Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Monday, November 30, 2009

Maine Trip Epilogue

As we wrapped up our Thanksgiving weekend up in Maine, we decided to hit the Empire Grill for breakfast.  HBO films created a pretty cool atmosphere there.  Actually, it's kind of surreal; a fake diner created to fit the mold of the stereo typical Maine diner, now serving as a real diner and is much nicer than your typical area greasy spoon.  It strives to be authentic, and although it partially is not, it actually is, kind of.  Now that real "Maine-iacs" work and dine there. The decor, an idealized Hollywood set, the food and people, all Skowhegan. A unique place for sure...


All in all, it was the best luck I had at grabbing breakfast in the immediate area over the last three years I've been visiting in-laws in the area.  But why am I posting this on my beer blog?  Not sure, I guess it closes the loop on the over all feel of Skowhegan, minutes away from the areas barn based craft brewery and a brief walk from the only two bars (not including the bowling alley) in town.  I saw on the diner's site they had a photo of late night bar flies coming to the diner for some post bar eats.  So, I guess there's your connection.


Evening crowd "bar shift" outside of Empire Grill, Skowhegan Maine.


My wife looks on as my son gorges himself with the local fare...  
Just another one of the guys getting his fill of morning chow at Empire Grill.



Can you tell we're related?  There's a similar photo of Ed Harris and Aidan Quinn on the Empire Grill web site.


 
My wife and son in front of Empire Grill...



Later on our road trip home we stopped at the outlets in Freeport Maine to pick up some clothing for our son, and to walk the dogs.  After some tedious shopping we pulled into Gritty McDuff's for lunch.  If there was ever family friendly brew pub, Gritty's is it...


Luke, with crayon in hand, entertains himself with Hoppy McDuff 
as other children enjoy themselves behind him...


On one end of the Gritty's seating consist of long tables with bench seating.  The grumpy hostess provided us with a special seat for our boy that attached to the table.  It was cool for him, because he could saddle up to the pub table like a "big boy" without the aid of a high chair.  


My son located Hoppy McDuff, the happy hop cone on his kid's place mat.
Grumpy hostess visible in background...

 

With my son's cool intact, we selected a pulled pork sandwich for him from the kiddy menu, my wife had a Reuben, and I had a cheeseburger.  My son made the best selection, I found myself picking at his leftovers, my burger was standard bar fare, nothing to write home about, but apparently something to blog about...  My wife's chow was pretty good, but over all, the food was run of the mill.  


In case there were any doubts about the kid friendliness of Gritty's this art was on display.


I indulged in a pint of their 21 IPA...  Like all the beers I tried in Maine, this one was sweeter than I hoped for.  (Or should I say hopped for?)  Here's the promotional pitch from Gritty's...


"Gritty's 21 IPA is a unique blend of American hops with a British body utilizing English 2-Row Pale malts. This IPA starts with a hoppy aroma and taste; ending with a sweet finish. Plenty of Munich and caramalts are used to give the beer that golden hue. There are fifty-six pounds of Cascade Hops used in each 50 barrel batch that is brewed! Then we finish the beer with Willamette & Warrior Hops, (Warrior is a high-alpha acid variety of hops) All this leads to an IPA that is worthy to celebrate our 21st Anniversary!"


Maybe it was me, my tastebuds may still be recovering from a recent cold, but I think the "sweet finish" may have been slightly to sweet for me.  With that said, it have some of the hoppy flavor and aroma I was looking for, a nice golden red color, cyrstal clear, but with a limited head.  In fairness, the low head may have been due to a mad pour...  The 21 IPA was, like the burger, good but not great, just average... 



  Pretty looking pint, but the head was a little thin...  Overall a solid B.



 A brief glimps of Gritty's inner sanctum...

After a peek of the pubs brewery, I took my dogs for a walk in the back lot where they made a discovery.  Bins of expended hops and grains, most likely waiting to be disposed of.  Although they were positioned near a small pond in the back lot.  I briefly wondered if they just dumped them in the drink...  The dogs and I may never know...  When the dogs had completed their mission, the family and I high tailed it for home, thus concluding our Thanksgiving in Maine...


Christine and Leroy, the family hounds, located several bins 
full of expended grains and hops in the back lot of Gritty's during their afternoon constitutional...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beer-Traveling in Skowhegan Maine

It's been a long (and somewhat tedious) Thanksgiving weekend, in the secluded backwoods of Maine with my wife's family.  I managed to escape from the in-laws and found my way out to Oak Pond Brewing Co. this evening.  I dragged the family out last Christmas to try and find the brewery, but our GPS led us on a wild goose chase and we gave up...

This year I went out on my own, I figured less overhead was better for such an expedition.  And this year, the GPS lied to me again.  I found myself in the middle of the same pitch black dirt road in the middle of nowhere.  But this time, I had the luxury of not having the in-laws in tow.  I dialed up the brewery on my cell and they gave me a little directional guidance.

