Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where do you buy your beer?

Where do you buy your beer? Do you shop at your favorite package store exclusively, or do you pick up the occasional 12 pack at your local grocery as well?

I prefer to hit my local package store because they have a pretty diverse selection, and a couple of knowledgeable guys to help me select something new every now and then. But the beer aisle happens to be adjacent to the bread and diary aisle, typically my final stop as I complete my weekly grocery shopping excursion. It's always at this point that I find myself in a quandary.

Do I pick up a few beers from the meager selection Shaw's has to offer, or do I stop by CT Beverage Mart on the way home? The extra stop will equate to a better beer selection, but also leaves my diary and meat products in the hot trunk a little bit longer than I like. There's also the added benefit of saving money at Shaw's. For example, I picked up a 12-pack of Sam Adams Boston Ale tonight as I finished my grocery shopping because it was on sale, about $4 off the normal price. And, if I include my beer purchases in the grocery bill, the Alewife offers less scrutiny regarding my beer budget, lets just say, the beer gets lost in the shuffle, somewhere between the Kashi cereal and deli meat.

So, its a matter of selection versus convenience and affordability. My local Shaw's market has all the usual suspects from AB, they also have some Sam Adams and Harpoon offerings as well as Sierra Nevada, Magic Hat, Long Trail and the like. But no local brews! I actually bumped into a beer distributor a week or so ago as he stocked the shelves and I asked him why there were no local brews on the shelf. His answer was that Shaw's doesn't see the profitability in it, and most micros can't afford to sell their brews at the low rates the macros can direct to the chain. My hope is that one day the big grocery chains see the light and at least try to embrace craft beer a bit more, along the same lines as Ruby Tuesday's.

Let's talk selection and variety. Next time your at the market, take a look at their beer selection and then come back and leave a comment, let me know where you shop and give me an idea of what beer they have to offer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fermentation Friday – Others Opinion of My Best Beer

This Fermentation Friday is a tough one for me...

“What, in the opinion of others, is the best beer you have ever made and why?

I don't have the experience or long track record of unique and awesome brews that most of the home brewing community has. I'm still just getting my feet wet, and only strayed from recipe kits once so far. That being said, a couple of the beers I've made received what I would consider notable positive feedback, here's the short list...

English Pale Ale
One comment I got on the English Pale Ale I made convinced me to embrace home brewing for the long haul. My friend, who does not compliment lightly, said, "This is much better than Bass Ale!" This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but for me it was. Bass Ale was the first non-American light lager beer that I embraced in my college days. I still enjoy one on occasion when I visit a bar with a limited variety. To be hailed as better was a big deal for me indeed! Others were genuinely surprised that I was able to brew a beer that tasted so good. So positive comments were readily available on this beer. There's nothing better than getting that positive reinforcement.

Holiday Ale
My mother in-law and brother in-law, not big beer drinkers, loved the holiday ale I made last winter. I still have a few bottles stashed away, mostly because I don't care much for it. But "Mom" has asked me to hold them for her to enjoy up in the snowing back woods of Maine this Christmas. A few of my friends also seemed to like it, although the 9% ABV may have something to do with that. The second one always seems better... I would say this brew was my least favorite, but got the most universal acclaim. And I find that very odd indeed...

Final Thoughts
These were the two beers that seemed to stick out from the crowd, regardless of what I may have thought of them. I wonder how much of the positive reviews had more to do with the styles I brew rather than the over all quality of what I brewed. As I develop my brewing skills and methods, I hope to also create my own unique recipes. Once I get to that point, positive feedback will be all the more critical to my fragile little home brewing ego...

Pastors and Missionaries and beers oh my!

There's an interesting discussion on beer and Christianity over at the beer philosopher's blog all stemming from an article by Doug Giles over at TownHall.com entitled, Jesus, Beer and Your College Kids. He touched on many of the same points I tried to in my little blog series on beer and Christianity, please check it out and provide feedback if you missed it...

The timing of this article and related discussion are both relevant and ironic for me. I grew up in a very religious family, filled with ministers, missionaries and highly active church goers. Beer was something only to be enjoyed secretly behind our parent's backs, and God help you if you got caught! You wouldn't see a cooler of beer at Grandma's family gatherings, it was an unspoken taboo, something you wouldn't even think of. (Although rumor has it, her home made root beer may not have been as innocent as one might think... Interesting...)

Over the years we've all grown apart, either moving to different states or just getting tied up in our own lives. My father and my brother's family came "home" for a visit, to meet my new born son and have some fun. I took their home coming as an opportunity to have a family reunion for those of us still living withing the state, in the form of a back yard picnic. I even invited a couple of the pastors from my church. My brother and I had a discussion before hand regarding the beer issue, would this be a dry gathering?
My father, who did not drink when I was growing up was concerned, what would everyone think? Our conversation gave me an idea...

A social experiment
I decided to run a social experiment, and mixed some beers in with some bottled water in one of the coolers at the gathering. I didn't make any grand announcements about beer being available, I figured I'd just wait and see what happened.

