Monday, April 27, 2009

Mike and Jim's Excellent Adventure

Last Sunday (4/19/09), Jimmy and I decided to make a new batch after bottling the first set, but we wanted to be a little creative. None of this "stick to the recipe" stuff; you've got to go big or go home, we said. This...probably wasn't the greatest way to go about it, considering we sat at the table with the ingredients staring at us in the face without their flavor profiles and just thinking "Hey, that might be good". In retrospect, it turned out to be a true Frankenstein monster, but it was late Sunday night, we were beat, both had a long week of work ahead of us, and said screw it.
Our ingredients were Octoberfest Vienna Lager, Bewitched Red Ale, and High Country Canadian Draft (all Hopped Malt Extracts), 1/2 oz. of Cascade Hop Pellets, and 3 packs of Dry Ale Yeast.

One thing you'll notice missing is the Booster. With three cans of malt extract planned, there is no need to add the flavorless Booster since there is already enough fermentable ingredients involved. Another change from the previous batch is we will actually boil the ingredients for a few minutes. Last time, the water was brought to a boil, removed from heat, and then the extracts were added; however, I feel this did not allow the extracts to be reconstituted because the water did not remain hot long enough. So now that we plan on adding 3 extracts, we want to be sure the water is warm enough. Also, we want to have the hops being added boiled just a tad to get some of the acids released from the pellets. The order of the extracts added were as shown above from left to right, followed by the 1/2 oz. of Cascade hops. Then it was left to boil for a couple minutes to finish making the wort. We had originally planned for 5 to maybe 10 minutes of boiling, but you'll see in a minute why we cut this short.

Jimmy adding some extract, trying hard not to screw it up. He didn't.

Jimmy adding the hops. When we first popped open the bag, Jimmy popped something else...

Stirring the wort. Notice how it is ominously getting close to the top...

...aaaand we spilled the wort while pouring into the fermenter. Note: when you use more extract, you are adding more volume and need a bigger boiling pot. Whodathunkit?

Jimmy adding the yeast. Look at the concentration on that man!

Our batch is complete! Nothing to do but wait a few weeks until this monster is done fermenting.

Gut-check time: although Jimmy and I had a lot of fun making this batch together, we definitely need better planning in the future in terms of what kind of beer we are going for. Looking back, throwing those three extracts and hops together without thinking truly about what it would result in was a poor choice. I don't really have high expectations with this batch either and will chalk it up to the learning curve. However, that doesn't mean we aren't going to go through the motions and bottle this baby. I did sample the fermenter about a week and a half into fermentation, and although it tasted better than the first batch (with the alcohol definitely more noticeable this time, as expected), it's still not very good. We shall see after it finishes fermenting and bottling.

Another difference from the last batch I wanted to mention was the change from using tap water to bottled water. From what I've read the quality of water makes a huge difference and is often overlooked. I think this applies more to those with hard water, but I wanted to give it a try. Might not be able to tell with this batch if it made a difference, probably better to compare two identical recipes with the different waters, but that's for another day.

Happy home brewing!

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Swore I Would Never Do This, But...

I tweeted. I'm not one for getting sucked into stupid internet fad crap, but since everyone and their mother is on this Twitter thingie, we figured we might as well set one up for the blog. On the bright side, this could come in handy during beer fests and drunken excursions so you, the readers can get our up to the second thoughts on the glorious beer we are drinking. Also, it will help us remember shit, because we are pretty bad at that stuff. Tomorrow, Jimmy, Alex, and myself will be perusing through NYC's craft beer bars pretty much all day, so if you want updates on our thoughts or want to give us suggestions, head on over to our Twitter page. If you want to rebel against society you commie-pinko-nazi-fascist-baby killing bastard, you could always leave a comment here.

Kidding, you aren't a commie-pinko, nazi, or fascist.

Oh yea, I'll do a write up Sunday about the batch Jimmy and I made, I'm too tired to do it all tonight.

*Update* We added a gadget to the right that streams our Twitter page right onto the blog.

