Fuck Off, 2016!

Happy 2017, the last year of human existence! We had a good run, folks, and I can’t think of a better way to wait out our inevitable nuclear holocaust than with many, many beers. With that in mind, it’s time for the Annual Half-Assed New Year’s Post!

2016, Smell Ya Later

A lot in the year of our Dog, 2016. Most of awful, some of it terrible. For starters, a totally unqualified man was elected President… of my homebrew club. That man was (is) me. Say hello to the new El Hefe of the Mash Holes. The people have spoken and they demand chaos. In other news that’s good for me and embarrassing for everyone else: I also tied for our club’s Brewer of the Year award. I’m not not proud of that accomplishment, especially since the man I tied – Andy – is probably one of the best homebrewers I’ve ever known.

As for the brewing goals I set way back in the carefree days on January-last, I fell a bit short… pretty much in all of them. I was initially pushing to brew 20 batches of homebrew last year, or roughly 100-120 gallons of beer. I ended up at 14 batches and roughly 75 gallons of beer. Not bad, but not quite the high marks I was aiming for. I also didn’t enter any BJCP competitions like I had planned; though I did win the club Pumpkin competition, and placed highly in our other club competitions and another local competition. And I never did get around to putting collars on my kegerator or fermentation chambers. But I did go to Homebrew Con, so that kind of makes up for it all, right?

2017, The Reign of Error

So with those shortcomings in the rear-view mirror, I’m looking forward to 2017. My first and primary goal is to not run my homebrew club into the ground. I’m one of only two returning Cabinet members from last year, so there’s a lot of fresh blood/ideas for the new year. Early recruitment efforts appear to be working out, so I’m hoping we can continue to grow despite what will likely be dubbed “poor leadership.”

On a more personal level, I’m revisiting my goal from 2016 and revising it based on last year’s performance. This year I’m shooting for 15 batches brewed and 75-100 gallons of beer. Given our club brews, a couple 10 gallon batches, and a some warmer-than-average weather I think I may be able to hit this goal. I will be somewhat hindered by vacations (one in February, one in May), a likely trip to Homebrew Con in June, various weddings throughout the summer, and good old fashioned Lack O’ Fucking Money.

I do want to try some lighter (read: cheaper) styles of beer this year as well. I’ve written a recipe for a – gasp – American Lager. My reason for brewing such a sacrilegious concoction? Frankly, I enjoy Miller High Life, and I enjoy a shower beer after a hockey game or a sparring session at the boxing gym. So intend of giving $8 to the sketchy liquor store down the street, I figured I should try to brew my own. I mean, that’s the point of homebrewing, right?

With all due apologies to the boys at Brulosophy, I’m also hoping to do some exBEERiments in 2017. I’m hoping to get the homebrew club involved in this, but I’ve got at least one or two members that are interested in doing some experiments related to New England IPA haze/character/clarity, etc. My hypothesis is that dry hopping during active fermentation is the key contributing factor to dat haze, so we’re planning to test that and other variables with split batches. I’ll probably end up hosting the beers since I have the fermentation chambers.

I’m also going to get off my ass and enter at least one damn BJCP competition. Well, more accurately my goal is to WIN one damn BJCP medal, but since I didn’t even get around to entering a competition last year, we’ll start small and work our way up.

Lastly, the beer-cations. Homebrew Con, Beans N Brew, and of course JAMBO are all on the to-do list for 2017.

Status Report

Well, it’s already 3 days into 2017 and I haven’t brewed a single beer yet. Better luck next year, I guess.

Where’s the Time Gone?

Well, damn.

Time flies when you’re an adult (in the legal sense, not the – ya know – maturity sense). A lot has happened since the Jambo update. So let’s go through the highlights.

The Return of Symphony of Decay

Last year I brewed two pumpkin beers, and entered a pumpkin milk stout into our club’s annual Pumpkin Beer Competition. Two things of note: I won the first year of this competition, and the trophy is named after me. When the pumpkin milk stout didn’t win, I had to hand over my beloved trophy.

