Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Flying Dog Beer Review: Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog

Welcome to review number 2, featuring Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, another fine beverage provided by Flying Dog Brewery for my reviewing purposes. The great thing is, you can only get this treat straight from the source. But thanks to the generous folks from Flying Dog, I got to sample it without flying all the way out to Colorado. Thanks again!

My buddy Dave was kind enough to assist me with his own review offering a second opinion.

Beer: Flying Dog Brewery's - Wild Dog's Barrel-Aged Horn Dog

Some words from Flying Dog: This is a completely experimental beer. We took our Horn Dog Barley Wine and aged it in used Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey barrels for 13 months to give us a BarleyWine with a very distinctive flavor. Being that it was an experiment, we brewed a very limited amount (725 12oz bottles to be exact) and they can only be purchased at the brewery.

Style: English Barleywine

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Despite its name, a Barleywine (or Barley Wine) is very much a beer, albeit a very strong and often intense beer! In fact, it's one of the strongest of the beer styles. Lively and fruity, sometimes sweet, sometimes bittersweet, but always alcoholic. A brew of this strength and complexity can be a challenge to the palate. Expect anything from an amber to dark brown colored beer, with aromas ranging from intense fruits to intense hops. Body is typically thick, alcohol will definitely be perceived, and flavors can range from dominant fruits to palate smacking, resiny hops.

English varieties are quite different from the American efforts, what sets them apart is usually the American versions are insanely hopped to make for a more bitter and hop flavored brew, typically using American high alpha oil hops. English version tend to be more rounded and balanced between malt and hops, with a slightly lower alcohol content, though this is not always the case.

Most Barleywines can be cellared for years and typically age like wine.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 7.0-12.0%

(In this case, the Horn dog boast a whopping 10% abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Standard pint glass
Location of tasting: Dave's apartment
Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance - Now here is a thick looking beer. Cloudy, dark brown, like a pint glass full of black coffee, with almost no head to speak of.

2. Smell - The Horn Dog smells like mulled wine, with hints of chocolate and roasted coffee. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - Wine meets coffee with undertones of chocolate (and raspberry?)... Very rich... An almost J├Ągermeister-like thick and sweet quality. This is a really good dessert beer, reminds me of cheap wine with chocolate and strawberries, but in a good way. Don't ask, it's a college flashback... I can also taste hints of oak, undoubtedly a result of the barrel aging process.

4. Mouthfeel - A heavy but smooth drink. Very lightly carbonated.

5. Drinkability - An interesting drink, but just too sweet for me to have more than 1 or 2 at a clip. But at 10% abv, that's probably a good thing. In my mind, this is a sipping beer, or as stated before, a dessert beer. Something good for a cold winter night, while you sit by the fire. Now don't get me wrong, this is a good beer. My aversion to more than 2 is more about the style than the beer itself.

This begs the question, "What does drinkability mean to you?" If you're looking for a beer that you'd have many of in one sitting, you're probably looking for a session beer, as good as this beer is, it's no session beer. Think of it as more of a special treat.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A 7. (Would I have another? Yes, but probably on another night.)

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance - The beer is unique looking; thick as mud with no head and a color like moist coffee grounds. It's both inviting and intimidating.

2. Smell - There's a lot going on here, and it's all good. First impressions are coffee and red wine smells, and chocolate shows up in there as well. The background presents roasted, malty smells and is very inviting.

3. Taste - The taste is amazing and complex. It presents as a well aged tawny port, with hints of winter spice, coffee, and chocolate. Nutty and toasty, this is not a 'six pack beer' you can finish in one sitting.

4. Mouthfeel - Letting the beer wander allows the hint of alcohol to sneak through. horn Dog is smooth and heavy, with little to no carbonation, but the lack there of, does not leave one wanting.

5. Drinkability - The beer is very drinkable, but not in large quantities or consistently. I recommend everyone try one as this beer is delicious and I hope to have it again.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 8.5

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Flying Dog Beer Review: Wild Dog Doppelbock (Collaborator - Open Source Beer!)

If you recall, the good folks at Flying Dog Brewery were kind enough to send me a few beers to sample and review. I got the chance to review these tasty treats a few weeks ago, but haven't had the time, until now, to post my reviews on the blog. Sorry for the delay...

Here's what I was sent and what I reviewed: Wild Dog Doppelbock, Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog, and K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale. Lets start with the Doppelbock and I'll post the remaining reviews over the next few days.

Once again, my buddy Dave was kind enough to assist me with his own reviews of these fine beverages. It's always good to get a second opinion, and I'd rather not drink alone...

Beer: Flying Dog Brewery's - Wild Dog Doppelbock (Collaborator - Open Source Beer!)

Some words from Flying Dog: Collaborator Doppelbock was created through Flying Dog's Open Source Beer Project, which gave amateur brewers a chance to give our brewing team recommendations and feedback on everything from the grain, hops and yeast to the brewing process itself. We combined their feedback to create this unique Doppelbock recipe.

