Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tasting Notes: Australian Sparkling Ale

When tasting as opposed to merely drinking a beer I always go back to the question, "Does the beer taste like it is supposed to taste?". This Australian Sparkling Ale is the first example of the style I have tasted, but drinking the beer it feels like it does. Australia in the 19th Century wasn't too dissimilar to the American West. This is a beer I can imagine drinking out of the bottle in the sweltering heat of the Australian Outback.

Beautiful clarity in this batch.

The beer pours an orange-ish copper. The head is foamy and white with very good retention.  The clarity is brilliant when this bottle-conditioned beer is poured carefully.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dry Yeast vs liquid yeast

Like glass versus plastic equipment, there are pros and cons to using dry yeast or liquid yeast. I eluded to some of them when I purchased my stir plate.

No shortage of yeast options.

Most brewers start with dry yeast because it's the easiest to work with. The instructions on the sachet say to sprinkle the yeast onto the wort and call it a day. Most brewers, myself included re-hydrate their yeast. Essentially you add the yeast to some water about half an hour before pitching the yeast. This gives the yeast time to reconstitute itself into it's natural, liquid form before devouring all the sugars in the wort.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Brew Day: Curly's Milk Stout 1.4

After Ales for ALS I was probably overdue to brew my next batch of Curly's Milk Stout, my flagship brew. I still have about six bottles left from Batch 1.3, I found four bottles from Batch 1.2, and still have a 22 ounce bomber from the beer's first iteration Batch 1.1. Once this batch is complete I'll have to do a vertical tasting of all four versions and notate any perceived differences.

Let's tweak the milk stout recipe again!

Recipe-wise I had to make some last-minute changes. Whenever I buy a lot of ingredients at once I always forget at least one. This time it was the Medium English Crystal malt which augments the sweetness of the lactose. Instead of going out of my way to buy one pound of grain I substituted a half pound respectively of 60L American Caramel Malt and German Caramel Wheat Malt. These were leftover malts from earlier batches. Since I mill my own grain at home they were still fresh. I don't anticipate this having much of an effect on the flavor, but I could be wrong.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Tasting Notes: Curly's Chocolate and Coffee Milk Stout

It is coming up on time to brew another batch of Curly's Milk Stout, my flagship beer. After Ales for ALS I was down to a half dozen bottles. I have been hoarding the chocolate and coffee variants since I ended up with about eight bottles of each. Overall I am happy with how both came out.

Coffee and chocolate milk stouts. 

The coffee in the aroma of the coffee is dominant. It is earthy with notes of fresh pot soil. The velvety dark chocolate aroma in the chocolate variant plays a supporting role with the other aromas from the base beer.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Time for my beer to grow up

I have four five-gallon glass carboys for secondary fermentation. At the time I purchased them would rack my wort into a secondary fermenter, just to free up my primary fermenters to make more beer. I was also brewing lagers at the time which would sit in the carboy for secondary fermentation of up to eight weeks.

This carboy is full of beer, the way it should be!
This carboy is full of beer, the way it should be!

There is great debate about whether a secondary fermentation is necessary. Technically in most cases a secondary fermentation is not an actual fermentation; it is more about the beer aging and maturing. I feel my beers are clearer and brighter when I use a secondary, but over time I have gotten away from doing it. Most of my beers are low enough in alcohol that they do not need extended time to age. Skipping a secondary is also just easier; it's one less step.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Brew Day: 1905 Holiday Ale (Pre-Prohibition Amber Ale)

I was extremely happy with how my Hot Stove Porter came out last year. I actually still have a few bottles left. I recently popped one open that had been in my beer fridge. The hop aroma was gone, there was still some hop flavor, but the malt flavor was much more prominent. The beer has aged nicely.

A one gallon experimental batch. 

For some reason though I felt like brewing something different for the winter this year. I am also downsizing the amount of beer that I brew. That I still have bottles of last year's Hot Stove Porter demonstrates that I have been brewing too much beer.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Goose Black Friday

I am not a patient person. The longest I will wait for anything is usually 20-30 minutes. I also loathe waking up early. Goose Black Friday combined both.

My idea of Black Friday.

My aversion to waiting usually extends to beer. I am not the type of person who will typically wait in line to buy a rare beer. Even when we drive up to Maine a few times a year I think the longest I have ever waited at Bissell Brothers is probably half an hour. Last week I made an exception.

Every Black Friday Goose Island releases their Bourbon County line of beers. These beers are highly sought after and sell quickly. These beers are in excess of 12% alcohol by volume and aged in used Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for at least six months.

Friday, November 27, 2015

In Memoriam: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

Massachusetts brewing company, Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project announced they were ceasing operations on Tuesday. Some were shocked, but followers of the brand should not have been. The company was purposely called a "project" instead of "company" because projects are by definition not permanent. As a fan, it was a day I knew could happen at some point, but was saddened that it happened now.

