Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chatoe Rogue Wet Hop Ale

Rogue Ales of Newport, OR has a new line of beers which will be released under the Chatoe Rogue "Grow the Revolution" series. The Chatoe Rogue products will be using hops grown and harvested by Rogues own Micro Farm in Independence, OR.

The first in the series of Chatoe Rogue beers is their First Growth Wet Hop Ale using their Indepedent and Revolution hops. The raw hops were picked, thrown into burlap bags, driven 77 miles to the brewery and tossed into the brew kettle. The brewery has a summary of the process posted here. They brewed 200 barrels of the beer and used over 3,000 lbs of wet hops. The other Chatoe releases will include Pinot Envy Ale, Dirtoir Ale, Single Malt Ale and OREgasmic Ale.

Tasting Notes: 22 oz bottle purchased at Capones in Norristown PA. Pours a deep orange/amber with a smaller bubbly off white head that left some spotty lacing. Aroma of sweet citrusy hop notes, mostly getting orange, some light caramel and Munich malt notes, light grassy notes are still present although starting to fade away (this beer has probably been in the bottle for at least 3-4 months at this point. The flavor is fresh and hoppy. Getting mostly pine, grapefruit, lemon and grass out of the hop flavors. Bitterness is exactly where I like in for an IPA (aggresive yet not over the top). The malts to help to balance this beer with some caramel, nuts and cereal characeter. The classic Rogue Pacman yeast strain is present in both aroma and flavor.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21A Monk's Blood

For any of you who know me (which is probably everyone reading this blog) you probably already know that I'm quite the fan of great craft beer in cans. I won't go on about my reasoning in this post but I will mention that I was very happy when the San Francisco based, 21st Amendment Brewery started sending their Brew Free or Die IPA and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat to Pennsylvania this summer. Just this past week cases of their brand new offering Monk's Blood have started to hit Eastern PA bottle shop and distributors shelves.

Monk's Blood is an oak-aged Belgian-style Dark Ale (along the lines of a Belgian Quad) brewed with cinnamon sticks in the mash, dark candy sugar, vanilla beans and dried black mission figs in the boil. It's packed in a nifty looking 4 pack box and is part of their new line of beers they are referring to as The Insurrection Series. The box states the following… “Legend has it that in the evenings, the monks would retire to their chambers & settle in with a few passages from the Good Book. But Brothers Nicolas and O’Sullivan had other plans. Working in the brewhouse all day, they were forced to repeat the same old recipes the elder monks had invented years before. They needed a little diversion. And found it in the cellar of the monastery with a fresh twist they put on the beer and the way they enjoyed it. Brother Nicolas (or Nico to his close friend) brought some hand-rolled cigars. O’Sullivan, the outspoken one, broke the vow of silence by spinning a remix of some Gregorian chants. Together, they’d throw down a couple nice hands of Texas Hold’Em and savor the handcrafted brew they created in secrecy. Everyday was good. Or so it seemed. But deep in his heart, Nico knew they were driving into the dark side of beer. Next thing you know they’d be skipping Lent. Then on night they’d face the Judgment for their actions with a hard knock at the door. Outside, the Abbots and elders would be holding stone in the air. A threat the brothers were sure would lead to the spilling of Monk’s Blood.”

Tasting Notes - Pours a deep ruby chestnut/amber with a medium bubbly off white head that left some lacing. Aroma of various fruits, dark fruits, vanilla, light oak, maybe a touch of the cinnamon, some fresh hop notes and chestnuts. Flavor of dark fruits, vanilla, oak, light cinnamon, figs, light roasted malt and some fresh hops poking through. This was well done. Not overly sweet or sticky, ABV well hidden and it’s in a can!

Picture stole from Shaun O'Sullivans Facebook site (forgot to take my own picture of the cool four pack)

Double IPA Brew Session

This weekend the Philadelphia area got what was the 2nd worst December snow storm ever since they started tracking that stuff (something like a 100 year record). Since I ordered the ingredients for the Double IPA online and already had the yeast starter going I had no other choice but to brew. It actually turned out to be a really great brew session overall and the snow really only impacted some of my cleaning and sanitation activities (I ended up cleaning the brew kettle inside and the mash tun probably didn't get as good of a cleaning as I usually give it, but it should be fine).

