once a year (well, yes that, but it means something else too).

The Central Florida Homebrewers' Sunshine Challenge is upon us! Admittedly, I've seriously slacked on the homebrew circuit as of late. As a matter of fact, I haven't been to a homebrew meeting since January. It's sad really, but it's been a crazy busy summer and fall. Things are slowly calming down a little bit, maybe I'll be able to attend a meeting this January.

I've missed a lot of competitions so far this year. But I can't allow myself to miss the Sunshine Challenge. I have to hold down the fort, and support our Central Florida Homebrewers. Also, it's the one competition that Paul (my arch-nemesis) sends entries to. Any opportunity to level his beer I have to take. And every opportunity to talk trash is a good one. This year I'm submitting two entries, my Pokey Porter (under the porters obviously), and my Newcastle clone.

Now usually I wouldn't feel right about submitting a clone recipe. However this "clone" actually doesn't really taste like the beer it was named after. Over the next day or two I have to drink a few and decide which category I'm going to submit it to.

If you're submitting you better make it quick. Deadline is October 26th, and they have to be at the destination by then. More details are on the site.

I did run into a bit of an issue. I had a 3rd beer I was planning on entering, which is my blonde ale. But it's pretty under carbonated. This is where I turn to you guys. I'm having real frustrations getting beer carbonated. I know carbonating can be really finicky, but what I'm doing doesn't work. The levels of carbonation are erratic and unstable. According to Beersmith I should be able to attain proper carbonation  at 10 psi. Yeah, that's not happening. I have my kegerator set to 15 psi right now, and after 2 weeks in the kegerator, I'm not where I need to be. I've considered grabbing another gauge and attach it to one of my kegs to get a second opinion, but I haven't gotten around to it. I've seen setups where you can adjust individual pressure per tank, but that's going to get expensive quick.

Any ideas? I could really use your help on this one. Post below, let me know what you do. I'll try almost anything to get a more solid method.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beereview: Flying Dog - Dogtoberfest

Last week brought you Sam Adams' lackluster Octoberfest, so I thought I'd use my carefully honed beer radar to pick out a good Marzen style ale to review. I won't spoil the surprise, but the store I went to may or may not have been employing beer radar jamming equipment.

As with any Flying Dog selection, the label is impossible to ignore. It features a garish pair of Germans in lederhosen drinking beer and screaming at each other over a dog that looks like it got nailed by a Mac Truck. Oddly, the beer in their mugs looks nothing like this one. I posted back in June about why these labels are so weird.

I've liked most of what I've had from Flying Dog in the past, so I figured this one would be pretty good. Let's see!


Beereview: Flying Dog - Dogtoberfest

This ale pours a dark amber color with a thick foamy head that sticks around indefinitely. It's not cloudy at all and seems very active. The aroma is very hoppy with a strong citrus smell and only a slight sweetness, similar to IPA. The floral hops are very pronounced.

The flavor starts off extremely dry and somewhat sour, which was not at all what I was expecting. It's like pure burnt malt. It has a sort of funky bitter sawdusty taste that stuck around in the back of my mouth forever. There's no alcohol taste and barely any sweetness. It reminds me a bit of burnt sourdough toast.

Overall, I can't recommend this beer to anybody. I really thought it was going to be good, but in the end I gambled and lost. At least I only bought one!

Have you tried a good Oktoberfest? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beereview: Alpha Dog Imperial IPA

Have I mentioned how awesome my wife is? So we were on the other side of town, and truth be told, I had no clue where I was. Well the wife described it as "right down the street from Total Wine." That just got me all sorts of excited. In case you don't know, Total Wine is my biggest source for all the crazy beers you've never heard of. I think when she told me, she already knew we were going to have to go. I just looked at her and she's like "of course we can." Awesome! Well usually when I'm in Total Wine I come out with 3 or 4 22 oz. bottles for around 20 bucks. Typically one of them will be 8 to 10 bucks, and then the rest to fill out the order.

Well we walk down then isle, and i pick 3 out. I'm ready to go when she says "how bout this one?" Ok... sure. "How about this one?" Hm. Yep. "This one?" Hell yes. Before I knew it I'm walking out the store with 6 bottles of beer at a cost of just over 40 bucks. She didn't even think twice. Rock!

Needless to say we both have a soft spot for dogs, so when we see a beer with a dog on the label, we can't pass it up. It's almost as bad as when we accidentally go to PetSmart on dog adoption day... No. No. It's not nearly that bad...