Apparently I wasn't the first out of town craft beer lover to be lead astray by a fibbing GPS.  Even after getting some verbal directions I drove right past them.  I had to call again.  The brewery is in an old barn, in the middle of nowhere, very hard to find in the pitch black.  I had about 45 minutes to find the place before they closed, but it all worked out.


Complete darkness, minus one small red door with a small light on it...  Easy to miss...


I'll take what's behind door number one...



Behind the red door was a water heater, a tractor (see below) and another door...



In case you doubted this was a real barn, note the tractor...

When I finally found the place, I was a little apprehensive...  No one greeted me at the first door, and no one greeted me at the second.  I poked my head in and called out, "hello?"  The owner, Don Chandler was busy cleaning out some of the equipment used to filter the brewery's latest batch of Oktoberfest.  We made some small talk about my homebrewing, and he called for his wife Nancy, who gave me the tour.


The tour was brief, no more than 10 minutes.  There wasn't much to see if you took it all at face value, a barn with the usual stainless steel brewery setup.  But if you looked deeper you saw quite a bit.  Oak Pond Brewing's staff consisted of Dan, Nancy and their son, who's name escapes me.  (Note: The son was kind enough to guide me in over numerous phone calls, despite my dependency on a faulty GPS devices.)  


  Obligatory photo taken of myself in front of the taps and brewing setup...




A small brewery, where all the work is done by hand by the owners...


When I looked at the small brewery floor, I saw a close knit family dedicated to the family business.  A family who works 7 days a week, a real labor of love.  Nancy stressed their dedication to producing consistent and quality brews.  The family wasn't looking to get rich off their craft, they only wanted to make a quality product and make a living doing it.  Nancy confessed she also works part time as a physical therapist to provide healthcare for the family.  

Dan and Nancy purchased the brewery when Dan was out of work in 2003, as Nancy says, "No one wants to hire a 60 year old."  So they took a chance and purchased Oak Pond.  Their first year or so was an exercise in trial and error.  Nancy confessed their White Fox Ale IPA was originally less hoppy.  During their first year of operations, Nancy misread the recipe, and doubled the hops by mistake.  The results were better than the original, so the recipe was forever changed.  




Nancy was generous with the six OPB beer on tap...

Nancy let me sample everything OPB had to offer, inlucing the OPB Nut Brown Ale, White Fox Ale, DoorYard Ale, Oktoberfest, Storyteller Doppelbock, and the Laughing Loon Lager.


I picked up a bottle of the White Fox Ale and the Storyteller Doppelbock for the road.
I'll sample them again once I get home and write up reviews for each.


Empire Grill, from the film Empire Falls, in downtown Skowhegan

After I completed the tour and made my purchases, I drove through the center of Skowhegan on my way back to the in-laws house.  I decided to stop and share a couple of pints with the locals.  Interesting side note: the film Empire Falls was filmed there.  The diner from the movie, Empire Grill, is on this street.  I may try and grab breakfast there tomorrow... 



The downtown area reminded me of the town from the TV show "Northern Exposure."

I checked out a couple watering holes, one appeared to be out of business, the other completely empty, the third was tucked behind the maid drag in an alley overlooking the river and an old mill.  The Old Mill Pub.  As close to "the Brick" from "Northern Exposure" as I was going to get here.  

The bar was tiny, and there was only one empty seat between a young couple and two middle aged guys chatting it up.  I sat down and ordered a locally brewed Maine beer.  While they did carry the very local OPB beers on tap, I went for an old favorite, Allagash White, which they served up in a Pabst Blue Ribbon glass with no head.  No really, check out the photo...



The Pub served up some good local brews, but it was still a dive.  
This photo sums it up, a good beer, a bad glass...


I had a great conversation with some locals and a nice couple from Cape Cod who owned a cabin in the area.  The surrounding towns (including the town my in-laws live in) lost power, so they were killing time, waiting it out.  Some good talk was topped off with another local brew, some sort of seasonal Sebago brew that does not appear on the Sebago home page.  Tasty...

It was great, I got to experience the local beer culture in a place many would assume none existed in.  Real home town folks, brewing and enjoying real local brews in a local joint, quite frankly in the middle of nowhere...  Good stuff...

Friday, November 27, 2009

We now have our own Amazon shop

Craft Beer in Maine

I'm up in Maine for the long Thanksgiving weekend, visiting with the in-laws. There's not much to do or see in this area of Maine, at least not much that doesn't involve a quad, hunting rifle or a pair of hiking boots... But there's beer lovers everywhere, right? Surely there's some quality craft beer to be found...

Well, turns out Maine has a fair amount of craft beer, and a weekend brewery tour maybe just what the , but sadly I'm pretty far from most of what Maine has to offer... In fact, I'm pretty far from everything and everywhere. (We plan to drive an hour tonight, just to get some sea food, an hour for chow, imagine that...)