I got the brew day started around 10am. My winter brew house setup, while maybe not the "safest" certainly keeps me somewhat warm. I do take some safety precautions though, yes I make sure the garage doors are cracked and I also set up a carbon monoxide detector in the garage and ask Steph or Elliott to come check on my every so often. That system seems to work well so far. With using an outdoor burner in a garage and a propane heater as well, just want to make sure I don’t burn up all the O2.

This recipe called for a total of 9 ounces in the boil so I decided to use hop bags for the first time ever and they seemed to work out well. The boil really kept the bags bouncing around in the brew kettle so hopefully I was able to get the same amount or close to the same amount of extraction out of them. The only snag I had was when I added the final 3 ounces at flameout. That hop bag opened up so I still ended up with a little bit of a mess in the kettle. As long as the beer turns out and I get the right hop aroma and flavor out of the beer I will probably start using hop bags for any of my beers which call for a heavy dose of hops. Thanks for letting me borrow the hop bags Vince, they worked well!

My target OG (at least based on the BrewPal iPhone app software) was 1.090. I ended up around 1.079 though, which put me at about 60% efficiency. I think I may have had a little bit too much water in the mash/sparge which turned out to be a good thing and left me with about 8 gallons of wort pre-boil. The recipe in Jamil's book actually calls for an OG of 1.080 so this beer should be just about right as far as the gravity and ABV goes (ABV should come in around 8.5%). The extra liquid in the kettle helped out since this was a 90 minute boil and there was a good bit of hop batter and break material in the bottom of the kettle after I chilled the work down.

So the aroma and bitterness from this beer after the boil was complete was pretty amazing. The hop bitterness is very aggressive and will only be complimented by the alcohol and carbonation. Fermentation has begun and the blow off tube is aggressively bubbling. I currently have the fermentor set at 67 degrees and plan to slowly bring it up to 70 degrees to finish out the beer. I'm hoping to dry hop at about 7 days in and let the dry hops sit in there for about 7-10 days.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Double IPA Recipe

For my next batch of beer I plan to brew a big Double IPA. The beer is based on Russian Rivers Pliny the Elder clone recipes that have been floating around online in addition to the Double IPA recipe in Jamil Zainesheff's Brewing Classic Styles book. Actually the only real change up is some additional malt (resulting in higher ABV) and the use of the Amarillo in the dry hop.

For this batch I decided to order my supplies online through Northern Brewer. I have ordered from them in the past (mostly equipment and liquid malt extract) and have always been pleased with their service. They also have great catalogs and just seem like a really cool, well run company. Unfortunately when I received the order and crack into the box I noticed grain all over the inside of the box. This was certainly alarming and my original thought was that I would not be able to save enough of the grain to brew with. I had also ordered a ball valve and they didn't do so great of a job at securing it in the box resulting in the valve punching a huge whole in the bag that held 17 lbs of base malt. Luckily I was able to save most of the grain, I threw it on a scale and confirmed that I still had about 17 pounds of base malt. I did call Northern Brewer to let them know what happened. They appreciated the feedback, although I was hoping they would throw a gift certificate my way or something like that. Basically they just said thanks and that they were happy I was able to salvage the grain. It did make quite the mess all over our kitchen floor though…

Here is the recipe and brew day plan for the Double IPA. I plan to brew on Sunday December 20th so if anyone is around and wants go hang out in the garage/give a helping hand/drink some homebrews let me know. Would like to get things going around 9am.

