Thursday, August 26, 2010

Beer Review: Bitter Root Brewing - IPA

India Pale Ale (IPA)

First brewed in England around 1800, for export to the British population of India, IPA was generously hopped as a preservative for the long sea voyage from Britain.  Combining both English and Northwest brewing techniques, Bitter Root Brewing's IPA is light in color, high in hops, with a balanced malt flavor.

Appearance: Pours a dark gold to copper with a large fluffy head. Reduces to one finger with great around the rim lacing. 

Aroma: Up front with bready and slightly toasted malt. A sour dough tang rounds it out with very faint earthy hops. 

Flavor: Strong hop bitterness up front leading into bready malty goodness. The middle of the sip is filled with earthy and herbal hop flavor. Finishes slightly astringent and very dry. Fruitiness comes out as it warms.

Mouthfeel: Low to medium body with medium carbonation. Bubbles are a bit prickly on the tongue.

Overall: This is an American brewed English IPA. Up front bitterness plays nicely with the bready malts and is very easily drinkable for those of us that like hop bitterness. Cleansing on the palate. Nice beer to move into relaxation mode after work. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Beer Review: Bell's Two Hearted Ale

India Pale Ale style well suited for
adventurous trips to the Upper 
Peninsula. American malts and 
enormous hop additions give 
this beer a crisp finish and 
incredible floral hop aroma.
Original Gravity
: 1.064
Alcohol by Volume
: 7.0%
Available Pakages
: 4/6/12 oz. bottles (case), 15.5 gal. keg, 5 liter 
(1.32) gal. mini keg
Dates Available
: Year Round
January 1st through December
State Availability
: FL, IA, IN, KY, MI, MN, MO, NC, ND, OH, 
Appearance: Pours a dark gold to orange and is clear until the end of the pour when some of the sediment is picked up from the bottle. Rocky white head that reduces to one finger with great lacing.

Aroma: Sweet malt but is dominated by pine, citrusy grapfruit, pineapple, and some floral hues. Grapefruit/floral hops are the showcase of this beer.

Flavor: Complex hop bitterness and flavor. The taste matches the nose. A tinge of malt sweetness up front moving into big floral, citrus, and fruit hopiness. Bitterness does not overpower this IPA and it is in a perfect balance of malt and hops.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with low to medium carbonation. Velvety smooth on the palate.

Overall: I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is one of the best IPAs out there. This beer weighs in at 7% but it is so drinkable and flavorful they will catch up with you. This beer gives Pliny the Elder a run for it's money and I just wish Bell's would distribute to Colorado. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trappist Beer - Holier than most

Abbey Nortre Dame makers of Chimay

There are 171 monasteries in the world that follow The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, more commonly referred to as Trappists. Of these 171 monasteries 7 of them brew beer. In 1664 the Abbot of La Trappe began feeling that the Cistercians were becoming too liberal, because of this he enacted a strict new code of rules that these monasteries must live by. Since that time, centuries ago, many of these rules have been relaxed. However the rule that the monasteries must remain self sustaining is still followed today.

In 1997, 8 Trappist abbeys became aware that other companies were trying to take advantage of the Trappist name. They formed the International Trappist Association which regulates against this. A logo was created by the ITA for beer, as well as wine, cheese, etc so a consumer would know that these strict Trappist production guild lines were followed:

  • The beer must be brewed under the supervision of Trappist monks and within the walls of a Trappist Monastery.
  • The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community.
  • The brewery must have an economic purpose that is directed towards assistance of the monastery, not for financial gain.

There are 7 breweries that are allowed to use the "Authentic Trappist Product" logo:

     *Via Wikipedia

via Orval

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hop of the Week: Chinook

Today's is another beautiful hop from the pacific northwest. Classically a pale and ipa hop but it is making it's way into other styles. 

CHINOOK *info from Yakima Chief

Chinook is a bittering variety with aroma characteristics released in May, 1985. It was bred by crossing a Petham Golding with the USDA 63012 male.

Tolerant to downy mildew, Peronospera, with fair pickability of a large cone.
Maturity: Medium to late.
Yield: 2200-2400 kgs. per ha.

