- the event was a follow up to last year’s journey to the center of the barrel, a whirlwind of barrel-aging, winemaking, beer blending, and local-focused fine dining that left me humble and grateful for the opportunity to participate. honestly, I felt that last year’s experience was too over-the-top to be matched, much less bested, by any subsequent event.
- I couldn’t have been more wrong – FW doubled down and pulled out all the stops to create an experience unlike any other. upon our arrival david walker ushered us to FW’s original grassroots brewing facility, which is now the home of andrew murray vineyards. andrew himself poured us a glass of his recent harvest and ran through some winemaking 101 before we all headed back to a luxe campsite for some amazing santa maria-style barbeque and some breaking news.
- the news had to do with my favorite topic – wild beer. DW and AM were joined by jeffers richardson and “sour jim” crooks from their barrelworks program, who poured samples of their upcoming (and very impressive) bretta rose and let it slip that many future wild projects were in the works. I was stoked to hear that these projects involved collaborating with andrew murray and aging on both grape juice and pomace – we tried samples of both techniques and I was excited to see the potential for pomace aging (it imparted a vivid strawberry character that was very unique). later that night I was able to share some bottles of cabrillo, vizcaino, and my kriek while talking shop with the whole crew.
- the next morning we cruised up to the paso robles facility where head brewer dustin kral gave us a comprehensive tour of FW’s latest developments, including massive fermentation space increases as well as intricate kegging and canning(!) lines, which should help streamline production and make it even easier to get fresh beer in your hands (I’m pumped for the possibility of some canned pivo pils in the future)! speaking of fresh beer, we also participated in a quality control tasting session, where we saw firsthand how age and warm temps warp fresh, hoppy beer into something less than desirable. I’ll have to bring the whole QC thing up the next time AP questions the three beer fridges humming along in the basement.
- the trip ended with a bang over at villicana winery, home to RE:FIND distillery. alex and monica villicana treated us like family, walking us through their four-run distillation process on their alembic still and talking us through a gin blending session that resulted in one-off custom gin and tonics. we finished the night with an amazing outdoor dinner provided by FW’s chef that was accompanied by outstanding custom cocktails and FW beers. before leaving, alex and monica presented us with bottles of writer’s blanc, a white whiskey commemorating the LABB weekend that was made by distilling a massive quantity of FW’s 805 blonde ale. I was humbled not only by the thoughtfulness and generosity of FW and RE:FIND, but also by the spirit itself – like their brandy, the whisky has wonderful character and body, especially when compared to many white/neutral spirits. the fact that they re-purpose an otherwise disposable juice cut to make their brandy is icing on the cake. I cannot overstate how cool this place was to visit.
- on the ride back to LA my head was spinning (and not because of the parabola JV cracked open to share on the blogger bus). collaboration, innovation, community pride/support, and local sourcing of high-quality ingredients to create a great product with a local identity are all ideas that FW champions, and those ideas make it easy to stand behind a brewery, regardless of whether they make a world-class product (which FW undoubtedly does). the weekend left me inspired and motivated to not only continuously strive to improve my own brewing/business processes, but to also appreciate and support an area for what makes it unique. thanks again for a great weekend!
Archive for the ‘beers’ Category
- as a result, I was motivated to create something in the same vein as beers like orval, rayon vert, brux, etc.
– beers that are somewhat sessionable yet earthy and spicy, with a rocky head and a funk that grows over time in the bottle/keg.
- I was also intrigued by beers such as the historic ballantine IPA that was supposedly aged for a year in oak and aroma hopped with hop extract, and wanted to incorporate some of those unique characteristics as well to create a unique “wood aged brett pale.”
- I ended up going with a grain bill of maris otter, vienna, crystal 80 and 40, and wheat for a solid malt backbone, with a starting gravity of 1.062. I bittered with columbus and added late aroma additions of chinook and simcoe for layered pine notes and a smooth bitterness (~55 IBU).
