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, June 30, 2004
 
What Is A "Domestic"......Racking Revisited.......Happy Birthday America......

Domestic:

I've got to tell you this story. I think it's funny. I was recently in a pub at happy hour (imagine that), and the nice young lady behind the bar told me it was happy hour (duh). Great!! What do you have to make me happy? Well, it's $1.00 domestic beer and some price for well drinks which I didn't care about. The selection in this place isn't the greatest, but I see Yuengling products so I say that I'll have a Yuengling Traditional Lager. Now comes the funny part. The young lady behind the bar tells me that its not on the happy hour. I ask why as she said "domestic beer" is a $1.00 a pint. She says Yuengling is not a "domestic". What???? Did my state, Pennsylvania, divorce the United States and claim sovereignty while I was at work???? Has Pottstown, Pa been annexed from the the United States???? Did this beer have to pass through customs to get to Pittsburgh from Pottstown???? Have we been invaded and part of the country overthrown by communist dictators???? Do I need to watch the news more often??? Should I stay at a Holiday Inn Express tonight so that my geography will improve??? How can Yuengling, made in Pottstown, Pa, not be considered a "domestic" beer. Is it an import???? Does it ship through Timbuktoo to get here???? Wouldn't the term domestic indicate any beer made in the United States of America?? What am I missing here??? The young lady behind the bar was at a total loss for words. She repeats that Yuengling is not part of the happy hour. I suggest that they are falsly advertising the special. Again she doesn't know what to say. I let her off of the hook by asking what is on special. Well, it included the draft selections for Bud products, Miller products, Coors products, Rolling Rock products, and Iron City products. Okay, I agree these are all "domestic" beers. But again I ask, how can Rolling Rock be considered a "domestic beer" and Yuengling not be when the breweries are only about 100 miles or so apart, the same size, and both located in the USA??? Again you can hear crickets chirp in the background. Then I take a closer look at the total draft selection. I see J.W. Dundee Honeybrown Lager. I ask if this is a "domestic". No, its not. But it's made at Highfalls Brewing in Rochester, New York. Since when is New York not in the United States??? Is it considered an import because it comes from New York???? Why wouldn't Coors be an import coming from Colorado (actually Virginia in this half of the country)???? Then I actually see Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Is this fine brew on the happy hour??? Nope. Again I ask if California finally fell into the ocean because the last time I looked, Chico, California was still in the United States. I will admit that getting something from California these days is very similar to getting something imported. Did Japan try to invade again??? Well, it turns out that I am acquainted with the bar owner and he is listening to all of this (and laughing histerically as he is positioned where I can see him, but she can't) as I run through these items. He finally walks over and whispers something into her ear, I apologize to her for being well, an a$$, and I get a couple of $1 pints of Yuengling (and leave her a nice tip for being such a good sport). At the end of the day, the manager changed the sign to $1 megaswill on happy hour which everyone knows means Bud, Miller, Coors, PBC, and Rolling Rock. So be sure to ask your local what it means when they claim that "domestic beer" is on happy hour specials. You might be surprised to find out that much of the United States is no longer recognized with only St. Louis, Miwaukee, Golden, Co., and Latrobe, Pa being the key US cities today. I wonder which one they moved the capital to????

Racking:

I promised more homebrew stuff. See, I kept my promise. Racking is a fact of homebrewing and really brewing in general at any level of production. The liquid has to be moved from tank to tank (carboy to carboy). I have talked about racking procedure in the past and I'm not doing that today. The question I will address today is when to rack the beer. There are many schools of thought on this subject. It gets down to even if 2-stage fermentation is actually necessary for most ales. I have done some research on the subject and here is what I have found out.

There is no concensus on what to do or when. There, does that help? Probably not. Here are the basic schools of thought for ale production:

1. Rackem' Dano: In this thought process, it is believed that the fermenting beer should be moved off of the trub as quickly as possible. These brewers feel that the trub can only lend off flavors to the finished beer if it is left in contact with it for too long. They look for the signs that the vigorous fermentation is over. This is generally somewhere around day 5 of the primary fermentation process. These brewers feel that the beer needs to be moved right now to a secondary tank to finish fermentation to final gravity and to let the beer mature. The secondary tank houses the beer for about 3 weeks in this school of thought. At that point the beer is primed and packaged and aged for a couple of more weeks to condition.

2. Don't Worry, 'bout a ting, Cause every little ting, gonna be ah'lright: In this process, brewers don't worry about the trub so much. These brewers tend to single stage all of their ales leaving them in the primary fermenter for up to 14 days. These brewers often just rack to package at this point with the priming sugar. I have seen some of these beers and they tend to have chill haze in them. But most of these brewers just don't worry about it and drink the beer. There is even a school of thought out there now among professional brewers that keeping the beer in contact with the hop trub longer will enhance the bitterness and aroma properties of the brew (they generally filter their beer so haze isn't a big issue). Is this an incorrect process??? Nope! That's the beauty of homebrewing. It's really brewer preference. Do these beers taste any different than if you use the first process above??? I haven't been able to tell much difference in flavor, but I have never had a control group to test against either. Very un-scientific of me don't you think???

