In case you are wondering, I.M. Hammered Brewing is:
Mark -- Head brewer and drinker (brewer of over 65 batches of extract and all grain brews, drinker of many thousands of bottles and pints of beer), CEO and President of the finest Nano-brewery I know of, head bottle washer, and sanitation engineer
Liz -- Vice President in charge of bar decorating, keeping me from becoming too fanatical in my brewing habits, and is also known as "she who must be obeyed"
Michael -- Brewhouse assistant, equipment consultant, Chief IT Geek and self-appointed Official Beer Taster (great work if you can get it)
Schpankie -- Newest convert from fizzy yellow water to finely crafted beers and ales, adds little value to the brewhouse, but we like him anyway
Scooter -- The gas man (and I mean that in the kindest of ways) bringing propane and co2 when needed, also has keen interest in the brewing process
Knuckle Jefe -- Newest convert to brewing (has four batches under his belt), has began a start up nano-brewery in Kentucky known as "Double-Wide Brewing" with the catchy slogan of "double wide beers at single wide prices". Boy has a brilliant future in marketing. IMH is helping with equipment in the start up. We all work for beer, then again, why wouldn't we.
Parrot Pete, aka, Pappa Draft -- Bar designer, humidor raider, label celebrity, and Just because he should have been on the list the whole time.
We hope to make this site fun and informative and look for outside input, or inside output, whatever works.
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
 
Happy New Year........First Beer of the Year..........Let's Goooooooo Mountaineeeeeeeeeers.......

First and Foremost, I want to wish all of the readers, organizers, staff members, beer tasters, sanitation engineers, contributers, laggards, general goof offs, brewing consultants, and various insundry others that are, have been, or ever will be associated with I.M. Hammered Brewing a Happy, Momentus, and Prosperous New Year. I hope that you have a great and safe evening and that the days ahead are paved with gold and have beer stations at regular intervals for you.

Do any of you have odd or strange New Years rituals or foods that you traditionally eat either because of your ethnic background or family???? I always wondered about that. We alway, and I do mean always, eat sauerkraut and kielbasa on New Years Day. If you don't you'll have a bad year in every way imaginable. It's fine with me because I love S & K, in fact, I usually make it. I know of others who have to eat pork, usually in the form of a roast. There are still others that just do shots, hey, whatever works right? I always wondered how some of these traditional symbolic, and well, not so traditional, rituals came about. If anyone out there has an answer I would love to know, or if you have something that is a little odd that you do (remember this is a G rated show) email it in just for giggles.......

First Beer of the Year:
What are you drinking tonight? I personally don't like champagne (or the "Champagne of Beers" Miller No Life). I will bring in the new year with a beer. And why not I ask you? Now the big question is what will it be? Will it be the Fargin' Bastige Ale toasting to the new year, or a Penn Gold? It could be a Honkers Ale, a Red Hook Ale, Sam Adams, or a host of other fine brews. I think I'll make it one of mine. It will symbolize the successes of 2003 and motivate me to be better in all facets of my life in 2004, especially brewing fine handcrafted ales. Sooooo, what are you drinking tonight. Email me and let me know. If there is enough response, I'll compile a list!!!!!

Are You Ready For Some Football?????

I am. My day will start early too with my Mountaineers of WVU trying to make some turtle soup at 12:30 pm tomorrow!!! We owe them a first rate butt whipping and I certainly hope we administer it!!! In fact, I have twenty good reasons against my former bosses 20 good reasons which makes WVU winning even that much more important to me (he's a MU grad and has rubbed it in the past couple of years).

After that, it is a football smorgasboard of immense proportions. All of the bowl games leading into the first round of the NFL playoffs. My wife hates this time of the year. But I don't. I hope all your teams win this week, unless of course you root for Maryland.......

Have fun tonight, fill the grail, bottoms up, refill the grail, and repeat as necessary!!!!!

Happy New Year!

Mark The Brewer, and still contemplating the First Beer of the Year.........
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
 
Fighting Infections in Your Beer...........Wort and Beer Colors

Infections:
One of the worst things that can happen to you as a brewer is to work so hard making your brew, watching it ferment, carefully transferring it to better quarters, meticulously packaging it, and patiently waiting for your beer to be ready to drink, then with the first taste make a face that would scare Medusa because your beer is sour or has some funky flavor in it. It is downright maddening when this happens. What did you do wrong? Well, its probably an infection.

There are a number of ways for a wort to get infected, but sanitation, or the lack there of, is usually the culprit. Even if you retrace your steps and feel that you mere meticulous in your sanitation methods, you can still get the dreaded sours in your beer. Here are a couple of things that I would check before my next brew:

1. Take a look at your soft equipment, plastic buckets, hoses, racking canes. If these parts are old or discolored, there could be scratches within that are harboring bacteria. When that happens, the only recourse is to retire those pieces and get new ones. Even strong sanitizers like iodophor or star san might not get into those crevices and the bacteria will survive, and spoil your beer.

2. Re-think your sanitation processes, write them down and make a check list. That way you won't forget any of the procedures.

3. Be sure to use a good rated sanitizer like star san or iodophor. Bleach solution works too, but I don't like to use it because of the chance of off flavors from it in the beer. I prefer and endorse iodophor.

4. Where possible (and if economically feasible) switch from plastic to stainless steel or glass. This even includes things like racking canes. There are several high quality stainless racking canes on the market for less than $10 and a 6.5 gallon glass carboy is about $25 new. Look through yard sales and flea markets, you might be surprised at what you can find. I found 4, 5 gallon carboys that way and bought them for $5 apiece!!

5. Think about places in your set up that bacteria could survive. They can be in places you might overlook, like ball valves or counterflow chillers. Boil or run boiling water through ball valves. Be sure you clean and sanitize everything!!!

Good Luck!!!

Wort and Beer Color

Beer comes in a variety of colors and flavors. How do we put color in our beer? Well, we do it with grains that are kilned to varying levels of toastiness. There is a chemical reaction in grain when it is kilned at different temperatures and levels of moisture called the Maillard Reaction. This reaction is still somewhat mysterious even to the scientists who study brewing science for a living. Let it suffice to say that this reaction from heat and moisture levels in grains causes them to change color characteristics and sugar levels.

Extract brewers know these kilned grains as steeping grains. All grain brewers know them by more commonly used names such as crystal or caramel malts, chocolate malts, black patent malts, roasted barley, etc. Each of these grains lend a different color, flavor, and level of fermentable sugars to your wort. Beer or wort color can be effected by usage of these grains in varying quantities. Beer styles as in the BJCP guidelines, give acceptable color ranges for beers in order for those beers to fit the appropriate style. These grains are generally always less than 10% of the total grain bill (or extract) and give the beer the beautiful colors that we so enjoy. Later writing on this subject will cover how to scale colors into your beer, but for now, take a look at all of the "specialty" grains the next time you go to the homebrew shop. The array of colors is amazing. Start reading about beer styles and how the recipe's use of these grains add color to the beer. It is facinating. The fun of this is that you as a brewer can experiment with specialty grains, their color and flavors, as you brew. Who knows you might create your own style of beer!!!

One additional thought on beer color. The length and vigor of your boil, as well as boil volume have an effect on your beer color. It is very difficult to make a light pilsener style beer with extracts and partial wort boil techniques. You can make a great beer, but it will be hard to get that very light golden yellow color in the beer using these methods.

As wort boils it will darken. Water evaporates out and the wort concentrates. This is even more prevalent with partial wort boils. Old ales are often boiled for extended periods of time, up to 3 hours creating a much darker wort than was extracted from the grains. In scaling beer color, you must also often account for boil darkening in your recipe configuration. Again, I am fascinated by the science involved here and can only tell you that it is amazing at what you can do. I will in the future touch on this subject by pieces parts and go into much more detail. Today I just wanted to hit some basics on color, and to tell you to be adventurous. You can make beer from bright light yellow to the deepest ruby red (stout is not black, contrary to popular belief, but is actually a deep dark ruby color) and just about everything in between. So get out there and put some color into your beer!!!!!

Cheers, Bottoms Up, Refill, Repeat.........

Mark, The Brewer, and Amazed by the color of it all................
Monday, December 29, 2003
 
Another Year of Beer......Only 62 Days Till March.......