1900-2100 lbs. per acre
Brewing Quality
Used for its high proportion of bittering from alpha-acids plus its aromatic characteristics.
Alpha acids: 12.0-14.0%
Beta acids: 3.0-4.0%
Alpha:Beta Ratio: 4.0

Cohumulone (% of alpha acids): 29-34%

Total Oil (Mls. per 100 grams): 0.7-1.2
Caryophyllene (as % of total oils): 9-11%
Farnesene (as % of total oils): 0%
Humulene (as % of total oils): 20-25%
Myrcene (as % of total oils): 35-40%
Storability is fair

Commercial examples come from two nationally recognized breweries. Bridgeport's Hop Czar shows the bittering power you can get from them, and Stone's Arrogant Bastard shows the all around package Chinook hops bring to the table. 

IBU’s: 85 ABV: 8% Color: Deep Golden
BridgePort Hop Czar, an Imperial IPA brewed from our award winning IPA recipe, first introduced to rave reviews in 2008.  It is a triple-hopped bottle-conditioned, Imperial-style IPA that carries a deep malt background with enthusiastic citrus and floral notes paired with high hop bitterness.  The newest in our permenant 6-pack line, the Hop Czar recipe blends copious amounts of Nugget, Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hops.  

This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.

That's pretty much all the information they give about the beer, however it is somewhat known that some of if not most of the arrogance comes from chinook hops. 

Typical use: The most typical use for chinook hops are for bittering additions. This is what they were originally bred for and hence the high alpha acids. However, microbreweries have been using them more for flavor and aroma additions and have been successful. Chinook leave a decently harsh hop bitterness so use a light hand in the bittering additions unless you really want a bite.

Style use: Pale ales, IPAs, Porters, and Stouts.
Flavor/aroma: Resinous pine, herbal, woody, spicy, slight citrus and somewhat floral. They are a very complex hop when used for flavor and aroma additions. I have made some great beers with chinook only. Paler beers seem to bring out the floral, pine, and citrus qualities more, whereas darker beers bring out the herbal, woody, pine, and spicy qualities. 

Substitutions: Columbus and nugget come to mind when thinking of a substitute. Northern brewer also would work if you are looking for a more woody, spicy character to your beer. A combination of all three of those would probably get you the closest for flavor and aroma.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Brewer's Ingenuity

So like most homebrewers I do not like to waste anything and try to make the most of what I have. I have not brewed in awhile so I think it's time to make something up. Problem is, I don't really have the funds right now for a trip to the local homebrew shop. Always sucks when starting an new job that has a pay period 2 weeks behind. Luckily I have everything I need in the house that will give me one interesting IPA.

A few years ago I purchased a Mr. Beer kit for my brother. I was at my parents a few months ago and found it stashed in the basement untouched. Since I drove, I decided to take it back with me seeing as he wasn't going to use it and maybe I could do something with it. I opened up the box to find three liquid malt extracts that have expired recently. Well, not wanting something to go to waste I have decided to use all three in this next brew. They are not long expired and recently one of the brewing magazines published something about using older malt extracts. Plus, this is an IPA recipe so I am hoping the hops shine more than the malt. I have a Pale Ale, Vienna Lager, and Wheat beer LME and think they will do just fine in whatever I come up with. I will do the calculations in a few days but since each can is supposed to make a 2 gallon batch, 3 should work out perfectly for an IPA. I will just need to add some more sugar to bump it up and I think I have some dry malt extract lying around and might use some corn sugar.

As for the hops, my freezer has been stocked with at least 14 different varieties for a good while now. What I need to decide is what I want to use and how much of a hop bomb this is going to be. I have all the classic IPA hops like cascade, centennial, amarillo, chinook, etc. I will probably utilize at least 4 if not more of some of the older stuff I have in there. 

The yeast is simple, I always have an extra packet of Fermentis Safale 05 in the fridge. As a homebrewer, you will at sometime come up with an issue with some yeast and need a saftey net, so I always keep an extra pack of dry yeast in the fridge. I use the Safale 05 because it is pretty neutral and can handle some big alcohol beers.

