Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fruit Beer (Kiwi-Strawberry)

I'm not one to hide things, so I'll just say it: for the Queen of Beer competition, I'm going to send in a kiwi-strawberry wheat beer (extract).

Courtesy of
I'm still not confident enough to brew an all-grain but I think this will be my last extract. I have equipment I can borrow from my buddy, Tom (who just won First Place in the Krolsch division at the L.A. County Fair homebrew competition, woot! woot!) but, to be honest, borrowing stuff sucks. In the words of Veruca Salt, "I want [brewing equipment] NOW!" Fine, I'll wait.

Anyhoo, my other brewing buddy, Teela Smith (who one Second Place in the 2009 Queen of Beer Fruit group with her Sassy Strawberry, woot! woot!), is brewing two spectacular beers as well, but I'm not giving away her secret here.

I decided to go with fruit because I've never attempted it before. The only things I'm worried about are dryness and a tart taste (from the kiwi). Will the fruit dry out the beer? Will the pound of kiwis I'm using in the secondary be too much? That's the fun part of brewing - you just don't know. You can make a guesstimate as to the flavor and body, but you just really never know unless you've perfected it which, of course, I haven't.

Fortunately, Tom, at Stein Fillers in Lakewood, Calif., helped me out a bit and handed me a great wheat kit along with some invaluable help. Thanks, Tom!

Here's the recipe:

Malt: 6 lbs. wheat malt extract
Grain: 1 lb. Crystal malt
Hops: .5 oz. Centennial
Yeast: Safale US-05 ale yeast (dry)
Fruit: 3 lbs. Fresh strawberries, 1 lb. fresh kiwis

I'm going to experiment a bit with the fruit and add the strawberries in the primary after four days, letting it sit for three days; then add the kiwis in the secondary for four days before bottling. We'll see what happens!

I'll go into fruit beers a little later, but for now, I'm off to brew!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

International IPA Day - What is It?

For those of you who love beer enough to follow Tweeters who love beer too … and Tweet about nothing BUT beer (such as me), you already know today is IPA Day. Where did this “day” come from? What is the insane obsession with IPAs? What the hell is an IPA?

Don't worry; calm down. I'm hear to explain all of the above.

First of all, shockingly enough, this is International IPA Day. What? You mean there are those who live outside of the U.S.? People exist and drink beer in other countries? Yes, Americans, they do. Tie up your tennis shoes and pull down your belly-showin' tank-top while in France, please. Basically, it's just like every other day for us boozers, but today we have a goal.

Let's start with those who have no idea what an IPA is. Don't feel bad; how could you know? It's three simple letters scrunched together (usually with a # in front of it), so what's the big deal?

Here's the big deal: IPA stands for Inda Pale Ale. No, that's not a euphemism for an Indian who's so drunk he's turned pale. It's a type of beer. Actually, it's a “style” of beer. Basically, back in the olden days (around the 17the century), beer that was brewed with a pale malt was called a “pale ale.” A fairly good amount of hops were put in these beers to keep them from spoiling on the long trip over to India, and when East India Company started taking them to India, India Pale Ale just stuck. Let's not get into specifically why the British were sending beer to India, but let's just say the British were like “and what? And what?” to Indians. This was around the 1830s that IPA earned it's infamous name.

Nowadays, IPA is a pretty standard beer. However, an American IPA isn't the same as a British IPA. How dare you even assume that! IPAs in the U.K. are usually regular session beers, meaning standard, low-alcohol ales (yet no less delicious).

IPAs in the U.S. are brewed with what we've decided are our standard hops, either mixed up together or with a single hop. They're generally of the same standard variety, such as the classic Cascade, Centennial, and Nugget, to name a few.

Now we're getting into the nitty gritty of the IPA. Here you have your standard British and American IPAs, but what happens when you throw a darker malt in the mix yet use the same hop variety? You get what's called an American-style black IPA.

What do you get when you brew an IPA that has a really high alcohol content (above 7%) and throw some seriously hoppy hops in there, including some dry-hopped variations of brew? (Dry-hopped beer is when you place a hop bag full of dry, uncooked hops into the beer while it's fermenting or after it's done fermenting, in order to bring out some serious hoppy aromas.) You get a beer called a double IPA. And let me tell you, that is some goooooooood beer. Ever heard of Pliny the Elder? No? Go get one – stat! I believe it is the finest double IPA ever created, and a lot of people will agree with me on that one. It's brewed by Russian River Brewing Co. and it needs to be on your beer-bucket list and in your mouf right this second.

Now that we know what an IPA is, what is International IPA Day? Actually, it's technically #IPADay. Well, today was the very first IPA Day. Yep, the very first! This is a day you drink your daily bread on Earth as it is in heaven … with a Sierra Nevada or Dogfish Head IPA.

According to (I refuse to pretend I actually know who started this, so NBC gets the blame if I'm wrong!), the day was officially started by @TheBeerWench (Ashley V. Routson), and Ryan A. Ross, the guy who started Chardonnay and Cabernet Day (brilliant, by the way). Basically, the IPA is pretty much the most widely available beer in America, and kind of a standard as far as our craft-beer scene goes, so why not create a day for it?

I don't know what the original idea behind it was, but I'm going to take a wild guess and assume it's to introduce friends and neighbors to really good craft beer, regardless of what country it originated in. That is reason enough.

What am I drinking on International IPA Day? A Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen. I'm cheap and won't buy more beer if I already have some. And what?! And what?!

Image courtesy of “Lupulin Libations” @

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Perfect Day to Brew (Saison and Belgian Tripel)

Could today have been anymore perfect? In my world, no, I don't believe it could have been. I left good ole armpit Bakersfield at 7 a.m. and pulled into Long Beach about 8:45...already perfect. This is normally a two- to three-hour drive. Did I mention there's a nice marine layer and it's a cool 65 degrees outside? Oooooh yah ... perfect.