6 Gallon Batch (going with a 6 gallons batch to help make up for the loss of liquid to all those hops)

17 lbs of American 2 Row
1 lb of Wheat Malt
½ lb of Crystal 40
1.5 lbs of Corn Sugar

2 oz of Warrior (15.8% AA) – 90 Minutes
2 oz of Chinook (11.4% AA) – 90 Minutes
1 oz of Simcoe (12.3% AA) – 45 Minutes
1 oz of Columbus (14.2% AA) – 30 Minutes
2 oz of Centennial (9.1% AA) – KO
1 oz of Simcoe (12.3% AA) – KO

3 oz of Amarillo (Dry Hop) – 10 days
1.75 oz of Centennial (Dry Hop) – 10 days
1.75 oz of Simcoe (Dry Hop) – 10 days

WLP 001 – American Ale Yeast (2 vials with starter)

Pre-Boil Gravity = 1.066
OG = 1.090
FG = 1.018
ABV = 9.5%
IBU = 161


6 gallons of water to mash – try to hold around 150 degrees for 1 hour.

Fly sparge with 6 gallons of 200 degree water for close to one hour.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Home Coffee Roasting

So my other liquid love is coffee. After a long and hard search for quality/fresh locally roasted coffee I finally gave up (at least for the most part). I have a few friends who have tried out home coffee roasting and I was impressed with the quality of coffee they were roasting so I finally decided to give home roasting a try. I spent some time researching various roasters and finally ended up purchasing the Nesco Professional Coffee Roaster (still not sure why they call it a professional roaster considering it only roasts about 6-9 oz of coffee beans at a time). The machine which was formally called Zach and Dani's retails for about $150 to $200. I ended up purchasing the machine through Williams Brewing for $155. Since they threw in 2 lbs of Sumatra and Columbian green coffee beans it seemed to be the best online deal I could find on the machine.

One of the main issues I read about when research coffee roasters was the excessive smoke which is generate. Considering I would be roasting in my kitchen and figuring that my wife and 6 year old wouldn't be a big fan of the whole smoking coffee bean aroma the Nesco certainly caught my eye since it's the only roaster on the market with a patented catalytic converter. While it does seem to cut down on the excessive smoke that could be generated, I still end up activating the kitchen smoke alarm about 50% of the time that I roast.

Overall the machine is very easy to use. It consists of removable lid (makes cleaning much easier), a roasting chamber with built in auger, chaff cup, screen and two rubber seals (one goes around the roasting chamber the other around the catalytic converter). All removable parts can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher.

Roasting times are roughly 20 to 25 minutes depending on the roast you are going for. There is also a 5 minute cool down period after the roast is complete. Typically when
roasting coffee you are listening for the "cracks" but with the Nesco roaster you are more or less keep an eye on the color of the roast. There is a bit of a science or art to roasting using the machine but after a few roasts you will figure it out and overall it becomes a pretty easy machine to use.

The photos I have included kind of outline the process. First the lid of the machine are opened and the green coffee beans are loaded into the machine. The beans I
used during this roasting session were Hawaii Kona XF beans from Greenfield Farms purchased online through Sweet Marias. The roasting chamber is marked with a full line in addition to a dark roast fill line. A digital display allows you to set the roasting time (for this roast I used a 23 minute roasting time).

Once done roasting the lid is opened and the roast chamber screen chaff cup can be removed (warming it will be hot) chaff can be disposed of. The machine does a decent job at collecting the chaff although some typically still remains
in the beans. The instructions state to allow the roaster to cool for about 5 to 15 minutes but after doing some research online I had read that it is best to transfer the beans out of the roaster chamber sooner since the chamber does retain some heat and the beans would continue to roast. As with brewing the quicker you cool the better!

I typically let my beans sit for one to two days with the lid loosely in place to allow for proper off gassing. As I roast more and learn more about the process I will be sure to share via this blog. I just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce the concept and let you know the a little bit about the home roasting machine I have been using for about the past two months. There are certainly plenty of topics to explore when it comes to home roasting and brewing. Also if anyone would like to offer any suggestions for quality/fresh locally roasted coffee please feel free to share. I just haven't really had any luck over the past year or so. Sweet Marias and Roast Masters have done a much better job at summarizing how to use the machine in addition to providing detailed feedback so make sure you check out both of those links if you plan to explore the use of this roaster a bit more. Oh and in case you noticed the Coffee-Mate in the first I don't use that, it's strictly for guests who cannot yet handle their coffee black.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Belgian Chocolate Stout Brew Day

I forgot to snap some pictures fromm the brew day so no pictures to go along with this post. Jesse came over yesterday so we could bottle up our Belgian Single (we realized it's probalby more of a Belgian Imperial Single if there is such a thing since it ended up at 7% abv). That beer was tasting good and it will be nice to see what the carbonation brings to it. We also decided that we should try to re-use the yeast from the batch and figured a nice Belgian Chocolate Stout would be the perfect beer to experiment with. Here is the recipe and notes from the day.