The point of this post, other than going through my thought process, is that one of the key skills to have as a homebrewer is being able to make something out of nothing. Maybe I shouldn't say nothing, but it's being able to assess what you have and make something out of it. There would not have been styles like the Cascadian Dark (black IPA), California Common, or even for that matter the IPA if there hadn't been a brewer somewhere willing to go away from the norm and experiment with what they had for what they needed. Brewing for style is great if all you do is competitions, but there is another type of accomplishment when you create something that no one has ever tried before. Go out there and make that hoppy oktoberfest or double imperial chocolate stout. Brew on!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beer Review: August Schell Brewing - Pale Ale

Ahh, the northwoods of Minnesota. Nothing like being out on a boat with a cooler of beer catching your sustenance. August Schell Brewery boasts that it is the second oldest operating brewery in America. My only guess is that Yuenling is #1.

This beer was brewed in celebration of the 135th Anniversary of Schell's several years ago. It was so popular, we re-introduced it under the name German Pale Ale.
Pale Ale is really a hybrid—the best characteristics of an India Pale Ale's English malts and hops, combined with a German Alt yeast. It is medium in color, with a pronounced bitterness and a pleasant flowery hop aroma. Schell's is the only brewery that produces this particular beer style.

Beer Style: Pale Ale

Alcohol by Volume: 5.75%

Characteristics: Rich maltiness with a distinct hop bitterness.

Appearance: Pours a crystal clear golden copper color with a very thin white head that doesn't last long. Not much lacing. 

Aroma: Bready malt with a slight tartness to it. Herbal, earthy English hop character.

Flavor: Bready malt up front with a very slight caramel undertone. Slightly tart that reminds me of sourdough bread. Bitterness lingers throughout with earthy, grassy, herbal flavor. Finishes dry and slightly mineral.

Mouthfeel: Medium body with medium to high carbonation. Carbonation is prickly at the end of the sip.

Overall: Not something I would call an APA. Tastes more like an English bitter with higher carbonation and more body. Crisp and tart. Overall a refreshing pale ale that the flavor lingers for a bit. A little bit of caramel malt would be nice to even out the tartness. 

Beer Review: Founder's Brewing Co - Red's Rye Pale Ale

Rye is a cereal grain that is up in coming in the microbrew world. It lends a smooth mouth feel, a rye spiciness, and helps with head retention. I highly recommend trying out some flaked and/or malted rye if you are a homebrewer. I have a recipe for Denny Conn's Rye brew in the recipe of the week section.

6.6% ABV | 70 IBUs
Serious hop bitterness along with unyielding grapefruit bouquet from the Amarillo dry-hop. Balanced with the malty richness of four varieties of imported Belgian caramel malts. Pours a spectacular crimson with a creamy tan head. A generous addition of rye malt accentuates a spicy crisp finish.

Appearance: Pours a deep amber to ruby, a gorgeous color. A big pillowy head forms then reduces to one finger with beautiful lacing.  

Aroma: Bread, spicy, rye goodness is present throughout. Also touches of orange peel, roses, and a hint of pine. Very fragrant, one of the best smelling beers I have had.  

Flavor: Strong grapefruit present up front leading into a mellower orange peel. The hop flavor is rounded out with a bit of pine. Bready rye undertones are present throughout and show more of themselves near the end of the sip. The sip ends with a drying tartness that is very refreshing.

Mouthfeel: Very creamy as it slides across the tongue. Medium body with low to medium carbonation.

Overall: All I can say is WOW. This is an outstandingly balanced beer. The warmth and spiciness from the rye are the perfect compliment with the flavor and bitterness from the hops. I will give this one a big recommendation and only hope I can find it out here one day. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Saffron Ale

Continuing on with the historical sense the last few days I feel it is a good time to share a recipe from one of my favorite brewing books. This is not the typical home brewing book but more of a history book. It is called Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers, The Secrets of Ancient Fermentation by Stephen Harrod Buhner. You can find a list of merchants here and I highly recommend picking one up; it gives a great understanding of the brewing world in ancient times. 