Well, we are winding down another year of beer. I will have to say it was a great one. I have never seen, nor tasted, the vast array of fine holiday brews we had available to us this year. If the EEEEEvil Megaswill Brewing Conglomerates don't understand the impact that craft and regional brewers are having on the brewing scene, then they are as short sighted as their products are bland.

I love the new Miller Brewing commercials, even though I can't say that about most of their beer offerings. The "I Can't Taste My Beer" commercial is hilarious and sounds like one of my rants until they get to the drink Miller Light part of the darn thing. If you were going to hold a gun to my head and absolutely make me drink a commercial light beer from an EEEEEvil Megaswill Brewer, I would have to select Heilmann's Old Style Light as my poison. Sorry Miller. Great ad, lousy bland (though well made) beer.

2004 looks exciting to me. Not only will there be many beers brewed at the IMHB facility this year, but I am looking forward to the craft offerings and seasonals for 2004. For example, Penn Brewing (one of my favorite brewers in my area) will release their Marzen Bier very soon, probably sometime in January, with the annual Maibock coming in April. These are great beer events as far as I'm concerned. June will bring the Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest which last year included Stone Brewing, Heavyweight Brewing, Great Lakes, Victory, and other well know brewers from both the east and west coasts. There were 30 there in all with over 100 beers to sample during each session. I did my best to try them all.

Summer means wheat beer and there are several locals that do that very well. Fall will mean Octoberfest is back, then there will be the assorted bocks and dopplebocks, plus the winter warmer season that will be back upon us. I can't wait for 2004's brewing seasons to begin. I also expect to see more Belgian style brews bubbling at many micro's as their popularity continues to soar in this country. You see, the EEEEEvil Megaswill Brewers don't get it. America wants beer, real beer!!!! The number of oases popping up serving multiple taps of craft and specialty imported beers is amazing. Yea, I know, the EEEEvil ones still have about 92% of the market, but remember, that used to be 99%. And the craft and specialty import industry is the only beer industry seeing double digit growth today. So Bud, SABMiller, and Coors better button down the hatches, because where there is smoke there is usually fire, and I'm starting to see some flames coming from the real beer area of this country!!!!!

Here's to successful homebrewing, more variety, better quality, and superior craft and specialty brews for you in 2004!!!!

62 Days and Counting:

We have survived so far with only minimal snow and bad weather here in the northeast. This is great news because it is now only 62 days and counting till March 1st. Why is that significant? You readers always ask good questions. It is significant because that is when early signs of spring start to pop out. We get some teaser days up into the 60 degree area. It feels downright hot to us after freezing for 4 months. I know that there is often additional snow fall in March, but the season is beginning to change and you can see the signs. And you know that over the course of the 31 days in March that you will get to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, see the buds on the trees, and open the garage doors all the way during your March brewing sessions!!!! That alone is worth it to me!!! March brings the hope of spring and the scaring away of old man winter for another year. You can brew alot and it is much more comfortable to do so outside. Yes, only 62 days and counting till March........

In the meantime, Brew, Sip, Test, Taste, and Enjoy...

Mark the Brewer, and Counting the Days............
Saturday, December 27, 2003
 
Ho, Ho, Ho........The Arrogant and Totally All Consuming Tasting of the Fargin' Bastige.........Traveling a Corny Keg.......

Ho, Ho, Ho...:
Well, I hope all of you survived the Red Suited Mayhem!!! I did for another year. The kids were cool and had a lot of fun. So did the adults!! I hope where ever you are you had a wonderful Christmas Day.

The Fargin' Bastige Tasting:
There must have been some magic in that old keg that they found. It walked into the room without fanfare and needing no introduction.....It was the tapping of the Fargin' Bastige Ale on Christmas Eve. There was a gathering of the extremely worthy in the IMHB tap room for the event. There were others who are worthy that were missing, but it is hoped that the overall arrogance of the group radiated out to the rest of them. They knew...Oh yes, they knew....

Now hear this, at approximately 4:45 pm on December 24th, there was an epiphany of joy at IMHB. It was at that time that the the Fargin' Bastige keg was placed into service and the gas was introduced to the beer with the purpose of arrogantly pushing the beer into glasses for those that were worthy. The line was long, but the wait worth it for those in attendance.

Now the beer you see is nothing short of excellent. There is a huge malt assault up front followed by an arrogant hop flavor from massive additions of Centennial hops. The beer then has a balancing bitterness in the middle that is aggressive but not overbearing. The finish is malt again with a hint of spicy hop flavor. It ends dry with a slight alcohol warming on the throat. Even with a 7.14% ABV the alcohol is never in the front of any of the flavors. The beer pours a deep copper color and releases aromas of spice from the Centennial hops along with a honeyed malt and toffee hint. Outstandingly Arrogant!!!

Now hear this: I love this ale!!! It is very good and the worthy should enjoy it while they can, as I expect it's stay in the cooler to be arrogantly short......

Traveling Kegs
For the first time I travelled a corny keg to Papa Drafts house (you know, over the river and through the woods...) for the enjoyment of all of the Drafts. I brought Angry Dog Amber, a staple of the brewery. Well, now I know that traveling kegs is hard. It was very foamy yesterday and was dispensed actually more like a cask ale with its own carbonation pushing the beer out and the head space replaced afterwards with co2. The head on the beer this way was creamy smooth just as you get on cask from a beer engine. It tastes great (but is a pain in the butt to pour). Today, we will test it again (and again, and again, and again) after it has had overnight to settle down. Stay tuned to see what happened in a later edition.

I am open to suggestions on traveling corny kegs. If anyone has experience, let me know what worked for you to keep the pressure under control and for the co2 level needed to push out the beer.

Cheers, and Merry Chistmas

Mark, The Brewer, and Lookin for Answers to keg moving questions, that bother him so...........
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
 
A Christmas Story, Sort Of.........

Twas' the night before Christmas when all through the brewhouse,
Not a creature was stirring, there better not be a grain eatin' mouse!

The carboys were lined up, with precision and care,
In hopes that new brews would be bubbling in there.

And Mama with a lager, and I with a stout,
Watched some new beers bubble without any doubt.

The moon shone brightly onto the snow,
Like the head on a pilsner from my taps down below

When down in the fermentation room there arose such a clatter,
I feared the worts had something the matter

I ran down the stairs carful not to spill my beer
A ruined batch is what I now fear.

I went through the door, fearing disater was lurking
but there in the carboys, bubbles were perking

I looked around the corner and what did I see,
But St. Nicholas Bock, a whole case for me!!!

I searched the rooms over looking for that old elf,
But I never saw him, and spilled beer on myself

Then I heard a noise out on the lawn,
He must be in a hurry, cause it's nearly dawn

He flew over the house, with brewers in tow
with a sleigh full of craft beer, how can this be so

He called them by name, and they all seemed to revel
Come on Troegs, Penn Pils, and Victory Hop Devil

They circled the house once and flew out of sight
But had left lots of beer much to my delight

Santa knows for me brewing's a passion
So he didn't cut down on my beer ration!!

Then I heard him giggling even now out of sight,
Many worts bubbling give him such delight.

Now If you believe my story, then get out there and brew,
And a very Merry Christmas, I send out to you.........

Merry Christmas to everyone, and thanks for visiting the site........

Mark, The Brewer, and Hoping Santa really does leave a case or two........
Monday, December 22, 2003
 
Count Down to the Bastige.......Red Suited Mayhem...

We are getting arrogantly close to the main event of the year. I have been brewing on and off for about 10 years, semi-seriously now for about 5 years. I have been brewing under the I.M. Hammered logo now for about 4 years. The Fargin' Bastige is in fact the I.M. Hammered Brewing's 50th batch. It is only fitting that this milestone brewed under this moniker be a beer of such distinction. That is why I am waiting in anticipation and bated breath for the finished product that is the Fargin' Bastige.

It will be arrogantly put into the cold room (don't get excited that I have this great production facility or anything, I mean my garage) tonight to begin the chilling process. Tomorrow this beer will be placed into the cooler and on Wednesday, Christmas Eve, the beer will be ceremoniously tapped. I can't wait. We are getting close, yes, we are getting arrogantly close.......

