Monday, May 28, 2012

Beereview: Newcastle Summer Ale, and Happy Memorial Day!

Hopefully by the time you read this it will have stopped raining and you're about to be enjoying a nice barbecue with your friends.

Lets not lie to yourselves... when you read this it'll be Tuesday, because that's the day when you're supposed to be "working."

Regardless, happy memorial day! Enjoy the BBQ and a beer, this holiday is the one to usher in the starting days of summer. For me, that means a beautiful trucker's tan from commuting to work, a lot of hot brew days hanging out in the pool, and the start of Corona season. It also means a game or two of beer pong or flip cup for me in the near future, because it always seems like I get sucked into one of those around this time.

This is where my beer geek comes in strong. Are you so snobby that you don't play flip cup? I doubt it. So when you do play, to you pour a good craft beer, just to pound it as fast as possible? That's a waste. But you don't drink the "domestics." Hmm what a conundrum. Memorial day is a great day for American mass market beer. It's hot. There's drinking games involved. A thick dopplebock is not refreshing. An ice cold, tasteless Coors Lite is though. So crack the top of your PBR! Have a happy memorial day!

But please don't forget the real reason we have memorial day. To pay homage to our fallen soldiers. Granted, I can't think of a better way to pay homage then to crack a beer. Keep it in the back of your mind though. There's people that risk their lives so that you may live the way you do, and don't think twice about it. That's brave. Hell, I'm sitting here blogging, and my office chair seems a little too high...

Now for the beereview! I got my hands on another limited edition release from Newcastle, their "Summer Ale." The beer is only being released from May to July this year, so go grab one quick to try for yourself. Newcastle describes this beer as a light golden beer, medium flavor, and a dry hoppy finish. Sounds like their going for an American lawnmower beer, except with a little flavor. Which I could use right now spending the day in the garage making shelving. Lets crack this top.

The beer pours a real pretty deep gold color with a lasting white foam head. Aroma is mild, slightly toasty, and slightly hoppy. First taste is smooth. The body is simple and smooth just as you would expect from the brewers of Newcastle. The taste is very much like some of our American domestics like Coors or Budweiser, but with a little more flavor, and a distinguishable hop character. Not like the generic extracted "hop flavoring" that Miller adds to their, wait for it, triple hops brewed Miller Light (no! say it aint so!). That said, I can't pick out which hop it is, but it has a nice citrus/grassy flavor and texture to it.

This is actually my favorite from the Newcastle lineup so far. Original Newcastle is too sweet for my style, and Founder's Ale was good, but not special. This is a great summer beer, easy to drink, and doesn't cut corners where the body of the beer comes in. Cheers Newcastle!

Anyone else try this? Think a dopplebock is refreshing? Post below. Argue me. I dare you.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wacky Liquor Laws (and Second Floor Donkey Naps)

Goofy laws are nothing new to me, especially after having lived in Pennsylvania for several years. I'm sure every state has its share of either religiously motivated, trial determined, or just plain idiotic laws (my favorite being Arizon's law that "Donkey's cannot sleep in bathtubs.") but Utah has to take the cake for some of the most regorously enforced and downright asenine laws related to alcohol. This is on top of the fact that a man can have any number of wives yet a husband is responsible for every criminal act committed by his wife while she is in his presence.

Recently, I received an email from Jason Vance about his new documentary "Liquor Behind Zion’s Curtain" which he described as " hard look at Utah’s crazy liquor laws from the 1800 to present day." I watched both trailers and it seems like they have made some great progress in version 2. from version 1. They are about 60% done with the documentary, and I can't wait to see how it turns out!

From what little I've heard about Utah, you apparently can't pour a beer in view of a child, although they have no problem drinking in front of them. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but this "can't be shown making drinks" law was easily (and ludicrously) circumvented by simply serving somebody the bar mix, dekuyper's whatever, or soda alongside enough airplane minis to allow the person to mix their own drink at the table. It would seem to me that any children present would be far more influenced by seeing a family member mix this kind of drink under the table (and "out of view") than they would seeing a bartender quickly and professionally create a drink. Nothing creates desire in a child more surely than express prohibition.

My own experiences with beer related laws aren't nearly that extreme but seem to be just as stupid. In Pennsylvania for instance, you not only can't buy beer in a liquor store (which are all state owned and controlled,) there are two distince types of beer stores with their own specific rules. If you wanted to buy small quantities of beer you can buy up to 2 six packs from a six pack shop (but not 3!) per vehicle; if you wanted to buy larger quantities of beer you must purchase them by the case or keg from a distributor (which can be a big pain, especially if you want to buy a varied selection of craft beer.) What does this mean? You can't buy 18 beers in the state of Pennsylvania, it's 12 or 24+. Also, bonbons or other chocolates containing minuscule quantities of alcohol are not allowed. Weird right?