I'm happy to say that it went pretty well. There was no mass exodus by my aunt's and uncles who were Reverends and retired missionaries, nor were there any condemning speeches given on the evils of alcohol by any of the Pastors from my church. (Actually, my pastor is very cool and has expressed interest in trying some of my home brew.) In fact, folks mostly ignored the presence of beer in the cooler all together. One of my cousins jokingly offered my aunt (a retired missionary) a beer, and her response was a friendly chuckle. Other than that, the beer went unnoticed and untouched. That is until a brave soul finally rose from is lawn chair and grabbed a bottle of brew from the cooler. I couldn't resist myself, I called out to my cousin and said, "Finally a brave soul! Let me grab you a 'church key' for you!" (Maybe 'church key' was a bad choice of words. Oh well...) And then I joined him and had a beer, and my brother wasn't far behind me.

After that others started going for the beer as well. Now don't get me wrong, the party didn't turn into a beer fest nor did I want it to. Only a small percentage of my family drank the beer, but all in all, it went well. A few folks enjoying beer responsibly along side non-drinkers, all of which shared the Christian faith. I knew everything was going to be OK, when I saw one of my aunts with a beer in hand, something I never thought I'd see. I jokingly commented, "Hey if you're having a beer, I guess this is OK then?" We even discussed my home brewing adventures and her wine making attempts. I asked her husband (my uncle) about his mother's (my dearly departed Grandma's) infamous root beer. Apparently there may have been some truth to the legend.

Later that week, I enjoyed a few beers with my Dad at a local bar and grill. Something I always wanted to do. We've had a beer or two together at my brother's house in the past, but I always wondered what it would be like to sit at a bar and have an open conversation over a few pints with my Dad. It was pretty cool! We swapped war stories, and he told me about some of the beer he had in his youth serving in South East Asia as a US Marine. He even helped my transfer my home brew to the secondary that week... Good times...

Reflecting on my youth
Growing up, alcohol was taboo, my family did not drink, and I held off from drinking until my freshmen year of college. I will admit, just as
Doug Giles suggested, I jumped into drinking head first in those early college days. But over time, I matured and developed a healthy respect for alcohol and myself. I owe my current healthy views on drinking in part to the strong moral foundation my Mother and Father provided me. Without that moral compass, I'm not sure where I'd be in life, and that's something I feel should not be discounted.

The next generation
My wife and I have already talked about how we will raise our new born son and what we'll teach him about alcohol. Our plan is to lead by example by enjoying what we view as God's gift to us in the mature, healthy and responsibly way in which it was intended. I even plan on brewing root beer (not Grandma's recipe mind you) with my boy, when he's old enough. I think learning about brewing has helped me refine my views on alcohol, and I think root beer brewing, and eventually beer brewing might help him as well.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on all of this... Please feel free to leave a comment or share a similar story if you have one...

Friday, August 22, 2008

I'm not the only guy with bung hole issues...

This is so typical "me" if it can go wrong it will go wrong. In case you missed yesterday's post, I accidentally plunged my bug into the murky depths of my secondary. The saga of "Franken-beer" continues...

I actually did something similar on my very first batch of beer with the seal around the airlock hole in my old bucket fermenter. Murphy's law has nothing on Bryon's law...

But I did some searching and found this thread on beer advocate, regarding problems other folks have had with their "bung holes", apparently it's not as odd, nor is it as big a deal as I thought...

HELP!!! Stopper stuck inside carboy!

In teaching my wife to brew, she jammed the stopper into the carboy so hard it just plunked into the carboy and wort. I just covered with foil and will let this beer ferment out. The stopper was sanitized, but should I worry about off flavors as a result of the rubber? Also, how the hell do I get this thing out???

How many folks think this guy is just using his wife as a scape goat? LOL! The good thing is, a number of folks responded to this guy and have faced the very same issue. Sounds like my brew isn't in any real danger, and I think the following youtube clip may hold the answer to my issues.

She almost had it, and I'm pretty sure, I can use this method to get the stopper out of the secondary after I'm done with this batch... Stay tuned, and feel free to mock me via the comments... ;-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'm having problems with my bung hole

I'm having problems with my bung hole...
I figured this post title would get your attention, but really, I had some trouble with my bung hole today... Has this ever happened to you?

Note the Daddy's guide to be useful during pregnancy used to tilt the primary...
Fnally a good use for that book...

There I was, minding my own business, nearly done racking my Franken-beer (Oktoberfest inspired Ale, turned Altbier) to my newly purchased secondary, and then it happened. I was pushing the bung that came with the 5 gallon carboy into the opening, and then pop! Before you know it, the bug is plummeting to it's untimely death in the murky depths of the carboy. Either I don't know my own strength, or I'm having some difficulties with my bung hole. OK, sorry, I just couldn't resist saying that one more time...

I had no choice, I quickly plopped the better bung (this one has that lip on top) from my primary into the sanitizer filled bucket I had standing by, and used it to cap off the secondary.

So, what's your take on all of this?
  • Has this ever happened to you before?
  • Will I ever be able to get the other bung out of the carboy? And if so how?
  • Will this debacle destroy my beer, leaving a rubbery, bung hole flavor to the brew?
  • Would leaving the bung in there kill future brews?
  • Will the drama surrounding this batch ever end?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I'm having "secondary thoughts"

I have a confession to make... I've never used a secondary. Yep, I'm that much of a hack newbie home brewing weenie. I've always been hesitant out of fear that I may contaminate the beer during the racking phase. Oddly enough, both home brew supply shops in my area have recommended that I do not use a secondary. They seem to think it an unnecessary step.