Me, crying over lost trophies

Me, crying over lost trophies

So for this year’s competition, there was no fucking around. I rebrewed and slightly retooled Symphony of Decay for this year’s competition and well… the trophy is back where it belongs. Below is the updated recipe for Symphony of Decay:

Fermentables

Amount Fermentable Maltster Use PPG Color
11.5 lb

Maris Otter Pale (UK)

Any Mash 38 3 °L
1.0 lb

Maple Syrup

Any Boil 30 35 °L
14.0 oz

Crystal 20L

Any Mash 34 20 °L
0.5 lb

Rice Hulls

Any Mash 0 0 °L
0.25 lb

2-Row Chocolate Malt

Briess Mash 34 350 °L

Hops

Amount Hop Time Use Form AA
0.75 oz Northern Brewer (US) 60 min Boil Pellet 9.0%

Yeasts

Name Lab/Product Attenuation
San Diego SuperYeast White Labs WLP090 79.5%

Extras

Amount Name Time Use
30.0 oz Pumpkin 0.0 min Mash
1.0 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice 5.0 min Boil
30.0 oz Pumpkin 60.0 min Boil

Notes:

  • Mash at 154*F for 60 minutes
  • The pumpkin is Libby’s Organic Pumpkin Puree. This is available at most grocery stores in 30oz cans
  • I spread the pumpkin across a cookie sheet and roast it at 350*F for 60 minutes
  • The first 30oz goes in with mash water before the grains. I have no scientific reason for this (or anything I do) but my thinking on it is that adds more orange color to the wort and makes it less likely to create a stuck sparge. Again, I base this on absolutely zero facts.
  • The second 30oz of pumpkin is added at 15 minutes left in the boil
  • The maple syrup goes in at 5 minutes
  • Boil time is 90 minutes

2016 Changes

  • The pumpkin pie spice addition is always more art than science. This year I used 2tbsp of McCormick’s Pumpkin Pie Spice with 5 minutes left in the boil.
  • Along with the pumpkin pie spice, I added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and all-spice. This was all based on feel (or rather, smell). If I had to estimate I’d say I added a tsp of cinnamon and 1/4tsp each of nutmeg and all-spice.
  • I also added a tbsp of vanilla extract with 5 minutes left. I can’t say that this was noticeable in the finished product and might be something I adjust for next year’s batch.

Presidential Election

The United States will soon be run by a fascist Cheeto, and in similar fashion my homebrew club will be trading down from a competent leader to an inexperienced buffoon. In the case of the Mash Holes, that buffoon might end up being me. Our long-term president has decided to step down. As the Vice President that will make me the de facto leader if no one else decides to step up. Club elections are in two weeks so we’ll see how that all shakes out.

The December meeting is also our Wee Heavy competition. It’s the last of our four club competitions that will ultimately decide our Brewer of the Year for 2016. I still need to brew an entry this week, which is going to be difficult with the weather, but I’m shooting for Thursday as a brew day. It doesn’t give me a lot of time for fermentation and aging, so my entry will be a bit young, but we’ll see how it turns out.

Non-Controversial Pipeline

As far as other brews in the pipeline, I have Obie’s Oatmeal Stout about to go into the keg. It’s another “classic” recipe that I’ve updated as I’ve gotten more experienced at brewing. The club just brewed a Russian Imperial Stout to into a Woodford Reserve barrel two weeks ago. That’ll probably spend 6 months in the barrel. We’re also working on pulling out a barleywine in the next few weeks and replacing it with a golden sour ale.

Back here at Anti-Hero Brewing, I plan to do something really crazy: science. Brulosophy recently did an ExBEERiment on flaked oats in New England Style IPAs. The purpose was “[t]o evaluate the differences between a NE-Style IPA made with flaked oats and the same beer made without flaked oats but an otherwise similar recipe.” The idea being that flaked oats impart some of the smooth mouthfeel and haziness typical of NE IPAs. I’ve written about NE IPAs before, and one of my theories is that it’s the dry-hopping timing has the biggest impact on haze. So I’m planning on doing my own *gasp* exBEERiment to test this theory.

