Archive for September, 2011

NYC

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

last week AP and I headed east to see what the other side of the continent had to offer.

  • despite having a travel agenda that wasn’t completely beer-centric, we managed to hit up more than a few choice beer spots in both manhattan and brooklyn during new york craft beer week:
  • blind tiger – this bar came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint (it was my favorite of the trip).  a solid tap and bottle lineups were accompanied by great food and even better service.  AP and I ordered up east coast rarities like lambrucha, geektoberfest, and smuttynose’s ice wheat wine (a deceptively smooth ice-concentrated version of their wheat wine that clocked in at 20% abv!).
  • rattle n hum – packed and a little chaotic, this bar normally offers up around forty taps of choice brews.  unfortunately for us, we missed an all-NY lineup by a day and instead were greeted by a plethora of west-coast beers.  luckily, captain lawrence’s captain’s reserve was on draft as an east coast hop bomb alternative, and we scared up a bottle of cantillon geuze to keep things interesting.  meeting the guys behind two brothers at the end of the night was icing on the cake.
  • the ginger man – with spacious, comfortable digs and an upscale feel, this bar seems like a go-to happy hour spot.  has a ton standard craft on tap, and an impressive bottle selection (along with a bartender who wasn’t really into me taking general bar photos).
  • mcsorley’s old ale house: this place is a classic, and has the most personality of any bar I’ve ever been to.  a great slice of quintessential NYC culture, with two styles of beer (light and dark) and a great cheese and onion plate.  full of rowdy firemen and some great upstate visitors, mcsorley’s was my most memorable stop and definitely a must-visit spot.  shit, abe lincoln used to grab a drink there!
  • spuyten duyvil – a tiny hidden nook of a bar with an incredible backyard beer garden, great knowledgable staff, and the best selection of rare belgians I encountered on the trip.  ichtegem’s grand cru was poured on draft, and bottles of tilquin oude geuze and cantillon lou pepe kriek (possibly my favorite beer) were brought to the back for sharing.  just ignore the ridiculously cliche hipsters crawling all over this place.
  • pony bar - this place reminds me of tony’s darts away – good food, local beers, and a draft-only selection that changed up twice while we were there as kegs kicked (at 11pm on a sunday night).  the staff was friendly and had helpful recommendations.  this is a must-visit bar after getting out of a broadway show.
  • after grabbing some bottles at good beer and whole foods, AP and I were ready to head home after some late nights and plenty of good times.  there are enough beer spots in this city to last several trips, so I can’t wait to get back and experience more of what NYC has to offer.  now if I could just figure out the story behind the plethora of left hand and two brothers on tap…

  

  

SF vs. LA: a week in review

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

last week I managed to spend a good amount of time at popular beer spots in both SF and LA.

  • while up in SF for business, my first stop after work was (surprise!) giordano bros, where CB and I knocked down some coppa with egg and enjoyed some proving ground IPAs from magnolia.  afterwards, we headed to rogue, where curiosity got the better of me and I tried a pint of mead that they had on draft, which was clean and floral (and must have been on  the lighter side since I polished off the entire pint and could still stand up afterwards).
  • then it was back to CB’s where the ball really got rolling.  more specifically, CB popped a 750 of Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L’Ancienne, a bottle which I had sought unsuccessfully for quite some time.  the newest geuze blender to pop up in belgium in quite some time, tilquin piqued my curiosity, and their first release didn’t disappoint.  the aroma right after the pour was full of fresh citrus fruit, but evolved into a complex, earthy funk reminiscent of some of the finer geuzes I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying.  to top it off, CB served up some fresh wild-starter sourdough he’s been perfecting.  it was a great pairing, and made for a killer start to my trip.  now I just have to find some more tilquin bottles!
  • the next day CB, UD, JC, and I pulled the classic memphis minnie’s/toronado pairing, and finished the night up with a bottle of oud beersel’s Oude Kriek Vieille, which was tasty, but a little tamer than I had hoped.  the night ended back at CB’s with a bottle of cascade’s vlad the imp aler, which was more drinkable than I remembered, and had a great balance of smooth sourness and sweet vanilla malt/oak.  thanks again for the unbelievable hospitality CB!
  • a few days later I was in the LA valley, suited up for a good buddy’s wedding.  there was an interim between the wedding and reception, so AP and I took advantage of the situation and let the wedding crew over to tony’s darts away, a somewhat inconveniently-located spot I had been meaning to visit for a while.
  • we got there at a good time (around 4 – evidently, the place gets crowded later at night), and ordered up some specialty sausages, sweet potato fries, and some great beers, including bear republic’s mach 10 and lagunitas’ lucky 13.  specializing in CA IPAs, tony’s had great service and food, and everyone in our party left satisfied.  it’s a shame this place is in burbank…
  • after experiencing a taste of what both the north and south have to offer in CA, it’s hard to pick a favorite.  I’m just glad I have access to both!


