Friday, December 10, 2010

How to Pour a Gueuze

Armand Debelder of Drie Fonteinen demonstrates how to pour a gueuze in this short video:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hill Farmstead Profile

Here's a great profile of Shaun Hill and Hill Farmstead with some brackground information on Shaun and the history of the brewery. Courtesy of Seven Days:

Shaun Hill peers through a hatch into a large metal tank that resembles the Apollo space capsule. Steam coats his face and shaggy brown hair as he pours green hops pellets from a plastic container into the simmering beer. He steps down from a platform, sets a timer and starts to squeegee water off the brewery’s concrete floor.

Outside, the weather is wet and raw, but inside Hill Farmstead Brewery it feels like a sauna. Hill and his apprentice, 24-year-old Owen Miller, are brewing a batch of autumn saison, a Belgian-style ale that farmworkers would drink at the end of a hard day’s labor. While Hill minds the kettle, Miller rakes the steaming malt, oat and barley mash from the tank where the brewing began earlier that morning.

In this modest garage off a dirt road in rural Greensboro, 31-year-old Hill is using a blend of chemistry and artistry to create some of the most buzzed-about small-batch beer around. That buzz is coming not just from Vermont but from the broader beer world.

Since launching last April, Hill Farmstead Brewery has racked up accolades from beer buffs on websites such as BeerAdvocate, where last week Hill’s Ephraim Imperial IPA was ranked No. 2 on the list of Top Buzz Beers. Even more impressive: Three beers Hill brewed while working as a guest brewer for Nørrebro Bryghus brewery in Denmark won two golds and a silver at the 2010 World Beer Cup in Chicago this past spring.

“I have never seen such demand for beer from such a small producer,” says Jed Davis, co-owner and chef of The Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington, which keeps three or four Hill Farmstead beers on tap. “Shaun is a rising star in the local brewing scene. Shaun Hill and Sean Lawson [of Warren-based Lawson’s Finest Liquids] both have this cult following.”

The cult remains a select one, since both Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead beers are currently only available at a handful of bars and restaurants. Hill sells growlers and bottles in his tiny retail shop at the brewery, but the lion’s share of the 400 gallons he brews each week is kegged for wholesale distribution to Vermont, New York City and Philadelphia. He hopes to break into the Boston market next spring.

Locally, Hill’s beer is on tap at The Farmhouse, Bluebird Tavern in Burlington, Blackback Pub and Flyshop in Waterbury, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, Claire’s Restaurant & Bar in Hardwick, The Parker Pie Company in West Glover, and Willy’s Restaurant in East Burke.

Beer is in Hill’s lineage. In the 1800s, his great-great-grandfather, Aaron Hill, operated a tavern at the bottom of Hill Road. That’s the same road where Hill lives and brews now, in an old clapboard farmhouse with hops growing vine-like up the side, on the 100-acre homestead where his ancestors settled eight generations ago. Their former taproom provided the inspiration for the brewery’s hourglass-style logo, which is branded on Hill Farmstead’s wooden taps and oak barrels and silk-screened on T-shirts for sale in the brewery.

“I came across the sign while visiting my cousin Lewis Hill, who lived up the hill,” recalls Shaun Hill. “I was sitting, drinking tea with Lewis, when I looked up and noticed this great sign that reads “A. Hill Entertainment.” Also on the sign was a carafe and a wine/libation glass. Instantly I knew what the logo should be for the brewery.”

On the day Seven Days visits Hill Farmstead, brewing the saison starts with 600 pounds of barley, oats, hand-toasted Munich malts, and flake rye for color and flavor. That’s mixed with 760 liters of water in an enormous, propane-fired mash tun.

When it’s done, the liquid wort is pumped into a cone-headed kettle, into which Hill dumps five tubs of hops pellets throughout the 75-minute cooking cycle. After that, the liquid moves through a heat exchanger to cool it to a temperature — about 70 degrees — at which yeast can be added without being killed. From there, the brew filters into five large fermenters where yeast joins it and the wort becomes beer.

In every spare second, Hill is cleaning his equipment, dealing with propane delivery drivers, answering the phone and filling growlers for customers.

Beer has kept Hill busy for a while: At the age of 15, he brewed his first batch for a high school science-fair project. He used malt extract, hops, water, a package of dry yeast and some raspberries to demonstrate how fermentation works. The result was a strange brew that was almost undrinkable, Hill recalls. He gave some to his teacher and poured the rest down the drain.

“I was 15,” he says. “I wanted to drink something fruity.”

But the experiment uncorked a passion, and the Vermont native was hooked on home brewing.

At Haverford College, Hill started a home-brewing club with money from the student council and permission to brew using campus stovetops. He used “clone” recipes to imitate his favorite beers but improvised liberally.

“I never brewed a recipe exactly as it said in the book,” Hill says.

