Archive for October, 2009

russian river brewing company

Friday, October 30th, 2009

the bar at russian river

last weekend TM, JVG, JC, and I went disc golfing at novato.  however, before a disc was tossed we made a detour toward santa rosa for a couple brews at russian river brewing company.

  • one of my favorite things about the russian river pub (aside from all their on-premises conditioning and barrels) is the huge new albion sign hanging above the bar.  for a little brewing history, check out these articles on Jack McAuliffe and new albion.

new albion sign

  • JVG ordered up the O.V.L. stout, TM and I picked up an emprircal 7 saison (sessionable, but not remarkable), and JC couldnt decide, so he ordered the taster.
  • the waiter brought back the most impressive taster I have ever seen – 14 beers were lined up for sampling!  it gave all of us a chance to try some beers that we woudn’t have otherwise been able to order up.

massive taster at russian river

  • after sampling a mulitude of offerings, I couldn’t help but go back to one of my favorites – temptation.  JVG and JC each ordered up a consecration.
  • the best part of the trip?  on sundays, all beers are $3.25 all day!
  • after unsuccessfully trying to convince the waiter to fill me a growler of temptation, we rolled out of russian river towards petaluma… (to be continued!)

empirical 7 and O.V.L. stout

the lineup at russian river

JVG enjoying his stout

tap list at russian river

fermentation/conditioning tanks at russian river

barrels at russian river

moonlight artemis at city beer

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

the lineup at city beer

last weekend AP and I happened to be south of market, so we figured a trip to city beer store was called for.

  • we scored some great seats, whipped out a deck of cards, and scanned the beer list for something interesting on draft.
  • AP decided on schmaltz human blockhead, which was listed as a “sweet, malty lager,” but which maybe used lager yeast but didn’t have any lager characteristics beyond that.  it was definitely sweet and malty, like a sweet barleywine.
  • as usual, the moonlight offering on draft caught my eye.  I ordered up a pour of artemis, a gruit evidently bittered and flavored with mugwort/common wormwood and monarda.
  • when Craig, the proprietor, asked me if “I wasn’t sure I just wanted a taste first,” I knew it was going to be interesting.
  • the beer was very earthy and woodsy.  another guy at the bar turned to me and said, “pretty medicinal, huh?,” and I had to agree.  although the beer was very drinkable, I think one pour was quite enough to satisfy my curiosity (plus homeopathically cure any possible stomach ailments I may have had).
  • all in all, it was just another relaxing afternoon at city beer, with a little surprise thanks to Brian.  keep pushing the boundaries!

artemis and human blockhead

the tap list

one of many beer fridges

all-grain rye IPA brew day at CB’s

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

bird's-eye of the setup

last weekend AP and I rolled by CB’s to check out his latest brew session, a rye IPA.

  • things have changed a bit since the last time I visited–  CB got the itch and upgraded his brew kettle and burner.
  • with his new 20-gallon blichmann boilermaker, he can easily crank out 10-gallon all-grain batches (and can even kick it up to 15 gal. if he can fit enough grain in the mash tun!).

new kettle and burner

  • when I arrived, CB had completed the mash and was starting the sparge.  however, despite the addition of some rice hulls, the mash was pretty stuck due to the rye.

the mash

  • no worries though – TB had brought over some of his bottled kolsch, so it was time to RDWHAHB.

TB's kolsch

  • once we realized that the sparge was going to take much longer than expected, more than homebrew was called for.

the sparge

  • CB sliced up some of his cured meats and poured out some samples of his saison and another one of his IPAs.  delicious!

saison and IPA

cured meats

  • we watched the boil kettle slowly fill, and finally had close to 13 gallons.  when CB’s new burner fired up it sounded like a jet engine and before too long a healthy rolling boil kicked off.

the boil

  • I had to take off soon thereafter, but from what I heard, a 5 gal. immersion chiller isn’t really up to the task of cooling a 10 gal. batch.
  • congrats on the first 10 gal. batch CB!  I can’t wait to give it a taste.


lagunitas hop stoopid

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

hop stoopid in the glass

I recently pulled out a bottle of lagunitas’ hop stoopid, a double IPA, while cooking up some BBQ.