Brooklyn Local 2

I have been salivating over this beer since I visited the Brooklyn Brewery with Alex a few months ago and saw the bottles lined up fresh from the bottling line. I really enjoyed Local 1 and was at the top of my list of Belgians along with Duvel and Chimay, so I have high hopes for the Local 2.

Appearance: Man, I love hearing the pop of the cork! Pours with a dark, bubbly brown with plenty of head that just won't quit, definitely darker than your classic Belgian ale, more comparable to the Chimay blue label.

Smell: A combination of nutty/chocolate and (slight) caramel malts with the slimmest of hints of dank hops, all topped with a zest of citrus, completely different from the sweetness and pine aromas from the Local 1, it distinguishes itself as its own beer, not simply a sequel.

Taste: Nothing is dominant at first taste, a little dry, again the nutty malts and dank hops play tug of war for the attention of your tastebuds, with neither winning or losing. After letting it warm up a bit and a couple more sips, the malts start to become more prevalent. The bottle mentions honey and citrus on the front of the bottle, these ingredients really don't show themselves until you let the temperature settle for a while, then they compliment the beer nicely.

Mouthfeel: Light, thin, even a little watery, some carbonation, pretty smooth.

Drinkability: Like the Local 1, it's extremely easy to drink at 9% abv. The flavors are pretty subtle, which is a double edged sword; nothing will overpower you and make you put it down, but there is the possibility of becoming bored with it. To be honest, I might have set my expectations a little too high for this beer. Don't get me wrong, it's still a very good beer and definitely worth a buy. There is just something off, like the beer doesn't know if it wants to be a Dark Ale or Golden Ale. The brewer's intentions could have been a Dark Ale similar to a Chimay, but the execution doesn't seem to be complete. A little disappointed after the Local 1, with that said, I still give it a 8/10.

Glass type: Duvel tulip
Serving type: Bottle

Bottling Our First Batch

Ok, life has finally calmed down enough where I can take some time to recap our brewing adventure this past Sunday. Before Jimmy and I began brewing, we had to bottle the first batch I made back on the 4th. I had heard horror stories about adding too much sugar to the bottles and having them explode, so that was my only concern. Otherwise, with a two man team, it was an extremely easy process. So much so that we were done before we could snap any pics, so below is just our finished product.

All the process entailed was sanitizing the bottles with the One-Step cleanser, putting an appropriate amount of white granulated sugar into the bottles for carbonation (we had a chart to tell us how much for each bottle), filling the bottles with beer up to two inches from the top, and capping them. For those not familiar with the process and thinking "What the hell is the sugar for?", white sugar is added to each bottle in order to create the carbonation in the beer. The active yeast left in the beer while bottling will continue to ferment with the newly introduced sugar, where one of the byproducts is CO2. Now you can see why we were so worried about putting too much sugar, too much sugar means too much CO2 in a capped bottle means shattered glass and *gasp* spilled beer. We chose to use both growlers and 12 oz. glass bottles in order to gain experience with the bottle capper and to see if the beer favors being in one size over another. Originally, we also had plans to cold condition (carbonating while in the fridge) a couple bottles, but the idiot that I am forgot to stick 'em in the fridge after bottling. We'll do that for the next batch.

Lastly, I did sample the beer during the fermentation process thanks to the tap at the bottom. In the usual 5 gallon glass carboy, it's not advised to open the fermenter at any time as it can introduce contaminating bacteria which can spoil the beer. The first time I sampled it one week into fermentation, the beer was very cloudy, light, and a tad bit sour. I was worried that I hadn't sanitized my equipment well enough, but as the second week wore on, the sourness faded and the appearance cleared. By bottling time, it was an extremely light pale ale, but at least there was alcohol, which indicated fermentation had occured. Good enough for me with mediocre ingredients.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Man, We Are Getting Lazy

I know, we've been kind of slacking recently. We have some good stuff to write about, but we just haven't gotten to it. Coming up this week, Jimmy and I will tell you about bottling the first batch of beer I brewed a couple weeks ago, as well as the new batch we made last night, which we think has some promise. Also, I have a couple reviews waiting, Founders Cerise, an interesting cherry beer, and Brooklyn Local 2, a brew I've been waiting to try since I had visited the brewery this past winter. So thanks for the patience as we will hopefully return to more regular postings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lagunitas Hop Stoopid

I picked up a bomber of this at Ramsey Liquors in NJ. So did my brother, hence the two bottles below to celebrate Easter Sunday. Intense piney hops that make you smile like there is no tomorrow. No review yet, but a definite pick up if you like IPA/Imperial IPAs. Solid price at $4.69 too.