10 Gallon Batch

Target OG = 1.074
Target FG = 1.019
Target ABV = 7.3%
Target IBU = 31

26 lbs of 2-Row
2 lb of Carafa II
1.5 lb of Chocolate Malt
1 lb of Roasted Barley
1 lb of Flaked Oats

1 bottle of Dark Belgian Candy Sugar – 10 minutes
1 lb of Hershey Cocoa Powder Unsweetened – 0 Minutes

1.75 oz of Simcoe @ 60 Minutes
1 oz of Amarillo @ 5 Minutes

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (re-pitch)

We mashed with 8 gallons of spring water. Held the mash for about an hour at 151-152 degrees F.

Fly Sparge with 10 gallons of water of 200 degree water. Sparged for about an hour.

ActualOG = 19 brix or 1.073

We split the batch into two 6 gallon ferementors and plan to keep one half "normal" and then for the other half we plan to use three pounds of cherry puree and let that sit for about a month in secondary.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Christmas Ale Brings Home a Silver

Sure it's not the GABF, heck it's not even the Sam Adams Long Shot Competition or the AHA Nationals (those can maybe be long term goals...yeah right), but it is still my first award winning beer. After some much needed encouragement from my friend and co-worker Blake I decided to enter some of my beers into a local homebrew competition. The 2nd Annual Stoney Creek Homebrewers Amateur Brewing Championship was held on Saturday November 14th at the General Lafayette Inn & Brewery and was the only local competition that would be judging in the next few months. I had entered a total of 3 beers and came away with 2 ribbons. A second place finish in the Spice, Herb/Christmas Winter Speciality beer category with Rock City Christmas Ale and a third place in the Belgian Specialty category with my Chouffe de Sauvin (pilsner malt, Chouffe yeast and Nelson Sauvin hops). The Russian Imperial Stout I entered got good feedback from the judges but did not walk away with a ribbon. I entered it into the Specialty Beer category due to the use of vanilla beans, molasses and coffee but should have just stuck with the RIS category based on the feedback I got on the beer.

I'm typically not one to brag but I have to admit it's kind of cool to get the email from a local homebrew competition letting you know your beers took home some awards. Plus I'm writing up a blog primarily focused on my various adventures in homebrewing and thought I would share. Most likely if you are reading this you will be getting a bottle of the Christmas Ale to try out. Another interesting fact about the Christmas Ale. This is the 2nd beer I ever brewed and I have been brewing it each year with my good friend Tom. 2009 will be the 4th version of this beer and to be honest...we haven't changed a whole lot since that original recipe.

My friend Jesse is coming up tomorrow and we plan to bottle our Belgian Single and brew a Belgian Chocolate Stout (reusing the yeast from the Single). If you are in the area and want to hang out in the garage, give a hand and share some beers feel free to stop by.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Belgian Wit Brew Day

This Saturday I brewed the Belgian Wit that I wrote about in my previous blog post. This was the first time that I brewed an all grain batch 100% solo. I usually have someone or multiple guests stop by during a brew session, but not this time around. All in all things went well. This was also my first time brewing a beer in which over 50% of the grain bill was wheat or oats. I heard the "rumors" of stuck sparges with this amount of wheat/oats and thought I had planned ahead enough and introduced enough rice hulls into the mash to help avoid this. Turns out that was not the case. I struggled with a stuck sparge for about 30-40 minutes. Finally got things figured out, basically just stirred the whole mash about again and added more rice hulls. Hopefully the stuck sparge and time spent messing around with it doesn't have a negative impact on the finished product.