3. Mark's Procedure: Here is what I do. Let me preface this by saying that this is what I do, and that doesn't mean it's right or wrong. It's neither. It is my preference and the process that has given me good results overall with nice clear beer and few off flavors over time. Hey, no brewer is perfect. Brewer Jim says there are two types of brewers, those who have already brewed infected beer, and those who will brew infected beer. We both fit into the 1st category. Anyway, here it it. I primary ferment my beers at least 7 days and sometimes up to 10 days. I will always rack to secondary no sooner than the 7th day and no later than the 10th day. That determination is often done by style, opening gravity (higher gravities get the extra days), and my availability to actually do the work. I like to let the beer then finish fermentation and maturation in the secondary at least 10 days but often up to 14 days. There are some styles that I leave there for 21 days (again higher gravity ales that might need more time to mature, or my schedule for my real job causes delays). I then rack prime and package in kegs.

What is the least you need to know??? Here you go.
1. There is no right or wrong way. Experiment and see what works for you (always maintaing high sanitation standards).
2. Some ales can very successfully be single staged for 14 days. Brown ales, some stouts, and wheat beers are good examples of this (wheats can be packaged on day 10 in a lot of cases). The general rule of thumb is never let the beer sit on the trub for more than 14 days. You may start to get yeast autolosys and that will cause off flavors.
3. Racking early is a process used by many brewers very successfully. Be very patient with the secondary often leaving beer there 21 days.
4. Experiment and use the timing that works best for you. Often it has to be based upon your availability as the brewer to do the cellaring work. We all have real jobs too you know.
5. Have fun and make some great beer!!!

Birthday:

The 4th of July is nealy upon us. It seams like yesteday we were harping on these pages about when will March get here. Ooops. It's already astern I think. Take a moment this 4th to remember those that made your life possible. You'll be glad you did. Oh, and have a beer and burn something on the grill. It a tradition you know. Be careful and have a safe, fun, thoughtful holiday.

Open fridge door, extract bottle, open carefully, decant into favorite glass, look, smell, sip, smile, repeat.......

Mark, the Brewer, and racking my brain for more homebrew stuff........
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
 
Local Production.......It's The Same In Canada.......What To Brew Next......

Local:

The American Brewers Association just released via it's publication Zymurgy the regional, micro, specialty, and brewpub production levels for 2003, plus a recap of increases or decreases of production for each entity. As I have said on these pages before, craft beer production outpaced import growth for the first time in years. This is big news!! It means that the craft business is alive and well and still growing at a steady pace. The slowed growth of imports is interesting especially given the increase in specialty beers like Belgian Trappist ales. What this says to me in loud volumes is that people are buying American Made Beer and they are buying American Craft Beer!! Good News!!!

Here are some of the results of some of the brewers local to Western Pennsylvania. This might not be too exciting to readers from other areas, but its what interests me and this is my website!!!

D.G. Yuengling and Sons was the big hitter in the region with over 1.2 million barrels (one barrel = 32 gallons) of production. The production was down slightly, but they are brewing at capacity so the down was simply a workdays in the year quirk in the calendar. The new facility in Florida only produced about 15,000 barrels for the year. Expect that production to increase. AS long as they continue to make the porter and black and tan products, I'll remain relatively happy.

Rolling Rock checked in at 1.1 million barrels. I am trying to figure out who actually is drinking this stuff. Most of the locals in what used to be their primary market can't stand this beer anymore. The recipe clearly has changed and the web site mentions brewing with barley, rice, and corn. This beer used to be barley and rice only, so its lighter and nastier than ever. I can tell you that it's not nearly as popular here locally as it used to be.

Penn Brewery hit capacity again last year at 18,000 barrels. They just can't make any more on the premises. I hope the capital infusion increases this dramatically. I'd love to see them make an Alt Beer and a Kolsch on a seasonal basis. Best German style beer in America and will give some German brewers a run for their money (shameless plug # 364).

Rock Bottom Homestead made the top 50 list for brewpubs at 1,599 barrels. This is a lot of beer for a brewpub to make if you consider its all beer sold on premise and on draft with no bottles available. Nice job guys!!

Troegs in Harrisburg made the micro top 50 list with 15,000 barrels of production. They also posted one of the largest production increases. They make great beer too. Hop Back Amber is quickly becoming one of my favorite beers.