Red Suited Mayhem....

It is that time of the year when the snow flies and everbody is involved in the Red Suited Mayhem. I for one try to stay out of all of that. I love Christmas for the religious reasons that are obvious, I mean it's Jesus' birthday for goodness sake. So all you others can have all of this hokey commercialism that has become Christmas. What ever happened to a nice tree, a gift or two to symbolize the three gifts from the wisemen, and a nice quite weeklong celebration with family. No we have to fight our way through shopping malls, sit in traffic that is soooo non-essential, listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks singing carols in evey store you go into, and fight for that one toy that eveyone wants and no one can get. Red Suited Mayhem........

Now don't get me wrong, Santa's got a good gig here. He only works one day a year for goodness sake. And his staff works real independently so he doesn't even have to supervise them. I wonder if he gets a bonus????? I do know the exclusive use of the beach house in Martinique the other 11 months of the year must be a great perk. Usually I would say that the grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but in this case, how ya gonna beat that 11 months of vacation a year??????

On the bright side, the Red Suited Mayhem does bring us some of the best drinking beer we see all year. There is nothing like a nice winter warmer ale with lots 'o Malt and lots 'o hops. I know, lets make the Santa man buy..... He's got cash, and a beach house in Martinique...... I wonder if Mrs. Clause knows that........ she might just think those are "business trips".....HHHHMMMMMM.

Well, anyway, here's to the Red Suited Mayhem, and I hope yours is quieter than most, including mine.....

Mark, The Brewer, and hiding from the Red Suited Mayhem as much as I can.......
Friday, December 19, 2003
 
Beer and Health.......

Medical authorities have been telling us for years that red wine is good for you if sampled in moderation. There are many cases cited and studies of the French, who have the most fat laden diet in the world, and their lack of heart disease compared to the other western cultures seem to back up that fact. Well, there is now a lot of good news out there for craft beer drinkers, and homebrew drinkers specifically!!!

A recent 30 year study that involved thousands of subjects is coming to the conclusion that beer is just as good for your health, might stave off more than just heart and arterial diseases, and the effect might actually be better than what wine can do!!!! Again the caveat here is "consumed in moderation" (so don't think you'll be healthier by swilling 12 Buds every night, yuck!!!), but the findings are what we craft and homebrew drinkers have already known for a long time. Beer is good not only for your soul, but your body as well!!!

The findings seem to rest on two chemical properties found in beer, Humulones, and Flavanoids. Without getting too technical, here is what this means:

Humulones are found in hops. There are several types and they end up in your beer through the extraction of the essential bitter oils that hops impart to your brew. Here is the good part, the more humulones in your beer the better!!!!! Well, craft brewers love to load up on hops in their beers, and homebrewers may even take that to another level (I've been know to be heavy handed). These compounds are KNOWN to fight cancer cells, clear out the bad colesterol in your blood steam, fights hardening of the arteries, lowers your risk of heart disease, and helps your body fight mental decline by mopping up free radicals that can attack delicate brain cells!!!!! Wow!!!!

Flavanoids are compounds that give beer flavor and color. Again, there are many types of them and it is too technical to get into how they are formed in your beer. Just know this, like hops, the more flavanoids in the beer, the better. If there are more of them in your beer, it will be darker and darker. Stouts and porters are loaded with them. Ambers and browns also contain high levels. Basically, the darker the beer, the better. These guys also fight heart disease, stroke, collesterol, and cancer cells.

On top of all of that, here is some additional information that you might find interesting. A craft beer like Sam Adams and a Coke have about the same caloric intake, 150 calories or so. The Coke has zero minerals, zero vitamins, zero protein, and about 35 grams of carbohydrates that are all simple and made up of simple sugars (which may go right to your hips). If you added Coke to a fermenting beer, it would ferment to nothing. The Sam Adams (or craft beer of choice) has the aforementioned humulones and flavanoids providing great health benefits, plus about 30% of your daily needs of the vitamins B (all of them are present), levels of minerals and other vitamins that your body needs, about 1 gram or so of protein, only about 14 grams of carbohydrates that are in the form of complex carbohydrate or dextrins (less likely to be retained by your body), and not loaded with carbonic acid like the soda. Now I'm not picking on Coke, put any "soft drink" in its place and you get the same thing. Now let me ask you, which would you think is better for you to drink, that Coke filled with empty carb calories and zero food value, or the Sam Adams loaded with B vitamins, heathful humulones and flavanoids, and less than half the carbs (complex carbs).......I know what my choice will be about 100% of the time.....

Now it gets even better. The daily suggested sevings of beer in these studies varies depending upon who's findings you read (and there are now literally hundreds of different studies on beer out there). From my unofficial research, it looks like the recommendation is for 2 to 4 12 oz beers per day for men, and 1 to 3 12 oz beers per day for women. That is astounding!!!!

This means at worse, if you drink a fine craft brew, a man who choses to have 4 is getting about 600 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrate (the better version), 100% + of the B vitamins, and the healthful effects of the humulones and flavanoids. The suggestion also is that this serving per day is factored into a healthy well rounded diet and that something be eaten while consuming the beer. Some of these studies also seem to conclude that it is really not the beer that might cause people to gain weight, but their bad eating habits while having the daily beer allowance (i.e., salty, high fat, high carb snacks such as potato chips). So have your brew with a healthy dinner or while munching a couple of hard pretzels and stay away from the chips and dips (see Garrett Oliver's books on pairing beer with food for great dining suggestions). The effect on your health from drinking beer in moderation can lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 50% !!!!!! It lowers your risk of mental decline or alzheimers by as much as 42%, and your risk of stroke by 50%. These are numbers that just cannot be ignored!!!!!!
So, in conclusion, let's all go have a beer (or better yet, brew some beer)!!!!!!!!!

Now you have even more reason tilt the bottoms up, refill, and repeat.........

Mark, The Brewer, and picking Sam Adams over Soda every time.........
Thursday, December 18, 2003
 
"The" Present..........The E-Mails Just Keep Coming......."Dead Guy Ale" Clone Names Revisited...... I.P.F.A. Update.....

I was suspicious because She Who Must Be Obeyed was acting strange yesterday. I called on several occasions in the morning and was basically told to "step off". For those of you with a military background, you know that means that you have been very annoying and are being told to stop it or else. So I get home wondering what the heck and......I walk in the door of the pub and when I turn the corner, there it is. A six foot by three foot sign is hanging in the pub with I.M. Hammered Brewing on it with big raised white lettering. I am stunned!!! The elves had been to my house a week early!!!! Well, Papa Draft and Uncle Draft had been there. Uncle Draft, also known to my son as Knuckle Melson, came up with this idea and decided he wanted to make this sign for me for Christmas. Yes, I was surprised, even though everyone in the neighborhood knew about it. Thanks for telling me guys......

Anyway, a big hearted thanks go out to Uncle Draft and Papa Draft for making the trip and doing such fine work (even though Papa Draft raided my humidor......). The bar now really looks like a bar and the sign is just stellar.

E-Mails:

Thanks to all for the E-Mails. They just keep coming with ideas and contributions. Several folks were interested in the yeast post from yesterday. I will always try to answer everyones e-mails, so please let us hear from you!!! This site is for the advancement of homebrewing as a hobby and for the enjoyment of fine beer. The exchange of ideas is the best way to do that, and I like meeting new people who like to brew!!!! So, don't be shy, e-mail your question, comment, or contribution. I will post contributions and give you full credit for them.......Recipe's, good pubs, good beer, good food, or anything else that is on your mind. Go ahead, you can do it, click on the e-mail the brewer link......you know you want to......

Dead Guy Ale Revisited:

In my brewing schedule outline from yesterday, there was some interest in the Dead Guy Ale clone recipe and what it would be named. I love it. First another quick word on Rogue Brewing. These guys rock!!!! The first rule is that there are no rules. The beers are just phenomenal. Dead Guy Ale looks like an Octoberfest lager grain bill that is then fermented with their propreitary "Pacman" yeast strain. In my mind this ale yeast must have some of the properties of an Alt yeast or of a San Francisco Lager yeast because primary is generally done on the Rogue ales at 60 F. Whatever it is, it makes a great ale that you must try if you find it. Also look for the Shakepeare Stout, Brutal Bitter, Oregon Golden Ale, and just about anything else they make. That said, here are a couple of additional names submitted by Art from Artonsafari.com and of West Side Brewing infamy:

Autopsy Ale
Morgue Malts
Corpse Juice
Zombie Pops

As I have said many times, only in America......Thanks Art.