Put together a dog on the label and an IPA and Nikki's hooked like a teen on an unlimited texting plan. The truth is I'm actually writing this because she says she's trying one of the new beers whether I write about it our not. Which brings us to our beereview of Alpha Dog Imperial IPA. Alpha Dog is bottled by Laughing Dog Brewing out of Ponderay, Idaho (where the F#*(%@ is that? no matter...). This Imperial IPA weighs in just on the light side of the imperial IPA spectrum at 8.5%. The bottle is pretty simple. No funny quotes, quips, or excerpts. Just a wolf. With creepy green eyes. Representative of hops? Probably not, but that's the 9th grade english class coming out of me (a class full of opinion questions, each with only one right answer). Wife's breathing down my neck, lets crack this pig.

This IPA pours a dark amber color. The head on the glass is thick as the fog in King's The Mist. The aroma is a strangly sweet hop, not the typical pound of American Cascade. The beer drinks sweet and smooth. Not as dry as your standard IPA, but leaves the same amount of chew in your mouth. The bitterness is not as intense as Stone's Arrogant Bastard, but certainly on it's way. The wife describes the beer as "good, sweet, oaky, with a peculiar sweet and toasty aftertaste."

I like this beer. It's not terribly unique, but has an interesting aftertaste. Let me know if you've had it! Post below!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Beereview: Sam Adams Octoberfest

In my last post, I laid out the 5 Simple Rules to Choose the Right Fall Beer so it's time to put them to the test. If you've been anywhere that sells beer lately, it's fairly likely that you've seen plenty of Oktoberfest and Pumpkin Ale. Since this is America (dammit) I thought I'd drop the "K" and spell it right. As Sam Adams has to be the most American beer out there (patriotically speaking,) their Octoberfest seemed like a good bet. Plus, it's cheap and we basically ruined our economy, so that has to be a good thing.

First, let's check it against the rules for purchase:

Rule #5: Know your style preferences.

In the store: Orange label? check. Maple leaves on the bottle? check. Pumpkin on the bottle? Surprisingly, no. Says "Oktoberfest" or "Marzen" on the label? close enough. I do like Vienna Lager and this being an Oktoberfest it should embody Sam's take on it. So far so good.

Rule #4: To pumpkin or not to pumpkin?

Not.

Rule #3: Spot seasonal invaders.

This does look suspiciously like a seasonal invader. Their overly generic description doesn't make it sound like they spent a lot of time on this formulation. It basically says "5 varieties of malted barley for a richer taste." That doesn't really sound like an Oktoberfest or a fall beer to me, just a "beer" beer.

Rule #2: Read the label.

As I mentioned in #3, this label hardly says anything (not even the ABV.) It doesn't list the type of hops or make any claims at all. Their website says a little more about it, but not everybody is going to whip out their iPhone in the liquor store. Even the website is just a Wikipedia dump about what Marzen and Oktoberfest mean.

Rule #1: Check the date.

Born in march this year, so it's fine. If your label doesn't look like the picture I posted you're probably drinking something partially fossilized.

So how does it stack up?

Sam Adams in my opinion is a beer best enjoyed right from the bottle. Unless I order it on tap (which I only do when there are no local or microbrews on tap) I don't think it should be served in a glass. As such, I won't report on the color. The aroma is sweet and bland, not much to it.

The initial taste is very sweet and malty. It's not hoppy at all, which I didn't expect from Sam Adams. They usually have a pretty pronounced hoppy flavor even in their flagship Boston Lager and Boston Ales. The aftertaste is pretty bready. It's really not at all what I expected, especially since the variety is supposed to be similar to Vienna lager (which regular Sam Adams Lager is similar to.) The finish is sweet but doesn't cover up the alcohol, even though this is a low ABV beer.

Overall it's not that bad, but has more "Beer" flavor than most other Sam Adams offerings. It's almost too strong without any real character (sort of like Sylvester Stallone?) It's not what I was expecting, so Rule #5 doesn't work; it passes Rule #2 by omission, and rules #1 and #4 legitimately. Unfortunately, I have to call this one a "Seasonal Invader" at about a C+, with regular Sam Adams being a solid B. Sorry Sam, better luck next time.

Have you tried this beer? What'd you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cat Scratch Fever


Or what happens when you can't think of a witty title!