Pretty Things was my favorite Massachusetts brewer. Every year I would always grab a bomber of Fluffy White Rabbits, Our Finest Regards, American Darling, and the rest of their beers as they were released. I also loved their Once Upon a Time series of historical brews they made in collaboration with brewing historian Robert Pattinson.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Brew Day: Pa's Video Board Lager

Last year I brewed two versions of this beer: a ten gallon all-grain batch at Andy's, and a simplified malt extract version for Learn to Homebrew Day. When I tasted the beers side-by-side, the all-grain version was better, if a bit lighter in alcohol than the extract version.

Sample wort looking good.

The recipe was a slightly modified version of a Charlie Papazian recipe from The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. I imagined the beer as a bigger and hoppier version of his recipe. Seeing how alcoholic the extract version tasted, and how crisper the all-grain version was, inspired me to scale back the recipe a bit for this year. The all-grain was supposed to be similar in alcohol to the malt extract version. Improving our efficiency, the amount of fermentable sugars we extract from the grain, and maintaining a consistent level of efficiency on  Andy's system has been a challenge. As it was,  our all-grain beer not finishing as heavy as intended was probably fortuitous.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tasting Notes: Midlands Mild

When I started brewing I thought the first beer I made was world class. It blew my mind I could make something that good at home. Over time I became increasingly critical of my beer, but every once in awhile I brew something that brings back that old feeling from my early batches.

That is a gorgeous pint!

When the cap is popped the beer makes a very light hiss hinting at the low carbonation in the bottle. Midlands Mild pours espresso brown with a ruby hue. The off-white head is thin and frothy. I poured the beer mostly in the middle of the glass to help the head rouse. The retention isn't great which is to be expected in a lightly carbonated beer.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Brew Day: Sierra Nevada Celebration Clone (American IPA)

The first year Andy and I brewed Pa's Video Board lager, our family kicked the five gallon keg in a few hours. Last year we brewed a ten gallon batch to make sure we had enough. As it turned out our family Christmas gathering was on a Sunday and people didn't have the same beer-drinking vigor knowing they had to work on Monday. We had a ton of leftover beer. By the time all that Pa Lager was gone I think we were all bored of it.

This year I brewed a three gallon batch in honor of Pa Chalifour, but I also decided I wanted to brew another beer the family could enjoy during the holidays. My thought was to brew a West Coast IPA for my hop-loving cousins.

Name a more iconic beer. I'll wait.

As a beer drinker seasonal creep drives me nuts. I loathe it to the point that I developed the definitive guide for seasonal beer. Usually seasonal creep is an annoyance. I can still wait to buy a beer like Samuel Adams Octoberfest at the seasonably appropriate time. However, when a seasonal beer is an IPA that is best enjoyed fresh is when seasonal creep becomes problematic. The hop flavor and aroma in will diminish as it sits on the shelf.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Brew Day: Alan's Stepchild (American IPA)

When conducting research for the Geary's Summer Ale clone, I learned about the profound influence Alan Puglsey, and by extension Peter Austin, had on many early East Coast craft breweries. Leaning heavily on English brewing traditions, "Ringwood Breweries" like D.L. Geary, Gritty McDuff's, and Shipyard share a few common characteristics: the use of mostly English malts and hops, open primary fermentation, and the distinctive Ringwood yeast.

Home-made open fermenter.

The IPAs produced by these breweries are English IPAs, or malty, old-school, East Coast American IPAs. When I brewed Fort Dummer it was in the style of a contemporary New England pale ale/IPA. To surmise these contemporary beers are characterized by: juicy hop flavor, soft mouthfeel, low bitterness, and a hazy straw to gold appearance.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ales for ALS Homebrew Competition - Essex 2015

On October 24 I finally tapped the kegs of Fort Dummer and Shareholder's Saison at Ales for ALS in Essex. I also brought two 12-packs of bottles from the last batch of Curly's Milk Stout. I'll have more detailed tasting notes on all three of those brews down the line. For now I will say that I was happy with all three.
Serving my latest batch of Curly's Milk Stout.

I still bottle almost all of my beers. Last year I purchased four 3-gallon kegs and a CO2 tank. I haven't used them that much because I still don't have a kegerator at home to keep the kegs cold. For this event I purchased a "jockey box" while Northern Brewer was offering 20% off of a single item.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tasting and festival fun!

Note: Newburyport Brewing asked if I would like to write some posts for their blog on the brewery website. This is a post about my experiences working events for the brewery. 