Most of the folks I've been chatting with online regarding "Franken-beer", suggest that I rack this puppy to a secondary and let it sit for at least a couple of weeks for clarity and mellowing. Apparently sulphur may be an issue... Pee-ew! And the secondary may eliminate that potential.

If you recall, my buddies and I brewed this beer thinking the recipe I snagged off of beertools.com was for an Oktoberfest. We thought we could convert it into an Oktoberfest inspired ale by selecting a German ale yeast. We later found out that the recipe I selected was a poor Oktoberfest, but a fair Altbier. One of the big concerns was clarity. Everyone who's telling me this will be closer to an Altbier is also telling me to do two things, ferment at a lower temp to avoid the esters, and rack to a secondary to make a more clear beer.

My home brew supply shop owner tells me not to listen to all the advice on using a secondary. While he agrees its sound advice from a text book perspective, he tells me all of you out there are "style snobs"... His words, not mine... His logic was, if the beer is a bit cloudy, but still taste good, my friends and I will be happy. If the beer goes bad after a racking gaff, we'll have 5 gallons of filthy water, and a bad taste in our mouth... (I'm paraphrasing)

I see his point, but I think I need to start taking risks if I'm ever going to grow as a home brewer. I've been stuck, comfortable brewing from kits, and only using a primary. Using a downloaded recipe and raw ingredients on this beer was a growth experience. Sure I wont get the results I was looking for, a Marzen like Ale, but I've learned a lot and hopefully will still come out of this with a tasty brew. I think I will use a secondary...

Now my only issue is, I need to get another carboy. So much for that budget...

Suggestions? Tips?
Do you have any lessons learned regarding the use of a secondary? Anything I need to avoid while racking the brew? Let me know, leave a comment... Thanks!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Flying Dog: Support Mike Event

I just got this message from Steph at Flying Dog...


I don't know if you have heard, but our longest standing employee and brewery manager, Mike Freeman, was recently diagnosed with a very serious brain tumor and the most aggressive of its kind! Due to Mike not being able to work and to offset some medical expenses, Mike’s friends and family are hosting a fundraiser. The fundraiser, Rock the Mike: The Freeman Brainefit, is on Saturday, August 23rd at the old Flying Dog warehouse (24th and Blake) from 7-2am. We are going to have several bands, free beer from Breckenridge, Great Divide and Flying Dog, free food and a raffle with a $20 cost at the door. All of the proceeds from this event are going to Mike and his fiancée Jennifer.

I was hoping you could help me spread the word in your blog, paper, to your friends, etc. The more people we get in the door, the more money Mike gets!

Please check out the website we set up for him at mikesupport.com.

Thanks for your support!

Stephanie Kerchner
PR and Event Coordinator

Sounds like a great event, and I'm all for fighting cancer... I support Relay for Life every year to help raise funds to fight cancer... If you find yourself in the Colorado area, consider taking part in this event. Best of luck to you Mike, don't give up!

Franken-beer shows more signs of life

At 3:30 AM I checked the airlock, while my wife fed the baby. There was some regular activity at that point, but still a little too far and few in between for my taste. But as of 6:50 AM, there is steady activity, looks like this brew might make it after all... Let's just hope it tastes good...

See the video clip above...

Note: That noise in the background is not the airlock, its the ice-gnomes I've enslaved, working away in the air conditioning unit running to keep my make shift fermentation room as close to 65° as possible. If you listen hard enough, you can almost hear them singing, "Oh-wee-oh... OHHHH OHHHH!"


Sunday, August 10, 2008

4th Ever Connecticut River Valley Not-So-Snooty Beer, Wine & Cheese Tasting Adventure

As a member of the Bradley Family Day committee, I've been asked to assist in the planning of the 4th Ever Connecticut River Valley Not-So-Snooty Beer, Wine & Cheese Tasting Adventure.

My part in all of this is to reach out to local breweries and brew pubs and look for their participation. If you're brewery and you're reading this, please consider participating. Leave a comment with your contact info, and I'll get back to you...

When: 11/21/2008 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Where: The New England Air Museum Windsor Locks, CT
What: The event includes locally produced beer, wine and cheese, delicious hors d'oeuvres, raffles, coffee and dessert.
Price: Tickets are limited - $45 ($35 for Military)
Email here for more ticket information!

All proceeds benefit The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

I'll be posting more details on what breweries and brew pubs will be attending as they confirm their participation. Hope to see you all there!

Who's going to be there?
Here's the list of breweries and brew pubs so far...

Special thanks to Flying Dog Ales for their support and networking assistance. (Spotlight on Jim Lutz and Steph Kerchner)

Oktoberfest, Altbier, or dirty useless water?

It takes a village to raise a beer...

Last night's brewing experiment was fun, but may not have the results I was looking for. In case you missed it, I was attempting to brew up an Oktoberfest inspired Ale. Brewing is always more fun with company, beer and food...

Erik is not much for brewing, but he's a good sport none the less...

Leroy considers sampling some of Erik's Oktoberfest... Sharing is caring...

No beer for Christine, she was content to warm herself by the wort as Dave and Ken brewed...