Holy poo it's a beautiful day out here in central Florida. I don't know if you were one of the many states to get the cool breeze blowing through this weekend, but it's a welcome change of pace from the melt-your-face-off heat here in Florida. It's been so hot all the emo kid's stickers are falling off their little emo skateboards. I've been up today since 9 am doing housework and yard work all day, and hardly broke a sweat. This is night and day in comparison to the usual blinking-makes-you-sweat days of the Florida humid summer. Well around 3:30 I finally finished pressure-washing the back porch and was able to work on some upgrades to my beer equipment.

I doubt I'm the only one having this problem. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my Bayou Classic Turkey Fryer (that post is a blast from the past!). But the first time you fire it up it smells like you set a pair of boots on fire. That smell is the cheap and cheesy paint instantly burning off right from when you said "flame on." With the paint missing, rust is right around the corner. Also puzzling is the amount of rust I have on my "stainless" braided gas tube. The rust that turns that tube into a collection of tiny meat cleavers that Pinhead would be jealous of. I've been thinking about getting some high temp paint, and I finally did. I've heard 500 degree won't cut it, so I went right to the 2000 degree stuff. Lets rock. The first coat is currently drying right now. Go Rustoleum!

Secondly I got myself of set of gas disconnects from Heart's. By having this I can quickly pop off my CO2 tank from my kegerator and attach it directly to a keg for force carbonation, or directly to my beer gun for bottling. This also makes it so instead of using my portable CO2 canister, I can quickly take my tank and have a perfect and constant flow right to my keg for competitions when I'm kicking Paul and Jeremy's ass.

The gas disconnects work fantastic. I'll keep y'all posted on how the high temp paint works!!

Anyone have the same trouble with their Bayou burner? I can't be the only one. Post below!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

5 Simple Rules to Choose the Right Fall Beer

It’s that time of the year again. Rite Aid has had their Halloween decorations on sale since June (and will be putting out the Christmas decorations by next week,) Target is completely sold out of warm hats and winter jackets, and people have a serious taste for squash in their muffins, bread, donuts, and beer. While I can’t do much about the first two problems, I can certainly help with the last.
There’s a lot of interesting seasonal beer for autumn, but how do you know what to pick? Using these 5 simple rules of course!

Rule #5: Know your style preferences.

When you enter your favorite beer emporium, odds are they will have a huge mountain of seasonal six packs pretty close to the entrance. Since this fermenting heap is based around the season instead of the style, it’s more or less a grab bag of different beer types. Making this even more difficult is that they nearly all have a picture of a pumpkin, maple leaves, and an orange label.

What do you do with this veritable messy sock drawer of beverages? Read the descriptions of course, and pay attention to the byline. If it says Oktoberfest it’s probably a Vienna lager brewed for Oktoberfest. Pumpkin Ales are usually spicy and contain pumpkin (duh) but more on that later. If it has some other silly fall sounding name, discriminate by the brewery. If you like their other stuff, give it a shot otherwise: back to the heap!

Rule #4: To pumpkin or not to pumpkin?

People can be pretty picky about their pumpkin. There’re a few things to consider when purchasing pumpkin ale. Do you generally like sweet beer or beer with a cinnamon spice? If not, pumpkin is not for you. The pumpkin flavor ranks 3rd in this list in pretty much all of them I’ve ever tried.

Also, there’s nothing more disgusting than warm pumpkin ale.

Rule #3: Spot seasonal invaders.

Seasonal beer is a big moneymaker. As such, everybody wants to get in on it. Anything that says “Oktoberfest” or “Marzen” on it is almost guaranteed to sell, regardless of the fact that it might be the keystone light of the Czech Republic. You won’t be able to compare based on price necessarily, so pay attention to where it’s from. If it looks cheap, comes in a can, and has a soviet flag on it try something domestic.

Rule #2: Read the label.

Lots of breweries are jumping on the pumpkin carriage including the big boys from Milwaukee. Unfortunately this has the effect of contaminating the supply with lots of artificial pumpkin additives (probably from the same truck as your pumpkin flavor shot in a Dunkachino.) The jury is still out on the term “Malt Beverage Brewed with Spices” but that sounds a lot worse than “Ale Brewed with Pumpkin.” Since they don’t need to print ingredients on hard beverages , if you really want to be sure it’s legit read the label or ask the store manager.

Department of Alcohol, Tobacco AND Firearms? That’s the federal department of epic right there.

Rule #1: Check the date.

