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.