Our brewing session was to start at 9 a.m. and who had his backyard all set and ready to go? That's right, Josh. Another perfect moment. Here was the setup:

As the sun peeped above the rooftops, Josh and Tom started that old ritual of sanitizing and boiling water. They're brewing a saison and a tripel for an upcoming extract competition. Here are the recipes:


Muntons extra-light DME
Clear Belgian Candi Sugar

Styrian Goldings
German Hallertau Hersbrucker

Sweet Orange Peel

Belgian Abby Ale

Wheat LME
Munich malt
Rye malt

Candy Sugar (clear)


Belgian Saison Blend

Let's go into these beers a bit.


Saisons are also known as "farmhouse saisons." Why? Because they were originally brewed in farmhouses in Wallonia, Belgium (French-speaking Belgium) during harvest season. Saison means "season" in French, p.s. It's generally a low-ABV pale ale.

Today, saisons are brewed everywhere and usually have a higher ABV than their ancestors, anywhere from 5% to 8%.

So why is it called "season?" Because the original brewers had to brew during fall or winter in order to keep the ale from spoiling when stored. The threat of water-borne illness to farm hands was avoided by giving them this low-alcohol beer. They used to be REALLY hopped in order to act as a preservative, and hops also has antiseptic properties. Hence the reason they were often dry-hopped and still are.

According to the "BJCP Style Guidelines," saisons are to be "high in fruitniness with low to moderate hop aroma and moderate to no herbs, spice and alcohol aroma." On color: "Often a distinctive pale orange but may be golden or amber." On flavor: "Combination of fruity and spicy flavors supported by a soft malt character, a low to moderate alcohol presence and tart sourness ...

"... Hop flavor is low to moderate, and is generally spicy or earthy in character."

Saison = Delicious

Basically, a tripel is a strong pale ale. Remember my definition of Trappist ales? Well, the tripel is known to have been brewed by the Trappist brewery, Westmalle, in 1956 (For more info, go here.)

The name refers to the strength of the beer or the original gravity. ABV for these brews are 3 percent, 6 percent and 9 percent. In other words, according to the great Michael Jackson, beer king, the term tripel is "usually applied to the strongest beer of the house." I concur.

According to the "BJCP Style Guide," a Belgian tripel's aroma is "complex with moderate to significant spiciness, moderate fruity esters and low alcohol and hop aromas." On appearance: "Deep yellow to deep gold in color. Good clarity." On flavor: "Marriage of spicy, fruity and alcohol flavors supported by a soft malt character ... Esters are reminiscent of citrus fruit, such as orange or sometimes lemon."

Belgian tripel = Amazing

Check out our wonderful day in pictures!

The tripel, doing its thang...

...and the saison, workin' it.

If you know Roxy, you know why she's licking her chops!

Something you don't see in Long Beach everyday - clean, sanitary water.

Yours truly - fools in back.

This clarifier doesn't look very clarifying, but I promise, it is!

Birds-eye view of the freshly poured tripel.
Nah, it's cool guys, I'll just use my mouth.

A frighteningly low 1.094

Tom, doin' it the right way. :)

Check out that form! No, it's not cottatge cheese.

The saison's original gravity was 1.084 ... oooooh yah!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

9 Beers I Must Try While in Denver

I'll be in Denver, helping my sister and bro-in-law paint their house -- all next week -- and I'm definitely going to need a beer after all that scrubbin', sandin' and scrapin'. Here are the 9 beers I must try while I'm out there:
  1. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
  2. Wynkoop Mister Fister
  3. Breckenridge Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout
  4. Great Divide Messiah
  5. Dry Dock SS Minow, Mild Ale
  6. Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber Lager
  7. Great Divide Hades
  8. Anything at Falling Rock Taphouse
  9. Mountain Sun Colorado Kind

Remember When Mickey's Was a Microbrew?

Remember when Mickey's Big Mouth was a microbrew? No, seriously, it was! Well, according to my dad at the time, it was. Do you also remember how HUGE the barrel and mouth looked? I'm aging myself, aren't I?

Ah yes, the big dipper.
Believe it or not, yes, Mickey's Big Mouth was considered a microbrew. I think guys and their 1982 moustaches were just mezmorized by that bumble bee on the cap. I know I was. I mean, it's a malt liquor, and the only proper way to drink it is in 40-ounce increments. Then again, if there was a 40-ounce bottle of Pliny the Elder available, I'd buy it.

My dad didn't double-fist 40s, but he did get a nice purchase around the waffled barrel-shaped bottle I was so entranced with. And he had the moustache, too. My dad was an original hipster. It was the real thing.

Technically, to be considered a microbrew, the brewing company can't bottle more than 15,000 barrels (460,000 gallons) a year. Yet, to be considered a craft brewery, it can bottle up to 6 million barrels a year. How is this possible? Does this mean Mickey's Big Mouth was not only once a microbrew but also a craft beer? Again, holy.crap. Do I have my numbers wrong? Correct me if I'm wrong, please. It's not like I went to the Library of Congress to find these numbers.

Owned and distributed by MillerCoors, it's nearly impossible to see how many bottles are distributed and sold in the U.S. I can't find the numbers anywhere, but seeing as MillerCoors' numbers went up last quarter 8.7 percent, but I can't imagine Mickey's numbers went up. Fortunately Mickey's can't be considered a "craft beer," since it's distributed by such a megafargin company. If so, I'm going to laugh my way all the way to the liqa' sto' and get me a 40.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Officially Beer Blogger 1,000

And here I thought it would be great to have another beer blogger on the web. Well, at least I'm number 1,000 and not 5,000! Thanks for the shout out.

Here's the post:

European and North American Beer Blogging Compared
Blogging in general and beer blogging in specific is much bigger in North American than in the rest of the world. Our current Complete List of Beer Blogs shows 684 “citizen” beer blogs in North America as compared to 315 in the rest of the world. See today’s Press Release on “999 Bloggers of Beer on the Web“. (Update: We just hit 1000 and are still growing. Congrats to homebrewer and blogger Manic Organik for being blog 1000.)
The largest concentration of beer bloggers outside North America is in the UK, which has 126, a reasonable number given the different population sizes. In addition, there are at least 57 non-blogger beer writers in the UK, likely more than in North America.