In my previous post I mentioned that I had ordered all my supplies from the Brewmasters Warehouse, a new online homebrew shop out of Georgia. I have to say I was very pleased with their service. The ingredients were ordered on a Saturday, they shipped on a Tuesday and the package was on my front porch when I got in from work on Friday. The ice packs were still cold helping to keep the yeast/hops at about fridge temps. This probably won't be the case in the middle of the summer but for this time of the year it seemed to work out well. Everything was packaged nicely in the box, appropriately labeled and ready to be used on brew day. I will be using the Brewmasters Warehouse in the future for sure.

As for the recipe, I kept it the same as outlined in the previous post, with one minor adjustment. As I mentioned before this beer was being brewed for my Dad for Christmas. He is a big fan of Wit beers and also really likes the orange notes in them. I decided to go a little heavy on the orange zest. About 2 ounce of freshly zested navel oranges went into this one (9 oranges).

One other thing to note. Since this my first time going solo on an all grain brew sessions, one other challenged I came across was transferring the wort from the brew kettle to the fermentator. I'll let the picture explain how I accomplished that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Belgian Wit Recipe

My dad is a big fan of Belgian Witbier. He enjoys Hoegaarden, but is more of a fan of some of the locally brewed Wit's that you can't always find fresh during the winter months. I always have a hard time figuring out what to get him for Christmas so I figured I would attempt my first Belgian Witbier and give it to him as a Christmas present this year. The recipe is largerly based on Jamil Zainasheffs Belgian Wit recipe that is found is his amazing book Brewing Classic Styles.

5 Gallon Batch
90 Minute Boil

Brew Day = 11/14/09

6.5 lbs of Belgian Pilsner Malt
6 lbs of Briess Flaked Wheat
¼ lb of Weyerman Light Munich Malt
1 lb of Flaked Oats

2 oz of German Hallertau Hops (3% AA) for 60 minutes

Wyeast 3944 Belgian Witbier

Spice Additions (at 5 minutes remaining in boil)
Zest from 6 oranges (might adjust this still)
1.2 ounce of crushed Coriander

Target OG = 1.058
Target FG = 1.105
Target ABV = 5.6%
Target IBU's = 16

I also decided to order all my supplies from a new online homebrew supply company called the Brewmasters Warehouse. Their website is pretty cool, they use what they refer to as a Brew Builder which allows you to go in and build your own recipe or view various base recipes and then make changes to those recipes. They are based out of Marietta Georgia so hopefully they will get the shipment quicker to me than some of the West Coast based homebrew supply shops. I put my order in on Saturday and hope to have the package by Friday so that I can get the yeast starter going. Fingers are crossed and I'll post another blog update once I see how things go. They offer $6.99 flat rate shipping and are currently offering a 10% discount if you use the passcode BN ARMY at checkout.

If you don't have any plans for this Saturday and feel like hanging out in the garage, lending a hand with the brewing activities and sharing a few beers feel free to stop by. I plan to get this one started early (around 8-9 am).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Belgian Single/Sour Brewed & 2 Year Sour Bottled

Jesse came up today and we got the Belgian Single/Sour split batched brewed and our two year old sour finally in bottles. The above picture is from our fly sparge for the Belgian Single. Our mash and sparge went well. We ended up fitting about 28 lbs of grain along with 8 gallons of water into my 10 gallon cooler mash tun. Our one hour plus mash started out around 152 degrees F and ended around 149 which is right around where we wanted to be. Our fly sparge took about 1 hour and used roughly 10 gallons of water, our pre-boil gravity came in at 1.063.

With the 10 lbs of Pilsner malt we decide to go with a 90 minute boil to burn off any DMS that might have stuck around with a shorter boil. The original recipe was based on a 60 minute boil so we held the bittering hops until 30 minutes into the boil and the only other adjust we had to make was to add some additional water to the boil at around 10 minutes. We didn't exaclty know how to go about making the calculations to make up the difference and just decided to wing it and go with adding an extra gallon of water. It turns out that decision was the right one since our OG ended up at 1.072 (I'll take it since our original target original gravity was 1.067). While this new Belgian Single was brewing we were also busy bottling the two year old sour along with two other sour beers that my friend Eric stopped by to bottle. I'll go into more detail about the 2 year old sour beer in a future blog post once it's all carbonated and I'm able to post some tasting notes.

