Warped Pours

Holy shiitake.

This long gap in brewing updates is brought to you by: Warped Pours, my club’s first-ever hosted homebrew festival. And man, what an event it was. But more to the point: man, what a pain in the ass it was. As a nice little kick to the jujubes, the Brewers Association posted an article entitled “How to Start a Beer Festival” literally two days after Warped Pours wrapped up. Our club spent most of the past 3-4 months working on getting this event off the ground, and I can happily say that it was a massive success. We far surpassed our wildest expectations, raising over $9000! That money will be split between two awesome charities, after expenses (e.g. campsite costs, ice, tickets, wristbands, etc.), and honestly I’d have been surprised if we’d raised half that.

Red(ish) IPA Update

On a more relevant-to-me-and-this-blog note, I was only able to present one beer at the festival – the reddish IPA that I’ve dumped so much time into. I significantly altered the recipe to some mixed results. The latest version incorporated HopShot (5mL) into the boil in addition to a large bittering charge of Nugget. The result? Well, I finally brewed a beer with that trademark West Coast Bitterness.

Unfortunately, the beer came out with the kind of murky turbidity you’d expect from a New England IPA… and it was brown instead of red. So that murkiness made it look a little (a lot) like swamp water. Having lost my olfactory senses from too many shots to the nose, I wasn’t able to get a good read on the aroma but my friend Andy – a National BJCP judge and pro brewer – said it smelled like a “big bag o’ weed.” That’s exactly what I was going for, so it seems like this hop bill is almost nailed down. The malt bill is going to need some tweaking. The bill for this version (v3) was:

  • 2-Row (82%)
  • Munich 10L (13%)
  • Carapils (3%)
  • Roasted Barley (1%)
  • Carafa III (1%)

I think I may remove the Carafa III or the Roasted Barley altogether, haven’t decided which to get rid of yet for Version 4, though I’m leaning towards nixing the roasted barley.

New Brews

The aforementioned Andy was over a couple weeks ago to hang out for what was essentially the maiden voyage of my new Spike conicals and my upgraded system. It wasn’t a true maiden voyage, as the Red(ish) IPA was brewed in the kettle and transferred to the conical, but it was brewed at someone else’s home and then brought back here. I also hadn’t quite figured out all the fine tuning with the system yet either.

We brewed 11 gallons of a Czech Pilsner, and the numbers hit spot on. Unfortunately – as I mentioned earlier – Andy is a pro-brewer and brought over a case of beer. Normally that’s a good thing, but not while brewing. We were a little too drunk to complete the transfer, so I bucketed the finished wort and went out to dinner with the girlfriend; the wort was transferred when we got home with 4 packs of Saflager 34/70. I’m planning to take a hydrometer reading this weekend, bump the temperature up for a diacetyl rest, and then start lagering.

Next up, I’ll be brewing a saison and a pale ale for easy drinking over the upcoming summer months. Saison brew day will be next weekend and the pale ale will be at the beginning of July.

 

Cheers!

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What Does Your Favorite Beer Style Say About You?

You can learn a lot about someone from the type of beer they drink (is the way that most of these articles start). So what does your favorite beer style say about you?

IPAs and Double IPAs

You like IPAs. And maybe Double IPAs. Possibly even the occasional Session IPA.

Pale Ales

You like pale ales.

Stouts or Porters

You like stouts. Or maybe porters. Or maybe both!

Sour Beers

You like sour beers. Or you’re trying to stay up with the trends, but since I don’t know you I’ll assume you just like sour beers.

Hefeweizens

You like hefeweizens. You might also like fruit in your beer, but you might not. You should eat it anyway though, because you’re probably not getting enough Vitamin C.

Some other type of beer not listed here.

Look, man, I don’t care what you drink. In fact, I don’t even judge you for what you drink (unless it’s Heineken, because fuck that shit). And really this post has no reason to exist, much like it’s several billion click-baity predecessors. Instead of reading crap like this, maybe – I don’t know – go have a brown ale, or a bock, or an Oktoberfest, or an amber ale, or shit even…

Macro-Brewed Light Lager

You don’t give a fuck, and I respect that.