According to the Maine Brewers' Guild...


Since 1986, Maine has been at the forefront of the craft brew movement. Our state is home to over 20 breweries which produce more than 100 different brands. Wherever you travel in Maine, you'll find locally made ales and lagers that are fresh, unique and sure to please. Cheers!

Included in their list is Oak Pond Brewery, a mere 30 minutes from our Fortress of Solitude... I'm going to try and make a run out there today or tomorrow and will be sure to post a blog update on what I find. (Last year I tried to find the place, but my GPS was not on my side... I'll see if I have more luck this weekend...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thank you for your support!

Last night's "Not So Snooty Beer, Wine and Cheese Adventure" was a great event. I wanted to take a moment to thank the breweries and the distributor that came out to support us. (As well as the vineyards, cheese producers and food providers...)

It was a pleasure getting to know all of you a little better, and of course, the beer was fantastic! I received many kudos last night for organizing the brewery support and generating the over all outstanding showing on the beer end of things. But frankly, those kudos should all go to you.

I can't thank you enough for supporting this event, and ultimately for supporting The Hole in the Wall Gang, as well as the children and families touched by this outstanding charity.

The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp from The Camp Staff on Vimeo.

Thank you!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Great Beer, Historic Aircraft, and a Worthy Cause

I've been asked to once again assist in the planning of the 5th Ever Not-So-Snooty Beer, Wine & Cheese Tasting Adventure. (see info on last year's event)

I'll be reaching out to local breweries and brew pubs again this year seeking their participation. Last year we had great support from local breweries and brew pubs and we're hoping for even more this year!

If you're part of a brewery and you're reading this, please consider participating. Leave a comment with your contact info, or shoot me an email and I'll get back to you... (bryon at homebrewbeer.net)

When: 11/20/2009 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 - $50 ($40 for Military)

Tickets are $60 at the door so pre-order tickets and save!
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...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quoted in Air Force Times

I'm told I was quoted in Air Force Times' "Off Duty" section regarding my hobby of homebrewing as it connects to my military service. I have not seen it yet, but I hope I came off OK... Anyone see it? Clue me in, my BX is small and does not carry the AF Times...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Results from Dad's Resolve WitBier

Dad's Resolved Witbier is already 2/3 gone!




Over all the beer came out pretty good...
I wish I added some of the peppery seasoning (coriander) that is traditional with WitBiers, I think that flavor was missing and would have cut back on some of the overbearing qualities of the honey. The honey was not a bad addition to the recipe, but I think next time I would reduce the amount just a bit. Over all the beer was just a little too sweet for my taste, nothing a tart slice of orange couldn't fix I suppose... Again the coriander would have been a nice foil to the sweetness...

Beer is best when enjoyed with friends and good conversation
I cracked open the first of three Tap-A-Draft bottles during my son's 1st birthday party and shared a little with one of the other younger fathers that came out to celebrate. I had some pouring issues that day, but the beer improved throughout the week.

A Note on the Tap-A-Draft system and carbonation
I was previously use to large, fluffy head and related carbonation when I bottled my homebrews. But once I learned how easy bottling could be with some sort of "keg-like" system, I all but abandoned the use of glass bottles. The draw back is, my beer no longer boasts the thick head I had grown accustomed to... Not sure if it's my pouring technique with the Tap-A-Draft, or something else...


At any rate...
I find it's best to pour a beer off the Tap-A-Draft the day before you intend on serving samples to friends... The initial pour is foamy, and for some reason, not that great... When I served some brew up on my son's birthday, the beer was a little too cloudy. While this was intended to be an unfiltered wheat beer, I think the initial blast of CO2 on the first pour kicked up a wee bit too much of the sediment... Moving forward, the beer improved, but as the bottle settled over the course of the week, I found I needed to jostle it a bit, to keep the yeast suspended in the beer.

As you may or may not know, it is customary to agitate a WitBier mid-way through the pour to ensure the yeast at the bottom of the bottle is evenly distributed. This is a little strange with a large blue plastic Tap-A-Draft kit...

"...drink your wine (in this case beer) with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do."
I was also able to share some of the Dad's Resolve WitBier with my Pastor. He may very well be my number one brewing fan... Too funny! He came over for a visit and shared a story with me over a glass of homebrew.

At a recent meeting, the church elders were having a frustrating time, not getting a lot of work done, and it was hot. The Pastor said, "We should call it a day and go somewhere for a beer and just have a little fellowship." I think he was testing the waters with Romans 14:21-22 in mind, as not all Christians are as open minded or even keeled about beer consumption.