I.P.F.A. (India Pale Fest Ale) Update:

Well, here we go again. I had another yeast problem with this beer. I used a Wyeast strain that was date challenged at best. It didn't rise up very much in the smack pak and then didn't start to ferment. Fear not, I just added some fresh White Labs East Coast Ale yeast to it. This is a more American ale strain with some alt bier properties. The beer took off quickly after that and is full steam ahead. It is fermenting like mad and has a nice lacy white head on the top. This brew was well hopped and started with a 1.062 OG. All appears well and after primary subsides, 7 - 10 days in secondary is next. Time to get ready to make the Parrot Pete's......

Bottoms up, Refill, Repeat as needed.....

Mark, The Brewer, and searching high and low for Rogue Ales.........
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
 
What's Next For IMH.......A Fargin' Bastige Update, Whether You Want it or Not......

IMH Brewing:

Well, it's only been 4 days since I brewed last and I almost can't stand it anymore. I'm already planning my next beer and brewing date (remember my disertation on planning, I do for once). So many beers to make, too little time.......I'm thinking it might be time to resurrect one of my all time favorite beers, Parrot Pete's Porter. Can I get an A-Men for Parrot Pete's Porter???? The award winning Parrot Pete's Porter!!!! Thanks for the A-Men!!! Going once, going twice........Parrot Pete's Porter it is!! It will be the last brew of 2003 and is brewed for good luck for the following year. The 2004 schedule will then turn to another clone recipe that I can't wait to make and I believe it is a must try. It is a clone of Rogue Brewing's Dead Guy Ale and will be the perfect first beer to ring in the new year with. Think of the name possibilities that this will bring!!! Stiff Sot Swill, Deceased Dude Suds, Skeleton Man Ale, Mummy's Favorite, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on.......(Send in Your thoughts, E-Mail the Brewer, see instructions below for goodness sake)

After that it will be time to get ready for the 2nd greatest holiday of the year (behind Halloween of course), St. Patrick's Day!!!!!! Everybody is Irish at least for a day, and stout is the only way to go. I'm thinking maybe a clone recipe for Bell's Cream Stout, though the normal lower gravity Guiness style recipe is very easy to make too. I might even get real adventurous and make two brews with the second being an Irish Red Ale. HMMMMMMM, now that's a thought. After that we will be "trying to reason with Hefeweizen Season" and thinking up some other lighter brews for summer. I have a good bitter recipe and of course a great cream ale beer that I made last year. There could also be a Grand Cru, or some other summer type spiced ale or lawnmower beer. Of course scattered in there will be IMH old favorites the Angry Dog Amber and perhaps some other surprises. The world is me and my brewing systems oyster, and we are the black pearl inside!!!!!! It is going to be a great brewing season. I am open to suggestions. Anyone out there, and we know you are lurking on the site, with a suggestion for a brew, e-mail the brewer and give the specifics. It doesn't even have to be a recipe, just a description of what a beer would taste like. We will attempt to fashion that beer. It will be fun!!! Don't be shy, just click on the E-Mail the Brewer link!!!! You can do it, point the arrow at the link and left click.........

Fargin' Bastige Update, whether you want it or not:

Now Hear This.....The Fargin' Bastige Ale is quietly resting in it's keg slowly producing co2 for dispensing and aging to perfection. For anyone who is reading this and is not worthy, you will be duly executed......Not really, but stop reading now. For those of you who are worthy, rejoice in knowing that today, no news is good news when it comes to Fargin' Bastige Ale.

Your worthyness has been duly noted over time and only those who have deemed themselves worthy will enjoy the spoils. The rest of you lily livered ingrates who swill the "Icewater of Beers" on a regular basis will be dispatched to the megaswill netherworld to drown in fizzy yellow corn water for eternity (so you at least have that going for you, which is nice). So be gone with you, so that only the truely worthy can get in line to be one with the Bastige!!!!!

Finally:

I'm long winded today, but for those of you who come here for information and a little fun everyday, thanks for all of your return visits. It means my strange metaphors are working, or that I'm just strange and you like that. Anyway, tell your beer loving friends how much fun you have and get them to log on. And have them tell their friends and their friends friends.....You get the idea.....

Mark, The Brewer, Still the Worthiest of them all (by my own standards anyway) and waiting patiently for the "Bastige"


Tuesday, December 16, 2003
 
Using Liquid Yeast.........Recipe Day.......

Using Liquid Yeast:

As we ascend through our cycles as homebrewers adding additional skills virtually every time we brew, one of the things that we gravitate towards is the use of liquid yeast. Dry yeast has come a long way from the early days with many strains available and much better purity. Dry yeast is easy to use, nearly foolproof (and as we all know, I'm a big fool sometimes, so I got dry yeast going for me) and easy to store. It has a long shelf life and really if you brew a lot, it is a good idea to keep several packets of dry yeast in your brew closet inventory in case of emergency. I have saved several batches with the ability to pitch additional dry yeast to stave off stuck or prematurely finished fermentations. All that said, dry yeast still tends to leave that "homebrewed taste" in your brew. Eliminating that from your beer is when you know you are moving to the next level. So when your technique screams for even more improvement, liquid yeast helps elevate your brews to that "next level".

Liquid yeast comes in many strains and in many cases is the exact same yeast used by commercial brewers to make commercial level beer. Strains like Whitbread and California Ale are reportedly the exact same yeast strains used by Whitbread in England and Sierra Nevada in Chico, Ca. Talk about getting authenticity in your ales...... You can even get high grade German Lager and ale yeasts in liquid form, again using the same yeast that is used to brew commercially.

Another advantage of the liquid yeast is the purity level. Dry yeast can mutate in the drying process and you may also get other wild yeasts in the mix during the drying process. This isn't an issue with the pure liquid cultures. Using liquid yeast, when all other appropriate sanitary conditions are kept, is the best way to get pure brewing yeast into your homebrew.

White Labs and Wyeast are two of the most popular brands of liquid yeast. The cultures have different names but are basically the same yeast strains. White Labs comes in "pitchable tubes" which are 50 to 60 billion cell cultures that are ready to pitch into 5 gallons of prepared wort (if the OG is less than 1.070). These tubes are convenient and very easy to use. Wyeast comes in both a "pitchable culture" in a toothpaste looking tube, or in a "smack pak". The smack pak takes a little bit of planning, but is in essence a yeast starter. The yeast is started and the "pak" swells. This indicates that the yeast is active and ready to pitch. All of these products are high quality and make outstanding beer!!!! Yes, these are more costly than dry yeast with White Labs ranging from $6.50 to $7.50 per vial. Wyeast ranges from $4.95 for the standard smack pak to $7.00 for the extra large. Trust me when I tell you, this stuff is worth the extra $4 or $5 bucks especially when it comes to your own brewing creations.

So if your making good beer and want to see a quick improvement, switch to a liquid yeast culture. You won't believe the immediate difference in your finished product. Your beer will go from good to very good in one batch.

Finally, fresh liquid yeast is now pretty much always readily available at your local homebrew store (click on the Country Wines link to view White Labs yeast, learn more, and order).

Recipe Day:

Today on the recipe page we will talk about the West Coast Pale Ale craze. Click on the link to learn about the style and to view a standard extract recipe for this great crisp refeshing beer.

Bottoms Up, Refill, Repeat as Often as Needed.......

Mark, The Brewer, and highly recommending Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.......
Monday, December 15, 2003
 
Brew Day News.........More Beer Reviews.....

Brew day was Saturday. The day went very well, though I had some equipment issues early that caused some additional work. The mash was a perfect 152 degrees F. and actually ran almost clear during he first round of recirculation. There was virtually no grist in it at all. The sparge went rather flawlessly as well. Good hot and cold break were achieved and its off to the races. This brew is where a fest bier meets an IPA. I'm guessing it will be interesting if nothing else. The opening gravity was 1.062, so it will pack a little of a punch. Stay tuned for updates.

