Tag Archives: wit

The Respite: 1

“Sometimes you need a respite from the world, because very often the world is work.” – John Scalzi.

I have been wandering with this blog for over two years now. Thematically, I’ve kept on point but looking back at the last few years of Monday posts, part of that theme has been to keep on moving. It’s been catching up with me and I’ve felt it, the weight of perpetual motion. The constant need to come up with new places and keep drifting has stopped setting me free and started to weigh on my shoulders.

So it’s time to rest. Even wayward souls need a place they can call home, even if it’s just for a little while. Plus, I’m afraid that the bartenders at Bailey’s may have forgotten my name. And it’s good to have a bar where the employees know your name. So I’ve come back to claim a table again.

29239013091_91346b5a04_cI was originally going to call this Season 4, after the season of The Wire where they dealt with politics but…that felt a little on the nose. America is in a strange, strange place right now and while I know I’m smart enough to comment on things, I’m also smart enough to know that too much politics is like too much aspirin. A little medicine will cure what ails you but too much medicine will kill you as easily as the disease.

So for now: The Respite.

I picked up a Boneyard Wit Shack Wit. It’s got a funky nose, almost farmhouse, horse blankety, with a finish that goes dry, a little like a good white wine. It’s flavorful and pretty light; a very good beer for August. Plus, it’s a nice surprise, coming from Boneyard, a brewery that I really have pinned for IPAs, at least in my head. I can’t remember seeing a different style of beer from them, so this is a surprise.

The delight in getting the new from the familiar is a bit soothing, the chance to take a risk backed up by a reputation one can rely on.

7pm Sparky

I have discovered the secret of a good wit, thanks to Double Mountain‘s White Riders of Conquest.

It tastes like applesauce. Homemade applesauce, with a nice dose of cinnamon and a hint of brown sugar, woven between an apple that isn’t quite as tart as a Granny Smith but has a similar dryness. It is good and you should try it, if this description appeals at all.

It’s a rather full bar but I am looking for Sparky….and he is not here. He’s a big man with a ZZ Top style beard, Lennon sunglasses, and a big smile. Smart, too: I seem to be fortunate in running into people who are smarter than me. We ran into each other often in the early days of this blog but it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen him and I suspect he and I are just not crossing paths. I certainly hope so: last we spoke he’d told me of some health issues he was working through so I hope he’s well. With the increased business I’ve noted on Mondays, he may just be stopping by at quieter times. He has struck me as the kind of man who prefers a calmer space.

Not that he isn’t boisterous: man has a hell of a laugh. Just that I got the impression he likes his cool down times to be cool. I get that.

Some nights the past comes back a little stronger though and I miss it. It’s weird: I don’t miss highschool for shit, for example. That whole event in my life could be hit with an H-bomb and I would not feel the slightest twinge. But there have been times when I have found small communities amongst the internet (many now defunct, sadly), amongst the odd, at the bars, and I find that I miss them. I do not know how to connect with them beyond being present whenever I can, leaving the door open should the distance between us be closed. What I do know is that there are people who are lost to me and I wish that they weren’t. It is life: a perfect imperfection.

There are many, many ways to go from here. Melancholy calls, evoking from the heart a longing for what could have been, made out from the cottonstuff of what was. However, I prefer to think of pubs a bit like Munden’s in Cynosure. Or perhaps Callahan’s. Someplace where anything is possible and the past can be as joyfully present as the future, and people would rather sit down and have a drink, bury the hatchet and talk, than bicker over who should have called whom last. So it is with Bailey’s. I prefer to think of it as a place where Sparky–or other absent friends–could come in and all would be well and whenever they choose to arrive next is entirely OK.

A tale of two wits

One good thing about revisiting brews I’ve done before is that it gives me a chance to learn more. I like to think that I’m not trying to relive the past by brewing an older beer but instead refining my process, learning more about how it’s done. The whole point is to brew right, not in a dictatorial style sense but instead in a consistent manner that produces mostly predictable results.

So it is for this reason that I go back to the camomille wit beer brewed years ago that was eventually served at the Horse Brass. I was part of a team and benefited from the skill and equipment of that team, nevertheless I feel like this brew ought to be within reach.

So I made the wit again. Twice, actually, but I added about half a pound of dark malt extract to one batch. Here’s a photo from the wit without the dark malt:


Looks pretty tasty, ya? Tastes pretty good too. Has a dry finish, slightly bitter and, unfortunately, a touch dirty. I’m not sure what caused that. I did add an extra half-ounce of tea to this batch and it may have boiled a little long. It’s not a ruined brew but it isn’t quite as drinkable as I’d like.

This one-which I made first-I added half a pound of dry dark malt extract to and has a very, very different flavor to it. Let’s take a look:

So this beer is spicier. There’s a cinnamon element that comes in at the end and the dryness of the lighter wit isn’t present at all. Yet the yeast is responsible for all of this; I’m not just a little amazed. The differences are impressive and I’m going to chalk it up to my skill as a brewer that both of them came out pretty well. That the first beer is more obviously complex than the second is good to keep in mind for future brews.

