Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Friday, May 30, 2008

I remember when I started homebrewing

Adam, over at Beer Bits2 has started his own version of the Session, specifically for home brewing bloggers, for now called "Homebrew Blogging Day". The deal is to select a topic and get home brew bloggers to blog about it. This first round will be hosted by Adam, he'll post highlights on his blog, and the following month a new topic and a new host will be picked. Wash, rinse, repeat...

For this first go at it, the chosen topic is: "I remember when I started homebrewing"

So, here's the story of my first foray into home brewing...

I was very excited when I finally got off the couch and purchased my first set of brewing equipment. For some reason I was obsessed with finding the perfect (yet cheapest) brew pot I could find, but settled for something from Wal*Mart instead. Hey, I was brewing on a budget!

My first attempt at homebrewing was relatively successful, despite all the beginner's mistakes I made. Successful in that what came out of the bottles a few weeks later was in fact beer and not just dirty water... Sadly I'm not sure I can say the same thing about my second batch.

On my first batch, I had some boil overs and a little confusion on ingredients and timing due to conflicting guidance between my brew kit's instructions and the "Homebrewing for Dummies" tutorial. To top it all off. I actually pushed the seal around the airlock on the fermentation bucket straight through and it sank all the way to the bottom of the bucket! It was nearly disastrous... But after all was said and done, my first go at it produced a beverage that tasted pretty damned good to me, so I was happy enough...

Those that were brave enough to sample my brew tried to be supportive and encouraging, but they weren't crazy for it. Most of them weren't really what I would consider beer experts though, so I didn't lose any sleep over their reactions. Screw them if they didn't like it, more beer for me!

I remember my wife actually thought it tasted pretty good, and she isn't really much of a beer drinker. Then a gain, maybe she was just trying to be a team player. I clearly remember that my friend's wife was actually grossed out at the thought of drinking something that I boiled up on my stove and let sit in a "paint bucket" for a week in my basement before I pumped it into used beer bottles with a rubber hose. Bah! What did she know? Everyone is a critic!

As I said before, my second batch came out terrible. I think I got lucky on the first go, and my lack of attention to detail finally caught up to me on round two. After that I took a year or so off, and finally got back into brewing about a year and a half ago. When I tried again, I brewed up an English Pale Ale (from a kit) and it came out great! When one of my more critical friends said my beer was , "...much better than Bass Ale," to a bunch of the guys at the bar one night, I was instantly hooked on home brewing. I just needed the taste of success and a little validation.

"I get by with a little help from my friends..."

I now have 5 successful batches under my belt, and plan to move on to all grain brewing pretty soon... Stay tuned and keep tabs on my as I progress!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beer Review: Kerberos Tripel

Flying Dog Brewery Kerberos Tripel from Flying Dog Brewery on Vimeo.

My friends at Flying Dog sent me another box of goodness in the mail... They were kind enough to send me a sample of Kerberos Tripel for my reviewing pleasure, as well a sample of the 4-pack carrier that currently holds their "Canis Major Mixed 4-pack" together on the shelf at finer package stores everywhere...

Note: the toaster in the background did not come with the free sample!

Double DogBeer: Flying Dog's Kerberos Tripel

Some words from Flying Dog: Named after the mythical beast that guards the gates of hell… Kerberos is a traditional Belgian-style Tripel with a dark golden color has a sweet flavor with a dry and spicy finish. This nectar of the Gods is deceptively strong at 8.5% and is bottle conditioned for an authentic flavor.

Style: Tripel

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: The name "Tripel" actually stems from part of the brewing process, in which brewers use up to three times the amount of malt than a standard Trappist "Simple." Traditionally, Tripels are bright yellow to gold in color, which is a shade or two darker than the average Pilsener. Head should be big, dense and creamy. Aroma and flavor runs along complex, spicy phenolic, powdery yeast, fruity/estery with a sweet finish. Sweetness comes from both the pale malts and the higher alcohol. Bitterness is up there for a beer with such a light body for its strength, but at times is barely perceived amongst the even balance of malts and hops. The lighter body comes from the use of Belgian candy sugar (up to 25% sucrose), which not only lightens the body, but also adds complex alcoholic aromas and flavors. Small amounts of spices are sometimes added as well.

Tripels are actually notoriously alcoholic, yet the best crafted ones hide this character quite evil-like and deceivingly, making them sipping beers.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 8.0-12.0%

(In this case, 8.5% abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Pint glass
Location of tasting: My back yard/deck
Reviewer: Bryon

A beautiful spring night out on the deck grilling up some chow...
What better time could there be to review another beer?

