Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brew Day: A Comedy of Errors - Lichtenhainer

I woke up pretty early to get a head start and prep my equipment, including my new mash tun. However, I got caught up in a bunch of stuff and didn't get to it until after breakfast. But, let me tell you how this comedy of errors (or, should I say tragedy) started...

While sitting at my computer (where Beer Tools lives) I started to review my checklist of equipment, ingredients, and procedures. I knew I had all of the ingredients - 11 pounds of milled grain, 1.5 ounces of hop pellets, and 2 vials of WLP001 Cal. Ale yeast. And, by now, I should have had all of the necessary equipment; especially my new Coleman™ "mash tun", that has a 36 quart capacity. I needed the new mash tun since I was going to mash-in two batches for a total of 15 gallons of water for 11 pounds of grain... Wait a minute, what?!? 11 pounds x 1.375 quarts of water/pound = 15 quarts. DAMNIT! 15 quarts, not 15 gallons... GRR

Rachel lauded me for catching the problem, and it's always nice to have an extra cooler, right?

I schlepped all of my clean and sanitized equipment to the garage and set it up so I could jump right in, light up the propane-powered turkey fryer and get to it. Armed with 15-ish quarts of strike water, I started the fire and let it run. Then, I brought up the grain and proceeded to pour it into the empty Igloo™ mash tun. Sigh, Error #2. When my water reached it's proper temperature (mash temp + 11 deg. F), I poured it into the grain-filled cooler. Rachel helped out by stirring the grain while I got a nice exfoliating steam treatment. She also made the classic Shakespearean cauldron comment as the bed of grain began bubbling. If I only knew what toil and trouble I was in for...

After 60 minutes, I went to the tun with an empty kettle to collect my first runnings before the sparge. I opened the valve and this wonderful brown smoky, earthy liquid started draining. Man, it was nice. Standing there, listening to football on the radio, I noticed the flow tapering off. Strange, I thought, as the cooler still had quite a bit of malty water in it. I shook it around, I stirred it, but the flow simply stopped! I fought with this for 10 solid minutes; I wasn't having a stuck mash! But, sure enough, I did. I muttered expletives as I tried to get this to drain. And you know what? With all of my magazines, books, and the trusty Internet, my stupid self decided that it would be better to dump it. So, I muttered some more expletives as I dumped the paltry 1 gallon of wort and remaining water & grain in the field in our back yard. Let this be a lesson to you - pour the hot water into the mash tun first, then add the grain while stirring it. (Now the birds and squirrels have a tasty smoked "oatmeal" to munch on.) At least I can begin the winning pumpkin spice recipe! (I will attempt the smoked beer again, don't you worry!)

...Did I mention I smoked some of my own grain for this beer? Here's a picture of the contraption Pops built for me to use the Weber for smoking. The trick? Soak oak chips or an oak barrel stave for 1~2 hours. Put those on a cool to medium fire and watch the smoke, well, smoke. (Just be careful of hot spots observed through the hole in the upper right of the picture.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lots to cover about Oktoberfest

This year's Oktoberfest was pretty fun, well organized and featured more breweries than those of previous years. DuClaw certainly cleaned up the field taking several bronze, silver, and gold medals for the brewery competition. A big congratulations to Red Brick Station for winning the Governor's Cup for the first time, with "Something Red". (Clipper City won the cup each of the past two years.)

Alas, I did not place in the homebrew competition, but I can say I tried! One thing that ticked me off about the contest was the fact that none of the winners were present to claim their trophies. It was explicitly written on the entry form that the winners had to be there to claim the goods. - As a matter of fact, let me step up on my soapbox for a minute - When the emcee took the mic and broadcast that it was time to announce the results for the homebrew competition, he asked for all of the contestants to step forward toward the stage. I did as the man asked, and found myself standing, alone, in front of the stage. Everyone else was in a line 20 feet behind me. Was I embarrassed? Hell no, I participated! I am proud that I gave it a shot - so are all of my friends and family! And I was certainly proud to stand in front of Volker Stewart, the main man behind Brewer's Art, as he read the results. However, I am very upset that the winners seemingly trivialized this contest. Screw you! If I can make it to a 12:30 Saturday meeting, you can too. I personally fell they should have forfeited and given the trophy to the next person in line. I'm not saying it was me or should have been me, and I am certainly not jealous. I honestly believed I had a fair shot, which is why I entered! Just don't be a jerk and assume that, at the end of the day, you'll get the prize if you aren't there. <sarcasm>A great example of conradery was felt and experienced.</sarcasm> Thank you.

We continued walking around and began the tour of taste. I'm pretty sure we made our first stop at The Wharf Rat. :) I had a strong dark ale, and our friend Erica tried a beer that was brewed with either honey or maple, I can't recall. What I do remember is it was tasty and refreshing!