My name is Jason Chalifour. I am a homebrewer, blogger, Recognized Beer Judge Certification Program judge, craft beer fan, and have been working on the Event Team at Newburyport Brewing Company since May. As a side job there are worse things I could be doing than meeting people and talking about beer.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tasting Notes: Rounders Brown Ale, the importance of fermentation temperature

In home brewing, brewers will spend time researching ingredients, crafting recipes, pondering things like whether the last hop addition should be with five or ten minutes left in the boil. What many don't pay adequate attention to is what happens after brew day. Often after brew day the fermenter is plopped in a closet, basement, or under the stairs and forgotten about until racking or packaging.

If only the beer tasted as good as it looks.

Managing fermentation temperature is as important as recipe formulation, if not more. Commercial breweries have professional equipment to precisely set the temperature of their tanks. Advanced home brewers will equip a refrigerator or chest freezer with a temperature controller to control their fermentation temperature. A would-be like myself working within the limitations of brewing in an apartment has limited control over the temperature my beer ferments at.

Big beer is getting bigger and I don't care

The two largest beer companies in the world, AB InBev and SABMiller have agreed to a takeover of SABMiller by ABInBev. Freelance writer Jason Notte wrote a reaction piece 5 ways the A-B InBev-SABMiller deal will ruin your beer. I thought it was an interesting, if alarmist take on the situation and tweeted the link.

Notte replied to my tweet and them mention tweeted:


I corrected Notte and told him that I never said what he accused me of saying. Will any "good" come of this proposed merger for craft beer? Probably not. Will it change my drinking habits? No. Do I think it will change the options available to me at local bars and bottle shops? No.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Brew Day: Geary's Summer Ale Clone

As a homebrewer it is possible to brew hard to find beers like an Australian Sparkling Ale. It is also possible to attempt to clone specific commercial beers. Homebrew shops and websites sell tons of commercial clone kits, occasionally they have hilarious names that thinly veil the beer the kit is attempting to clone. A year ago I attempted my own clone of The Substance by Bissell Brothers Brewing in Portland, Maine. At the time it was the hot, new IPA on the market. One year later people still line up outside the brewery. This time around I am cloning a beer from New England's oldest craft brewery.

Traditional brick-lined boil kettle designed by Alan Pugsley.

DL Geary Brewing was incorporated in 1983, one year before Samuel Adams, and started producing beer in 1986. David Geary spent three years in Britain learning his trade.  He spent time at the Ringwood Brewery owned by influential English craft-beer pioneer Peter Austin. Another disciple of Peter Austin named Alan Pugsley, who would later become head brewer and partner at Shipyard Brewing, helped set up the brewery.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Brew Day: Shareholder's Saison (Wild Specialty Beer)

Brewing for me started as something my girlfriend and I could do together. In the early days we would brew, rack, and bottle together. After our first batch we started developing our own recipies. If I came up with one on my own, she would come up with one of her own. Slowly the hobby sucked me in more than it did her. She liked brewing, but maybe not enough to want to do it every other weekend.

The LME can is next to the mash so the extract heats up and loosens.

In the early days she found out about the Ales for ALS event in Essex and wanted to participate. When I volunteered for this year's event and realized we would have to brew a couple of batches to bring to the event, she was as excited about brewing as she had been in a long time. I took this as an opportunity to make her more involved again and suggested she choose the style of one of the beers and develop a recipe.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brew Day: Fort Dummer (American Pale Ale)

For years aggressively hopped IPAs have been marketed as "West Coast" IPAs. These were IPAs where the malt and yeast exist mostly as a canvas for the hops. The best examples from the West Coast widely available in the Boston area are from Stone and Ballast Point. Local brewers like Ipswich Ale and Newburyport Brewing have released IPAs that they market as West Coast. The proximity of major hop-growing regions in the Pacific Northwest helped the West Coast IPA as it came to be known evolve.

Dry hopping during active fermentation.

East Coast IPA traditionally resembled an English IPA with American hops. It has more malt flavor and often yeast esters than West Coast IPAs. Ipswich's original IPA, Fisherman's IPA, and Shipyard Monkey Fist are a few examples that come to mind. East coast pale ales generally followed a similar pattern.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Vermont Beer Week

Northern Vermont, specifically the area around Montpelier and Burlington is about a three hour drive from the North Shore. It may be a stretch to call it "our backyard", but we will go with it. If you can make it a day trip, it counts for me.

Heady Topper versus Sip of Sunshie.

I had been meaning to make a beer pilgrimage to Vermont for a long time. When two of my Tweeps @HopSnobbery and @LipstickNLager organized the first Vermont Beer Week, it seemed like a perfect time to finally make the drive. I wasn't sure if we would be able to make it, until Newburyport Brewing asked my girlfriend and I to work at the Claremont Brewfest in Claremont, NH. Claremont is located right on the Vermont border. Since we were already part of the way there, it only made sense to continue on.

Friday, September 18, 2015

New England Homebrewers Jamboree

This year I have rejoined and have been more active with the Northshore Brewers. This year was also my first year attending the New England Homebrewers Jamboree. The club brought an astounding 100 beers to the event. I brought a keg of the Galaxy IPA, and several other members brought their single hop beers.
That's my beer!