On to the Review

1. Appearance -
A mostly clear, golden in color, with a slight haze. A few vertical rivers of tiny bubbles float their way up to the top to meet up with the thick inviting head.

A rare behind the scenes look at my sloppy notes.
FYI, Kerberos also makes for a fine paper weight.
So get some in stock for your office today!

2. Smell - Difficult for me to detect on this one... Sweet aroma, with spicy hints of 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 Kerberos hits the ground running with a sweet start, but steady wins the race with a dry and slightly hoppy finish. This beer has something for everyone, malt lovers and hop-heads alike. That being said, I don't have much experience with this style, so I'll let you rack and stack this one for yourself. A less experience beer drinker maybe fooled by the flavor, which does it's part to hide the higher alcohol content of this beer. Not an over powering flavor, but a little too sweet for some perhaps.

4. Mouthfeel -
The carbonation was adequate, but not as intense as the creamy head might predict. A light body helps this beer go down easy, but with the 8.5 ABV, perhaps a little too easy. Be careful!

5. Drinkability - As I said above, she goes down easy like Sunday morning, but remember the ABV! Very drinkable!

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A solid 8.5!

This baby goes down smooth...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Beer Review: Allagash White (& robots too!)

While waiting for my batch of Witbier to ferment and condition, I figured I'd look for a quality example of the style at my local package store. My goal, beyond getting a few cold ones, was to have a good beer to compare with my own as a point of reference. After looking over what they had in stock at CT Beverage Mart, and cross referencing for positive reviews/scores on beeradvocate.com with my trusty Palm Treo, I finally settled on Allagash White. I wasn't disappointed, this is really good stuff, but it set the bar really high. Would my own brew hold its own? On to the review!

Beer: Allagash White

Some words from Allagash: Our interpretation of a traditional Belgian wheat beer, Allagash White is unique and truly refreshing. Brewed with a generous portion of wheat and our own special blend of spices, this beer is light and slightly cloudy in appearance, with a spicy aroma. Overall, it is a beer that is very drinkable and smooth any time of the year.

Style: Witbier

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: A Belgian Style ale that's very pale and cloudy in appearance due it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, that's used in the mash. Always spiced, generally with coriander, orange peel and other odd ball spices or herbs in the back ground. The crispness and slight twang comes from the wheat and the lively level of carbonation. This is one style that many brewers in the US have taken a liking to and have done a very good job of staying to style. Sometimes served with a lemon, but if you truly want to enjoy the untainted subtleties of this style you'll ask for yours without one. Often referred to as "white beers" (witbieren) due to the cloudiness / yeast in suspension.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

(In this case, 5.0% abv)

The proper pouring technique indicated on the bottle, and yes, the picture is blurry...

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Weizen glass
Location of tasting: My kitchen
Reviewer: Bryon

OK, my pour sucked, and I look silly stirring the bottle, but such is life.
If only there were robots that could do this sort of dirty work for us.
And what a wonderful world that would be.
I know what you're thinking...
"It's a pipe dream, robots will never be pouring us beer!"
I guess I'm just a dreamer...

A note on pouring a wheat beer: Sometimes home brewed beers can have some sediment on the bottom of the bottle, and typically you may want to avoid pouring that last bit into the glass. But not the case with wheat beers. Here's some more info from Wikipedia...

Pouring wheat beer into the glass requires a bit of practice, as one has to avoid producing too much head. The two techniques are illustrated here, performed by industrial robots programmed by students of two Bavarian universities: This robot demonstrates the technique of holding the opening of the bottle close to the rim of the glass, while this robot uses the faster immersion technique preferred by bartenders. Note the swivelling of the nearly empty bottle: This serves to pick up the yeast, an important part to unfiltered beer's complete taste. (It should be noted that the outside of the bottle should never come into contact with either the glass or the beer in the glass, as is may be contaminated with dirt, exhaust fumes etc.)

Good Robot! Where can I get one of these things?

Stupid Cylon! Lets just pray this evil contraption never becomes self aware only to launch a full scale nuclear war on man kind!

On to the Review

1. Appearance -
A pale, cloudy, golden (straw-like) color, with an absolutely beautiful head that lasted all the way to the end. Using the proper pouring method allowed the inviting bits of curiosity to call out from their suspension within the delicious yet murky depths of the glass. The yeast worked their way down the glass in a ribbon like cloud, very interesting to watch, let alone drink.

