Archive for April, 2010

Long time, no Post – CBC, Brewery Updates

OK I’ve been a little lackluster in keeping this updated so here’s where I am at.

Back to the beginning of April, the CBC was held in Chicago this year.  I didn’t have the time or financial resources to dedicate to attending the actual conference and associated seminars, but I was happy to find a wheat/wit bier seminar being held at Goose Island was open to the public and FREE.  Very detailed and terrific presentations from both sides of the wheat coin so to speak.  It was also awesome to talk to some great brewers from around the country and get some ideas on how to improve my Wit.   I look forward to trying some new things shared by Grand Teton in the Wit specifically, and it was also great to chat for a bit with Rob Tod from Allagash about sour & spontaneous brewing.  Of course after the seminar I had to sample a few Goose Island beers including the Bacon Stout, Bourbon County Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Doppelbock and a Sweet & Sour Brown.   The first three were great.  The brown was quite bland, flat, and really not my thing.  It was also great to catch up with Chris and of course discuss the merits of the Bourbon County Stout, as they are many.

I went back downtown on Friday as Reggies Music Joint was hosting Founders and Stone.   Of course I could not miss that, so Jeremy and Brian joined me to sample some delicious Founders brew…Specifically, the Hand of Doom was terrific.   This was one I had not tried previously, and REALLY enjoyed it.  The usual Backwoods and Dirty Bastards were terrific as well.   It was good to see Mitch Steele from Stone having as good a time as we were, so I briefly spoke with him and we headed out.   Clark St Alehouse had a terrific tap lineup that night as well…it was Two Brothers night and they still had a lot of great stuff from previous nights.  We got to try the Brett Moaten which was great – the first Moaten Two Brothers bottled was a bit of a disappointment, but this one was a big improvement.   I think I also sampled a Merlot barrel aged porter from Ska which was really good,  as well as the Lagunitas Fusion that they brewed for the conference.

In between the two stops, we had a bit of a disappointment at another bar which was featuring some special brews for the conference.  I will just say this, if a brewery has it’s own draft system in a bar that they are serving from, they should: (a) know what the bar is charging for their beer, and (b) know where people need to go to get a glass to get the beer.   Telling patrons, “I don’t know, I just brew it” is not the right answer.  It was a shame, because the beer was good, but between the confusion, HIGH prices, and big crowd, we enjoyed our one beer and moved on to better things.

All in all, a lot of great things and I am glad the conference seemed to be a huge hit with all the breweries in attendance (so it can be held here again soon!).  I am looking forward to Chicago Craft Beer week next month if this was any indication of how that will go.

Last weekend I was able to go brew with Jeremy and we churned out what is best described as an Imperial Berliner Weisse.  I realized I did not have enough yeast for the batch we planned so we cut the volume by a third and ended up with a 15 plato berliner.   Oh well….We also brewed up a Hefeweizen.  I think I only have brewed maybe 2 of these ever, so it was a good chance to put into practice some things learned in the wheat seminar.  I think this one will turn out well, and serve as a nice warm weather beer for the coming month or so.  On Friday night last week we attended the reserve tasting at Sprecher.  This was really pretty cool, $15 gets you into a tasting where they pair 10 of their beers with 10 different cheeses.   The beers are mostly their reserve/premium line which was great…we got to sample things like their Barley Wine, Barrel Aged Doppelbock, IIPA, Belgian Tripel, and a Raspberry Porter.  I wasn’t a fan of the Nut Brown, and their Hefeweizen is just ok, but the rest were good.  The cheese also was really good, though they could have been a little more generous on the portions (think nickel sized pieces)

We also held a “Battle of Wits” in which we had 6 commercial wit biers up against ours in a blind tasting.   The consensus seemed to be the Blanche de Chambly, Hoegaarden, Allagash, and ours were all pretty close….Blue Moon, Ommegang Witte, Chameleon Witty were all at the bottom.  I think ours was most similar to Allagash, as Hoegaarden was really quite light and the Unibroue version had a sweet/tart, champagne thing going on.  We’ll have to try it again this summer with the newly tweaked recipe and see how we do.

In the spirit of competition we also picked up some American Light Lagers to hold a blind tasting…Coors Light v Miller Lite v Bud Light v Busch Light.   Nobody was able to correctly name all four, and I only correctly picked Busch Light (I learned something in college).  I am not sure if it was all the wit, or the Fantome bottles we had earlier but they all really tasted the same to me.  It would be interesting to give the challenge to someone who swears by one brand and see if they can tell them apart, as I RARELY drink any of these and clearly could not tell.

Back on the homefront, I actually kegged the Vindicator tonight.  The sample I took, though uncarbonated and still young, was delicious.   The color looks to have turned out a bit lighter than previous years but the flavor is all there.

The fun kicks up again tomorrow with a trip to Three Floyds and then Founders and New Holland to follow!!

Vindication Day

Well, I hadn’t planned on brewing for a few weeks after the marathon barrel sessions….But, seeing how well the chiller was working last week, I decided I might as well brew this year’s Vindicator for the annual Oktoberfest party.   It won’t be long before the ground water is unable to easily chill the wort to the 50 degrees needed for the big doppelbock.   So, today I brewed up roughly 6 gallons of the Vindicator.   It was nice to only be doing one brew at a time, and a small batch at that.   Things went perfectly as I was able to pay more attention to the details than during the barrel marathons.  All numbers and times were on the button so it’s looking like this should turn out as good as ever.

I kept the same recipe as last year, however I toned it down a touch shooting to end up around 8.5% abv.  I was easily able to chill it to 50 degrees and with the pair of 2 liter yeast starters, it should end up with a nice clean fermentation.

Once the brew was complete I gave everything a VERY thorough cleaning as the past few weeks were a bit rough on the equipment.   I also noticed today that the centennial and cascade hops were starting to come back.   I did not notice any evidence of the Willamette or Mt Hood that were planted last year.   They had a rough year between the heat, wind,  and beetles so I wasn’t expecting them to come back.  If they do, it will be a bonus.

In the next few weeks, I have a quite a few things going on.   I am looking forward to the Craft Brewers Conference which is in Chicago this year.   Plenty of tastings and parties to attend in the evenings – starting with a seminar on Tuesday afternoon for me.   I also want to brew up a revised version of the wit recipe I have been working on,  and I am also looking forward to trying a couple variations on a berlinner weisse using some yeast cultured from Fantome and Jolly Pumpkin.  Lastly, we are planning on a roadtrip to Michigan which will include stops at some of our favorite breweries – Three Floyds, New Holland, and of course, Founders.  It should be a great time, and I am especially interested to see Founders since I haven’t been there since they moved locations.  (and of course their beer is unbelievably delicious.)

Lastly, the Biere De Garde with the Wyeast French Ale Yeast is REALLY delicious.   I think I have settled on that recipe and yeast combination.   Unfortunately, it’s still a seasonal, but will be out in a month or two so I will have to stock up on a few I guess.