Collaborator has a full body with a sweet malt profile and a slight roast character. The complete recipe and printable labels are available for download at http://www.opensourcebeerproject.com/.

Style: Doppelbock

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com:
Double Bocks or Doppelbocks are huge beers with enough malt packed in them to consider them a meal in its self. Generally having a very full-bodied flavor and darker than other bocks with a higher level of alcohol also. The range in color from dark amber to nearly black. Dark versions may have slight chocolate or roasted characters.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 6.0-10.00%

How was it served? From a bottle Glass: Standard pint glass

Location of tasting: Dave's apartment

Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance - The Collaborator is an inviting crystal clear beverage with fair head retention. Upon first glance, it resembles a glass of brewed ice tea with it's rusty-red hue. It's a pretty beer.

2. Smell - There is a slightly toasted, musty, malty scent with a floral undertone I'm guessing is from the yeast, if not the hops. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - The Collaborator is a full bodied beer that starts off mellow and finishes with a slightly bitter flavor. As the beer warmed, the bitter finish faded with each remaining sip. The sweet roasted and malted taste was balanced with an ample showing of hops. I detected hints of something that reminded me of licorice.

4. Mouthfeel - A smooth finish that coats the tongue. A smooth beer with a medium texture.

5. Drinkability - A good beer, I would definitely have another, especially if I could find it on tap. Will this ever be available on tap?

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A strong 7.

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance - The beer presents itself very well; it is a picture perfect example of what I would choose to drink. The color is bright amber, like, as Bryon said, brewed tea. The beer is crystal clear, with small, active bubbles and a light but hearty head.

2. Smell - This definitely smells like beer. The malts and yeast are most present. The Collaborator has a sweet smell, with remnants of roasted hops and fermented yeast. Not the best smell, but it does not turn you off of the beer.

3. Taste - The flavor follows closely to the bouquet, except the hops are more prevalent. It reminds me of a rich ale, but the sweetness is not over powering. This is a beer you could drink all night, but the flavor does not stand out as particularly special. No one will hate this beer.

4. Mouthfeel - This is a smooth beer, with a medium mouthfeel. There is a certain viscosity to the liquid that makes it linger. think of the equivalent of 'legs' in wine tasting.

5. Drinkability - This is a very good beer and I would not feel as if I was missing out to drink this all night.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 7.5

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Custom BrewCrafters: Wee Heavy (Review)

And now two quick reviews (and one real quick video review) of the Wee Heavy I purchased while touring the Custom BrewCrafters brewery in upstate New York with my family right before Thanksgiving. For this beer, I had a little help from Dave, who offered his own second opinion, and Kenn who made time for a brief video review.

Custom BrewCrafters - Wee Bitter (2007)

Style: Scotch Ale / Wee Heavy

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com:
Scotch Ales are strong ales, also known as "Wee Heavy." In the 19th century Scotland, they'd also be known as 160/-, a nomenclature based on the now obsolete shilling currency.

Scotch Ales traditionally go through a long boil in the kettle for a caramelization of the wort. This produces a deep copper to brown in colored brew. Compared to Scottish Ales, they'll be sweeter and fuller-bodied, and of course higher in alcohol, with a much more pronounced malty caramel and roasted malt flavor. A low tea-like bitterness can be found in many examples. Best served in a "thistle" glass.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 6.0-10.00%

How was it served? From a growler Glass: Standard pint glass

Location of tasting: Dave's apartment

Reviewers: Bryon & guest reviewer - Dave (oh and Kenn too!)

Bryon's Review

1. Appearance -
Custom BrewCrafter's Wee Heavy had a clear burnt amber, almost red, color. topped off with a nice head.

2. Smell - The Wee Heavy had a crisp, sweet, malty scent, with a hint of a musty undertone. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt...)

3. Taste - Custom BrewCrafters struck a good balance here with heavy malt, perhaps caramelized, roasted flavoring while maintaining a satisfying 'hoppiness'.

4. Mouthfeel - This medium to heavy beer goes down easy (maybe too easy) with fair amount of carbonation that never threatens to overpower the flavor of the beer.

5. Drinkability - Overall this is a good solid beer, very drinkable, but you must be careful, it's no session beer. Over indulgence here would require a ride home. Remember folks, drink quality beer and do so in moderation.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A strong 8.

And for a second opinion...

Dave's Review

1. Appearance -
Crystal-clear amber color with a light but full head. Appears crisp and consistent with a good English Ale (or apparently a Scottish one). Lacks the common red/copper tinge of a Scottish Ale.

2. Smell - Smells like a brewery! The smell is crisp and also consistent with a classic English Ale (Read: Bass). There is a malty sweetness somewhat overshadowed by the smell of fermented yeast. While not the most beautiful smell, it does imply a good drinking beer.