Does your state have any weird laws? Have you experienced any of this Utah strangeness? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Greenville, neither green nor a village...

It isn't a long weekend with Uncle D if I don't wake up every morning with a hangover.

Just got back from Greenville, SC visiting my Uncle D, which is always a constant party. Of course I learned a few things. I learned that my first company vehicle is going to be a Jeep, and that Jeep will never have it's doors or roof on. Ever. I learned that if you want to drink all day, you have to start in the morning, and to start in the morning in Greenville, you have to plan the night before, because they don't sell booze before noon. I learned that not only do cats love cheese whiz, but they can also come dangerously close to jumping off a 12' drop and dance in the face of danger.

It really was a great trip. We spent some time at the zoo. By no means was it a large zoo. But they did have a pair of lions in a coma. A pair of special elephants that would make the rain man jealous. A funny looking animal called a Coatimundi, looking like a mixture of a squirrel and an anteater, eating his own poop. I'm glad my dogs aren't the only one.

We also spent time at Frankie's Fun Park. On the outside it looked like a sketchy place for children to go have peeping toms look at them through the masks of clown suits. On the inside it was actually a pretty sweet place. On the downside my wife forgot her ID, and was denied beer at Johnny Rocket's. Slap the cuffs on me, I've married a woman not old enough to drink beer.

Spent a good part of a day walking around downtown Greenville as well, which was very pleasant. Greenville is much more family friendly than Orlando. Hear me out here, I know I don't have a "family" according to the government (I feel that my dogs count, but I still can't deduct them on my taxes). Downtown Greenville was friendly for a guy like myself to walk around. Downtown Orlando isn't nearly as friendly. Between the glam metro-sexuals looking down on everyone who doesn't have the latest pair of One Religion (did I get that right?), and the hipsters clogging the sidewalks with their "fixies" that they barely know how to ride and their bowler hats that they don't wear right, Orlando just isn't as friendly.

But finally, to the beer! In downtown Greenville we stopped at a brew-pub called the Blue Ridge Brewing Company. The Blue Ridge was fantastic. I absolutely loved it. It wasn't a huge, made-up production. It was a brewery with a whole bunch of tables and an awesome kitchen. This place just oozed of beer geekiness. The main windows in the front are obstructed by nothing else than the brewing system itself. The system used was a two tank system, with a combination mash/sparge/hot liquor tank on the left side, and a boil tun on the right. I dont remember right off hand, but I believe I saw that it was a 10 bbl system. To the left wall was a row of fermenters, all nice and shiny. The tables were awesome. Tables? Yes. This inspired the engineer-geek side of me, because on the tables were the schematics for the refrigeration and steam system for the brewing system and the fermenters. YES! Calling out valves, pressure reliefs, back flow preventers, plate chillers, and all sorts of other good stuff. It was inspiring for me. So much so I had to push Nikki way down into the corner because I couldn't read her half of the plans from where I was sitting. I sampled their flight of beers which included their Kurli Blonde Ale, Colonel Paris Pale Ale, Rainbow Trout ESB, Total Eclipse Stout, a potent Barleywine, and a Blood Orange Honey Saison. The beers were all great. The stout had great body. All of the beers were lacking a little bit in the aroma department. The bitter really smacked you with the hops. I could drink the Kurli Blonde all day long. I had their "Butcher Shop Pizza" which was absolutely fantastic. The entire pizza was gone pretty darn quick.

Greenville is a great place! If you ever get a chance to stop at Blue Ridge, definitely go. Tell them Eugene sent you. I guarantee no-one will know who the hell you're talking about. Unless it's the drunk 30-something in the corner. Then that's my Uncle D. He'll know who you're talking about, but you're talking to the wrong guy. But he may just buy you a drink.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Taking Over the World

So apparently over at ZephyrAdventures they're running a little contest. They got together with Draft Magazine, New Belgium Brewing, and Untappd to do this. You can register too, but don't expect to win. Cause I will. I just need to write a post about why I should win, or something vaguely related, and I get put in a hat and I may win a beer adventure with hiking and athleticism and beer and whatnot. Even with my dislike and claustrophobia with hats, that's easy enough. Why should they pick me?

Because it will let me take over the world.

It all starts off with winning, of course. I get all excited, jump up and down and such, probably end up knocking over a chair or two. That's all fine and good. I'll go on the trip, do some hiking, shake some hands. That's where it all starts. I'll hand out a few business cards for A Tale of Two Brewers. Luckily, there will be this crazy wealthy venture capitalist there who has more money than he knows what to do with. That's why they're venture capitalists right? Well he's going to fall in love with me, and the humor that goes on here at A Tale of Two Brewers. He's going to invest in my idea for a brewery. I'll use some of the money to move Nick down here because he'll probably want in on it too.