After graduation, Hill moved back to Vermont and taught psychology and anthropology at North American Hockey Academy, an all-girls school in Stowe. He stopped in at The Shed Restaurant and Brewery for an after-work beer one day and noticed a job opening for a keg washer. It was his first paying gig at a brewery. Years later, he would be hired as the main brewer at Shed, where he earned a reputation for his talent.

Three years ago, Hill incorporated the business name Grassroots Brewing with plans to open a craft-beer brewery in or around Hardwick. But he couldn’t find the funds. After a stint at Trout River Brewing Company in Lyndonville, where he gained some “production experience,” Hill landed the guest brewer gig at Nørrebro Bryghus.

There he started the brewery’s oak-barrel-aging program and brewed the three beers — an imperial stout, a barley wine and a sour ale — that his Danish boss entered in the 2010 World Beer Cup after Hill moved back to Vermont.

Winning medals for them “was a nice validation,” Hill says. “It’s nice to know I actually know what I’m talking about and what I’m doing.”

The money came through, too. During his time in Denmark, Hill says, he connected with “brewers and beer geeks” who helped provide the $100,000 investment he needed to launch what became Hill Farmstead. Trout River loaned him a kettle, and The Alchemist Pub & Brewery in Waterbury loaned him a mash tun. Hill bought the rest of his gear secondhand.

Hill says his goal is to rebuild the farmstead in “all its glory,” making artisanal beer the way some Vermont dairy farmers make artisanal cheese. He originally planned to grow his own ingredients but says he quickly realized, “I’m not a farmer. I’m farming beer.”

Local sourcing isn’t always an option, either. Hill has had to rebuff local would-be hops growers who wanted to partner with him because, he says, they couldn’t supply the quantity or variety he needs. A sign just inside the brewery’s door warns, “No, we are not interested in your hop-growing project.”

Most of Hill Farmstead’s beers are named for Hill’s ancestors. Edward, an American pale ale named for his grandfather, is his best seller. Abner is a double IPA honoring Hill’s great-grandfather, and Ephraim is a triple IPA named for his great-great-grandfather.

“It’s a good way to reclaim my ancestry and heritage in Greensboro,” Hill says. “All these people are ghosts and wouldn’t be remembered without telling their stories. Someday I’ll be a ghost, and me doing this will be my own ghost story.”

Hill sometimes talks like the philosophy major he was, and he’s also named beers for his favorite thinkers. Fear and Trembling, a Baltic porter, honors the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. It’s made with maple-wood-smoked malts and aged in French oak cabernet and bourbon barrels. Twilight of the Idols, a winter porter brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and cinnamon, is also the title of a book by Friedrich Nietzsche.

Hill uses words to describe beer that some would reserve for wine, such as “elegance,” “roundness” and “softness.” He sniffs his beer before he drinks it, cocking the glass to the side to get a whiff, and says he likes flavors that are “very bright.” He has a limited number of oak barrels — bourbon barrels from Sam Adams Brewery in Boston and wine barrels from California wineries — that he uses to age special brews made with raw honey, microflora or an especially high alcohol content. Hill Farmstead has also produced a series of single-hop IPAs to showcase individual hop flavors lost in typical blended-hop India pale ales.

“He’s definitely an artist and a philosopher,” says Scott Kerner, co-owner of Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, where Hill’s Edward pale ale is the best selling of 24 beers on tap. “He puts all that into his beer. He is so anal about how clean he keeps his equipment and how precise his measurements are. It’s like a guy who spends his entire life editing and reediting a book so that it’s perfect.”

Hill Farmstead is attracting other brewers from far and wide who are eager to observe and talk shop with Hill. On the day we visit, Hill is assisted by Brian Strumke, a self-described “gypsy brewer” from Stillwater Artisanal Ales in Baltimore, who travels from brewery to brewery “spreading the craft-beer gospel,” as a recent National Public Radio profile put it.

Earlier in the day, Mike Lackey of Great Lakes Brewery in Toronto swung by Hill’s remote outpost as part of a four-day New England brewery tour. The visit ended with a beer exchange: Lackey left bottles of Orange Peel Ale and Sweet Pete’s Peach Wheat from Great Lakes, and took home bottles of Hill’s Fear and Trembling.

Chefs and restaurant owners are raving about Hill Farmstead, too. The Farmhouse purchases more beer from Hill than from any other brewery, according to Davis. Earlier this fall, the Burlington restaurant hosted a special beer-and-cheese pairing event with eight of Hill’s beers and cheese from Jasper Hill Farm.

Both Hill Farmstead and Lawson’s are planning expansions, so Davis sees “good things coming down the pipeline for beer lovers in this state.”

Hill’s expansion wouldn’t take him away from Hill Road — there’s still room to grow where his forebears farmed. He’d like to rebuild a barn beside the brewery that burned down years ago in a hay fire.

“If we can rebuild that barn, we could grow to four to six times what we are now,” Hill says. Because, in brewing as in life, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Port High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

Poured into my trusty unlabeled tulip glass. Thanks to Freddie at Beverages4less, Inc. for getting those bottles out to Amyliz4 and me so quickly.

