Adventures in Denver, part 1

I recently went to Denver for a conference. The conference info billed Denver as the Napa Valley of beers, and as a person who lives in Portland, I felt that it was probably worth doing my due diligence to see if any of it was founded. The short answer is yes. The longer answer follows. However, before I start, I want to pose a question of Colorado brewers. People went out of their way to warn me about the affect of altitude on the body’s ability to process alcohol, and that I should drink more water than usual. Yet beers in Colorado seem to have a higher average gravity than what I’m used to. The bartender at FreshCraft even referred to several 5%-6% ABV beers as “session beers.” Maybe it’s not the altitude, Colorado…

I arrived in Denver on a Sunday afternoon, and after a bizarre encounter on public transit, checked in to the hotel. I had some time to kill before the conference kicked off, so I wandered around LoDo, or Lower Downtown. I accidentally came across Freshcraft, so I stopped in. It was rather quiet, being a Sunday evening, so I scanned the chalkboards for Colorado beers and set on a pint of Bristol’s Compass IPA (on Nitro). It was bright, delicious, and dangerously smooth. An early indication that these folks know what they’re doing with beer. Next I had a half-pint of Odell’s St. Lupalin, billed as an XPA on the board. It was fresh, fine, though not what I’d expected from a beer with this name. Last I had a half-pint of Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout (also on nitro). It was fantastic and went eerily well with the Bruschetta.

A shorty of Avery Milk Stout @ Freshcraft

Out of pure awesome luck, the conference kick-off was at the Wynkoop Brewery. After checking out the raging South Platte river and Confluence Park, I headed over to Wynkoop. My first beer was their Schwarzbier, a lovely black lager. It was a great beer to have after walking some distance, and as a compliment to the dinner. Then, after ogling the various oak casks aging in the basement, I tried the London Calling IPA on cask. It was very authentic and reminded me why I love cask ales. One of the activities that the conference arranged was a “meet the brewer” event where two brewers were on hand for questions and samples. I chatted with Josh for over 45 minutes and got to sample their chili beer (very nice – bite in the right place) and a sip of the pilsner (it kind of tasted like pepper, which was my fault). Josh was an almanac of beer and brewing knowledge and shared some recommendations on where to visit in the area. I’m pretty sure my coworker Rebecca was bored silly by us, but I was getting a lot of great info – both on their process, and on some behind the scenes info on the various breweries in the area. Sadly, I had neither the time nor inclination to leave Denver proper to see some of the neighboring beer clusters.

That wraps it up for Sunday. What a great start.

Old World Ales, no lagers

On a recent trip to Whidbey Island with the Dunlaps, we stumbled upon Olde World Ales & Lagers – but only just barely. Michelle noticed the sign pointing us back an alleyway to the brewery otherwise we might have walked right past. We joked that maybe it was just a trap set for us, but sure enough, the front roll-up door was open and people were sipping beer. They don’t have any food, but were happy to let us bring some from elsewhere. We grabbed some mixed items from the nearby market and sat in the sun on an old cable spool and sampled the beers. The wit was perfect for the occasion – sitting in the sun and enjoying lunch. The IPA was true to the brewery’s name – a more subdued English-style ale with a solid bitter and nice hoppiness. The porter was, despite being a warm, sunny day, perfect for the ocassion as well. It had a lighter body (and thankfully a lower gravity) and still covered all the dark malt and chocolate notes.

After eating, Scott and I chatted with the brewer/owner who had been pouring. He’s put together a nice micro-brewery and even has a nano-brewery test setup made from an older keg. Sadly there were no lagers to be had due to some problems with the lagering system, so I’m afraid we’ll have to go back later.

As an fyi, they do fill growlers, and their beers are worth taking with you.

BrewCycle ride at NAOBF

Michelle and I took a spin on the BrewCycle at the North American Organic Brewers Festival this afternoon. It was fun, it was exciting, and it was great to see what the enterprising couple was doing with the venture. Fun stuff, and despite the bumpy lawn, I was still able to enjoy a sip of my YerbaMate IPA.

Dangerous math

So I was thinking…
Cost savings of a batch over commercial beer:
Average 8.5 drinkable gallons = 1088 ounces = 90 12oz bottles = 15 six packs.
15 six packs @ $7 = $105
Raw materials for 8.5 gallon batch: $35
My time spent brewing = $0
Savings: $70 per batch.