What’s Brewing (Haha, See What I Did There?)

Long time no thing. Yeah, I know. Get over it.

Despite not actively brewing recently, I’ve been fairly busy with beer-related activities (not to mention the usual hodgepodge of less important work-related and life-related activities). I’ll run through them in reverse-chronological order, because that’s how my brain functions.

Yesterday (6/18) – On account of our fearless leaders being too hungover from the National Homebrewers’ Conference busy with important life matters, the Mashholes homebrew meeting was cancelled. A few of the guys decided to do an impromptu get-together at Union Brewhouse in Weymouth. It was my first time there and it is a pretty solid joint with a great beer selection and good food. Parking was a little confined and I may have backed into a pole attempting a 97-point turn, but overall solid. Lots of good talk about beer, brewing, kegging and potential ideas for the club.

Also Yesterday – The beer style for the first ever Mashholes Homebrew Competition was announced, and it is the noble Pale Ale. I have yet to brew a pale ale not of Indian descent, so I think this will be a cool, straight-forward style that I’m looking forward to brewing. The competition is intra-club, so it’ll be exciting to see the different variations that people brew. Really excited about this.

Saturday (6/14) – I went over to my friend Shaun’s place to “help” him brew a Citra Pale Ale. He brought this to one of the homebrew club meetings and it is probably one of the better homebrews I’ve ever had. I mostly watched and drank his beers, but it was really insightful to see how someone else brews and where our processes/equipment differ. I ended up heading to a BBQ after that and ended up at Porter Cafe (my favorite beer bar in West Roxbury) and ran into my little brother and another brewing buddy, Joe. Joe and I talked about Wheatfest, which is a homebrew event hosted by our mutual friend Keith focused on wheat-related beers. Wheatfest is this Saturday (6/21) and I’ll be bringing R’lyeh.

Friday (6/13) – My new chest freezers arrived. One is going to be a fermentation chamber (5cu ft) and the other is going to be converted into a keezer (kegerator/freezer, 7cu ft). I’m planning to draft up the plans tonight or tomorrow and start getting the materials and parts together over the weekend. The builds probably won’t be done until end of July, so I’m using the 5ft freezer to keep some Omaha Steaks cold. I also had dinner with Matt (of Matt Brown Marzen fame) at Cagney’s in Quincy. I also went to Cagney’s with Greg on Tuesday (6/10); it’s a pretty cool spot that’s close to my house. The food is excellent and they have a decent beer selection, too. I had Be Hoppy on draft for the first time on Tuesday. Greg, true to stereotypes, had the Melonhead with a slice of watermelon.

And that about takes us back to the last brew club meeting, two weeks ago. I’ve got Bandito, R’lyeh, and Arctos in bottles now. All have been very well received. There’s some tweaks I’d make to each of them but I am excited for how well my beers are turning out now. The next brew will be that pale ale, and I’m thinking of busting out a secret ingredient for that…

 

Beer Review: Maine Beer’s A Tiny Beautiful Something

It has been a long time since I’ve done a proper beer review, and I think a Maine brew is the perfect way to get back in the swing of things. Bottled on 2/11/14 and enjoyed only 16 days later. I’d never heard of this beer before, and hadn’t read anything about it until the blurb I pulled from Maine’s website (see below). Apparently, a tiny beautiful something uses a new hop variety called El Dorado.

From Maine:

a tiny beautiful something showcases a new hop variety, El Dorado. We started playing around with this hop last year. We brewed a pilot batch with this hop exclusively and one with it blended with some of our other favorite Northwest varieties. In the end, we decided that the El Dorado had such a unique and interesting character on its own, so we decided to brew it as a “single hop” pale ale. The aroma and flavor offer intense candied orange and citrus zest. A touch of flaked oats provide a rounded, silky mouthfeel. And like our other hoppy offerings, tiny was brewed to finish dry and clean.