Pours a slightly-hazed bright peach skin color with a two and a half finger head and a good deal of sticky spiderweb lacing on the way down. Head isn't too hick and is quite bubbly. Quarter-inch head remains throughout.

The initial nose after a good swirl brings a bit of dank hops. Coming back for more, I get a bit of light citrus and tropical fruits. Some light papaya, maybe. A bit of orange zest. In the end, fairly faint and I would certainly expect more out of any fresh hop, especially one from Port. Nothing over the top, but some really nice subtle characteristics.

The taste goes in a different direction and the bitterness is quite forward. Some really grassy, herbal fresh hops. Not incredibly bitter, as there's more actual hop flavor and the freshness is definitely noticeable. Throughout and as it warms up, I really get some light grassy notes and a bit of straw. This is from the hops as there's no noticeable malt, but really not bringing the hop onslaught I would hope for given the brewery's description of this as having large amounts of fresh Centennial and Chinook hops.

Feel is a bit light with low--though acceptance--levels of carbonation and a moderate amount of bitterness. It seems that this and the flavor are both improving as the beer warms closer to room temperature. No detectable sweetness, though this is not completely dry. This is certainly a good beer, though it fails to live up to the expectations I have very an excellent fresh-hopped IPA.

Beer Advocate grade: B+ - 3.85

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Epic Beer Tasting - 10.03.2010

Here are a few photos of DC area beer tasting this past Sunday. Participants included Ben (bmanning) and Heather, Matt (drabmuh) and Krissi, and Pete (Azurelimits).

Full lineup includes:

Narke Kaggen! Stormaktsporter (2007)
Cantillon Don Quijote
Southampton Berliner Weisse
Lost Abbey Veritas 003
Drie Fonteinen Gueuze (Vintage Edition) (2006)
Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze (2007)
Captain Lawrence Smoke From The Oak - Wine
Old Inventory Barleywine
Troegs Scratch 33
Rogue Double Chocolate Stout growler
Cantillon Cuvee St.-Gilloise
French Broad Wee Heavy-est
Highland Imperial Black Mocha Stout
Odell Broubon Barrel Stout
HaandBryggeriet Dark Force
Brooklyn Detonation Ale growler
Left Hand / Terrapin Oxymoron IPL
Lost Abbey Deliverance
Deschutes Black Butte XX
Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock (not pictured)
Fullsteam Carolina Common growler (not pictured)

Close ups:

Mad Fox Barrel Project

It's great to see that Mad Fox has got its barrel project going, and that everything is out for the world to see. We were really excited when Mad Fox opened and we got a well-needed source of great local craft beer. Given how good the Wee Heavy is, I am especially excited to taste what eventually comes out of these!

Firestone XIV

Picture with a white board representing what could be the final blend of Firestone's 14th Anniversary Ale. Really excited that this will be making its way to Virginia, and hopefully in larger quantities than the small amount of Firestone XIII that made its way out here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stone Event at Churchkey

DC Beer posts on next Monday's Stone 40-tap event at Churchkey

Monday, September 27, 2010


Visited the original Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Breach this weekend. Really enjoyed the new, experimental version of the 120 Minute IPA and the DFH Ale. Also digged what they did with an old fermentation tank:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Interesting Post on the History of Beer Taxes

Trading Partners

LIFs Sponsored

Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel (Winner: khumbard)


Blind BIF Round 4 - Local Pride (sitarist)
- Shipped to: sholland119
- Received from: ChrisPro

N00B BIF Round 3 (Urbancaver)
- Shipped to: wchollif
- Received from: WhyBeNormal

Barleywine BIF (Hophead101)
- Shipped to: AttitudeBrew
- Received from: AleWatcher

Light Whale 2.0 (Speedway Jim)
- Shipped to: Scalene
- Received from: Mages64

March Madness BIF (flexabull)
- Shipped to: KeefD
- Recived from: None. I hate Ohio State and Kansas more than ever.

Generosity BIF (Urbancaver)
- Shipped to: AgentZero
- Received from: rmalinowski4

N00B BIF Round 4 (Urbancaver)
- Shipped to: BennyXL1
- Received from: HikerCT

Blind BIF Round 5 (nlmartin)
- Shipped to: dougofthefuture
- Received from: dougofthefuture

- Shipped to: mikesgroove/thagr81us
- Received from: psiweaver

Blind BIF Round 6
- Shipped to: Brez07
- Received from: Brez07

Sour, Saison, and Funk (Thorpe429)
- Shipped to: ???
- Received from: ???