In hindsight I wish I had planned ahead and brought some of my better beers like Curly's Milk Stout, Camp Randall Red IPA, or Walk-Off White. The club had a series of randalls set up including a coconut porter randalled through fresh coconut, fruit beers randalled through fresh fruit. A fresh batch of Walk-Off White randalled through fresh orange peel would be awesome.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Maine Beer Company AHA Rally

Regular readers of this space know how big of a fan I am of Maine Beer Company. They make some of the best contemporary hoppy New England ales. I finally made it to the brewery last week for an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) Rally.

The stretch of Route 1 where Maine Beer Company is located looks like it is straight out of American Pickers.

While I have always wanted to visit the brewery, ideally it would not have been on a Wednesday night. The last time I drove two hours each way in one night would have been when my buddies and I used to make the trip to Foxwoods. We were so broke we would occasionally pool our money just to have enough to gamble with. An over-priced hotel room down there was out of the question.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Downsizing production and consumption

This year I have brewed almost all five gallon batches. As a result I have more beer than I know what to do with. I know, talk about a first world problem. Judging by how my clothes are starting to fit it is also time to downsize beer consumption as well as beer production.
Beer everywhere! It is like Ace Ventura with his pets.

I am old enough, and dare I say mature enough that I am not drinking in excess almost every night. I'd say 2-3 times during the week I'll have two or three beers. Then I will indulge further on the weekends. Honestly food is probably a bigger problem for me than beer. As a beer lover I love bar food. I could live off of burgers, fries, pizza, subs, sandwiches, and bagels. On top of that I also love sweets.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tasting Notes: North Shore Brewers Single Hop Project

Six weeks ago I brewed a Galaxy IPA as part of a project with my homebrew club, The North Shore Brewers. With so many new hop varieties being bred and developed, the idea is that we could learn about the flavor profiles of these new hops when we shared our brews.

Most of the project participants brought their brews to the club picnic. Several of us, myself included will bring our beers to the New England Homebrewers Jamboree.

Everyone's single hop beers chilling in a cooler.

We all brewed essentially the same recipe, the only difference was supposed to be the different hops that we used. I used a different bittering hop and yeast. Some of the other brewers may have made similar adjustments.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Brew Day: Rounders Brown Ale (English Brown Ale)

Last year I brewed a beer originally called Bill's Brown Ale. The idea was to brew a brown ale inspired by the first beer I ever brewed. The finished beer ended up tasting more like a brown porter than an American brown ale. I even renamed the beer.

Toasted malt smells amazing. Buying Amber Malt would have been easier. 

In the interim I judged the English Brown Ale category at the Boston Homebrew Competition. As defined by the 2008 Beer Judge Certification Guidelines, mild (like my Midland's Mild) and Southern English brown ale are practically extinct commercially. At the competition the judging flight consisted of one mild, followed by seven consecutive Northern English Brown ales.   It is higher in alcohol and drier than Mild or Southern English Brown Ale. Newcastle Brown Ale is the best-known commercial example of the style and a personal favorite of mine..

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Brew at the Zoo

The name says it all. Brew at the Zoo was a beer festival at The Franklin Park Zoo. My lovely and awesome girlfriend bought us tickets for my birthday and we had an excellent time.
Can one of you guys get me another beer?

Having been to my share of beer festivals this was one of the best run festivals I have attended. There are a few key aspects to running a beer festival that take an event to the next level.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hoarding your "sponge-worthy" beer

When Elaine from Seinfeld's contraceptive of choice, the sponge, was removed from the market she went out of her way to buy as many sponges as she could find. She then thoroughly vetted every potential sexual partner to determine if he was "sponge-worthy", less one of her precious sponges be wasted on a beau who was not sponge-worthy.

My uncle Dave loves Samuel Adams Cold Snap and stocked up on it while it was still on store shelves. He and a buddy of his made the sponge-worthy analogy when deciding when to enjoy one of their stash.  Although Cold Snap is Sam's spring beer and it is released in January, Cold Snap is actually a really good beer to enjoy during the summer. Witbier is light, refreshing, and has a bit of citrus flavor. That's what I tell people about Plum Island Belgian White when I pour for Newburyport. Dave finally enjoyed the last of his Cold Snaps at a sponge-worthy beach day a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tasting Notes: Summer Somewhere (English Golden Ale)

Summer Somewhere was about brewing a new style for the first time, brewing with Australian Galaxy hops for the first time, and using 1084 Irish Ale yeast in something lighter than a stout or Irish Red Ale.

Nice lacing in the glass.

The beer pours a very cloudy straw color. The beer looks like a wheat beer. That was not what I was going for. The head is a frothy, white and persistent.

