Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Blazing Pumpkin

Thanksgiving had been the real deadline for my Blazing Pumpkin Ale and it seemed to go over pretty well. While most of my family is a strictly Yuengling drinking crowd there were a few adventurous souls that gave it a try. Given that this is the first brew I've done all by myself I am proud of how it turned out but it is by no means perfect.

It turned out a little darker than I had hoped but held up to light it had a nice hazy burnt-orange color to it which is what I like my pumpkins to look like. It manged to have some good looking, off-white head that fades quickly leaving just a thin layer on top. I really liked the aroma I managed it get. Lots and lots of pumpkin and the standard spices really come out in the nose. The first few sips give off some very strong pumpkin flavors and then the cinnamon and nutmeg really take over. Then there is the finish which has some odd flavors going on. I couldn't quite tell if it was a diacetyl issues or what but something seemed off. It was much more noticeable in some bottles so maybe it was a sanitizing issue...I don't know. I did find that it was much more enjoyable after it had warmed up a little though. There was some very strong carbonation which bothered me because I thought it was distracting from the flavors. All in all, Blazing Pumpkin wasn't a rousing success but not an utter failure. I can enjoy having a couple bottles of this at night but don't think I really nailed this pumpkin ale.  Perhaps I'll modify the recipe and give it another shot next year.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Coffee Cold-Extract

I feel like I've been sitting on my brown ale forever but today was the day that I finally added the coffee into the carboy. After much studying up and deliberation I ended up doing a cold-extract with the coffee grounds and add them directly into the primary, skipping a secondary completely this time around. It seems like the homebrewing crowd is split pretty evenly between racking to a secondary or not but it seems like for what I'm doing here, leaving it in the primary would be just fine.

I chose to use a locally roasted Hawaiian blend for the coffee flavor. If it works the way I am hoping, this blend will contribute some light caramel notes with a medium coffee flavor. I didn't want the coffee to overwhelm the beer but rather compliment it delicately. In order to achieve the cold extract I boiled 4-5 cups of water then let it sit and cool down a bit before adding it to about a 1/2 cup of the grounds. I put that sanitized container in the fridge and let it sit for 24 hours.

Using a standard coffee filter and my funnel I filtered the extract into the carboy. This thrilling process took quite a long while so I hope that this coffee addition works the way I am hoping. As with every brew...I'm very nervous. Everything seemed to go smoothly with this one and I hope that's a good sign. I'll be bottling soon and crossing my fingers.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Taste Taste: Southern Tier Pumking

Southern Tier Brewing Company
Lakewood, NY, USA
Pumpkin Ale
9.00% ABV

Working at The Craft Beer Outlet gave me some real insight into just how much people LOVE this beer. It has earned a legendary status in the craft beer world and people go just a little crazy for it. I was lucky enough to snag two bottles of Pumking this season, employee perks. I had this last year and remembered loving it so I was excited to have these in my fridge.

Pumking pours a beautiful hazy orange with a creamy head that has decent retention given the higher ABV. It really is an amazing color when you hold your glass up to the light. Rich aroma full of pumpkin pie spices. This is possibly the most unique tasting pumpkin ale out there, it really is liquid pumpkin pie. The nutmeg and cinnamon really shine through accompanied by a strong vanilla flavor. It is slick on the tongue and takes some time to really comprehend what your taste buds are getting. There is some sweetness here with just a hint of alcohol that warms you up. After a while I found it to be almost too much, I wish I had been sharing it this time around. It is still up there as one of the best pumpkin ales around but the unique and strong flavor did become a bit off-putting for me. I prefer a spicier pumpkin rather than something this sweet. Still...Pumking is rather tasty and something to try.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Memoriam

Four Loko

This is a sad day in the alcohol world. The beverage known as Four Loko has been banned along with all other caffeinated alcoholic drinks. After much litigation and drama the FDA has banned these wildly popular drinks from American shelves. I know four girls that I lived above my senior year at Temple who are dealing with a lot of grief on this sad day. No more will teenagers be able to imbibe in these truly unique liquids that brought so much joy to communities nation-wide. When people call The Craft Beer Outlet asking if we have Four Lokos I will now be pained to give those patrons the tragic news. 
This will be a day long remembered.

More on this loss here.


Stout & Chowder Recap

This past Saturday night Rolling Barrel Events hosted their first annual Stout & Chowder Festival at the Independence Seaport Museum. I arrived, not knowing what I would be pouring, and was lucky enough to be assigned to the Weyerbacher booth. I was pouring their Winter Ale all night but was able to sample most of the other breweries' offerings. I'd have to say that Dock Street's Satellite Espresso Stout was my favorite of the night. I had had majority of all of the other brews in attendance but this was a new one for me and it was very very impressive.