Kenn was kind enough to buy all of the ingredients for this brew, thanks Kenn!!!
Here's some trivia: Kenn was a stunt man for Vanna White back in the early 90s...

I decided we would venture away from brew kits this time around, it was time to take off the training wheels. So, I searched through the recipes on beertools.com and chose one based on how many times it was chosen as a favorite by the site users. I don't have the requirements for Lagering, so we went with an Ale yeast instead. I was curious, what would the change in yeast do to the beer? Obviously it would no longer be an Oktoberfest/Märzen, so what would it be?

Shawn over at the Beer Philosopher said, "...probably be something near an amber ale and if you can control the esthers a bit, you should have a pretty clean, Marzen-like ale I think."

Slothrob over at BeerTools.com said, "It's not going to taste much like an Oktoberfest, but you look like you have a decent Alt recipe there..."

Rob DeNunzio agreed on the style interpretation, "Looks alt-ish to me. You could always use a California Common lager yeast to cut down on the ester profile. It won't be a Marzen, but it'll likely be quite tasty!"

Slothrob may have a point...
As I added the extract to the wort, it did seem a wee bit dark for an Oktoberfest.

Let's hope the extract makes up for the possibly non-converting grains...

So, this recipe may not have been the best choice for the original intent of this brewing exercise. Oh well, life goes on... Slothrob also informed me that Munich and Vienna Malts needed to be mashed, and would likely not convert in the steep. In fact...

"...they'll leave starch in the beer. Starch can cause haze and, since yeast can't eat it, provide food for growth of contaminating bugs."

Darn you grains! Darn you straight to hell! I order you to convert!

Crap! Looks like I have some reading and learning to do for future brews... But all may not be lost...

"It's possible that they can convert in the steep, since they also provide enzymes, but the weight is low and the steep volume is probably high for efficient conversion.

Again, the recipe will probably make a decent Alt, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's one of my favorite ale styles," said slothrob

Erik was kind enough to run home and grab his digital scale to help us measure out the grain.

I wish we know about the mash versus steeping issue. I think it's time I got off my butt and finally built that home made mash tun I was going to do earlier in the year. I also need to get Dave to help me build a wort chiller, this time around it took forever to chill. So very tedious..

So what is an Alt? Or rather what is an Altbier?

According to Beer Advocate...

"A Düsseldorf specialty, an Altbier is a German style brown ale, the “alt” literally translates to "old" in German, and traditionally Altbiers are conditioned for a longer than normal periods of time. Other sources note that "alt" is derived from the Latin word "altus," which means "high" and refers to the rising yeast. Take your pick, but the extended conditioning mellows out the ale's fruitiness and produces an exceptionally smooth and delicate brew. The color ranges from amber to dark brown, medium in carbonation with a great balance between malt and hops.

"Sticke" is a stronger version of an Altbier, thus a bit more malty and hoppy to boot.

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

I found the German Beer Institutes description a bit more inviting...

Pronunciation guide for English-speakers:

One of only a handful of traditional German ales. Altbier is Copper-colored, cool-fermented, cold-conditioned, clean-tasting, with an aromatic hop presence, a firm creamy head, a medium body, and a dry finish. It is indigenous to the Rheinland, which is part of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the northwestern part of Germany, near the Dutch border. The best known Altbiers come from the Düsseldorf, the state capital.

Well if it comes out like that, I'll be happy. The thought that there maybe too many hops for my intended results did cross my mind, but I went with it... I like hops... Sounds like they may lend themselves to a balanced Alt if all goes well...

"Do we really want this many hops and this early in the boil?" he thought as he looked up at the adoring camera... You're damn right we do Mister, now dump those puppies!

Time to add the hops! If this whole beer thing fails, maybe I can go out for hand modeling.

Itzbeen about 39 minutes since the baby ate, and about 9 minutes since the beer started to boil...

While my wife and child napped, I snagged the baby's "itzbeen" feeding, changing, napping, etc timer... We don't use the wild card asteric timer, so I used it to time the boil and ingredients adding times, etc. Not to worry, I kept accurate time of the little one's feeding cycle. I thought this was a funny idea, multi task the baby's timer for feeding and brewing... LOL! But when the wife woke up, she failed to see the humor my buddies and I saw in this. Nothing another nap wouldn't remedy...

I'm cool with the hops, but what the heck are those pesky yeast up to this morning?

Most of the comments and feedback I got warned me that esters could add an unwanted fruitiness to this beer, and that temperature control would still play an important roll in the life of this beer, despite the use of Ale yeast. To that end, I swiped the air conditioner from my baby's room, and installed it in my office to create an environment I could keep a bit cooler than the rest of the house. I needed a room that wouldn't lead my wife into killing me in my sleep if I stored a carboy full of fermenting beer in it. My office is already a pigsty, so no harm done.

Suddenly that warning on the old fermentation bucket hits home...

Run baby run! It's an evil fermentation bucket coming to get you!!!

Now before you call child services on me, just relax! Our baby sleeps in our room still, so the AC in his room is not really required at the moment. Not to mention we keep that level of the house fairly cool with open doors and multiple air conditioners running. With that said, I needed a room I could close off and keep close to 65
°... The window in the room down in the basement where I normally ferment my brews was too small for the AC, so I moved the operation upstairs to my home office.