aapp (x2)
AgentZero (IP)
ahatcher78 (IP)
azbucfan (IP)
Balloffruit (IP)
BarrytheBear (2, 1 IP)
BeerFMAndy (5, 1 IP)
bmanning (10+ IP)
CantillonKing (RB)
chewy08rx (3)
cosmicevan (2)
daysinthewake (2)
deftim13 (RB)
DosBeerigos (3, 1 IP)
drabmuh (IP)
FutureCowboy (IP)
G311 (3, 1 IP)
goodstrongbeer (IP)
hansgruber (IP)
HawkeyeDaz (2, 1 IP)
Huhzubendah (IP)
imagineiii (3)
Ineedabeerhere (2)
jale (2, 1 IP)
jampics2 (2)
jcb890 (IP)
jdubfl (IP)
jerk44 (IP)
Joecaddie (IP)
JohnCoctosin (RB)
jrallen34 (4, 1 IP)
kingcrowing (2)
ktrillionaire (2)
lem4prez (IP)
Masterski (5, 1 IP)
McGrupp612 (RB)
mday (2, 1 IP)
MikeLuke23 (RB)
mikey711 (2)
mikeyv35 (IP)
overlord (3)
phaleslu (RB)
Popkas (2)
rbald42 (IP)
Rhettroactive (IP)
rpstevens (3, 1 IP)
RyanMcFly1985 (IP)
schmoopsbeer (2)
Sean9689 (4, 1 IP)
SFLpunk (3)
SpeedwayJim (IP)
TurdFurgison (IP)
viggo (IP)
weliospeed (2)
womencantsail (2)
woosterbill (3, 1 IP)
ygtbsm94 (IP)
younger35 (IP)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Link to the Top 100 Retired Beers on BA

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High ABV Beers

Great post from Ryan_Brews on getting a pretty high alcohol level for a recent RIS homebrew.

Founders Brewing -- Nemesis and The Barrel Cellar

This morning, KalamaBrew posted information about Founders Nemesis "2009," which is to be a maple-bourbon-barrel-aged wheatwine, clocking in at 12% alcohol and 70 IBU's. Also, KalamaBrew included an older video, which is a brief tour of the Founders Barrel Room.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Charlie Papazian on Sour Beers

Charlie Papazian discusses sour beers and the various types of acid in beer here (part one) and here (part two).

One interesting point, aside from the discussion of lactic and acetic acid, is that the acidity in many porters come from the roasting of malt, creating that oft-occurring unripe cherry taste in many dark beers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Allagash Curieux

Rob Tod from Allagash on the creation of Curieux (courtesy of Young & Hungry):

Beer Lager Heads
Waste Not, Want Not: The Story of Allagash Curieux
Posted by Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer on Jan. 14, 2010, at 9:27 am

Curieux, which is French for “curious,” is exactly what Allagash Brewing Company founder Rob Tod was when he decided to avoid wasting an extra batch of beer by aging it in bourbon barrels. We had the privilege of hearing him recount the entertaining story behind this fine beer during last year’s Allagash dinner at Granville Moore’s. We thought those of you heading over to The Reef tonight for Firkin Thursday would enjoy the story behind this week’s beer.

This is a beer we totally stumbled on, which is like a lot of the funky beers we come up with. I mean, beers we’ve kind of stumbled on, or mistakes or problems we’ve tasted and been like, “Wow this is kind of good. We should sell it.” This is one of those. The story with this beer…

We had a batch of Tripel, and this is back when we only had a couple tanks and we bottled the Tripel in the big cork-finished bottles. There’s only a couple bottle factories in the world that make this traditional Belgian-style shape bottles. We buy them from a plant in France, and they’ve got to go from France to Belgium to, I don’t know, Newark, New Jersey, and then up to Allagash, but they’ve gotta clear customs and they get held up in customs all the time.

This started around September 11th; everything was getting held up back then. We had a batch of Tripel we wanted to bottle, but we were basically short on bottles because there was a whole containter of bottles that was being held up in customs. We had no idea when it was going to show up, and we needed to bottle this batch of Tripel. We were going to have about 150 gallons of beer that didn’t have a home that we were going to dump.

About two weeks prior to that we had gotten a couple Jim Beam bourbon barrels. We just wanted to mess around with beer in bourbon barrels. People always envision doing a darker beer, not a light beer, for some reason, in the bourbon barrels. But anyway, we don’t like to waste beers. We kind of looked at the tank and looked at the barrels and were like, “We’ll fill the barrels with the Tripel so we don’t waste it, even though it’s probably going to taste like shit after a little while.”

So we filled the barrels with the Tripel, and bunged them real solidly with wooden bungs, which I guess was kind of a mistake. That was on a Wednesday. When I came in on Saturday there was nowhere for the pressure to go in these barrels because the bungs were so solid. I don’t know if they were refermenting or what was going on, but the barrels were almost vibrating with pressure. There was literally beer squirting out the heads of these barrels, and between the staves, and I kind of panicked because I thought one of these barrels would explode. I think they maybe could have because the heads were bulging.

So I ran to grab a screwdriver and a hammer and got down on my knees to start tapping a bung to loosen it to let some pressure out. The bung exploded out of this barrel making a huge pop. The bung went up and hit the ceiling. It went up 14 feet to the top of the warehouse. I got covered with foam, and I took my glasses off and there was this foam cascading down the side of the barrel. We don’t like to waste beer. So when that started happening I was down on my knees and I began slurping the foam that was cascading out of this barrel. I was thinking, “Wow, this stuff is f*&%ing good!”

