Archive for the 'Beer Culture' Category

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December's Fermentation Friday

Yeast and I have had a tenuous relationship. It can be a bit of a prima donna, knowing how essential it is to process of brewing, and probably knowing that I spend too much time focusing on the hops. It all started with my first solo batch of beer, with the canned extract that came with a packet of dried yeast. The beer was abysmal due to a wicked bacterial infection, and I started using pitchable yeast exclusively for years. I switched between White Labs and Wyeast, though I had a strong preference for WLP0001.

For me, pitchable yeast was the single most expensive part of my brew day, so a few years ago I started looking for ways to reduce that cost (I know… who’s ever heard of a frugal brewer?). I tried both yeast washing and reusing yeast cakes, both of which were successful but I haven’t stuck with. I have stuck with using yeast starters though, and that continues to be one of the defining parts of my process. I’ve even simplified the process of making a yeast starter to ensure that I pitch a healthy population of yeast.

The last 2 years I’ve switch completely to dry yeasts from Safale and I’ve been very happy with the results. Granted, I’m making a starter with the packets, but the process is cheap, simple, and has proven easier than washing. I haven’t been able to convince my brewing pals to switch yet, each for their own reasons, but I’ve been very happy with all three varieties I’ve tried, and expect to continue using them unless I try some style that requires a different strain.

December's Fermentation Friday Topic

I’m pinch hitting for this month’s Fermentation Friday.

It’s time to start thinking about the new year, and I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on starting a new beer. Specifically, the yeast. There are dozens of ways to inoculate your beer, and I’m sure everyone has some story behind their method. Are you a smack-packer, a pitchable vial user, a dry yeast re-hydrator, or do you let nature take it’s course? Do you make a starter, or do you pitch from the package? Do you cultivate your own strain of yeast that you salvaged from some special bottle smuggled from some distant land? Is there any dogma attached to your methods, or do you go where the wind carries you?

Please share by the last Friday of the month, December 26th. Don’t let November happen to you – post early and post often!

The Science of Brewing

Everyone and their mom (well, my mom) let me know that last week’s Science Friday included a segment on The Science of Brewing. Nothing new or surprising, but yet another wonderful merger of nerd and brewing.

Freaky Fermentation Friday

October’s Fermentation Friday is hosted by Pfiff. The topic is:

It’s time for y’all to whip out your best homebrewing horror stories. Extra points for tales of woe told in true campfire fashion, and head straight to the front of the class for a bonus handful of candy corn if there’s a deliciously ironic twist in the end.

Well, gather ’round because I have one of the most frightening, lurid tales. Deep in the dark basement is where I store my homebrewing equipment, right next to the crawl space. In fact, there are some small holes in the partition between the safe part of the basement, and the dark, dusty, and recently-radon infested crawl space. One night recently, I wandered down in the dark to check on the laundry when I noticed a dulled sheen on my brew kettle nestled beneath the open stairs. Normally it sparkles in its stainless glory. Something was wrong.

I stepped closer, straddling the pile of towels and linens waiting to wash, and was mortified to discover the cause. A layer of dust and dog hair had settled on top of my equipment, all of it. The equipment hadn’t been used for so long that had not only it developed a cake of dust, but it had started growing hair.

Oh torment! Have I been such a neglectful homebrewer that my equipment is evolving in a Lamarkian rate to find a meaningfun existance? I leaned in close to the kettle, whispered in it’s ball-valve “I’ll brew again! Just don’t leave! I’ll stop buying all the Full Sail Doppelbocks at New Seasons!”

Then, I traced a finger over the lid, hoping to soothe it, and was relieved to find that the dust and hair came up on the tip of my finger. This wasn’t permanent at all, just a dusting of neglect, a sin I could redeem myself of.

Hoarding Full Sail Doppelbock

I missed out on Oktoberfest somehow, and its one of the few times of the year I relish in German brewed beers. Normally, I prefer to drink the locally brewed equivalents, of which there are many fine examples. However, this year I would have totally missed the boat had I not stumbled upon Full Sail’s 21st Birthday beer, a delicious doppelbock so good that I feel no lament for missing Optimator on tap at Mt. Angel.