I can't wait for the lad to be old enough to brew up a batch of rootbeer with me. That'll be a lot of fun! But I digress...

All is quite in the airlock... A little too quite, it's a trap!!!

So here's the rub, it's now nearly 5 PM a day later, and still no activity in the airlock! Did I mess something up? Was the temp in the room too low to get the fermentation going? Did I over compensate for the esters and make the yeast sleepy in the process? Did something unfortunate happen while brewing to harm the yeast? I'm hoping they're just getting off to a slow start, but only time will tell...

The brew is swaddled like a baby to prevent any harmful light from mucking things up...
I need to wake this baby up and get some fermentation going...

Stay tuned for an update on the lazy yeast as things develop, at least I hope they develop. By the way, I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any... Am I doomed here? Do I need to do something to kick start the fermentation? Is it too cold now in the room?

UPDATE! At 5:05 PM, just as I was about to publish this post, some slow bubbling started in the airlock.

Franken-beer is alive, it's alive!!!!!!!!

I'm still open to feedback and suggestions though... Am I out of the woods now, or should I be doing something to help this creation of ours survive and thrive?

There maybe some life in this brew after all.
But if not, at least my beard and stache are starting to come in...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oktoberfest inspired ale homebrew?

Tomorrow afternoon, Kenn, Dave and I will brew up an Oktoberfest inspired ale... We took an Oktoberfest recipe from the web, and then switched out the yeast to make it an Ale. I don't have the setup to make Lagers at the moment, so I hope this comes out OK... Either way, it should be fun, and I'll consider it a homebrewing learning experience.


.25 lbs. German Light Munich info
.15 lbs. Crystal Malt 90°L info
.35 lbs. German Vienna info
.25 lbs. CaraMalt info
8 lbs. Liquid Light Extract info
1 oz. Mt. Hood (Pellets, 5.00 %AA) boiled 60 min. info
1 oz. Saaz (Pellets, 5.00 %AA) boiled 20 min. info
1 tablespoons Irish moss (not included in calculations)

We are substituting White Labs WLP820 (Octoberfest/Märzen) with White Labs WLP003 (German Ale II)... Thoughts?

Thanks to Kenn for footing the bill and gathering the ingredients, in honor of my son's birth...

What do you think of faux Oktoberfests, or Lager inspired Ales in general? I'd love to read your thoughts, so please leave a comment.

More details on brew day coming tomorrow... And we'll be sampling and reviewing Spaten Oktoberfest while we brew, so stay tuned!

UPDATE! Based on some reading and some advice from the beer philosopher, I think the key here will be to do my best to keep the fermentation temp as low as possible within this particular yeast range to control the esters (fruity flavors) in the beer.

Description: This is the fruity character found in some ales. Certain yeasts will throw more esters than others. Acceptable in most ales, not acceptable in clean lagers. That banana aroma/flavor you get from a hefeweizen? That's an example of ester(s).

Cause: Higher fermentation temperature will usually produce more esters, as will certain yeast strains. Poor aeration of wort before pitching can also jack up the esters in your brew.

Remedy: Make sure to ferment your beer at the correct temperature according to style and yeast strain. Do your research on whatever yeast strain you are using. Make sure to aerate wort thoroughly before pitching yeast.

The wort is in the primary, moved to the home office, basement not cool enough... Swiped the AC from the baby's room to control temp. Relax, he still sleeps in our room! More to follow...

Sam Adams: Boston Ale and John Adams steal the show

And so, my quest to review the beers found in the Sam Adams Summer Style case comes to a close with this final review. As I stated previously, I did not love every beer in the case. Some were good, others merely mediocre. The ironic thing is the Boston Lager and the Boston Ale proved to be my favorites, and I'm not really sure if they're specifically "summer style" beers.

Beer: Sam Adams Boston Ale

Some words from Sam Adams:
Samuel Adams® Boston Ale was first brewed to celebrate the opening of our Boston Brewery. Like Samuel Adams Boston Lager®, it was an old family recipe that was rescued by Jim Koch from his father's attic. Samuel Adams® Boston Ale, a Stock Ale, has a complex, caramel malt character balanced with distinct spicy and herbal hop notes. Our proprietary ale yeast imparts a variety of fruit and ester notes in both the nose and flavor which are indicative of the style.

Stock Ale, one of the few classic beer styles to have originated in the United States, has a strong New England heritage. The style draws its name from the cool "stock cellars" in which it was aged. This technique imparted a smoothness and body which became the hallmark of this style.

Keeping with the Stock Ale style, Samuel Adams® Boston Ale is fermented at cooler almost lager like temperatures and conditioned much longer than most ales. It also is Krausened and dry hopped

Note: Interesting that Sam Adams calls this beer a "Stock Ale" but Beeradvocate.com says it's simply an American Pale Ale...

Style: American Pale Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent.

American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.

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

(In this case, 4.94% abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Pint glass
Location of tasting: My living room
Reviewer: Bryon

1. Appearance -
Amber in color, with a bit of haze. Fluffy head, that diminishes quickly yet clings to the glass nicely.

2. Smell - Malty, with some fruity undertones. (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... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Moderately hoppy, but balanced nicely with a sweet malty flavor. Apple, citrus and caramel come to mind, with a dry finish.