Welcome Home & Happy Easter

Welcome home, Alex!

Happy Easter to all from the Hopheads.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Brewing Supplies

One thing I have learned in my adult life is drinking and online shopping is never a good idea...unless that shopping is for brewing supplies, then it's a FUCKING AWESOME IDEA! I have been meaning to buy more supplies for my Mr. Beer brewing kit, but real life has gotten in the way. They have this deal that anything over $99 will get you free ground shipping, plus I have a $100 gift card, so the goal was to go on a shopping spree resulting somewhere between those values. Below is what I ended up with:

I have a couple of kits in there that include a few malt extracts, some hop pellets, and such. I most likely won't follow the recipes exactly, but I did want the ingredients and it was cheaper than buying individually. The plan is to take those ingredients and make my own monster creations. This may seem bold since my first batch has only been fermenting for a week and I have no idea if it makes anything decent, but then again I am a bold guy. Is bold the right word?

Avery Hog Heaven

TGIF!!! I am so ready for an exciting Friday night of ABC family fun with episodes of Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step and Perfect Strangers... Wait a minute, this is 2009, not the 90's era where I was a puny little rug rat with a high pitched no balls type of voice. TGIF circa 2009 means BEER after a tough and stressful week of work. Not just one beer, but many!! Cheers.

I bought this bomber at Ramsey Liquors in NJ. Expensive at $8-9, but mighty worth it I am sure. Fellow red head hop annihilator Alex hearts this brew, so I will make him proud with a review:

Appearance: Foggy and unclear, kind of like scenes from a horror flick. Shades of cherry wood when held up to the light with minor head retention that leaves a vague trace of lacing on the glass.

Smell: Intense caramelly malts fly up to my big jewish nostrils like WOAH. My second sniff brings about some yeasty perfumy aromas; reminds me of the filling of an authentic homade peach pie in the summer.

Taste: Not as scary as I thought, but it sure comes with a punch. Sweet malts clearly stand out on this bottle with hints of walnut. The 2 1/2 pounds per barrel of Columbus dry hops don't stand out to me.

Mouthfeel: You can definitely tast the alcohol as you let this thick and rich body savor in your palette. Sweet carmel finish througout the aftertaste.

Drinkability: I usually wait on having barleywines till the last beer cycle of the night. However, I could not on this Friday and had this 9.2% abv beast with a whopping 100 IBUs before dinner! Damn, all those IBUs and I vaguely tasted or smelled any hops...hmmmm. Does anyone taste any intense hops in theirs? I might have to get another bottle to compare.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Founders Double Trouble Imperial IPA

So it is Sunday and you know what that means in my family: BEEEEEEEEEEER. I picked some of these 12oz over at Ramsey Liquors. Lets get this party started for April:

Appearance: Pours an incandescent clear yellow with a surprising 2 fingers of head (I think the northern NJ distributor of Founders must have gone over a couple of bumps because this is the second time I have had a Founders that was overly carbonated. Either that or that is how a typical Founders is). Molten head lacing slowly dissipates and leaves this hieroglyphic writing that says, "Enjoy the 86 IBU's!"

Smell: Ahhhhh!! My favorite grapefruit citrus hops blended well douglas fir baby pine tree tasting hops. Lets get that nose in closer for another AHHHHHH!!!

Taste: Not as orgasmic as the smell. Intense hopsicity more on the piney side. Kind of sweet in a way (could be the salt from my PepFarm Pizza Flavor Blasted Goldfish).