We plan to ferment the Belgian Single in two seperate Better Bottle carboys. The "regular" version will spend about three weeks under temperature control (approx 68 degrees F) at which point we will bottle as long as we hit our target FG (roughly 1.016). The "sour" version will spend about a week in a Better Bottle carboy (primary fermentation) at which point we will transfer the beer into a glass carboy and pitch a vial of White Labs Belgian Sour Mix (WLP 655). It will remain in that glass carboy for at least a year if not longer. Here are a few more pictures from the day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Belgian Single Sour Split Batch

Two years ago my friend Jesse came by and we brewed what I guess would be best described as a Belgian style IPA with coriander. It was an extract batch that we ended up splitting and we soured half of it. Well that sour half has been in a glass carboy for two years and we figured it was time to bottle that up. So this Sunday that 3-4 gallons of beer will finally go into bottles. Should be interesting.

Since Jesse is coming up to bottle the two year old sour we decided to brew up another batch of beer. This time we are brewing which I guess would be considered a Belgian Single. 5 gallons we are going to ferment out "normal" and the other 5 gallons we are going to sour. If anyone is around on Sunday feel free to stop by while we brew. I'm sure there will be plenty of tasty beers shared and a full day of brewing and bottling. My friend Eric is coming by to bottle about 6 gallons of two of his sour beers he has been aging for at least a year. So if you come by, bring a sour beer to share…or two. Also any of you homebrewers out there feel free to provide some feedback on the recipe. Most of the ingredients won't be picked up until Saturday so changes can be made.

Belgian Single Sour Split Batch

10 Gallon Batch

14 lbs of 2-Row
10 lbs of Belgian Pilsner Malt
2 lb of wheat malt
1 lb of acidulated malt
1 lb of Vienna malt

3 oz of Styrian Goldings (3.8% AA) @ 60 minutes
1 oz of Nelson Sauvin (11% AA) at 10 minutes
1 oz of Nelson Sauvin (11% AA) at KO

Wyeast 1214 Belgian Ale (starter) – 2 packs
WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix for half – 1 vial

Target OG = 1.063
Target IBUs = 21
Target ABV = 6.2%

Monday, October 26, 2009

Iron Hill Gathering of the Gourds

The original plan was to head out to this event on my bike with the Beer by Bike crew but based on some scheduling conflicts in addition to a rather wet forecast the ride did not occur. Despite the ride being cancelled I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it based on other conflicts, but luckily I was able to get over to Iron Hill in West Chester for a couple of hours. The Gathering of the Gourds is a festival of pumpkin based beer and food that Larry Horwitz (head brewer at IH West Chester) has been putting on the past few years (previously at IH North Wales).

Iron Hill West Chester is the perfect Iron Hill location for events like this. Between the free parking in West Chester on the weekends in addition to the larger "private" bar area in the back it just works out really nicely. There was a total of 5 Iron Hill pumpkin based beers on tap in addition to 6 guest beers on tap. You could get a sampler which included 10 of the beers, 5 oz pours of each for $15. The Iron Hill beers included their 9.5% Ichabod Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale, Punktoberfest which was a strong version of their Oktoberfest beer brewed with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, Boom Sticke Pumpkin Alt a 7.5% Sticke Alt which was brewed with German pumpkins and seasonal spices. They also took their Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale and aged it in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, they were calling this one Bruce Camp-Ale. The 5th Iron Hill beer of the event was not on the menu and was not included in the sampler. It was their Imperial Belgian Pumpkin Ale that they aged in an oak barrel along with some brett to create their Funkin Punkin. The beer they were referring to as their "secret keg" but all you had to do was hear about it...and ask for a sample at the bar. They also filled up a pumpkin with their Ichabod which they tapped around 5pm and handed out free samples to everyone.