Saffron is one of the worlds most expensive and oldest spices. It takes over four thousands flowers to produce just one ounce of saffron. Luckily though, you can find it at almost any grocery store. However, you may want to find a spice market or a ethnic food store for a better price and fresher product. 

It is said that you really can't describe the taste of saffron in words. Also, there are no known substitutes for saffron, cookbooks will tell you to use turmeric as a substitute but you will create something very different from the original recipe. An interesting read on the spice can be located here. This site describes the chemical properties of the spice and how best to utilize it. 

Below is an excerpt from the book including the recipe:

"[Saffron] exhilarates the spirits to such a degree, that when taken in large doses, it occasions immoderate mirth and laughter." W.T. Marchant, 1888

I must state that that neither I or Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers can be held responsible for any actions under the influence of this historic recipe. 

Saffron Ale:
      12 ounces molasses
      8 ounces brown sugar
      1/2 ounce saffron
      1 gallon water
Boil molasses, brown sugar, and water; stir well. Add saffron, stir, cover,  and let stand three hours. Pour into fermenter, add yeast at 70 degrees F, and ferment until complete. Siphon into primed bottles, cap, and store. Ready to drink in one to two weeks.

Take the recipe how you want it and adapt to your specific brewing ways. I would love to hear back from anyone that tries this and let us know if you were overcome with mirth...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weird Ingrediants: Mustard

There is nothing better to accompany a beer than a mustard slathered bratwurst, but mustard in beer?? Believe or not mustard has been used in beer recipes as a remedy for ague or malaria up until World War II.

"There used to be a lot of ague in them days in the marshlands, Marsh Fever as they used to call it, but I have not heard of a case for many a year, except in men comen home from India or some such part. The cure was hot beer with mustard seed boiled in it, which was counted a fine powerful remedy." Gabrielle Hatfield, 1994 - Country Remedies.

The most interesting part about mustard seed is that some have a naturally occurring wild yeast that will ferment beer. In many old world recipes it is suggested to spread some mustard on toast and let it float in the wort to ferment into beer.

Nowadays craft breweries are taking the opposite approach. Breweries like Stone, Abita, and Sierra Nevada have came out with mustard lines that feature their beer as an ingredient. Just recently Stone brewing had "MustardGate" where it was found out there wasn't actually beer in the mustard. Fear not though, I am sure they will come out with the real deal soon. (Story)

If you look hard enough though you will still be able to find the original. One that I hope to be trying soon is Wostyntje, by Brouwerij De Regenboog. There are pretty good reviews for it at Beer Advocate, and it seems that the mustard is not too over powering. It's good to know if I ever come down with ague there is still a remedy available to me.  

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Beer History: Smoked Beers

Smoked beers were not something a brewer was striving for but a consequence of the world before the industrial revolution. Before there were alternative sources of energy there was fire, and with that fire there was smoke. Maltsters and brewers only available option to cure (dry) their malted grain was fire. Back in those times there would have been little the maltsters could do to shield the grain from the smoke, thus the grain was imparted with a smokey flavor that was then passed onto the finished product.

In different areas of the world different burning fuels were used which effected the finished beer. These fuels coincided with what was commonly used in the region. In Great Britain compacted peat was used, as was straw, which gave the malted grain a less smokey taste. In what we now call the middle east (the origin of beer) malts could be dried by the ever prevalent desert sun but was also dried in bread ovens that probably would have been fired by the most prevalent fuel source which was ox dung. In most of Europe however wood was the fuel of choice and this gave the malt the most pungent smokey flavor. Beechwood was chose not because of the flavor that it imparted but because of the high energy density per log and it's clean burning manner.

With technology came cleaner burning fuels that left trusty old wood in ashes.  Brewers strived for cleaner tasting beers, well brewers in all areas with the exception of the tradition obsessed country of Germany. Today we see smoked beers in a resurgence as the craft brewing world meets the culinary word.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Beer Review: Short's Brewing Bellaire Brown

Posting another review today. I will be back on the horse with some other types of posts shortly. For the time being though I have a lot of reviews that need to be posted.

