Patience

19 Nov

It seems that instances of automotive crisis in my life are often paired with great beer moments (see September’s post Near Disaster Turned Milestone.)  The other night my car was towed (If I was blocking your driveway  I am truly sorry and I was unaware that I was doing so) and hence the following morning I had an ordeal when trying to get to work.  Those of you fortunate enough to have never had this happen should know that it is a pretty costly offense and certainly put a damper on my day.

On my way home that evening I stopped to buy some porter to cook dinner with at Oliver’s on Colvin and ran into a day-changer:

Estate Ale hits Albany, NY, and more importantly: my refrigerator.

Finally, Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale has made it’s way to Upstate NY.  If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this brew, let me fill you in: it is probably the most environmentally friendly beer on the market.  Every ingredient in this beer is grown at Sierra Nevada’s brewery, they have also invested in solar power, fuel cells, recycling of materials and spent grains, etc.  For more info check out their website: Sierra Nevada’s Environmental Stewardship.

The beer is a little more cash than your average larger bottle of beer, but well worth it.  It is a wet-hopped ale: hops are added before they have been dried, resulting in hop flavor without as much bitterness.  This beer was a must-have for me and it certainly turned my day around, I recommend it to anyone curious to find a very ‘green,’ tasty beverage.

It Snowed, now for Beer.

9 Nov

Today the capital region of New York got a taste of the season to come: snow, sleet, no sunlight after 4:30 pm and no one knowing how to drive.  To officially welcome Winter each week-day this week the beer of the day will be from the Samuel Adams Winter variety pack which I saw graced the shelves of my local grocery store as of late.  Today’s beer of the day (Sam Adams Winter Lager) was a coincidence, but look forward to each beer in the variety pack up through Friday.

The pack this year includes:  Boston Lager, Chocolate Bock, Holiday Porter, Winter Lager, White Ale and Old Fezziwig Ale. (In case the math didn’t work out for you: I will not be featuring Boston Lager because it has already been the Beer of the Day.)

The best way to experience this would be to purchase a variety pack of your own to enjoy and drink along throughout the week (just a thought.)

 

Pale Ale Brewing Adventure [part 1]

4 Nov

Last weekend I broke my ‘dry spell’ and brewed some beer in my apartment.  I didn’t brew all summer and am currently running dangerously low on my homebrews, so it was out of necessity and was easily made part of my Halloween festivities alongside The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Nosferatu.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to go over the brewing process, so this post will be part entertainment and part informational (if you are worried about learning things then feel free to skim.)  It seems necessary to give a quick break down of the essential steps to homebrewing just to avoid confusion later on:

Note: this is in super lamens-terms. It is very important to sanitize all equipment used during the brewing process: beer is crafted by microbes, but we only want a select few of these little fellas in our drinks.  Sanitizing all equipment is essential.

Roughly, in order to brew beer you boil malt, grains, hops and a great variety of other ingredients at a controlled temperature for a certain duration of time.  Each ingredient will enter the mix at a certain time, and playing with these times, in addition to the quantity of any ingredient plays with the flavor of the beer.  At this stage of brewing (the hot, bubbly pot of breakfast cereal smelling goodness stage) what you have in the pot is called a “wort.”  After all ingredients have been added and their allotted time in the wort expired the boil must be terminated (the beer has taken on enough flavors and needs to stop taking on erroneous tastes or aromas.)

There are different methods for this chilling process: we use a wort chiller (a length of copper tubing that runs in a coil that you set into your bucket of wort.  Run cold water through it and watch your temperature drop) in addition to chilled, clean water we add to also cool the wort down in a more timely manner.  A typical homebrew recipe is geared towards making 5 gallons of beer per session (let’s face it, most home operations can’t really handle much more than that.)  Your wort will be significantly less than 5 gallons, however.  Part of our chilling strategy is also adding water to the wort in order to reach 5 gallons of product.

