May 1st, 2013 by admin
with a phantom carriage draft release on the horizon, the need for tap handles to go with the beer was imminent.
- although my previous experiences with tap handles were both successful, plain branch segments weren’t going to cut it for TPC’s purposes. we needed something easily recognizable and slick, but also easily repeatable in quantity and low in cost.
- after mulling it over a bit I decided to pick up a mini lathe and try my hand at shaping some inexpensive 2″ diameter dowels into mini-barrels. luckily, the design and process in my head translated seamlessly to reality, and after a few hours of shaping, sanding, and staining I ended up with around twenty tap handles ready to serve up phantom carriage creations. I’m planning on further customizing the barrels with one or more of a branded logo, splatter paint design, and wax dipping in the near future. be sure to keep an eye out for one of these in the tap lineup soon!
another challenge posed by the draft release was getting the beer carbonated and in kegs.
- TPC purchased a mess of stainless sixtels, but a brite tank wasn’t available to force carbonate and fill them. as a result, each keg was individually primed with sugar after cleaning and filled directly from the fermentor using an awesome manual keg filler (after dropping the trub/yeast). this way, the beer will undergo a secondary fermentation in the keg and will carbonate itself, creating a keg-conditioned beer with a fine, soft carbonation. the wait is almost over!
April 17th, 2013 by admin
as you might have guessed, the majority of my available brew time over the last few months has been spent working on the phantom carriage project.
- instead of filling this year’s sour beer pipeline in my basement, I have been starting another, more substantial pipeline by helping develop an ever-growing barrel collection over in torrance based on my own wild lineup.
- the latest batch destined for the barrel racks was also the first one completed using the phantom carriage’s 3bbl nano system. although a simple lambic-style recipe (60/40 pils/wheat, low alpha bittering) and a single infusion mash schedule promised a straightforward brew day, snags such as a missing mill, thermometer discrepancies, a wonky burner, and a flawed kettle whirlpool design resulted in long hours and headache for everyone involved. on the positive side, the mash and sparge went down without a hitch, system efficiency was terrific, and all the other hiccups can easily be addressed during the next brew day.
- on another note, the phantom carriage facebook page is live – check it out! MS and I have been working on delivering a steady stream of content for the page, including details on upcoming releases and events. for example, check out the teaser video I tossed up yesterday, featuring production and a soundtrack by yours truly. more great developments are on the horizon – stay tuned!
April 3rd, 2013 by admin
over the past week a lot has been happening over at the phantom carriage.
- first, a full batch of brett saison (french saison yeast with a brett trois/drie kicker in primary) crept below 1.01 in the conicals, so it was time to rack it into barrels. the brett accentuated the saison yeast nicely and gave it a nice earthy tropical fruit kick. hopefully three months in barrels will round out the beer even more (I got some baking spice, vanilla, and sweet vinous notes from the barrels as they were being filled). I can also see some dry-hopping in the cards…
- next, it was time to fill the void left by the saison with another wild creation. this time, 14bbls of blonde ale based on my all-brett blonde experiment hit the stainless and was introduced to a sizable pitch of the brett trois strain (which I selected from the three trial strains due to its great aroma and flavor contributions as well as its strong and relatively rapid fermentation). this batch was special – it will be the phantom carriage’s first release! more info is imminent, so keep an eye out for updates!
March 27th, 2013 by admin
last sunday, after delabeling and rinsing a case of bottles, I finally got around to bottling cabrillo II.
- ten months of exposure to cherries and french oak were very kind to the beer – it has an amazing sour cherry and slightly oaky aroma. the fruit came through nicely in the beer’s flavor, complementing smooth vanilla notes and an intense overall acidity.
- the beer finished at 10 brix (1.009) on the dot, for an ABV of 10.67%. I mashed a little higher for this second iteration, which resulted in a little more body for an improved overall balance. I also saved three pints of slurry for a future phantom carriage brew. I’m really excited for this one to carb up!
March 19th, 2013 by admin
over the last few months MS and I have been working on developing the barrel program for the phantom carriage.
- since the inception of the project, three batches (two based on banning and one based on white) have been fermented and barreled with great initial results. the oldest filled barrels are only a month in, but some are already deviating from the pack (for example, a barrel into which an older east coast yeast slurry was pitched is already exhibiting a slightly higher gravity and stronger acidity than its peers).
- the youngest set of filled barrels is also primed for diversity – varying primary saccharomyces strains were pitched into some barrels and plenty of dregs from some outstanding bottles have been making their way into the lineup. stay tuned for more developments as the racks grow taller and the bugs work their magic!
March 9th, 2013 by admin
last weekend I met up with other members of the la beer bloggers to embark on what would turn out to be an unforgettable beer expedition.
- as guests of firestone walker, we were given an all-access pass to the brewery, barrel houses, and environs in an attempt to experience what sets FW apart from other craft breweries. after a quick trip up north on a chartered bus (made quicker by a bottle share and a steady supply of 12 oz firestone staples provided by our gracious host), we arrived not at the brewery but windrose farm, a local family farm that provides produce to FW’s restaurant. bill and barbara, who live on and run the farm, kept everyone educated and entertained with discussions of biodynamic practices and responsible agriculture while we feasted on freshly picked greens and house-raised lamb expertly prepared by FW’s head chef and paired with an intense lineup of FW specialties ranging from bretta weiss to parabola.