Pittsburgh Brewing Company, the makers of Iron City products made the top 50 regionals list, but for some reason declined to have their statistics published. I am guessing they didn't want competitors and consumers to see their overall decline in production the last three years. I'm guessing it isn't pretty. That's a shame because their products are very high quality. My beef is that they try to compete with Bud and Miller in their pricing. I think they would sell more beer with a more value price strategy. Their value price brands like American and Old German are decent american standard style lager beers in their price category. I'm surprised they don't promote those brands more. Good Luck PBC, you're going to need it in the near future.

There are several other Pennsylvania brewers that hit the list from the eastern part of the state. One of note is The Lion Brewery which checked in at over 200,000 barrels. I don't think I've even ever seen any of their products, but clearly someone is drinking a lot of it. I'll have to take a look because as a specialty brewer, that is quite an impressive number.

Oh, Canada:

Our fine friends to the North have a lot in common with us Americans. One of those things is that they like to drink beer. Cool. When you look at their brewing industry, like America, it is massive in size. But unfortunately, like America, it has the same market domination of the mega-swills problem. Here we have one giant brewer, AB, that dominates the market, and there are two or three weak sisters, SABMiller, Coors, and G. Heilmann that give chase. To no avail either. AB has three of the top five selling beers in America and those three beers alone account for about 88 million barrels of production. Canada has the same structure with almighty Molson being chased by weak sisters Labatt (now part of Ambev/Interbrew) and Sleeman's a very distant third. Sleeman's strategy for growth has been through acquisition. The most recent of which is a group that makes tremedous beer Unibroue. Sleeman's says that they aren't going to change anything at Unibroue, which produces very nice Belgian Style ales that are widely acclaimed. Don't believe it. SABMiller said that they would let Lienenkugals remain autonomous. Nope, the beer has never been the same, lighter and lighter every time I taste it. It used to be a great inexpensive source of great craft beer. Not anymore. AB took over distribution of Red Hook. Red Hook is a shell of its former self. The Amber Ale is thin and has lost much of the character that made the original one of my all time favorites. "Took Over" is the right term. Sorry Red Hook, you ain't what you used to be. So if you Canadians think Sleeman won't make changes at Unibroue, your buying into a fantasy. What a shame that such a fine brewery is now in the hands of the enemy mega-swill.

Canada also has major distribution similar to the States. It stinks. It's a system dominated and controlled by the massive mega-brewers that do their best to promote swill and to hide good craft beer in the back corner. Our three tiered system is exactly the same. The public of course is the one who gets the shaft in all of this. It is nearly impossible for a fledgling brewer to get distribution or space no matter how good the beer is here in America, and from what I read, it's even worse in Canada. If you are interested in reading more, check out the Jolly Giant Review appearing every month in the Great Lakes Brewing News. It is a well written column by Canadian Ian Bowering filled with wit and cynicism and downright factual information that the "Giants" don't want you to know. Great work Ian (shameless free plug #365).

Hey Canada, sorry, but things are tough all over.......

Brew:

Yea, I know, homebrewing stuff. I got it, okay. My biggest dilemma is what to brew next. I have full kegs and a batch ready to keg and I still have the itch to brew some beer. What to make is the question. It has to be something that can stand a little fermentation quirkyness as my fermentation room ranges from 66 to 72 degrees this time of year. I guess I should make a beer that likes to be a little fruity in the nose. HHHMMMM, what to make. It might be a good time to explore making a belgian ale like a tripel. I have some Cali Ale yeast though that I need to use. What to do. This is a tough one. We'll have to come up with something over the course of the next couple of days. What to brew. So many types of beer, what to brew. I'm open to suggestions and I am not afraid to push the envelope. Send you cards and letters, er ah, e-mails to the brewer at the link above.....

Go Get Some Beer From the Top 50 and Enjoy......

Mark, the Brewer, and thinking Americans and Canadians drink a lot of beer........
Monday, June 28, 2004
 
A Sharp Weekend.......Oh My, Ommegang........The Week Ahead.......

Sharp:

This past weekend was indeed a Sharp one. We ventured out into the world of European beer this weekend with a trip to the annual Sharp Edge Beer Emporium European Beer Festival. Try saying that three times fast....The festival was outstanding. The set up was very nice and easy to navigate. The fest was not oversold and though the crowd was pretty good, there was really never a wait for a sample at any of the beer dispense areas. And sample we did. You get a punch card to monitor what and how much you sample and a Belgian style tasting glass. I think I got about 32 holes in my punch card over the course of the three hour sampling. I can honestly say that I got to taste everything I had on my agenda for the night. I'll give you a rundown on some of that in a minute. First, kudo's to the Edge for running such a nice and well organized event. There were 102 European beers there spanning from Scotland to the hinterland of Germany. I can't imagine anyone getting them all tasted at 2 to 3 oz's per pour. There were organic ales, Belgians galore, and some really obscure stuff as well. There was old ale, barleywine and finely tuned bitters, ESB's, and Stouts. There were crisp German and Czech lagers, pils, Schwartz, and rauch beers to test. Even the drugstore beers Heineken and St. Pauli Girl were available.

