Oktoberflop

Every bottle of this beer I open gives me the same result you would get if you put a Mentos in a Coke. The funny thing was, once I was able to taste the beer, it seemed fine! I didn’t know what went so wrong but this is why we have friends who are way better at brewing beer than I am. In this  case, advice came from the wonderful Jen McPoland who won best in show for this year’s Fall Classic.

Who asked me: Did you put too much bottling sugar in?

Now, I’m pretty loosey-goosey when it comes to keeping records on my bottling because by then, the beer is done, right? What could go wrong?

But it’s possible is that I bottled this the same day as I set up a yeast starter and made a simple syrup for both, one that was too strong. Since there isn’t anything else wrong with this beer the simplest explanation is the most likely one.

As for the beer? Well, when it settles out, it’s pretty drinkable with a malt-forward nose and a mild flavor. It’s almost a summer ale instead of an autumn one.

Brew date: 9.6.14

Malt:
1 lb Vienna
3 lb Munich
1 lb Carahell
1 lb 2 Row

Fermentables: 4 lb LME

Hops:
1 oz Hallertau @ 60
1 oz Tettnang @60
.5 oz Hallertau @30
.5 oz Tettang @30

Yeast: Pacman Yeast from Light Hop, 2nd use.

OG: 1.06

FG: 1.014

Secondary 9.17, bottled 9.25

ABV: 6.2%

Fall Classic 2014

I took a picture of the Best of Show round for the OBC Fall Classic, where I was the head steward, so people can see what that might look like.

As I’ve said, the best thing about being the head steward is getting to watch the judges at work on something like this. They’ve already eliminated a few beers at this point; there’s a spill on the table where I hurriedly tried to clean and didn’t quite make it.

The thing I noticed this year was that as the beers got whittled down, discussions of ‘politics’ started to come up. Eventually, the final four beers were a rauchbier, an American brown ale, an IPA and a rhubarb wheat. The rauchbier was soon given honorable mention and the rhubarb wheat ale, after much deliberation given best in show.

But the debate between the second and third place was where the meatiest conversation happened. There was a push to reward the brown ale because that style is so poorly represented in the market. Yet they are really tasty! It’s a bit like having a band that you know should be more popular but just cannot capture the public interest.

At the same time, while the IPA was superb there isn’t a place in America where you can go and find yourself bereft of IPAs. Awarding a high profile style a high profile award felt redundant.

In the end, the judges felt that the brown was just a nudge off from style and the IPA was so well done that they just couldn’t ignore it. Still, I was really happy to see a brown ale go so far; the beer was incredibly good!

Of course, every beer that they rejected for best in show had still won the best beer in their respective category so they were perfect for these amateur beer judges.

That’s a not-awesome picture of some of the stewards who helped out during the day, getting to try some well-deserved beer after all their hard work.  I appreciate all the help I got: I certainly couldn’t have made the event work without them.

On The Rails: O’Malleys

(Post delayed due to technical difficulties. Sorry!)

It has been a tremendously long day, as I was the head steward for the OBC Fall Classic homebrew competition and now I’ve come to O’Malley’s to get some dinner and try to decompress from the massive overdose on humans I had. I decided to drink Hopworks’s Bitchin’ Camaro, their fresh hop ale, which just isn’t working for me. I think it may be about the style; the hop nose isn’t dominant, the finish doesn’t bring the bitterness, it’s…almost halfassed. A hoppy beer for people who don’t want hops.

Fresh hop beers may just need some dried hops to provide some context for the fresh hops. I’ll have to try it myself next year when the harvest comes up.

I’ve arrived on an opportune evening for this pub, as they’re hosting a private party in an hour but I’ve just slid under the wire to be served and not make things awkward. I’ll take it. And yes, I’ll leave soon but for a moment I am enjoying watching the hustle and bustle of people working to set things up instead of being the one who is working for all the people.

But damn do I dislike this beer. It’s just not working for me and a huge chunk of this has to do with the aftertaste which tastes faintly of orange pith and strongly of nothing. Sigh. Can’t win ’em all, you know?

