Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tasting Notes: The United States of IPA

I am terrible when it comes to posting tasting notes for my beers. I’m lucky if I get around to writing up my impressions on half of my batches. In the future I think I’ll do some catch-up pieces where I write some quick impressions of several beers.

The US of IPA is the perfect time for me to test out this concept. I brought the beers to Jamboree, and with all that goes on at Jambo I didn’t exactly have time to hold each beer up to the light to note the appearance, and then swirl the beer around to rouse the head and make a detailed description of the aroma.


Broken First IPA (West Coast IPA): I think I nailed the recipe. The extra Citra that I didn’t have for batch one gave the beer a much more prominent hop flavor. I ran into a coworker who was attending Jambo for the first time. He tasted all four of the beers and enjoyed this one the best.

Dave Rowland from SoMe Brewing said he got a very low level of oxidation from it. Oxidation may be an off-flavor he is more sensitive to than others, especially as a commercial brewer. Broken Fist was the only beer of the group that I racked to a secondary fermenter which could explain the oxidation Since the beer was double dry-hopped, I didn’t want the beer sitting on the first dry hop for too long. Broken Fist was also the first of the four that I brewed making it the least fresh.

To improve the beer going forward is more about improving my process than the recipe. Dave said when I think I purged my keg with CO2 enough, to go ahead and purge some more. If I rack to a secondary fermenter, that should be purged also. Next time I would need to brew more wort to account for the huge amount of hop absorption.

Ideally I would cold crash the beer and use a fining agent like gelatin to help with clarity.

Age of Sail

Age of Sail IPA (East Coast IPA): This beer proves that an IPA can showcase a rich and complex malt profile. I learned at Jamboree that Stone Path Malt while based in New England that the malt is actually malted in Germany at a family-owned malthouse in Bavaria. Even if the malt doesn’t have a New England terrior, the traditionally produced malts were perfect for this traditional IPA. Michael Scroth, co-founder of Stone Path really enjoyed the beer.  I look forward to using their products more in the future. The Ringwood Ale yeast with its medium attenuation accentuated the malt flavor perfectly.

Hop bitterness was sufficient, while the hop flavor was perhaps a touch low. If I brewed this again I would probably substitute the Mt. Hood hops for Crystal or Cascade, increase the hops late in the boil and dry hops slightly. For a first brew I was quite happy with it. The 3 gallon keg kicked at Jamboree. It is comforting to know I am not the only person who still appreciates a more traditional, balanced IPA.


Flyover IPA (Midwest IPA): Not only was this the last recipe I finished putting together, it was the last name I came up with. I wish I did a little more research on the name as there are several commercial beers with the same or similar names.

The beer itself is rock solid and felt like a quality representation of Midwest IPAs. It was hoppier than Age of Sail, and maltier than Broken Fist. The underlying malt flavor was clean and slightly sweet. It was also not too sweet that the mash clashed with the citrusy hop flavor. I think the hop profile was perfect for this beer. Flyover was the only keg not to kick at Jambo. I look forward to revisiting it again and seeing if I enjoy it as much as I did at Jamboree.


Haze for Daze IPA (New England IPA): I couldn’t have been happier with this brew. It had the characteristic “juicy” hop flavor and soft mouthfeel. I think increasing my flaked adjuncts really enhanced the latter.

I got similar fruit esters from the Giga Yeast Vermont Ale yeast as I’ve gotten from Heady Topper and beers I’ve made with The Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale. That really complimented the fruity hops used in the beer. The Pearl malt gave the beer a light sweetness which added further complexity.

This beer is another keeper. I would love to brew exactly the same recipe, but with three different hops varieties.

In all I would say the project was a success. I was able to brew with a wide variety of different ingredients, combine different flavors, and make four unique beers that all fall within the same style.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jamboree 2016! Beer people are the best people

Last year Jennie and I were only able to make it up to the New England Homebrewers Jamboree, or Jambo for Saturday afternoon. The event starts on Friday night, goes all day Saturday, and most attendees camp Saturday night and pack up on Sunday morning.

I enjoyed lots of great beer. But over a course of two days they did kind of run together. For next year I might bring a notepad to take down some quick tasting notes. At least then I can go back and have a chance to have a better recollection.

Friday night featured an authentic, German-style dinner. Think sausages, sauerkraut, dilled carrots, strudel. The food was excellent. I love how Oktoberfest has become almost like a German St. Patrick’s Day where everyone, even people who aren’t German, can celebrate German culture, especially German beer!

Jambo organizers encouraged everyone to bring German-style beers for Friday night. I didn’t have time to brew another beer, but I did have some bottles of a bock that I brewed over two years ago. At the time it was one of the best beers that I had brewed, and it really has held up nicely. The feedback the beer received was positive. The 12 bottles I brought didn’t last the night. This is a recipe I would love to revisit in the future when I have the equipment to make lagers again.

Jennie and I parked our cars and set up our tent right across from where the Metro South Homebrew League were set up. I met those guys at other events, including Homebrew Con. As the night wound down we hung out with those guys, shared some beers and grilled cheese sandwiches. On Saturday I beat club member Vinny in the worst game of Beirut in the history of the sport to win a club-branded glass.