The aroma features notes of passion-fruit and kiwi. There are dandelion eaters from the yeast. There is an underlying aroma of fresh cereal from the grain. Like when you first open the bag inside the box.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Brew Day: Australian Sparkling Ale

Northern Brewer runs specials from time to time where if you spend X number of dollars you get Y for free. I have a Dark Star Burner in my basement still in the box that I obtained from one of these promotions. Last October I didn't have quite enough in my shopping cart to get the free burner, so I bought this Australian Sparkling Ale kit with the idea I would brew it at some point in the future. I have never brewed, drank, or even seen an Australian Sparkling Ale so I am excited to try one for the first time.
Interested to brew a 'new to me' style. 

Australian Sparkling Ale is similar to California Common in the sense that both styles are synonymous with one commercial example and one hop. Fullsteam's flagship is a California Common, Smuttynose collaborated with Stoneface and Deep Rhythm on one, but the archetype will always be Anchor Steam. With Australian Sparkling Ale, the style practically starts and ends with Cooper's Sparkling Ale. Yes, the same Cooper's as the Cooper's Ginger Beer kit I just brewed.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: 2015 AHA Rally at Samuel Adams

I can't believe it has been a year already since last year's American Homebrewer's Association (AHA) rally at the Samuel Adams Brewery. It was interesting revisiting my post from last year. I touched on the challenge Sam Adams has in maintaining their "craft beer cred" so to speak. Since then there was a Boston Magazine article where they ask, and Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch laments whether the craft beer movement has left Sam Adams behind. That was followed by a scathing rebuttal from local beer and homebrewing blogger Vinny Mannering which went viral.

Real brewmaster and a would-be. Who's to say which one is which?

Unlike last year where I could only make it for an hour or so due to work obligations, this year I planned ahead and took a half-day. If my girlfriend hadn't been stuck in a meeting we would have been better able to time the rush hour traffic. Instead we were stuck for a half an hour in the I-93 tunnel.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The fight to legalize beer mail

Craft Beer & Brewing defines "beer mail" as:
Beer mail is actually not mail at all since it's illegal to ship alcohol via USPS (and craft-beer lovers always obey the laws). It is, however, a shipment of beer sent from one craft-beer lover to another. When one receives beer mail, it is often an event
eliciting social media status updates such as “Unexpected beer mail arrived today from @phacebook . . . taking the afternoon off to gawk at my new haul of whales. #whalezbro #craftbeer #beermail.”

That's right, it is currently illegal to send beer via the United States Postal Service. Whether it is two craft beer lovers trading beers, or a homebrewer sending their beer to someone who lives far away or sending them to a competition.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier is proposing legislation to legalize beer mail:


Ever want to send wine, beer, and liquor through the mail? I’m introducing a bill that would allow the U.S. Postal...

Posted by Congresswoman Jackie Speier on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tasting Notes: Crackerjack Cream Ale

Crackerjack Cream Ale is the only beer I have brewed on an annual bases in my almost three years of homebrewing. I guess that alone makes this a special beer. Year-on-year I have only made subtle tweaks to the recipe.

Nice clarity, looks like I poured hard to rouse the head. 

The beer pours straw colored. The fizzy head is thin and white. Head retention is low which is typical of the style. The beer has almost brilliant clarity. This is the best looking beer I have brewed in a long time.

Brew Day: North Shore Brewers Galaxy IPA

My father has been in the painting business since before I was born. Most of that time he has been a painting contractor. For most of the last 10-15 years he has been contracting and sub-contracting exclusively, but when I was growing up he was still climbing ladders and swinging a brush. During the summer and on weekends I would go on estimates or go to job sites with him. Every once in awhile somebody would see this kid just hanging out, maybe reading a book or listening to the radio, and ask if I would follow my father's footsteps and take over the business. If my dad was around he would usually answer for me and say something along the lines of, "my son is smart, he will have a job where he uses his brain someday."

I'd call this a rolling boil.

While my intelligence, and certainly my common sense is up for debate, I did end up working behind a desk. Any desire I might have ever possibly have to pull a Peter Gibbons and forsake cubicle life for blue collar work went out the window after this brew day. The summer of 2015 has been kind of a dud. My girlfriend was calling June, "Junuary" due to unseasonably cold temperatures. Andy and I were fortunate enough to plan a brew day on the first day temperatures crossed 90 degrees. Not only was the heat oppressive, there was no wind, and for most of the day there was no shade in his yard.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Extract versus All-Grain Brewing

As an intermediate to advanced brewer, I probably brew with malt extract more than most other brewers of a similar level of experience. A lot of it has to do with the limitations of brewing on an electric stove inside a one-bedroom apartment. The only all-grain, full boil batches I brew are with my cousin/brewing partner Andy every couple of months. At home I can brew one or two gallon all-grain batches on my stove top using the brew-in-a-bag (BIAB) method

Malt extract is not without it's benefits.