14 gallon stainless conical fementer: ~ $700-900
$700/ $70 = 10 batches
$900/ $70 = ~13 batches
or
$700/ $5 pints at a pub = 140 “ones”

Yeah – I know. It’s a hobby. It doesn’t need to go to 11.

Jasmine IPA kegged

The Jasmine IPA brewing hit a snag while racking the chilled wort to the carboys. The hop/jasmine cruft clogged up the outlet and I ended up using a funnel and screen and just pouring the remainder in to the second keg. Somehow, I ended up with only around 3 gallons in the second carboy (low starting volume, evaporation, and saturated hop/jasmine slop).

I broke my graduated cylinder just as I was getting ready to take gravity readings, but I’m not too upset. At least it wasn’t the hydrometer, and at least the cylinder has lasted for a decade. So I ended up using catching the siphon draw with a cup then pouring it in to the hydrometer case. The final gravity was at 1.012 – a nice place to be.

Anyway, the first carboy resulted in a beer with a really nice floral aroma and great taste. I hope the jasmine component makes it through to the final product. I opted not to dry-jasmine the keg since the jasmine flowers don’t have the same antiseptic property of the hops. After talking with Gabe, I briefly considered soaking some of the jasmine in everclear to sanitize, but opted to instead just let see what the beer did on its own.

The smaller batch got a lot more hop flavor and is also very good in it’s own right. I dry hopped the keg with some Amarillo pellets (Have I mentioned that I hate pellets?) and expect it to be quite a different beer than the “good” batch. We’ll see in what turns up in a few days.

King of beers?

"Is this the king of beers?"
Ella saw this sitting on the back steps (in the recycle pile), picked it up and asked me “Is this the king of beers?”

I said “Trademark aside, yes. Pretty much.”

Hopworks Bike Bar

We got word from my sister that Hopworks’ new Bike Bar on Williams was “open.” After a long weekend of yard and playhouse work, we were definitely happy to go have a brew and have someone make us dinner. Sure enough, the place was open and we walked in and got a seat. The place is lovely and has some nice bike decor that differ slightly from the original. The most noticeable – to me anyway – was that the bikes above the bar were all new. And awesome. I ran in to Dave from BS Brewing who said that they were there so that you could learn more about the different manufacturers. I’m most curious about the lovely bamboo framed bike that is closest to the front.

I’m glad they opened the place in NoPo. Driving to SE was an ordeal, and you’d often drive for 30+ minutes only to wait for another 30+. The good news is that even on a pre-flight opening, the food and beer was great. The service was nearly there and will improve. We’ll be seeing more of the place, I’m sure. Especially since they have toys.

Jasmine IPA

Today I’m brewing a Jasmine IPA loosely based on Elysian’s Avatar. Avatar (the name greatly pre-date the movie hype) is one of my wife’s favorite beers, so I thought I’d give it a try. I picked up some jasmine via the web from a local reseller on Etsy. The bag arrived yesterday. I’m not entirely convinced by the experiment, and since this is a double batch (10 gallons), I’ll probably only do 5 gallons as the jasmine brew and the other as a dry hopped IPA using Simcoe hops. Here’s the base recipe. We’ll see if I go through with the split or just decide to do 10 gallons of Jasmine.

Malt

  • 17 lbs domestic 2-Row
  • 5 lbs Weyermann Pilsner
  • 1 lb domestic Munich
  • 1 lb Crystal 40L

Hops

  • 2 oz Simcoe @ 60 min
  • 2 oz Simcoe @ 10 min
  • 1 oz Simcoe @ 2 min
  • 1 oz Simcoe @ dryhop for 1/2 of the batch

Adjunct

  • 2 oz dried Jasmine @ 10 min
  • 2 oz @ flameout
  • 1-2 oz dryhop (is that a verb?)
  • Safale S-05 American Ale yeast x 2

Maredsous to celebrate

I successfully defended my masters thesis yesterday. My celebration beer was a small bottle of Maredsous. It tasted all kinds of good. I hope this means that more of my weekends will be free to brew again. I’ve got a Jasmine IPA recipe ready to go.

Dang, he made it.

I’m impressed that not only did J Wilson make his lent commitment to subsist on doppelbock, he did some interesting and thoughful writing along the way. This is not one of the thoughtful posts, but it’s entertaining none the less.