  • this was originally called “sonoma farmhouse” hop stoopid, which confused me when I first saw it a year or two ago.
  • I kept passing this bottle by until I got into a discussion with an employee at a bevmo in LA who swore to me that hop stoopid and avery’s maharaja (one of my all-time favorites) were one and the same and that I should switch to hop stoopid for financial reasons (it is a couple bucks cheaper).
  • although the brews are somewhat different, hop stoopid is amazing in its own right.  it has an intense hop aroma that puts a smile on your face and enough malt (@8% abv) to keep the hop bitterness in check.
  • I wish I would have started picking this up earlier, since it’s price point beats out many inferior double IPAs (it’s less than $5 for a bomber, and surprisingly, many local liquor stores around here carry it).
  • I also just read that lagunitas uses hop extracts in this batch??  interesting, that’s probably how they get it up to 102 IBU on a reasonable budget, but I’m not sure how excited I am about hop extract use.  hell, it tastes great, they must be doing something right.

hop stoopid bottle

don’t believe the hype

Monday, October 26th, 2009

so, tomorrow is “black tuesday” over at the bruery.

  • basically, starting at 4:30, people can line up and buy 3 $30 bottles of black tuesday, an imperial stout that many in line have probably never tasted before.
  • this follows the lead of three floyds, whose dark lord stout has been selling one day a year at dark lord day since 2004.
  • greatly hyped, dark lord has phenomenal ratings on beeradvocate, and was a “top 10” overall beer there (and may still be), up with another hard to find beer, westvleteren 12.
  • this success has spawned imitators who have followed the one-day release idea, such as surly’s darkness day and the aforementioned black tuesday.

I’m a little bummed out about this one-day release idea.  it seems to me to satisfy the collector, the reseller, the fanatic willing to spend the money and/or time to get the rarity, instead of the casual curious homebrewer or beer fan.  I’m not sure how approachable craft beer can be when the “really good stuff” is only available after a 4 hour wait in line or for a wad of cash on ebay.

church key

Monday, October 26th, 2009

wallpaper at church key

last week DH, AF and I rolled by church key in north beach for a round.

  • DH had three philosophers from ommegang, which was on draft (see review of this quad here).
  • AF and I each had one of stone’s sublimely self-righteous ales, which is a remake of their 11th anniversary beer.
  • sublimely self-righteous is classified as an american strong on beeradvocate, but stone calls it a “black double IPA.
  • despite my previous ranting about the terminology of black IPAs, I definitely enjoy this brew – the strong hop aroma matched the roasted malts, and some residual sweetness tied it all together.
  • this beer won’t necessarily be a go-to beer for me, but it was well-balanced and is a good representative of this new style.  now if only stone will remake their 13th anniversary brew next year…
  • as for church key, the bartender was friendly and they had a pretty decent selection of beers on tap.
  • although their bottle list did contain some winners, the selection seemed a little slimmed down from the last time I was there.
  • my only gripe was the pricing – $8 for a pour of a stone brew?  that’s a little steep, especially with so many options available in the area.  their bottle list was pricey too, which dissuaded me from any experimenting.

stone sublimely and ommegang three philosophers at church key

the bar at church key

tied house menage a singe

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

menage a singe in the glass

I recently picked up a bottle of menage a singe black IPA while on a bevmo run and cracked it open last weekend.

  • as noted by jay brooks in his article on the black IPA style, this beer is “a special release by the recent San Jose venture between the Tied House and Jeff Moses, former GM of Coast Range Brewery.”
  • upon popping the cork, it was clear that this beer was very overcarbed.  it took a minute or two to get a decent pour, which was slightly annoying.
  • the use of black patent or some other dark roasted malt dominated the flavor and aroma of the beer and overwhelmed any dry hop aroma that might have been present.
  • in my opinion, calling a beer a “black IPA” doesn’t make sense.  how can a pale ale be black?  I think “dry-hopped porter” is more appropriate.
  • overall, the beer was definitely interesting, but I wouldn’t buy it again.  if you are gung-ho on this “black IPA” kick, I would recommend something more like stone’s sublimely self-righteous ale.

menage a singe bottle

menage a singe closeup

san francisco brewcraft

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

sf brewcraft front

a lot of homebrewers urge you to “support your local homebrew store!”  In fact, I am forever indebted to robert over at fermentation frenzy (now moreflavor! after it was consumed by morebeer!), my original LHBS, for showing me the ropes and setting me up with some great first recipes that sold me on homebrewing.