Mouthfeel: Dry bitter smoky aftertaste that would make BudLight drinkers cry home to their mommys. Goes down coarse and not as carbonated as the initial appearance

Drinkability: Another job well done from Founders in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Would like to get the chance to try this off the tap someday. Overall, this 9.4% was a 8.5/10 for me. Up there with my hoppy DIPAs that I just go crazy over. Its strong, but I am stronger so I could have a couple more; hence I would definitely drink another

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Samuel Adams Double Bock (Imperial Series)

The exquisite brewers of Samuel Adams came out with a new line of "Imperial Series" for 2009: Imperial White, Double Bock & Imperial Stout. My other beer nickname besides hop-o-holic is Imperial Jimbo-cereal because damn I live on hoppy and strong beers. I chose the Double Bock out of the 3 at Ramsey Liquors. It came in a cute (yeah I use budlight words like that) 4 pack. Lets see what Jim Koch can do...
Appearance: Pours a deep copper brown but looks rich and thick in the glass like a full bodied shiraz. Low head retention and seems quite intimidating, but I slay beer for a living so that will not stop me.

Smell: Deep vibes of applesauce from the caramelly malts. My nose is not feeling the hops at all. Clean yeast aromas that are fresh for this lager.

Taste: Caramel sweetness like the smell, but the taste of alcohol is not hidden too well. Still can't reach the hops.

Mouthfeel: Creamy and secretly thick. Carbonation tingles the tongue. This beer is like a full meal almost.

Drinkability: 9.5% abv. 8/10 rating. I wonder how glorious the Triple Bock is...

That Was Easy

Today was the big day to pop my home brewing cherry. Last night I had trouble falling asleep, just like the night before Christmas. I couldn't wait to get right to it, a brand new experience that was sure to present some hiccups. Truth be told, it was quite easy since the kit was idiot proof. Granted, I should wait to see how it tastes, but overall it was an easy process. Sanitize the shit out of everything, bring water to a boil, add hopped malt extract, put mixture into fermenter with water, add the dried yeast, voila! Now the hard part of waiting for the fermentation process to finish begins. Two excruciating weeks until bottling, then another two weeks for carbonation. The only thing keeping me from wanting to try some is knowing it would ruin the beer. Here are some photos of the experience.

The setup, in the middle of sanitizing everything.

Hopped malt extract and the packet of dried ale yeast. The extract pours as thick as molasses, even after having the can soak in hot water for over half an hour.

My goofy ass pouring the malt extract into the finished boiling water. I wasn't lying that the extract was thick. Side note: first time I have ever used the timer on the camera. Came out alright.

Added dry ale yeast to the wort in the fermenter. See the clear patch free of bubbles but tons of floating crap? There's the live yeast organisms doing their thing.

Sealed and ready for fermentation. A loooong two weeks until the bottling and carbonation step.

I'm not going for any groundbreaking brews on the first try, especially with ready made extracts. This recipe should produce an American Pale Ale, but a pretty weak one at that, only 4% abv. If I had used another unhopped malt extract instead of the booster pack it came with, the estimated abv would be above 6%. The hops were already included in the extract, which will produce an estimated 10 IBUs of bitterness, so this will be a pretty light pale ale, especially compared to other brews we consume. However, I didn't want to be too ambitious with the first batch, especially if I fucked up royally. Now while I wait, I begin to plan my next brew, something with a little more pop. Happy Home Brewing!

Anchor Summer Beer

Wanted to try something new, so I picked up a six pack of this beer at Bottle King today (by the way, this liquor store was packed!!! Even in this recession, people are buying the booze. Well then again, you can make the assumption that more people drink to drown their sorrows in a recession). It may not be summer yet but hell, I'll drink any type of beer any day of the year.

Appearance - Clear, light, almost watery like Natty. Solid two fingers of fluffy head with constant carbonation bubbles escaping to the top.

Smell - First reaction I was taken aback as I am not used to the wheat style. Fragrant antique store wheats and hops are not even vaguely present.

Taste - Refreshing and simple to the pallet (I am sure the brewing process was not simple). Sour with that chamomile floral taste with some water crackers

Mouthfeel - Smooth, not as watery as looks.

Drinkability - New style for me. Based on the style, I give it 7/10. I could drink many glasses of this but would probably get bored as I am a hop monster. 4.6% abv

Update - I just read the label and it says that this ale is ALL MALTS