Apparently his elders are, as they all agreed. At this point he mentioned that I made beer, and that he was a big fan. From what the Pastor tells me, the elders actually considered giving me a call to see if I had any cold brew on tap. After hearing this story, I promised to make some sort of Abbey Ale for a future elders meeting. More to follow on that... (More on my views on beer and Christianity here)

A moving experience
I'll be heading over to a buddy's apartment on Friday night to help him pack up and move. I plan to bring the last bottle of Dad's Resolve WitBier with me and share it with who ever shows up to help with the move. I'll try and add some photos of the brew to this post later in the week...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Dad's Resolved Witbier Bottled

Dad's Resolved Witbier was bottled last Friday, on the 10th... I figure the beer should be ready for a try around the end of the month, hopefully early enough to serve as a treat for yours truly and some of my fellow young fathers at a very special event.

Any recommendations on conditioning time for a Witbier??? If I bottled on the 10th, and chance it will suitable for consumption on or about the weekend of the 25th? I'm thinking another week might have better results, but I'm not sure...

I thought it might be a cool novelty to pour a few homebrews for myself and the other Dads at my son's first birthday, in keeping with the name and all, Dad's Resolved Witbier. It's fitting, as I brewed it as a sort of belated Father's Day bonding activity when my own Dad visited me the week following Father's Day.

Sadly, my son will need to wait about 20 more birthdays before he can partake in the libations... But, as blogged previously, I have visions of us brewing a little homemade root beer with the lad as he gets a little older...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dad's Resolved Witbier

Father and son, brewing up a batch of Dad's Resolved Witbier...


video
"Looks like dirty water, but it smells good..."

Dad kicking back with a cold one while the wort boils...

I decided a week or so ago that I would brew up some sort of wheat beer with my father during his visit this week. Sort of a late father's day activity for us. So I took a look at a couple of wheat beer recipes for ideas, and went to my local homebrew shop with Dad in tow this morning to build my own recipe from what they had in stock, on the fly. Here's what I came up with...

1lbs - Torrified Wheat (steeped for 15 minutes at approx 150 degrees)
3 lbs - Muntons Wheat DME (Boil for 60 min)
1 ounce - GR Hallertau 3.8% Alph (Boil for 60 min)
1 ounce - Czech Saaz (Boil for 30 min)
3.3 lbs - Muntons Malt Extract Wheat (Boil for 15 min)
1 lbs - Pure Wildflower Honey (Boil for 4 min)
1 ounce - Bitter Orange Peel (Boil for 4 min)
1 Wyeast Forbidden Fruit Activator Yeast Slap Pack

Dad did a great job of stirring the wort and helping me keep on track with the recipe.

I'm thinking I have some sort of modified Witbier on my hands, at the very least some sort of wheat beer... Those of you that actually know what your talking about, throw me a bone here, do I have anything that fits into a style?

My Dad did a good job helping me brew, but he struggled with the digital camera...
This was the best shot he got of me...


I actually took this "action shot" of myself, just in case Dad's shots didn't come out.

I hope I have something at least half way decent fermenting in the fermentation room, AKA the guest bedroom, downstairs in the finished basement where Dad is staying.

We named it Dad's Resolved Witbier, because this is my first year as a Dad, and I brewed it with my Dad... And Resolved White is a distant relative on my Mom's side. A young boy on the Mayflower, who's Dad actually signed the Mayflower Compact... Let's hope the beer pays a favorable tribute to Dad and Resolve...

Cheers!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A quick note on Pretzel necklaces & the ACBF

We turned a few heads at the fest with our edible jewelry and rugged good looks.



I found Kenn stringing together a couple of pretzel necklaces for us when I picked him up for the ride into Boston. I really wanted to make one myself, but let's face it, I'm lazy. Fortunately Kenn is not. Nor is Dave.

When we were half way there Dave called to let us know that he had made few necklaces as well, so we had enough for everyone. They were a great idea! They set a fun tone for the day right at the start, and we were a bit of a novelty for many of the other fest goers...

While we were not the only ones there that day with pretzel necklaces, I think we pulled it off the best, if I do say so myself...



No twittering this year

This year I decided not to twitter the event, and I didn't even bother with writing any reviews. Nope, this year it was just about relaxing and having fun... Over all we had a blast at the fest, mission accomplished.

Favorite beer of the day: Allagash's Victoria (Experimental Belgian Style Strong Ale w/ Chardonnay grapes / 9.0%)

A great tasting beer with grape, almost wine like, undertones. Might be an excellent beer to share with that wine lover in your life...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is your pretzel necklace ready for the ACBF?

I found a photo of these sweet pretzel/onion ring combo necklace on the web...



I've been talking about those pretzel necklaces I saw last year at the American Craft Beer Fest, and was considering making my own for tomorrows festivities...

My buddy Kenn asked via email this AM, "You making a pretzel necklace this year?" After that, I found my thoughts turning to the concept throughout the day, especially when work got dull...

Dave called this evening and left a message indicating he was considering making his own for tomorrow's ACBF. I think we all have too much free time on our hands. When I called Dave back he asked, "How do you make them? I mean, I got a bag of pretzels, but what's next? How do you avoid the pretzels from collecting like a giant salty pendant?" OK, I paraphrased a little, but that's the gist of it, and it got me thinking...
How do you make a pretzel necklace?