I immediately called Jason, who is now our brewmaster at Allagash. He’s been there 12 years. I said, “Man, we gotta make this stuff.” That next Monday we ordered 10 wood barrels from Jim Beam and since then we’ve had a great relationship with them. This beer is just our Tripel aged in Jim Beam bourbon barrels. We totally stumbled on this beer.

It only ages in the barrels for about six to eight weeks, and right when the beer hits the barrels, it just sucks the bourbon out of the wood and into the beer. It’s almost like instantly aging the beer for a couple years in this wood because that bourbon that gets sucked into it just has all these wood flavors, so it totally transforms the beer. It gives it a coconut character, almost a dill character, of course a little bit of bourbon, and some kind of roasted charcoal notes.

Photo by Bernt Rostad used under Creative Commons license

Samuel Adams Noble Pils

Beer News discusses Sam Adams' new Spring seasonal, Sam Adams Noble Pils. The article states that the pilsner uses all five noble hop varieties:

This beer is special because of the quality and quantity of the hops in the recipe. Of the 100 plus hop varieties in the world only five are judged “Noble hops”, and this beer uses all five. Four are from Germany and one from the Czech Republic. The German hop varieties in Noble Pils are: Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Tettnang Tettnanger, Spalt Spalter, and Hersbrucker Hersbrucker. The Noble hop variety from Bohemia in the Czech Republic is Saaz.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Belgian Sour Beers

A short synopsis of the Belgian sour styles, courtesy of Young & Hungry:

Big news today for sour beer lovers, as master blender Armand Debelder of Belgium’s 3 Fonteinen brewery announced that he would retire from brewing his deliciously bright, acidic beers and focus on distilling beer into eau de vie. Debelder started this move to liquor production to recoup losses from summer 2009, when an equipment failure spoiled 100,000 bottles, almost one-third of his stock.

Debelder will still be blending his beers (by taste, like wine blends are made); the only difference is that the part of the blend that he used to brew will now be made by another Belgian brewery. If the transition is done well, drinkers shouldn’t notice. However, all this talk of blending probably sounds like nonsense to most ordinary folk, so here’s a quick, abbreviated guide to the sour beer known as geuze. (Oh, it’s also spelled gueuze sometimes. Confusing, right?)

Lambic is beer fermented 100% spontaneously — that is, instead of inoculating it with yeast, the beer is kept in an uncovered vat called a koelschip (think “cool ship”), where yeast critters that exist in the air around us air settle in and make themselves at home. These “wild” yeasts spoil ordinary beer and wine, bringing all kinds of funky and sour flavors that nerds like to describe as “horse blanket.” I’ve never smelled a horse blanket, though, so that’s not very helpful.

Also, to be called “lambic,” a beer must also be made in Belgium’s lambic region, or Patjottenland — it’s region-specific, like champagne and calvados. Pure lambics, that is, a straight lambic that is unblended with anything else, are rarely drank on their own.

Geuze is a blend of lambics, the grand cru of sour beers. By definition, they must contain some “young” lambic (unaged, or barrel-aged for less than a year), some 2-year-aged lambic, and some 3-year-aged lambic. Nothing else. Since the fermentation is 100% spontaneous, batches differ wildly, so in the end everything rests on the palate and personal taste of the blender.

Then there’s all the other beers labeled “lambic” (but not “pure lambic”). These can be any variety of flavored beers that start as a lambic but are blended with other stuff, especially fruit. Some of the popular ones include kriek (cherry) and framboise (raspberry) — and even these vary from syrupy, like Lindemann’s, to complexly tart, like Cantillon.

I’ll stop there, because I see that your eyes are glazing over. You should probably get some rest, or have a beer. But if you’re looking for something shockingly tart, sour, and other worldly, make it a 3 Fonteinen.

Dogfish Head History

Here for the Beer recently posted a video of Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head explaining the roots of the brewery.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview with Three Floyds

Here is an interview with Lincoln Anderson of Three Floyds. We learn that Dark Lord is boiled for three hours. Other highlights include (from Beer News):

What we learned:

The brewery hopes to increase production by 25% to 15,000/barrels a year. Note: That is not enough for widespread expansion though it should help the brewery meet local demand. The only expansion taking place so far is to Kentucky. The brewery sent down Dreadnaught, Robert the Bruce and Black Sun Stout to the Bluegrass state last month.

Alpha King and Gumballhead are tied for the lead in brewery sales.

Three Floyds will add a to-be-named hoppy 22 oz. beer at some point in 2010.

The brewery will be throwing events with Dogfish Head and Stone Brewing for this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago.