The guest beers included four beers from Elysian, a brewery that specializes in pumpkin based beers. They brought along their The Great Pumpkin, Dark o' the Moon Pumpkin Stout, Hansel and Gretel Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner as well as their Kaiser Kurbis (a wheat based pumpkin ale). Stewarts Brewery out of Bear, DE sent up their Mischief Night Pumpkin Ale and Cambridge Brewing Company provided their Great Pumpkin Ale.

Out of all the pumpkin based beers I had I was surprised by which beer took top honors in my opinion...Iron Hills Punktoberfest. Probably the beer I was most skeptical about turned out to be the top beer of the day for me. The strong malty notes of the Oktoberfest beer complimented the vanilla and cinnamon that was really coming through as well. The beer reminded me of a pumpkin spice cookie. The Bruce Camp-Ale was a bit too heavy on the bourbon for my taste, but was getting a lot of attention from the folks that really dig over the top bourbon barrel aged beers. The Ichabod is a solid beer as well. Out of the guest taps the only one that stood out to me was The Great Pumpkin from Elysian, a very solid more traditional Pumpkin Ale. The description said they use toasted pumpkin seeds in the mash so maybe that gave this beer a little bit more to help set it apart.

The food really helped to make this event stand out. In generally I'm a fan of the food at Iron Hill, especially their specials so going into this I had a feeling they would really pull off some great pumpkin based dishes. What I wasn't expecting was all the food (and plenty of it) to be free! Pumpkin and Chiorizo Chili served from a pumpkin, sweet potato croquettes with some sort of maple and nut based glaze, pumpkin hummus and the highlight as far as the food goes...teriyaki glazed wings with jalapenos and a pumpkin curry sauce to cover them in! Yes the food was amazing. Thanks to Iron Hill West Chester for a great food spread, a solid selection of pumpkin beers and an event that I'll be sure to make it back out to in years to come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Union Jacks Barrel Aged Fest

9am on a brisk fall morning in early October...15 barrel aged beers on tap at Union Jack's Inn on the Manatawny in Oley, PA...makes for one heck of a morning. I picked up my friend Eric around 8:30 and we were on our way to enjoy a breakfast from the barrel.

To our surprise we were the first ones there when we rolled in at 9. It's crazy how 30 miles west can make this big of a difference on the turnout. Heck Capones had Russian River Consecration on tap a couple of months ago and the line was about 50 deep just to get into the place. I'm not complaining though, prefer the setting a Union Jacks and the laid back atmosphere.

The tap list for this event was probably the best I have seen in our area in quite some time. It went something like this...

-Stone Red Wine Barrel Aged Old Guardian
-Allagash Interlude
-Ommegang Rouge
-Pennichuck Pozharnik
-Founders Maple Mountain Brown
-Saint Somewhere Lectio Du Chene
-Founders Backwood Bastard 2007
-Terrapin Substance Abuse
-Terrapin Big Sloppy Monster
-New Holland Dragons Milk 2007
-Left Hand Oaked Imperial Stout
-Russian River Consecration
-Founders Hand of Doom
-Le Trou Du Diable La Claymore Cerise
-Le Trou Du Diable Brandy Barrel La Buteuse

Highlights included Stone Old Guardian, the beer was perfectly smoothed out and the wine barrels added a nice complexity that complemented this already great barley wine. This was the first time I had a chance to try Allagash Interlude and I was impressed by how much tart cherry, tropical fruits and funky sourness was present in both the flavor and aroma. Really liking the Brett strain that Allagash has going on. The 2007 Backwoods was a welcome surprise, not sure how UJ's got ahold of that one and both Terrapin beers were holding up nicely as well. I believe both beers were from 2006. The Big Sloppy Monster was tasting much more like a barrel aged barley wine at this point as opposed to the huge imperial IPA it once was.

Union Jacks certainly put some time into planning this event and tracking down all these BA kegs. I was happy to see that they were offering samplers, five 6 oz beers per sampler tray for around $15. A reasonable price considering what was on those trays. The only downside was that the flights were already pre-defined by UJ's which certainly makes it easier on them but not as convienent for those patrons who had certain beers in mind to try out.

