Friday, February 27, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Portsmouth Beer Week Part II

(At the end of Part I we boarded Gretta The Growler Getta, and embarked on the Granite State Growler tour)

I bet wearing this name tag generated tons of page views.

Our first stop was Stoneface Brewing. I had heard nothing but good things about Stoneface and was excited to check it out. The only beer of their's I had previously had was Hopulization which was a superlative double IPA. We went on a private tour of the brew house. Stoneface has an impressive 15 bbl system and several new 30 bbl fermenters which they ordered to keep up with demand.  It was funny listening to how the maneuvered the tank inside the brewery, hired a rigger crew to stand it upright, and had guys standing next to the tanks as they were lowered making sure it didn't topple over. I'm not sure what was more terrifying: a massive tank falling on top of a person, or a $10,000 plus piece of equipment falling over and breaking. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Portsmouth Beer Week Part I

Over the years I have probably driven through Portsmouth, New Hampshire dozens of times. The last time I stepped foot in the city was at Water Country when I was eight. It had always been on my beer to-do list, and when I saw that it was Portsmouth Beer Week 2015 on Friday... let's just say our weekend plans were made. After finding an express deal for a hotel room on Priceline, a day trip turned into a weekend.

Granite State Growler Tour Bus

We passed on the Seacoast Winter Brew Fest. We have tickets for Extreme Beer Fest 2015 next month, and there are only so many of these beer festivals you can go to. Don't get me wrong, beer festivals are a blast, but it can be a long day/evening. Maybe next year we will check it out.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: Ipswich Ale Brewery

If there is such a thing as craft beer royalty on the North Shore it is Ipswich Ale. Founded in 1991, the brand rode the wave of the first microbrew explosion. A quaint time when as Denis Leary profanely ranted, Pete's Wicked Ale and its variants were seemingly everywhere. Thankfully Ipswich Ale had more staying power than Pete. The brand withstood being sold, brewed out of Baltimore, the microbrew market crashing, being reacquired by current owner Rob Martin, production moving back to Ipswich, and a protracted move to their new facility.

Getting our samples on before the brewery tour started.

In the past Ipswich Ale's beers didn't necessarily all taste the same, but when you had one you knew it was from Ipswich Ale. As with other older New England craft brewers like Geary's and Shipyard, Ipswich Ale's beers all had a very strong English influence. The flagship Ipswich Ale is an English Pale Ale, the IPA is malty like an English IPA even though it is hopped with American hops, and Ipswich Summer is essentially an English Golden Ale. In a marketplace obsessed with hop-bombs or what's rare, Ipswich Ale's beers were starting to become under-appreciated.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brew Day: Spring Training Stout (Irish Extra Stout)

Jim Koch has asked "what is spring?" In the past when he has changed Samuel Adams' spring offering. In the past decade Boston Beer Company has gone from White Ale, to Noble Pils, to Alpine Spring, and last year to Cold Snap. Harpoon has relegated Celtic Ale to six packs and started pushing The Long Thaw last year.

Bock is a traditional spring beer. It was brewed late in the fall and before refrigeration it was lagered in caves during the cold winter months. By March the beautiful, malty perfection was ready to go. One way or another I will brew a Bock or Dopplebock for next spring. For this year Narragansett Bock, Weihenstephanner Korbinian, and Pretty Things Bocky Bier will have to fill the void.

Lots of Flaked & Roasted Barley.

The major beer-drinking holiday during Spring is St. Patrick's Day, making Irish styles of beer also seasonably appropriate. With Rundown Irish Red conditioning in bottles, I needed to brew my planned Irish stout ASAP to have it be ready for March 17.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tasting Notes: Curly's Milk Stout

The original one gallon batch of Curly's Milk Stout was an amalgam of a quintessential example of the style: Mackeson XXX Stout, the most popular contemporary example: Left Hand Milk Stout, and other ingredients I like to use in porters and stouts. The beer more than met my modest expectations. It was a cruel twist of fate I only had a gallon to show for my efforts.

Large, rocky tan head. Looking good!

I couldn't believe until I checked my notes that I brewed the original batch February 23, 2014. As I brewed and prepared to drink the second batch of what I hoped to be a flagship beer I was concerned that perhaps the beer was not as good as I remember? Would the minor changes I made make the beer better?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Brew Day: Rundown Irish Red

As St. Patrick's Day, or Evacuation Day if you are a state employee, approaches there are no more appropriate styles of beer to enjoy than the traditional Irish Red and Irish Stout. The most prominent examples are brewed by Guinness: Smithwick's Ale and Guinness Draught. Smithwick's is a fine example of the Irish Red style, as well as O'Hara's Irish Red, Samuel Adams under-appreciated Irish Red, and Harpoon Celtic Red. Another well known 'Irish Red", Killians Irish Red, a beer that used to be my go-to when it was a $2 tall draught at the old Uno's in Danvers, was actually bought by Coors and reformulated as a lager. It probably has more in common with a Yuengling than a traditional Irish Red. To be fair, I haven't had it in a very long time.

L to R: Special B, Honey Malt, Roasted Barley. The base malt is underneath.

In The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, Charlie Papazian said an Irish Red should taste like a batch of fresh-baked cookies. This comes from the sweet caramel malts that give the beer its red color, and a small amount of dark roasted barley. Roasted barley is what gives Irish stout it's dark color and roasted flavor. In an Irish Red, a much smaller amount of roasted barley not only further darkens the beer, but it helps dry out the finish of a beer that would otherwise finish quite sweet. The sweetness of the malt is cookie-like, and the roasted barley provides a similar flavor to chocolate chips.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Budweiser misses the mark with "Brewed The Hard Way"

Lats week I wrote about 
what I would do to revitalize Budweiser. For the Super Bowl it does appear AB InBev is trying a different strategy to market the product.

There was plenty of Bud-hate on my Twitter feed last night after the previously unreleased "Brewed The Hard Way" ad aired during the Super Bowl. The reaction ranged from those that found it offensive, to those that found the inherent hypocrisy that a company who is gobbling up craft brewers like Goose Island and Elysian, looked like they were taking a shot at craft beer.  While not personally offended, I initially took it as a shot. Budweiser is insisting that no offense was intended. Budweiser's Twitter account was on the defensive after the ad aired.