Archive for December, 2009

seabright brewery santa cruz

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

the bar at seabright

after what can only be described as excessive indulging in food and drink with family down in LA and SD, AP and I roadtripped it back up HWY 1 with AP, EP, AP, and DP in tow.

  • during a wet spot on our second day up the coast we rolled into santa cruz for a pit stop.
  • as usual, AP had done her homework and picked out a great spot at seabright brewery.
  • seabright had the total package – our waitress, busboy, and bartender were all great and energetic.
  • I started with the blur, seabright’s IPA.  it was citrusy and fresh, without too much of a bitter finish.
  • unfortunately, as I was a driver in the caravan, I was relegated to tasters after my first pint, but I got to try desmond, a warm and slightly sweet barleywine tapped two days earlier, as well as sacrilicious, a very hoppy red that had a great malt and hop balance.  the two APs were fans of seabright’s amber.
  • while I was at the bar, I couldn’t help but notice 5 or 6 trash barrels filled with 2-row in the adjoining brew room, so I snuck in for a peek at their sweet setup.  large lagering tanks in a cooler room were visible in the eating area through large windows.
  • overally, seabright brewing was a top-notch establishment.  the food and beers were great, and the service was even better.  I can’t understand the mediocre ratings for this place on beeradvocate, but if that means a shorter wait for a table on my next visit then I guess I’ll just keep my mouth shut…

pint of the blur

entrance to the brew spot

lots of grain getting ready to rock

IPAs and ambers

bottling the imperial espresso stout

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009


christmas is upon us, and while brewing my partial mash IPA I decided to bottle a case of my imperial espresso stout as a gift for my pops.

  • CB was over and volunteered to help out.  I’m glad he did, since the whole event turned into a fiasco.
  • when I originally brewed this stout, I pitched a smack pack of wyeast 9097-PC Old Ale Blend that never seemed to take off, so I repitched with a vial of white labs high gravity ale yeast and kegged after a primary of over a month.
  • evidently, the brett in the original smack pack must have kicked in after kegging and went to town over the next 7 months.
  • I should have known that something was wrong when I went to charge the keg with a little CO2.  as soon as I stuck the ball lock on the gas in post, it popped right off.  I just shrugged it off and proceeded to plug in my cobra tap into the beer out post.
  • in true overcarbed fashion, as soon as the ball lock was seated, the keg pressure blew open the cobra tap and thick stout foam violently shot out of my attached bottling tube.
  • luckily, the whole assembly was in a bucket of sanitizer, so the mess was minimal, but if I had just hooked up the keg to my kegerator was I had originally planned, it would have been catastrophic.
  • after forcing the ball lock off after a couple seconds of panic, I tried purging the keg, which resulted in a blast radius of foam a few feet in diameter.
  • finally, CB came up with the idea of hooking the cobra tap to the gas in post.  we did, and after 5+ minutes of foam constantly pouring out of the tap, the keg was in equilibrium and ready to bottle.  phew!
  • however, the beer ended up tasting great and the brett gave it a little earthy funk that fit in with the roasted malt and heavy dose of espresso.  I think JF will enjoy this pitch-black brew after work or as a nightcap.
  • MERRY XMAS EVERYBODY! enjoy some great brews with some great company!

blowing off some foam in the keg

bottling the stout

the end result

de molen storm & averij

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

DH pouring up the storm and averij

last weekend I rolled by DH and JQ’s to hang out and have a beer or two.

  • JQ got a line on some great beers through a specialty store down in the south bay, and while I was over they popped open a bottle of something I had never seen before – storm & averij, a double IPA from brouwerij de molen in the netherlands.
  • after a little research, I realized that this was the same brewery that puts out rasputin (a beer I found on draft in amsterdam a while back) and hel & verdoemenis (a bottle CB has been sitting on for a while), among several other impressive brews.
  • as a bit of trivia, evidently the guys from de molen (“the mill”) brew in a 300-year old windmill with re-purposed dairy machinery.
  • storm & averij (“storm & damage”) is a great double IPA – it has a malty backbone that is not too sweet and that fully supports the hops and yeast, which were earthy and slightly spicy (the beer is dry-hopped with czech premiant hops).  the beer had a creamy mouthfeel and definitely approached the style from a different angle.  it also hides its 9.2% abv impressively.
  • this is definitely a beer to take to an IPA session to really get some people talking about the style.  I hear it’s pretty pricey though, so I don’t know if you could do it that often.

storm & averij bottle

partial mash IPA brew day

Monday, December 21st, 2009

sweet, sweet wort...

on sunday CB rolled by and I whipped up an IPA using a partial mash recipe I formulated based on a couple of sources.