Some beer is meant to be aged and some isn’t. If something was a slow seller last year, it likely spent the last 9 months in a rat filled cellar. If it’s on the low end of ABV (assuming it didn’t spoil outright,) you can be pretty sure it’s not going to taste like it’s supposed to. Most beer has a date printed on it somewhere and it’s especially important to check on seasonal varieties.

That said, the best seasonal beer sells out really quickly. If you have any interest in getting your hands on the best pumpkin ale this year, now’s the time.

It may sound like common sense, because it is. Have you started celebrating the fall beer selection? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Beereview: Z

Relative to past weeks, this week in brewing has not been as active. I was supposed to keg my Sa-wheat! on Friday and make some modifications/upkeep changes on my draught system. Yeah that didn't happen. You see there was this crazy video game hiding from me when I got home from work. When I was getting ready to do something productive it pounced me in a way that would make Hobbes jealous! I fought it as best I could but in the end I had to submit... and the game proceeded to torture me the rest of the afternoon.

Really. I swear. Because I was also planning to take a nap which also didn't happen. It was a rough day.

I did end up doing some cleaning up today. Mostly rearranging my toolbox and my equipment. But I'm much more organized now. Whoopie.

I just started really paying attention to my twitter account again, and it looks like that I started just a little too late. I caught up with two twitter posts that I would've killed to participate in. One is Mutineer Magazine's Canfest Blogger Contest. The winner gets a trip to Reno to attend Canfest, which celebrates craft beer served in cans! I coulda totally won... but I found out too late, so you might as well vote away! If you're too impatient to read the other blogs, I'd recommend voting for my fellow Floridian, RoadTripsforBeer.

The other is CraftBeer.com's (Brewers Association) Craft Beer Tattoo contest. This one I'm really ticked about not finding out about. I think my tattoo would have totally won. Oh well, I'll try again next year. By the way, did I tell you guys I got a brew tattoo? Soon enough.

Beereview time! I picked up "Z" at my local homebrew store, Heart's Homebrew. They don't really advertise that they sell beer there, but if you wander into the back you'll find some refrigerators with a few random beers. This beer hails from the Fort Collins Brewery, Fort Collins, Colorado. According to the label it's a rauchbier which is easily described as a smoked lager. Actually, this will be my first rauchbier so I'm excited to try it. Lets pop this top.

Z pours a beautiful amber color, much like the color of really dark honey, or a light maple syrup. The head is thin, and slightly beige. The aroma is sweet, but not very strong. If someone hadn't told me it was a smokey beer, I wouldn't have noticed any smoke in the aroma. And I still don't. Slighty malty smelling, not hoppy. First sip was a surprise. At first sweet, and then delightfully smokey. Not smokey like Stone's Smoked Porter, but a subtle smoke. I wouldn't have thought that smokey and lager would have gone hand in hand, but I really enjoy the flavors in this beer. Slightly malty, slightly caramel, slightly smokey. Just a touch of each. And very smooth. It makes me want to go eat a burger...

Know of any contests out there? Let me know! I'm always up for a challenge. Also, be sure to check out my page on Pintley.com. Feel free to friend me!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Bud in the hand is worth Two in the Busch

In Gene's last post "State of the World Address," he briefly talked about a fascinating article called "The Eight Beers Americans No Longer Drink." Since you've had a few days to intensely study the article, update your portfolio accordingly, and modify your beer shopping behavior I thought I could risk spoiling the surprise and discuss the article in a little more depth.

I disagree with the statement that "...sales of the top 20 brands dropped 10 million barrels to 149 million, a sign that Americans have turned to craft beers and imports," because a 6.3% drop over 5 years across an industry doesn't seem to indicate a sea change in preferences to me (but I'm no economist.) While it's true that micro brews have been gaining ground in grocery stores like whole foods, in the media, and at local bars and taprooms we need to keep in mind that most of the beer consumed in this country is still probably bought in a 12-pack of cans quickly pounded down in a frat house, bar with "$1 specials," stadium, or Walmart parking lot.

As I was reading through the list, ranked from most sales lost to least sales lost this past year I kept thinking to myself  "yeah, it makes sense that that crap lost sales," but I quickly realized that the entire list of "that crap" could have been in any order and I would have thought the same thing. What builds brand loyalty among the Miller, Bud, Coors, or Craft crowd? I'd like to think that it's the quality of the product and flavor, but I suspect marketing has more to do with it (especially if you're not part of the Craft crowd.) 