Color – Yellow-Orange
ABV – 5.5%
O.G. – 1.049
Malt – American 2-Row, CaraPils, Caramel 40L & Flaked Oats 10L
Hops – Warrior, El Dorado

Maine atbs1

BeerAdvocate: 88, N/A
RateBeer: 87, 88
Untappd: 3.83

Appearance: a tiny beautiful something pours a hazy yellow-orange with a white head of tiny bubbles. Aesthetically it lives up to the name, I suppose. Not every beer is brilliantly clear. It is a very pleasing color.

Smell: New hop varieties mean new smells. Though the aroma isn’t particular pungent, there is a distinct tropical fruitiness to it. These aren’t the usual suspects though; I get blueberry and maybe even watermelon? Hints of mango and pineapple, too, perhaps. It is hard to tell because the aroma is fairly subtle. Maybe some light herbal notes as well. I’m burying my nose in the glass, but the smell is faint.

Taste: Now that is an interesting flavor. Blueberries is the first thing that comes to mind, but there’s also a hint of bubblegum, some stone fruits, and mango. There’s a peppery finish and a very light bitterness. It is certainly unique and unlike any pale ale I’ve had before.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is perfect for this beer. The body is light, but the oats lend a smooth, creaminess to it. The carbonation is prickly and effervescent leading you right into the next sip. There’s no lingering bitterness, and a tiny beautiful something finishes up dry and crisp.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 5. Buy it.

I say “buy it” both on the strength of its uniqueness, but also because it is a pleasant, quaffable beer. I don’t think I can rate the beer higher, because for me personally I don’t know if it is one I would buy again. This is an incredibly interesting beer, well-balanced, highly drinkable and it tastes completely different from any other beer I’ve had which is truly an accomplishment… but it’s not a beer I’m crazy about. Maybe it’s because I’m not a huge fan of blueberries, and blueberry is a strong flavor I’m getting (at least I think that’s blueberry, it’s been a while since I’ve had one). Maine definitely has their grain bill dialed in; the ingredients are very similar to their other Pale Ales and IPAs, all excellent.

I would definitely drink this beer again, I just don’t think I’d go out of my way to get it. However, if these flavors are what you’re looking for I think you’d absolutely love this beer.

Maine atbs3

Beer Review: Trillium Brewing’s New Roots

I got a really awesome beer review for you today. Straight outta Southie, ked. Last Friday I stopped by Trillium Brewing Company in the Fort Point neighborhood of South Boston, MA and picked up their newest brew: New Roots. For those of you who aren’t in the know about Trillium, they are a super-small, mom and pop operation that is making some terrific beers; a lot of them one-offs. Being located in South Boston means they are one of only three breweries operating in the Boston city limits (Harpoon and Sam Adams being the other two).

This New Roots brew is so limited and so new, I’m only the 26nd person to check into it on Untappd, and some dude named Scott checked into it 3 times. Typical Scott. All I really know about this beer is that it was only a pilot batch, brewed with hops grown by the head brewer, JC Tetreault. It is a hoppy farmhouse ale at 6.3% ABV.

Trillium New Roots 3

BeerAdvocate: N/A, N/A
RateBeer: N/A, N/A
Untappd: 3.64

Appearance: A hazy orangish color with a just-off-white head. My head was pretty thin on account of it sitting for a week, but it had nice small bubbles, and it still leaves some decent lacing. The haze doesn’t make it the prettiest beer, but it looks its part.

Smell: I get a citrusy smell with this one along with some clove and a bit of a peppery aroma as well. It’s not hoppy smelling in that dank, resinous way that  you think of a West Coast IPA. The aroma is pleasant but subdued. As it warms I get a little more hop aroma and a bit more earthiness, as well as more cloves and a hint of banana bread.