  • additionally, I slightly modified the hop bill from my very first brew session (a recipe from robert over at what used to be fermentation frenzy):
    • 1oz. columbus @ 75
    • 1oz. columbus @ 55
    • 1oz. columbus @ 20
    • 1oz. amarillo @ 10
    • 1.5oz. amarillo @ 0
    • dry-hop 1.5oz amarillo, 1oz. columbus
  • my batch sparge went fine – I added a little over a gallon of 160F water to the mash, resulting in a mash temp of around 152F.  I mashed for an hour and sparged with the same amount of water at the same temp.
  • it had been a little while since I had cracked out my scratch-built mash tun, and the little guy worked like a dream.  in fact, I am debating picking up a turkey fryer and boil pot and doing some all-grain beers with it in the near future…
  • the hop schedule was originally @60, 40, 15, 5, and 0, but things got a little hairy during bottling of my imperial espresso stout (lowdown to come) and the boil got inadvertently extended.
  • my starter of wyeast cali 1 was bubbling along nicely, and after a shot of O2 and some healthy yeast, fermentation kicked off in no time.
  • I plan on tossing the dry hops into primary next week, and kegging a week or so after that.

the grain bill

heating the strike water

close to optimal mash temps

the stovetop lineup

my high-tech runoff

closeup of second runnings

the leftovers

tossing in the starter

alesmith yulesmith winter 2009

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

alesmith yulesmith in the glass

when I was organizing bottles for the strong beer session, I came across a bottle of yulesmith by alesmith down in san diego that PB and NB donated to the cause a while back.

  • I assumed this brew was a strong winter warmer or barleywine based on the packaging, but further research revealed that it was in fact a highly-hopped double red.
  • in fact, the beer comes out twice a year, and is a double IPA in the summer and a double red in the winter.
  • truthfully, when I cracked open the beer and took a sniff, I thought it was a double IPA – the hop aroma was very intense and citrusy.
  • only the dark pour gave any indication that this was something else in addition to a straight up hop bomb.
  • the beer was fantastic – very well balanced, with plenty of malt to counter the hop aggressiveness.
  • I’m a big fan of alesmith – their founders started as accomplished homebrewers and made their dream a reality.  plus, it’s easy to support their cause when they put out kickass beers!

alesmith yulesmith bomber

alesmith yulesmith

fantôme de noël

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

fantome de noel in the glass

a while back CB busted out a bottle of fantome de noel, fantome’s holiday brew.

  • although past descriptions of this beer talk about coriander, black pepper, and roasted malt, the beer seems fairly light to me, like a true saison.
  • CB must have gotten a good bottle – the clean fruitiness of this brew was outstanding, much like a good bottle of their standard saison, which is one of my all-time favorites.
  • the beer also had an excellent tart finish and was very refreshing.  10% abv? where did all the alcohol go? sometimes I think Dany just makes those numbers up for laughs…
  • I can see this bottle getting broken out as a great alternative to the standard winter warmer, or getting stashed away for a hot summer BBQ that will surprise more than a few people with its well-hidden alcohol content.

fantome de noel bottle

anchor christmas ale 2009

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

anchor xmas ale

ever since the 2009 anchor christmas ale magnums popped up in stores I was itching to pick one up.

