Monday, December 14, 2009

Gold Rush Common Takes a Silver Medal!!

Just for kicks, I sent a few bottles of my Gold Rush California Common and Vanilla Pale Ale to the St. Louis Brews Happy Holiday Homebrew Competition.   Their contest is a qualifier for the MCAB XII.
I was pretty happy with my California Common, and the Vanilla Pale was a real longshot, but I always like to get feedback from judges so I can improve my brew.

Out of 11 entries in Category 7 Amber Hybrid Beer, my California Common got a 2nd place!  I'm real happy with this since the guys who got 1st and 3rd, also ended up getting 3rd in the Best of Show round with their smoked beer.

So here is a run-down of how I made my Gold Rush Common:

6lbs Pale Liquid Extract
1lbs. Light Dry Extract
.9lbs Crystal Malt 45L
.45 lbs Munich Malt
Bittering hops:  Northern Brewer
Flavor and Aroma hops: Cascade
Irish Moss for fining at end of boil
White Labs San Francisco Lager #WLP810

Pretty straight forward extract brew.  I steep the grains in about 160F for 30-40 minutes in 3gallons water.  I used straight tap water with no mineral additions.  I rinse the grains with another 1/2 gallon water to rinse of as much sugar as I can.  Then add the extract and bring to a boil.  At hot-break, I add the bittering hops and boil for 60 minutes, adding flavor and aroma hops at various points throughout the boil.

At end of boil, I put my kettle into an ice bath to bring down the temp.  I can get the temp down to about 60 degrees in under a half hour now.  When the temp is down to 60F, I pour into my carboy and then add preboiled and then cooled water to the carboy to get about 5.25 gallons.  Then I shake the carboy around for awhile to aerate (I haven't stepped up to an aeration system yet), then I pitch my yeast, which has been happily started days before in a little over a pint of wort for a starter.  Then I put the carboy in my beer cave in the garage which at that point was about 64-66F and stayed that way for the whole fermentation.  My target original gravity was 1.056 and I ended up at 1.062 so a bit off, but no big deal.

One thing I did a bit different with this batch was the technique of Krausening.  During the brew, I saved about 10% of the wort and bottled that up and put it in the refrigerator. I also saved some of the yeast starter.  After about 7 days I took the saved yeast and wort and brought them up to  temperature the fermentation was at, and mixed the yeast and wort making a new starter.  After three more days when the starter was bubbling away nicely, I pitched this into the already fermented beer.  This is called krausening.  It's how most beers used to be done, and especially with California Common, they would krausen the beer in the casks it was shipped in so it would naturally carbonate in the final serving vessel.  Now, my technique is a bit different as I krausened in the fermenter, not my final keg.  Two reasons for this.  First, this was my first kegged homebrew and I was afraid of naturally carbonating in the keg without using a bleeder valve to maintain right amount of pressure.  Second, I had read that krausening helps to finish off a beer since the new  yeast active yeast cleans up alot of the unwanted junk from the primary fermentation.  After another 9 days, I racked into keg and force carbonated.  Final gravity was 1.018 putting ABV at 5.74%  That's a bit higher than the style allows, but not by much, and my measurements could have been off anyway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Brewing Alchemy"

Had to post his photo of  this awesome painting my mom just finished of the kettles at Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico.  She had the pleasure visiting the brewery with some other artists recently to sketch and paint various areas inside the brewery and grounds.  Check out some of my mom's other work at Sierra Sky Gallery.  Thanks!
UPDATE:  Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada bought the painting!!  Congratulations Mom, and many thanks to Ken.  I'm not sure if the painting will be on display at the brewery or his residence.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Book Review: “The Search for God and Guinness” A Biography of the Beer That Changed The World - by Stephen Mansfield

FCC (Big Brother) Disclaimer: In accordance with new FCC rules regarding bloggers receiving payment or other compensation for reviews, I need to let it be known that I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in return for a review (favorable or not) on my blog.

Now that that's out of the way, here is my review....

Stephen Mansfield  is a best selling author and speaker who deals mainly with issues regarding religion and American culture.  In "The Search For God and Guinness"   Mansfield takes us through several generations of Guinnesses to explain how faith, morals, and sometimes some good luck enabled the Guinness brewery to become one of the most respected, charitable, and successful companies the world has ever seen.

I have visited the Guinness brewery in Dublin twice over the last couple years, and Guinness has always been one of my favorite beers.  And I love history.   These are two reasons I was first interested in the book.  Though as Mansflield details in the book, he did not come at the writing from the perspective of a beer drinker or aficionado.  In fact he talks about how he actually didn't particularly enjoy beer very much growing up.  His interest in writing the book rather was to look at how faith played a role in shaping the values of the man who founded Guinness and subsequently the descendants who would run the brewery in future generations.  He also chronicles how beer has played such an important role in historical and religious occasions since the dawn of civilization as well as the beginning of Christianity itself. (I never knew that St. Patrick had his own personal brewer that travelled with him as he sought converts in Ireland!)

