Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sharing (recipes) is caring

When I first started creating my own recipes my instinct was to keep them close to the vest. What if I made an award winning beer? I can’t have people copying my award-winning, life-altering beer! What if I followed the lead of so many other homebrewers and opened a commercial brewery? I couldn’t have my trade secrets out in the ether.


As I brewed, I realized a few things. Most of my early, precious recipes produced middling beers at best. Stealing one of those recipes would be almost as useful as stealing my identity to sign up for a bunch of credit cards. I also came to realize that an experienced brewer with a good palate and enough time can eventually clone anything.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Brew Day: Banshee Breakfast Stout (Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer)

The advantages a commercial brewer has over most homebrewers are evident. Better equipment, better quality controls, greater knowledge and experience are a few that come to mind. Commercial brewing is also highly regulated. That can give the homebrewer more latitude to be creative. One example is that it is illegal for a commercial brewer to add hard alcohol directly to their beer. The increasing popularity of barrel aging is a way commercial brewers add the flavor and character of a particular spirit without blending the spirit directly into the beer. However, there is nothing that stops a homebrewer from adding hard alcohol to his/her beer.

My favorite aspect of brewing is researching and developing recipes. I have probably made twice as many recipes as I have brewed batches. One recipe I have wanted to brew for years was called “Patriot’s Day Breakfast Stout”. It is a Founders Breakfast Stout-like beer, but with some New England touches. A perfect beer to enjoy when the Red Sox take the field at 11:00 a.m. on Patriot’s Day. Recently I looked over the recipe for the first time in at least a year. My concern was that there were too many ingredients and too many flavors in the recipe. If there are too many flavors in a beer the overall flavor can be muddled.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Brew Day: Trans-Atlantic Ale (Strong Bitter)

A few months back I placed my first order with MoreBeer!. MoreBeer! has facilities in Pennsylvania and California, which means they can ship to Massachusetts in two days. When I needed parts ASAP for my Jockey Box the week of Ales for ALS, and didn't have time to buy locally, they were the natural choice. They also offer free shipping on orders over $59. To get over the limit I purchased their American Amber Ale extract kit.
First time using LME out of a pouch.
Adding LME to the kettle after steeping.

When the kit arrived I was very impressed with how it was packaged. Instead of cans or plastic bottles of malt extract, it arrived in a sealed foil bag. Looking at their site, they sell their extract in these pouches in one pound increments ranging from three to nine pounds, as opposed to just a three or six-pound container. Being able to order exactly how much extract you need is convenient and cost-effective.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tasting Notes: Sierra Nevada Celebration Clone and Pa's Video Board Lager

I make a distinction between drinking beer and tasting beer. Intuitively one would think you taste beer as you drink it. Technically this is true, but I find when I am drinking a beer I don't taste is as critically as I would if I went in trying to just taste it.

I must have had some other homebrews before taking this pic. 
When I write a “Tasting Notes” post, I will carefully fill a glass, hold the glass up to the light taking note of the color, clarity, and head. Next I will smell the beer and note what aromas I am getting. Then I will take my first sip and note flavors and palate sensations. If I am socially having a beer, I will just throw it back like a normal person.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Beer Inspiration in our Backyard: An ode to The Tap

A few weeks ago I wrote about what I dislike about craft beer bars. Places like I described in the article have a certain level of pretentiousness that I don't care for.

The Tap in Haverhill is not like that at all. I wouldn't call it a sports bar, but they do have a few large TVs that are usually on; if you want to watch a game and not talk, you can! There is also a pool table downstairs, and function space upstairs. The staff are all completely friendly and awesome. The service is always excellent, and they are always engaging with guests when they're not serving drinks.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tasting Notes: 1905 Holiday Ale (Pre-Prohibition Amber Ale)

I had no idea what to expect with this brew. My thought was that the beer would be harsh thanks to the large amount of corn sugar in the recipe drying out the beer. I also thought the beer would be bitter with no discernible hop flavor. When I tasted the beer on bottling day I was underwhelmed to say the least. The bitterness was puckering and dominant.

No idea what to expect with this one. 

The beer pours copper to dark copper in color with a foamy white head. The head retention is quite good considering how much corn sugar was used in the grist. Clarity is ok, there is some haze. Chico yeast isn't the best yeast when it comes to dropping out of suspension and clearing. Commercial brewers and more advanced homebrewers have equipment and processes to help beers with Chico clear. The rest of us will have to accept somewhat hazy beer when using it.