Beer blogging is also more advanced in North America. We found fewer laptops being used, fewer people on Twitter, and fewer who knew the meaning of SEO (search engine optimization) at the European Beer Bloggers Conference just completed. It also appeared there is less ongoing interaction between bloggers and breweries and fewer attempts by European bloggers to create their own “brand” they can use to go beyond blogging, two trends important in North America. But I found the European bloggers to be quite professional, highly dedicated, and interested in learning. They will catch up very fast.

(Two side notes. 1) We have also found from running the Wine Bloggers Conference and International Food Bloggers Conference that wine bloggers and food bloggers tend to be more along that technical curve than beer bloggers, when looking at North America. 2) All bloggers need to decide why they do what they do and if they are not interested in more hits, better SEO, better connections with breweries, etc, than they need not be concerned with all of this.)

Also interesting is there is more interaction among bloggers in different U.S. states than there is between beer bloggers in various European countries. European bloggers are not following blogs – even in their own language – outside their own country, although there does seem to be good cross-fertilization between the U.K. and the U.S. Of course, the language barrier does keep many bloggers from reading other blogs but Google Translate is a pretty good tool and I would not hesitate to leave a comment in English on a blog post you have translated and read in another language.

All this actually makes our conference in Europe that much more exciting. European beer blogging is new, it is growing, and it has tremendous upside. In fact, were I to characterize European beer blogging in one word it would be potential. European beer bloggers have the potential to increase their readers (via better websites and better SEO), to have a great influence on breweries (through more interaction), and ultimately to be able to change the entire producing and consuming beer scene in Europe (by coming together as a more cohesive community).

It is the beer scene in Europe that makes beer blogging there especially rewarding. I remember back in the 1980s how, for the most part, European beer seemed to be much ahead of beer in North America. The craft brewing revolution changed all that and now we in the US have an amazing variety of good, flavorful beers available most everywhere. The large breweries are paying attention and are starting to produce their own craft beers or to buy into existing craft breweries, which only supports the movement.

From my week in London interacting with bloggers and breweries, I would say this same revolution is just beginning in Europe. A brewery like BrewDog has a fantastic PR approach but, ultimately, their success is due to brewing good quality, flavorful, bottled beers. Other breweries are just starting to do the same and I predict 40 BrewDog-like success stories to come out of Europe in the next eight years. And large breweries are paying closer attention sooner in Europe, since they have the US model to follow and know what is coming.

It is that attention that made the European Beer Bloggers Conference the most fantastic conference I have organized, over three years of running blogger conferences. The sponsors were amazingly supportive of the conference. They fully recognize bloggers are key “influencers” who will have an effect in reaching out to the public. They want to help their local beer bloggers grow and thrive. Even mega brewers like MolsonCoors are avid supporters of the concept of beer blogging and did not try to impose their will on the conference but, instead, were happy to provide their best beers, interact, and let the bloggers make their own decision.

The level of brewery support, large and small, went well beyond any support we received from the North American BBC this past November, I think in part because many craft breweries in the US are simply selling their beer as fast as they can produce it and don’t need another marketing outlet. On the other hand, North American breweries seem to be better at putting bloggers on their press list, inviting them to dinners, and telling them about special beer releases. Both geographies could learn – European breweries could reach out more to bloggers on a regular basis and North American breweries could realize that Citizen Beer Bloggers, who spend their own time and money doing what they do, could use support to make sure the beer blogging community thrives.

In short, it is exciting on both sides of the pond and I would love to learn more about beer blogging in Australia/New Zealand, Asia, South America, or Latin America!

Beer Events Calendar Now Available

Just click on Beer Events Calendar here or at the top-left side of this page. To see a list, click on "Agenda" on the right of the calendar. If you have any events you'd like me to post, just shoot me an email at:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Tilted Kilt and Mama's Little Yellow: A Review

After an hour and ten minute commute home, my friend calls me to tell me he's at the Tilted Kilt to watch "the game." What game this is, I have no idea. It could be the Superbowl for all I know. Ok, I'm not that unaware of the season, but still, I have no idea what he's talking about. I assumed it was just a random baseball game. Wrong! Apparently its game five in basketball finals. OK, so it might be packed.

And packed it was ... full of sports-lovin', three-buttons-undone-wearin', 19-yr-old stalkin', older men sans my friend, of course; he has a beard, so he doesn't count. Plus, his wife, a good friend of mine, was there, so even if he was one of "those guys." I certainly wouldn't know it. It was obvious no men, er, boys, would ever be hired here unless they had a size-C cup and hips like J-Lo. Unfortunate for them, I guess, because it was a packed house. Size C cups and basketball finals = makin' it rain.

As for the employees, because I'm as old as The Bible, I became maternal and thought, "She could be my daughter!" Is that a good thing? In this case, no. Ill admit the skimpy, plaid skirts are totally cute, but I was given flashbacks of Sister Nancy cracking the yard stick across my knuckles for trying to show my desk neighbor my new elephant-shaped eraser at Saint Anthony's in fourth grade. That's not a good memory to conjure up while trying to peruse their beer list.

As the screams of joy after a triple-double subsided, I said hi to my pals and checked out the Tilted Kilt's beer list. Ok, it wasn't toooo bad, but not good, either. In fact, so not good that I went with a Bass Ale, which the breastaurant so proudly displayed was "on tap." Where is Bass not on tap? Hey, whatever, I'm not a beer snob, just a brestaurant snob. Bass Ale is good.

