Friday, November 26, 2010


I saw the first episode of Brewmasters with Sam Calagione on the Discovery channel last week and was very impressed with the show.  I wasn't sure what to expect since I intentionally didn't read any reviews or watch any previews.  I have always been a big fan of Dogfish Head beer, and am about halfway through Sam's book: Brewing Up a Business. If you have some spare time, read this book. Even if you're not into beer,(Then why are you at this site?) it's a great book on entrepreneurship written by someone who doesn't come from the business school norm.

So back to the show. I thought it was fantastic. Not only does Sam do a nice job at explaining basic brewing processes throughout the show, it's funny and you do get a good chance to see the thought processes that go into making great beers. And so far it doesn't seem like they take themselves too seriously. Definitely not beer-snobs by any means.

You really couldn't find a better marketing tool for Dogfish Head than this show. Though it's a pseudo-reality show, I suppose you could also think of it as in infomercial. But not in a bad way. Throughout the entire show the viewer is educated about what it takes to create incredible craft beer. Quality ingredients for sure, but also equal amounts of enthusiasm, creativity, and fun. I think the show will really help build the brand and brand loyalty.

Lastly, considering the show was one big Dogfish Head commercial, I found it a bit ironic and sacrilegious that Blue Moon and Dos Equis ads were very prominent during commercial breaks. Sad that many consumers are going to see those ads and think that Blue Moon is a craft beer.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cabernet Saison Update

I kegged my Cabernet Saison last weekend.  See the previous post about why on earth anyone would use Cabernet grape juice in beer, as well as how I went about doing it.  Though it still needs to finish carbonating and clearing a bit, it tastes awesome.

The Whitelabs Belgian Saison II yeast turned out to give off some very complex flavors.  There are absolute spice tones of clove and maybe a little pepper.  Surprising how a yeast can give off those flavors.  I used no spices in the beer.  The Cabernet grapes left very little actual grape flavor, but I do think gave the beer a bit of extra tartness.

I'm not exactly sure what the alcohol (ABV) ended up at, since I'm not sure if I did the calculation right. The problem is after I add the Cabernet juice to secondary, the gravity of course jumps back up and then continues to ferment for a couple weeks until complete.  So that throws off the calculations.  But I think I figured it out. Maybe a reader can check my work here:

My Original Gravity (OG):   1.058
Final Gravity after Primary Fermentation (Before adding Cabernet juice): 1.012
ABV: 6.0%

After adding Cabernet juice, gravity of beer = 1.018
Final gravity after fermentation with Cabernet juice= 1.011

So to calculate alcohol, I figured I should add the ABV resulting from the added juice to the first OG.
That would mean that the Cabernet juice contributed an extra .91% of ABV.  Added to the ABV from primary fermentation (6.0%) would equal total ABV of 6.91%  Right??  If anyone thinks different.  Please leave a comment.

Also, on a side note, I thought I was being real adventurous here with using the grapes in the beer.  I knew that there was a Sam Adams Longshot winner a couple years ago that did a Grape Pale Ale, and I've had Dogfish Head Midas Touch which I think also has grapes.  But then last week I had Stone Brewing's Vertical Epic 10.10.10.  It is made with Muscat, Sauvingon blanc, and Gewurtztraminer. And now I think I remember seeing a tweet that The Bruery got a shipment of Syrah grapes recently, so I'm assuming there should be a tasty ale with grapes coming from them soon too!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cab Saison

I'm back!! It sure has been a log time since my last post.  A new job and a new baby take up a lot of time.  That's not to say that I haven't brewed, I just haven't been posting anything.  The last few months I have brewed an Imperial Red IPA, and ESB, and fermenting right now is a Pumpkin Brown Porter.  I tasted that after primary fermentation, and it is very tasty so far.  Halloween should be fun!

This weekend I am brewing an experiment.  I have a couple Cabernet grape vines in my backyard that mostly are just for decoration and shade on my patio cover.  But I was able to harvest about 5lbs of grapes before the blue jays and mockingbirds got them all.  Not enough to make any wine, so I was wondering what I could do with the grapes.  My solution is: Cabernet Saison!