Let's consult the interweb shall we? ehow.com has a quick how-to for making Oktoberfest pretzel necklaces. We aren't heading out to Oktoberfest, but the concept should work for our ACBF purposes too...

The trick is, "Thread the twine through the loops of one of the hard pretzels, going over and under so that the pretzel lays flat. Cut two small pieces of colored ribbon and tie them tightly on either side of the pretzel, securing it to the twine. Repeat with the soft pretzel, then the other hard pretzel" Bottom line, it's all about the ribbon...

Kids, don't try this at home...
"Always be careful while eating and walking, as this action presents a choking hazard."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tips for this years American Craft Beer Fest goers

As I prepare to head to Boston this weekend for this year's American Craft Beer Festival, I've been reviewing my posts from last years adventure to gather some lessons learned and best practices.

I decided to accumulate them here in the hopes that they may help you, a fellow fest goer, enjoy the event this weekend...

Parking for the fest: Bring quarters and fill the meter rather than using a lot if you only plan on hitting one session and leave town shortly after. $3-$4 in the meter to cover your time at the session versus $10 - $12 for the day, that's based on last year's findings. Now if you're going to stick around all day, all bets are off...

Footwear matters: I never thought I'd say this, but footwear matters... Yes, yes, I sound like my wife now, but seriously, sandals are not the best thing to have on your feet if you're going to be standing and walking around all day.

Lots of people, lots of walking, lots of feet...

Rock stars of the beer world: Beer "celebs" are really just normal people. So if you see Garret Oliver or perhaps Anat Baron, just say hi... No biggy...



Last year Garrett Oliver poured me a beer and we chatted very briefly.
A very approachable guy...
What's worse the shirt or my double chin???

Time IS on your side: 4 hours of unlimited 2 ounce beers is really more than enough time, so relax! I had this unnecessary sense of urgency when the event doors opened. But I promise you, there's plenty of time to try the beers you want and then some. In fact, pace yourself... Don't over due it, you want to enjoy the subtle nuances the beer has to offer.

Go easy, take your time, relax like the guy above...

Consider the order of your samples: After 8 samples, it becomes hard to really appreciate the subtle nuances of the beer, especially if you start off with a big hop bomb of a brew and then try something light after...

"Why do all the beers taste like that Double IPA I had earlier? hmmmmm"

Hydrate: Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during and after the session. I always get tired when I get de-hydrated. Last year I didn't hydrate enough and essentially crashed after the session.

Kenn re-hydrates after the fest at the Bell in Hand...

Consider the necklace: Last year some folks had string necklaces adorned with pretzels... Brilliant, salty pretzels at arms reach, without taking up your free hand or your sample hand. I even saw one person with a necklace that included a sample cup holder, freeing up hands for tasting notes, event twittering, and bathroom breaks...

I have no idea who the folks pictured above are,
but I was very impressed by their pretzel necklaces.


How about you? Do you have beer festival tips and tricks? If so, please leave a comment and share your ideas!

Fermentation Friday June 2009

The dudes over at brew-dudes are hosting Fermentation Friday this month and their chosen topic is...


How do you beat the heat of summer time brewing?

For me, the warm weather means brewing out on the back deck, which I think makes the process all the more enjoyable. I'm not a big fan of slaving over a hot stove or hanging out in a dusty garage for hours on end when I have a nice back yard and deck as a more cheery alternative. One of the best gifts I've received in recent years was the turkey cooker my wife got me for brewing beer. I'm really looking forward to brewing outside with my Dad at the end of the month when he visits. Something about a bunch of buddies hanging out around an open fire, even a propane powered one, outdoors enjoying a beverage and some good conversation, should be fun!

Now fermentation temps is a different matter all together. I'm fortunate to have a finished basement that stays relatively cool all year round. At least it stays withing appropriate temps for most ales. We did have a few spells last Summer where it got so hot, some of my brews were in jeopardy, but I haven't had too many issues. Unless you count the now infamous Frankenbeer, which used an ale yeast that still required cooler temps than the others I have previously used.

In that case, I kept the carboy upstairs in my office, with the door shut and the window air conditioning unit running 24/7. The added cost to my electric bill really wasn't worth it, the beer wasn't so great. (Although it did improve considerably with age...)

Over all nice weather trumps using snow banks for wort chilling any day...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Father's Day Approaches

OK, well my plans for brewing a wheat beer in time for the 4th of July were dashed. I just ran out of time. So I have some alternate plans...

Me and Dad pose for a quick shot before entering the Custom Brewcrafters brewery tour in upstate NY, Dec 2007. Good times!

