Demon Alcohol (1)

As I rolled up to Steinbarts to gather materials for this beer, that was the song on the tape. I leave it to the reader to enjoy.

This beer has more malt than any other beer I’ve made; twelve pounds in the wort (9 pounds of Pilsner 3 pounds of Golden, all light malt extract), and two pounds Caramel 20 steeping grains. I had to add the malt over the course of the boil, because the water couldn’t dissolve it fast enough!

The boiling hops were Mt. Rainier, and I used one ounce at 60 minutes, and then another half ounce at 30. At 15 minutes left in the boil, I added one ounce of jasmine tea. We’ll see how that shakes things up. Finally, there was a half-teaspoon of Irish Moss, for clarity, added with five minutes left. The directions said to add to the boil at 10 minutes, but it was almost 11:30 and I needed to get to bed.

The trick came when I cooled the wort down and put it into the carboy. I hadn’t cooled it down enough to add the yeast, which had been out and active for nearly five hours by then. I decided to go to bed and hope the wort would cool to the mid 70s and that the yeast would still be viable by morning. Fortunately it was, and after adding two packets of Wyeast 1007 German Ale yeast and waiting for about twelve hours,  the beer has taken off.

I’m thinking I might dry-hop this beer with some Zeus hops. At 13% alpha acid units, that should give it some bite.  I’m thinking about doing this in part to offset the extreme maltiness of this beer. It’s also possible I should leave well enough alone, since I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s not why I brew. I brew to mess with things! We’ll see how it all turns out.

52 Weeks 3: Hopworks Abominable

So here I am, with my sweet new hat and a tasty ‘winter’ ale and a headache. The sun has been a liar today, showing itself all throughout but never providing any warmth. The wind blew and snarled away any pockets of heat that might’ve taken refuge in the city.

Fuck, I hate the cold. I like winter though, so it’s always a strange time for me.

I was the first customer today, and as such got to chat a little about what might be tasty. There was a strong wit from Off The Rail which seemed interesting, but better in the warmer weather. A little high on the citrus, so I avoided it.

The Abominable however is more piney. Almost like pine tar in the nose, but definite pine flavors in the bite. Tasty and something that says; ‘Fortify yourself from the cold!’ 

I’m planning on brewing tonight, a very light beer which I’m hoping to balance with a bit of tea to give it a little more body. Should have a post up on it in a day or so. Experiments are interesting!

They’ve changed the layout at Bailey’s. Currently, I approve. The big table where groups can play cards is still there, but in a more open corner. The more isolated space to the south of the entrance now has low chairs and a small table, which is perfect for small groups who want to have a huddled conversation, furtive plans over beer and dusklight. 

Across the street, a man vacuums at the Tugboat Brewery, preparing it for customers, and in the other direction, the Saucebox remains closed and dark, white blinds cutting me off from its interior. I am glad I am here and not there, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them that they are closed and I would be standing in the cold waiting for a beer. Who does that?

I’m afraid I’m nursing a three-day headache at this point, so this post will have to end. Cheers to all, if I don’t get a post up before Thanksgiving!

Lompoc Lagerfest

Lagers get a bad rap generally; Budweiser, Coors, Natty Light; the list goes on and on. Like almost any style of beer though, there can be quality lagers so long as someone is willing to put in the time and energy to make them. With the hop crisis of last year hitting the brewers of now, one side effect is that a lot of microbreweries are giving lagers a shot, whereas before they just let the big three breweries take the market.

And this is where the Lompoc Lagerfest comes in, which was last Wednesday at Bailey’s.

At this rate, I wonder if Bailey’s will give me some kind of writer-in-residence discount. But I’m dreaming.

There were five beers to try, so Lala and I went for the sampler to taste them all. I’ll talk about them going left to right in the picture.

Heaven’s Helles had a faintly vinegar nose, which seemed really weird for such a light style of beer, but it didn’t translate into the flavors. I think it had an impact on the mouthfeel though, as this beer felt like cider-cheap cider at that-and had a slightly drying effect to it.