I was able to get just about 3/4g of juice from the grapes which I froze until I'm ready to use.  I'm just going to brew a 4 gallon batch using some light DME, wheat DME, and steep some crystal 15, maris otter, and  munich malt.  I'm using White Labs Saison II yeast which is supposed to be a bit more fruity than Saison I.  I figured that would complement the Cabernet grapes.  My plan is to put the Cabernet juice into my secondary and rack the beer onto the juice.  I didn't want to add it to the boil or primary because I want to get the best flavor possible from the juice..

The 500ml yeast starter was started yesterday and it became very active in only about 30 minutes.  It is still going strong today.  So I can't wait to see this yeast in action for the full batch.  Will let you know how it turns out!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!!

This a belated post from my awesome birthday last weekend.  Not only did my supercool and beautiful wife (pictured at right) get me a copy of Beer Wars, (Which I will post a review on later), but she took me to dinner at Haven Gastropub in Old town Orange. 

I had heard alot about Haven, from both food and beer angles, and had been wanting to go there for awhile.  The restaurant is a modern style english pub that pairs gourmet food with top-notch beers.  This isn't your basic fish and chips or bangers and mash.  I won't list the menu here, you can visit the site yourself in the link above to view the menu and see what beers they have on tap.  Suffice it to say, my steak with Mexican chocolate and cayenne pepper demi-glace was cooked perfect and tasted delicious.

But enough about the food, I was of course really there for the beer.  First selection of the night for me was a tulip of Saison Dupont by Brasserie Dupont, a farmhouse brewery in western Belgium.  I haven't had alot of experience with the Saison style, so it is hard for me to compare to very much else.  But I did really enjoy it.  It was blond in color with a nice foamy head and a bit of haze.  Smell was what you would expect a farmhouse to smell like- wet wood, bready, and yeasty.  The other Saisons I have had have been a little spicy if that's the right word, but this was not quite so.  Crisp and tart, but still smooth not overly sour which was good since this was my appetizer beer. All-in-all this is a style I could really get hooked on.

Next I tried the Mikkeller Centennial Single-Hop IPA.  (That's me with the IPA to the left) Mikkeller has had a great idea to do a series of IPA's all brewed the same except in each one they use only a single type of hop so you can really taste the hop.  I'm very surprised  that I didn't much care for it!  It's not that it was a bad beer by any means, in fact overall, this was a solid and well crafted IPA. I think the beauty of the single hop idea is that you can really tell which hop profiles you like and which you don't.  I think for me, the Centennial may be a bit too pungent and bitter for my taste to have as the aroma and flavor in a beer.  I actually use Centennial in my some of my own beers for bittering, but then choose something else for flavor and aroma profiles.  In any event, I hope to get a chance someday to try some of their other single hop IPA's such as the Amarillo, Simcoe, Cascade, and Nugget.  Actually not sure if any of those are still around anywhere.

Finishing off the night was CuvĂ©e Des Jacobins Rouge by Brouwerij Bockor N.V. in Belgium.  It is listed as a Flanders Red Ale.  As you can see from the picture to the right, it's a dark red/mahogany color to it, with not a lot of head.  Smell is a bit of cherry or berry, I'm not sure.  At first taste I thought maybe I tasted fruity cherry or grape, maybe a little vinegar crept in, then BAM! the sour hit me! The more I drank and savored it, the more flavors and levels of sourness appeared.  Don't know if that makes any sense.  This was by far my favorite beer of the night and I hope to have it again sometime.

While I had grandiose plans to try the BrewDog Tokyo* and Cantillion 2007 Kriek, I had to call it a night as we still needed to go to my in-laws' for dessert and I wanted to still be able to stand.  Tokyo* at 18.2% would have floored me for the night. (I'm still a lightweight after all these years).  And I couldn't quite bring myself to fork over $55 for a 25oz bottle of Cantillion since I would just be drinking that myself.  Would rather have that one to share with someone, and my wife wasn't up for that one right then.