         

    

      

  

beachwood sour fest, patersbier revisited, basque cider update

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

 

last week AP and I caught wind of a serious sour lineup geting poured at beachwood BBQ’s seal beach location for their sour fest.

  • news of lines, crowds, and general chaos (at lunchtime on a tuesday no less) had me skeptical at first, but while grabing a pour at naja’s I heard that some of the sours were making their way up to beachwood’s long beach location.
  • upon making our way to long beach on saturday, our suspicions were confirmed – long beach was stocked with over a dozen sours, all available as five-ounce pours (for a price). to top it off, there were no lines, no crowds, only an enthusiastic homebrewer/bartender who gave us tons of great advice on both food and brews.
  • within a few minutes I was tearing into a smoky chopped brisket sandwich and chasing it with rarities like BFM’s abbaye st bon chien 2010, craftsman’s fireworks saison, ballast point’s sour wench, allagash’s interlude 2009, deschutes’ the dissident 2010, and lost abbey’s red poppy 2010.
  • the next day I dusted off the brew rig and got the strike water going for a rehash of my patersbier.  I decided to redo this brew as a SMaSH:
    • 18.00 lb Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) Grain 100.00 %
      2.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] (60 min) Hops 12.3 IBU
      2.00 oz Saaz [4.00 %] (10 min) Hops 4.5 IBU
  • I also tweaked a few other elements, such as upping the mash temp from 148 to 152 for a little more maltiness, opting for a vigorous 90 minute boil to drive off any DMS in the malt, and cooling the wort to a balmy 69F with my bootlegged fermentation fridge before pitching my stepped up WLP500 slurry from my yeast bank.
  • the boil got a little too vigorous at times, resulting in a couple boilovers, but I was more than satisfied with my OG of 11 brix (1.043), which was dead on, accounting for an efficiency of 80%.
  • however, the best surprise of the day came as I kegged my basque cider attempt for long-term aging.  I was hoping for any signs of funk at all, but was wholly unprepared for the viscous pellicle that gretted me upon cracking open the fermentation bucket.  the cider was viscous and ropy, a sure sign of “sickness” during wild/sour fermentation.
  • to top it off, the cider smelled fantastic – the aroma had a great barnyard/lambic character similar to the basque ciders that donated their dregs.  I’m definitely excited to bottle this up in a few months and try it sporadically (and to try another batch with dregs and a less attenuative yeast).

beer critiques and recipe modifications

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only brewer out there who is a little biased while reviewing the fruits of their labor.

  • after spending hours milling, mashing, sparging, boiling, and cooling, results that taste anything close to beer are most likely celebrated.  in addition, friends and family who enjoy the fruits of the homebrewer’s labor may be reluctant to offer even the slightest criticism, as a result of politeness or perhaps a desire to maintain a steady stream of homemade libations.
  • however, constructive criticism resulting from accurate observations of a beer’s characteristics can only help to improve future incarnations of such beer.  even casual drinkers unfamiliar with the BJCP style guidelines can help by summarizing significant elements they observe in a neutral manner (e.g., “I smell a lot of grass and flowers,” “this beer tastes like bread,” “it smells like a dirty diaper,” etc.)
  • in my case, I was able to review some valuable criticism when I got my OC fair beer comp scoresheets back in the mail.  the reviews ran the gamut – some were written by BJCP certified judges, some by fellow homebrewers; some were thorough and offered suggestions, while others were painfully sparse and overly general (and frankly worthless).  scores ranged from a 9 (saison) to a 35 (golden strong).
  • reading these score sheets opened my eyes to some overlooked “defects” in my beers and prompted me to impartially review my current draft lineup.  in the interests of progress, I also made note of some potential modifications that could be used to overcome identified undesirables.

name:

nightmare stout

style:

dry irish stout

observations:

light coffee nose, thin body, slight tang in finish, poor head retention

modifications:

mash higher for more malt/body, use a bigger starter, use 2-row instead of pils, longer boil

 

 

name:

trappist weisse

style:

belgian wit

observations:

dry finish, “delicate” floral/spice aroma

modifications:

mash higher, higher fermentation temp for more phenols, use different yeast (german hef or belgian wit instead of trappist strain)

 

 

name:

simple cider

style:

dry apple cider

observations:

dry champagne nose, tart apple flavor with tart, dry finish, very champagne like

modifications:

experiment with other yeast strains that are less dominant/highlight the apples more and don’t attenuate as much (beer strains, etc.)

 

 

name:

house saison

style:

saison/belgian specialty ale/sour ale

observations:

fruity/sour aroma, clean barnyard funk with smooth sourness, slight oxidation

modifications:enter in a more relevant judging category(even though fantome is an example of the BJCP saison category)/explain beer in notes, higher initial fermentation temps and more dregs earlier during fermentation, purge carboy with CO2 when adding dregs

 

 

  • hopefully objective tasting sessions like these will lead to an improved experience for everyone involved, even if I don’t brew with competitions specifically in mind.  constructive criticism shouldn’t hurt any brewer’s feelings!