My Dad is coming up to CT from NC to visit the entire week building up to the 4th. My son, who will be just a few weeks shy of 1 year old by then, will spend the whole week with my dear 'ol Dad. Three generations of manliness and such, good times. (My wife will be finishing up her last week of work before she throws in the towel to become a stay at home Mom...)

To celebrate, I think I brew a batch of beer with Dad. On his last visit, I dragged him off to the homebrew supply shop to buy a secondary and the Tap-A-Draft kit... He even pitched in and helped me rack a batch to the new secondary... But this year, it'll be brewing on the back deck...

At the end of the week, we'll all pile into the family truckster and head Northwest to upstate NY where the rest of the family (my brothers and their wives and kids) will be converging for the 4th... I wont have any homebrew to bring with me, but at least Dad and I can brag about our brewing adventures. And perhaps we'll pay another visit to a local brewery...

In the short term, I'm heading out to the American Craft Beer Fest Saturday, last year was fun, fund and more fun...

And then my wife and son are taking me out on Sunday (after church) for a Father's Day meal and pint at John Harvard's... Should be a nice time, really looking forward to it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beersmith downloaded, now what?

OK, I've been talking about downloading a recipe making program for some time now, and tonight I finally did it. I downloaded the trial version of beersmith in the hopes of using it to brew something soon, so it will be done in time for a family reunion of sorts on the 4th of July weekend...

My goal is to brew an extract recipe (with some grains for steeping) that would have wide appeal for the holiday BBQ set. And I need to get going soon if I want it to be ready in time. I'm thinking a wheat beer of sorts...

Here's the problem, I have no idea where to start. Sure the software is pretty straight forward... Pick a style, click on the ingredients and keep it within the style parameters, etc... But I'm looking for a kick start here... Does anyone have a good Witbier or Hefeweizen recipe they'd recommend? Something I can plug into BeerSmith and perhaps tweak a bit? And if so, what are my chances of brewing this upcoming weekend, and having it ready by the 4th?

Anyone??? A little help???

Monday, April 20, 2009

My wife got me a few "Hookers" for my birthday

I gotta get me some equipment like this for the house...

Ok, well the title of this post is a little sensational to say the least... But my wife did humor me and take me to the Thomas Hooker brewery for a tour and tasting for my birthday this weekend. She also took me out for a delicious meal, got me a very chocolaty birthday cake and purchased me this brand new laptop I'm now blogging from to celebrate my 34 years of existing... Thanks Alewife!

As we followed the path to the Hooker brewery, laid out for us by our trusty Garmin GPS , we found ourselves driving past some unsavory neighborhoods... I began to wonder if the Hooker name wasn't just a historical play on words used for a laugh in the brewery's marketing scheme... For the record, I detected no obvious ladies of the night along the way.

Despite the surrounding "hood" the brewery provided a good time for all... All the basic brewery tour staples were on hand. Rows of stainless steel brewing equipment, a small bar with fresh kegs on tap, and a small merry band of beer enthusiast eagerly waiting for some tasty free samples.

They had 4 brews on tap this weekend: Watermelon Ale, Blonde Ale (later to be switched out for something else I can't remember), Irish Red and Hooker's own IPA...

Watermelon Ale: I wasn't crazy about it, but I suppose if we had a BBQ at the house and it was very hot out, a few of these might do the trick and refresh the crowd. My wife liked it, but then mockingly said, "Hmmmm a beer and a wine cooler all in one..." A bit too watermelon candy-ish for my pallet...

Blonde Ale: An OK beer... A little biscuity, bready, doughy... for lack of better words... Buttered corn bread? Not my ideal style, but an easy drinking beer. I like this one, but not something I would seek out...

Irish Red: Toasty malt flavor... Not bad, but I was craving the IPA...

IPA: They had some tap issues, and the availability of the IPA was in doubt for the first 20 minutes. But they overcame the issues and a few IPA samples were had. I really enjoy this beer... Hoppy for sure, but with a nice malty backbone... Good stuff...

The tour itself was brief, but good. Unlike most tours I've been on, this one lets you walk under the vats, through the machinery, almost like you work there...

My wife does her best Laverne & Shirley impression, I'm sure that's never been done before...




Our guide was even kind enough to pull some brews from one of tanks, it doesn't get any fresher than that... We got to sample the Liberator right from the source. Toasted malty goodness!

video

The guys from Hooker were a nice bunch of fellas... They even offered me an opportunity to come back and help out with tours and tastings if I'm interested in the future... I may just take them up on that offer...

The following day, my buddies Dave and Erik help me polish off the last of my American Pale Ale home brew while we sat on the back deck and enjoyed the Spring weather with my little son... All in all the weekend went pretty well...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fermention Friday (March) Round Up

As Rob from Pfiff! pointed out, there is a similarity between this month's Fermentation Friday topic and that of January's ‘brew year’s resolutions’...