3. Taste - The flavor is crisp with a good mix of bitterness and sweetness. The malt dimension is somewhat toasty but not over powering. Still, all I can think of is Bass. This is your all-around good beer as it does not particularly stand out but is very tasty and refreshing. Any 'Beer Drinker" would surely appreciate this and consider it a baseline or stand-by for any occasion.

4. Mouthfeel - This mouthfeel is light, crisp, and smooth. No lingering consistency an the carbonation levels are right-on.

5. Drinkability - This beer is very good. I could drink it all night and would recommend it wholly to anyone. While I don't want to admit it is as good (or better than) Bass, it may be..

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A 9.

And one last opinion from Kenn...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Custom BrewCrafters Tour

The week before Thanksgiving, I headed up to up-state New York to visit my brother and his family for an early Thanksgiving with my father. We had a blast! But it wasn't all turkey and and football, there was beer too.

I brought up the rest of my English Pale Ale so my father, brother and his beer loving neighbor could give it a try. My Dad wasn't crazy about the beer, he's not much of a beer drinker, but my brother and his buddy seemed to like it well enough.

I did a little beer-recon before heading up and found a short list of breweries in the area. The only one I found that was really close and open on Sunday was Custom BrewCrafters, out of Honeoye Falls, New York. Just a short drive from my brother's town. So off we went for a little father-son-brother bonding.

Custom BrewCrafters was easy to find, but also easy to miss. You have to drive all the way to the end of a dead end street in a residential area before you see the truck above parked in a lot across from a grade school. The brewery is just around the corner at the far end of the lot.

They've recently started the construction of a new facility, bigger and better, so I'm thinking the new home of Custom BrewCrafters maybe less hidden.

Me and Dad pose for a quick shot before entering the brewery. We almost look like we were in uniform or something, I swear we didn't plan our outfits together. What can I say, Dad and I are snappy dressers!

Mark and Dad pose for a similar photo. I really need to get a photographer to come with me on these trips so I can get in on all the photos... Note Mark also has jeans and a black jacket...

Before starting the tour, we were offered a few free samples to take with us on the tour. We started with the Canadaigua Lake Ale, which was a nice smooth yet sweet ale, definitely something I could have a number of in one session. Now I didn't take the time to write up a proper review of any of the free samples I had that day, I don't think Mark and Dad were quite ready for that level of involvement just yet.

Dad gave the Wee Bitter a sip. He wasn't a big fan, although he doesn't really drink, so that's not really a fair critique of the beer. Dad was more into beer back in his youth. Dad confided in me that as a young Marine, he enjoyed the occasional Miller, and I've heard him mention Pabst Blue Ribbon in the past. Cut the man some slack, it was a different time, and there was a lack of quality beer available to him.

He was more or less humoring me on this little excursion, thanks Dad you're a good sport!

My brother noticed this little sign on a locker door as we entered the brewery floor. "Everyone has a dream. For us it was drinking on the job." Aint that the truth? Speaking of which, they're hiring! If only I lived a bit closer...

Our tour guide (I can't remember his name) gave us a thorough walk through on how the brewing process worked. This was the most detailed walk through I've seen so far during a tour. But then again, it was just the three of us in the audience and the place is very small.

Our guide told us a little about the impact the hops shortage is having on their products. They've had to cut back on some of the hops in some of their beers this year. They actually have their beers reviewed with vintages. Beer Advocate shows three different years for their Wee Heavy, for example. Apparently the die hard fans of Custom BrewCrafters can tell the difference, but they still stand by their products as quality crafted beers.

The only beer I tried that I did not like was the one our guide warned me about. It was their Christmas Ale. It tasted like a beer with a candy cane in it. Not a good choice... Everything else was quite enjoyable.

I really want to try their Wasabi Ale some time with a nice plate of sushi, but they didn't have any on tap that day...

Custom BrewCrafters has a pretty cool business model. They brew custom beers for local restaurants and pubs, keg them and let their customers sell them off the tap as their own brews. They also make some beers for themselves and sell just about everything they make right there off the brewery's tasting room.

Our guide was kind enough to let me shoot some images inside the large stainless steel kettles. When I saw the open hatch, I couldn't resist! Once again I couldn't help but think of that scene from Strange Brew.

I call this one, "inside the belly of the beast!"... I wanted to get some one to take a photo from up top of me sticking my fat head in there, but I didn't want to push my luck or cause any contamination.

Here's a shot of the breweries hot water tank, that feeds (you guessed it) hot water to the brewing vats. I could use one of these at my house for showers let alone brewing. Custom BrewCrafters pride themselves on their local water source. Keep in mind this place is nestled in the famous finger lakes area and just south of the Great Lakes.

Now this is a small brewery. You could walk from one end to the other in less time than it would take to fill a pint in the tasting room. But the tour was fairly lengthy and informative. I can't wait to visit their new location once it's completed! They're not taking any of their equipment with them, it's already been sold. They're getting a whole new set up at the new brewery. Apparently they're doing something right with this business model...