Closing Up

So 2016 is winding down to a close, and I intend to do a year-end recap next month, so be on the look-out for that. It looks like I’ll miss my goals in some areas and hit them in others. As of now I’ve brewed about 70-75 gallons of beer this year, which is easily a personal record. I’d like to shoot for 100 gallons next year.

Until then.


Check out our affiliates:

Logo2

hbs_logo_wide

 

 

Checking In On The Swinging Cowboy

Swinging Cowboy, Day 7

As I wrote last time, my Swinging Cowboy IPA was less than stellar on first taste. I also noted at the time that it wasn’t a fair comparison given the immaturity of the beer so close to its dry-hopping and carbonation. We’re now seven days removed from that last update, so how’s the Cowboy now?

In short: much better.

Aroma

I had complained about the grassy aroma wafting off this beer, three days from its last dry-hop charge. Today that grassy-ness has faded almost completely and has been replaced by a wallop of strong citrus character.

Appearance

As you can see from the photo above, I have very greasy fingerprints and a Megaman doll. You can a pretty fair representation of the beer’s color and clarity (or lack thereof). Without the bright light behind it, the beer is a shade or two more orange. Overall, this is what I was shooting for given the light grain bill and the NE IPA style I’d attached to it.

Flavor

This was the biggest area of improvement, and thank Crom for that. The vegetal, grassy flavor is almost completely gone, rounding into a nice smooth bitterness. It’s still there, but much less pronounced and I think by the time JAMBO rolls around next weekend it should be a distant memory. In its place, the bitterness I mentioned is still prevalent, but there’s a much stronger fruitiness. Mango, papaya, tangerine, all those expensive orange-colored fruits that Yuppie moms buy at Whole Foods. This isn’t near as fruity as your average Trillium brew, but it has a much stronger bitterness. Similar (but not comparable) to Heady Topper.

Mouthfeel

Still rich and full-for-an-IPA. Not quite as “juicy” as a Treehouse or Trillium; again I’d put it closer to the OG of NE IPA’s (Heady) in mouthfeel. Creamy, but not chewy. Right where I like it (that’s what she said).

Overall

Talk about a night-and-day difference. I may have accidentally (but happily) sped up the aging process due to a gas leak in the keg. The gas connecting post wouldn’t seal, so whenever I removed the gas line – say, to gas another keg – all of the CO2 escaped. This happened multiple times, most likely introducing oxygen. While normally this would be bad, it is my theory that this help scrub out the grassy and vegetal notes much faster. I can’t really run a test on it (I’m not the Brulosophy eggheads), because I’ve now fixed that leak and don’t know how much scrubbing is actually left.

Overall, I’m now MUCH happier with this beer and excited to serve it at JAMBO. There’s also an upcoming homebrew competition for IPAs that I might consider entering if there’s any leftovers.

Cheers!


Check out our affiliates:

hbs_logo_wide

Logo2

 

Brewery Visit: Spencer Trappist Brewery

Spencer Trappist Brewery at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer. MA

Spencer Trappist Brewery at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer. MA

You may have heard of Spencer Trappist Brewery; it’s the first and only Trappist brewery outside of Europe and the first and only Trappist brewery in the United States. Fortunately for me, it’s also the first and only Trappist brewery in my home state of Massachusetts.

This past Saturday (8/6/16), the monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA opened their brewery to the public for the first time. A perfect excuse for a drive out to Western Mass for a beer-related excursion.

The event was a subdued affair as brewery openings go, though I suppose that’s not all surprising given the humble hosts. The monks of St. Joseph’s Abbey were gracious and attentive, working almost every aspect of the event without much outside help. Monks checked our ID, applied the 21+ bracelets, answered questions, poured and distributed samples, and handled sales. The only missing task was brewing.

Good advice.

Good advice.