"I'm a bit reluctant to admit, I feel like we've been here before... ...But while there's an outward similarity in this month's topic to the recent resolution-themed round of Fermentation Friday, our host for this month's carnival does seem to be searching for a slightly different angle, one pointing towards the notion of spring as rebirth, with a vernal air of optimism rather than the stern, dutifully resolute promises made in the winter." - Rob

I suppose spring really is a second chance to change things, and start anew... An opportunity to keep the annual promises we all make to ourselves... Or perhaps a chance to fine tune those promises and make more realistic goals for ourselves...


When I came up with this topic, I was starting to feel the need for spring, coming off two months of fighting back-to-back colds and coughs and the winter blues along side my wife and our now 8 month old son. The harsh New England winter was not especially kind to us. I gained a few too many pounds, banged my head against too many proverbial walls at work, and lost my steam for some of the more enjoyable things in life, like home brewing. But it's time to emerge from my cave...


When we "sprung forward" and re-set our clocks, it was like a switch was clicked in me... I so desperately needed that spring wake up, to enjoy the longer days. I was looking forward to re-energizing myself in every area of life, including my home brewing...


Rob, you may be on to something... I suppose New Years resolutions could be skipped and spring promises could be made in their stead...


With that said, here's my Fermentation Friday round up...


Andy from Rooftop Brew is embracing the laws of nature this spring, well at least one... He hopes to harness gravity to make his beer more efficiently and to make more time for his child. As a relatively new father myself, I can relate. Talk about spring, inventive thinking, creativity and a child... Good stuff!

dedicating his spring to lighter American, Belgians and Alt-biers and stockpiling the required ingredients like a family of squirrels... All while getting ready for the local BJCP exam. Good luck!

, also from justanotherboozeblog, is wondering what happened to beers connection with religion and spirituality. His goal is to bring a little of that back, along with a healthy does of tongue-in-cheek humor, I assume... B, check out my take on beer and Christianity some time. We don't all think beer is the work of the devil, quite the opposite actually...

Jake over at northerntable.com, now confident in his brewing basics, is focusing on water chemistry and mash PH this spring as he continues to grow as a home brewer.

Travis from CNYbrew.com has the right idea about re-energizing his excitement about home brewing, ditching the snow boots, and enjoying some social evening brewing and beers with his neighbors. A great way to spread the joy of home brewing and take full advantage of those beautiful spring nights.

Mel over at Bathtub Brewery also saw the similarities with January's FF, but in the end I think she really got where I was coming from on this... I think this quote says it all, "I become crazily optimistic and happy-go-lucky...It’s amazing what an effect winter can have on our bodies and attitudes!" Along those lines Mel and Ray will be making some more thirst-quenching brews for enjoying on their balcony in the warm evenings of the season.

Steph over at beerandfoodlove
shares my excitement about the warm weather and the end to those winter blues. She's building on her successes in hop growing she experienced last year and going full speed ahead taking full advantage of the warm weather and brand new back yard! Good luck and keep us posted!

Adam from beer bits 2, the man who started it all in regards to Fermentation Friday, is looking forward to brewing outside, frequent get-togethers in his neighborhood, and his growing hop harvest in his backyard. He's also thinking of taking the plunge, head first, into all grain brewing. Apparently it's all my fault... ;-)

Jason from brewing the perfect beer is a busy man... In between training for a triathlon and brewing a couple special batches of beer for his friends' wedding, he plans on perfecting his APA and my Brown Session Ale recipes and becoming more fiscally sound with his brewing efforts. Bottom line, better beer for less, something I think we can all agree on these days.

Bull over at Man O'War brewery is shipping out soon for some training and then after that for some time over seas I assume. Bull, I take it you're in the military too? Tip of the hat to a fellow member of the service. With all of this excitement on the horizon, Bull will be doing less brewing but more reading and learning. He hopes to strengthen his understanding of the brewing process and to achieve a more sophisticated pallet through reading and of course hands on research... He also plan on building a kegerator, very cool...

GISBREWMASTER over at A World of Brews struggled with this month's Fermentation Friday. He's not much for seasonal concerns, but intends on brewing more under 4% ABV beers for the warmer months, to achieve lighter and more refreshing beers.

Rob from Pfiff, struggled to write his post, not because it seemed like a redundant FF topic, but because spring fever had struck him. None the less, he made us all a little more well read, and decided to give "The Homebrewer's Garden" a read and try his luck and growing his own garden... some day... It was much too nice out to read...

And then there's my own meager contribution to Fermentation Friday: I plan to try out some beer making software and start creating my own recipes, wish me luck!

Did you miss the boat with this month's Fermentation Friday? Just post a link to your post in the comments of this post!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How I will grow as a homebrewer this Spring


I had high hopes of blazing my way through the novice stages of home brewing and already being up to my eyes in all grain brewing, original recipe developing and brewing contest winning. Truth be told, I'm not there yet, nowhere near there yet...

