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


*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


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!