I’ve found myself hoarding the nectar each time I visit New Seasons. 2 Weeks ago I bought the last 3 bottles. This weekend, I bought all but the last 1 bottle, feeling a slight bit of midwestern guilt (You always leave the last cookie on the plate). I felt a little silly, but it has allowed me to enjoy a great doppelbock, while still honoring my NW beers edict. The stuff is so delicious that I’ve forgotten that I missed the Oktoberfest beers, the kraut, cabbage, and curried brats.

Label peelers

You can always tell when your out of state friends have been in town because more than half the empty bottles have had their labels peeled off. To Washingtonians, that bottle is either getting tossed out or possibly to the recycler. To Oregonians, you may as well be throwing nickels in the trash. I can only imagine the pressure that you must feel when living in Michigan.

Ancient Yeast

Something about using really old yeast scares me a little. It excites me too, but mostly scares.


Poll: My best homebrew

I’m not fishing for compliments here, but as part of August’s Fermentation Friday, I have to figure out “What, in the opinion of others, is tFhe best beer you have ever made and why?”


First Taste: OBF 2008

I requested to have Thursday off back in May. Opening day of the Oregon Brewers Festival? What better way to beat the crowds and try the beers I want with no lines?

I met Alan and Kathleen shortly after 2pm, and we sampled a number of beers before the rest of the world reached the end of their working day. I can’t speak for their preferences, but here are the few I tried that I’d recommend to other festival goers.

  • Rock Bottom Congo Queen: another Sorghum beer, but this one takes the delicate flavor of sorghum and uses that flavor void to highlight the yeast and a number of spices. Really quite nice, though maybe not what my celiac grandfather has been looking for.
  • Bridgeport Hop Czar: A robust imperial style IPA. Lots of malt and lots of hop. Would be better in about 3 months.
  • Boundary Bay Crystal Pale Ale: A single hopped beer using crystal hops. This beer is subtle, delicate, and delicious. I love crystal hops though, so the slightly spicy noble hop creates a nice head-to-toe beer. Probably one that non-hop heads would enjoy too.
  • Lagunitas Hop Stoopid: All sorts of good. Great body, great flavors, and great sweet to bitter shotgun of hop flavors. I’ve not had this for a year, but it’s really fantastic.

I’ll be heading back with friends on Saturday too, but I feel like I got a good head start. The atmosphere was nice, the weather great, and I got to meet Jimi Hendrix and the owner of Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. Not the real Jimi, of course, but the real owner of Boundary Bay. I sent a picture of myself with him to a friend in Bellingham to show off.

edit: Jimi and I at OBF.

You never know who you\'ll run in to

You never know who you'll run in to

Revisiting the Trinity

Ella and I spent the long holiday weekend in Nebraska with family for a wedding and my grandparents’ 60th anniversary. As part of my wedding gift, I took my cousin a bottle of Laurelwood’s Tree Hugger Porter; a gift I felt would convey both the appropriate image and flavor of beer out here. I told him to wait until fall to drink it too.

It’s been quite some time since I last had any Macro lagers – “pilsners,” if you will. I may have had a Hamms or two this year, but nothing from the “Trinity” of American beers.  I know it’s now a misnomer to call them the “Trinity” since SABMiller and Molson-Coors are now essentially one, but I find it hard to break the habit.

Over the weekend, I had Budweiser at the rehearsal dinner, Coors Light and Bud Light at a 4th of July party, and Bud Light and Miller Light at the wedding itself. In a non-scientific rating, here’s how I feel about them:

  1. Budweiser
  2. Bud Light -tie- Coors Light
  3. Miller Lite

I was really disappointed to put Coors ahead of Miller, but Miller Lite was just bad. I’m also really displeased with light beer in general. It was such a sad exercise in refreshment. Granted, it was 80F and humid, so any beverage was nice, but there was no flavor and no satisfaction, and definitely no palate satisfying bitterness. I could see drinking Budweiser again since there is some flavor and a smidgen of body, but the other three just don’t seem like beer, and frankly, I hate Coors. At least other Macro lagers get some flavor from adjuncts like corn.

Ella and I were stuck in the Denver airport for roughly 5 hours yesterday so I had a Mojo IPA with dinner. It was glorious. While I was gone, Curtis dropped by for a beer trade, so I’ve got a few nice east coast brews coming my way as well.

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