So, I ordered a Bass from a green girl who could hardly blink from the amount of mascara on, and went about my convo with my friend. You know, Facebook drama (we've all had it), high school, realizing you're getting older than you want to be, etc. It was all good. My waitress brought me my Bass, and I was happy again. Except, the head was about 3 inches tall.
Just sip it, it'll be good. Ignore the fact that half the head is being inserted into your brain.
Yes, it was good, and the ale beneath it was the perfect light-orange color and faded brick. It was a good pour.
However, when I handed the waitress my cash, she became confused.
"What's this?"
"Its for the Bass."
And she walked away.
First day? Maybe. No biggy, but I didn't want this thing attached to my friends' four pizzas and 32 beers.
She came back to deliver some beers to my friends.
"How much was my Bass?"
"Oh! I don't know, let me go check!"
No prob, I thought; I totally understand a busy night. Plus, she had breasts popping out of her shirt, which was no doubt confusing her, and the dude with a hairy chest (It was obvious how much hair he had because his work shirt was buttoned down halfway down his chest, and when he leaned over across the table to check out the young girl, his hair nearly touched me. Ew.)
The youngster with the white tube top came back with some food and I asked, "So how much for my Bass?"
"Oh my gosh! Is that what you asked? Let me go see!"
Hmmm ... I see another beer in my near future.
She came back asking how everything was.
"Everything is great, so how much do I owe you?"
"What? Oh, yah."
"Never mind, ill get a Mama's Little Yellow please."

Has anyone out there heard of this brew? Me neither. My friend and I quickly hit up Beer Advocate to get a rating, but they apparently hadn't heard of it either, or I just punched in the name incorrectly. That's most likely the case. Well, I'm here to say that if this pilsner is on your beer list, it's worth getting.

The head was pretty small, maybe 3/4 inch or so, and the color was about the color of iced tea that had sat out in the sun for maybe three hours instead of the recommended eight. I took a sip and immediately tasted citrus flavors at the back end. My friend tasted it and also sensed a bit of orange in there. The carbonation was good not too fizzy, not too flat, and the body was, well, thick. That's the only way I can describe it nice and dense.

All in all, from 1 to 10, I'd give The Tilted Kilt a three and Momma's Little Yellow a six or seven. Not bad for a day that I thought would end with an hour and 10 minute drive and a shower!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mosquitos Love Beer

Hmmm ... I wonder what the source for this research is. Maybe it has something to do with carbon dioxide?

Mosquito season is upon us. Ever wondered why some people seem to be magnets for mosquitoes and others never get bitten? Scientists say mosquitoes flock to people wearing dark clothes, and people who move around a lot. Also pregnant women, maybe because of their extra body heat. And new research shows mosquitoes are attracted to people drinking beer. Something to bear in mind when you reach for a cold one at this weekend's backyard barbecue.

Original on NPR:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Week, My Favorite Beer Is...

Pliny the Elder! In fact, it may be the greatest beer I've ever tasted, hands down. Review to come. What's your favorite beer this week?

Photo courtesy of freeloosedirt

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Belgian Trappist Ale

Today I brewed a Belgian Trappist Ale with my brewing partner/teacher, Nosh, thanks to a Stein Fillers kit (Lakewood, CA). I’ll start with the recipe:

Belgian Trappist Beer Recipe (Inspired by Chimay Red)
MALT: 8 lbs. Pale Malt Extract
              1.5 lbs. Candi Sugar

GRAIN: Wheat Malt (.5 lbs)
               Belgian Aromatic (.5 lbs)
               Belgian CaraMunich (.25 lbs)
               Chocolate Malt (.1 lb)

HOPS: Tettnanger (2 oz, boil)
             Styrian Golding (.5 oz, finish)

YEAST: White Labs Trappist Ale Yeast

Damn, I make a good beer!
Those crazy Catholics! Ironic, isn’t it? That only a true trappist brews can come from trappist breweries, which are run and brewed, by trappist monks. Yes, those quiet, self-sufficient, holier-than-thou monks who live in solitude and devote their entire lives to “God” as they know him or her. The ironic part is that, although the Catholic church  celebrates many saints related to alcohol, many offshoots of the church see alcohol as the devil’s blood, inherent evil that contributes to poverty, unemployment and crime. And, honestly, it kind of does, doesn’t it? I mean, who hasn’t been freaked out a little when a poverty-stricken homeless person smelling of cheap gin drunkenly stumbles over to you asking for a bite of that slice of that pizza you’re walking home with? (Yes, that happened … hey, I live in Long Beach, what do you expect?)

Despite those profound religious indoctrinations, I think that after reading this you might have much more appreciation for trappist beers. They are brewed by trappist monks … and only trappist monks … well, if you want a “real” trappist that’s been labeled an Authentic Trappist Product.
            Ever excitedly popped open a Chimay or La Trappe? If so, it was brewed under strict conditions, including:
1.      Must have been brewed in a trappist abbey under the control of trappist monks
2.      Anything commercial having to do with the beer must depend on the monastic community
3.      The money earned from sales of these beers must not be for financial profit; the money must be directed toward helping a community

Here are the eight trappist breweries:

  1. Bières de Chimay (Belgium)
  2. Brasserie d'Orval (Belgium)
  3. Brasserie de Rochefort (Belgium)
  4. Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle (Belgium)
  5. Brouwerij Westvleteren (Belgium) (This is number-one on my 20 Beers in My Future list)
  6. Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis (Belgium)
  7. Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (Netherlands)
  8. Mont des Cats (France)
Don’t be fooled by those beers called “abbey ales.” True, they probably practice perfect Belgian beer-brewing practices, but they are not true trappists.

Trappist monk testing his brew. Courtesy London Slow Food

What was the first Belgian trappist beer brewed? When was it first brewed? What the hell is a trappist? Where am I? What’s my name? Hold on … take a deep breath. There is much to learn, and I can’t possibly get into every detail about this fine drink, but I can at least get the gist of it down.

Let’s start with who the trappist monks are. What it boils down to is they are people of a Catholic religious order of monks and nuns. They live what’s called a Cistercian life, which means they are self-sufficient and base their days around manual labor. They first started in France, moving on over to the Netherlands and Belgium. Well, they probably didn’t “move” per se, they just happened to be chopped up among political dividing lines way back when. Waaaaaaay back when. Like, the year 1,000.