Control Room

Control Room

The brewery is a massive, state-of-the-art facility capable of producing 40,000 barrels per year. Absolutely huge for a brewery that’s only been open for 2+ years. The monks don’t produce nearly that much (5,000 over the first two years before expanding their lineup), but that doesn’t make the 36,000 square foot facility any less impressive. It was – by far and away – the most immaculately clean brewery I’ve ever seen.

If cleanliness is next to godliness, then my homebrewery is probably an affront to God.

img_2288 img_2296 img_2284 img_2291 img_2286 img_2301 img_2300 img_2295 img_2299 img_2294

The public event also served as Spencer’s launch for their feierabendbier (which I’m told is pronounced fire-ah-bend-beer), a Pilsner-style “after work” beer, and the first Pilsner ever brewed by Trappist monks.

The monks were selling this new brew alongside their relatively new IPA. Inside the brewery there were also kegs and pallets of their Holiday ale and Imperial stout. I didn’t notice any of their Trappist Ale, but that might be because I was partially blinded by brewery-envy.

Truth be told, I wasn’t crazy about the feierabendbier. I’m not usually much of a Pilsner drinker to begin with, but this one lacked the crisp, dry finish and noble hop kick that I expect from the style. There’s a Belgian-ish character that doesn’t do it for me.

The Trappist IPA is a more reserved take on the style (again, not really surprising), that is certainly drinkable but probably not in line with what most American craft beer drinkers would expect for an IPA. There’s a strong caramel flavor that overpowers the hops.

img_2293 img_2295 img_2290 img_2307

Their other beers (Holiday, Spencer Trappist Ale, Imperial Stout) are all quite good, with the Spencer Trappist Ale remaining my favorite. As the production has increased, Spencer has been able to cut the rather hefty price down on that beer. Great news for my wallet and for people who haven’t had a chance to try it, or were steered away by the high price.

All in all, a great experience. Hopefully the monks will do it again some time in the near future.

Homebrew Con 2016 Recap

Alternate Title: A Bunch of Pictures of Me, Hugging Dudes

Mash Holes - President JD, President of Vice Vinny, and Scotty No Nickname

Mash Holes – President JD, President of Vice Vinny (me), and Scotty No Nickname

Intro

What follows is what I did what I remember of the 2016 Homebrew Con in Baltimore. I’ve bolded some key words and phrases to make this easier to skim through and read the stuff that interests you. Or if you’re like me reading these things: searching for your name. You vain sonuvabitch.

Day 1 – Which I Believe Was a Wednesday

My flight landed in Baltimore around noon, while my Mash Hole cohorts were en route via car from Boston. I took the train straight down to the Convention Center, and since I had plenty of time, wandered the whole 100ft to Pratt Street Ale House. I had roughly one taster-sized glass of Oliver beer for every 10 of those feet I walked (and a pretty good chicken sammich) before heading over to the Convention Center to sign in and pick up my swag-bag.

As members of our Club started trickling into the city, we made our way to the Brewing Network’s 11th anniversary party at Peabody Heights Brewery. We took a (surprising long) school bus there, and I met up with three of my local friends and two of their lady-friends that I’d talked into hanging out. The best beer of the bunch was Peabody Height’s Bourbon Obscura. After a few poor showings of cornhole and a lot of beers, I bid adieu to my friends and hopped on the not-short bus back into town.

The Mash Holes had set up camp at Heavy Seas’ tap house, and I was determined to go join them. So I walked through a part of town I’m pretty sure was part of The Wire for a beer, before heading back and finally crashing for the night. Not a bad start, but the main event was to come.