  • as of late, though, cost has dictated my homebrew vendor, and I have been mostly ordering online via william’s brewing to save a few bucks on my LME and hops (they’re in san leandro – that’s local, right?).
  • however, a few last-minute yeast problems have led me to sf brewcraft to get my brew day back on track.
  • sf brewcraft is on a quiet corner at clement and 17th, and seems to have everything you would need to get any type of brew going – they have everythign from bulk grains to CO2 refills (it takes a couple days), and even carry pot stills.
  • the owner, the infamous griz, and his posse seem pretty approachable.  according to their website, griz has a homebrew class monday nights at 6pm.  they also have a pretty entertaining blog.
  • will I make the switch to my closest LHBS for all my brewing needs?  I’m not sure, since online ordering does save me some cash and shipping is fast and reasonable.  however, I will be purchasing all my yeast from sf brewcraft from now on, and will get any glassware from them as well (to save on shipping costs).
  • also, I recommend sf brewcraft to anyone in the area thinking about starting out in the homebrew world – although there is a lot of information to be had on the internet, having a real person explain subtle brewing nuances to you and tell you your batch is not infected is well worth the slight LHBS markup.

yeast and hops at sf brewcraft

brew buckets and bottles

specialty grains

bulk grains in the front

misc equipment and griz in the back

side of sf brewcraft with hop barrel

anchor steam beer clone brew day

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

anchor steam clone primary fermentation

as I mentioned yesterday, for a variety of reasons I decided to brew an anchor steam beer clone.

  • after confirming a predicted temperature of less than 60F for the week, I decided that saturday would be a good day to get the ball rolling.
  • I slightly modified this clone recipe from BYO as follows:
    • 8 lbs. pale LME
    • 8 oz. crystal malt, 40° Lovibond (steep from 150-175F, then remove)
    • 2 oz. Northern Brewer hops (7.2% alpha acid): 1.5 oz. for 60 min., 0.5 oz. for 15 min.
    • 1 oz. Cascade hops (5.5% alpha acid) for 2 min.
    • Wyeast 2112 (DOA)/saflager S-23 dry lager yeast combo in starter
  • after weighing out the specialty grain…

specialty grains

  • I steeped them according to the above recipe.

steeping specialy grain

  • I added the LME at 175F and brought the wort to a boil, where I added the hops according to schedule.

hop schedule

  • after cooling the wort to the low 70sF…

cooling the wort

yeast starter

  • primary fermentation seems to be going strong in my shed – the ambient temperatue seems to be nice and cool, so I have high hopes that the wort hasn’t topped the mid-60sF.
  • after about 10 days in primary, I plan on lagering in my kegerator for a couple months.  cross your fingers!

making a lager yeast starter

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

lager starter bubbling away

feeling a little sentiment for san francisco, I decided to brew an anchor steam beer clone.

  • steam/california common beers are native to this area, and although they use lager yeast, they ferment at slightly warmer temperatures, traditionally without refrigeration (see the link for a lot more info).
  • since I can get away with slightly higher primary fermentation temps, I figured a steam beer would be a good introduction to brewing lagers.
  • I also decided to brew this steam beer the old-fashioned way (without refrigeration) after determining that my shed held a consistent temperature under 60F even during moderately warm days.

however, due to the decreased primary fermentation temperatures for lagers as opposed to ales, a significant starter was in order.

  • learning my lesson from my last starter preparation, I added a little less than 4oz of DME and a pinch of yeast nutrient before adding any water to my flask.

DME and nutrient in the flask

  • I then added 800mL of water and a drop or two of fermcap (after confirming that the sodium metabisulphite in the solution was only used as a preservative and would not adversely affect my brew – see comments from my last starter session).

water and fermcap added to flask

  • I then boiled the solution for approx. 10 minutes, with no boil overs or other issues.

boiling starter wort

cooling starter wort

added propagor yeast

  • I was a little concerned that the propagator pack had not swollen during the many hours after I smacked it before I added it to the starter wort, but I figured it was just due to the smaller size compared to the activator packs.  however, when I saw absolutely no activity in the starter after 12 hours, I knew something was up.  I ran over to sf brewcraft (review coming this week) and grabbed a packet of saflager s-23 dry lager yeast, which I added to the starter (and which immediately took off).

saflager s-23 yeastto the rescue

  • this is the third time I have had problems with william’s yeast in the past year, and although they do send you a complimentary replacement packet, it’s usually too late to be of any use since I (and most others) do their brewing on the weekends and make starters only a day or two before that.  it’s a bummer, and unfortuantely I think I will get my yeast elsewhere from now on.