Archive for September, 2009

Oktoberfests – American style


My Top 5 American Oktoberfest Beers of 2009
1 – Sam Adams Oktoberfest. This one is consistently a terrific blend of crisp and sweet, right in the middle of the curve in both flavor and color….great beer.
2 – Great Lakes Oktoberfest – Another fine example that doesn’t go over the top with the caramel malts. Drier than Sam Adams, but terrific flavor and malty aroma.
3 – Rogue Maierfest Lager – While it was strange to order a Rogue beer that wasn’t loaded with hops, I am glad I did. This is a lighter colored version than the previous two, with a nice balance of hops and malt.
4 – New Glarus Staghorn – Darker than Rogue, and lighter than the others, this one has a great malt/hops balance and an unusual fruitiness and some nutty/toasty flavors that make it one to try each year.
5 – Bell’s Oktoberfest – An Orange/Copper version of the style, malt forward of course, but dry and not too much caramel sweetness, more of a toasty/bready flavor than caramel.

Well, looking at my descriptions, I obviously don’t like too much sweetness in my Oktoberfests. This probably the reason I really didn’t care for the Capital Brewery Oktoberfest. Normally I like their stuff, but if you want a REALLY sweet/caramel version of the style, pick up this one.

Basement Completion….mostly


Well, we have finally completed the basement finishing project. We are still waiting on some furniture we ordered over labor day weekend, and we have a few odds & ends to take care of like finding some proper bar height barstools (that aren’t $500 each) as well as running the taps through the wall to behind the bar and hanging some items like the sweet Sam Adams neon I got for my birthday last year and some Bears items as well. For the most part it’s done though and I am pretty happy with how it turned out….bar on one end and home theater on the other.

Now that this is done, I am looking forward to having some more time to brew and hopefully getting the new brewstand built this fall or winter….and refinishing the dressers to get them out of the garage…

Oktoberfest tastings: Berliner Weiss, Cider, Maerzen, Doppelbock, Imperial Stout


This past weekend we co-hosted our annual Oktoberfest party. On tap this year we had a Berliner Weiss, Cider, Maerzen, Doppelbock, and Imperial Stout homebrews, and what formerly was a 1/4 barrel of New Glarus Spotted Cow.

The Berliner Weiss was my first attempt at this style and I think it turned out great. Personally, I would like it a bit more sour, but for the masses it seemed to be perfect as the corny was just about empty. Weighing in at about 3% I think this may become a staple here, as it is really a terrific session beer. I was also able to get some Himbeer (Raspberry) and Waldmeister (Woodruff) syrups from These are sometimes added to Berliner Weiss beers in order to balance out the sourness of the beer. While plain was my favorite, I also enjoyed the beer with both and was surprised that the green woodruff syrup actually gave a vanilla/cream sort of flavor. Overall, this was my favorite beer in the keg lineup and look forward to brewing it again soon.

The Cider was our standard cider recipe that Jen actually made this batch. Turned out great as usual. Nice and dry with just enough apple flavor to keep it from being too champagne-like.

The Maerzen (Hella-fest) was a modern version of an Oktoberfest beer which is to say it was lighter in color and was to be sort of a cross of a Helles and a Maerzen. This ended up with a bit of diacetyl and was not as crisp as I would have liked and had a bit of a haze to it. I need to try this again as I think the recipe is solid, something must have gone awry during the fermentation…. I remember it had quite a lag time despite a big starter. This was probably my least favorite.

The Doppelbock was the same recipe that I have used the past two years, but ramped up a touch. I did however substitute Wyeast 2124 for the 2206 I usually use as I couldn’t find any locally. It turned nice and malty, but fairly dry (ie not too sweet) with just a hint of alcohol on the back end….not surprising based on the starting gravity and really nothing to cover it up (ie not an imperial IPA) This one is delicious and I am glad the high ABV seemed to have scared some people off because there is plenty left over.

Lastly we had the Imperial Stout I brewed with Jeremy up at his place last winter. I am super happy this has been in the keg for around 9 months and shows NO signs of aging at all. Still is really delicious, not sweet, not too roasty, and you really don’t notice the alcohol at all. Just a big, smooth stout. I would say this is maybe a touch ahead of the doppel but they are close as my second favorite draft we served. I really need to try building up my own water from distilled or R/O as the Muskego water makes delicious stouts and the same recipes with my water end up too roasted/burnt/acrid.

In addition to the drafts, we pulled out some bottles as well….we had a bottle of the imperial stout we had used some bourbon soaked oak cubes in. This was still too oaky for my taste, so next time maybe cut the quantity of cubes in half. The Drama Queen has taken on an even more cherry-like flavor most likely from the Brettanomyces Lambicus. My original batch of lambic-style beer that was finished half straight and half on raspberries has gotten even better after nine more months in the bottle. It’s really about perfect right now, a good balance of sourness/dryness/mouthfeel. Unfortunately, I only have a couple bottles of each left. The imperial pilsner from 2 years ago has lost most of it’s hop presence but is still quite good….like an aged pale barleywine – a bit oxidized, a bit sweet, but delicious. I think I have two bottles left so might have to brew this again soon as well.

All in all, it was a good time with some tasty brews and I am already looking forward to next year and the return of the IPA.



So, as part of a trip to Minneapolis for a wedding we got on a tour of Surly Brewing. Omar (the founder/owner) actually does the tour, and does a great job with it. We were lucky in that normally tour days (Fridays) are their cleaning day so no brewing is going on. However, this week they received 1400 lbs of wet hops, a combination of Centennial and Chinook, and so they were brewing a wet hop IPA in order to use the fresh hops as soon as possible. It smelled incredible in there. They were using hops in the mash and in the boil, and it will apparently end up as a west coast style IPA or double IPA, which as Omar said “will be completely unbalanced and hoppier than Furious”. That’s a bold statement as Furious is a VERY hop-forward beer. I am really hoping a keg or twenty finds its way to the Chicago market.

The tour was great and geared more towards the history of the company rather than the brewing process (though that was covered as well). This was great because most breweries follow pretty similar practices so once you’ve seen one tour and “how we brew” the rest are pretty similar. During the tour we were able to sample Furious, Bitter, Cynic, Bender, and Hell. All were delicious of course. It was nice to see too, that they had several new tanks ready to be installed so hopefully they will be able to keep up with demand. Their rapid growth has lead to them coming up a little short in meeting demand in both kegs and cans.

While we were in Minneapolis we also picked up a couple cases of a mix of Surly brews, since we are only able to get a few locally and those are draft only…Furious, Cynic, Bender, and Coffee Bender made their way into our cart….The proprietor of the liquor store we stopped at saw me loading 4 pack after 4 pack into the cart and came over and whispered “I have one Hell left”….they only received a case, but we were able to score a 4 pack of that as well…a total drug deal, it was great.

So, August was Lakefront in Milwaukee and September was Surly in Minneapolis…what will October hold?

Brewing Update:
Not much…spending all free time on finishing the basement…should be complete and hopefully inspector approved this week…then perhaps, some brewing will finally occur.