For my full, five gallon batches I brew at home I typically use a partial-mash method where I mash about one-half to two-thirds of my fermentable sugars, and top off with malt-extract and/or other sugars to make sure I have enough fermentable sugars for the yeast to convert into alcohol.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Tasting Notes: Jay Thinks He's Weizen

Jay Thinks He's Weizen was a slightly modified version of Jamil Zainasheff's Harold is Weizen recipe from Brewing Classic Styles. I brewed the beer to bring to the North Shore Brewers June meeting. The meeting was a style meeting where members would try and discuss different homebrew and commercial German Wheat beers. I kegged about half the batch in a Party Pig to bring to the meeting, and bottled the rest.

Wheat beer in a wheat beer glass.

The beer pours a hazy dark-gold color. The head is creamy with above average thickness and retention. Un-ripened banana permeates the aroma along with notes reminiscent of Cream of Wheat. Given more than half of the grist was wheat, this is appropriate.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Working for a brewery

Shortly after visiting Newburyport Brewing Company last summer, one of my colleagues started working part-time for the brewery at events and tastings. A few weeks back he mentioned that the company might need another person to work these events. I casually told him to pass my name along. Before I knew it I was working at a tasting at Ralph's Wine and Spirits in Hingham just two days later! I work for the brewery on a casual, or on-call basis. If they need me to work, I receive an email and let them know if I am available to work or not.

Beer & swag laid out for a tasting.

That first tasting in Hingham was a lot of fun aside from the fact it took over two hours to get there from the brewery. I was stationed next to Foolproof Brewing. The owner of the liquor store had somebody bring down Heady Topper and Sip of Sunshine from Vermont. I had had Heady before, but this was my first time having Sip of Sunshine. The consensus seemed to have been that it was actually slightly better than Heady Topper. I don't disagree, but both beers are so excellent that you are splitting hairs to pick one. I would need to have a full can of both to really evaluate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Brew Day: Coopers Ginger Beer

Along with a fruit beer, a ginger beer has been on my girlfriend's wishlist for a long time. Crabbies is the most prominent commercial example of an alcoholic ginger beer. Locally Ginger Libation by Green River Ambrosia is out of this world. I have heard a "Drunk and Stormy", a Dark and Stormy with Ginger Libation is to put it lightly dangerous.

Giving this beer kit a little extra.

If you google "homemade ginger beer" there are 1.8 million results including recipes for both making non-alcoholic ginger ale and an alcoholic ginger beer. Guess which kind I am interested in! One article that intrigued me was How to Make a Ginger Bug. Essentially the process involves creating, for lack of a better term a starter wort to use to wrangle and culture wild yeast.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Becoming a Recognized Beer Judge

I finally received my Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) tasting exam results this morning after waiting patiently for eight months. After taking the entrance and tasting exams on very short notice and only studying for a few weeks, I managed to pass with a score of 65. It was like college all over agai
BJCP Certificate
I did it!

That score is high enough to earn the rank of Recognized. It is the lowest ranking for a beer judge, but I made it over the line. To move up to the rank of Certified I would need to gain three more experience points from judging competitions, and take the tasting exam again with a score of 70 or higher.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Brew Day: Crackerjack Cream Ale

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) describes cream ale as "American lawnmower beer." For an ale brewer, cream ale is as close as you can get to brewing an American-style lager. If you have a friend or relative who is a Bud/Miller/Coors drinker, and you want to brew something he/she will like, a cream ale is a solid choice. The style was developed by ale brewers seeking to compete with the pale lagers that were starting to dominate the market.

Lawnmower beer is boiling away.

Corn is my favorite adjunct to use in beers where un-malted grains are appropriate. I have used corn in past cream ales, an experimental stout, an ESB kit, and a Golden ale. The craft beer community is starting to come around on corn, and move beyond the hyberbole of the 1980s. The other adjunct that works in the style is rice. In large quantities corn can give the beer a subtle sweetness and impact the flavor, while rice tends to increase the overall dryness of the beer. Of the big macro brewers Miller uses corn, while Budweiser uses rice.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three brews for the price of one

So much to brew, so little time. I have at least a dozen beers I've been meaning to brew, but haven't. I have recipes saved that I developed months and even years ago that I haven't brewed. Split batches are a great way to make multiple beers at the same time. A brewer can split a batch at almost any point in the process. Brulosophy conducts several experiments by splitting batches and only changing one variable.

The beauty of split-batches.