The stout and amber are both pouring just fine still and there are kegs in reserve. It is going to be a great Christmas. The Fargin' Bastige Ale has a full week of carbonating and maturing under its belt and I am eagerly awaiting it's Christmas Eve debut......

More Holiday Beer Tastings.....

While out Christmas shopping yesterday, I had the pleasure of tasting some more of the finest Holiday ale offerings. I also got to taste Troeg's Hopback Amber on cask (it was fabulous). There were no disappointments yesterday. Here are my moderately coherent thoughts about them:

Anchor Christmas, Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, Ca = Wow!!!!!!!! This was a great brew!!!! It was very dark and looked more like a porter than anything else. The beer had a big nose of raisin and spice with a hint of toffee and malt. The aroma's didn't overstate the flavors as the beer was big with a wonderful malt accent and great bittering balance. The spice nuances were perfect for the malt levels and the beer was nothing short of spectacular. If you love ale and stronger holiday offerings, this is a must try!!!!! I was very impressed with this beer.

Delerium Nocturnum, Belgian Ale from one of the better breweries they have there. I can't give you the name right now because this brew came in at 9.75% ABV and well, I'm a little on the fuzzy side at the moment. This brew also was a very dark amber color almost garnet. The aroma again was laced with raisin and a hint of roasted grain, probably dark crystal. The body of this beer is medium which indicates it probably used Candi sugar in the fermentables in order to make the gravity needed to get to the ABV. This brew is ultra smooth with the accent on malt. It is very rich and filled with a spicelike flavor and character with hints of raisins and toffee. Again I must say wow!!!! If you go to try this somewhere, for goodness sake, don't be the driver. I wasn't yesterday, so I went for it. This is another very impressive beer that if you can get it to try it, you owe it to yourself. A 10oz serving yesterday was $6 at the pub I was at. It was worth it!!!!!!

I rate both of these beers as must try brews. I will assure you they are better on draft as I had them yesterday, but if bottles is all you can find, I still say go for it. Good luck finding these two.

Mark, The Brewer, and looking forward to my next excursion to the great beer pubs in my area............
Friday, December 12, 2003
 
Hops Have Been Selected.......

I love hops. I love the smell of them when the pellets are first opened from oxy barrier containers. I love the aroma's and the flavors that they put into the beer. I love the smooth bitterness that they can impart on a brew. I love pouring a fresh beer into a glass and smelling the aroma's of the hops as they escape in the co2 gas that is emitted from the beer. I don't know who started using them in beer first (probably the Germanic brewers), but they need a robust thanks from all of us lovers of the lupulin......

That is the beauty of beer and brewing. The art of brewing is one of the oldest tasks performed in the history of the world. Yes, processes and procedures have changed and improved with technology and the scientific discoveries over time, but the actual act of brewing, is historic. Every time you brew a batch of beer, you are re-enacting history!!! How cool is that!!!!

Ingredients have changed over time too, but the premise of water, malted grains, hops, and yeast (after it was discovered just a short 150 or so years ago) hasn't changed. Go make history and brew, will ya!!!!!

But I digress.......The hops selected for tomorrow's pale ale will be:

2 oz English Challenger Hops, Bittering (7.5% AA)
2 oz U.K. Kent Goldings Hops, Flavoring (4.5% AA)
2 oz German Hallertau Hops, Aroma (3.5% AA)

With the munich malt involved, I figured, why not try something different!!!!! This should be interesting.

Mark, The Brewer, and cookin' up some pale ale tomorrow!!!!!!
Thursday, December 11, 2003
 
Concensus for Saturday's Brew Day Recipe........Why Everybody Should Have a Beer.....

Well, I'm So Happy It's Thursday.....

After so much thought and analysis, my brain started to hurt, so here is my Pale Type Ale Recipe for this weekend. It should be an interesting concoction using one of my favorite ingredients in beer, Munich Malt. It gives beer a roundness and depth that plain pale malt doesn't have. It will take the brew out of style, but who cares!! It will resemble a British pale ale. I'm still unsure of the hop type or magnatude at this moment, but trust me there will be some hops in here. Here is the grain bill for 10 gallons:

10 lbs Pale Malt = 51%
8 lbs Munich Malt = 41%
1 lb Crystal 60 LOV = 5%
1/2 lb Flaked Barley = 2%
4 OZ's of Chocolate Malt = 1%
Total Grain 19.75 lbs

Yeast = Wyeast Thames River
Hops = To Be Determined along with bitterness, flavor, and aroma levels

Mash Temp = 152 Degree F. single infusion mash, for 1 hour
Boil Time = 75 minutes
Hop Additions = First Boil, 30 minutes, 1 minute

If you are and extract brewer and interested, you can't get there from here. Munich Malt just isn't available as an extract. You can partial mash this beer however. If interested, e-mail the brewer and I will scale it for you.

Wish me luck!!!

Why Everybody Should Have a Beer:

"Relax, and have a beer or somethin". This quote is ingrained in my head. It is prominently displayed at one of my favorite taverns called Fat Head's. It is a principle that I have relied on for a lot of years, and it has always worked for me.

You need more proof? Ben Franklin, you all know who he is I'm sure, once wrote, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy". I don't believe there has ever been anything written that could be any more true!!! The Godfather of homebrewing, Charlie Papazian also chimes in with, "Relax, have a homebrew". Ok Charlie, I believe I will!!!

Well, if none of that is enough for you, consider the following:



I'll have what they're having!!!!!!

Drink Up, Refill, Repeat as Necessary

Mark the Brewer, Relaxin' and Havin' a Brew...........
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
 
An Obtrusive, Arrogant, and Downright Pushy Fargin' Bastige Update.....Whether You Want it or Not.........

A very nervous time in every brewers life is the day that you check final gravity and prepare to package your creation, in this case into a keg. You anticipate that everything went wrong and even if you hit your target gravity, that when you taste the sample, you'll end up splattering it all over the wall while making contorted faces that only Andy Warhol could appreciate.....well, not today.

Now hear this....If you fear hops, log off now. If you fear malt, log off now. If you fear a little ABV, log off now. If you only drink Captain Corn Water or the Icewater of Beers, log off now. I don't even want to scorch your eyes with my disdain for you or allow you access to what is about to follow. Take yourself and your lilly livered Budweiser swilling buddies and move on to somewhere where I won't have to disgustingly gaze upon you. YOU!!! are not worthy!!!

Now....If you crave lupulin on a daily basis, manacingly munch on malt kernals before buying them, have an uncontrollable attraction to IPA, Imperial Stout, Strong Ale, Doppelbock, or other real brews of distinction, try to think of ways to increase hop utilization and alcoholic strength without using any adjuncts or sugars, then you may be worthy. You may be worthy if you look for words that rhyme with barleywine, if you think beer should be amber or darker in color at all times, or if your idea of a night out with the wife must include at least three cask drawn ales. You may be worthy if you have attrempted in life to substitute beer for food. You may be worthy if you read this site daily, or brew beers that others deem "un-necessary". You are worthy if you are a real beer lover.......

Now Hear This:
The Fargin' Bastige Ale has been tested, tasted, kegged, and duly logged!!! The Fargin' Bastige Ale is now creating CO2 naturally in a keg as it was primed not force carbonated (which I arrogantly never do). The Transfer to the keg was Arrogantly done with great fanfare and much anticipation. With my worthy minion, geek boy, at my side, we put the lid on the keg and pressurized the keg to bleed off the O2 then re-pressurized to put a co2 blanket on top of the beer. We then very arrogantly drank the gravity sample. Geek Boy passed out, passed gas, it was one of the two, and exclaimed the brew to be the King of the Bastiges. I sampled and agreed that we had passed into a new level of arrogance.

Sampling for the extremely worthy begins on Christmas Eve. I will have a full report available after trying several (I am worthy) and strutting about the brewhouse for a while. Long Live the Fargin' Bastige, and may he pour for several weeks to come.......

I.M.Hammered Brewing's
The Fargin' Bastige Ale
OG- 1.075
FG - 1.019
ABV - 7.14%
IBU's - Lots of them

Available in extremely limited quantity..........and only for the extremely worthy......