Why did trappists brew beer? That’s much simpler than explaining what a trappist monk is — to feed their community. Not only feed their community, but feed it with a drink that wouldn’t kill them. Water was obviously disgusting back then, and they knew that boiling the water was possibly a lifesaver. On a side note, some say monks actually discovered using hops in beer, too … in the 15th century.

Now that I know there are certain trappist beers you can only get at certain monasteries, I have a mission! Brouwerij Westvleteren sells very limited amounts only at the monastery, and only after having made a reservation ahead of time. Now that’s an exclusive beer! I’m surprised you don’t have to also fly a monastery-built jet and land in a monastery-run airport to get it! You also have to agree to not sell it to anyone; you can only drink it yourself. I might share with you, but not if it’s against the rules.

The first trappist beer? Who really knows? It’s said the monasteries were brewing before the Middle Ages, but the first known proof of an official trappist brewery is said to be 1685, La Trappe.

Do yourself a favor and either follow the Belgian trappist recipe above and delight your senses in six weeks or find yourself a true trappist beer with the logo that states it is an Authentic Trappist Product and welcome yourself to the world of some of the finest beers ever created. Some have said that Red Chimay leaves a “silky sensation” in your mouth. Sounds sexy, doesn’t it? Well, as sexy as a monk-made beer can be.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Budweiser to Men: Don’t Shave, Save Water

From Urban Farm Online:

As part of its "Grow One. Save a Million." program, Budweiser wants men to do their part for World Environment Day.

June 3, 2011

Photo: Courtesy iStockphoto/Thinkstock
 Budweiser is encouraging men to not shave in order to
save water.

This weekend, as the international community gears up for World Environment Day (June 5, 2011), Budweiser is asking adult men across the U.S. to help save 1 million gallons of water by not shaving.

As part of Budweiser’s ongoing commitment to water conservation, the “Grow One. Save a Million.” program encourages consumers to get involved by skipping a shave. The average shave uses 3 to 10 gallons of water.

Consumers 21 years of age and older can visit Budweiser’s Facebook page to make a pledge and share the water-conservation program with Facebook friends. Participants can commit to a range of no-shaving options, from a few days to multiple weeks. The page also features a daily tracker of the gallons of water saved to date.

“Water is a key ingredient in brewing Budweiser and all our beers, which is why water conservation is a priority both inside and outside our breweries,” says Kathy Casso, vice president of Corporate Social Responsibility at Anheuser-Busch. “In the past three years alone, our 12 U.S. breweries have reduced water use by 34 percent. Additionally, our employees and their families take action by volunteering to participate in local river-cleanup projects in communities across the country.”

In 2010, more than 1,200 employees from Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch skipped shaving for one week prior to World Environment Day, helping to save about 42,000 gallons of water. This year, Budweiser is expanding the water-conservation effort by inviting suppliers, partners, wholesalers, retailers and consumers to join the effort.

“Every gallon of water that we conserve makes a difference to our communities. So when thousands of people get together for one common cause, great things can happen,” says Chad Pregracke, founder of Living Lands & Waters and the face of the program on Budweiser’s Facebook page. “By pledging to skip shaving and ‘grow one,’ guys can literally wear their commitment to conserving our most valuable natural resource.”

In 1998, Pregracke founded Living Lands & Waters, a non-profit organization based in East Moline, Ill., dedicated to cleaning up and preserving U.S. rivers. For 20 years, River Network has provided organizational, technical and networking assistance to people working for watershed protection at the local, state and regional levels. Today, the organization has grown to include 10 full-time employees. Since the organization’s inception, more than 60,000 volunteers have helped remove more than 6 million pounds of debris from rivers. For his efforts, Pregracke has received numerous national awards.

As part of its annual recognition of World Environment Day, Anheuser-Busch and its Budweiser brand will again donate $150,000 to River Network to help support the organization’s watershed-conservation projects in each of the company’s 12 U.S. brewery cities. These projects will include stream and river cleanups, education programs, tree plantings and various activities that support the environment and provide employees and local wholesalers the opportunity to volunteer in their communities.

World Environment Day is a day set aside by the United Nations to create awareness of the environment and encourage participation in sustainability programs.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Releases 'Brew in the Lou'

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Releases Brew in the Lou

ST. LOUIS, May 27, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has released its new book, Brew in the Lou: St. Louis' Beer Culture - Past, Present and Future. In the newspaper's new 160-page, full-color book, Post-Dispatch features editor, reporter and beer columnist Evan Benn explores the beginning of beer in the caves beneath the Lemp and Anheuser-Busch breweries to the craft beer explosion happening today.
Additionally, readers can find out what's in store from a new generation of locally owned, small-production breweries and brewpubs, build up a thirst while looking at great photos, and get suggestions for meal and beer pairings.

Brew in the Lou: St. Louis' Beer Culture - Past, Present and Future retails for $19.95 (tradecloth) and is currently available at the Post-Dispatch online store, and in local bookstores.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Think You Don't Have Time to Brew?

Think again! Come on, you know you've been letting that brewing kit your wife bought you for your 35th birthday sit in a dark, lonely, spider-web-infested corner of your garage to collect dust. What is it that's allowing you to leave it like that ... all ... lonely? You have the beer-making book, you're an armchair beer enthusiast, so stop letting your tired old bones hold you back!

Work schmork. Since when does anyone leave work at 5, sit in traffic for an hour and then get home and jump right into their hobby? Unless your hobby is sitting on the couch with your tie slightly askew, smelling like the freeway, then you're one of millions who just want to relax after work. But that still doesn't mean you don't have time to learn how to make your own beer. You still have those precious 2,880 minutes of free time during the weekend to both enjoy a craft beer AND brew your own!