- for fermentation purposes, I split the batch between ECY17 burton union and WLP510 bastogne. I had originally planned to go with ECY10 old newark (one of the original ballantine strains) but my starter was so violently active (after less than six hours) the majority of top cropping yeast blew out of my erlenmeyer flask and my leftover pitch didn’t go anywhere. east coast yeast is the only provider whose vials I will directly pitch into wort without stepping up (the ECY17 vial took off in only an hour or two after pitching).
- after two weeks in primary at a controlled 65F, the WLP510 fermentor was at 1.01 and the ECY17 fermentor was at 1.013. I racked both into corny kegs, primed with 2.5oz. sugar, and pitched orval bottle dregs into each. I was planning on adding an american oak cube to each keg as well, but didn’t have any lying around. I am also tossing around the idea of dry hopping them before serving (which might be challenging now that I primed the kegs).
- I’m planning on tapping the kegs after three months and seeing which version works better with brett. the base beers both tasted great during kegging, so hopefully they’ll keep improving!
a couple weeks ago AP and I flew to portland, rented a truck, and road tripped it out to bend.
- bend is a great riverside community that touts mountain biking, skiing, kayaking, and hiking as some of its main offerings. AP and I managed to do none of those activities, opting instead for beach cruising, eating, and beer drinking (although I did get a decent round of disc golf in on mt bachelor).
- the coolest thing about bend is how the city fosters all sorts of fermentation projects. we visited breweries ranging in size from behemoths like deschutes (who had some great food and one-offs on tap), to local heavies like bend brewing (who had a killer IPL), to one of the tiniest tap rooms I’ve ever squeezed into over at boneyard (who had beers ranging from a (suprisingly good) chili beer a tasty sour for on-premises sampling).
- the highlight of our trip was a VIP tour of the nectar of the gods meadery by none other than its founder, wesley. he hooked us in with samples of his bourbon barrel-aged mead at the nearby platypus pub (which is part of an amazing bar, homebrew store, and bottle shop combination) and treated us to a variety of other creations made with various fruits and herbs. it was inspiring to see someone who was not only into mead production but was killing it with unique variations. he also tipped us to some unique (but expensive) wild bottles from ale apothecary. thanks again, wesley!
it’s hard to believe that it has been over eight months since I first pitched bkyeast’s isolates into some neutral blonde wort to experiment with.
- the initial tasting was a little underwhelming, likely due to the fact that I hadn’t given each strain enough time (only about a month) to work its magic. therefore, I stashed some bottles aside and promptly forgot about them until a few weeks back, when I popped them into the fridge to chill. here are the results.
- WY3191 brett isolate
- appearance: fluffy white head that lasts, good clarity
- aroma: citrus, lemon, earth
- taste: dry, lemony, slight mustiness, great prickly carbonation, slight acidity
- overall: very tasty, great end product, good option for a long-term saison
- cantillon iris isolate C2
- appearance: bubbles rush to top of bottle when opened, fluffy, fine head
- aroma: complex dirty funk with slight medicinal edge, unique, almost floral
- taste: creamy, coating mouthfeel, slight perceived sweetness
- overall: interesting aroma, lacks the dry effervescent brettiness that I prefer
- cantillon iris isolate C3
- appearance: vigorous, fluffy, long-lasting head
- aroma: chalky, fruity hard candy, medicinal finish
- taste: creamy, sweet, floral
- overall: another interesting result with good carbonation, just not as exciting or dramatic as WY3191
- in the end, I preferred the carbonation, finish, and acidity of the WY3191 isolate. who knows, maybe it will make another appearance in the future…
last weekend’s firestone walker invitational was incredible.
