Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Public Drunkennesss or High Class Social Event? Does it Matter?

Recently my Brother-in-Law invited me to go to a pretty big beer festival at the Nassau Coliseum. Being no slouch when it comes to beer (only?) this was one opportunity I didn't want to pass up. I really had no idea what to expect. I've been to all kinds of trade shows before, some open to the public, some not. Some super awesome with mountains of SWAG, and some miniscule with cardboard signs and booth staff more akin to Huckleberry Hound than Jessica Rabbit. Here's the rundown:


The People

It seemed like there were three distinct types of people at this festival:
  • The "swillers" consisting of hardcore NFL fans, frat dudes, ex-frat dudes, and people who hopefully didn't drive themselves there. 
  • The "norms" who were just there to try a few new beers but probably didn't care about maximizing their ticket.
  • The KBS cult... more on this later.
I noticed (although I didn't go around interviewing people) that there weren't that many people talking to the venders about beer, or otherwise doing anything other than drinking beer in what amounts to the giant basement under the hockey rink at Nassau Stadium. It had a bit more of a basement feel than a typical tradeshow. I was a little disappointed that I didn't learn anything new about beer; most (but not all) of the brewery tours I have been on have been informative first and intoxicating second. This was clearly intended to be the latter, but in a not entirely unrelated phenomenon it did stop bothering me after a while.

The Beer

There was a pretty large selection of samples, but given their unlimited nature it mostly wasn't the top shelf kind of stuff (some of it seemed pretty stale.) A lot of the venders were area bars, liquor stores, brewpubs, etc. not well known craft brewers. I did however appreciate the diversity of local breweries and a lot of varieties were available. Since I wasn't there in an official capacity I didn't bring a notebook; some of the most memorable samples I tried were:

  • Beowulf and Grendel (2 beers) from a local brewpub (the name of which escapes me, but which I hope to visit with my Brother-in-Law.)
  • Innis & Gunn  Rum Cask Oak Aged Beer which really did taste like Rum and was (in my opinion) pretty gross, although very memorable! 
  • New Castle Founder's Ale which Gene recently reviewed. He was dead on.
  • KBS.... more on that below.

The Cult of KBS

Towards the end of the session, people started lining up in front of the KBS booth. I thought they must be giving out free "iPad 2S+4G (let S = -1 and G = 0.5)" or whatever they call it now, but no... they were unveiling this year's KBS or Kentucky Breakfast Stout. With the amount of buzz around this beer at the show, I really thought I should have heard of it before, but nope.

I've never had multiple people call something "the best beer in the world" before with such conviction. Lots of people were wearing KBS hats, shirts, etc. The line was from front to back in the basement which is approximately the same distance a hockey puck needs to travel from goal to goal. It looked like a big deal. I even looked up the rating on beeradvocate: it scored 100 out of 100 with 1,972 reviews. Was it up to the hype?

We waited about 15 minutes until the line went down to nothing. Talk about a flash in the pan. While KBS was definitely the best beer at the show (mainly because it was much higher quality and full bodied than the other offerings) I wouldn't call it the best beer in the world. It was pretty sweet with very strong coffee flavors, very high ABV, and a slightly oily mouthfeel (just like a newly retired prostitute.)  I enjoyed the sample enough to get another one, but I think I failed the indoctrination.

So what's really going on here? Founders must have some marketing genius to build up so many rabid fans. While it's certainly not my favorite, I could really see this causing a beer epiphany in the "swillers" crowd. You'll always remember your first love, and this newly retired prostitute really gets around.

How's that for a high class social event?

Have you tried KBS? Am I an idiot for not calling it the best beer in the world? Let us know in the comments below!


Monday, March 26, 2012

The Dawn of a New Era

This has been a huge homebrewing weekend for me. A lot was accomplished. While it didn't start fantastic, it certainly ended that way.

It started off (effectively) with a train wreck of a wiring job. Apparently I wired up my compressor with too small a gauge wire. Apparently you shouldn't hook up a 17 amp motor with 14 gauge romex. Apparently the wire could catch fire.

While this all may be true. Matt, who brought this to my attention, can still go to hell.

I decided to pull this wire, Thursday night. Which was dumb on a number of levels. What I didn't know about this orange Romex wire was that pulling it is like trying to pull a tree trunk through a hole in your attic. This wire has as much flex as a aging snake with osteoporosis and hip dysplasia. Also, never again will I do a project where I have to turn off the power to the house at night. That was just plain stupid. Well my wife came home to me sitting on my tailgate waiting for her to help me pull. Didn't happen. Turns out it was stuck.

SWMBO not happy.