After a stable temperature of around 70 degrees F has been reached, the yeast is pitched, the fermentation bucket is sealed and the beer goes into it’s primary fermentation.  Each fermentor is fitted with an air lock: yeast is a living thing that generates gas.  This gas must be allowed to escape, or your enterprise could end in tragedy (it’s also neat because it seems like the beer is talking to you as it bubbles out the air lock.)  Depending on your recipe or desired outcome, after the primary fermentation your beer may be ready for bottling, or you may wish to enter it into a secondary period of fermentation.

That’s a rough breakdown of brewing, it may make more sense with an example: take my latest session.

I recently purchased 4, one gallon sized jugs in which to ferment my brew from NorthernBrewer.com.  This may seem out of order, but it is important to tell you the nature of the beer I brewed.  I took a book out of my own library and used a Pale ale recipe as my base for this adventure.  So, overall I am yielding 5 gallons of Pale Ale, however, now that I own the smaller fermentation jugs I can make several different variations of this Pale Ale base during the secondary fermentation stage.  My plan was to brew a one gallon batch of beer using the pale ale recipe, but adding pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the wort.  I would then brew a seperate 4 gallon batch of the same pale ale recipe (sans pumpkin) and let that beer go through it’s primary fermentation.  At the end of the primary stage of fermentation, the one gallon pumpkin ale will get transferred to another container in order to continue aging and gain clarity, while the 4 gallon batch has a whole different experience coming.   2 gallons of the 4 will be unadulterated as a control for the pale ale recipe as I have never used this recipe previously.  Of the two remaining gallons, one will get an insane amount of cascade hops added for the secondary fermentation, and the other gets a shot or so of a grapefruit flavoring I bumped into at the supply store.  This may taste like absolute garbage when all said and done, and I’m okay with that.  I know that I will at least have 2 gallons of drinkable pale ale.

Unsettled Pumpkin Ale right after sealing the fermentor.

My strategy towards making beer is to add first, measure later.  My girlfriend’s father said it best, “if the Vikings can make beer then you can probably do it too.”  I don’t know the outcome of adding any amount of these ingredients so for my first time through I basically eye-balled it.  My pumpkin ale may have had too much pumpkin added to it for the amount of liquid in the wort.

I have never made a pumpkin ale before and I am a little past the season for it, but I wanted to try it and I don’t really see any problems with enjoying a pumpkin brew around Thanksgiving.

Here you can see the pumpkin, malt and hops sediment settling at the bottom of the glass jug. This seems like an unnatural amount. : /

During the fermentation process it is very important to keep the beer at a constant temperature of about 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Additionally, as we know bacteria grows best in dark places, so you have to cover your fermentation container in order to protect your beer from light sources.

I purchased my ingredients this time around from HammerSmithHomebrew.  The cashier/part-owner was incredibly friendly and very helpful.  He may have been more excited about me brewing than I was (and that is really saying something.)  I recommend this supply store (they also have wine-making kits and equipment as well as everything you would need to make your own soda.

On Monday the pumpkin ale gets transferred to it’s secondary fermentor, and on Tuesday the 4 gallon batch gets divided up and made into separate beers.  Then it’s just one more week and I can bottle my beers.  They should be ready just in time for Thanksgiving.  Look for posts at each of the above steps and I will keep information updated about these brews as they come to be.

it... is... alive!

I hope that this made any kind of sense.  Brewing beer is a very scientific art that I am far from mastering or even cracking the surface of.  However, it is incredibly fun and I don’t think anyone is incapable of doing it.

One last note: I also did this during my Halloween weekend:

lick it up, lick it up!

 

 

My Overdue Oktoberfest Post

24 Oct

We are pushing three weeks since I volunteered my Saturday to work at Wolff’s Biergaarten for their 2nd annual Oktoberfest celebration.  My bad on not posting sooner, [insert lame excuse here.]

I volunteered to help out at this event and I recommend anyone who likes: beer, sausage, German folk music, cool free stuff, or any combination of these things to strongly consider it next year.  I went in for 5 hours of working security.  However, it wouldn’t be fair for them to put me in a situation where I would be responsible for checking IDs because they would seriously loose their liquor license if I were an idiot (which, let’s face it: I am.)  So, I really didn’t do anything all day.  For a while I stood behind the food tent watching to make sure people didn’t try to sneak in through a parking lot (no one did.)  BONUS: I got some free eats from the chefs working because I helped them break down boxes and carry a cooking range.  Later on in the day I was just walking around the bar area.  Literally, they told me that it makes the bartenders feel better if there is someone walking around amongst the crowd (surely a false sense of security because if you have seen me I am not intimidating and my first thought in a violent situation is to run.)