4. Mouthfeel - Light to medium bodied, nicely carbonated. A bit course, but goes down easily.

5. Drinkability - Very refreshing, and satisfying. Packs more "oomph" than Sam Adams Boston Lager, a nice hoppier alternative. Keep a sixer of this other go-to beer from the Boston Beer Co. next to a sixer of the Lager, just in case you run out of what ever local brew you're drinking that week. Another great session beer from Jim Koch's family recipes, weighing in at a manageable 4.94% ABV. Relax and savor a few of these over some friendly conversation. This one stole the show for me, the best brew in the box!

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A solid 8.5!

But what about the quasi-factual historical reference & lame connection to beer?
If you would choose to equate our founding fathers to a case of Sam Adams Summer Style beers, and specifically associate Thomas Jefferson with the Boston Lager, certainly John Adams would be akin to the Boston Ale.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, is there any doubt he would be equated to the Boston Lager? What the hell does that mean, what did I just type?

As the last two men alive to have sign the Declaration of Independence, both men stood out from the crowd, just as these two beers stood out as the last two from the case I reviewed. Politically apposed, left and right, but bound by a mutual love for their nation, Jefferson and Adams were great men. Likewise, these two beers are separated by their bottom and top fermenting yeast, yet united in their overall quality, proving to be great beers.

Just like John Adams, the Boston Ale was the last to go...

As Adams and Jefferson approached the end of their lives, they were strongly connected through a strong re-kindled friendship and understanding, much like these two beers are connected by their caramel malty flavor and citrus notes.

As I finished the last of the two Boston Ales, I could almost hear John Adams ghost utter his famous quote, "Thomas Jefferson survives." or was it "There's still a Boston Lager in the case.." Sadly, Jefferson was long gone, and so too were the Boston Lagers...

Um, what about Sam? It's Sam Adams beer, not John Adams beer!!!

All this talk about John Adams, what about Sam Adams?
I would equate Sam Adams to the Pale Ale, a fine beer, very tasty, less known, under rated, and sadly a bit lost in the shuffle. While Sam Adams only finished fifth in his run for President, he did serve as the governor of Massachusetts for a number of years. Not as accomplished as his cousin John, but certainly an important man in our nations history.

Cheers and may God bless America!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sam Adams: Life is like a box of Sam...

When I first decided to blog and review my way through a 12 pack of Sam Adams "Summer Style" beer while connecting the activity to American history, I anticipated finishing up within a week or two. It was just a quick way to review some Summer beers, and celebrate Independence day, but I've had some "interruptions" and so here we are in August still going at it...

Through out the month of July I've been watching a couple of different shows about the American Revolution. Among those programs is the HBO series, John Adams. The next best thing to a series on Sam Adams. It's an interesting show with a unique perspective, but completing the series on DVD seems to be taking me as long as finishing that Sam 12 pack is.

The last few weeks have brought professional stress, a death in the family, an ill friend, petty squabbles with acquaintances, a break in and theft of personal property from my car and home, improved friendships, reunions with long lost friends, and the birth of my son. That last one made everything else all seem minor. My point, however, is life gets busy and has it's ups and downs.

A wise man once said, "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna to get..." Those are words of wisdom, just ask John Adams... OK, I guess quoting a fictional character, and then telling you to confirm the validity of his quote by asking a long dead historical figure his opinion is unfair, but then again, so is life...

In the series John Adams, you get to follow President Adams through out our nation's birth, during a time of revolution, onto a period of nation building and political infighting. The story weaves the nations triumphs and challenges with his own personal life, which was also filled with ups and downs, joys and sorrows.

This poor guy dealt with an unfriendly news media, a sick daughter with a no-good husband, a dead beat son who drinks himself to death, the death of his wife, and his own failing health. He also served as the Vice President and THE President of the United States, successfully avoided a war with both England and France despite strong partisan politics, and sired a son who would also become the President of the United States. As his life came close to an end, he became obsessed with accurately documenting the history of the revolution and his own part in it, ultimately coming to the conclusion that his writings were "rubbish". And finally, he dealt with losing the friendship of his dear friend, Thomas Jefferson, only to reclaim it the last decade or so of his life via a now famous series letters. Talk about ups and downs...

"People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity," said John Adams...

If every box of chocolate has caramel filled candies as well as those nasty coconut filled candies, so too does ever Sam Adam's Summer Style variety pack have it's gems and it's duds. Perhaps life is like a Sam Adams variety pack after all? Some good and some bad...

In the interest of wrapping this up, I shall expedite my reviews of the remaining beers...

Beer: Sam Adams Hefeweizens
Served: From a weizen glass
Location: My kitchen

Some words from Sam Adams: Unfiltered wheat ale, fruity, bright, with a crisp flavor of wheat. Samuel Adams® Hefeweizen beer is a traditional spin on a classic American craft brewing style. The brewers of Samuel Adams® used both malted and unmalted wheat, and two row Pale barley for a clean malty, cereal note. This bright, fruity wheat ale is unfiltered, retaining a natural haze from malt proteins, crisp, bright flavors of wheat, and fresh, fruity ester complexity from our proprietary ale yeast. Accentuated with Noble Spalt-Spalter hops, Samuel Adams® Hefeweizen has an elegant and pleasant bitterness, finishing smooth and clean.