I started off my Saturday early by ripping off the drywall above my electrical panel and yanking the cord through that way. No problem. Life starts getting good from here. I managed to whip together (without any plans) a mount for Paul's Corona mill that liked to spray grain everywhere. It still sprays some grain, but I'll let him check it out, maybe he'll caulk some stuff. I'm pretty proud of this little build, even if it does look like a meat grinder crashed into the side of a birdhouse. Next step will be to throw a motor and pulley on that bad larry.

I also began the project to build my new mash tun. Progress is slow. I swear the stainless steel on this keg is significantly thicker than the last one. I've roughly cut out the top with a blow torch (Mmmmm fire...), now I need to fine tune the cut. More on that some other time.

To finish the day I set up my lagerator in the garage. It's got a nice new home. This was one of those set ups that I didn't think would get clearance from mission control. So I set it up quick while Nikki was in the house. Thankfully when she saw it she thought it was a great spot! Dodged that bullet.

Brewed my first lager today. Is there any differences in the brewing process? Not really. I did learn that the lager grain gets super doughy, compacting down and blocking your sparge like a sorority shower drain. Should be able to fix that by adding some rice hulls to the mix.

Hey did I mention I got my other brewing tattoo? This one completes my artistic tribute to homebrewing. Hope you like it! Thanks to Bobby again at Cast Iron Tattoos.


Monday, March 19, 2012

In-Sink-Er-STUCK

I'm exhausted. I just got back from my first cruise. It was only a two night cruise, but for the most part it was a lot of fun. Part of the excitement was the fact it was our first one, and my wife and I were wondering how we were going to handle the motion of the ocean. The boat took off half way through dinner. It could be mental but after 15 minutes we were both feeling a little funny. It could have been the hangover, but I don't think so. We were horizontal the rest of the first night. Thankfully, those little behind the ear patches work well. The second night we were able to enjoy everything the boat had to offer.

While on our excursion I had a chance to try "Sands," from a local Bahamian brewery. I love supporting the locale and such, but there's only one way to put the taste of Sands. Sands tastes like a mixture between Corona and Budweiser. Individually, I like those beers enough (you know I love Corona). Together, however, the mixture was less than pleasing. It was drinkable, but I'm not going back for a second one. I'll stick with Kalik.

The week before we took our cruise I got around to kegging my Carpé IPA. I've kegged many times before. I've got this down pat. So when the wifey asked how long until I'm done, my answer was the typical Chinese stereotype "15 minutes!"

Nope.

Shaking the hops out of the carboy was a pain. I didn't realize how much space soaking wet whole hops takes up. Into the sink they went, and down the drain i pushed them. I have the usual Lowe's brand garbage disposal. It takes a lot of punishment. It's only ever gotten stuck twice. Once from a rubber glove we found in it upon moving in, the other when the SWMBO decided to in-sink-erate a shot glass. Keep in mind it did a great job on the shot glass itself. A small piece had just gotten stuck between the housing and the grinder.

So I emptied out the hops. Stuffed them down. Periodically turning on the disposal for a few seconds. I made it to the home stretch and stuffed the last of the soaking wet hops down the drain. My disposal has never smelled so good. Flipping the switch produced no grinding however. Flipping the switch only produced a loud, and unhappy hum. The kind of hum a transformer makes before it's about to explode and land on the neighbor's cat. The stuck disposal is fixable, but it needs some help. This involves removing everything from underneath the sink and rocking the disposal back and forth with a measly allen wrench.

Well it got fixed. But my estimate was off. Instead of 15 minutes I spun that garbage disposal an hour later. And there went my night.

I'd like to do a few shout outs. First off, my wife and I met a pair of friendly ladies on our cruise. One of them has a blog that I'd love to shout out, but I can't remember it for the life of me, nor can I remember either of their names. So here's to you cruise blogger!

Also, and I'll go more into it later, I stumbled across a social media site for us beer bloggers, http://beerbloggers.ning.com/. Long story short, one of my posts was featured over at The Local Beer Blog! Thanks to David for the exposure! Likely you might see a new feature coming along, that will involve guest postings.

Take care, it's time for bed,.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mah Nà Mah Nà! Do dooo do do do...

I guess I owe you all an apology for my unannounced absence and lack of post last week. If you know me well enough, you may have put the pieces together. The 5th was my birthday, and on the 3rd, I partied. Maybe a little too hard. Hard enough to make sure I remained horizontal for the better part of Sunday. Drinking Sunday afternoon... even writing about drinking Sunday afternoon was completely out of the question. But I'm back on my feet again, a year older, and ready to continue brewing some home made beer.

Today I decided to put together a how to sort of post. The hydrometer. Who, what, where, when, why, and how?