Ok, so you have kids. And? Kids are great slaves ... I mean, helpers. Need something sanitized? Your kid'll do it. Send him or her outside with your fermenting bucket and a dollop of sanitizer, turn on the hose and voila! Instant sanitizing slave. And really, what more does your kid want than to just spend time with you? That could very well mean sitting on a bar stool in the kitchen as you babble on about original gravity and barley for three hours (which is about the maximum time you'll need with an extract recipe). Your little one will love hanging out with you! You're showing him or her science. Yep, that's right -- science. You'll be doing your child some serious good by having them join you in learning how to brew beer. You wouldn't dare deny your child science, would you?

Now you have no excuse to not brew beer at home. Do you and your family a favor, and just brew some beer!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mexico's Microbrewers

Who woulda' thunk it? Mexico's micro brewers.

Mexican microbrewers struggle to get ahead

Craft beer makers are up against two giant firms that dominate the market. But they persevere, even if bars and restaurants are unwilling to stock their brews.

It sounds like a movie where high jinks ensue: A teetotaling Mexican hotel worker travels to England, befriends a whisky-drinking Irishman and scrubs toilets in a pub while learning to brew killer beer.

Such is the odd path Jose Morales has taken since a sweltering day five years ago when he found himself wondering how to make a beverage he doesn't even drink. The daydreaming has led Morales, then a hotel warehouse manager, to an unlikely new calling as a beer maker.
Morales, 36, is among a burst of Mexican brewers who are testing recipes and investing in imported equipment in hopes of finding the same formula for success that microbreweries north of the border have found.

Mostly self-taught, the Mexican brewers have launched an array of offerings, from Belgian-style wheat beers and imperial stouts to an ale aged in tequila barrels. They want to translate a hobby into commercial success in a country that is increasingly quick to embrace foreign trends, from smartphones to designer coffee.

"There's a niche. People are looking for something different," said Jaime Andreu, commercial director of the Primus Brewery and spokesman for the Mexican microbrewers association, which has 16 members.

Some brands of cerveza artesanal have won awards abroad. But the entrepreneurs have found that peddling fancy $4 beers in Mexico means battling a couple of Goliaths.

Although Mexicans are among the world's leading consumers of beer, guzzling about 16 gallons a year per person, microbrews are dwarfed by two huge companies that dominate the $15-billion market at home and make most every Mexican brand known abroad, from Corona to Dos Equis.

The newcomers say the vast majority of restaurants and bars in Mexico are off-limits because the establishments have agreements to buy only from one of the two giants, Grupo Modelo or Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, in exchange for equipment and discounts.

The small brewers often have to import ingredients and even bottles, making their product considerably more expensive than the big-name beers. Moreover, they lack the kind of tax breaks that have given beer makers in the United States a chance to survive infancy.

For every 100,000 beers drunk in Mexico, only eight are craft beers, according to the microbrewers association.

"Basically we're working against the system," said Jesus Briseño, who owns the Guadalajara-based Minerva Brewery, which makes Imperial Tequila Ale and five other beers. "We have all the odds of dying in battle."

The entrepreneurs have sought to tap into the Facebook generation to promote their beers, and two have opened stores, part beer boutique and part pub. So far, though, sales are modest.

The struggle hasn't stopped Gustavo Gonzalez, a brewing pioneer who produces three ales — an amber-toned pale, Belgian-inspired red and caramel-hinted porter — in a former tortilla factory on the southern end of Mexico City.

Gonzalez was a marketing student when he tried American craft beers during trips to Austin, Texas, in the 1990s. Before long, he was schlepping ingredients and home-brewing equipment back across the border and devouring books and magazines on beer making. By 2000, he was brewing Cosaco, or Cossack, in 18-gallon batches in his yard.

Gonzalez, 39, now has two workers who help mill grains and cook and ferment ingredients in stainless steel kettles in a brewery the size of a two-car garage.

His production is a drop in the bucket compared with that of U.S. microbreweries: just 3,200 gallons a year. And he sells only by the keg, meaning you won't find Cosaco even in specialty shops. He trucks his beer to trendy corners of Mexico City, but struggles against high production costs and a market that is as hard to penetrate as one of the steel kegs.

"We're not competitive," Gonzalez said.

The first Mexican microbrewers started producing more than a decade ago, most of them near the U.S. border. Some newcomers say they have been encouraged to see their sales, though still tiny, climb quickly in the last few years.

Still, as more beer makers have joined in, they have run up against the realities of the Mexican economy, where numerous sectors are ruled top to bottom by one or two huge companies.
Makers of craft beer say only a few hundred Mexican establishments are willing to sell their products. And some say they buy malt abroad because they can't count on Mexican processers, which are controlled by the two beer giants.

The smaller producers are fighting back through a social media campaign to pressure restaurants and bars into opening their refrigerators to independents. Supporters use Twitter, Facebook and a "Free Beer" website to praise places that serve craft beers and ding those that don't.

Some supermarkets have recently begun selling microbrews, and you can find them in the small world of specialty beer shops. But as a way to further increase access to their products, the Minerva and Primus breweries have opened a handful of outlets called the Deposit in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.

Mexican beer makers say they're years behind their counterparts in the United States, and some of their beers don't rise above mediocre. The brews tend to be limited to time-tested styles — especially popular are English stouts, ales and porters.

"You can count on one hand the people who are innovating with new styles and flavors," said Hector Lopez, a veteran home brewer who sells beer-making equipment online.

Yet those familiar with well-known U.S. brands such as Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada may be pleasantly surprised by the body and lively fragrance of some of the Mexican craft offerings. At Cossack, Gonzalez goes light on the hops and, after experimenting, settled on an imported yeast that lends fruity notes to his semisweet red.

Drinkers of Mexican craft beer say it's worth paying a few pesos more for a drink that stands out from the mass-produced brews, even those that are well-regarded.

"I like it more. It's thicker and creamier, and probably less bitter too," said Emanuel Ordoñez, 22, a university student.

Ordoñez and a friend had just plopped down $4.50 each for a pair of Cossack porters at a restaurant and pool hall in the capital's funky Roma neighborhood. They had no regrets.