Are you looking for a cold beer? Coors. Are you looking for a crisp beer? Miller. Do you want the old standby "King of Beers"? Bud. None of that has anything to do with taste (but you might argue it has everything to do with poor taste.) At least the Craft crowd tries to tempt you with their sheer variety but I suspect that building a bias into beer bloggers, the media, and the general public is the real long game here.

Will it be successful? Can a group of disconnected independent brewers undermine a long established American industry? I want to believe so, and I suspect not. It's no surprise to me that Michelob (WTF is Michelob?) lost 72% of its sales over the last 4 years; it just got voted off the island. The article is a little misleading however, I suspect that the market share lost by Michelob was picked up by other national brands more-so than craft.

The crowd we don't often discuss but who probably make up a good portion (if not the majority) of beer drinkers are those who just want to drink a bunch of beer until they get drunk and fall asleep. Is that part of the market ever going over to craft beer? I don't think so; it seems to me that the national brands will always have that niche covered (as the nation's de facto drug dealers.)

Do you think that craft beer can ever takeover the market and still maintain its identity? Is there enough room on the shelves to have enough variety to represent all the small regional brewers? I honestly don't know. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!





Monday, September 19, 2011

State of the World Address

From time to time I like to tune in and post to our readers about the state of the craft beer world as I know it. Truthfully I don't do it as often as I should, but I'm making a better attempt at it. My wife was a little confused when I told her the other night that I was going to stay up and "talk to the internets." But that's exactly what I did. It's entertaining, enlightening, and it gets me a few more hits on my site. What? I'm just sayin...

Which wants me to also let you guys know, there's two great communities out there to meet other brewers on. Maybe you already know them, but maybe not. HomeBrewTalk.Com is the first really obvious one. There's a very vast amount of knowledge on Homebrewtalk, and everyone's always willing to lend a hand. Usually people respond quick enough so you can even get answers to brewing emergencies.

The other is Reddit. If you've been on the internet, you're probably already familiar with the funny looking little alien. I'm willing to bet that if you've never heard of Reddit, you'd recognize the funny little alien. I got hooked on Reddit a few weeks ago and then stumbled across something amazing. Reddit has it's own homebrewing section!! Reddit Homebrewing is a much more casual layout than HomeBrewTalk is. There's no groups, no memberships. Just your login and a symbol. Reddit is a good place to brag and talk about your achievements and others. Aside from brewing Reddit images are funny as hell. Also, keeping tabs on Reddit will keep you ahead of the latest internet meme. Holy crap! Ben Franklin? Nope. Chuck Testa.

In addition, I've also been paying attention to another site called "Pintley." It's almost the Facebook of beer. Login, rate beers, check in to places, friend people, commment, etc. They've also got a great App for both the iPhone and the Android.

You can look me up under HomeBrewTalk, Reddit, and Pintley under "Splobucket." Drop me a line!

The biggest news I got in the past week is a great article reporting some Wall Street based news. Coincidentally I mentioned about the exciting new trend a week or two ago about the growing popularity of craft beer (Viva La Revloution!). What with new new popularity of places like World of Beer and The Flying Saucer. People are talking about craft beer these days as if the Beatles were resurrected. Popularity is good. Anyone who wants to ask any questions about craft beer, ask away. One thing about beer brewers, whether they're snobs, geeks, or gurus, is that we always want to help a brotha out. Only difference really is that the snob will smack you when you say, "well I like Sam Adams, that's craft right?" But don't worry, the snobs hit like little girls, and then they'll point you in the right direction.

Well two weeks later I got forwarded this article from a coworker, and fellow beer enthusiast. "The Eight Beers Americans No Longer Drink." The title got me intrigued, but also set in numbers what I had been preaching from my soap box about weeks before. Craft beer is taking over and the big name breweries are losing. Now I'm not one to overthrow the government, and I surely dont want people losing their jobs. The big breweries are now just going to have to work a little harder to wipe away the stigma of "big brewery = cheap beer." Here are the three smallest losers on the list of eight. Percent sales loss is between 2006 and 2010.

8- Budweiser from Anheuser Busch has dropped 30%.
7- Milwaukee's Best Lite from Millercoors Brewing dropped 34%.
6- MGD from MillerCoors Brewing dropped 51%.

And the list goes on from there. Check it out. And if anyone asks. ATaleofTwoBrewers.com sent you.