Holiday Ale Fest 2010

Michelle, my dad and I made a quick visit to the Holiday Ale Festival last night to take in some big winter brews. We were a little later than expected, which was entirely my fault. I had to stop at Steinbarts for some grain and traffic was wretched. We got to the event just after 5pm, usually about when I’d be wrapping up. The crowds were out in full force, and it was a bit of a challenge (as usual) to get yourself up to some of the beers. Luckily, there were several that were well worth the wait.

My favorite pour of the evening was the 2007 Baltic Porter from Cascade Brewing. It was rich, thick, smokey, liquory, and just a smidge tart. Maybe it was the 2-ticket cost, but this was no line for this beer. Cascade Brewing’s Sang Noir was tops again this year as well, though I think my next favorite might have been 10 Barrel’s Pray for Snow. Their Sinister is probably one of my favorite beers of 2009, and this was also deliciously dark, rich and robust.

My least favorite was Widmer’s Black Dynamite. Initially I thought there was mint in it, but have learned otherwise. I feel bad mentioning it since I deeply appreciate that Widmer takes consistent risks on beers at festivals. Some have been bad, but some have been the most memorable beers. Tis’ better to try and fail than to Hell or High Watermelon.

Yeah, so, that’s about it. Loved Lost Glove, Ill Tempered Gnome and that pretty much wraps up my festival for the year.

Hop crop 2010

Ella and I harvested this year’s hop crop from the Centennial plant and I estimate the harvest was at least 5 times what it was last year. This is good news. I can’t find my scale, so I have no idea what the final weight was, but volume-wise, it was about half-a gallon. The cones came right off the plant, with a  short pause to let some of the bugs out, and in to the kettle with about 5 minutes left in the boil. I don’t think the contribution will amount to much, but they’re in there. They’ll be competing agains 11oz of other hops (8 of Cascade, 3 Amarillo).

Ella picking hops

Ella picking hops

The Willamette plant didn’t do anything again. I think it’s coming up next year to make way for a producer.

Hiatus: terminating

I am a little shamed to admit I’ve not brewed since I did a fresh-hop ale back in October of 2009. Thesis work, kids, renovations, sloth, and guilt all got in the way. But tomorrow morning I’ll be brewing a Cascadian Dark Ale, which I’ve not yet “officially” tried. I’ve brewed a few browns and stouts that were a bit too hoppy, but this will actually be to style. Well…. if you can call it a style yet. When trying to find a guideline, I saw several different versions. I suppose I could aim for the top for the range, but I’m going to try incorperate fresh hops from my yard so there’s a bit of unpredictable going in to the brew.

A while back I’d spoken to my man Joe about how to create a successful dark without imparting too much burn flavor, and he recommended either steeping or mashing carafa III. Having since tried O’ Dark:30, I figured he know’s what he’s doing. Sadly, Steinbarts (which was a zoo) only had carafa II, so if the beer fails…

The malt bill will be:

  • 10 lbs domestic 2-row
  • 8 lbs Gambrinus pilsner malt
  • 1 lb Crystal 60
  • 1 lb Crystal 20 (they ran out of 60)
  • 1 lbs German Carafa II
  • 1 lbs domestic chocolate malt

The jury is still out on hops, but I have a 1 lbs brick of Cascades begging to get in on this. It’s a whopping 8.6% alpha, so I really need to be cautious. Plus, I have a yet to be determined amount of fresh Centennial hops which are just lovely, but I doubt it’ll amount to more than an ounce or two, wet.

So, the gear is staged in the garage, ready to go, and I’ll get up and start heating the HLT at 6am tomorrow, hoping to knock off with 10 gallons of wort and no more “dishes” by noon.

Thank you Oregon Craft Beer Month

I love Oregon’s Craft Beer Month, but this year I was a little busy and missed both the North American Organic Brewers Festival and the OBF. I was able to get in on one night of Saraveza’s IPA festival (great), visited Terminal Gravity’s Pub,  and managed to score a few delicious pints around town, but I missed out on so many other events because July was just overbooked. I did my best to drink only Oregon brews during the month of July with a few exceptions.  The exceptions were a few Trumer Pils when in the Wallowas (it was with Carne Asada), Illinois beers when in Chicago, Maharaja IPA at Saraveza, and Walking Man when I stopped by the brewpub on Friday night. Otherwise, I revel in keeping my beer dollars in state.

However, that’s not saying much when the immense variety, high quality, and all around goodness of Oregon brewers. Thanks.

Beer in Chicago

Last week I had the good fortune to visit Chicago for work and was able to venture out and sample some local beers. I arrived late Sunday night and had a Two Brothers Domaine DuPage, a deliciously carmel amber ale with my dinner. But it was late so I settled for that introduction.