Day 2 – Thursday. All Day Special: Thursday, All Day

Oh baby. Things got off on the right foot with a shot of bourbon, and a trip to Miss Shirley’s for breakfast. This place doesn’t fuck around (and the prices show it). While most of the boys and gal opted for Bloody Marys, I went straight for a can of Union’s Duckpin Pale Ale with my coffee and chocolate chip pancakes. This was one of the best beers and easily the best meal I had all week.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

I skipped the morning sessions and opted to check out the Homebrew Expo, and holy shit am I glad I did. I was handed more free stuff than I knew what to do with. Over the course of the Con I filled up two bags worth of swag, including:

  • Roughly a pound of free hops (Zythos, Cascade, Equinox among them)
  • Enough dry yeast for about 10 batches of beer
  • A metric buttload of stickers which now adorn my keezer
  • Five pairs of sunglasses
  • Bottle openers, pens, pins, a bandana
  • And a trucker hat I won from correctly identifying raw hops

I also got to try beers from Bell’sDevil’s Backbone, Sam Adams (who brought so sour stuff), and a myriad of homebrewers. Free stuff and free beer? Win-win. I also got to meet brewing legends like John Palmer and John Blichmann

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Frodo and Gandalf, I mean, me and John Palmer

Me with John Blichmann (with two N's)

Me with John Blichmann (with two N’s)

Thursday closed with the Key Note address from Sam Calgione of Dogfish Head. Sam’s a relatively engaging speaker, but I’d been on my feet all day drinking free beer and at about the 20 minute mark of his address, I took a little snooze.

Thursday night was Kick-Off Party featuring Maryland brewers and homebrewers. This was basically the pre-game to Friday night. Speaking of which

Friday – Late to Bed, Early to Rise

The first seminars start at 9am which is a borderline war crime. For those of you who have never been to Homebrew Con, the main attraction are the various seminars on topics related to brewing. Here’s a list of the seminars that I remember attending (a lot of them serve beer, so this list is incomplete):

  • The Chemistry of Mashing – this was a 9am college chemistry class
  • Unlocking the Genetic Code of Brewing Strains – this was a 10:15am college biology class
  • How to Fail at Starting a Brewery
  • Going Pro a Pint at a Time
  • High Gravity Brewing: Hitting a Target Gravity with Precision and Quality
  • Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable – where I learned I’m a shitty blogger
  • Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods
  • Successful Strategies fro Raising Financial Resources for Your Homebrew Club
  • Growing Up: Building a Lasting Homebrew Club
  • More Than a Hobby: Developing Club Leadership for Long-Term Success
Pipe Dreaming

Pipe Dreaming

As you can tell from the titles, homebrewers are a verbose bunch. Most of the seminars were great and super-informative; some weren’t for me and I’ll have a better idea next year of which ones I should attend. It’s weird to think that you go on vacation to sit in a conference room and listen to a lecture, but if you add beer to your next work conference, I guarantee people will be more interested in attending.

Friday night we hit Max’s Taphouse for dinner. Max’s is one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to, period. Great atmosphere, great beer list, great service (assuming you don’t lollygag at the bar). Can’t say enough good things, but we’ll return to Max’s later, because the main event is up next…

Friday Night – Club Night

So big and bad, Friday night gets its own header. Yes, Club Night. Where homebrewers from all over the country set up shop to foist their beer upon your unsuspecting liver. If you’ve ever been to a beer festival, it is very similar to that, but with amateur brewers who go all out. What’s all out look like?

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

El Prez, getting sideways in front of Barely Legal

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Chris, Chip from Chop & Brew, me, and JD with some photobombers

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Jim from my LHBS, dressed to the nines

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

Chris, JD, Scott, and me with the well-dressed gents of love2brew

No caption can do this photo justice

No caption can do this photo justice

That’s not including the pirate ship/mobile tap setup; getting served a beer by former Homebrewer of the Year Annie Johnson; so many of the other awesome costumes and booths; and – oh yeah – the beer. Homebrewed beer is a wonderful thing, because you’re never 100% sure what you’re going to get. It could be the best tasting beer in the world or the worst. But you don’t know until you try and try I did.