Mark, The Brewer, Extremely Worthy, and basking in the Arrogance of it all...........
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
 
The I'm Really Mad, and I'm Not Going to Take it Anymore Rant.......

Oh my goodness. I thought that I was pretty street savvy and had a good business mind. I am apparently very wrong about both. The EEEEvil Megaswill producers of this country have been fleecing all of us now for some time. And it's not only them!!!!!

Many of you have heard me speak of, or heard others speak of the three tiered distribution system for your favorite beverages. What this system does is create product mis-handling, price increases for no reason, and under the table dealings by the "haves" in order to eliminate the "have nots". Well, the "have nots" are typically the smaller more diverse regional brewers, micro's, and brew pubs. The "have nots" have a terrible time finding distribution outlets in this system and sometimes brewery's that make outstanding beer can't get distributed. Often those that do get less than desirable shelf space, little or no advertising help, and no sales support at the tavern level. That isn't the worst of it though. Then there is the pricing games played. (Now if you get me three tap handles in your pub, I can get you the product at 20% below our normal cost and every 10th keg is free). Don't be naive and not believe this happens, though in my state it is quite illegal (but happens all the time anyway)!!! It's all about getting the megaswill tap handles in front of the customers faces in as many pubs and taverns as possible. It is like free advertising. It is also a travesty of justice and disgusting.

Here is what happened to me yesterday. I have handy access to a very wonderfull small regional brewer known as Pennsylvania Brewing Company. This brewery makes authentic german lagers and ales and all are conforming to the Reinheitsgebot (sp) laws of Germany. If you don't know, this means that only four ingredients may be used to make the beer: water, malted barley/wheat, hops, and of course yeast. Compared to the EEEEvil megaswill brewers who cut their brews with so much corn or rice that they have little or no flavor at all (or taste like a corn field emitting so much DMS that I feel like it's Thanksgiving dinner creamed corn), plus the hops are used so sparingly that the bitterness levels are very low and hop flavor thresholds are never exceeded (meaning there is no hop flavor in any of these brews). It is MUCH CHEAPER to produce beer using corn and rice (and nearly no hops) than it is to make Reinheitsgebot (sp) conforming beer out of all barley using only imported Hallertau hops like Pennsylvania Brewing does.

Here is what happened to me. I deal with a couple of distributers locally to buy kegs for my home bar. I love the Penn beers, but noted that they are very expensive in the distributers coolers with half barrels priced anywhere from $115 to $125. That is rightous brew and very expensive to buy more than once or twice a year. Megaswills generally run about $65 a half barrel with lower end stuff around $40 (if you can stomach it). Now in the summer time when you want a lighter brew the lower end stuff might be fine. But it's Christmas. Well, the brewery sells kegs direct to the public (legally), but I just assumed that the price would be a similar retail. What an idiot I am for not calling for prices sooner. When I called, I was floored. The keg thats at our local three tier distributer that sells for $120 was, are you ready for this (better sit down) $70 direct from the brewery. Yes, that's right, $70. I was floored (and felt pretty stupid). Not only did I feel personally violated right then, I realized it was time to detach the vacuum hose from my wallet!!

Now, here is where I really got mad!!! I was paying $63 for Yuengling Lager (recipe cut with corn but is a good beer), $70 for Molson Bier (God only knows what this is cut with), and $80 for Molson Golden (a good beer, but brewed with adjuncts and costing more than the all barley Penn products). Not only that, beers that I never buy and will never buy again, like Bud, Miller, Coors, and Rolling Rock, were all selling for $65 - $70!!!!!! Now, how can I justify paying $65 for corn water like Miller or the "Icewater of Beers" Coors Light, when for $70 I can have all barley malt beers from Pennsylvania Brewing. I'm so mad right now that I can't even speak!!!

It's time for all of us beer consumers to fight back. The EEEEvil megaswill producers have been programming us for years, and I don't mean about what beer should taste like. We have been on that front for a long time and fighting that fight. I mean on the pricing side of the business. They have jacked up prices to rediculous levels right under our noses. And we didn't even notice!!! This has to be proof. I'll assure you that Pennsylvania Brewing is making at least 120% profit on the keg they sold me (and they are entitled to make profit). It is the artificial mark up of the distributors that is blowing me away. Fight back. Write your state legislators that the three tiered system of distribution is as EEEEvil and in cahoots with the megaswill brewers as the megaswill brewers are EEEEvil themselves. Boycott Miller, Bud, Coors, etc products. Buy regional and micro brews. Buy your kegs direct from the brewery where laws allow and there is availability. Enjoy good beer and tell everyone you know to do the same. Convert as many people as possible. We as beer lovers can make a difference and we can beat the megaswill brewers!!!!!!! Be one voice for choice in your beer!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, on a roll, and working overtime to defeat the EEEEvil Megaswill Brewers.........
Monday, December 08, 2003
 
The Week Ahead.........Brewing is on the Horizon.........Brewing Tip: Does Size Matter????? You Bet When it Comes to Kettles


This Week:

The week ahead looks good. Lots to do and lots of fun to have. The BCS hopefully just put an end to itself. I love college football, but to have the number one team in the polls not playing in the championship game is a travesty of justice. All you need is a final 4. Yeah, I know that there is always a number 5 out there that feels like they were slighted, but there would be little argument about the top three. As good as Oklahoma was all year, they didn't even win their conference and So. Cal. did......

Brewing on the Horizon:

Man do I have the bug to brew!!!! It's been two whole weeks and I can't stand it any longer. I'm thinking of a pale ale recipe in my head but am open to suggestions. Please give me one if you have it by emailing the brewer!!!

I hope to brew on a day when my wife will be the least disturbed by it. Hopefully on Saturday, but you never know. I have to see what her schedule is on the shopping horizon. That is why she is known as "she who must be obeyed". Stay tuned as I will post the final recipe this week so if any of you feel adventurous, you can brew it too.

Does Size Really Matter?

This is an age old question, specifically when it comes to brewing kettles (don't worry, this show is rated G). The answer to "How big should my brewing kettle be?" is harder than you might think. You have to look at your equipment limitations. The biggest advantage of a large kettle is the ability to full wort boil. You will get better hop utilization and be closer on your beer colors, specifically for the lighter end of the scale. That said, you can produce very high quality beers either way. The other issue that you must consider, is your ability to boil. Do you have an outdoor cooker, or are you a slave to the kitchen? This is probably the biggest issue that you have to consider. A stove top will have trouble bringing 5 gallons of 1.050 wort to a boil if it is a gas burner (and nobody I know makes beer with a starting gravity less than this, Mild be damned), and forget it if you have electric. A gas stove burner might only be between 5000 and 10,000 BTU's. This would take about 90 minutes to get hot enough for a 5 gallon wort boil plus the 75 to 90 minutes you must boil it. That is a lot of time added to your brew day. The last issue here is the ability to transfer. You can pour 2.5 gallons of hot wort, but 5 gallons is much harder. It is very dangerous as well. If you go with a bigger kettle, you will need to put in a ball valve and fitting to effect your transfer to the fermenter.

Don't worry though. You can boil a concentrated wort. By the way, most won't admit it, but there are large commercial breweries that make their light beers with concentrated worts. They boil a concentrated wort and then add water to bring the wort to working strength. Sound familiar. It's probably what you are doing now, or will be doing when you start brewing. There is nothing wrong with this method and it makes excellent beer (well, omitting most of the aforementioned light beers of course). Once you get going with the hobby on a larger scale, upgrade your equipment to full wort boil status (large kettle and outdoor cooker). You'll see a next level type of improvement in your beer.

Here are some sizes of kettles I would recommend. For 2.5 gallon concentrated wort boils, you will need enough head space to handle the hot break. I recommend a 4 to 5 gallon stainless pot. These are often available very reasonably priced at close out stores or Walmart.

If you move to 5 gallon boiling, I highly recommend going to a 10 gallon pot. The reason being that you will need about 6.5 to 7 gallons of initial liquid in your pot for a full wort boil in order to get a final level of 5.5 gallons in the fermenter. This will be due to evaporation. I don't think that 7.5 gallon pots are big enough and boilovers suck (rule number 38 of brewing I believe).