What was my reward for all of this ‘work?’  A $50 dollar gift certificate for the Biergaarten, two Wolff’s T-shirts, a meal voucher for Oktoberfest, 2 beer tokens for the event, and a glass Spaten stein.  Talk about a bargain.

My only complaint about the event was that a lot of people were there.  It took a while to get a beer, and people were kind of douche-y about waiting in lines.  A few righteous bros thought that they were entitled to not having to wait for their beers so they barged through the patient, relaxed, fun-having crowd.  Number one: are those aviator sunglasses really necessary indoors, and number two: I hope you choke on your beer.

For the most part everyone was relaxed and quite pleasant.  The employees I worked with at Wolff’s were fun and I am happy to give Wolff’s my business.  If you haven’t checked the Biergaarten out yet, then you may be wasting time in the capital region.

wasting precious "beer-getting" time by posing for photos, also: sweet gloves.

A Different Pint

6 Oct

Though taking heat from natural food enthusiasts, Vermont’s pioneering enterprise, Ben and Jerry’s still delivers what the people want: ice cream.

This Black and Tan flavor was released in 2006 and mimics the flavors associated with the American idea of a  pale ale with a stout floating magically on top of it: The Black and Tan.

Black and Tans are a more modern, American take on an English tradition of mixing different beers in order to produce a desired taste, which varied depending on the customer.  In 1722 a brewer in London came up with a rather tasty combination that was selling pretty well.  Because of this demand he could make the concoction ahead of time and then sell more pints because the customers wouldn’t have to wait for the bartender to mix everyone’s drink to taste.  At this time the hardworking railroad men (Porters) enjoyed this drink heartily and hence the origination of the term we know today in the beer world, “Porter.”

I have not had this ice cream, of course now I am intrigued.  Either way, small history lesson for the day.

Ommegang Tasting

29 Sep

While many a foolish soul was at Larkfest in Albany, NY my friends and I were at a different, much smaller venue enjoying an overlooked event: an Ommegang tasting at Oliver’s on Colvin Ave.

Wes Nick laying down beer law

I was secretly hoping that not a lot of people would be at this tasting when I got there.  I am unsure as to how many in total turned out for it, as it was not widely advertised.  Ommegang has become one of my favorite brewery’s because of, well it’s beer and it’s proximity to the capital region.

One of their evening brewer’s, Wes Nick, was on hand and happily pouring samples of Rare Vos, Three Philosophers, Hennepin, Bier de Mars and their newest creation: Cup ‘o Kyndness.  Wes was proud to announce and boast of their bronze medal taken home from the Great American Beer Festival the week before for Three Philosophers, as well as thrilled when we were delighted by the floral qualities of Bier de Mars.

Oliver’s (Brew Crew) is a beverage center located in Albany that needs to be checked out by anyone in the area who is serious about craft beer.  They have a surprisingly good selection of American microbrews as well as European imports.  Additionally, they also have 5-6 beers on tap for you to top off your growler for a pretty reasonable price.  They are a good stop for someone wanting to try a selection of beers: they offer a make-your-own 6 pack and knock three dollars of the total price just for making your own.

What is the Best Pumpkin Ale?

24 Sep

Poll will be open until late October, so try them all out.   Get your votes in!  If you don’t see the one you want please add it in.

Solutions from the Technological Age

24 Sep

Arguably the largest problem facing microbrewers is large corporate giants like Anheuser Busch InBev.  This problem shows itself not only in terms of marketing but also at a level at which the consumer has no input.  Laws vary from state to state, some states do not allow brewers to sell directly to consumers at any level, while other States allow to a certain point. In New York if you are a registered Microbrewer then you are elgible to apply for a distributor’s license.  This licesnse will allow you to self distribute 60,000 bbl per year.  To put that into perspective: a small brewery as recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau sells a minimum of 2,000,000 bbl annually, a feat the Boston Beer company (Samuel Adams) just surpassed.  In other words, to really get your beer out to the world you rely on a distributor.