"They taste quite different from the normal ones you can get in any store," said his friend, Socrates Rodriguez, 24, also a student. "Even though they're a little more expensive, I don't have any problem paying for them."

Americans who know the beer scene south of the border say the cervezas artesanales are as good as U.S. microbrews.

"It's right up there on par," said Greg Koch, chief executive of Escondido-based Stone Brewing Co. "There's nothing about Mexico that suggests that the craft beers can't have the level of quality we have here."

Morales, whose daydreaming led him to quit the hotel job, spent a few years in halting stabs at homemade beer. He experimented with different flavors: kiwi, tamarind, chili pepper. Relatives gave happy reviews, but batches were going bad and he knew there was much to learn.

Still, Morales believed there was a future in making beer. In the end, it was his wife who urged him to go for broke. " 'If you want to continue, then continue,' " Morales recalled her saying. " 'But you have to specialize in what you really want to do.' "

He chose stout, a dark, strong beer. With little money in his pocket, he went to England, where he washed dishes and cleaned bathrooms at a pub in exchange for a month of lessons from an Irish brewer.

Morales returned with his teacher's treasured recipe and specifications for custom copper brewing equipment. He was ready to be a brewer.

Two years later, Morales makes and bottles two stout varieties in batches of 50 to 125 gallons in a tiny plant on the edge of Mexico City. His brand is called Beer Jack, a name inspired by a U.S. supplier who insisted on calling Morales by an Anglo name, Jack.

When Americans mark the Cinco de Mayo holiday next month by drinking Mexican beers, Morales' thick, chocolate-edged brew won't be among them. Selling at home is hard enough, though he's found buyers at some restaurants and high-end beer stores and managed to break even.

But, Morales acknowledged, "there isn't as much profit as we thought."

He said he tries to stay upbeat. He's contemplating a couple of new products, including a cherry-flavored amber.

"I keep producing. I keep knocking on doors," he said. "If not, I would have said adios to this business. I want to make something that grows."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Alcohol, schmalcohol!

So, I used a packet of dry yeast on my latest red ale recipe attempt that didn't take. I waited about three days and grabbed another package of dry yeast from Nosh, which I made sure I started in warm water before pitching. It started up like a brand-new Harley, yet it didn't eat ANY of the sugars in my wort. What the heck? Why you messin' with me? So, what did I do? Well, since I didn't take a before hydrometer test, I didn't bother testing it. If I had, I'm sure I would have noticed that there was pretty much NO alcohol in my wort. Yah, I ended up not only drinking some of it, but also sharing it, and then I went a step further and even kegged it. HAHAHAHA! Yep, KEGGED non-alcoholic homebrew. Not exactly what a beer enthusiast had in mind.

At least it tasted pretty good.

Next homebrewing session in three weeks. Let's see what happens yet again! I'm going for a Belgian this time around and making sure Nosh is right there next to me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oops, Did I Do That? Homebrewing Misadventure #235

So, apparently you're supposed to filter the hops out before you dump your wort into the fermenting bucket. Remember when I said there was a pile of hops gunked up at the bottom of the kettle as I poured it into the bucket? Well, there's a reason--I didn't filter them out.

However, thanks to my brewing buddies next door, there was a fix! Thankfully, Nosh let me use his beer-making equipment (again), and kegged it! I didn't have to go through the corn sugar/bottling, and he has a fridge big enough for three kegs, so it's all good. The bad part? It tasted...well, hoppy. Really hoppy. I mean like so hoppy it'll make your tongue swell.

So how to fix it? Well, I siphoned the hoppy homebrew out of one keg and into the other (called a secondary...since it's the second place it's going), with the help of Jeela (rhymes with Teela), Nosh's wife. After much configuration and guessing as to which tube goes on which valve on the keg, we got it! Now the red ale is carbonated and ready and rarin' to go, sans chunks of hops. It's not bad, either...well, what I've sipped so far. I have a growler stuffed in the fridge waiting for me to get back from my workout and drink up. Taste test to ensue tonight!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beer-Bottle Time!

Final gravity on my homebrew is 1.011. Woohoo! This gives my red ale a final ABV of 6.2%. Yes, nice and strong. Face-in-gutter time! Kidding. Sort of. Apparent attenuation is 79.61% and real attenuation is 65.22%. This is great! I love this dry yeast.

Tonight is bottling night. Do I see a How to Bottle Beer video in the near future? Yes, yes I do. Personally, I think bottle-conditioned beer is more fun than kegging it. I like handing bottles to my friends and just popping one open after work rather than climbing over my fence and bothering my neighbors about getting a pint of my homebrew out of their keg.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Homebrewing Sanitation...

More info on sanitation by Beer Monger. Not sure if that photo is an "infection" or beer. You be the judge.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Five-Day Hydrometer Reading

Woohoo! The yeast is still boogyin' down! I wasn't able to lower the temperature of the brew, so it's still at a warmish 68 F. Suggestions for summertime? I guess I could stand over it and fan it.

The reading today (after using my trusty conversion app to adjust for the 68 F temperature) was 1.016. ABV is now 5.55%, apparent attenuation is 70.77%, and real attenuation is at 57.97%. Yes! I'm totally digging this dry yeast and homebrewing stuff. It's working its magic faster than the liquid ale yeast I used last time around. Of course, I completely destroyed that batch of homebrew on my own, despite what yeast I used, but you know what I mean.

Rate Beer: Mothership Wit

What better way to celebrate a great interview (that’s J-O-B interview) than with a beer I haven’t tasted? Seeing as I live in the ghetto, which allows for only a choice between the corner liqua sto’ and Fresh and Easy, I went with Fresh and Easy. They have New Belgium’s Mothership Wit on-hand, so I went for it. Not being much of a wheat-beer lover, it was a hard choice to make.

The first thing I noticed was its cloudy, light-yellow color. It’s a good color for Easter time, I guess.