Here's the cool thing... They'll be able to bottle at their new facility, which means they'll be able to more widely distribute their products. Who knows, maybe we'll be able to get some of their beers in other states some day. Hmmmm... I wonder if they'll ever become an IPO? $

I couldn't resist getting a photo in the middle of all that freshly brewed and kegged beer in the breweries walk-in cooler. I felt like Daffy Duck from Ali Baba Bunny when he found the cave a treasure...

Although I didn't take the time to write any reviews of their beers I sampled that day, I purchased a growler of their Scotch Ale, Wee Bitter. (Beer Advocates details on the brew) Now that's good stuff! I'll post a review of the beer very soon, I promise!

By the time we finished our tour there was a line of loyal customers waiting to get their growlers filled. Some folks were getting boxes filled, including some Custom BrewCrafter fans that were heading out for some pre-game tailgating before a big Buffalo game.
All in all it was a great trip and so close to my brother's house that I may visit the brewery every time I go up to see the family. Can't wait to see the new facility!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Enough with the Thanksgiving food already!

After a solid week of Thanksgiving, including a stay at my brothers house in up state New York that involved an endless 4 day meal, some unhealthy eating at work building up to the holiday, and our own feast yesterday and leftovers today for lunch, I've gained back 6-8 pounds of what I once thought of as a beer gut. At this point, it's more like a stuffing and gravy gut. ENOUGH! I'm tossing out the rest of the left overs...

But just to close the loop on this whole thing, the brown ales (Harpoon Brown Session Ale & Brooklyn Brewery's Brown Ale) went very well with our Thanksgiving meal. So well in fact that I enjoyed another Harpoon with my leftovers this afternoon, after my nearly thousand calorie workout at the gym. Even with that, I don't think I broke even with my battle of the bulge. I think I'll go for another run this evening, I gotta back back down to my "fighting weight" fast...

Wii + Beer + food = Good times
Thanks to Erik for bring the Wii over to the house last night in a successful attempt at adding a little post food-orgy fun and exercise. Speaking of Wii and beer... Last night I kept thinking, they should come out with a beer pong game for the Wii, and lo and behold, they have! How cool is this? "Ping Cup" (AKA Beer Pong) is part of "Game Party" which will be available on Nov 27th, but you can pre-order a copy today over at Amazon, beer not included

Don't worry, we didn't ruin our Thanksgiving meal with canned Bud, I just liked the image.

Things to look forward to over the next few days
I've got a lot of things I need to blog about this week and next week and they are as followed:
Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

My turkey and beer pairing

I decided to pair my Thanksgiving turkey with a couple Brown Ales tomorrow. I was going to go for one of those high end beers that come in a larger corked bottle, something to add a little class to the meal. After some thought, I decided against that. I didn't want to get too exotic or extreme as the friends I'm having over aren't big into craft beers. I didn't want to go too far over the top for folks that typically drink Lite macro-brews.

I didn't get any feedback from any of you out there, so I decided to hit the package store and ask the "beer kid" that works there for his advice. While we discussed the best options for my situation and planned meal, we were interrupted by a middle aged guy that over heard us talking beer and turkey.

He figured we were both beer experts and asked us what we thought of the beer he was holding. When we looked down and saw the case of Michelob Ultra, we both laughed. I tried to explain that it was basically a low end beer who's only real claim to fame was it's low carb count. If he was looking for quality beer, he didn't find it, but if he was looking to cut carbs, he hit pay dirt. When asked what sort of beer he usually enjoyed, he bragged that Bud was his beer of choice. Might as well drink the Ultra, just as bad but with less carbs.

We did the best we could to help him, and managed to talked him into putting the case down and getting some Stella Artois instead. Clearly the lesser of two evils. It was our combined good deed for the day.

After a few minutes of discussion and debate, I finally chose a six-pack of Harpoon's Brown Session Ale and a six-pack of Brooklyn Brewery's Brown Ale. I'll let you know how well they go with Turkey on Friday.

Leave a comment and let me know what you drank with your turkey this year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving beer pairing & Bob Skilnik

I'm going to hit the local package store tomorrow and pick up some beer for Thanksgiving. A couple buddies may stop in and share the meal with me and the wife, and I thought it would be cool to do some Turkey/Beer pairing.

Here's what the Brewers Association has to say about beer on Thanksgiving...

The Pilgrims were ale drinkers and most likely enjoyed beer at the first Thanksgiving. Indeed, a darkish ale has been brewed for feasts at Plymouth Plantation, the "living museum" of Pilgrim life, in Massachusetts.

That’s why more and more savvy Americans tap a great beer as the perfect companion for their holiday meal.

Seems fitting for me to have beer on Thanksgiving. Especially since members of my family claim to have traced our roots all the way to the Mayflower. Just one more reason to enjoy a quality beer.