So, it was a very Happy Birthday for me. I'm a lucky man.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Hop Guardians

I looked out this morning to see a couple of mourning doves hanging out in my hopyard.  Looks to me like they are protecting the Willamette hops.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Top Cropping Yeast from a Carboy

Sometimes I'm a cheapskate.  I know it's not a huge expense to get a new vial of yeast to brew, but I see no reason not to reuse yeast when possible.  When harvesting yeast from a batch of beer, there's many ways to do it.  You can pitch a new batch of wort on top of the yeast cake from a previous batch.  I've done this a few times and it works real well and you get a good fermentation, but I'm always a bit skeptical of pitching on top of the old trub.  I'm just afraid that all the old junk will give some off flavors. Plus I have read that the best yeast to use if you are going to harvest, is the top yeast in the krauesen.  If you are using a bucket, that yeast is easy to spoon off., but fermenting in a carboy makes it difficult to get at the yeast.

So I rigged up a system to top crop the yeast in a carboy using a racking cane, some tubing, a jar, and an airlock.  It works like a blow-off tube, but doesn't blow off into a sanitizer solution to be discarded.  Instead, you blow off fresh yeast into a sanitized container that is fitted with an airlock so you can keep the yeast.  The idea is to insert the racking cane into the carboy so the bottom is just above the top of the fermenting beer, where the foamy krausen will be.  The cane is connected to tubing that runs down into a sanitized jar fitted with an airlock. So once fermentation starts, the pressure will  push the foam out through the racking cane and down into that collection jar.  I also like to collect a little beer into the jar as well. To do this just push the racking cane down into the carboy further.

 I've also seen people use this method with a 1000ml Erlenmeyer flask fitted with a two port carboy cap.  But like I said above, I'm thrifty.  So for this batch at least, I used what I had on hand.  Here is a photo of fresh new top cropped yeast as it is collected in the sanitized jar:

 After collecting enough yeast,  the racking cane is removed from the carboy and replaced with an airlock.  Then if I'm using the yeast within a few days, I just put some plastic wrap over the top of the jar with a rubber band and put it in the refrigerator. Or for slightly longer storage, I bottle it in a sanitized bottle.

The most I've ever reused yeast is three batches, and haven't had any problems yet.  If I had more sanitary conditions, better temperature control, and better equipment, it would be possible to use it for more batches.  I think for now three or four generations is about all I want to risk before mutations and infections occur.

I upgraded my collection equipment so now it's not quite as hillbilly.  I bought an Erlenmeyer flask and some better carboy caps (5Gallon cap fits on the Erlynmeyer and 6Gallon cap for the Better Bottle).  I also bought a PET racking cane and cut it a bit shorter so the overall height of the setup isn't as high.  Mainly a space and aesthetic issue.  But overall, I think this system is more solid and with the better fittings, should be no leaks in the system.

So after one night my Pumpkin Porter fermentation filled the flask.  I got lucky and was able to switch out the flask with a blow-ff bucket before the flask totally overflowed as well.  Here is a picture of a 1000ml flask filled with fresh bubbly White Labs Burton Ale yeast topcropped from my Pumpkin Porter!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Farmhouse Ale Experiment

A few weeks ago a had the pleasure of drinking a bottle of Lost Abbey's Avant Garde farmhouse ale. I really enjoyed this beer, and noticed quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Thought it would be interesting to see if I could harvest the yeast from the bottle and brew something up with it.The big question, which I still don't know the answer to, is whether Lost Abbey uses the same yeast to bottle with as they use for primary fermentation.  Probably not, but so what.  I tried it anyway.

When I poured the beer, I was careful to not disturb the sediment and left about a half inch of beer in the bottle as well.  Then I put the cork back in and set it in the refrigerator for a few days until I had some time to brew up a starter.  When I finally had time, I got the bottle from the fridge and let it sit out at room temperature for a few hours.  Then I brewed up a small wort using a couple pints of water, about 1 1/2 cups light dry malt extract, some yeast nutrient and a few hop pellets.  Once cooled I poured this into my sterilized bottle and shook it for a few minutes to aerate.  Then I swirled the sediment around in the Lost Abbey bottle, popped the cork out and poured the sediment into my starter bottle. On went the airlock and all was set to see what would happen in the next few hours(hopefully), or days.