- after hitching a tractor ride back to the bus, we headed over to the brewery, where matt brynildson and dustin kral gave us the VIP tour. beers in hand, we went from the brewhouse to the lab to the roof of the facility, finally ending up in the barrel house, where dustin grabbed a thief and proceeded to pour everyone a three-barrel flight of a one-off beer aged in straight oak, bourbon, and tequila barrels. minds already blown, we were then whisked away to herman story wines, where winemaker russell had a full spread and barrel sampling lineup at the ready. after a few more hours of debauchery we ended the night at FW’s taproom restaurant with some great eats and a homebrew share (punctuated by some on-the-spot homebrew/food pairing suggestions by FW’s head chef).
- the next morning, having shook the cobwebs out of our heads and limbered up, we headed down to buellton to check out FW’s new barrelworks facility. ”sour jim,” the resident master blender, gave us a tour of the growing barrel stacks and set us up with a wild beer blending session after a fantastic lunch. after the session, GN sweet-talked jim into supplying us with some sample bags to take home some barrel bugs, and after talking shop for a while (over a full flight of FW one-offs and wild beers) jim snuck us back to the barrel room, where he started pulling nails and let us in on some of his long-term projects. the trip finished off with a drive down the coast and yet another bottle share.
- oh, and the kicker? the whole even was hosted by david walker, the co-founder himself. david was a generous, receptive, and intelligent host who made everyone feel at home in paso robles. the event left me with not only a great admiration for the care, passion, and innovation FW brings to the craft brew game, but also with a profound respect for all parties involved with the beer scene in paso robles and the surrounding areas. that sixer of DBA in my fridge never looked so good.
February 25th, 2013 by admin
a week or two ago the first phantom carriage batch was transferred to oak for the long haul.
- 14bbl of wild blonde was racked into seven neutral red oak barrels (a mix of hungarian and french) that had been left to soak overnight. the barrels appeared to be freshly dumped and had a great vinous aroma during filling.
- true to form, the wild blend used for the batch acted slow and steady, and along with a high mash temp, resulted in a gravity hovering around 1.03 when the beer hit the wood. this relatively high amount of residual long-chain sugars should provide plenty of food for all the resident microbes to work their magic. now the waiting game begins!
February 20th, 2013 by admin
a couple of weeks ago AP and I headed out to colorado to see what this hyped up beer state had to offer.
- highlights in denver included freshcraft (great beers and service – hi Dan!), great divide (comfortable but remarkably small when compared to their level of distribution), cheeky monk (fantastic non-local draft selection), crooked stave (great wild beers, inspiring), bull & bush (a must-visit classic), hops & pie (great food, good beer selection, great atmosphere), and small batch liquors (outstanding local and rarities selection, fantastic service). to top it off, stranahan’s distillery hosted an unreal tasting tour, and their adjacent restaurant, the rackhouse pub, had great food and all the booze any hound could wish for.
- boulder was a little different – spots like twisted pine and avery (surprisingly) left me disappointed with the beers, food, and service. luckily, upslope brewing saved the day with a great tasting room, beers, and conversation, and the local whole foods wine & spirits blew my mind with a comprehensive local selection. nearby oskar blues in longmont came through with a fantastic draft list and some good eats as well.
- it may be a while until I head back to the rockies (GABF, anyone?), but I can definitely say I enjoyed my visit. warm hospitality, great food, and a notable beer selection make colorado a worthwhile stop for a beer geek jonesing for a weekend trip.
February 4th, 2013 by admin
last tuesday AP and I headed up to golden road to participate in their “winter situational” meetup with the LA beer bloggers.
- the event was at chloe’s, a private club adjacent to the main brewpub. they had homebrewers/authors drew beechum and john palmer speaking, complimentary drafts pouring, and great food offerings. I definitely have to hand it to golden road for embracing the blogosphere and throwing an impressive event to foster community and connectivity amongst both brewers and writers. bierkast’s review can be found HERE, and I uploaded some pics from the event HERE.
in other news, the first batch of phantom carriage beer was pumped out last weekend.
- 14bbl of wort inspired by banning were racked into two 7bbl fermentors, and will be shortly transferred to barrels for the long haul. as usual, more details are forthcoming, but there are some awesome projects in the works!
January 27th, 2013 by admin
seven months had passed since I pitched my house slurry into my dark saison wort, so I broke out my autosiphon, a keg, and some bottles and got busy.
- the beer finished at 1.005 (6.5 brix) for a final ABV reading of 7.07%. my gravity sample had an assertive, rich fruit aroma and a smoother sourness than what I remembered from my first dark saison batch.
- in addition to kegging five gallons and bottling close to five more, I also racked around 2.5 gallons onto 2lb., 2 oz of frozen persimmons from my earlier harvest in celebration of my last last “sour” saison for the forseeable future (although I did save the slurry, so you never know…). after six months the fruited batch will be bottled, and we’ll see how the delicate persimmon notes add to the total package here (or if they can stand up to the already prominent fruit presence in the beer).