  • they were pretty inexpensive (>$15 from what I remember) and looked like a great gift/party idea.
  • however, I wasn’t too keen on the last few christmas ales from anchor, so I wanted to try a little taste before jumping in head first.
  • I found singles for sale somewhere (was it city beer?) and picked one up for a taste test, but before I got to try it i buckled and got a magnum for UD for his birthday.  it didn’t hurt that dave over at healthy spirits gave the ’09 a good review, so I had some faith going into it.  and, well, shit, any russian river offering short of blind pig or pliny costs more than this magnum, so it’s all relative…
  • anyhow, I’m glad I grabbed these bottles.  the brew has a super piney hop aroma with a smooth spicy malt back.  I can’t overemphasize the “piney-ness” here – it is very woodsy and earthy.  however, spiced beers get to me a little – I can’t really drink more than one or two of em.  this is a great example of a christmas “winter warmer.”

anchor xmas ale in the glass

anchor xmas ale in the glass v.2

goose island bourbon county stout 2008

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

bourbon county stout in the glass

a while back, while over at CB’s (where all the good bottles seem to be hiding), he cracked open a bottle of bourbon county stout from 2008, a 13% abv bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout from goose island out in chicago.

  • I remember feeling a little like a sucker last year when I shelled out $20 for a four-pack of these at bevmo when they were first released.
  • however, I found that over time this beer has received rave reviews from all the beer nerds, and seems to be pretty highly regarded.  I still remember some dude over at city beer losing it over this beer, swearing that it was the most overlooked beer of 2008 and that we should all stock up before it was too late.
  • I hate to say this, but when I cracked a bottle of this open a few months after I got em, I could barely put down a few ounces – the brew was SUPER boozy, beyond a liqueur and more like a straight shot.  bourbon infiltrated all other flavors and I actually dumped half the bottle since AP didn’t want to have anything to do with it!
  • which brings me to a week or two ago, when CB pops the cap on this sucker and all I can think about was the booze fest that went down last year.
  • however, the beer aged very well, and the alcohol was a lot more veiled.  some great oak flavor came out as well.  the beer was infinitely more drinkable than it had been just a year prior, and tasted great!  I can’t wait to see what a couple more years do to this behemoth!

bourbon county stout

bourbon county stout bottle

strong beer session #1: barleywine

Monday, December 14th, 2009

the lineup

work and the holidays has been cramping my blogging style as of late, so my apologies for the less-than-daily postings.  hopefully this week we’ll get back on track!

last friday the team (me and AP) hosted our first strong beer session, inspired by the holiday season.

  • we focused on barleywine, one of my personal favorite styles and a great way to warm up during these cold months.
  • after procuring barleywine-centric foods such as stilton cheese, savory sausages, and some sweet desserts, bottles began to get cracked and the taps started pouring.
  • the lineup was pretty varied, with many states (and a few countries) being represented.  the brews included:
  • the session peaked with a three year flight (2007-2009) of lagunitas’ brown shugga, and was followed by a bomber of my own 2006 homebrew barleywine and CB’s 2008 homebrew barleywine.
  • I also had my 8-month belgian date barleywine on draft for people to sip between tastings.
  • crowd favorites included the doggie claws, the ’07 brown shugga, and my ’06 homebrew (yes!).  an honorable mention went out to the 120 minute, which drank like a liqueur and had everybody talking (at 20% abv it was easy to see why).  I wish I had another one to put down for about 5 years…
  • overall, there was great company, beers, and food.  look for individual reviews of standout brews from the above list in the future.

the belgian date barleywine keg

the brown shugga flight

the aftermath, part 1

the aftermath, part 2

homebrewed vojvodina pale ale tasting

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

vojvodina pale pour

at long last, I finally tapped my fresh-hop single-hop vojvodina pale ale (phew!) and AP poured me up a glass.

  • the crystal and cara-pils specialty malts gave the beer some nice color (its actually pretty dark for a pale ale).
  • I was very satisfied with the head on the beer as well – each pour results in a nice 2-finger head which dissipates over a few minutes.
  • the beer has a slightly bready/malty yeast aroma, with no hop aroma to speak of (probably because the beer was a fresh-hop beer, even though the hop’s lineage indicates aroma and dual purpose characteristics).
  • the flavor is pretty mild, with little perceived bitterness.  it’s not malt or hop-forward, but is a good session beer with a clean finish that probably clocks in at over 6% abv.
  • my goals for next year’s fresh-hop harvest ale? lighten up the malt bill, and double the hops (and perhaps pulverize them) and maybe use a yeast with a more transparent finish to see if I can end up with more of a hoppy profile (maybe a fresh hop IPA?).  hopefully I’ll also have enough zeus next year to have a little fresh hop taste-off…

vojvodina pale in the glass

abstract pour