After mashing and sparging you can split the wort and do separate boils with entirely different hop schedules, brewers can split the batch after the boil and pitch more than one type of yeast. or as I did this weekend you can split a batch after primary fermentation. Curly's Milk Stout was in the primary fermentation vessel for three weeks and was ready to be racked into a secondary vessel. This was the perfect time to split the batch and make my coffee and chocolate variants.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Tasting Notes: Camp Randall Red IPA

In the Camp Randall Red IPA I was trying to make a hoppy, but fruity red IPA. Unlike a lot of IPAs on the market that seek to minimize hop and yeast flavor with most of the flavor coming from the hops, I wanted all of the ingredients to play a role. In my mind a red or amber beer should have malt flavor. Even a hoppy amber or red IPA shouldn't taste like the grist is only plain, American 2-row barley, that just happens to be a little darker than a regular American IPA.

Got the clarity I was looking for.
The beer pours dark copper. The head is thick, white, and frothy. The retention is good and there is beautiful lacing in the glass.  The beer is cloudier than I had hoped. Clarity varies from bottle to bottle, and depends greatly on the pour. Clarity has been lacking in some of my recent batches. I have an idea why that is and what I can do to fix it. The clarity isn't a major concern and doesn't effect the taste or overall experience, but it is an area for improvement.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Brew Day: Midlands Mild

One of the stated reasons I saw as to why Guinness developed Guinness Blonde American Lager is that people don't drink stouts during the summer. I get not wanting a boozy, heavy beer on the beach or at a cookout, but Guinness Draught is actually a good summer beer. It is light at 4.2% ABV, roughly on par with the deluge of session IPAs that have hit the market. It is certainly drinkable enough for a day-long cookout. People just can't get past the color of the beer.

Slowly filling the carboy and aerating the wort.

To show once and for all that dark beer can be enjoyed during the summer I am brewing another session beer style from the British Isles, a mild. At 4.5% ABV or under, the beer is light enough for a hot summer day. The style was traditionally consumed by English miners and factory workers. If you can enjoy a mild after a day in a coal mine or steel mill, I'd say it is okay for mowing the lawn.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tasting Notes: Blueberry Wheat Ale

Blueberry Wheat Ale was the second kit I have purchased in recent months at Beer & Wine Hobby. My girlfriend had wanted to brew a fruit beer for a long time, I didn't have any brilliant ideas about how I wanted to make a fruit beer, so I purchased the kit. That we were able to brew the beer together like when we first started brewing was a nice touch as well.

The blueberry garnish is what makes the beer. 

Recently at Fenway Park I had Wachusett Blueberry for the first time in a long time. It was an opportunity to compare and contrast a prominent, local blueberry beer with the homebrew kit.

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Beer Style Guidelines Released

For the first time in seven years, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) have updated their style guidelines and released the 2015 Style Guidelines. A lot has changed in the craft beer and homebrewing scene since the 2008 Style Guidelines were released.

A lot of the changes in the new guidelines were long overdue. In the old guidelines, the only IPA styles were American, British, and Imperial. If I were to enter WAR IPA or Camp Randall Red IPA in a competition under the current guidelines I would have to enter them in Category 23A Specialty Beer. That is essentially a catch-all category for a beer that doesn't fit in any other style. When a brewer enters a beer in Category 23A, the entrant only has a sentence or two to describe the beer and how it is supposed to taste.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Brew Day: Curly's Milk Stout

As the blog closes in on its one year anniversary, this is a first. This is the first beer I brewed for the site that I am rebrewing.

Beautiful dark wort color.

As my flagship beer, I need to have some Curly's Milk Stout on hand at all times. My original brew day was last November and I am down to my last dozen or so bottles. The nice thing about a balanced stout as opposed to an IPA or hoppy pale ale is that the beer keeps relatively well as hop aroma and hop flavor are the first things to go in a beer. If you buy a six month old bottle of Peeper at a bottle shop, then find Peeper served fresh on draught, it is a completely different experience.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tasting Notes: Walk-off White (Witbier)

Walk-off White was the first of two Belgian-inspired wheat beers that I brewed a few months back. It was also a re-brew of one of my earliest batches.

Nice color, head maybe a little small.

The beer pours a cloudy pale-straw color. The head is thick, frothy and persistent. The beer is gorgeous when poured in a tall wheat beer glass that can accommodate the beer's large head of foam.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Brew Night: Jay Thinks He's Weizen (Weizen/Weissbier)

Like most brewers I almost always brew on the weekend when there is plenty of time during the day to brew and enjoy a beer. This past weekend I judged at a competition in Boston, visited Trillium, and bottled my Blueberry Wheat Ale. That didn't leave a lot of time for brewing. The only thing I have brewed since I returned from vacation was the Cabot Street Hop Harvest. There was another beer I wanted to brew in April I haven't brewed yet. I had planned on brewing three batches in May to be ready for the summer, and I need to brew another batch of Curly's Milk Stout. That is a backlog of five beers These are all batches I already bought ingredients for. I need to get in gear!

My last hefeweizen. The high carbonation gives the beer a thick, rocky head.

