The Local: Sewickleys

sewickleysI’ll admit it; I do not belong at Sewickley’s.

The last time I was in here it was for breakfast and as a breakfast joint, it’s a different animal. The time before that however, was over ten years ago and I got the heebies and promptly left. Alcohol was definitely involved and instead of trying to endure a space where I felt I was going to feel threatened the whole time, I took off.

I get a very different vibe a decade later on a Monday. The space is the same; my beer choices on tap are Pabst and Sierra Nevada Pale.

I’m sure you can figure out what I ordered.

The bartender has a friendly/sardonic blend, not unlike a bloody mary and she calls me ‘hon’, insisting that this bar is great Mon-Wed and really only gets rowdy on the weekends. She threatens divorce and a restraining order against one of the regulars whom she has nothing against and then goes out for a smoke. There’s a quiet, insistent holler from one of the two older guys “Open bar!” but nobody makes a move. When she comes back, she sets a drink alight to make a Spanish Coffee and holds the blue flame so casually you’d think she was Merlin, bored with the grunt level magic.

I can’t say that the bar is a welcoming space for me-but who said that the bar is supposed to be for me? There is a crowd of regulars and they’ve got that long-term rapport established by loneliness and alcohol. Hell, it’s illusionary enough that the guys who called for open bar are now shooting spitballs out of thin red bar straws and singing along what what sounds like Stevie Ray Vaughn on the PA.

Mine is not to judge. The camaraderie here is its own animal and it would take me at least a month just to be accepted amongst this group. If they want Xmas decorations that¬†metallically sing ‘White Christmas’ and make less than witty jokes, who the hell am I to tell them that their bar isn’t cool? This bar works for them and in a way I know I could fit in here easily if I put in the effort.

People need places where they can just hang out and while some might feel high and mighty making judgments and insisting that they are better than this place, the regulars drinking here are making Cheers jokes, drinking without being harassed by idiots and singing Rolling Stones songs you never heard of before. That isn’t to say I approve of the douchy behavior of some of the fools, even though their misogynist comments are reigned in by a whippersnapper barkeep, just that I get that there is a culture here I do not understand and would be unwise to wash my hands completely of.

Earl Gray Brown (again)

earl gray brown aleI have, once again made an Earl Gray Brown. The results are rather tasty. The nose has a chocolate and nut aroma, like a not quite as sweet version of Nutella. Having moment like that is always promising.

The beer itself tastes like a sweeter version of a brown ale. I’m just not familiar enough with Earl Gray tea to accurately say where it kicks in and I’m pretty certain I could’ve amped the tea mixture up even further. There is an orange flavor though, almost like what you’d get from one of those chocolate oranges. Good stuff.

Next time I’m just using the whole damn box of tea though. Overall, this is a pretty drinkable beer and at 5.2% it falls comfortably in the brown ale style pretty well. Good stuff.

Building a Winter Warmer #2

First, a link back to the original post for reference and so people can see the recipe if they so desire.

hops boilingFrom where I left off, it’s time to add the hops in. At the beginning of the boil, it’s one ounce of Centennial hops, then with twenty minutes left I added in another half ounce of Centennial. These are pretty bitter hops but I’m trying to keep their influence to a minimum. With only 20 minutes left to go, the half ounce should do more for the aromas of the beer than the flavors.

With only ten minutes left in the boil I added in the spices. I upped the spices for this batch because when I made the Later Winter Warmer, the spices weren’t too prominent. I’d like to be able to taste the flavors I’m putting in the beer, otherwise what’s the point?

Once sixty minutes have passed, I take the pot down to the basement to cool it down. This takes about ten to fifteen minutes with a wort chiller. Once that’s done, I start to pour the beer from the pot into a carboy through a strainer and funnel setup to filter out the hops and any leftover grain.

bug in hopsNice huh. This happens sometimes, but still. Wow. Not what I was expecting. I’m not worried about the bug; it was dead before it went into the boil and a full boil should be enough to kill anything, with alcohol getting everything after that. But still…

(If you can’t quite see the bug, it’s in near the center, just off to the left.)

Anyway, at this point I add water to the wort until I have about five gallons, dump the yeast in and let it sit. It doesn’t look like much at first, but later on it starts to pick up steam.
Active winter warmer

All that fluffy white looking stuff at the top is the yeast in action. At the bottom, that faint stripe of light brown is all the other elements of the wort settling out, including the dead yeast. Next week, I’ll talk about putting it into secondary with more kinda gross looking photos!

Extreme brewing

First I’m told about Brew Dog’s ale. Now I read about Sam Adam’s Utopia. Holy crap, when is it going to end?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very impressed with the skill it takes to make beers like this. It’s well beyond my abilities for a whole host of reasons-equipment, experience, patience-but I can’t help but wonder if I’m not witnessing some kind of escalating beer war. Who will be the first to reach 50%…and DOOM.

I also found a fun comic for everyone to enjoy: 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer.

Building a winter warmer

Justin, a regular reader of APfD has asked a few questions about my brewing process and a couple questions have come up as well from others so I thought it might be fun to do a series of posts on the manufacture of a beer. There will be pictures and everything and it will give me a chance to do an occasional regular feature, maybe something like ‘I made this’, although maybe I should try to be more creative.

First, I’ll start off with the recipe:
winter warmer ingredientsSteeping grains:
1 lb C-120
3/4 lb Special Roast
Fermentable sugars added:
6 lb LME (liquid)
1 lb Dark Malt Extract (dry)
Hop used:
1 oz Centennial @ 60
.5 oz Centennial @ 20
1/2 tsp Allspice, Cinnamon, Nutmeg @ 10
Reused Wyeast 1084  yeast from Ginger Stout (4th use, final)
Original Gravity:
straining grainSo first I added the steeping grains and soaked them at about 150-155 degrees F for about thirty minutes. At that point I strained the grains out and tried to press out some of the liquid they’d absorbed. This was an experiment; with the stout I’d made I’d sparged the beer and so I’m trying to see what kind of impact this has on the flavors of my brew. I’ve been told that putting the beer in a cheesecloth mesh can be really useful for this sort of thing and I may start doing that soon. I don’t mind scooping out the grains but if wrapping them in cloth saves me time, gives me the same results and doesn’t mean I’m wasting cloth every time I make beer then I can see the advantages.

malted wortAfter that, I take the wort off the burner and add in the fermentable sugars. The beer cools about ten degrees during this process, so once the liquid malt is added and the dry malt has dissolved a bit, it’s back to the burner to bring the wort up to at least 170 degrees. Once that’s done, it’s time to add the hops and begin the final boil part of the brew.

And I’ll continue with the rest of the process next week!