The next day after the conference events had worn down, I wandered north to the Goose Island Brewery on Clybourn for dinner. The restaurant/pub/brewery was quite nice, and being alone, I sidled up to the bar. I had to sidle because after 2.5 miles in sandles, blisters were forming. I was rather sweaty (it’s the midwest), so I ordered the 312, a refreshingly light wheat beer that helped bring me back down to a healthy temperature. I ordered the pulled pork and when it arrived 45 minutes later, I’d started a cask IPA. The bartender was sorry about the delay, so he bought my IPA. No complaints at all, with the mellow and satisfying pour or the sandwich. They didn’t have any of the lovely Belgian style beers on tap, and oddly enough, I’m able to get many of them back here.

From here, I walked over to the Map Room, a place I’d heard plenty about back in my BA Beerfly days. I figured a geography & beer geek shouldn’t miss it. The place was raucous, though very comfortable. The walls were papered with old topos, lined with National Geographics, and there was even an Oregon license plate right where I was sitting. Combine that with the stellar rotating fans and the Three Floyd’s, and I was set. I started with an Alpha King, certain that the moniker was hyperbolic. It was surprisingly bitter and I actually took quite a while to nurse it. Next I had the Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, something I’d sampled 5 years prior at a BA event. It was delicious, though not a masterpiece of subtly that I remember it. I was joined by a couple who also enjoyed their hoppy beers, and the combination of an outgoing Swede and a fellow Jay Ryan fan meant for some pleasant company. They recommended a place directly south that he though, at least, was among the best breweries in town. I walked south to Piece, the pizzeria slash brewpub and tried the dark beer though it was closing, and I had to get back. He’d also recommended I try some Metropolitan if I could find some, even in bottle if necessary.

The next evening I had dinner with an old Yakima friend who picked a hipster vegetarian bike restaurant. As luck would have it, they had Metropolitan’s Copper on tap. It was absolutely delicious; Crisp, bright, and just a subtle sweet kiss from a crystal malt. Dinner was good too, and it was probably the best sandwich I had on the trip. I ventured back to Piece for the Cameltoe, which the couple  from the night before had also recommended. It was a full bodied double IPA that was nearly on par with the Dreadnaught from the night before, just as the guy had promised.

The last beer I had was  another Domaine DuPage back at the hotel with my coworker that evening. It had been a full walk back but we weren’t quite ready for bed. So I sipped this lovely and simple beer while we compared notes from the conference.

I’d taken a number of beers back to Chicago as thanks to several other admins and techs that had made my life a little easier this year, but didn’t bother to bring any Illinois beers back. It just didn’t seem worth the extra $20 for checked baggage, especially since I included the durable wrapping with the beers I brought. One bottle isn’t accounted for, and I’m not sure if it fell out of my bag in some conference room, or if house keeping found it. Suffice to say, I didn’t have to deal with it at the airport.

Beer Stimulus Bill

There’s some proposed legislation dubbed the “beer stimulus bill” would give tax breaks to craft breweries. This is a boutique bill, but the economic ramifications are very real to Oregon brewers. Linds pointed me towards a Eugene TV report on the matter that features my buddy Joe raking spent grain out of a mash tun.

Analysis of hop pellet glumpiness

Hop Merchant Indie Hops has a blog posting about a recent pellet evaluation by Chad Kennedy of Laurelwood. It’s more of a press release about how awesome their pellets are, but it’s still an interesting read.

Hopefully all hop processers take note of Chad’s quote:

The gold standard for dry hopping is the whole cone..

In this brewer’s opinion, whole cones are also the gold standard for not being a pain in the ass to clean out of your gear.

Rager formula back online

The Rager IBU calculator was giving  incorrect info, and was failing to adjust the hop utilization based on changes in wort gravity. Thanks to Arpit for catching that. I’ve fixed the variable call and it now shows changes in hop utilization when the gravity is above 1.050.

For the low, low price…

The gregarious and entertaining Jonathan Baker at Monday Night Brewery sent me a note that he’d been contacted by a domain squater to see if he would like to by my old domain. The e-mail made me laugh since the domain has both been dormant and increasing in value since Dotster tried to extort me for it several years ago, and other squatters have tried the same.

from the e-mail:

My name is David Williams, a website developer from Queensland, Australia. I am writing to let you know that I am currently offering the domain name for purchase.

I would be willing to offer you complete ownership of for only $870 USD. This domain could be used for email purposes, to redirect to your current website or even to track specific marketing campaigns. It could also be extremely helpful in building search engine rankings for this specific keyword. This would be a powerful marketing tool while also creating valuable type-in traffic to your existing website.

If you would like to purchase this domain name or have any questions please reply to this message as soon as possible to avoid losing this rare opportunity to a competitor as it will be sold in the next 48 hours.

An escrow service can be used for the transaction to give you complete peace of mind and provide protection for both parties involved.

Thanks for sharing Jonathan. I’d tell you to go for it, but that’s really too much to pay for the domain. I think my next beer might be a DSSIPA: Domain Squatters Suck India Pale Ale.

Yes, it’ll be quite bitter.

Hops Up!

Guess who I found poking up under the leaf mulch?