Taste: This is a nice flavor. There’s some of the citrus (a lemon or orange flavor, maybe even a hint of mango), some of the clove and a nice bite of pepper. There’s some hop bitterness which comes more into play as the beer warms. That bitterness is balanced well with a sweetness that is usually described as “bubblegum,” but I think this is a little less blunt than the usual bubblegum taste. Maybe a little hint of banana or banana bread as well. There’s definitely also a wheat character to the taste, and some earthiness as well that really gives the farmhouse impression.

Mouthfeel: A nice creamy mouthfeel, just a small tingle of hops and spice lingering on the lips and tongue. Body is light-medium. Very quaffable.

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5. Buy it. Oops, you can’t.

Sorry, friends/now enemies, but this beer is officially no more. Like I said, this was only a pilot batch and 64oz of it went home with me (and presumably a similar amount with Scott). I really enjoyed this beer; it’s a nice, easy drinker with a smooth, creamy body. There’s enough flavors and nuance to keep it interesting without my tastebuds wondering what the hell is going on. I’d probably like a bit more aroma and maybe a bit more hop-bite, but overall is this a super, well-balanced beer. It’s a shame you probably won’t get to try it.

Trillium New Roots 1

Beer Review: Tröegs’ Perpetual IPA

Craft beer aficionados of Massachusetts should be aware of the Craft Beer Cellar, a group of stores started by Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow in 2010, currently in Massachusetts with plans of further expansion in the coming years. They have four locations including the recently opened store front in Newton, MA. On my commute home from work this past Friday I had the chance to stop by and check out the new store on only their third day of business. It was absolutely mind-blowing. This is – without question – the largest craft beer store I’ve ever set foot in. For those who are familiar with the Belmont location, Newton is 2 to 3 times larger. The selection is also impressive and I’m slightly ashamed to say how much I spent in one* visit.

* I suppose, technically, you could call it two visits since I left to put my first purchase in the car and came BACK and bought more beer. I may have a problem.

Anyway, as it happens they were doing a tasting with Tröegs out of Pennsylvania. I’d heard of Tröegs and I’ve had a few of their beers (The Mad Elf is a delicious Christmas-y beer), so I hung around for the tasting. They poured Dreamweaver Wheat (a hefeweizen that I actually loved despite not liking the style), Hop Back Amber (a hoppy amber ale), Dead Reckoning (a Fall seasonal porter), Java Head (a coffee porter with very strong coffee flavors), and the subject of today’s review: Perpetual IPA (Imperial Pale Ale).

From Tröegs:

Alcohol by Volume: 7.5%
Hop Bitterness (IBUs): 85
Color (SRM): Straw / Golden
Availability: Year Round
Malts: Pilsner, Crystal, Munich
Hops: Bravo, Chinook, Mt. Hood
Hopback Hops: Mt. Hood, Nugget
Dry Hops: Citra, Cascade
Yeast: Ale

In our constant evolution as a brewery, we’ve developed an undying drive to meld the organic and the mechanical. Perpetual IPA utilizes our hopback and dry-hopping to engineer a bold Imperial Pale Ale. It features Bravo, Chinook and Mt. Hood hops in the boil, Mt. Hood and Nugget hops in the hopback, and is further dry-hopped with Citra and Cascade hops.

TASTING NOTES

“Straw in color and bittered with an abundance of citrus and spicy hops, Perpetual IPA is a tribute to building our new brewery and our desire to continue exploring,” says John Trogner.

BeerAdvocate: 92, 85
RateBeer: 98, 99
Untappd: 3.88

troegs perpetual 1

AppearanceStraw yellow to golden is a solid description. Very clear, especially for a dry-hopped IPA, with a nice heavy white head with nice, medium sized bubbles.

SmellBefore I had tasted this, I had recently brewed an IPA with my friend Mike (tentatively called “Mike IPA”, until I can come up with a better name), that used Cascade and Citra hops. Smelling this beer – dry-hopped with Cascade and Citra – I got a beer-boner for my own creation. This smells incredible. Piney notes mix with big citrus aromas. There’s some orange, some mango. A really nice tropical fruit smell.