Next morning I took a peek out in the garage:  nothing happening.  A few days pass, and no bubbles from the airlock, and no foam in the bottle.  I check the temperature and it's about 64 degrees.  The Lost Abbey website says the yeast for this beer is a house lager strain that they use at ale temperature.  So I figured 64 was probably ok.  A few more days went by and still nothing.  I figured at this point the experiment failed, and went about other things.

A couple more days went by, and as I was fishing a beer out of the garage fridge, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was some white forming in the yeast starter over in the area I ferment my beer.  I thought to myself, "oh great the mold is setting in".  I didn't want to mess with it, so I left it.  Then the next morning I went out to dump the starter and to my surprise I had a fermentation going!  The white stuff I had barely looked at before was actually the first foamy bubbles as the yeast finally started getting active.  I checked the temperature, and it was now about 68 degrees in my little cave/corner in the garage.  So maybe those extra few degrees where what the yeast needed to get a kick start?   Here are a couple photos of the yeast starter:

All looked good, so I decided to go forward with the experiment.  I brewed up a small 3 gallon batch of wort and pitched this yeast starter into it.  This time primary fermentation started up within an hour or two and is now slowing down on its third day.  The krausen looks real good, and the smell coming from the airlock smells like beer.  Maybe there is a little sulfury/banana smell?  Hard to tell.  But since this is supposedly a lager yeast I would expect it to smell quite a bit different from the Cal and American Ale yeast I usually use.

So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this will be drinkable and actually taste good.  I plan to condition it for a month or so then bottle it and maybe taste it after another month in the bottle.  I'll update the post when I try the beer.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Drink With The Wench

I'm real happy to be a featured blogger today on Drink With The Wench.  In case you don't follow her blog or on twitter, you should.  She has a huge knowledge of beer as well as a huge network of friends in the beer world.  And she's funny too!!  Check her out also on Twitter @TheBeerWench

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day

Here is the dessert I made for my wife for Valentine's Day:  Dark Chocolate Pasta with raspberries and fresh whipped cream.  The only thing missing was the Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence which I drank during the Superbowl.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tale of Two IPA's

We had a wonderful basil and pine nut pizza at Oggi's in Mission Viejo tonight. For those that aren't familiar with Oggi's they are a sports oriented pizza/brewpub that have several franchises in California and Arizona.  They have also started to bottle some of their brews under the label Left Coast Brewing. 

I started with one of their standards: Torrey Pines IPA.  It's a 7.6% ABV with five different hops.  This beer almost tastes like it was brewed in the middle of Torrey Pines.  It has a great woodsy/pine taste.  The hops really take all the glory with this beer, you don't taste too much else.  Which isn't bad at all.

Halfway through the pizza the waitress asked if I wanted another beer.  Silly question.  I asked if they had anything special on tap and to my great surprise she said they had Avery Dugana!!  I had heard alot about this beer but have never had it.  The stats are : OG: 1.076  ABV: 8.5%  IBUs: 93.  It's technically a double IPA, and though they say it's a brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale, I found it to be quite balanced and had a bit of sweetness to it.  Hard for me to tell if that sweetness comes from the malt or maybe the huge amounts of hop oils trick your tongue into thinking sweet.  In either case, I really enjoyed this Dugana.

I'm a lightweight, those two beers were enough for me for the night.  Great way to end the week.  Pizza and IPA's with my two girls!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Crockpot IPA BBQ Beef

Just in time for the Superbowl, here is my recipe for some kick-ass BBQ beef sandwiches made in the crockpot.  I used a Lagunitas IPA, but whatever super hopped up IPA you have will do fine.    This BBQ has some heat to it, so you may want to use fewer chiles if you don't want it so spicy.