They recommend something like an Oktoberfest or a Brown Ale as a good match for a roast turkey, and an all-malt pilsner, a dark lager or a red ale would go nicely with creamy butter rich items like mashed potatoes. I think I'd stick with something to pair with the Turkey and stuffing, as those are my favorites. But something to complement the low brow canned cranberry sauce I love so much would be cool too.

Anyone have any specific recommendations for a good craft beer I'm likely able to find at the local package store (which has a fair selection) that will complement my meal? If so, please leave a comment! I'm leaning towards a great Oktoberfest... Happy Thanksgiving!

Side bar: Bob Skilnik takes no "nonsense"

Apparently the silly quote below, which I found elsewhere online and included it on the side of the blog, is not true, and Bob Skilnik is calling me on it...

"When the pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed at Plymouth rock, the first permanent building put up was the brewery.” — Jim West

HA! Too funny! Relax Mr. Skilnik, I just thought it was a humorous and interesting quote, nothing more. I found it by doing a google search for brewery related quotes, and placed it next to my link to the beer mapping project (a great tool to find breweries). You can find this quote, right, wrong or indifferent, on any number of quote web sites. I did not create the quote and make no claim to any historic relevance. I suggest you take this up with Jim West. I don't know who he is either, sorry...

Thanks for keeping us all honest. I'm flattered you read my blog despite all the "nonsense" I include.

Cool your beer rapidly

I remember hearing a story about a guy I know in the service who got in a bit of a trouble for using a fire extinguisher from the barracks to rapidly cool his beer. I always wondered if that would really work, but was too afraid to try it and get yelled at... Apparently the CO2 from the extinguisher can cool a six pack in under 3 minutes, just as the guys from Myth Busters. They tested various methods of cooling a six pack, and if you missed it, you can see the episode tomorrow, Nov 21st at 4:00PM on Discovery. Check it out!

By the way, if you try this, make sure you have the right kind of extinguisher... Or you'll just dump a bunch of crap on your beer and it'll still be warm... Like these guys did... Too funny!

Along those same lines... My buddy Erik sent me a link to a story about Kent Hodgson, a 22 year old inventor, who found a way to chill a beer almost instantly using liquid CO2. No fire extinguisher required!

The inventor of this device says that the technology involved in this little gadget is very simple. Here's how he explains it in his own words, "You have plastic cooling cells which are pressed down into the dock which houses the liquid carbon dioxide. The liquid CO2 expands and is pressurized into dry ice in the base of the cooling cells ... in a moment. You then pop it into your drink and then proceed from there as you normally would." -Kent Hodgson

Pretty cool, but I think I'd rather just use a fridge like normal folks...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Something special in the mail from Flying Dog

If you recall, I struck up a bit of a conversation with Josh Mishell from Flying Dog Brewery via blog comments and email last month. Josh was kind enough to agree to send me a sample (for reviewing purposes) of Wild Dog Doppelbock, AKA the Collaborator, after I commented on how cool I thought the whole Open Source Beer Project was.

The Collaborator came without a label

Josh was true to his word and arranged for something special to be sent to me in the mail. Today, a package arrived from Stephanie Kerchner, PR & Events Coordinator from Flying Dog Brewery. Stephanie was kind enough to include not only a sample of the Collaborator, but also samples of both Wild Dog Barrel-Aged Horn Dog and K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale. I can't wait to sample and review these babies! (Guess what I'm doing tomorrow night!)

Note the sweat, read this for more info

It was pretty funny, I was so excited to see the box when I got home from the gym, I didn't even wait to shower and change before I ripped open the box. My wife thought it was a little tacky for me to post a photo with my sweaty workout clothes on, but I say BAH! I was like a kid on Christmas, and I can't wait to try out my new toys!

Stay tuned for some reviews!

Also, Stephanie was kind enough to offer me an opportunity to interview Flying Dog Brewery's Head Brewer, Matt Brophy. I intend on taking her up on the offer, and here's where you come in.

Do you have a questions you want me to ask Matt Brophy? Perhaps a question about the company, or about making the jump from home brewing to pro-brewing. I'm all ears, and I'll be happy to share my interview opportunity with you, just leave your question in the comments with some way for me to contact you if I need more info. Or shoot me an email at bryon|@|homebrewbeer.net and share your questions with me...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Holiday Ale is now fermenting

I originally intending on brewing up some Holiday Ale with some buddies for Teach a Friend to Brew Day... But none of my friends showed much interest... Oddly enough, they're willing to drink it when it's done... Interesting... (Lazy b@st@rds! LOL!)

So I brewed solo this past Sunday, although Dave and Erik did come over to eat pizza, drink beer and do the Sunday Night Football thing.

Dave, Erik & I before we all started to hit the gym and drink more lite beer
(Photo from the big Boston trip)

In fairness, Dave helped out by securing my funnel/filter while I poured the wort in the carboy. Sounds minor, but it was a big help, thanks Dave... And while Erik may not have helped with the brewing, he at least called the pizza delivery place, no wait he didn't do that either... Well, he did provide a half a bag of Doritos... I guess that's something...