Dark Lord Day details will be announced by the end of January. Dark Lord Day will fall on Saturday, April 24th this year.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Details on Sexual Chocolate Day 2010

From Beer Advocate (

Sexual Chocolate Weekend 2010
Friday PreSex

-Tasting to start @ 7pm in the brewery/warehouse
-Tasting will last until 12:00 Midnight
-Please park in the GMAC /Church lots behind Foothills on Holly Ave
-Please limit coolers to small size due to space
-Sampler glasses, rinse water, light hors d'oeurves, and ice provided by Foothills
-Wristbands to control admittance to tasting will be $5.00 which will be split between BA and NC Brewer's Guild
-1 raffle ticket with wristband, additional tickets available for $5.00 per...
-Raffle will begin at 10pm and will include beer and merchandise donated by breweries and package stores
-Due to space concerns, if you plan to eat with a group, please see hostess for dining room seating. If you have a large group, a reservation may be the best plan.
- Big Daddy Love will be playing their blend of bluegrass, jam and funk beginning at 10pm
-If you decide to journey to Harper's Adult Entertainment, you may brownbag growlers until 5am...

Saturday Bottle Sale

-1000 bottles on sale at 11:00am, limit 4, $15
-Cash/Credit Cards checks
-Lineup may begin after 4:00 am (we need some time Friday night's crowd)
-Please keep drinking/sampling/trading discreet and please remove all trash.
-Coffee and biscuits available at 8:00am
-If severe weather is expected, changes to plan will be announced Friday at the tasting
-Please be courteous to your fellow beer lover in cutting, pushing, saving spots in line for late arrivals, etc. In other words, act like adults.
-If you have a large group for lunch, please make a reservation by calling 336.777.3348
-No whining, sniveling, or drama....please!
-Afro wigs/70's attire encouraged!

Look forward to seeeing you all! I'm sure I missed something, I'll try to answer as they come...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Collection of Deschutes Jubelale Tap Handles

Russian River Pliny the Younger & Supplication

Russian River announced last night that Pliny the Younger will be available starting February 5, 2010 at the brewery and will go out to distributors soon after. Supplication will be hitting shelves soon afterward in RR's markets along with the Younger kegs. The full post:

Eleven months out of the year, the answer is NO. But today, the answer is this: on February 5th, Pliny the Younger will be available on tap at our brewpub in Santa Rosa ONLY! Our doors open at 11am, so if you are in town for San Francisco Beer Week, or just feel like visiting us, you can be one of the first to have super fresh Younger right from the source! It will be poured in 10 oz. glasses for $4.50. Growlers are available NEW for $42, and REFILLS for $36 with a maximum of 4 growlers per person. Pliny the Younger is not available in bottles, so the only way to get some to-go is in a growler. And we DO NOT fill other breweries growlers as it is against the law per the State of California’s Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control. You can look it up if you don’t believe me! Here are some brewing specs for you beer enthusiasts, or those just wondering what this special beer is all about:

Style: Triple I.P.A., due to the HUGElarge amounts of malt and hops (way more than Pliny the Elder!)

Alcohol by Volume: 11%

Hops: CTZ, Simcoe, Amarillo, Summit, and Centennial (same hop bill as last year, but slightly more bitter)

Once we release it at the pub, we will begin local distribution to key accounts the week of the 8th in and around the Bay and North Bay areas. Then we will begin shipping to our distributors, beginning with Southern California that same week. It is safe to say you should see it in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and the Philadelphia area by the end of February. Unfortunately, because we are such a small brewery, we ship infrequently to our distributors but will get it to market as soon as possible. Distributor contact information, as well as account listings, are located on our website- go to ”BREWS”, then “Where to Get Our Beer”.

But wait, there’s more! Also on February 5th, we are unveiling Batch #4 Supplication in its NEW adorable 375ml bottle! It will be sold by the bottle for $12 per bottle at our pub, including sales tax and CRV. It still comes in 12-pack cases (if you are thirsty), but are much easier for me to carry with my bad knee! The new Supplication will be shipped to markets in which we distribute along with Pliny the Younger.

And we are celebrating Valentine’s Day a little early at RRBC! Yesterday I had a glass of Rejection and it went down pretty easy! It’s a Belgian-style Black Ale we make every year for V-Day. We will have plenty available through February. So if you find yourself enjoying San Francisco Beer Week, or just feel like hanging out at our pub, you are sure to enjoy a large selection of interesting beers! For more info on SF Beer Week, visit



Christmas Beers

I'm finally getting around to compiling a list of all of the beers Amy & I received for Christmas 2009, as well as some other beer-related things that we each got. From my BA post:

My parents got my wife (Amyliz4) and me the following:

Cantillon Saint Lamnivus 2006
New Belgium La Folie
Fantome Saison
Pannepot Old Fisherman's Ale
Goose Island Juliet
Port Brewing Old Viscosity
St. Bernardus Christmas Ale
Three Floyds Alpha Klaus

x4 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2008
x4 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout 2009
x6 Bell's Expedition Stout 2008

Also, the following beer books:

Randy Mosher's Radical Brewing
Ray Daniels' Designing Great Beers

AND my dad picked up a keg of Bell's Two Hearted this past Monday for us all to enjoy throughout the holiday season!