As the pub fills up and the space becomes more oriented towards a party I feel an impishness to crash an event that has not included me. To wander around and be a spy or maybe wear the new face of lively party fiend, to be debonair and magic my way into a circle who does not know me. Fill the air with factoids and outshine the lads with a wit they would have to pay for.

“Sarge, you made it! You made it to the party!” the barkeep says to a man who’s got 20 years on me easy, a trucker cap and a modest white beard. He makes himself home on the barstool to the sounds of the Bee Gees easier than I put on shoes. The barkeep knows what he wants and he pours his Rainier Half-Ounce like a college freshman; too rapidly leaving him with a can half full of beer and a glass half full of foam.

Suddenly, I can’t do it. I can’t be an imposter here, with someone who has made his bones. Flashes from cameras are popping in the air and I am not meant to be included in their photos. My desire to be a shapeshifter has faded and I think I should go home. I ask Sarge if he’s staying for the party.

“No,” he replies, “I just have my beer and go home.”

That’s a plan.

On The Rails: Bailey’s

It’s high time for a new theme, isn’t it?

So I’ve come back to Bailey’s. Which only makes sense if you’re human, I suppose: start the new thing at the old thing. For a little while I’m going to engage in a cliche. And that makes even less sense, now that I say it: the new thing but the old thing that is something you’ve seen before?

Because everyone has seen it, in nearly every movie or TV show ever made where people exist at a bar: humans sitting at the rail, drinking. Or pondering, or randomly meeting.

Jane McGonigal talks about ‘being alone together’ in her book Reality is Broken. If you’ll indulge my memory of her concept, what it is describing is the path of people who play MMOs and how those games offer players the chance to engage with the community as they see fit. They can join a group if they want or they can just play the game they want to play, while surrounded by other people. They are allowed to participate with a community while still doing their own thing.

It’s a pretty interesting idea that I’m hopefully not doing a disservice to.

I, like many before me and, unless the world ends tomorrow, many after, write in pubs. But writing is a solitary endeavor. Typically, I find a table to sit down at and I write. I am rarely interrupted as most people are reluctant to disrupt someone who appears to be working. I do as much as I can, I take it all in and I am at the scene but I am not part of the scene. I have made a decision to separate myself in order to do some work.

People who sit at the rail are actually being alone together, instead of being separate. They may choose to engage but they might not: nobody judges them. So for a little while I want to sit at the rail, watch the bartenders, sit near people and see what happens. Honestly, I think I’ll still be at Bailey’s pretty often but I still have a few breweries I’d like to visit and talk about so I look forward to this change up.

Joining me tonight is the Epic Imperial Stout: coco notes in the nose. The ale follows through with this, even finishing dry, as if a spoonful of cocoa powder came a long at the end and put a pinch in my mouth.

Uneven Imperial

So…this one didn’t quite work out as nicely as I would’ve hoped. The goal was to make a stronger chamomile ale, because I could only make one beer during the month of August. I thought it might be interesting to give that beer a bit of a surge, see if I could get it to work out.

Not so much. In addition to having an uncertain carbonation level, I didn’t really add enough chamomile in there.  That is a surprising thing to realize, since over-addition of the tea has been an issue for many of the batches I made.

Instead, I have an ale that has a fruity sweet nose, as though it didn’t quite get enough sugar eaten out of it, and a sweet but thin mouth. It’s really kind of bland and that’s a very strange thing to say. It’s a bit of a bummer, of course, but the beer is still drinkable.

8.9.14

Grains
7 lb Pale wheat
1 lb Belgian biscut

Fermentables
7 lb LME

Hops
1 oz N Brewer @ 60
1 oz N Brewere @30
7/8th oz Chamomile tea @flameout

Yeast
Wyeast German wheat (2nd use)

OG: 1.085

FG: 1.014

Put into secondary on 8.23. Bottled 9/5/14

ABV: 9.6%