If you haven't had a chance to get out to Union Jacks I would certainly encourage you to do so. Even if they are not having a special event you can always find a great tap selection, very large bottle selection and solid pub food. The location is charming as well and their patio area is a great place to hang out on a nice spring, summer or fall afternoon or evening.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Terrapin Gamma Ray

So those Deadheads over at Terrapin Beer Company out of Athens, GA have finally started to send their tasty creations up to PA. The brewery certainly brews some amazing beers and for the most part those dancing turtles are a welcome edition to a region already blessed with what some would say the best beer selection in the US. From their Wake and Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout to their Rye Squared Imperial Pale Ale Terrapin is certainly a welcome addition to the Philadelphia beer market.

For a few years Terrapin has been releasing a series of one off beers known as their Side Project. Gamma Ray Wheat Wine was originally released as part of that series and it looks like it's now considered a seasonal release from the brewery. A 10+% wheat wine featuring locally grown honey from the Savannah Bee Company has been popping up in the Philadelphia market with it's new label for the past month or two.

The beer pours a hazy orange with a bubbly off white head that goes away to nothing quickly. The aroma initially features dark fruits but is quickly followed up by an almost mead like honey sweetness. There are some light floral and citrus hop notes but this beer is dominated by the honey. The flavor is also dominated by the honey and is a bit on the sweet, yet thin side. The alcohol is well hidden but this wheat malt meets honey combination just doesn't do it for me. Too much like mead and a thin not so good version of it. Terrapin misses the mark on this one.

$4.50 at Capones in Norristown, PA for a 12oz bottle...skip this one and buy the Wake and Bake.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Duck-Rabbit Schwarzbier

The Duck-Rabbit Brewery out of Farmville, North Carolina is one of the most consistant and reliable American craft breweries. They claim to be the "The Dark Beer Specialist" and that they specialize in beautiful, delicious, full flavored dark beers. In my experience those claims hold true. From their 2009 GABF gold medal winning robust Baltic Porter to their rich and malty Russian Imperial Stout The Duck-Rabbit knows how to make an amazing dark beer. Even their more "sessionable" beers like their hoppy American Brown Ale and medium bodied caramel malty Amber Ale are some of the top beers in their respective categories. Oh and their Barleywine and some of the barrel aged beers...the list goes on.

For their latest offering the brewery has attempted the often overlooked (at least by American craft breweries) Schwartzbier. The German style dark lager or "black beer" that has it's origin pointing back to Middle Ages in Braunschweig Germany. Not really a surprise pick from a brewery that specializes in "dark" beers and certainly one I was excited to hear about when broke the news.

They have held pretty true to style with their offering. Dark brown in color, almost pushing black with a medium creamy/bubbly deep tan head that left sticky lacing down the sides of my glass. The aroma showcased a rich toasted almost roasty malt character complimented by toasted nuts, some light coffee and milk chocolate. The hops were probably a little more pronounced than some traditional representations of the style, but I liked that. Floral, light citrus and noble hop spiciness. The flavor featured much of the same with more if the bready malt, hard pretzels and brewing grains coming through. Hop flavor and bitterness was there and pronounced. I have heard the Schwartzbiers referred to as a German Pilsner...but black and while this beer certainly has some roasted malt and light coffe and chocolate notes, it's still a rather accurate explaination.

Here is to The Duck-Rabbit continueing to pump out great beers that have yet to really dissapoint -- Cheers!

On a side note...for those of you in the Lansdale, PA area. The Blue Dog Pub is selling this beer for $2 a bottle. Not a bad price for a single bottle.

Christmas Ale in Bottles

As of 9pm last night Christmas Ale 2009 is officially in bottles. The final gravity came in at 1.019, which puts the beer at just over 7% ABV. Was shooting for around 8%, but based on how it's tasting we can live with 7%. We ended up with a total of 8 12 oz bottles and 46 22 oz bottles. Sound like just enough to share with all our friends and family during the holidays. Now we just have to wait for the priming sugar to do it's magic and carbonate the beer. We like to get this one in bottles early so that the beer has plenty of time to fully carbonate and also for the spices to blend and settle down a bit. Will crack one open in a couple weeks to check on the carbonation.