We moved on to Clipper City, the Balto-MarzHon was fresh and on target! With a mug of Marzen we walked out to the track and watched the "Carry your wife contest". I'll tell you what, it was ridiculous. There were a couple of wicked face plants and I hope the young ladies are feeling better.

After the race was over, we retired for a few minutes for some food. I'll tell you what, as always G.T .Roadsters had some of the greatest sandwiches around! They have a tow-behind smoker that is loaded with wood, ham, beef, and turkey. Man, that was goooooood stuff!

The food was even better when washed down with Brewer's Alley cask-conditioned New Moon ale. Hoppy, smooth, and fresh. Quite possibly one of the best beers I have had in my life. Top 10, at least.

Erica tried the Pumpkin ale from Growler's. I sipped and enjoyed it, but she thought it was a little too spicy.

We walked over to DuClaw for some Misery, a wheat wine (which they were out of). So, we tried the Frambroise - a funky Belgian brewed with raspberries. For the first lambic-style beer, I was very, very impressed.

We continued walking around for a few minutes more and I ended the day with a fine sample of DuClaw's BlackJack Imperial stout.

Aside from my personal rant, the event was overall enjoyable.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest Tomorrow!

Where are you going to be tomorrow? You better be in Timonium! That is where the Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest is going to be!

Judging results for the homebrew competition will be at 12:30 PM sharp! If you can't make it, keep me in your thoughts, as the American IPA I brewed - Right Lane Closed - was one of the contenders!

I'll post the results and the other offerings of the day in the next post.

(By the way, DuClaw is going to be showing Colossus tomorrow, it's offical.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Buffalo Brewpub

We went to The Buffalo Brewpub as a birthday surprise from Rachel to me. It had a very homey feel, you were able to seat yourself and service was prompt. Our waitress asked what we would like to drink and I asked for a sampler of there beer. She told us they did not have a flight of beer; however, she could bring individual samples over and they'd be about $1.75/each (actually $1.00/each). I told her that was fine and she brought back their Buffalo Lager (a Helles), a pale ale, a red ale, Nickel City dark, and oatmeal stout.

On with the show...

I started with the Helles, which had a rather fruity smell and some corn-like taste. I don't know if this was traces of DMS, but I did not like it.

Next, I went with the pale ale. It smelled, looked, and tasted just like caramel and imparted no noticeable hop aroma or taste.

The "brown", I mean red, which was the same color as the pale ale, but had zero flavor. I have no idea what this beer was about. And still don't.

My next stop on this flavor "adventure" was actually the oatmeal stout. Okay, not smooth or velvety, it did have a nice head and decent retention and that's about it. They could have done soooo much more with this beer! Give it some Crystal 120 malt! Some Melanoidin malt!

And we end with the dark. So, this beer and the oatmeal stout shared the same level of color, until held against the light. Both had deep, deep garnet highlights, but the dark was a notch or two lighter. (Why wasn't that damn stout opaque.) When I sniffed it for the first time, I picked up some dark fruit notes - like prunes and dates - that had been heated in a saute pan. However, the taste... the taste... GEEZ , LOUISE! How much roasty, burned funky flavor can you cram in a beer? I don't know, but I can tell you that this beer could probably reign supreme in that category. Icky, icky.

To add insult to injury, they did not include their seasonal offering - an Oktoberfest - in the flight; which is okay as I didn't have room for it anyway.

I will give The Buffalo Brewpub kudos on the guest beer selection - somewhere around 25 taps. I wanted to try the Rohrbach Scotch Ale, a local, but again, had no room.

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but coming from a out-of-towner, I wasn't super impressed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back from Niagara Falls, Canada!

Hey everyone, we got back from Niagara Falls yesterday, and I promise I will write another post describing the beer adventure that Rachel took me on for a birthday surprise!


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Tonight was the big night!

Hey everyone!

I stopped by MDHB tonight and dropped off 3 bottles of Right Lane Closed, my first American IPA. It's for the homebrew contest that is being judged at the Maryland Brewer's Oktoberfest on October 20, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, in Timonium, MD!

So, it is with this that I ask everybody who is able to come down to the Fairgrounds - we've been there the past four years in a row and have always had incredible fun. And cross your fingers that I come home with a. great feedback and b. hopefully a Best of Show!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

What's Next? Why, Pumpkin Spice Ale, of course!

I want to thank everybody who voted this round! I will be headed to Maryland Homebrew to pick up a whole mess of supplies. Hopefully, this brew will be the first to go into my new Cornelius kegging system. (Hint, hint to someone.) I will have a complete write-up on my steps, and how to throw in some wonderful fresh spices and use some fresh pumpkin.

If you have any feedback, ideas or questions, feel free to reach us by clicking the link on the right-side of this page, under the picture. It'll email us and we'll get back to you ASAP.