The Saazall pilsner had an exceptionally clean front but followed it with a musty finish, like a bog. This was really unfortunate, because that bog flavor lingered far longer than it should have, and wrecked what was otherwise a really awesome beer.

The middle beer was the Oktoberfest, and the middle spot is the apt metaphor for that beer. It’s very smooth, with a very light malt caramel finish. I liked this beer, but promptly forgot it. It didn’t have enough strong qualities for me to recall it one way or another.

Oktobock was the exact opposite of the Oktoberfest; it had the malt body, but with a fresh hop addition that gave this beer a mellow citrus flavor that ran through the whole drink.  The caramel kept things in line, and the fresh hops meant that the hop bitterness was never too pronounced. This was my favorite of the lagers.

The beer with my favorite name, however, was the Saazilla.  I’m pretty sure that you can make almost any name awesome if you just add the suffix ‘zilla’. Let’s try it: President Bushzilla.

Don’t you feel better about his reign already? No? Well perhaps the theory needs some work.

Saazilla was an Imperial Pilsner, based off the  Saazall, and it came with a bigger body. As a result, the beer felt more balanced, and easier to drink. It also almost covered up the bog effect at the end, but not quite. The bog taste kicked in at the very, very end of the drink, marring an otherwise tasty beverage.

After it was over, we both went back for the Oktobock, and it wasn’t even a question. Good stuff. 

Making stout is work

Whew. Stouts might be more forgiving on mistakes, but making them is a bit of a chore.

Imagine straining this out forty times
Imagine straining this out forty times

First, there’s the sheer volume of malts that go into a stout. Those waterlogged grains have to be strained out and hauled off. Of course, this is all being done over boiling liquid, so it’s sweaty work. Not that I mind, but there’s just a lot to be done, you know?

Then there’s the usual cleaning, care taking, and prep before putting yeast. That’s all normal work. I’m just complaining about the weight of the many grains one has to haul off in order to make stout.

Yes, I’ll get over it.

The glory of the payoff seems to be pretty positive so far.  The recipe for this beer is posted thusly:
Steeping Grains @150:
1 lb Oats (toasted @300 for approx 50 minutes)
.75 lbs Chocolate malt
.5 Black barley
.5 Melanoidin
.75 Victory
7 lb LME
2oz Domestic Crystal-60
1oz Domestic Sterling-30
1tsp Irish Moss-5min
(boiled a little hot-178ish)
Reused yeast from Brown ale made previously, pitched @ about 78 degrees
1.10 (approx)

Should be ready to bottle in a month. Will let you know.

52 Weeks #2, Collaborator Doppelweitzen

The lousy pics will begin now.  This is more of what I had in mind when I started this project; me, typing away on my laptop, taking pictures with the lappy-cam, hoping for the best. I’d forgotten my laptop last week, but had my camera, so I made do. 


The first of many
The first of many



Anyway, it’s a too-large image for a too small post. But I missed the bus to work this morning because I’d forgotten the laptop and my camera, so I went back to fetch all of them, just so there would be a proper update for the 4 people who read this. Try to look thankful. 

This beer was made for the Collaborator Project, and before you ask, no I didn’t make it. Still, it’s an interesting beer, with that banana nose but dark malt roasts keeping the usual belgian sweetness from taking over the beer. Far more drinkable than I would have thought, given the name and what that implied about the beer’s style. 

In a glorious moment, the radio at Bailey’s has followed up an Elliott Smith sounding song with Tomahawk’s Sir Yes Sir, and the clash of styles is immensely appealing to me. I also happen to really like Tomahawk, which certainly plays into things. That was followed up by what sounded like a Bad Religion clone, but they can’t all be winners. 

Bailey’s is understandably unpopulated at this time of day. Still, I wonder how I’d be impacted by either more people, or the presence of a second person as I wrote. Who knows? I figure eventually someone will be here; 52 weeks is a long time, but at the same time, they’d have to put up with me essentially liveblogging, and who wants to do that?