TasteThis is definitely a case of the Alstrom “Bros” being too pretentious for their own good. A rating of “85” is a slap in the face to this beer. This is an excellent IPA. I would say this contends with Ballast Point’s Sculpin for best, readily available IPA. The bitterness is strong and prickly, but very well balanced. The hops add a nice citrus flavor that borders on orange juice, and the Crystal and Munich malts add a great balanced sweetness that rounds out this beer. The taste is dank and bitter without being palette stripping.

MouthfeelPrickly bitterness but with a solid medium body and good carbonation. The bitterness lingers on the tip of the tongue long after the sip, but not in an unpleasant way. This is a very clean, creamy taste that ends with a nice punch of hoppy bitterness at the end.

Final Verdict: 4.5 out of 5Buy it. Buy it in bulk if you’re a hophead.

When I saw the tasting at Craft Beer Cellar was Tröegs, I was initially disappointed. Despite claiming to be a beer geek, instead of a beer snob, I was hoping for a brewery that was either more rare, or more renowned. What I got was what I needed: a good hard slap in the face. Much like the Sam Adams ad suggests, I needed the reminder that just because I’ve heard of a brewery and had a few of their beers doesn’t mean I know everything about them. I expected Perpetual IPA to be a run-of-the-mill, obligatory IPA offering – what I assume the Alstrom Bros rated it, without any real thought – and I was very, very wrong (and unlike the Alstroms, I’ll admit to it).  This is an excellent beer, and the primary reason I went back for that second round of beer purchases. Worth it.

troegs perpetual 2

Beer Review: Ballast Point’s Yellowtail Pale Ale

Today was another bullshit day in the week from hell. In addition to the 12+ hour work day, I went to try my DIPA and Black IPA that had been bottle conditioning but when I popped the tops they had no carbonation. After two weeks they should’ve at least shown some signs of carbonation considering all my previous beers were just about ready at that point.

I’ll talk more about that tomorrow in a post, but needless to say I needed a pick-me-up beer. So I reach for one of the cans that Tyler had sent: Ballast Point Pale Ale.

From Ballast Point:

There’s no wonder why our Pale Ale is so popular—it is skillfully crafted in the style of the Kolsch beers of Cologne, Germany.  We’ve chosen German hops for aroma, and rounded out the recipe with a blend of American and German malts.

While it is very much like a Pilsner, our Pale Ale is fermented at ale temperatures, giving it a subdued fruitiness—a perfect compliment to the crispness of the wheat and maltiness of the Munich malt. If you like a lighter brew but also like the complexity of craft beers, then our Pale Ale is for you.

Bitterness 23 IBUs
Alc. by Vol. 5.2%
Serving Temperature 40-45 degrees F

Ballast Point Pale 3

Beer Advocate: 80, 88
RateBeer: 42, 63
Untappd: 3.29

Appearance: Light orange to straw yellow with a big white head that doesn’t linger. Very clean and clear.

Smell: Not a lot happening on the nose. Maybe a tinge of caramel with bready maltiness. Some slight hints of yeast character and hops. Which I guess is the same as saying it “smells like beer,” just not very strongly.

Taste: Good balance between malt and hops, but far less better than you’d expect from a Pale Ale from California. A pleasant, light and crisp flavor. Something like a less hoppy Sierra Nevada. There’s a hint of spice in the finish. A little malt sweetness, too.

Mouthfeel: Light and crisp with decent carbonation. It feels “like a beer.”

Final Verdict: 3.5 out of 5. Try it.

Ballast Point gets the rounding error from 3.25 up to 3.5 here. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, but there’s nothing really remarkable about it either. This is really more of a Kolsch than a Pale Ale, and it’s a good Kolsch. But Kolsch is rarely a memorable style.

Ballast Point Pale 1