If you are a 10 gallon batch maker, no less than a 15 gallon pot is safe in my estimation. You will need 12 gallons of liquid and the 3 gallons of head space is the minimum I would recommend. A good choice here is a modified keg. Remember that the $10 deposit is not a substitute for thinking you own the keg as they cost a lot more than that. The brewery just wants you to buy the beer at the cheapest possible price so they "float" kegs outside the brewery. This is what I use for boiling (and mashing and lautering). SABCO Inc. in Toledo can fashion a keg for you complete with port and ball valves for about $120. It will be the last kettle you will need to buy.

Good luck and Happy Brewing!!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and got the urge to BREW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Friday, December 05, 2003
 

 
Brewing's Fear Factor..........

I hate television reality shows. In fact, I seldom watch anything on TV that doesn't have to do with sports, music, or news. I certainly don't watch Oprah (though sometimes Jerry Springer is a hoot). I guess I must be getting old. Well the premise of this show "Fear Factor" is that they give people things to do that are either disgusting or scary to see if they will do them or not. Would you eat earthworms for money? Well, as crazy as this sounds, that relates to brewing beer.

You see, one of the things about brewing that is somewhat frustrating is that some of the literature is so technical and hard to read that it must turn some people off from brewing. I'm extremely hard headed and have a mathmatical background (and a soft spot for chemistry, especially the organic type) so getting me un-interested in brewing would have been very difficult to do. I was hooked from the first time. That, and I understand the math and a good portion of the science involved which makes it a little easier for me. But for someone who isn't interested in either math or science, some of the literature would be very frustrating to try to get through.

Well, if you are interested in brewing, don't be dissuaded by all of this stuff. Stick with me and you will understand how simple the process can be. I will remove your Brewing Fear Factor (que scary music)!!!!

Much of what you read also makes the equipment and the techniques used sound difficult. It's really not. But I do think that people can get in over their head by trying to brew at a level that they are not ready for. I did that early on. The mess and stress that it created for me could have made me quit (reference the hard headedness suggested earlier), but some level of resolve kept me going.

Here is what I would do to remove that Brewing Fear Factor (que scary music) from you so you can get off the sideline and into the game.

1) Admit that you are a beginner!!! I know that it is like agreeing with your wife to ask for directions when your lost, but you have to do it. Once you admit you are a beginner, then you can comfortably brew at a beginners level.
2) Don't try to brew beyond your equipment level = this will frustrate you during the process and your beer won't meet your very stringent quality standards.
3) Relax, your heating water and adding some ingredients to it. Treat it like your out on the deck or in the back grilling a steak. You know how to do that real good!!!!
4) Don't be intimidated by terms, odd looking gadgets, and other brewing items that you are not familiar with (including more advance brewers who like to hear themselves talk about brewing in highly technical terms). Use them!! You will find that most of this stuff is pretty easy to use and makes your brewing process easier in the long run.
5) Think of brewing as a place where some simple organic chemistry meets Emeril. Your basically cooking and following a recipe. You really don't need to understand the chemistry unless you really want to.
6) Don't be cheap on these two items, equipment and ingredients. I know that brewing equipment can be as expensive as you want it to be. You can spend the kids college fund pretty quick. That said, be sure you have an adequate brewpot, a fermenter that is reliable and sanitizable, transfer equipment that works (racking cane and tubing), and that you pay close attention to cleanliness and sanitization (use Iodophor or another rated sanitizer). You can make great beer with equipment investments as little as $50 to $75. I have found many stainless steel 5gal pots for as little as $8. Yes they are thin and you must watch for scorching, but they work and make brewing and cleanup a snap. A glass carboy fermentor is about $25 and worth every penny. You're getting the idea.
7) Ask for help!!! There are many forums on the internet, and your homebrew supply store owner can always help. They generally love to brew and to bring people into the hobby.

As a beginner, here is my first suggestion to you. After you get the proper equipment to boil, transfer, ferment, and bottle, get a good name brand (muntons) no-boil kit. Follow the instructions to the letter. Make that beer. These kits are generally fool-proof. Make sure you equipment is clean and sanitized, and you will be amazed at how good the beer from these kits are. Proceed from there. Make a couple of batches of no boils. When you are comfortable with all that goes into making them, you are ready to move to unhopped extract and pellet hop beers, then to extract and steeping grain beers using pellet hops, then on to partial mash type beers. You then will start learning about beer styles and will make many of them using extracts, steeping grains, and pellet hops. For many, the journey ends here. It is simple to do, ingredients abound, and the beer is as good as many commercial quality brews. The really adventurous will then move on to advanced partial mashing, all grain brewing and multiple degrees of all grain brewing that come next (step-mashing, decoction mashes, etc).

So you see, the important thing is to get started and do it. Good luck, and I hope this has helped to remove your Brewing Fear Factor (que scary music).

Mark, The Brewer, and Brewing on Fearlessly............


Thursday, December 04, 2003
 
More Holiday Brew Reviews............

Here are a couple of more Holiday type brews that I have sampled in the past 8 or so days and my moderately coherent ramblings about them. If you have a Holiday brew that you have tasted, tried, swilled, choked down, imbibed (I love that word), pounded, sipped, loved, hated, or just plain drank recently, e-mail the brewer on the link and give us a review. We'll leave the computer on for you!!!!

The Mad Elf, Troeg's Brewing Company, Eastern Pa. = This brew is a full scale barleywine weighing in at a very respectable 11% ABV. The brew was made with honey, cherries, and chocolate. This is a very interesting beer. The color has a cherry red hue probably from the cherries that were added. There is a hint of cherry/chocolate aroma when you lift the glass to your nose. It smells a little like the old chocolate covered cherries that you buy in the little box at the store, the cheaper ones. The beer is very smooth with minimal hop presence. The malt presence is muted by the flavorings and the beer has a very light mouth feel I'm guessing from the use of honey. There is alcoholic warming as the beer goes down as would be expected from a brew with this much ooommmph. It is very different and tastes a bit young to me. It might get better with some aging. The beer is however very pleasant to drink and quite smooth given the ABV. I will call this beer good and am going to put a sixer away for next Christmas to see how it ages. Not a must try, but if you like the unique flavor of barleywine, you might find this brew interesting as this is where barleywine meets godiva.

Goose Island Christmas Ale, Goose Island Brewing, Chicago, Ill. = Another of the stronger deep amber ales that are prevalent this time of the year. This brew is well hopped to balance the heavy malt flavors of toffee and caramel. This is an exceptionally balanced brew as the hop bitterness keeps the big malt flavor of this beer from being overwhelming. I liked this beer alot and I wish I had some more bottles of it. The finish of this beer is very clean with the accent on the malt flavor, but is not cloying or overly sweet. Again, this beer is all about the balance of malt and hops. I would guess it is around 6% ABV or so (not designated on the packaging), but don't quote me on that figure. For the uninitiated, this is a great brewery in the Chicago area that has a great pub right in Wrigleyville a couple of blocks away from Wrigley Field. It is a must visit if you get to Chicago as they make a nice selection of high quality beers. How would I rate this brew? I'll call it very good and recommend that you seek it out if you can.

Brewing is Not Far Off:

I am getting the urge to brew again. I have some yeast that needs to be used and I have a nice pale ale recipe in my head. HHHHMMMM, looks like I might have to shoot for the 13th or so for a brewing session. Uh, Oh!!! I'll need some grain. Time to go see my friends at Country Wines to order a sack!!

The question of the day is, what would any of you like to see added to my pale ale? E-mail the brewer above with any suggestions. Should we accent malt, or hop the puppy up? Should we add an unnecessary amount of hops or keep it muted? Should we just make it an IPA? Let me know what you want it to be, and we will try our best to make it exactly that!!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and getting that brewing bug already............
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
 
Christmas Beer Reviews........Megaswill Rants Revisited......

Christmas Beer Reviews:

I have now tried several of the Holiday offerings from some of the finer craft breweries around. I must say that I am overall, impressed with the results thus far. So many brews, so little time, only one liver......