Hefeweizen, a type of German weizen/weissbier, is one of my girlfriend's favorite styles. I love them as well. Whenever I am at The Indo and can't decide what to order, I will fall back to Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier which they always have on draught, and serve in a beautiful glass. The style is light and spritzy, perfect for the summer. The malt is at least 50% wheat, there is no hop flavor, the hops only provide a small amount of bitterness, and most of the flavor comes from the esters and phenols produced by traditional weizen yeasts. The esters frequently have notes of banana and bubble gum, while the phenols provide notes of cloves which balances the malt sweetness and helps dry the finish.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tasting Notes: WAR IPA (White IPA)

The WAR IPA was something of an afterthought. I was anxious to re-brew Walk-off White. WAR IPA was intended to use the yeast I bought to brew the witbier, and also experiment brewing my own IPA. The hop selection was somewhat haphazard based on my desire to use up leftover hops from other recipes.

Decent bit of haze. Color not too dark.

The beer pours a hazy gold color. It is darker than Walk-Off White likely due in part to the additional malt used to boost the final gravity and alcohol content of the beer. I also consciously chose to use slightly darker malted wheat as opposed to having all of the wheat be flaked so I could contrast the two. The color was still exactly what I was going for. The beer has a thick, frothy white head with good retention.

Beer Inspiration In Our Backyard: Trillium Brewing

Tiny Trillium Brewing, located on Congress Street in Boston's Fort Point neighborhood has emerged as one of the region's most highly regarded craft brewers. When Trillium was forced to close due to a licensing SNAFU late last year it created a minor uproar in the local craft beer community. Thankfully Trillium has been able to not only reopen, they also have a new production brewery in the works.

Scaffolding sheltered the line-waiters.

Trillium sells the vast majority of their beer at the brewery in 22oz bombers and growler fills. The only retailer north of Boston to carry their products is Redstone Liquors in Stoneham. Until last weekend I hadn't made the time to drive into town, attempt to find parking, and visit the brewery. I was already in town to judge in the Boston Homebrew Competition making it as good a time as any to stop in.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Brew Day: Cabot Street Hop Harvest IPA

Now that my cousin/brewing collaborator Andy is settled into his new home, and said home no longer has a backyard filled with snow, we were finally able to go out and brew some all-grain batches outside. As a housewarming gift I bought a sparge arm to help better control the flow of the hot sparge water over the grain bed. Pa's Videoboard Lager finished much lighter than we had hoped, and I think where we went wrong was that we sparged too fast and did not rinse as much fermentable sugar off the grain as we had planned.

Ten minute addition on the right, flameout addition on the left.

On what was a double brew day we brewed Andy and his brother-in-law Greg's Cabot Street RYE-PA. When Andy and Greg brewed together Greg was more of the creative force that developed their recipes. Now Greg has three boys under the age of six, so leaving home for an all-day brew day is understandably difficult.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bottle bombs and gushers, hazards of homebrew

Last night I was trying to relax after a rough day at the office. I was startled by a loud pop that almost sounded like an explosion. It turns out a bottle of leftover Pennant Race Pumpkin Wheat blew up worse than Clay Buchholz blew up on the mound.

This is aptly called a bottle bomb. It is the worst case scenario when you bottle condition, or naturally carbonate your beer inside the bottle. Luckily my bottle bomb from last night was contained inside a 12-pack box located on a landing. All in all it was like a Wade Miley start: scary but mercifully quick.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Back from Beercation! Atlanta, Chapel Hill, and Delaware

After leaving Asheville after what felt like all too short of a stay, we headed further south to Atlanta to make it to Turner Field for Braves opening night. We traded in the cold and rain in Philadelphia for mild temperatures and torrential rain in Atlanta. Thankfully, unlike Fenway Park where beer vendors only serve spectators in premium seats, the Ted had plenty of them. During the rain delay they set up shop in the middle of the concourse and it was easy to grab a quick can while waiting out the rain. We grabbed and shared Sweetwater IPA and 420 Pale Ale. Both were quite enjoyable, reading the descriptions on Sweetwater's website there is plenty of Munich malt flavor that came through to more than balance the hops. Terrapin's Hopsecutioner had a more pronounced hop flavor, but still wasn't quite as hoppy as beers available locally.

The lack of a sign was the only negative at Cypress Street Pint & Plate.

After the rain delay and waiting an eternity for a cab, we went back to our hotel to crash after the game on Friday night. We had all day Saturday and part of Sunday to check out the city and the beer scene. Downtown Atlanta is walkable, but the breweries are spread out. There is no Industrial Way or Old Port like there is in Portland. We started at Max Lager's brewpub as it was a block from our hotel. As the name suggested the lagers in particular were excellent, especially What the?! Helles. Helles is a lightly hopped German lager, perhaps the antithesis of an IPA, and I love when I find a quality example. Locally, Jack's Abby House Lager is also worth checking out.