Who?
The  hydrometer . The  hydrometer  is a weighted glass tube with a calibrated scale inside. You might say the  hydrometer looks like you standard glass thermometer with a severe case of bus driver ass. Or maybe, the glass Kardashian.

What?
The  hydrometer is used to measure specific gravity.  Clear water measures as a 1.000 on the scale. The rating goes up when the liquid is more dense, and down when the liquid is less dense.

Where?
Your wort, dummy. What else would you measure? Technically you could measure anything you want. Chances are your mother's gumbo surprise weighs in off the charts though. And finding out how dense turpentine is compared to water is somewhat pointless.

When?
Whenever you want, but there are a few key points. Most importantly it's at the end of the wort boil, and at the end of the fermentation. Also known as your OG (original gravity), and FG (final gravity). All grain brewers also can measure the pre-boil gravity to insure they have extracted enough sugar from your grains during mashing.

Why?
Measuring your gravity can tell you a few things. Using your OG and your FG, you can come up with the calculation of how much alcohol is in your beer. This is important if you plan to go on a bender, you don't want to bring along some week 3% beer. It's also important if your giving beer to an alcohol-virgin. While funny, it wouldn't be wise to hook them up with a 15% beer right off the bat. Measuring your FG will also tell you when your fermentation is complete. Measuring periodically, when the FG stops going through a significant change, fermentation is complete. Also, measuring your pre-boil OG, to find out whether or not you've extracted enough yeast-food from your mash. It would be a shame to throw out all that grain if you planned to make something strong like an imperial, and you only come up with enough sugar to make a blonde.

How?
Easy. Take a sample of your wort, preferably in a tall graduated cylinder or a wine thief. Take your  hydrometer  and drop it in the liquid you've taken with a good spin as you drop it. Just like you were dropping a spinning top, or unleashing your spin fighters to battle evil. The spin allows the  hydrometer to shake off any bubbles that might throw off the reading. Also, see the picture to the right? You have to take the reading at the right level of liquid. Can you see the difference? You have to take the reading at the lower part of the liquid, or the "meniscus."

Easy peezy. Now you can look like a mad scientist while brewing, what with all your test tubes and glass devices. Any more tips? Let me know! Or check out are new glossary at the top of the page!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Misconceptions - Beereview: Urthel Saisonniere

I bought an Urthel Saisonniere beer based on two misconceptions. The first was that it was brewed by Urquell and second was that Urquell was La Chouffe. There's actually a third misconception generated from these other two (a meta-misconception if you will) that I like Urquell, which I don't. Apparently in my mind "Gnome" plus something starting with a "Urt" equals La Chouffe. So anyway, I'm going into this review totally  blind.

Urthel Saisonniere is a bottle conditioned unfiltered Blonde Special Ale, and no, I have no idea what that means either. I have some hunches though; normally special means extra special bitter (ESB) but that really doesn't match a Blonde ale. I'm not terribly familiar with the saison style, so I'm probably missing something here. A unfiltered bitter blonde seems more like a chain-smoking ex-girlfriend with self image problems than a tasty beer. Let's see how it stacks up...

Beereview: Urthel Saisonniere


The first thing I noticed is that (on pouring) the sludge at the bottom is more of a brunette than a blonde. It was a little offputting but it also made it pretty easy to make sure I wasn't pouring it into my glass.
Being a bottle conditioned beer, it's very active but surprisingly: the head retention is also great. I'm not used to seeing a full head stick around on such a light looking beer, nor do I usually expect a full head from a blonde (bad pun, sorry.)

This beer is only slightly cloudy and sort of a pale amber in color. The aroma isn't hoppy or malty exactly, it smells quite grainy like pilsner. It's got a strong sour aroma, but it's more like the basic beer smell than any kind of fruit, although it does have a nice sweet finish.

The flavor starts off very bitter but quickly turns into something I can only describe as sweet melon. The bitterness sticks around until the end, so I wouldn't exactly call it an aftertaste. It's more like a bitter shock that slowly wears off with some fleeting sweetness in the middle. It's probably fair to call this flavor "woody." After a few swallows the sweetness can't really be tasted anymore. I was totally fooled by the lack of a hoppy aroma, and I kind of wish I was having this with some food. I think it would probably go well with some coconut shrimp or chicken fingers, but what doesn't?

Overall, this is a pretty good blonde but the bitterness and sourness won't appeal to a lot of people. I don't think I'd recommend it, but I probably just don't like the saison style. I'd be looking for something a bit lighter for refreshment and something a little less dominant to have with a meal.

Have you tried this? What did you like about it? Let me know in the comments below!