It was a rather small event, a very manageable beer fest that wasn't too overwhelming for the guests. I'd like to  see them expand the number of breweries just a little to offer some more variety for the more seasoned drinkers but I can't complain, I didn't pay to be there.

The volunteers were given most of the leftover bottles so I took home some Imperial Pumpkin, Storm King, and Yakima Glory. Not too shabby for a few hours "work". Judging from that night, Rolling Barrel sure can throw together a great event and I look forward to attending or working at their next.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stout & Chowder Festival

What better way to spend a brisk November evening than with some robust beers and hearty chowder?

Join the Independence Seaport Museum (ISM) and Rolling Barrel Events for an evening filled with dark / seasonal beers and belly-warming soups.  Tickets to the event will include a commemorative glass mug (yes, real glass), access to over ten “Burly Beer Stations” featuring all local breweries, a special breakout session showcasing pumpkin beers, and numerous hearty soups, stews and chowders.  Proceeds will benefit the Independence Seaport Museum

Tonight is the First Annual Stout & Chowder Festival and the lineup looks mighty tasty. Corey from Rolling Barrel Events was kind enough to let me man one of the "Burly Beer Stations" at tonight's event at the Seaport Museum so there is even more reason for you to buy a ticket. Not sure what I'll be pouring yet but I'll be sure to throw some updates on Twitter. Sounds like it is going to be a great night so I hope to see you there! Get your tickets here!

The brewery list is as follows:
  • Manayunk Brewing Co.
  • Lancaster Brewing Co.
  • Flying Fish
  • Weyerbacher
  • Dock Street
  • Victory
  • Philadelphia Brewing Co.
  • Troegs
  • Yards
  • Intercourse
  • Dogfish Head


Monday, November 8, 2010

Brew Masters on The Discovery Channel

It was only a matter of time before there was a show about the wonderful world of craft beer.

Brew Masters premieres November 21 at 10pm on The Discovery Channel and will follow Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione around his Delaware brewery and the world as he finds new recipes and ingredients for their "off-centered" brews.

I honestly can't believe it has taken The Discovery Channel this long to put together a show like this. With the countless number of shows about quirky bakeries or families contributing to the surplus population of the planet, it is nice to see show coming out that will actually interest me.

I know some people are looking down their nose at Sam Calagione for doing this but like a new beer, don't knock it before you try it. I think the concept has a lot of promise and hope it works out well. If it's a real success I would like to see them branch out and follow other "Brew Masters" around to see how other breweries operate. Either way, I know I'll be watching.

You can watch the short preview that came out last week here.

On a somewhat related note, if this show does well it just might encourage Spike to pick up Three Sheets so you should watch as well!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Coffee-Brown Brewday

Surprise brewdays can be fun.

I was supposed to go into work yesterday but I got the word that I could have the evening off which meant only one thing, time to brew! I had picked up everything from Princeton Homebrew earlier in the day and was ready to go by 2:30.

All of my grains were steeped in one bag, filling the kitchen with those delightful aromas that no one else in my house seemed to enjoy. My recipe was pretty simple and things went much smoother than my last batch which was a real mess. I was much more diligent in taking temperature readings and what not, I felt pretty good about the whole brewday.

I was a little nervous about my yeast given the problems I had with my pumpkin ale and it was also the first time I had used liquid yeast. I had originally thought I was going to use Wyeast's British Ale II but after going over some other strains with Joe I decided to try White Labs' Pacific Ale. It came recommended for the style and should create a maltier profile which I'm hoping will balance out some of the bitterness from the coffee.

This is the first time that I've set up a blow-off tube which really calms my nerves about any explosions that my parents would not appreciate with the carboy sitting in the dining room. I'm probably going to let this one sit in the primary for about a week before racking to the secondary where I'll add the coffee. I have basically just enough time to have this ready for the December 7th competition so I hope nothing goes wrong.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adventures in Homebrewing: Brown Ale Recipe

I was planning on brewing a red ale for the holiday season but then The Draught Horse came along with another homebrew competition so I decided to put together a brown ale that I could enter. I wanted something that could be sessionable but also fully flavored. What I came up with is a bit of an English-American hybrid:


0.5 lb Crystal Malt 60L
0.5 lb Biscuit Malt
0.25 lb U.K. Chocolate Malt
6.6 lb Muntons Amber
1 oz U.K. Kent Goldings (bittering)
1 oz Fuggles (finishing)
White Labs - Pacific Ale

I was going to go with an English yeast strain but decided to go with this Pacific to accentuate the malts a little more.

I'm going to make this a coffee-brown ale. I've been reading up on using coffee and I will probably end up doing a cold extract into the secondary, just need to figure out the specifics on that process.

I'm still not sure what I'm going to name this one though, if you have any ideas I'm all ears. They are judging the beers on appearance, drinkability, taste, body, smell, concept, and NAME so it's gotta be a good one!