Saturday – Holy Shit, I’m Still Alive

Ahh, Saturday. The bitter sweet end of Homebrew Con. Despite the end being imminent, this was probably my favorite day of the whole convention. I started off with my only day struggling to get out of bed and ended up at the Homebrew Bloggers Roundtable, featuring Derek Springer, Ed Coffey, Marshall Schottand Matt Humbard and hosted by Chip Walton. I got to find out what a shit-ass blogger I am, which was fun. I also snapped this great photo of Marshall having a bit of a struggle:

66eb96e6-7645-4c89-b6ee-c7814568630a

It was an informative panel for a guy who blogs (hey! that’s me!), and a chance to learn from some dudes who do it better than most. What’s better is I didn’t even have to leave the room for Marshall and Malcolm Frazer’s talk on Modern Perspectives on Traditional Methods, aka the Brulosophy seminar. The boys gave a great talk about the methods they use for their experiments exBEERiments, and served the room a 20-minute mash, 20-minute boil hoppy Helles lager that was pretty damn solid, and had none of the flaws you’d expect for fucking around with the beer as they do. I introduced myself to the guys afterwards, because I’m a huge fanboy of their blog but more about that later.

The rest of the day I spent largely with the President of our club, JD, bouncing around to different seminars on how to improve your homebrew club. We picked up a lot of great ideas that I’m anxious to start implementing with the Mash Holes. 2017 is going to be a big year for us, I can already tell. If you’re in the Boston/South Shore area and looking for a homebrew club, hit us up at: metrosouthhomebrewleague at gmail dot com

The day closed with the Awards Banquet, which we were lucky enough to sneak pay to get into. But that’s about where the luck ran out. I cook for myself, so I’ve choked down a lot of bad meals in my time, but this was painful. If the pork chops were any drier you could’ve used them as a wallet. The beers were from Flying Dog, Weyerbacher, and some other local breweries (not Heavy Seas) and they were atrocious. The dessert was stale Cracker Jack and pretzels. I was pretty bullshit about the whole thing.

I think the dinner finally did in the rest of the Mash Hole tribe, but as President of Vice it is my sworn duty to keep the party going (usually well past reason). So when I got a text from Marshall that there was a group at Max’s, I dragged my ass out of the hotel bed and off to meet for “a few beers.”

Conclusion – After the Show, It’s the After-Party

Max’s was fucking hopping when I got there. Among the guest list were:

I got to talk and drink with all these great dudes and a few others whose names escape me due to the copious amount of alcohol I’d been consuming since noon on Wednesday. I literally sat down one-on-one with John Palmer – the man whose book How to Brew literally taught me how to brew – and talk beer and brewing with him. That’s like talking writing with George RR Martin or some equivalent analogy. I talked the ears off the JaDed boys, to the point where I’m now an affiliate of theirs, probably so they’d get me to shut up. I got so drunk I gave what I thought was $5 to a homeless guy, but was actually $20 and then had some street hot dogs before taking one of the most epic homebrew photos of all time:

Fucking Epic

What a fucking trip.

Next year’s Homebrew Con is set for Minneapolis, aka the Windy Apple, and I’m already making plans. My liver and body are still recovering from the onslaught of this year, but I’m hoping that next year will be bigger and better. Maybe there will even be a Mash Holes table for club night? We’ll see…

Cheers!


Check out our affiliates:

hbs_logo_wide

Logo2

Affiliate Program – Homebrew Supply

So you will start seeing the Homebrew Supply logo around the site. Homebrew Supply reached out to me and offered me a spot in their affiliate program, which basically allows me to make a small commission on purchases made using my link. If you click the little folder icon in the upper left corner, you’ll see the permanent site link and I’ll be adding it to the bottom of my posts.

Other than that there’s no other planned changes to content, but I wanted to be transparent about why there’s a fancy logo popping up. So if you’re a homebrewer who enjoys this site and you’re planning to buy your gear online, check out Homebrew Supply when shopping around.

hbs_logo_wide

New Design

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m fiddling around with the design and structure of Anti-Hero Brewing. I initially tried to have this page with a dark gray background and darker gray sidebar, but some SNAFU within WordPress reverts the sidebar color to off-white. I didn’t like how that looked so I stopped fighting WordPress and reverted to the white-on-white default for the page.

I’m curious what people think of the current design; after all, you’re the ones reading this so your preference is pretty important.

If the poll doesn’t appear at the top of this post, you can vote here: Poll.