There are many themes of interest throughout this book that intrigued me aside from the historical:  That you serve God by mastering a skill and using that skill to serve and help others.  The idea of studying a sort of moral philosophy to learn about past history to help acquire skills needed for today.  The theme of passing of skills from father to son  is important to help each generation build upon the last. From my own personal standpoint, this helps comfort me in the sense that though my father and grandfather have passed, the things they taught me are still being put to use today.  And so they are still with me .  There are many other lessons in the book that I think will appeal to different readers for different reasons.  Whether you come to this book from a theoligical, historical, or business interest.  Or whether you are just interested in beer, there is something in this book that will captivate you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December 1st Beer Tastings: Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life & Limb and Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

Selma's, my local pizza place here in Rancho Santa Margarita just opened up a new Tap Room. While I liked the sushi place that was there before, I've got to say, Selma's beer list triumphs over a crunchy roll any day.

So tonight my wife, daughter, and I ventured over for some pizza and brew. I was on a mission, since I had seen the beer list online prior to their opening, and was excited to see that they had the Sierra Nevada / Dogfish Head Life & Limb on tap! I've been looking forward to this beer for awhile now and was very surprised to see that Selma's was able to get it. As you can tell from previous posts, I'm a huge fan of both Sierra Nevada and Dogfish. Both are unique brewers that consistently innovate while producing highest quality brews.

Anyway, as for the Life and Limb: It's a strong beer at 10% ABV. Thick, foamy, light brown head. The beer looks and smells like maple/molasses. They actually use maple syrup from Sam's family farm, and birch syrup from Alaska to naturally carbonate the beer. Mouthfeel is very smooth despite the high alcohol content. Almost like eating pancakes on Sunday morning. Hop character is not overly pronounced as far as I could tell - would have expected maybe a little more hops with the Sierra Nevada connection. Overall this was an excellent and well balanced beer. Though I would say I taste perhaps more Dogfish influence than Sierra. It actually reminded me a little of Dogfish's India Brown Ale which is a bit more hoppy but has the similar caramel/molasses taste.

After two pieces of pizza and a pint of the Life & Limb I ordered a pint of Firestone Walker's Union Jack IPA. At 7.5% they say it's an aggressive IPA, and they're right. But this is a bit different than alot of the IPA's out there that are overly bitter with poor malt/hop balance. The hops in this IPA hit you in the nose first, then right on the tip of your tongue. That's from being dry-hopped with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Simcoe. The aroma and flavor of hops here are much more overt than the bittering hops (Warrior, Simcoe). I've got to say that even though I'm a big IPA fan, the initial hop burst seems to overpower the rest of the beer. It does finish fairly clean and I like the freshness of the dryhopping, but really didn't get much malt here. I'll have to revisit this at a later time and give it another try. As for now, the Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale still gets higher marks.

On tap for me right now: I just kegged a California Common, have an Oaked Baltic Porter in Secondary, and will be brewing a Black IPA this coming weekend. Looking forward to the holidays! Sveiks!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts on Beer This week...

Was just thinking what an incredible week for beer this is. The Great American Beer Festival is kicking off, Oktoberfest is in full swing, and tomorrow is the 250th Anniversary of Guinness signing the lease on the St. James Gate Brewery. Sadly I am not at any of those events!!

But that's ok, I bought a couple bottles of Sierra Nevada's Estate Harvest 2009 and am enjoying that this evening while reading and living vicariously through all those at GABF and Oktoberfest who are tweeting and blogging about the fun.

By the way, I highly recommend the Sierra Nevada Estate Harvest. They brew with hops and barley grown on site at the brewery in Chico. This beer actually tastes like it was just harvested. Something about it just tastes so fresh and clean. Makes me excited to hopefully have enough homegrown hops next year to use in my own brew.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dogfish Head Chicha

Dogfish Head Brewery is known for creating ancient beers based on cultural traditions or archeological finds.  They have just announced their newest brew which is Chicha.  Chicha is a South American, mainly Peruvian brew that is mostly made from corn.

Check out Dogfish Head's video about the Chicha - it's very cool.  The thing I find most interesting as a homebrewer is that we get so caught up in things like PH measurements, gravity, color, and other details.  And here we have native Peruvians brewing in their traditional way to make Chicha - they chew the corn in their mouths prior to the boil instead of germination!! It just reminds me that as a homebrewer I need to remember that you can make great beer by experimenting with different techniques and ingredients.

It's too bad the Dogfish Head Chicha is only available at the pub, I would love to be able to try some but don't think I'll be getting out to Delaware any time soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2009 Hop Crop

Well, not really a whole crop of hops.  More like a dozen hop cones on my Nugget Hops.  But I am optimistic for next year!  I planted new rhizomes this year in a couple different places in my yard.  In the spring I planted 2 Cascade, 2 Willamette, and 2 Northern Brewer hops varieties.  Last year I had tried to grow in pots, and that didn't work well at all, so this year I put them in the ground.