Can you see the happy little yeast work it's way to the bottom?
This beer is almost as much fun to look at as it is to drink!

2. Smell - Despite my difficulties with sensing smell, this was by far the easiest beer for me to smell to date. I sent of the yeast and the malt reminded me of my experience with home brewing. I also detected a whiff of oatmeal and perhaps some coriander. (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 - Home made wheat bread, with a zesty twang, possibly from the some orange peal seasoning? While I did not taint the brew with a lemon or orange wedge, a citrus flavor was certainly detectable. Think wheat bread with orange marmalade. Other seasonings came through as well, perhaps coriander or clove. A tasty beer, but perhaps a little understated.

4. Mouthfeel - A light texture, but the carbonation was not as strong as I anticipated, despite the magnificent head. It goes down easy, very crisp and refreshing.

Another slightly blurry shot of the yeast working their magic.
, I'm obsessed!
But if that's wrong I don't want to be right...

5. Drinkability - I could enjoy a number of these on a nice Spring or Summer afternoon out on the deck while grilling up something to chow down. A great warm weather session beer.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A solid 9!

Man that head just wont quit! Good to the last drop...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Life vs Blog: Life Wins...

Life has been a bit crazy over the last couple of weeks, hence the limited blog updates. But I have a 4 day weekend starting Friday, so I'll finally be pushing a bunch of updates I have rattling around in my head at the moment, including:

  • My review of Allagash White complete with photos! (ooohh!)
  • The results of my own recent brewing endeavor (I made a batch of Witbier)
  • My attempt at luring a good friend into home brewing and helping me fix up my baby's room. (I love beer and hate drywall...)
  • A possible job for me at a local craft brewery!
  • More free beer and a related product review!
  • And more...
So stay tuned! In the mean time, relax and have a home brew!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Flip top bottles? What's the deal with the seal?

Last Monday I had the day off and decided to bottle my Witbier. I was concerned about timing, after all Saturday marked the 1 week mark, and the airlock stopped bubbling right about then. Would waiting a couple of days hurt or harm the beer?

I found this discussion to be very timely and relevant. How long do you let your beer ferment before you bottle? Apparently 2 weeks is the new conventional wisdom, but I suppose it really all depends on final gravity and such... Speaking of gravity, I just want to repeat, I love my thief!

I'm happy to say, this particular batch of beer has gone off without a hitch. By far the easiest brewing and bottling days so far. I just hope the final product is good, time will tell. I'm chomping at the proverbial bit waiting for a taste, but I'll be good and let the beer condition for another week or so before I crack one open. Which leads me to a question...

I've been using these flip top bottle now for a while now. The last 3 batches I've made have all found a home in the flip tops. As far as I'm concerned they beat the crap out of recycled bottles and that accursed two handed caper that came with my brewing equipment. But it's not all cotton candy and walks on the beach with these things. I would say a less than acceptable percentage of my bottles fail to provide a good seal, and some of my beer ends up flat.

One of my buddies tried to make me feel better a few of weeks ago when I opened a couple bottles of my left over Holiday Ale, in hopes of clearing the batch out and moving on with my life, only to find that 2 out of the three I opened were a little flat. He said, "Hey, it's not that bad, its like a cask ale or something..." Not quite, it's just a flat mediocre Holiday Ale...

A friend at work suggested wetting the seals before capping the bottles, but that sounds like an opportunity to introduce something to the bottles that will kill the beer. I don't know, maybe I should say to hell with it and move straight to kegging... But there's something to be said about the portability and portion control offered by bottles.

So, does anyone out there use the flip top bottles? And if so, have you had a problem getting good seals? What did you do to resolve the issue? I could use a little advice, but perhaps I should have asked this before bottling my latest batch... DOH!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More Beer Bloggers of Note

I'm too busy to blog this week... So, I've added a few more Beer Bloggers of Note to fill the gap:

If I linked to your site, it means I like it and read it. But I sure would appreciate it if you reciprocated. (hint-hint)

Things to come...
Look for a post regarding my recent bottling day some time over the weekend... The Witbier is conditioning, yum... (I hope yum)

I also did a review of Allagash White to hold me over until my own Witbier is ready to roll, soon to be posted, so stay tuned!

In the mean time, check out some of the comment traffic on Part 4 of my series on beer and Christianity.

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