First sip: ooooweeee, that’s a lemony-fresh beer!
Second sip: Mmmm…hops
Third sip: Where’s the carbonation?
Oops, finished the glass.

I like it. And by that I mean I wouldn’t kick it out of bed. The coriander and lemon are a bit much, though. If I can taste Indian food after finishing a glass of beer, that’s not a good sign (for me, that is), but what do I know? The body is medium- to medium-light. Ow wow, my mouth feels dry now. It’s dry and full of coriander. Hmmm…not sure about this one, but that’s just based on personal preference. I’d drink it again.

20 Beers in My Future

From Beer Advocate. All of these beers have A+ or A ratings, which means I need them...stat!
  1. Trappist Westvleteren 12, Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren)
  2. Pliny The Younger, Russian River Brewing Company
  3. Pliny The Elder, Russian River Brewing Company
  4. Canadian Breakfast Stout, Founders Brewing Company
  5. Vanilla Bean Aged Dark Lord, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
  6. Portsmouth Kate The Great,  Portsmouth Brewery
  7. Rare Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Beer Co.
  8. Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout), Founders Brewing Company
  9. Cantillon Blåbær Lambik, Brasserie Cantillon
  10. Heady Topper, The Alchemist Pub & Brewery
  11. The Abyss, Deschutes Brewery
  12. Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, Goose Island Beer Co.
  13. Citra DIPA, Kern River Brewing Company
  14. Kaggen! Stormaktsporter, Närke Kulturbryggeri AB
  15. Trappist Westvleteren 8, Brouwerij Westvleteren (Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren)
  16. Chocolate Rain, The Bruery
  17. Supplication, Russian River Brewing Company
  18. Bell's Hopslam Ale, Bell's Brewery, Inc.
  19. Trappistes Rochefort 10, Brasserie de Rochefort (Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy) 
  20. Duck Duck Gooze, The Lost Abbey  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Attenuation and Homebrewing

Why am I obsessing over my homebrew's attenuation? Because I have OCD. To refresh, attenuation is basically the amount of sugars converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast (thank you, Wiki Brew). This number is given by a percentage. Here’s where it gets a little confusing: There is “real” attenuation and “apparent” attenuation. Why not just go by real? I have no idea. Why do beer brewers make this so difficult for me? I do know that by understanding what attenuation is, I can build a better beer, and that’s all that matters.

How does attenuation affect the character of beer? The yeast won’t eat up all the sugars during fermentation, so the amount of fermentable sugars left in the beer will affect the all-around “character” of the beer. Different styles have different amounts of fermentable sugars left when it’s at the drinking stage. This is where the hydrometer comes into play and where “real” versus “apparent” is found. The thing is, a hydrometer can’t measure the amount of ethanol in the beer, so the reading is off a little bit. The reading will show a lower sugar (extract) level than the “actual” beer has in it. That’s why this initial reading is called the “apparent” attenuation. If you want to know the “real” attenuation, you’d have to burn off the alcohol before using the hydrometer and use this formula: real extract = 0.1808 * original extract + 0.8192 * apparent extract. I prefer to use my beer app, though.

Here’s what I found most interesting about this whole thing: Different yeast strains have different attenuations. This is where getting crazy-awesome with your own personal made-up recipe can get fun. Lager yeast actually consumes all of the sugars, so there’s already a huge difference between ale and lager yeast right there. When the yeast drops to the bottom of the bucket (flocculation) or sit on the surface of the beer, it stops having much contact with the sugars. A funeral for the yeast cells is then needed. What happens when the yeast “dies?” There are still fermentable sugars left in the beer, which is part of that whole character thing. The rule usually goes:
Less flocculation = more attenuation
Closer to attenuation = drier and sweeter flavor

This is the gist of it and all I’m willing to absorb, but I’m sure I’ll get into it more later when I understand it a little better. For now, at least I know why there are different strains of yeast.

Thanks to Home Brewing Wiki, here’s a great illustration showing the process:

Congrats to Nosh!

My homebrewing "teacher," Josh Smith, just found out he got 38 out of 50 points in the Homebrewers Association National Homebrew Competition!! Congratulations! His stout is by far one of the best I've ever tasted. If I'm lucky, he'll give me the beer recipe to put up here for all to enjoy. Hopefully he's on to Round 2!

Friday, April 15, 2011

48-Hour Update

My friend calleth and I goeth to L.A. Hence the reason I didn't do a 24-hour pull for a hydrometer reading yesterday on my homebrew. That's ok, what is time but procrastination's devil?
At 48 hours, hydrometer reading is at exactly 1.020 at 68 F.

Ok, at exactly 48 hours, the hydrometer now reads 1.020 at 68 F. This brings up two things: First, the beer is a tad warmer than I'd like it to be, so I'm going to throw it in my bathroom corner, which doesn't get much light, therefore is cooler. I want it down to about 64 F if possible. And two, since I didn't take the reading at 60 F, I need to pull out my trusty Brewzor Calculator app and figure out what the reading really is. Oh, well that's not much of a difference now, is it? It's actually 1.021. Now, I subtract 1.021 from 1.058, the original reading, and find out that the ABV (alcohol content) and attenuation is at ABV 4.88% and apparent attenuation is at 61.99% with real attenuation at 50.79%. I'm not exactly thrilled by this because I was hoping the attenuation would be at least 70% and a little more productive, but it's only been two days, so hopefully these numbers will change for the better.

The color shown above is the actual color at the moment, too. This will most certainly change and get darker over time. Now for a little sippy poo. Wooooweee, that is bitter! But wow, those hops sure taste good!

Ok, another reading will be done tomorrow at the 72-hour spot. A lot of people on forums said this yeast finishes its doing its thing after only two days sometimes, but I'm hoping to get one more day out of it at least. Unfortunately, the airlock (excuse me, but that burp tasted delish!) isn't moving, so that worries me a bit. Last time, when I used a liquid yeast, it took a good four or five days  to finish up. I'll wait for at least three days of steady hydrometer readings before I decide to bottle my beer.