My brother got my wife and me the following:

x6 Short's Cup A Joe
x6 Short's Mystery Stout
x6 Short's Uber Goober
x6 Short's PB&J
x2 Short's Liberator
x2 Short's Kind Ale
x2 Short's Good Humans
x2 Short's Uncle Steve's

As well as Mark Denny's Froth - The Science of Beer

My wife (Amyliz4) got me the following:

Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale
Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale
Stone 06.06.06 Vertical Epic Ale

Walnut wood tasting tray and six tasting glasses
Troegs tap handle and accompanying labeling stickers
x2 Three Floyds pint glasses

Also, Christina Perozzi & Hallie Beaune's The Naked Pint

What I got for Amy, from her post:

My husband (Thorpe429) got me a ton of great beer!

Ommegang Adoration
x2 The Bruery Partridge in a Pear Tree (one to drink and one to cellar!)
x2 The Bruery 2 Turtle Doves
x4 Russian River Salvation

We got a ton of beer from his parents too, but I'll let him post those later!

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)

Comments on the introduction of Great Lakes Brewing Company beers into Washington, DC, by Greg Engert follow, courtesy of the ChurchKey DC blog. Engert also discusses the history and characteristics of several German lager varieties:

Classic American Craft Beer & Great Lakes Brewing Company

Many beer enthusiasts view American Craft Brewing as a recent—albeit eventful—phenomenon. The work of Fritz Maytag at Anchor Brewing Company in the late 1960s and 1970s, and that of the Grossmans at Sierra Nevada in the early 1980s, certainly edified a new generation of American beer drinkers about the possibilities of authentic brewing traditions and ingredients (and commenced the contemporary Craft Beer Renaissance). But this was not the first time Americans had had such an opportunity, this was not some idea that had finally arrived. American Craft Brewing had finally resurfaced, a sort of materialized revenant—rendered spiritless for nearly a century—bubbled anew.

To be sure, the resuscitated Craft Brewing scene focused on Artisanal Ales (Anchor Steam notwithstanding) rather than the Authentic Lagers brewed by 19th century forebears. This was largely a result of the American Home brewers (like Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada and the Widmer brothers up in Portland) who took their brewing aspirations to the next step; Home brewers had relied primarily on English yeasts and brewing methods for their underground ales due to the relative ease of brewing in this tradition at home. But what had not changed in the hundred some odd years since Craft Brewing last prevailed was the dedication to traditional methods and ingredients, a dedication to quality over quantity, to flavor over the bottom line.

It is well known that German immigrants brought the tradition of craft lager production to the United States in the 19th century, primarily settling in the Midwest. But perhaps just as important is that their traditions of brewing and beer drinking had been—and continued to be—so seamlessly integrated into the cultural lifestyle of these men and women. As temperance movements targeted the evils of drinking in the 19th century, they had trouble vilifying these German people generally, and lager beer specifically. In contrast to the negative effects of strong ale, wine, and spirits, many temperance workers saw beer drinking in a different light. The beer halls of the Midwest were filled with families eating and modestly drinking this lower alcohol beverage. In fact, earlier in the century, as an upstart American Political Party was developing strategies to garner the votes of Americans, they decided to take a relatively relaxed stance toward the consumption of alcohol. The Republican Party, as they had chosen to call themselves, wanted to gain the confidence of America’s ever-bourgeoning immigrant population, a population having trouble deciding upon political allegiance. The Whig party was out, due to their anti-immigrant and temperance movement tactics. The Democrats welcomed immigrants and drinking, but condoned slavery (many immigrants had left Europe primarily for freedom in all of its avatars). The Republicans courted the immigrant vote by working to stop the spread of slavery as America moved westward and by advocating the restrained, social approach to drinking symbolized by the imbibing of craft-brewed German lagers, now brewed stateside.

Ironically, it was this advocacy that led to the demise of craft brewing. The original breweries were small and regional, content to produce beers like they had in the Old World for palates thirsting for the tastes of home. But as railroads blanketed the US, the country got smaller, allowing breweries to expand their shipping reach. Breweries started producing more beer, and began to cut down on production costs; the goal was no longer to produce full-flavored, traditional lagers for a discerning local audience, but to cheaply produce mass quantities of lager for as many people as possible. Macro breweries continued to produce lager, the sort of blessed alcoholic beverage of temperance, but as mere shadows of what they once were.

Nowadays, Craft Brewers tend to opt for sexier styles of beer: higher alcohol and intensely flavored, due to high hopping rates, various flavor additions (chocolate, coffee, fruit), wild yeasts and bacteria, and/or by barrel aging. This is an expected reaction to the watered-down macro lagers that have so dominated US brewing throughout the 20th century, and many of these extreme beers are amazing. But some American Craft Brewers have always sought to return to the roots of Artisanal American Beer, rather than join in the more modern movement toward extremity. Enter Great Lakes Brewing Company, of Cleveland, Ohio.

