Monday, January 31, 2011

Red, White, and Brew

I think that we Americans make some pretty great beer. There are some people who see "Import" and immediately assume that it is of a higher quality of anything homegrown, no matter what. That isn't always the case in my humble opinion. The American beer culture is thriving right now, it is full of a creative energy and covers such a wide variety of styles and flavors that no other country seems to rival. I'm not saying I don't love my Belgian beer, just that people should be giving credit where credit is due.

With that thought in mind I started checklist on 1/1/11 and when I've completed it I will have had a beer from every state in the union. I won't be counting beers that I've had before the new year simply because I'm sure I would forget some beers that I've enjoyed over the years. I'm going to be able to blow through a good chunk of states with ease but there are some that are going to take some work to find a beer from. I won't be setting a deadline or anything but I just thought it would be a fun goal to have in mind. Eventually I suppose I will need to get in on the beer trading game but for now I'm going to just get my hands on whatever I can around here.

So far I've had a beer from 14 states so clearly I've got a lot of "work" ahead of me. At the very least this will making some drinking make me feel productive...or something. I'll be keeping track on the Red, White, and Brew tab but here is the list as it stands on 1/31/11:

If you have any beers from any odd states that you're willing to part with be sure to let me know!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Adventures in Homebrewing: Saison Brew Day

It was a brew day full of firsts. First time using my wort chiller, dry extract, a yeast smack pack, and I also realized that this was the first time I had brewed anything considered "light". I was certain that I would manage to screw something up but luckily it went pretty smoothly. The growler full of Nugget Nectar surely helped.

After an afternoon of work, I put on some of Senegal's own Orchestra Baobab on the iPod and got started with the grains. Once the boil got going I added the DME and the wort started to foam up very quickly which I guess (and hope) is normal.

Every time I brew my parents come into the kitchen and complain about the smell, this time my Mom decided that the house smelled like a wet dog which wasn't something I expected but she'll have to get over it for the time being.

Between the Hallertau, Saaz, mellegueta peopper, grapefruit and orange peel, and finally the honey (which I stirred in with the finishing hops) I thought it actually smelled great. It was definitely my most fragrant homebrew.

The saison yeast thrives in higher temperatures so I set up my fermenter in our extra bathroom that gets pretty hot but made sure it would stay that way with the help of a space heater. The anxiety I produce after brewing is really unhealthy but I can't help it until I start seeing some action from the blow-off tube. Luckily after I got home from work the next day the yeast had really started going to town, the tube was bubbling like mad and since this is a lighter brew I could really see it in the carboy. And there was much rejoicing.

I think I may have to drink a bit less while brewing next time because I forgot to take my damn gravity reading. Hydrometers and I just do not get along, something I should definitely work on. Woops.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adventures in Homebrewing: Saison du Senegal

It seems like forever since I've been able to brew but I've finally gotten my act together and am ready to brew again. One of my best and oldest friends is heading off to Senegal to join the Peace Corps where she'll be...oh I don't know...making the world a better place for about two and a half years. What better way to send her off than to brew a batch of beer in her honor.

Senegal is a semi-French speaking country in West Africa so I decided to go with a saison this time seemed like a fitting brew all around. I'm going to be using some Melegueta Pepper which is a West African spice similar to black pepper which is often used in saisons. I've also decided to go with a French Saison yeast strain to try and incorporate what I can from the region. My parents made a big move this Christmas and got me a wort chiller so I'll be putting that to good use with this saison. This is also the first time I'm using dry extract which has me a little nervous for no particular reason. Here's the recipe I'm going with.

Light DME – 3 lb
Wheat DME – 2.5 lb
Cara-Pils – .5 lb
Munich – 1 lb
Raw Orange Honey – 1 lb

Hallertau – 2 oz
Saaz - 1 oz

Melegueta Pepper - ¼ tsp or so
Grapefruit peel
Orange peel

Wyeast 3711 – French Saison

Apparently the above photograph is depicting some sort of traditional African brewing technique that I hope my friend masters throughout her time over there.

Hopefully brew-day goes smoothly but of course I'm not banking on it.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Year. More Beer.

While I did plenty of drinking over the holidays, I barely had anytime to actually write about it here. Now that things have settled down I hope to be able to make more frequent updates for my two or three avid readers.

2010 was a great year for beer and definitely a great year for my tastebuds and palette. Looking back, I wish I could recall each and every new brew that I tried over the year but of course that couldn't happen. This year, however, I'm going to try my damndest to do so. I plan on writing down every beer that I have in 2011 except for any repeats. So if you are out with me at any point make sure I jot that new brew down!

I started off 2011 at midnight by popping open my bottle of Samuel Adams & Weihenstephan's coveted Infinium. Now I realize I probably should have opened this first with an untainted palette because I was already pretty drunk by midnight but even so...I wasn't all that thrilled with this "revolutionary" collaboration. Sure it was different but in this case it wasn't a good thing. I didn't find the flavors to be too appealing or work together in a really enjoyable manner. There was a sweetness upfront followed up with a strange dryness and yeasty flavors. I have to admit that this was a bit of chore to get through even though I was trying to share as much as I could. The 10.3% ABV didn't help me too much either. I wanted to start the new year off with a bang but have to admit that I was let down by Infinium.

But that's the risk of trying new things isn't it? Sometimes these big hyped up beers aren't anything special but every now and then you get something worthwhile (I'm looking at you Dark Intrigue).

So cheers to the new year and more beer!