Style: American Pale Wheat Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: A generic form of flavored beer, some breweries actually use real fruit or veggies, though most use an extract, syrup or processed flavor to give the effect of a particular fruit or vegetable. Usually ales, but with not much ale character to them and commonly unbalanced. Malt flavor is typically hidden with a low hop bitterness to allow the fruit or vegetable to dominate.

(This beer comes in at 5.4 % abv)

1. Appearance - A pale, cloudy, dark gold. Honestly, it's a little dull looking, but it presents an ample head. After the head subsides, the residual carbonation is mild.

2. Smell - I detected a sweet floral aroma. (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... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Crisp and sweet with a slightly bitter dry finish. Wheat with a lemon zest, possibly from the yeast, think wheat bread toasted with citrus flavored jam lightly spread on it...

4. Mouthfeel - A little sticky, almost sugary stickiness. Not a heavy beer, but sticks to the toung.

5. Drinkability - Goes down easily enough, despite the stickiness. Not bad, but not great either. Certainly not the best weizen I've ever had, might be better with food. That being said, I think a good beer should be able to stand on it's own.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 7 (Goes down easy, but there's plenty of better beers out there.)

A note on opening and pouring this beer: I didn't realize you would need to mix this beer up to get the typical unfiltered look in your glass. (Where's a good robot when you need one?) I failed to do this on my first pour and that tasting was pretty bad. Good thing the case came with two of each

On to the next beer...

Beer: Sam Adams Pale Ale
Served: From a bottle in a pint glass
Location: In my dining room, ooh how formal...

Some words from Sam Adams: Samuel Adams® Pale Ale is a delicious, lighter bodied beer with a delightfully fresh taste. Its unique blend of two row malts add a rich harmony of sweet flavors that are complimented by the traditional earthy hop character imparted by authentic British hops. The fermentation character of the ale yeast adds a rich bouquet of fruit and ester notes that add another layer of complexity to this popular style.

Style: English Pale Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: The English Pale Ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 3.8-6.0%

(This beer comes in at 5.25 % abv)

1. Appearance - Copper in color, nicely carbonated topped with a fluffy head.

2. Smell - Sweet malty smell with a slight hoppy finish. (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... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Sweet roasted malt coupled with a mild hoppiness leading to a dry finish.

4. Mouthfeel - Medium to full bodied, but goes down easily with a crisp finish.

5. Drinkability - A refreshingly pleasant upturn in the Sam Adams Summer Style case. Over all a satisfying beer, not over powering, great for those that like their Pale Ales with a more moderate hop flavor. I really like this beer, a great alternative to Bass, but not the best Pale Ale out there. Hop-heads may be left wanting, but all in all a well balanced beer.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 8.5 (Enjoy a few at your favorite pub.)

On to the next beer...

Beer: Sam Adams Boston Lager
Served: From a bottle in a pint glass
Location: In the living room
Some words from Sam Adams: Samuel Adams Boston Lager® is the best example of the fundamental characteristics of a great beer, offering a full, rich flavor that is both balanced and complex. It is brewed using a decoction mash, a time consuming, traditional four vessel brewing process discarded by many contemporary brewers. This process brings forth a rich sweetness from the malt that makes it well worth the effort. Samuel Adams Boston Lager® also uses only the finest of ingredients including two row barley, as well as German Noble aroma hops. The exclusive use of two row barley not only imparts a full, smooth body but also gives the beer a wide spectrum of malt flavor ranging from slightly sweet to caramel to slightly roasted. The Noble hops varieties, Hallertau Mittelfruh and Tettnang Tettnanger, add a wide range of floral, piney and citrus notes, which are present from the aroma, through the flavor, to the lingering smooth finish. We take great pride in the Noble hops used in our beers. They are hand selected by Jim Koch and our other brewers from the world's oldest hops growing area. Among the world's most expensive, they cost twenty times as much as other hops.

Style: Vienna Lager

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Named after the city in which it orginated, a traditional Vienna lager is brewed using a three step decoction boiling process. Munich, Pilsner, Vienna toasted and dextrin malts are used, as well wheat in some cases. Subtle hops, crisp, with residual sweetness.

Although German in origin and rare these days, some classic examples come from Mexico, such as: Dos Equis and Negra Modelo. A result of late 19th century immigrant brewers from Austria.

(This beer comes in at 4.75 % abv)

1. Appearance - Light amber gold with a creamy head that clings to the glass. A nice looking brew.

2. Smell - Sweet malty smell, some floral notes detected from 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... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - Sweet malty caramel flavor. A bit of hoppy bitterness mixes with the sweet flavor to end with a slight bite. A hoppy finish but not over bearing for those of you not in love with all things hop related.

4. Mouthfeel - Medium bodied, satisfying and refreshing. A "go-to" beer for any occasion, and probably the "gate way beer" for many of us that have moved away from macro beers into the world of craft beer.

5. Drinkability - As stated above, satisfying and refreshing and perfect for any occasion. Coming in at 4.75% ABV, this also makes for an outstanding session beer.

Drinkability Scale from 1-10: 9 (Keep a sixer in the back of the fridge in case of emergencies.)