GLBC has been cobbled together by the traditions of Craft Beer in Ohio. This now Regional Craft Brewery began in 1988 as a brewpub in a building that since 1872 has been occupied by various pubs and restaurants. On one side of the building, faded painted signage from the early days still hawks beers served inside for “Family and Medicinal Purposes” (in keeping with the permissible uses of alcohol of those times). In 1998, when the brewpub expanded for the second time to meet growing demand for their craft lagers and ales, they incorporated some buildings that had once housed the kegging facilities of Schlather Brewing, a Cleveland Brewery dating back to 1878. And when they needed help in formulating their original recipes, they turned to Master Brewer Thaine Johnson (1921-2001), whose 3 decades in brewing had included managing the Christian Schmidt Brewery; Christian Schmidt had been established in 1859 and was Cleveland’s last remaining brewery until its closure in 1987.

Unsurprisingly, Johnson along with brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway (the founders and owners of GLBC) insisted on incorporating the techniques of European immigrant craft brewers into their revivalist beers: they utilize the freshest, most flavorful ingredients and eschew those guarantors of flavor compromise, preservatives, chemicals, and pasteurization. Not only that, but they chose, for their first—and still flagship—brew, an Old World German lager style called Dortmund Export.

Originally called the Heisman (after the famed football star who once lived around the corner from GLBC), this refreshing and clean, yet firm and fuller-bodied lager was an overnight success. Eventually renamed Dortmunder Gold, to further its relation to the authentic craft lager tradition, this beer is all-malt with a subtle bitterness and mildly herbal-spicy aroma American-grown German Hallertauer hops. This style of beer originated in the Westphalian city of Dortmund, and became popular not just in the northwest of Germany, but also in the neighboring regions of what are now the Netherlands and Belgium; thus it was known as Export. This style would have been brought to the US in the 19th century, and GLBC’s version is true to that Export’s classic form. While hoppier than Helles (i.e. Pale) Lagers, it is neither as bitter as a German Pilsener, nor as aromatically hoppy as the Czech variety; while fairly malty, it is dryer than the Helles style. At a relatively moderate strength of 5.6 %, this brew is ever so quaffably sessionable, and yet never boring. The flavors may be subtle, but are enticingly delicious.

The equally subtle and equally impressive Elliot Ness Amber Lager is another brew that hearkens back to the early days of German-American Craft Brewing. Brewed in the Vienna-style, this iteration disregards the current examples of modern American Amber Lagers in search of something more traditional and increasingly difficult to find. Contemporary American examples tend to use some corn or rice adjuncts rather than an all-malt grain, which typically lightens and sweetens the end product. Even those that do employ 100 % malted barely, have begun to use more intensely bitter and pungently aromatic American hops, and often at levels far higher than suits the classic Vienna Lager. These hoppier Ambers are often outstanding, but lack the subtle nuances of the original style. Elliot Ness Amber Lager (named for the most famous patron of the Market Tavern, which occupied the GLBC’s brewpub’s building from 1933-1976) is a true throwback: toasty-bready malt richness predominates, with a gently drying hop finish. Approachable, yet intriguing, this is among the only classic Vienna-style Amber Lagers available year-round in the US.

Beginning the week of January 11, 2010, Great Lakes Brewing Company’s fine lagers (and ales!) will be available in the greater Washington, DC area. All of their craft brews make a welcome addition to the DC beer scene, which seems limitless in its ability to grow and offer the finest examples of artisanal brewing available both at home and abroad. The one question that may come up is why has it take GLBC so long to launch in this market? The answer, unsurprisingly, relates to their bread and butter: classic Craft Lagers.

Because lagers tend to be lower in alcohol by volume and to employ lower amounts the two ingredients relied upon to preserve and extend the shelf-life of beers, (hops and dark malts) special care is needed to ensure the quality of craft lager; both alcohol and hops have an anti-bacterial quality to stave off infection, while darker malts develop anti-oxidant properties key to preventing oxidation. Likewise, lagers tend to have less intense flavor profiles, causing them to show imperfections more glaringly and sooner, once the beer begins to deteriorate. Macro brewers deal with these issues by pasteurizing their beer, which extends shelf life, but deadens the vibrant and fresh flavor possibilities. Due to this, GLBC has insisted that any purveyor who wants to distribute their brews needs to ensure that shipping is done with refrigerated trucks. Once they received this guarantee from a local distributor, they became certain that their brews would remain fresh and taste as the brew master intended upon arrival in the Mid-Atlantic.

And we at ChurchKey are honored to be the first to showcase the myriad fruits of GLBC’s labors. We will pour all five of their wonderful year-round brews on draught Tuesday, January 12 2010. Stop by to taste some contemporary craft lagers—and ales—that can tell us a lot about our past, keep us content in our present, and maintain promise for the future successes of Craft Beer.