Monday, October 20, 2014

State Comp Prelims & BIG BEER BREWING!!!

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Saturday morning, Izzy & I headed over to Faction Brewing to help out with the California State Homebrew Competition preliminaries, as hopefully the SF Homebrewers’ Guild will be taking over a major part of that in the years to come. It was a great learning experience to see how homebrew competitions happen behind the scenes, network with BJCP certified judges and experience homebrewers alike, and even gave us some insight into future entries. There were a bunch of great guys (and a few ladies) and it was a pretty damn interesting time. We also happened to help with one of the more interesting categories, Specialty Beers… which from what I can tell is basically the category for all beers that don’t really match with the BJCP guidelines 30+ other beer types. These are where you get a bunch of hybrid beers like “bourbon barreled aged vanilla porter with pumpkin pie spices, lemongrass, curry & caraway seeds” where obviously some of them really just have to many things going on… and can suffer from what I like to call Dr. Pepper Syndrome, where you have so many flavors going on, that you really only get one flavor from it. However, there were a lot of interesting examples submitted and while some weren’t particularly good to my particular unrefined palette, others were pretty interesting & well-made. Again, the whole process was very interesting… but perhaps I should get a little training in the field before I start waxing poetic about it to you. I’d hate to misinform you and have this all just be my opinion… though obviously I’d throw it in from time to time.

After helping out, we grabbed some BBQ@Lux food truck’s Sticky Icky Garlic Ribs (delicious) and decided to try some of Faction Brewing’s selections… ranging from their sampler with their staples like Pilsner, IPA, Belgian, etc. and even their Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter & award-winning Purdy Porter which actually won 3rd place for a Robust Porter at the Great American Beer Festival these past few weeks (and we actually tried at Elevation 66 last week) and it’s pretty fantastic. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re ever in the Alameda area… and their location has a beautiful view of San Francisco… and the airfield that fans of “Mythbusters” may recognize…

Sunday morning, we brewed our first attempt at a REALLY BIG beer… our first Imperial Stout that we’ve basically already dubbed $teve’s Birthday Cake since because of the extremely high sugar content and the rate that it’ll convert those sugars to alcohol, it won’t be fully ready for about 5-6 months, which puts it right around my birthday… but then it should also be around 11-12% ABV. Okay, so what makes this beer a little different? Well, with the vast majority of our brews thus far, the time involved in turning them from brewpot to ready to drink is about 4-6 weeks. That’s because the amount of sugars & yeast involved can convert enough in that time to produce a beer with about 4-6% ABV. We’ve had a few like the Winter Warmer & Bourbon Barrel Porter that took slightly longer because they had more sugars to convert into alcohol in order to produce about 7-8%. The problem is that for most yeasts, once they reach that high of alcohol content in the wort/beer, they start to die off because it’s too high of a level for them to survive… or it just takes them a lot longer to convert because there’s not as much sugar for them to eat. You may be asking right now, “$teve, exactly how much sugar are we talking about in order to get this kind of alcohol content? Are you making moonshine or something?” Well, for a five gallon batch that we’re making… it’s roughly 13 pounds of pure sugar total, in the form of dark dry malt extract, pure cane sugar, molasses and what is pulled from a few pounds of specialty grains. That works out to roughly a quarter-pound (120 grams) of sugars in every twelve-ounce bottle… that has been converted into alcohol. Mountain Dew & other sodas have about 45 grams in the same amount… but these are just different sugars & have been converted. Just something to think about…

Also, because of the high levels of sugars, you’ll need a lot more yeast than normal & constant aeration the first few weeks to start the conversion process as best you can, so that you can avoid problems with the yeast going stagnant and having to repitch halfway through... similar to our mead that we started last year, which by the way, we should see if it's better now. Less than 24 hours after throwing in the yeast, here's how active it has been already... luckily we started with the blowoff tube this time...

That being said, with the extra ingredients, monitoring for the first few weeks, longer fermentation times & everything else involved with these BIG Beers, they can REALLY be worth it when it comes to flavor. You can probably find some great examples of these kinds of beers at your local brewery… but some of my favorites are North Coast’s Old Rasputin, Heretic’s Imp & Fifty Fifty’s selection of big beer releases.
Anyway, that’ll do it for this weekend… join us next weekend to catch up on another exciting week… and yes, Pumpkin Beer season is almost ready for the full fruition of Halloween Extravaganzas & National Learn to Homebrew Day coming up with plenty of surprises (even to us) along the way. Have a great day everybody!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fury & Foamy

