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.