Again, a problem: monster-sized breweries like Anheuser Busch have had dealings with large distributors for decades and are not afraid to show some muscle to keep microbreweries out of the distribution game.  So many people don’t want consumers to have good beer, haha.  This is a poor, uphill battle for the little guy that does not get easier at any point.  For the consumer it is frustrating to know that the beers you want won’t be coming to stores near you because large, corporate breweries don’t want you to have the option of drinking those good beers.

Several summers ago I took a trip to Alaska to visit family.  I tried out the Alaskan Brewing Company’s Amber and Summer Ales.  At the time I had little appreciation for craft beer, but it was growing on me.  Now that I have a more vested interest in beer and homebrewing I wanted to go back and try some other beers that the Alaskan Brewing Company puts out (particularly their award winning Smoked Porter) but I cannot get their beer.  My best bet would be to have my relatives in Fairbanks mail me a package and hope for the best in shipping.  On the breweries website, however, I found a link to a delightful solution that I wish to encourage others to use so that it may grow.

Brewforia (notice the new link on the right side of the site) is an online distributor dealing only with microbreweries and craft beer.  They do not have a lot as of yet, which is why I want to try and help get the word out there that they exist.  So, now I can order a bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter from NY and have it shipped to my house in Albany, NY.  So, check out the site and use it in hopes that word will spread and we can help level the playing field for the craft beer brewers.  Help the little guy and help good beer.

About Time…

17 Sep

FINALLY!

Those of you who have waited up long hours wishing and praying that some day you could enjoy your favorite ale or lager in official Middle-Earth drinking vessels will be pleased to know that this dream can finally be a reality.  Gone are the days of drinking in non-hobbit glassware, but now we are all faced with a great choice: Green Dragon or Prancing Pony?

If my memory is right then the Green Dragon is the pub from the Hobbit’s hometown and the Prancing Pony is the pub in the human town of Bree.  If you are already lost then just know that this post is strictly about Lord of the Rings drinkware and that I understand if you now think less of me.

and there was much rejoicing

People that are still interested should know (and sit down for this one) that Green Dragon pint glasses are already sold out.  Please try not to throw your monitor in a fit of rage at this news, for there are still Green Dragon steins available!

I know what you are thinking… when are they going to start selling those sweet wooden pipes that Gandalf smokes out of in the movies?  Well, take what you can get and don’t waste any more time.  Go to the website and order your vessels.

fly you fools!

Another Burger Laid to Rest, Another Beer Enjoyed – Brown’s Brewing Company, Troy, NY

14 Sep

My Beacon in the Night

In my battle against hunger, thirst and the craving for the flavor and aroma of hops I found satisfaction in Brown’s Taproom, on River Street in Troy.  I had settled upon my destination but soon found myself caught in a feud of burger ownership from the City of Lakes, Minneapolis.  The Juicy Lucy, or Jucy Lucy, is a cheeseburger where cheese is cooked in the middle of the beef patty.  Two bars in Minneapolis both claim they were responsible for the creation of this burger, but I’m not picking sides: I am just enjoying Brown’s take on it.

Head chef, Paul Minbiole, has put together a very interesting menu for a Troy brewhouse: many of his creations involve beer made locally by Brown’s.  My burger, unfortunately did not contain any of their signature beers, but it was oozing with delicous boursin cheese.  What to pair with my rich, cheesy burger?  I used Brown’s Harvest I.P.A. (Beer of the Day on September 10th) because I gave in to temptation.  I can’t resist the idea of an I.P.A. made with hops that have been used in brewing a day after they are picked.

poor guy didn't have a chance...

I made short work of my burger and my beer was soon to follow.  If you live in the area and haven’t been to Brown’s then you should re-examine your priorities.  Even the building is cool: their taproom is an old brick building they saved and have re-worked to contain their brewery and pub.  I have to cut myself off because I will literally go on about how much I like this place for the rest of the day.  Just experience it for yourself.