Celebration Ale, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, Ca. = Wow. No really, wow!!! What a great beer this is. I almost can't describe to you how much I like this brew. It makes me Hoppy, Hoppy, Hoppy!!!! But there is such a clean maltiness underneath the hop assault that it creates this incredible balance in the beer that makes you want about 9 or so more of them. It is harmonious on your taste buds and I can't tell you how good it really is.........I mean, No, really, it's awful so if any of you have bought some, don't drink it, e-mail me and I will send you instructions on how to ship the cases to me. I will dispose of them for you so you won't have to endure the embarrasment of it.......No really, it is easily one of the 75 or so beers that are on my all-time top 5 list of beers!!!!!

St. Nicholas Bock, Pennsylvania Brewing Co., Pittsburgh, Pa = I must admit that I am a little disappointed in this years offering. Don't get me wrong, it is a great beer once again, but it isn't as good as the last two years batches. Just to be certain, I went out and got a pint on draught to be sure I just maybe got a bad case. The draught was better than the bottled product, but still not up to the last two years versions. That said, I'll still drink it up during the Holiday season. Don't let this sour you on this outstanding brewery, try anything you can get from it. Remember, my expectations were high and probably unreasonable. Owner Tom Patorious has a great operation that makes unbelievably authentic German lagers.

Stoudt's Winter Ale, Stoudt's Brewing, Nowhereville, Pa. = This brewery makes great beer in small batches. It is located in the middle of Pennsylvania, in God's country, and uses local water there. The Winter Ale offering is a stronger Amber ale that is well hopped. It doesn't give the ABV but I would guess in the 6.5 to 6.8% range. The hops are aggressive up front, then the maltiness of the brew takes over. There are nice hints of toffee and caramel in the malt flavor and the beer is well balanced. It finishes clean with the accent on malt. It is also very reasonably priced where I live and comes in $8 to $10 less than most of the other offerings you find per case. I will recommend it here and I hope you find it.

Tommorow I will review Troeg Brewings Mad Elf.

Megaswill, Again:

Site contributor Art B. whose West Side Brewing operation somewher in the Northeast brews lots of beer weighs in on the low carb beer craze:

::Brew Rant::
No real news to report, Paul's coming home from AZ this week and WSB will be back in brewing action this weekend so I figure I'll just go off about beer stuff...


Remember Bud Dry? Someone here at work pulled out the phrase, "Don't ask why" and naturally a chorus pipes up with "Try Bud Dry". Now, the whole marketing gimmick with Bud Dry was no beer aftertaste. WTF? Apparently there's a segment of beer drinkers out there who don't like beer aftertaste. I don't get it, I can't explain it other than some college kids (and adults who don't know better) want to get smashed and not have to taste the beer. I guess the taste of the watered down yellow fizz is too much for some people. I actually had a couple Buds at my brother's house Saturday night, that's the darkest stuff he had (and a dark moment for me), there's no pictures, and I'll plead the fifth if anyone uses these words against me. Anyway, enough on Bud Dry.


Moving on to light beers. Light beer, that's like Bass right? No, it's not even regular yellow megaswill (thanks to Mark at IM Hammered Brewing for that word, megaswill, perfect description), it's lighter than that. I understand people are dieting and want to cut calories, or just want something lighter to get shatterd on. Maybe people just don't want to get filled up, I can see that, but if it's for the calories...
Here's some interesting facts on realbeer.com. That link is a list of beers and their calories not a complete list, but there's a lot of popular brews. Take a look at Budweiser (US) and Guinness (Draught) alochol content 5% to 4%, calories 143 to 125. Even Bud Light comes in at 110 on calories with 4.2% alcohol. Very interesting. BTW, the Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (7.2%, 176 calories) rocks!!


Finally, we get to what set me off today. I saw a billboard for low carb beer. Michelob Ultra. Plus my brother's brother-in-law was drinking them Saturday night. The cans (Ugggggghhh, canned beer) even look weird. Well, if you're doing one of these trendy all protien diets, you're still cheating. No carbs means no carbs. There's some carb listings on the link above, if you haven't noticed. Check out another Real Beer bit of fun facts. More interesting information for all you calorie counters, although I doubt anyone of you two reading this that I know actually counts them. I know I don't.


Well, this has gone way longer than it should have, nothing's going to change. Megaswill will go on, people will drink what they drink and buy into the megaswill gimmicks, etc...


I'm just doing my part in enlightening my dedicated readers, who already know most of this. Next time you prop yourself up at the bar and start filling up on salty snacks just remember this one fact.
- Plain salted peanuts, 1 ounce, 160 calories.
If you can't remember that, try this one,
It's the chips, stupid.


Bottoms up,
-Art, fat guy

Couldn't have said it much better!!

Mark, The Brewer, and still megaswill hater..........
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
 
A Hoppy Holiday Weekend.........IMH New Brew Reviews........The Weeks Ahead......

Just like in "Poltergeist", We're Baaaaaack!!!!! I hope everyone had a great Holiday and Holiday Weekend. I know I did. I survived all of the company and all of the fun that goes with it. It was good to spend time with family and friends and for that alone, I am thankful. There was plenty of turkey and ham and all of that as well. Man am I full......There was plenty of good beer to sample all weekend as well. With the plethora of brews we had available to us over the weekend, You couldn't help but be hoppy, hoppy, hoppy!!!

IMH Brew Reviews:

We tapped two new kegs during the holiday weekend and I can give you the review of those two kegs today!!

1) I.M. Hammered Brewing's Re-Generation Stout -- this is the first all-grain beer on the new system and all of the trials and tribulations of that are well documented in these pages. That said, the beer didn't turn out too bad. In fact, it is pretty good overall and considering it was nearly poured down the drain, I have no complaints. The ending gravity came in at about 1.014 with an ABV of 5.86%. The beer has a nice deep ruby color (roast in the glass). It has more esters than I would like but that is because of the restarted fermentation with the Windsor Dry yeast. I believe it is the yeast that is imparting these light ale type esters. The beer starts with all malt up front and is followed by the coffee flavor generally imparted by the roasted barley. The beer has a noticeable hop bitterness underneath that. The finish is dry and short. The bitterness is a bit stronger than I would have liked, but under the circumstances some astringency was expected, and the beer is still quite drinkable and I expect that there will be none left in either keg by mid-January. The recipe is tried and true, and I think we will be fine the next time now that the kinks are out of the brewing system. ** = pretty good

2) I.M. Hammered Brewing's Angry Dog Amber -- this beer returns in it's all-grain version, and having just finished a batch of this that was extract, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. I can because I can smell the much more pronounced hop aroma in this beer compared to the other. The flavor profile also is a little more hoppy in nature than the extract version, but I would expect that as well as we boiled 12 gallons of this wort with the hop strikes. The finishing gravity came in at 1.012 with an ABV of 5.85%. The beer starts with a great hop aroma from a good dose of Willamette aroma hops. The beer has a good malt base up front followed by a nice balancing bitterness. Hop flavor is evident from the middle tettnang hop strike. The finish is clean and dry with malt overtones of caramel and toffee. I really like it, but then again, I really like the style. Enough hop action to make it interesting, and a strong malt base that comes through just right. It still is one of my favorite recipe's and beers. It is a staple and you can look for it a couple of times per year coming out of my kettles. *** = Very Good

Coming Attractions:

In the days, weeks, and hopefully months ahead, we will continue to look at the brewing process, sample and review beers, give out brewing tips, and hopefully have a little bit of fun with current sports, issues, and any other odd metaphorical thoughts that I can conjure up.

Later this week I hope to post a new recipe for the batch scaling challenged (there is no shame as I was once unable to figure it all out too) plus review all of the winter brews that I have sampled to date. You should participate as well by e-mailing the brewer with beer reviews, personal batch reviews, or any other items of interest both brewing related and not. These could include restaurant or pubs of interest or anything else that might catch our attention. I hope to look at the college football bowl matchups. I can't wait to see the Indiana Little Sisters of the Poor vs. the West Texas School for the Blind in the 2nd annual Toilet Bowl!!!!! Don't even ask me who played in the inaugural one........Though bowl matchups can include the bowl of my wifes multiple meat stuffing vs a bowl of Miss Nina's arterial dimentia stuffing (1lb of bacon for each loaf of bread including the grease run off). The possibilities are endless as is my imagination most of the time.

I hope you continue to visit often and to all, a safe and hoppy holiday season. Don't miss a day cause when you do, you miss alot!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and the one who can't wait to tell you more about beer...............

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