* 1/4 cup sweet Hungarian paprika
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
* 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus additional for seasoning
* 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 (5 to 6-pound) piece beef brisket, preferably point cut, fat trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes.
For the crockpot:
* 1 Bottle India Pale Ale
* 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomato
* 1 15-ounce cab tomato puree
* 3-6 capfuls of mesquite liquid smoke. (Or to taste)
* 2 ribs celery, minced
* 1 medium onion, minced
* 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, diced
* 1/2 cup cider vinegar
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 1/4 cup yellow mustard
* 5 thick slices bacon, coarsely chopped (about 6 ounces)
* 10 cloves garlic, minced
* 4 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced  (If you don't want it as spicy, use half the amount of chipotles)
* 3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (Alternatively, use some rehydrated new mexico chiles pureed in the blender)
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 tablespoons chili powder
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
* Freshly ground black pepper
For the rub: Mix the paprika, 1 tablespoon each of salt and black pepper, the brown sugar, and the cayenne. Put the brisket cubes into a large bowl and mix in the rub ingredients until meat is completely covered, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day cook the bacon over medium heat in a stockpot until about halfway cooked through.  Drain the bacon grease.  Put the pot back on the heat and turn it up to med-high.  Add the brisket cubes and cook just until brown, enough to sear the meat. Don't cook it all the way through.

Transfer the brisket and bacon to the crockpot and add the rest of the ingredients.  Cook on high for about two hours, then reduce the heat to low.  Cook for another 4-5 hours, checking every hour or so to give it a stir.

Remove the bay leaves and serve the BBQ Beef on buttered french rolls (toasted is better but not required), and pint of the IPA of your choice.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My New Kegerator

Last week I finally put the homemade kegerator together just in time for poker night.  I already had the fridge in the garage from my bachelor days.  I won't go into detail about how to do it step-by-step, but here's a good tutorial by blogger bsbrewing. 

A couple months ago I started kegging with 5 gallon cornelius kegs bought on ebay.  For dispensing, I use a 5lb aluminum CO2 tank with dual regulators.  Up to now I had been using the picnic taps, which worked fine, but they dripped a bit in the fridge after every pour.  So I decided it was about time to step up to some real faucets. 

My setup includes two Perlick stainless forward seal faucets, with 5 1/8 inch stainless shanks.  I really didn't need shanks that long, but figured if I ever use the faucets anywhere else, I'll be set.  Then last week I happened to be up in Northern California, so I picked up a couple Sierra Nevada tap handles. (Pale and Porter) I got the short ones so there is enough clearance for the freezer door and the taps can close all the way.  Here's the photos of my rig:

I have a very understanding wife!!!

What's wrong with this picture?  
One dry line.  I better get brewing!!!
My new Sierra taps, with my labels 
above to know what's really pouring.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pacific Northwest Road Trip

Last week I took a flight from Socal up to Norcal for a road trip starting in Chico to Puget Sound area in order to help my Mom move.  Just our luck, it was in the middle of the worst storm to hit the west coast so far this year.  But despite the bad weather, I was determined to get some visits  to some breweries along the way.

So of course being in Chico I had to start at Sierra Nevada.  My friend Steve and I sat at the bar, and ordered lunch.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, they really have done a great job with the restaurant and taproom, and the food is as awesome as the beer.  Unfortunately, they were out of their Baltic Porter, which I think is about the best Baltic Porter I've ever had.  So instead I started with their new Glissade bock.  This is a real refreshing beer, with alot of subtleties in hop aroma and smooth malt flavor.  They are going to be bottling this beer soon, so look out for it. As we were enjoying our beers and sandwiches Ken Grossman walked by.  Pretty cool, but I didn't want be like a groupie so I didn't ask for an autograph. Next I tried the Juniper Black Ale.  Though overall a good beer, I can't see myself drinking this too often.  I can't remember what the ABV was, but it was maybe around 10%? I might be wrong on that.  Anyway, the juniper was a bit too much for my taste.  Think if you like that particular flavor, you'd like the beer.  Since I had a moving truck to pick up, I kept myself to those two half-pints of beer.  But I did pick up a couple Sierra Nevada tap handles for my new kegerator faucets I just installed.  I'll post more about that later.  Sadly this might be the last time in a long time that I'll get to visit the brewery, since I don't see any other reason I'll ever be in Chico again.