At any rate, I didn't get any photos or videos this time around, the wife had the camera and was out seeing a girl friend act/sing in a play, and we all know what she did to the other camera...

About the recipe
This beer recipe is pretty cool because it included the most malt I've used in a kit to date. Not 1 but 2 cans of malt extract, a much larger bag or crushed crystal extract than what is typical, an additional bag of crushed chocolate and black patent malt and a spice pack that included sweet orange peel, cinnamon, cardamon seed and ginger root. Plus bittering and finishing hops. This should be a very flavorful beer, and according to the directions, it should be between 8% and 9% ABV. Should be a fun beer to enjoy by the fire place next month!

Houston, we may have a problem or two or three or four!
Here's the thing, the directions were a little vague at times, so I kinda had to guess when to add the spices, I put them in during the last 5-10 minutes of the boil, hopefully that was right. I baed the decision on other similar recipes I found via google. If it's on the internet, it must be true! Right?

The other thing is, I put the bittering hops in a little late. I hope that doesn't harm the brew too much... I got a little distracted with pizza... DOH! Any of you more experienced brewers out there think there will be much impact if the hops were added about 15-20 minutes late? Feel free to leave a comment and school me up...

I also had a couple of short boil overs! Damn that tasty pizza and ample supply of cold beer, so very distracting! Again, these were short, minor boil overs. I was getting a little sloppy, but I think all will be well, I hope...

I will say this much, the airlock has been going bubbling like crazy, which is a good sign... But, my boiler is on the fritz, and the temp dropped to 64 degrees in the house today. None the less, the airlock is bubbling away, which is a bit of a relief. I was concerned the temp fluctuation would have ruined things, but the beer appears to be doing well. Fingers are crossed, stay tuned!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Miller Genuine Draft Light 64 Calories!

“As light as it gets” indeed! (learn more)

Miller is testing out a new light version of there MGD, and it only has 64 calories in it! Holy crap! But, honestly, how good could it really be? I bet it really sucks! But I'm willing to try it...

Less than three months after introducing MGDL-64 in Madison, Wisconsin, Miller Brewing executives are strongly considering expanding the test throughout the Midwest as well as other territories, per a source.

The 64-calorie brew, also dubbed Miller Genuine Draft Light, debuted in August. Its tagline “As light as it gets” has appeared on retail displays as well as on out-of-home signage.

MGDL-64 has posted good results since its introduction. It has fared particularly well with women who sampled the low-calorie beer against Coors Light and Michelob Ultra from Anheuser-Busch.

So, are they marketing this beer to women? Interesting... Gives me an excuse to call my buddies who will probably starting drinking this crap a bunch of little girls. No offense intended towards any of the female beer lovers out there...

Overcoming a Frat Party Reputation - NYTs

Check out this cool article featuring the guys from BeerAdvocate.com...

Here's some standout clippings from the article...

On sites like beeradvocate.com, ratebeer.com and realbeer.com, in blogs and bars, restaurants and stores in about every big city, beer cognoscenti debate and argue over beer styles, issues of authenticity, alcohol levels and of course which beers they like best.

Or this little gem that equates beer geeks to sci-fi and computer geeks...

Without the pastoral mystique that has been appropriated by wine producers or the suave, sophisticated imagery of the wine drinker, beer lovers have largely retreated to the antistyle precincts associated with such proverbial social outcasts as computer nerds and science fiction fanatics.

Bizarre facial hair, unflattering T-shirts and strange headgear are standard equipment among beer geeks.“Before the Internet, computer nerds felt on the outside but now they’re accepted,” Todd said. “I think beer geeks are the same way. We’ll look back 10 years from now and remember what it was like.”

read more | digg story

New York Beer Tour (Part III)

New York is huge, and I think I may have bit off more than the three of us could chew when I put together our itinerary. We didn't even hit all the stops I was considering, and we didn't bother with the big beer festival that was going on that weekend. Note to self: Consider hitting that event next year, more beer to chose from and less walking... Less risk more return?

Even with the abbreviated list of locations, we didn't spend a great deal of time in one place. It felt like we were always on the move, and if the rough shape my shoes were in by the night's end was any indication, we certainly were very mobile throughout the night. Next time I'm wearing sneakers!

After we left McSorley's, we hoofed it over to the Hop Devil Grill for a few more beers. This place has a wide selection of quality beers on tap and in bottles. But I'll be honest, I was expecting more out of the place in the way of ambiance. Hey listen, I'm not saying the place isn't great, but the web site gave me slightly inflated expectations.

Kenn had a bottle of Three Philosophers, a delicious Quadrupel... The bottle was big enough for all three of us to have some. Thankfully Kenn is a generous man. I can't quite remember what Chris and I had... I really need to start taking better notes...