- after reviewing my photos of the event, it became clear to me that the focus of the invitational was on relationships – friendships between brewers, media, and industry representatives, valued business and social ties between producers and consumers, and the intertwining of a brewery and its community. the majority of my shots were portraits of those involved with and passionate about beer and its associated culture, local to international in scope. as the day progressed I discussed current events with south bay media, caught up on the latest releases from northern california, the midwest, and the east coast, and swapped beers and stories with brewers from as far away as germany and japan.
- oh, and then there was the beer. the available selection at the festival was over-the-top, and included dozens of world-class beers of all styles and gravities, from the palate-assaulting three floyds barrel aged dark lord and cigar city’s brandy barrel hunahpu to the sessionable birrifico italiano tipopils and refreshing barrelworks/mikkeler lil’ mikkel. those examples were just the tip of the iceberg – the selection was really comprehensive and unique, and was likely the best I’ve ever encountered at an event.
- my unforgettable barrel journey to paso robles was my first exposure to the passion and generosity of firestone walker, and the fw invitational picked up right where the former left off. both satisfying and inspiring, this event is one I can’t wait to revisit for many years to come.
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.
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.
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).
- after contemplating multiple sampling techniques, I decided to avoid unnecessary oxygenation by pulling a my sample from a small hole drilled into the barrel head. from what I have read, vinnie cilurzo of russian river pioneered this method, and his advice proved to be right on the money. you can check out funk factory’s tutorial as well (however, I would drill the hole about halfway up to reduce the force of the sample stream). also, be sure to be ready with a glass and stainless nail at hand before drilling (mise en place!).
- my sample came in at a gravity of 1.005 (5.45% abv). I took the following notes:
- lambic solera
- appearance: pale gold with sediment in suspension
- aroma: assertive barnyard with lots of funk
- taste: tannic with a complex funk up front and a lemony, acidic finish
- overall: I’m very happy where this is headed at 10 months, and am excited to see further development (increased intensity in flavors/aroma?)
- It’s going to be hard to hold out for another couple of months with this one, but I have a good feeling it will be worth the wait…
has it really been six months since my last house saison went in the fermentor?
- as I had mentioned during the last house saison brew day, even though I was more than pleased with how my house saison line had evolved (and had gotten very positive feedback from the tasting public), I felt that the beers themselves were a bit redundant. more specifically, I feel as though my house saisons had become dark and light versions of a “wild” beer instead of a “saison,” and I also considered white and banning to be superior to their house saison equivalents (e.g., they had a more balanced acidity, a more complex/deeper funk, etc.).
- as a result, I decided to rework my “house saison” six-month fermentation lineup by focusing on a rustic, somewhat high gravity base beer finished long-term with brettanomyces:
23 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) Bel (3.0 SRM) Grain 1 80.7 % 3 lbs Wheat Malt, Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 2 10.5 % 2 lbs 8.0 oz unmalted spelt, cereal mash Grain 3 8.8 % 4.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min Hop 4 24.4 IBUs 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 15.0 min Hop 5 3.0 IBUs 1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 6 0.0 IBUs 1.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] – Boil 0.0 min Hop 7 0.0 IBUs
- I ended up with an OG of 1.067 and initially fermented at 69F with a stepped up starter of WLP565. hopefully the saison yeast will stall in about week (as this strain is prone to do), at which time I will add a vial of WLP650 (as well as an oak cube or two). I also mashed at 155F to slow down the sacc and help give the brett a foothold. the relatively high mash temp (and use of unmalted spelt) should counteract any thinness caused by the serious attenuation of my yeast blend.
- during the main mash, I performed a cereal mash on the unmalted spelt addition, following my earlier unmalted wheat mash method. to avoid a stuck mash, I added copious amounts of rice hulls to the cereal mash before adding it to the main mash tun (it worked like a charm). the spelt should add some depth and mouthfeel to the finished product, as well as some complex fermentables for the extended fermentation.
- after six months in the fermentor I’m planning on dry-hopping this batch with 2 oz. of EKG and 1 oz. of saaz for a week before bottling/kegging. then it will be time to formulate its dark house counterpart!