A note on this tasting: A few days after we brought my son home, a few friends came over to visit with us and meet the new family member. (No the little one pictured above is not my son...) My buddy Mike, who you may have seen pictured on my blog in the past, agreed to enjoy a Sam Adams Boston Lager with me and toast the fact that I was now joining him in the world of fatherhood. As I said, this beer is perfect for any occasion...

Just one more beer to go: Sam Adams Boston Ale
Stay tuned for the final review and some closing thoughts on Sam and John Adams...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Facial hair for ulcers and a craving for Ruby Tuesday's

Spending a few days in the hospital with my wife during the birth of our son was quite an experience. Several days on the make shift bed nestled on the pull out sofa the birthing center provided was hard on my back, but it was still an experience I would never miss had I the ability to do things over again...

In the days that followed the delivery, I watch my wife get catered to by the hospital staff. They would bring her food, but never offered me anything. Feeling like chopped liver, I considered going across the street to the mall and hitting the Ruby Tuesday's for a burger and a beer. One night, my wife's dinner just sucked. I mentioned my craving for a burger and fries, my diet consisting of random junk food and offerings from the lobby Dunkin Donuts was just not covering it.

My wife agreed that a couple of burgers from Ruby's were called for. I ordered them via phone and planned on getting there early so I could grab a quick beer while I waited. In case you missed the news, Ruby Tuesday's is trying to embrace craft beer. At that point, our boy was born, he was healthy and happy, and I felt like indulging in a celebratory craft beer.

By time I got to Ruby's the food was ready, and there was not enough time to order a beer and still get the food back in time to be enjoyed at the proper temperature. So no beer for daddy...

Later that night, I stopped in at the house to let our dogs out and fished around the fridge for a beer. All I had left were the last four bottles of my holiday ale. Not a great beer, but aging it in the basement seemed to improve it. So, alone that night with my two dogs, I toasted the birth of my son with one of my very one Holiday Ales...

Side bar: Just got back from the mall to return some baby clothes my wife wanted sent back. Had to stop in Ruby's and have a couple beers. I've been locked away in the house now for about a week, and I figured a little me time wouldn't hurt. I ordered a plate of Buffalo Wings and had a couple Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPAs... Good stuff... Ruby's is certainly trying to dip it's toes in the craft beer world, but they really should try and stock some local brews... Most of their better beers are in bottles rather than on tap...

But on to the facial hair issue...

The guys over at Monday Night Brewery are really pushing for folks to grow mustaches in order to help folks with ulcers... OK, I don't quite get it either, but it's funny none the less...

The day after my son was born, I shaved to look good for the first day photos. Sadly, a good shave would not make up for the fact that I'm not exactly a male model, and that I had little to no sleep in the days that preceded the birth. Afterwards, I did not shave, and still have not shaved. I'm on leave from work, something akin to "paternity leave" and I'm enjoying every minute of it... As a military man, I'm required to be clean shaved, but if I'm on leave, my face is my own. So I've decided to see if I can grow a beard within two weeks. We have a post pregnancy photo scheduled a week from Friday, which will require me to shave. My goal is to have enough facial hair in place before then to say that I can in fact grow a beard if I wanted to.

Here I am today, one week into the facial hair growing phase. Note the tired look in my eyes from tending to the chosen one (my son) at all hours of the night. My only solace is that this facial hair may help someone with their ulcer. But lets be honest, this pathetic display of facial hair only serves two goals.

  1. It proves I'm not really capable of growing a full beard.
  2. It points out my double chin, making me look like the fat arce I really am.

The things I do for charity...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I would love to review your beer!

From time to time, I write the occasional beer review and post it to my blog. I don't do this to portray myself as some sort of beer expert, because I'm not. I just do it for fun and for educational purposes.

Do my opinions matter?
Opinions on beer are subjective, one man's Westvleteren 12 may be another man's Mich Ultra... OK, maybe not, but you get the point. I try to touch on the appearance, aroma, taste, mouth feel and over all "drinkability" of the beers I sample and review.

Why do I review beer?

I write reviews to put more thought into the beers I drink. When I stop to consider what subtle flavors, smells, colors and textures I can detect, I learn to appreciate the qualities the hard working brewers were striving to achieve. In the process, I also enhance my own pallet and develop a more discriminating taste for beer. I'm broadening my horizons, one beer at a time.

I would love to review your beer!
While most of the beers I review are ones I picked up or brews that were given to me by friends, I occasionally review beers provided to me by breweries for the specific purpose of reviewing them here on homebrewbeer.net. Some beers are reviewed at festivals or tastings, while others are sent to me in the mail. If you represent a brewery, I sure would love to give your beer a try and write up a nice review.

What do you think, feel like buying me a beer?
Would you be interested in having me sample and review some of your beer? Shoot me an email at bryon @homebrewbeer.net

Before Garrett Oliver, and I showed off our cool shirts, the man poured me a beer and asked me what I thought... Note, he didn't ask for my opinion on his shirt, that would have been awkward, to say the least.

The folks at Flying Dog regularly send me samples for reviewing, maybe you should too...

I enjoy getting the opportunity to sample great beer and share my thoughts with others in the home brewing and craft beer loving communities.
Perhaps we can establish a relationship, I'd love to hear from you.

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