Sidenote: Nick is still living. He just got a new job and he's been crazy busy. Cut him some slack. He's working on his side of the take-over-the-world plan. We've got a bet for who's taking over the world first. Another reason I need to be picked. If I win, he has to wash my truck.

So he we are, Nick's down here and we open up a brewery. Nikki's brother is all stoked, so we move him down here too (remember: venture capitalist = unlimited cash) and turn it into a brew pub. People dig brew pubs. Something about all the shiny fermenters and food and fresh beer.

Mmmm fresh beer.

So things are going pretty well. I've got some cute girls, including my wife who is of course the head cutie, and not only are they all wearing white tank tops (Nikki looks great in a white tank top), but they're also all educated in beer. You know, beer history, beer styles, breweries, food pairings all that good stuff. These are smart bartenders, that's why we pay them well.

So we continue kicking ass and producing good beer. That's when I hire some corporate schmo to make these brew pubs pop up all over the US. It happens pretty quickly cause my brewpub is awesome. I even take advantage of the whole food truck trend and have a craft beer truck. From time to time I'll ride in it. Just because it seems like fun. That's when the big event happens.

That's when Chuck Norris walks in with the President of the US, and the head of a few other major countries. We'll say Japan, England, Australia, and Norway (Norway girls are hot).  I love hockey (go Rangers), so I suppose Canada can come too, they're alright eh? Anyway, turns out they were having some Summit (since all important meetings with countries are called summits), which is ironic, because there is nothing that could even be mistaken as a summit here in Florida. Well they heard that my place was pretty awesome from Chuck and wanted to try it out. Needless to say they were impressed. We drank and ate until the wee hours of the morning. That's when it all dawned on us.

Beer is better than currency.

Instead of trading in currency we should totally trade in beer. They want me to produce this beer. Not only will it solve the world's economic issues (because it just will), but it will also bring upon world peace. Ever seen a really angry drunk person? They can get violent, but at least they're easy to shoot. Now that the world economy is better, and there's no more wars, people are looking for a different type of unity. If no one wants to fight each other, why not help each other out? And what better way to do that than create a worldwide unified government.

So another Summit (see previous parenthesis) is held. Everyone decided that since I did such a kickass job uniting the world, that I should be the rightful big cheese.

So I get elected.

Thereby ruling the world.

This isn't your iron-fist sort of rule, no. This is more of a 'don't be stupid' rule. No more will there be a person to burn themselves on coffee and sue. Nope. Judges, appointed by me, have the right to walk over and smack the person and say "you're an idiot, case dismissed." Whoever wins a case by the way will get a case of beer. We'll call it "case for a case." I like the sound of that.

Finally with all this currency floating around we fund a team to go colonize Mars. It's an inevitability. I'll let someone else rule Mars.

I'm cool like that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hot in herrrr

It was a really great week not to have been fermenting anything. Why? Because my house was doing it's best impression of a south Florida Everglades swamp this week. Minus the gators.

My house turned fifteen years old just about a month ago. A lot of the appliances in the house have never been changed, lucky me. Well the week before the wife and I noticed that it didn't seem the thermostat was kicking in as fast as it used to. Finally when it rounded out at 80 degrees inside last weekend it was time to call the air conditioning guy...

Which I have a slight problem with. I'm a mechanical engineer. An HVAC mechanical engineer. I design the guts of million dollar buildings, and I can't fix my own unit outside. That's a rant for another day.

We weren't able to get our unit fixed until just this past Friday. We dropped 5 grand on this new unit and at first the thought of that really sucked. I almost could have bought a Brewmagic system for that much. Then came the next 4 days without any air conditioning. It was in the low 90's all week, which made the interior of the house in the mid 80's. Highest we got was 86 inside. And humid. Damn was it humid. I had this little desk fan that I toted around with me like it was my oxygen for life support. It didn't occur to me until Friday that that would have totally thrown off my fermentation. I usually ferment at 78, and that's high. But 86? Ouch. After this week, the 5 grand doesn't seem that bad.

Well, the new unit is in now. And thank god. I'm enjoying the cool indoors. My 'frozen' margarita isn't melted by the time i sit down to watch the television. Now I can focus on some brewing again.

I carbonated the Saaa-wheat keg this weekend. Tastes great, but there's an issue. Apparently some sediment made it into the keg somehow. Promptly after opening the tap the flow slowed to a trickle. I blew out the dip tube with some CO2 and the same thing. Full flow for a split second, then a little trickle. I haven't decided what to do about that yet. I have one dip tube that's a little shorter than the others, I could swap that out. It seems to me my only other option is to rack to another keg. Any other ideas? Post them!

Also got a message from my fellow brewer Paul today. Apparently there's a faster easier way to carbonating your keg that doesn't involve shaking it until you shoot a vertebrae across the room. It goes like this: pressurize, disconnect, let some pressure off, pressurize. Repeat every few hours. I don't see how this would work. Anyone care to explain?