PAX day 2 (guest blogger)

9lb porter. Check it out it went well with blu cheese burger. Not too heavy but smooth and delish.
Smith tower pic.
Rock bottom belgian wit. Big nose of grains of paradise? And corriander. There is a start of dryness the finish but it doesn’t follow througH
Conversely the ipa is saved by a sudden strong malt presence. Strong nose but it’s more a pale.
It’s too bad nerds don’t dance because this is perfect club music.
Even the geeks want to propose big.

On Saturday, the owner and I went to the Cyclops cafe for some lunch. We had the 9lb porter from Georgetown brewing. This was a fantastic porter. Not too heavy but smooth and delish. Strong enough to hold up its own but light enough to go with food. It matched up against the blu cheese burger quite well.

Then came a very long day at PAX. I had to avoid the swine flu! I tell you, it’s long hard work avoiding viruses and having to endure a seemingly unending string of people play ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ on Rock Band. I’m sorry, but if that Bon isn’t followed by Scott, you just know it’s gonna suck.

Next came a brief off-site event, put on by the makers of Magic the Gathering. I was surrounded by geeks! Geeks who had to force their way through an impossibly crowded club in order to play some silly game. Dear makers of Magic; they had to play a game to get in and they’re there because they love your game, how about letting them relax and have a drink instead of making them push and shove through another game in order to get something cool? They’re all going to salivate over the new cards; let them! I was smooshed everywhere I went! Fortunately the owner needed dinner, so it was time to go.

As we walked back towards the convention, we came cross a Rock Bottom. Huzza, food and drink! Their opening salvo was a belgian wit. Big nose of grains of paradise and corriander in this one. The finish starts off dry but it doesn’t follow through, and soon there’s nothing left. Overall, I felt this beer was just a little thin in the body to really hold up well.

Conversely the ipa is saved by a sudden strong malt presence. Strong nose but it’s more a pale, with very little bitterness at the end. The malt sweetness set the hoppy nose off well though, and made for a very drinkable brew.

And it lived happily ever after

So I began the story back in April. But now the beer is done and I can tell you all about how it went.

The nose is very, very doughy. If you’ve ever been around dough as it’s being made into bread, add a little orange scent to it and that pretty much sums it up. If I had to pick a style of bread, I might even say sourdough. As the beer warms up, the orange notes get boosted, which is a nice thing as the weather gets warmer.

The wit is a little too bubbly. There’s a champagne quality to it with all the tiny, active bubbles. Better too bubbly than not bubbly though. 

The flavors are nice. It’s got a wheat start, but I don’t get as much chamomile flavors in there and I think I could’ve added more tea. There is a dryness on the back end, and it finishes rather clean so I think I did OK on the other elements (Grains of Paradise, malts, bitter orange, orange zest, etc.) It’s not as good as I remember the beer being three years ago, but it’s a damn sight better than my past two attempts at making it. For starters; it’s drinkable. However it’s not only drinkable, it’s actually a pretty solid beer in it’s own right and one that friends have enjoyed. 

I’m calling it a success. One I have to improve on, yes, but a success nonetheless.

Calm Wit 3

The story goes like this: About three years ago the OBC had a contest for the right to have a beer served at the Horsebrass pub. It was the pub’s 25 anniversary, and they’d asked for beers from many local brewers, but had also worked out a deal for the winner of the OBC contest to have their beer brewed with the people at Laurelwood, and served. 

So I joined a team of people and we made a wit beer with chamomile tea. And it won. Triumphs all around, we had our beer brewed with professionals and served to the public, a great day was had by all, right? 

Well actually, yes. But it has led to the most commonly asked question by my friends; When are you going to make that beer again?

It was a good beer. Why not try to repeat the success? Except I have been unable to re-brew this beer. Or I have, but the beer has been undrinkable to the point where I have had to pour out five gallons of beer because it tasted like swampwater. Twice. 

Granted, my first time brewing this beer was with some people who were far more experienced and certainly their knowledge and skills helped a great deal. I’ve made a few beers since then though, I ought to be able to make this beer again. Or at least come close, right? 

So into the breech once more.

These were my steeping grains:
1.25 lb Flaked Oats
1 lb Gambrious Pils

When I strained them out of the wort, they looked like this:


 Does anyone want to drink something made from this? I’d already stared having misgivings and the yeast wasn’t even in.

Next in was:
6.67 lb of Wheat malt
.5 lb Dry dark malt
(both extracts)

At the boil, I added the following:
1 1/8ths oz Golding @ 60
1/4 th oz Hallertauer @ 35
just under 1/8th tsp Grains of Paradise
1/4th tsp crushed coriander  seeds
1/4th tsp dried orange
less than 1/8th tsp bitter orange
zest of one orange–all @ 5

Finally, I added two packs of Wyeast 3974. What I got was a beer that initially looked like this:

racing stripes!
racing stripes!

This…this also does not look promising. I mean really; what the fuck is going on there? Two days later, the yeast would tell me what was going on there.


 Yup, the thing blew the airlock. 

After two weeks the beer has settled down a bit, and I put it into secondary yesterday. It smelled quite yeasty with a slight citrus undertone, so I’m actually hopeful this will turn out well.