Prince’s Sign o’ the Times just came on, and I can’t help but think that there’s a delicious and sad clash between how he’s presented himself for the past, oh, thirty years and his recent comments on homosexuality. It’s one of those sad reminders that people are sometimes a bit more frail and a lot less compassionate than they ought to be. I realize it’s just his opinion, but it’s a narrow, spiteful one, and I don’t have to be part of it.

I think I’m going to go home and play Little Big Planet and be reminded that sweet things that people will interact with are still out there. I’m also finishing this post to an awesome remix of a Bloc Party I can’t recall the name of. The sun is almost gone and I need some dinner. Should be a good night.

 This is what happens when you get five guys and season one of the Venture Bros. in one place. The Wee Beast, Mikkeller, Elysian, and O beers were all memorably tasty, but I was busy laughing at cartoons with comrades and took no notes.  And, when we decide to watch season two…I probably won’t take notes then either.

Brown ale, no alliteration

I am rarely that good at naming a beer; it’s got a style, that’s enough for me. Why people insist on naming brown ales with either rhyming words or alliteration, or both, is frickin’ beyond me. It’s like creativity took a hike when it came to that style.

However; this post isn’t about them, it’s about me and the brown ale I made. Take a look!

Tasty brown ale
Tasty brown ale

Now, it’s a little fizzier than I thought it would be, so the mouthfeel is a bit sparkier than I’d expect on a brown. But it’s light and has a lingering honey taste to it which is wonderful. Part of the taste comes from the temperature it’s being served at; my fridge keeps food cold…and I don’t have a spare beer refrigerator. However, that’s easily solved by just pouring the beer into a glass and letting it warm up a little bit. Warmer, the beer has some chocolate flavors and just a hint of roasted bitterness at the end. I just had this with a banana–what can I tell you, I was hungry–and the roasted flavors of the brown worked very well to offset the sweetness of the fruit.  Good stuff all around.

52 Weeks, #1, Ninkasi Sleigh’r

So, I’ve decided to start a new project, which I’m calling 52 Weeks in a totally original fashion.

Truthfully, the idea was inspired by the movie Smoke. There’s a point where Auggie Wren says (and I’m paraphrasing) “If you stay in one place long enough, the world comes to you.” So I thought; why not go to the same bar on the same day each week for a year, and let the world come to me? These posts will be part stream-of-consciousness, part beer related, and probably have poorly taken pictures from my laptop, but there you have it. 

I decided to go to Bailey’s Taproom for this project, because they’ll always have something interesting to drink, but mostly because I like it there.   

At 4p.m., daylight still exists, but I’m here for the dark alt by Ninkasi. While I don’t know the style, the beer smells very malty; carmels run through everything, with a hint of chocolate at the very end, and the beer delivers on this promise. There’s a slight hit of bitterness after the sweetness drops away, and I’m not sure if that’s because the beer is bitter, or because of an alchemy in my mouth that  brings bitterness to me after I have sweet things. I like this beer a lot, though. 

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this project, because I’ve got some life plans that might make this more challenging. But I like Bailey’s and it ought to give me a good beer to drink, even when I don’t have anything else to talk about. I’m rolling this slick beer under my tongue (it’s the kind of beer that turns your spit brown) trying to appreciate it, relax, and enjoy myself, but I’m thinking too far ahead. Food and drink insist on your presence in order to appreciate it, and I’m having trouble being here, now.

Maybe that’s what’s so nice about patterns: we get to set aside anxiety and appreciate the little things that appear only when we’re calm. Not that most of us do that; we just feel comforted by the familiar. Still, I hope to break that and notice all the little things I can get. After all, I have fifty-two weeks to go, and I have to prevent boredom every way I can.

Successes happen too


Of course, there are times when I get things right. I dry hopped this pale ale, so if there’s any real flaw in it, it’s that  you occasionally get tiny hop leaves stuck in your mouth.

But so what? This beer is crisply carbonated, gently bittered on the back end, and all and all does a fine sweep of the palate so I can have it with pasta or seafood or…well, damn near anything. Want chips and salsa and a beer while you watch football? Covered. Need a thirst quencher after yardwork? Bingo.

I did good with this one.