Here is a picture of the planter I made for Willamette and Cascade:

Both Willamettes sprouted up within a couple weeks, then only one of the Cascades.  Here is a closeup of the Willamette at about 4 weeks (in April).

Initially the Willamette got to about 6 feet then stalled out.  The Cascade went to about 12 feet and stalled as well.  I'm pretty sure that I over watered due to the heat, and got root rot.  The leaves turned yellow then dried prematurely.  But the Cascade is having a late summer resurgence with new side shoots.  I think one other problem is that the stone I used to outline the planter gets real hot in the sun.  I think it is just baking the hops.  For next year, I may have to switch out the bricks with wood, or widen the planter so the hot bricks aren't right next to the hops.

In the front side yard, I originally planted a couple Northern Brewer hops, but they never sprouted.  I dug them up and they were rotten.  Again, I probably over watered. So I planted a Nugget rhizome in mid May and it really took off.  I decreased the watering schedule a bit and added a drip to it.  It seems to really like the Southern California heat because it is up to about 15 feet now, and I even got some hops cones.  Not bad for the first year.  Here is a picture of the Nugget hop that I have strung up to the top eaves of my house:

And here is a closeup of the hop cones.  They are not real big yet, but have great aroma to them already.  Next year when this hop plant is established I hope to have enough of a yield to actually brew some beer with my own hops.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tweet!! Tweet!!!

Let's see how this works. I have been very hesitant as I have little time as it is to update my blog as often as I would like. But I went ahead and joined Twitter. So please follow me on Twitter, and whenever I update the Blog, I will send out a Tweet. Click on the link at the top of my blog or just go here: and start following my posts. Thanks for your support!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cuidado con el chupacabras!!!

Last night we had an excellent dinner. My all-time favorite mexican restaraunt (and the first mexican food I ever ate when I was a kid back in 1978 or so) opened a new restaurant in my city. They are called Carmelita's and I used to go to their original place in Roseville back in the day. What a coincendence that they open up a new place 500 miles away in my city. The food gods must have been smiling on me.

Anyway, I ordered their Coloradito Burrito which is what I always had when I was a kid. It tasted exactly as I remembered it to be 20 years ago! Burrito Heaven! They slow cook the beef in chiles and onions and tomotaoes. I have never had a burrito that tasted like theirs. Very unique.

So when ordering our food, I was expecting the usual mexican beers to be on the list: Tecate, Corona, Negra Modelo, Bohemia. But there was a new one: Cucapas Chupacabras Pale Ale. It is brewed out of Mexicali, MX. I really wasn't expecting it to be very good, but I'm always up for something new so I gave it a go.

Upon pouring I was surprised to see that for a pale ale, it was actually very dark copper/amber color. Had a good foamy head, though not much aroma. Had some definite hop taste and was actually a bit more malty than I would expect from a pale as well. But overall it was a very good beer that actually tasted a bit like a homebrew rather than commercial brewery. It paired real well with my burrito and salsa roja. Find out more about the brewery here:


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sam Adams Longshot 2009: Vanilla Baltic Porter

I just received my results from the Sam Adams Longshot homebrewing competition. I had entered a Vanilla Baltic Porter which was my own recipe using extract and partial mash. I used whole vanilla beans added during secondary fermentation. Pretty satisfied with the results as my final score was a 37.5. That's right between ratings of "Very Good" and "Excellent".

The funny thing is that I didn't think this beer would fair very well because I thougth I used WAY too much vanilla. It almost tasted like medicine to me. But the two judges said "light vanilla flavor" and "just enough vanilla". One judge said that it just needed a few "tweaks" and that I would have a winner.

One other thing that both judges said was that there was a hint of astringency. This seems to be a recurring theme with my beers. This is proabaly from sparging too hot or too long. Also they said there was just some slight phenolic/estery characteristics. I guess I need to get serious and get a fridge for my fermentation so I can control the temp better.

So overall, another encouraging competition result.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Wife Beers

I found a couple beers finally that my wife likes. Yay!!! The first being New Belgium's 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised she would like this given the chocolaty profile, but she usually isn't into the dark beers at all. The 1554 though dark and malty is actually very drinkable. Not heavy at all.

The second beer we discovered she likes is Sam Adams new Blackberry Witbier. It's a refreshing summer type beer that's a little tart. Very good. Even I can drink this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Been a Long Time...

It has been a long time since I made any posts. Also has been a long time since I brewed any beer. Having a new baby girl sure does take alot of time. And today sadly marks one month after losing my father unexpectedly. My Dad was a big Sierra Nevada Ale fan. His recent favorite being the highly hopped Torpedo Ale. While up in the Chico area for his funeral, we had a last tribute to him and had some beers to toast him at the Sierra Nevada Brewery. Here is a picture of my daughter Lily and I at the hopyard at Sierra Nevada. We miss you dad.