For all intents and purposes, I'm still a beginner. I'm stuck in that stage where I'm just happy if my beers come out half-way decent. While I did buy that cooler in the hopes of building a mash tun, I'm still a recipe kit home brewer, minus one batch that didn't come out so great.

So, now is the time to grow and change, but going all grain is still a little too much for me at the moment. I'll stick to extract and grain steeping for the moment. I need to crawl and walk before I sprint. To that end, I think I'll start by trying out some home brewing software and developing my own recipes. After all, Spring is really all about creating something new...

The ability to say I made my own beer recipe will feel pretty good. And I think the resulting education will teach me quite a bit about beer. It's time I've moved on from kits and really started making MY OWN beer...

So keep tabs on me through out the rest of 2009, and share my recipe developing adventures. What could possibly go wrong?!? I know, I know, "Relax, don't worry, have a home brew..."


Check back tomorrow (Sunday) for the Fermentation Friday round up... If you still haven't posted yet, you still have time!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fermentation Friday: Embrace Your Spring Fever

Spring has sprung, well almost...


I'm proud to be this month's host for Fermentation Friday.

March is an interesting month. It's a time of transition and change from the cold unforgiving temperatures of winter, to the comforts and beauty of Spring. As the seasons change, life seems to be renewed, the wild life awakens from their Winter slumber, flowers bud and things begin to grow, the snow melts and streams start to swell. And home-brewers recapture their back decks and open garage bays, hobbyist embrace that feeling of growth and change and make leaps and bounds in their craft.

Perhaps you're like me and want to make that jump from brew kits and borrowed recipes to brewing up your own original recipes... Maybe you want to plunge head first into all grain brewing... Or maybe you're well past that stage, but you've gotten stagnant and want to try something new, exciting and innovated... Perhaps you want try your luck at so called "extreme brewing" or maybe you want to embrace Spring and start your own hop garden...

So, this month's Fermentation Friday topic is, "How will you grow or change as a homebrewer this Spring? How will you embrace your Spring fever and channel it toward your homebrewing endeavors?"

Post your contributions to this month's Fermentation Friday, and then add a link in the comments of this post on March 27th. Then check back on March 28th for a round up of all the Fermentation Friday posts right here at homebrewbeer.net...

Fermentation Friday was started by Adam over at Beer Bits 2, and it’s a chance for all homebrew bloggers to sound off on a singular theme at a set date - the last Friday of each month (check out Adam’s post explaining the origins).

Monday, February 9, 2009

Frankenbrew - long over due recap

Before I left town for a number of months for work, I brewed what was touted as an "Oktoberfest inspired ale" by one of the folks over at beertools.com. As I stated in a previous post...

After seeking out feedback from the homebrew-blogosphere, I learned that it was closer to an Altbier


Making what I would later refer to as Franken-beer proved to be a bit more trouble than it was worth. I had to keep the fermenting wort close to 65 degrees, and it was pretty hot out at the time, so I had to lock it up in an air conditioned room, and jack my electric bill up. It was the first brew I used a secondary for and the first time I used the Tap-A-Draft kit.

Kenn "breaks the seal" on the Tap-A-Draft...

Most folks don't know that Kenn is in fact a semi-pro hand model.
I wonder if he gets his arm hair snagged on the fancy watch.



I had some errors along the way, including breaking my hydrometer in the wort! No one died from drinking Franken-beer (at least not yet) so I suppose no harm was done. And let's not forget the drama with my bung hole! Bottom line, this brew brought a number of firsts for me and I made a number of mistakes. And finally, the results were mediocre at best...

I had some of my buddies over before I left town to help me put my mediocre brew to work. We "cracked open" one of the Tap-A-Draft bottles and had our way with the Franken-beer. For what ever reason, the beer was mostly flat. I can't blame the recipe for that, I suspect it happened because of my bung/secondary issue. The flavor was OK, but not knock your socks off great. I think the lack of carbonation was the biggest issue overall.

The Tap-A-Beer does improve a flat beer. The CO2 creates head for an otherwise flat brew.



A note to any would-be Tap-A-Draft users... Make sure the tap is closed before locking in the CO2, your camera man may otherwise get a beer shower...



My local homebrew shop guy told me later that if you put the Tap-A-Draft bottle in the fridge with the tap and CO2 hooked up, and let it sit for about a week, the beer would have improved carbonation and would taste a bit better. It's true as I found out more recently.

When Kenn was over a week or so ago to help me with my latest brew and snow wort chilling activities, we cracked open the last of the Franken-Beer. It still wasn't great. But we enjoyed more of Kenn's beers that night, as they were better, so I let the bulk of the bottle sit in the fridge with the CO2 still connected, and it did seem better throughout the week. Better head, better clarity and better over all flavor.

So there you go, a combo Franken-beer wrap up and Tap-A-Draft review of sorts. I definitely like the Tap-A-Draft, and plan to bottle this next batch entirely with the system. Stay tuned for the results.

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