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Monday night, Izzy & I finally tasted our Pumpkin Chocolate Porter, as we couldn’t wait any longer (and it’d had plenty of time to carbonate in the keg) and let’s just say that Halloween party-goers are in for a treat. It’s a nice Baltic style porter with a little pumpkin puree in the malt bill & chocolate malts leading to some interesting characteristics. It’s not too heavy and has a good mouth feel to it… easy to drink all day, or more than likely night. Hopefully there’ll still be some left to share at the Learn to Homebrew Day Party too, but we shall see.
Wednesday morning, we also helped brew an East Bay IPA at Elevation 66 Brewing with Big Ben & Don Jon (Super Dave has had some late nights with the Giants’ playoff run) and it was pretty standard. We did share some of our homebrew (Bock, ChocoNut Stout & Cali Common) and got some good feedback on how to improve them in the future, but overall they said they were pretty damn good… and we’d have to agree.
Wednesday night, Jackie D & I visited a new establishment called Hopwater Distribution on Nob Hill which boasts a 30-tap selection, all of California-based craft breweries… and it’s actually a VERY nice place. It was much quieter than I would’ve expected with the Giants game going (then again, it might just be because nobody knows of the place yet) and the selection was impressive with everything from a saison to an IPA to milk stouts and everything in between to choose from. They also had some… decent snacks. Not exactly enthralling but… decent. I’d highly recommend checking it out before it becomes super-douchey. It definitely has that kind of potential.
Later, we were invited to a special preview of the new blockbuster “Fury” starring Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf & Michael Pena… directed by David Ayer (“Harsh Times” & “End of Watch”). It’s a pretty simple premise, set during the closing days of WWII in the German front, there’s a five-man team of tank operators with a tried & true leader (Pitt), three men who’ve served years with him, and then the new kid who’s only been in the army for two months & is an innocent soul. Well, War is Hell as you might’ve guessed… and from the harsh director of “Harsh Times” comes a pretty gritty & grimy yet realistic story about this team going through the last mission when Germany is absolutely desperate, and to save thousands of lives, these men have to protect a major crossroads to the Allied trade route… and German tanks are FAR superior to American. Basically, the atmosphere set in this movie is pretty f**king amazing. You feel like you’re in the tank with them. It’s always dirty, grimy & gray (save for one scene that starts out pretty damn clean… and then ends as grimy as it gets, you’ll know when you see it). The personal conflicts going on with the leader & the noob are done pretty well… and the other three main characters have their own minor things… but they’re essentially there for exposition & showing what noobs can turn into after three years in the sh*t… and Pitt’s character trying to save the new kid from that… but also realize that until he’s sent back home, their lives depend on them being focused Nazi killing machines. The movie is intense. If you liked “Saving Private Ryan” but thought it had it’s moments of being a little too Spielberg-y, then this is the movie for you. It’s definitely a guy movie… lots of blood & guts… but Jackie D enjoyed it as well, just mentioned that it was really harsh. I highly recommend that you check it out if you like the genre… but be warned, don’t take the kids… even if tanks are pretty f**king cool.

Thursday night, I received a few goodies in the mail… more books about homebrewing!!! I obviously haven’t read through them yet… but first up is “Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Beer from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery” which… as is pretty self-explanatory, a book about Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione (star of the briefly ran show “Brewmasters”) and his adventures in turning a hobby into a multi-million dollar business venture that’s ever expanding & lessons that he learned along the way. Obviously I’m a little interested, though I’m sure things/laws have changed since he started out. The other two books are “CloneBrews” by Tess & Mark Szamatulski & “Brewing Classic Styles” by Jamil Zainasheff & John Palmer, both of which are essentially recipe books for making nearly 300 different beer recipes ranging from standard stuff you can find in any supermarket to award-winning homebrews to exotic & experimental recipes that the experienced authors just tried at home. I’ve taken a quick glance through some of their offerings… and you may be seeing them made on this blog pretty soon.
Well, I’ve got some reading to do… so until next time, have a great weekend everybody!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sacramento Storage Weekend

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
This Saturday, Izzy & I spent most of the day clearing out her storage unit and moving things from Sacramento to Richmond. We headed up early (cuz I didn’t want to be there midday in Sacramento) but using a Jeep & a Honda Pilot, we did have to make two trips to clear out unit. Other than that though, it was pretty easy-peasy… so we stopped at a few places along the way to make a day out of it… here are some pictures of us slowly but surely cleaning out the unit...

irst stop was for a little lunch at Heretic Brewing in Fairfield… and yes, we do tend to stop there when we head to Sacramento, you may have noticed that. They have some fantastic beers like their Chocolate Hazelnut Porter, Incubus Imperial Stout, and even a few barrel aged & sour options that are always delicious. We basically just had a few samplers and a sloppy joe… here are pictures…

Between trips, we dropped off a few entries into the California State Homebrew Competition at Oak Barrel, so in about a month we should have some great feedback on our Bock, Torpedo Clone & our California Common… and who knows? Maybe a few ribbons or medals to go with the feedback if we did good enough. We also staked up on supplies for out next two batches, which will be an Imperial Stout this weekend (won’t be ready until Spring) and then the beer that we’re going to make for Learn to Homebrew Day on November 1st… which is a secret… but you can come see it done firsthand if you RSVP.
On the way back from the second trip to the storage unit, we stopped by Sudwerk Brewing in Dixon and enjoyed their samplers (though I think something might’ve been wrong with their lines?) and some nachos while watching a little of the Giants game… pictures…

Sunday, while the rest of San Francisco was having Fleet Week complete with several marathons & the Blue Angels… we spent the afternoon doing homework (Izzy) and then we transferred our Pumpkin Ale from primary to secondary fermentation… and here are some pictures of that…

Cleaning out the carboy afterwards...
This weekend should be good and busy… as we’ll be helping at the California State Comp preliminaries, brewing our BIGGEST BEER YET the Imperial Stout, taste our long-awaited Pumpkin Chocolate Porter, and even work in a little social life… so yeah, usual weekend stuff. Have a great day everybody!!!

Where Should I Go Next?