I set up my beer at the North Shore Brewers tent on Friday night, and on Saturday morning we iced everything down. Shortly after setting up, Michael Scroth co-founder of Stone Path Malts walked up to our club’s tent to talk about his malt. I pulled him over to show him the beer I made with his malt. He was excited to try it and really enjoyed the beer. The passion he has for his malt was obvious. I look forward to brewing with Stone Path Malts again. 

Jamboree was my first time to try three of the US of IPA beers. The idea was to have a vertical where attendees tried all of them and noted the regional differences. Jambo is too crazy to conduct anything that orderly. I was able to pull a couple of people aside, including Dave Rowland co-owner of SoMe Brewing.

SoMe is run by a father and son team. When Jennie and I visited SoMe during Portsmouth Beer Week 2015 we met Dave’s father David at the brewery. I also told him how we rented the Granite State Growler Tour bus for a bachelor party, and how it got out of hand. Evidently our group earned something of a reputation as he remembered hearing about our antics. He introduced me to Butch Heilshorn the owner of Earth Eagle Brewings. I was able to apologize for some things I said online that I probably should not have. Butch couldn’t have been more cool or understanding.

What is great is that two professional brewers went out of their way to attend a homebrew event. Dave was there with his club. I also met some awesome brewers while judging in the competition. When I say that beer people are the best people, in my experience beer people are the most engaging, irreverent, and approachable group of people I have come across. 

Next time I’m at Jamboree I’ll make more of an effort to find some beer inspiration. At its core beer is often more about the people than the liquid (as long as the interaction isn’t forced). Events like Jamboree are a reminder of that. 

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Brew Day: Salted Caramel Brown Ale

With Jamboree approaching, I had already decided I wanted to brew my IPAs for my Untied States of IPA project, but Jennie had decided she wanted to brew her own beer to bring. I would periodically ask her over the course of several weeks if she had started on her recipe or had any ideas. By the end of July time was no longer on our side.

I wanted to be helpful and make suggestions without her beer becoming my beer. After she designed her Shareholder’s Saison I knew she was more of a “recipe innovator” in contrast to myself who is more of an “old-school master”. I scanned through the archive’s of Jennie’s cooking blog to try and find some culinary inspiration. When I scrolled down to her Salted Caramel Cookie Cups (amazing!! BTW) I suggested a salted caramel beer. Jennie loved the idea and was all-in.

We went back and forth trying to figure out what should a salted caramel beer should taste like and how to design the recipe. I started with a Southern English/London Brown Ale as the base style as it is sweeter and more caramelly. I designed my recipe to use rich, dark caramel malts. From there I added some light brown sugar to boost the gravity and alcohol of the beer while still providing a lighter underlying sweetness. The idea was to then blend in the salted caramel.

The recipe was a five gallon extract batch with some steeping grains. After four separate all-grain IPA batches in short succession, a quick and easy extract batch was just what the doctor ordered.


Somehow the Caramel 120 malt that I purchased for the Flyover IPA ended up in this beer. I ended up steeping three different caramel malts, all 80L and darker. To add a more lighter sweetness and boost the gravity I also added a pound of brown sugar.

In the end we never ended up having time to blend in actual salted caramel. When I kegged the beer I blended in caramel syrup and salt to taste. My fear is that the underlying beer is going to be too dark and will dominate the caramel and salt.

I kegged the beer and hoped for the best. Jennie really wanted to make a salted caramel beer. I’m afraid she is going to be disappointed with how it comes out. I am already thinking about how to completely re-imagine this beer if it is a dud at Jamboree.

See the full recipe here.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Don’t let FOMO ruin your beer experience

Fear of missing out, popularly referred to as FOMO, is easy to succumb to as a brewer or even as a fan of craft beer.

As a brewer there are more beers that I would like to brew than I have to make, let alone time to drink. For this summer I wanted to brew a Bell’s Oberon clone, a Shipyard Summer Ale clone that I would split part of to make a Sea Dog Wild Blueberry clone, and I thought of making a Budwiser-inspired brew to mock some of the brand’s recent marketing foibles. Needless to say I didn’t brew any of these. I managed to brew two beers for the summer, my Westbrook Gose clone and Summer Somewhere.

Boston sports personality and provocateur Michael Felger once said, “Acceptance is the price of freedom”. It is important to accept that you as a brewer can’t brew everything you want. Many brewers have family and work obligations that make brewing difficult. Others have space and equipment limitations. Me, I have to accept that I can’t have a chest freezer converted into a kegerator (keezer) until we move to a bigger place.

As a beer drinker there are more breweries in the United States now than at any point in history. These craft brewers are coming out with new beers all of the time.  We also have access to imports from all over the world. No matter how many new beers you want to try, you will never be able to try them all. It can even be difficult to try all of your favorite seasonal beers every year.

For some perspective, let’s say your circumstances dictate that you can barely brew enough to keep one beer on tap. Or perhaps you’re not able to drive out of your way to go to a brewery, and just drink what you can get at the local bottle shop. Chances are whatever you’re drinking is still vastly superior to what was available a generation ago.

Brewing and drinking beer are supposed to be fun. It is certainly more fun when you accept the fact that you probably won’t be able to brew an oktoberfest, pumpkin ale, brown ale, wet hop IPA, and hoppy amber ale for the fall on top of any house beers you try to keep year-round. It is impossible to go to every hot new brewery that opens, or try every great wait-in-line IPA.

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