Part of the problem was that I sampled a number of beers, hence the small glass and the look of both deep thought in my eyes... I'll dig up my notes later and figure out what I finally settled on. But I will tell you now, I went through a few samples before I found something I really liked. (Either I developing a discriminating beer pallet, or I was just making up for the lack of freebies at Brooklyn Brewery... You make the call!)

Chris has that similar look of heavy consideration in his eyes... If my fuzzy memory serves me, I believe he tried a cider of sorts. Chris likes the ciders, ask him why my old college room mate nick named him "Wood Chuck" and "Sweet Chuck" some time...

Here's what I settled on, if only I could remember what it was. Looks beautiful though doesn't it?

I found my notes! I had an Ommegang, Rare Vos, which is a Belgian Dark Ale. According to my chicken scratch notes, I gave this tasty beer a big thumbs up for it's beautiful amber color, smooth flavor and nice head that clung to the side of the glass.

My sloppy notes indicated that Chris actually had an Ace Perry Cider, which he said was a good choice, offering a sweet pear flavor.

As stated previously, Kenn chose a bottle of Three Philosophers, which he said had a sweet yet complex flavor, at this point, my notes got very messy, and more or less unreadable. They do include something about the cherry flavor and something else that ends with the phrase, "but in a good way..." LOL! I really need to work on my note taking!

Kenn and I are looking a little worse for ware after a long debate with 3 Philosophers.

Random thought of the day: I wish I had a pet monkey to take with me on these adventures. I could equip him with a helmet cam and just let him run wild, I imagine the videos he'd produce would be similar to the one below...

And now for something different...

After we finished our round of beers, we made our way to the World Trade Center and took a quick look at the memorial that stands on the site at the opening of the subway station there.

Six years later this site is no less sobering. The sign in the photo above list those that we would be toasting in a matter of minutes.

Our next stop was the bar in the Millennium Hilton Hotel, over looking the site of the World Trade Center. Above is a very blurry shot, but it gives you an idea of how good the view of ground zero is from the bar.

This is a pretty cool shot of Kenn with 'Old Glory' in the background and the World Trade Center memorial/subway entrance all lit up in the far background. The three of us had a beer, made a toast, had some munchies, and then hit the road...

Our next stop? Starbucks...

We moved on to The Blind Tiger after a brief stop at Starbucks to get Kenn a caffeinated beverage along the way. Kenn had put on a brave face, but he was starting to crash, and we still had a good portion of the night ahead of us. As you can see Chris was still smiling.

No coffee or tea for this guy by golly! Although, from the looks of me, a coffee may have been exactly what I needed, we did a lot of walking that day and we were all tired. I can't recall what I ordered, but it was something local to NY and it was good. If you hold the pint glass up to your ear, you can hear the brewery... No really, try it some time...

The video clip above shows some great street performers doing what they do best somewhere out there near the Blind Tiger. These guys could really sing! You gotta love New York!

Long story short, we didn't spend a lot of time at the Blind Tiger... After pumping Caffeine and NYC pizza into Kenn to revive him, we made our way to a bar Chris and I always visit when in the city, Off The Wagon.

Why do we go there so often? Not because of it's great beer selection or historic significance (because it has neither!), but because we get to relive a small portion of our college days when we visit. This place is your basic college bar, full of college aged people, do what college people do. Not really my scene any more, but...

But they have a number of beer-pong tables set up and allows for informal tournaments. At one point, Chris and I were quite skilled at the beer pong. And if bowlers are athletes, well then darn it, so too were we!

We stood there and provided an audience for a couple of games waiting for our turn at the table. When we were about to throw down the gauntlet and challenge the reigning champs to an ass whooping, the bar staff kicked everyone out of that room, a private party had reserved the area, so no beer-pong for us. It was probably just as well, the night was getting late, and we needed to make our way back to Brooklyn. As the lyric goes, "NO SLEEP TIL BROOKLYN!"

Once we got back to Brooklyn, we made our way to Barcade one more round of local brews and a lot of 80s arcade goodness. Yes, that's me having a beer at Barcade in the photo. I was also using my herculean strength to ensure the bar didn't float off the ground and escape. What can I say folks, I'm a hero...

I'm not sure, but I think in this photo, Kenn is barely able to keep his eyes open and is giving me the international sign for, "Please kind sir, do not photograph me, I'm not in the mood, photograph that guy there instead!" That crankiness was nothing that couldn't be solved by a few rounds of Digdug and a nightcap.

And just like that, Kenn was back in the game, both literally and figuratively, with one hand on his beer and the other on the joystick...

Chris, having located the bar and it's vast array of quality beers on tap was once again smiling. Unbeknonwst to him, a strange localized version of the famed Northern Lights was now presenting itself behind him across the bar. A strange phenomenon believed to be cause by poor lighting and amateurish photography. Nature is amazing isn't it?

