Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Brew Day & Tasting Notes: International Amber Lager

So far I can best describe 2024 as painfully busy. After my position with Muntons Malt was eliminated at the end of 2022, I started working as a consultant for one of Muntons' distributors Pro Brew Supply. Ironically most of what I have been selling for the past year has been yeast, although we will be making a push to sell more malt in my territory which is Virginia up to Maine. I have been supplementing my income with a variety of side hustles which have been consuming my weekends for the past four months or so.

Behold, the Jar of Destiny!

This has left very little time to drink beer, let alone brew beer.  I only just finished my kegs from Ales over ALS in March as I kegged this batch. I also dumped what was left of Inverted Fest, and a version of Derby Wharf Porter I brewed for an in-club competition last year.

Ah yes, in-club competition! Last year the North Shore Brewers started doing quarterly in-club competitions. Every quarter a style is pulled out of a jar (the idea was stolen from Brew Dudes), club members brew that style, and at a meeting all the beers are tasted and club members vote for the batch they think is best. At the end of the year, the brewer who accrues the most points is the club's Brewer of the Year. For the first quarter of 2024 the style was International Amber Lager

Monday, November 20, 2023

Jockey box rebuild

When I volunteered to pour at Ales over ALS this year there were two things I needed to do. The first was to brew. I managed to do that successfully. The second was to dispense the beer that I had brewed.

I still owned the jockey box I purchased for my first Ales over ALS in 2015. The problem was that the jockey box had not been used or seen the light of day since Ales over ALS in 2019. Whenever I brought homebrew anywhere out of the house over the past four years, I just filled growlers off one of my taps. The jockey box had sat in my basement for four years gathering dust and spiderwebs. 

With the event coming up, I had to bite the bullet and see what kind of shape the jockey box was in. Oh my god, was it more disgusting than I imagined.

More disgusting than I thought.

This thing had not been cleaned at all since I last used it. Then it sat for four years. I could tell this project was going to be fun. And by fun I mean completely miserable.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Ales over ALS 2023

One thing I have always understood is that life is about choices. Humans have to make an innumerable amount of choices on a daily basis. Every once in a while we are confronted with important decisions. Lately it feels like my batting average on these important decisions is below the Mendoza Line. 

Anyway, this all started at the end of September at a North Shore Brewers club meeting. Club Vice President Tim Broderick listed off the club members that had volunteered to brew for the upcoming Ales over ALS competition and event. As Tim read off the names, participation felt light. I haven't brewed for the event since before the pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, I served as a judge and was penciled in to judge again in 2023. After a few beers, I told Tim "If you need me to pour beer instead of judge, let me know". Then I completely forgot about volunteering until Tim messaged me a few days later.

Broken First IPA and Potrero Hill Porter

Now, my history at this event has been fraught. I've had near-misses where I've brought solid beers and almost won the People's Choice and the Judge's Choice. I've also brought a beer and a cider that were completely trashed by the judges. Deserved or not, it stung and I left the event enraged and embarrassed. If I was going to pour and compete again at this event, I was going to put my best foot forward.

At the time I volunteered, I had two beers on tap: an extract version of my Derby Wharf Porter and Inverted Fest. Neither beer was terrible, but neither were great. The porter was under-hopped because I used homegrown hops and guestimated the bitterness. The marzen was an experimental recipe that missed the mark.

That meant I had to brew at least one new batch, and I had to brew right away!

Monday, October 23, 2023

Brewday & Tasting Notes: Inverted Fest (Marzen)

 A couple years ago I brewed a version of this award-winning recipe from Ian Anderson of the Boston Worts. I'll be damned if that was not one of the best beers I have ever made!

Now, I did to make a few adjustments based on the ingredients I had on hand. 

No Fest 2020

Batch Size (fermenter): 5.25 gal   
Bottling Volume: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.056 SG
Estimated Color: 4.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 16.7 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 76.7 %

9 lbs 11.9 oz    Pilsner Malt (Muntons) (1.9 SRM)  85.0 %            
1 lbs 2.3 oz     Munich Malt (Muntons) (8.1 SRM)  10.0 %            
9.2 oz           Cara Malt 10 (5L) (Muntons) (5.1 SRM)   5.0 %              
1.50 oz         Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 60.0 min        14.3 IBUs               
0.50 oz          Hallertauer Mittelfrueh [2.80 %] - Boil 15.0 min          .4 IBUs           
1.0 pkg          Octoberfest Lager Blend (Wyeast Labs #2633)          10         

Tasting Notes from my brew log: Might be the best lager I've ever made. The consensus is that my beer is better than Notch's Festbier.  Definitely more malt forward and less hoppy than Weinstephan Festbier. 

Overall super smooth, touch of sweetness, enough hop character to finish clean. If anything it could have used a little more body and breadyness. That could be corrected with better yield in brewhouse. 

I replaced the 20% Vienna Malt with 10% Munich Malt because that's what I had. The 5L Caramalt really gave the beer a subtle sweetness that I think put it over the top. 

One thing I love to do is play around with grists. To take the percentages and change the ingredients. In the Festbier Malt A was 85%, Malt B 10%, and Malt C was 5%. I wondered what would happen if Malt A was Munich instead of Pilsner Malt, Malt B was Pilsner instead of Munich, and Malt C was a different Caramel or Crystal Malt. This beer, I put that theory to the test!