After a day of packing up the moving truck with my Mom's house and alot of old memories, we headed up 5 in the rain and snow for Washington.  The snow and rain takes a toll on you after so many hours, so we stopped in Salem Oregon for the night.  About 12 years back, I had been in Troutdale at McMenamins' Edgefield Hotel/Brewery/Winery.  My sister had her wedding there, and we all had a great time and I remembered what good beer it was.  Now they have expanded quite a bit and have a bunch of brewpubs and hotels, including a brewpub in Salem called Boon's Treasury.  I was excited to get to have their beer again. While waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for dinner I had the Hammerhead ale, which I guess is one of their standards.  It was a nice coppery colored malty ale with cascade hops, and was probably fairly good beer if it wasn't for the dishwatery smell and taste from the glass.  With dinner I had their IPA which unfortunately was very thin and watery, and I could barely even notice the hops.  Overall, I hate to say it was a huge disappointment.

We finally made it up to Washington, unloaded, and moved my Mom into her new place.  We finished quickly enough to leave a day open for hanging around downtown Seattle. I had heard the Elysian Brewery had some good beers, so I dragged my family over to the Elysian Fields brewpub over on 1st Street by the stadium.  We were about the only ones in the place, being that it was early Saturday and there were no games going on, but I'll bet this place really packs 'em in during Seahawks games.

Elysian Fields Brewpub

I've got to say, we had some great beers here.  I started with a Yerba Mate Tripel.  I had never had a beer brewed with tea before so wasn't sure what to expect, but it was awesome.  The tea really complemented the light hop tones very well.  I had a sip of the Saison my sister was drinking - you could really smell the spice on this one. 
Me, Sis, and brother-in-law

My mom ordered the Avatar Jasmine IPA, which while was a pretty good IPA by itself, I'm not sure the jasmine really did much for the beer - I would have preferred it just as a straight IPA.  My last beer was a cask conditioned Immortal IPA. I forget sometimes how great cask beers can be since I don't get them too often.  Without all the heavy carbonation, you really get to experience all the flavors and aromas that sometimes get lost in the fizziness of forced carbonation.
My Mom and I enjoying some IPA and Tripel.
After some awesome beers and appetizers at Elysian, we needed a walk, so we hiked up to Pike Place Market to walk around.  As it was just about lunch time, my sister suggested a Russian bakery called Piroshky Piroshky.  The word Piroshky comes from the word pir which means feast, and these delicacies are truly feasts that you eat with your hands.  If you've never had a piroshky, it is a warm bread filled and topped with sweet, savory, vegetable, or meat fillings.  It was the perfect meal to have in between brewpubs.  I had one with garlic, onion, and cheddar cheese.  It was one of the best things I have eaten in a long, long time.

 The Pike Brewery

Next on the list was The Pike Brewery right in the middle of Pike Marketplace.  I was hesitant at first to go here due to many reviews online that say it's too touristy.  Well, being that I am a tourist I figured why not?  Plus I really wanted to see their three-story brewing setup.

My sampler at Pike Brewery

For tasting I got a sampler of six of their beers:  Pale, Kilt Lifter, Naughty Nellie, Tandem, IPA, XXXX Stout.  These were all real solid traditional beers.  I couldn't really find fault with a single one.  Surprisingly I really liked the smokiness of the Kilt Lifter scotch ale, and I'm usually not a big scotch ale fan.  Also very good was the Stout.  I would definitely recommend stopping here to anyone visiting the marketplace.  Yes, it is touristy, but that's why you're there right?  There was plenty of room to sit and relax and enjoy some really good beer.  I'll go back next time I'm in Seattle for sure.

So that pretty much ended the day and the trip.  All that was left was a ferry ride back to Bainbridge Island.  The cool thing about the ferry is you can get beer on tap.  I relaxed and enjoyed a Red Hook ESB while admiring the Seattle skyline at night.  Cheers!
View of Seattle from Bainbridge Ferry