I really wanted to play the Star Wars game they had, but it was out of order that night. So, I thought a round of Tapper seemed more than appropriate... I know what you're thinking, "My god he has a beautiful head!" And I know what question you are dieing to ask... But no, I have not previously served as a professional head model... At least not yet. But I am available for photo shoots...

Nothing like playing Tapper while enjoying a delicious beer fresh from a real tap... This was how the game was meant to be played.

Chris schooled me with his Tapper prowess, the lad is a natural.

I call this one, "You look beautiful in the Galaga glow!"

We wrapped up the night with a little billiards, to make sure Chris was not affected by the beer... Then, it was a forced march, AKA 'The Brooklyn Death March', back to Chris' car and a long sleepy ride home for me.

And that is more or less it... We had a great time, but I think our scope was just too wide. Next time, less stops, less walking and more laughs...

In the future I want to do just a Brooklyn trip, which will of course include Barcade and Brooklyn Brewery. I'd love to get more suggestions from some of my fellow beer travelers out there. (hint hint) What else is good in Brooklyn? Does anyone know if Green Point (Kelso) gives tours? They wont return my calls or emails...

If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment on this post with your thoughts.

In case you missed the early parts of this tour check them out here!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

McSorley's video clips

I'll post the final part of my New York City trip tomorrow... In the mean time here's two short video clips I just found from our time at McSorley's.

The first clip is my view of Chris ordering us a round of beers, the second is a very shot clip of us drinking that round. Kenn thought the camera was in photo mode and accidentally captured some video...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New York City Beer Tour Part II: McSorley's

After the long walk to Barcade, we found that it wasn't open for business yet. Not a big deal, we would need to find our way back to Brooklyn by the end of our adventure so we could get back to Chris's truck and make our way home. Barcade would be our final stop...

So, I whipped out my trusty GPS device and quickly located McSorley's Old Ale House, based on the recommendations of our new friends we met at Brooklyn Brewery's tasting room. Good thing Chris knows the subway system, because I don't... As you can see from the photo above, the place was established back in 1834, when the nation was only but a 58 year old pup in the big scary world. Needless to say, this place is full of history, oh and beer too...

It was nice of the chick in red to walk into our photo like that...

Speaking of walking into photos... I noticed Kenn managed to avoid the camera's all seeing eye for most of this adventure. So you're blessed with yet another shot of me and Chris enjoying some fine NYC beer. I can't explain what the heck is happening to my face in this image, but I can only assume it is symptomatic of my joy and excitement when I learned McSorley's give you two beers when you ask for one. Granted they're not that big, but I do so enjoy a good deal when I see one...

McSorley's beer, is good honest beer, and it only comes in two styles; dark and lite. (McSorley's Cream Stock Ale and McSorley's Famous Lager) Don't be fulled by the term lite, it merely refers to the color and flavor of the beer, this isn't some weenie diet beer that I often find myself drinking in the hopes of keeping old man obesity off my trail. This is real beer and a real bar...

The image above captured one of the more unique highlights of the day for me. Our friends over at Brooklyn Brewery told me about a chandelier covered in turkey wish bones and a thick layer of dust, hanging over the bar at McSorley's. Ordinarily, I would find this to be a pretty nasty bio hazard in place where I purchase fine food and beverages, but there's a pretty compelling back story here. (Take a tour)

Apparently a large group of regulars enjoyed a last beer together at McSorley's before shipping out to fight in one of the World Wars. I'm pretty sure it was WWII, but I can't confirm that. At any rate, the story goes like this...

The men enjoyed a few round together knowing full well that the last beer that night might very well be their last beer ever. So they all hung their wish bones on the light fixture, toasted each other, and vowed they would come back after the war and take down their bones together and perhaps make a wish for bright future. The bones that remain are from the boys that didn't make it back from the war and the bones remain as a monument of sorts, so we never forget the price they paid for our freedom. The dust is there because no one touches the bones out of respect.

As a military man myself, this hit home. We toasted those boys that left their bones behind, thanking them for what they did...

Chris reflects on the toast we made to those that never returned.

We didn't stay at McSorley's very long because the place was packed. Not a free table in the joint. But I was glad we got the chance to see the place and enjoy a couple of beers. I hope to return on a less busy day so I can take in all the history that covers nearly every inch of the place. The walls are covered with old photos, newspaper clippings, awards, etc. There's a lot to see here.

As stated previously, beer makes Chris happy. Apparently it makes me look up...

I wonder who's job it is to update the number every year...

A view of me and Chris talking it up... Kenn was not feeling so well at this point of the day, so he decided to sit the beer drinking out for a little bit and man the camera... Poor Kenn... Bah! More beer for us!

"We were here before you were born..." Very true...

Kenn finally gave up the camera...

And on that note, I'll end this lengthy post. Next time I'll wrap up this whole New York City beer tour with some additional locations, images and some final thoughts. Stay tuned!!!

In case you missed the early parts of this tour check them out here!

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