A brown ale so rich, it’s hardly classifiable as brown. It’s born of copious amounts of hearty pale ale malt, and several specialty selections which make it a dark, rich and delicious masterpiece.  Very light hop additions allow the malty sweetness and flavor complexity to be most protuberant.   A beer so user friendly, we dub this the “gateway” beer.

Appearance: Pours a crystal clear light brown to almost ruby. Thick head diminishes to just over the top with light lacing.

Aroma: Caramel with mostly chocolate overtones, with a light amount of floral hops.

Flavor: Starts with a smooth hop bitterness that turns into semi sweet chocolate. Light citrus hops come through. Finishes dry with a subtle caramel sweetness. 

Mouthfeel:  Medium body with low carbonation, glides across the tongue. 

Overall: In my book this is an outstanding American brown ale. I thought Moose Drool was my favorite until I had this wonderfully balanced gem. There is no roast in this so I am guessing dehusked black malt leads to the chocolate flavor. The Perfect balance of hops to even out the sweetness. This is a winner. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Schedule...

Well folks, Grant got a new job...

If you're in the Denver area come down to Incredible Wine and Spirits and find me. I'll be in the beer department. That's right, out of the cubicle and in a sea of beer....

Since I will not be behind a computer all day it's going to be tough to keep up with the amount of posting that I had been doing. I am hoping to still keep it to 3-4 posts a week but some may be on weekends.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Beer Review: Bell's Lager of the Lakes

Still sipping on my bounty that I brought back from my trip to the Midwest. This lager has been sitting in my fridge for a few weeks and I pulled it out on a hot 95 degree day. Perfect for a golden lager. 

As refreshingly crisp as a morning swim
in a Great Lake, this brew is crafted with
Pils and Munich malts. The pronounced
hop character of this golden lager
sparks thoughts of sandy beaches
and rocky islands.
Original Gravity
: 1.05
Alcohol by Volume
: 5.0%
Available Pakages
: 4/6/12 oz. bottles (case), 15.5 gal. keg
Dates Available
: Year Round
January 1st through December
State Availability
: FL, IA, IN, KY, MI, MN, NC, ND, OH, PA, VA, WI
Appearance: Pours a crystal clear golden straw color with a thin white head that settles right on the top with not much lacing.  

Aroma: Crisp noble hops and a very light touch of pilsner malt.

Flavor: Very light and crisp. Smooth maltiness throughout with a touch of noble hop flavor. Some straw and grass undertones. Bitterness is smooth throughout and finishes dry.

Mouthfeel: Low to medium body with medium carbonation.

Overall: This would be the perfect beer to sit all day at the beach with. Very light but the flavor stands up. No corn or fruity esters from the yeast which I like very much with this beer. Another winner put out by Bell's.

Beer Review: Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shutdown Ale

The beer in today's review has quite the interesting story to it. Lagunitas was the benefactor of an undercover investigation involving marijuana smoking and dealing at weekly tastings at the brewery. On St. Patrick's day 2005 the undercover investigators showed their badges and shut the brewery down for 20 days. Luckily for them this really didn't hurt the brewery as they added a bottling line while the brewing operations were shut down, and any publicity is good publicity right? You can read the whole story here.

Our oxymoronic 'Imperial Mild' - A redux to remember the '05 St. Paddy's Day Massacre. Defiant as to style ... We Can say for sure it is unforgiven and unrepentant.
Approx. Release – March

Appearance: Pours a deep mahogany with a fluffy off-white head that reduces with great lacing. Notice some specks of something and may be hop material or yeast. 

Aroma: Strong aroma of dark fruit and some slight hop undertones.

Flavor: Up front with dark fruit leading into floral, herbal, and slightly citrus hop flavor. Some biscuity malt comes through leading to a raisin sweet yet drying finish. Bitterness is present but does not overwhelm. 

Mouthfeel: Medium to high body with medium carbonation.

Overall: Thick and chewy barley wine with lots of candied fruit flavor. Great hop profile that stands up to the malt but does not overbear. Nice beer to sip on as the hot Colorado day turns dry and cool.