Here is a quick list of some of the great beers I sipped:
Weinhestephaner Wheat -- Very good smooth wheat beer with a nice nose and tart finish
Franzikaner Wheat -- ditto
Ayinger Dark Wheat -- ditto with a little chocolate nose
Hacker-Pschor Wheat -- Excellent wheat beer leaning more to a phenolic clove flavor
Sara Buckwheat Ale -- Real different, cloudy and nice to look at, mellow flavor
Spelt -- Ale made with spelt, similar to a rye beer, nice tart flavor, cloudy ale
Smithwick's Red Ale -- Irish red only in this country for a month, nice ale smooth and easy to drink
Piraat -- Easily the best Belgian Tripel offered, very rich and spicy with strong aroma and 10% abv
Westmalle -- Also newly imported to this country, I had the tripel, excellent, 2nd behind Piraat
Orval -- A different trappist ale. Quirky in color and body. Good.
Chimay -- Blue Label, very good ale, light effervescent and tasty
Chimay -- White Label, ditto
Bornem Tripel -- Another great Belgian tripel, nice spicy and fruity ale, light bodied, very good
Bornem Dubbel -- Rich amber colored dubbel, tasty
Veltins -- A classic German Pils, balanced with enough hop character to get your interest. Outstanding brew.
Mahr's Unfiltered Lager -- Another great German beer. Maybe the best at the German table
EKU Lager -- Very malty and nice to drink with hop bite to balance.
EKU 28 -- High gravity lager, big flavor, big hop bite, big alcohol presence
Czechvar -- The origianl Budweiser, if our Bud made beer like this I'd drink nothing else, malty goodness, hop balance and flavor, clean finish, what beer should be
There were two other German beers that were good. I can't spell or pronounce either one. The first was a Schwartz Beer. It was very good, rich with darker crystal malts and clean on the finish. It was very good for this obscure style here in America. I'll get the name for you all. The other was a Rauch Beer. Subtle hint on smoke. Nice.
I tasted some others that weren't so memorable, but that's okay, because by the end of the tasting session, I'm not sure how my memory was functioning anyway. The bottom line here is that this is a great event and I will be attending again next year and as long as they want to have it. This is a great little bar (shameless plug) and I highly recommend it......

Ommegang:

Jim the brewer came over before the Edge-fest and we had a quick tasting of beers that I procured from Brewery Ommegang in New York. This is a self-proclaimed "farmhouse" brewery that adhere's to the old world Belgian brewing traditions. It must be pretty true as it got Duvel's attention and they actually bought this brewery last year, sent over a brewmaster, and provide proprietary yeast from Belgium now to brew the beers. This brewery brewed a modest amount of barrelage, but I had heard nothing but praise for the beers. Having an opportunity to grab a couple of 25oz bottles, I did. Here is what the tasting panel of Myself, Jim the brewer, and Liz (aka, She Who Must Be Obeyed) thought of these brews:

Brewery Ommegang Hennepin Ale -- This is a self proclaimed "farmhouse" ale brewed in the Belgian Style. Okay, let's see what you got! The beer poured a beautiful deep golden color with a big tight white head of foam. This is a very pretty beer in the glass, slightly hazy from a dose of wheat malt. The bottles were 25oz corked and are guaranteed bottle conditioned under strict temperature monitoring at the brewery.

Jim: He said the beer had a very nice presentation in the glass. He liked the spicy aroma that clearly indicated some spices were added in the brew. He thought the beer had a light effervescent body and bigger than expected flavor. He was surprised at the amount of hop character the beer exhibited, not expecting that from the style. Thumbs Up!!

Liz: Her first expression was a big smile and a "oooohhhhh, this is good" reaction at the first sip. Liz thought it was very pretty in the glass, loved the spicy aroma's and the light body. She seemed very surprised when I told here it was 7.5% ABV. Her second reaction was to ask if we had any more bottles of it stashed away. Unfortunately, no I don't, but I know where to get it. She loved this beer and wants more. Thumbs Up

Mark: I thought the beer was stunning looking in the glass. Effervescent carbonation and an intoxicating aroma of spice, hop, and a hint of alcohol. I agreed with Jim that the beer had a great hop character and I loved the rich spicyness on top of such a light effervescent body. I liked this beer very much and will buy it again. Thumbs Up!!

Brewery Ommegang Rare Vos -- This means "sly fox" in Belgian, or so the label says. This was called a Belgian Amber Ale on the bottle. It poured a medium amber color with a nice white head of foam. Here is panels remarks:

Jim: He thought is looked good in the glass, had a nice head of foam and different aroma. He agreed with me when I suggested a cheesy quality in the aroma. He described it as a tradition of using old oxidized hops in the style and that it is a trait they are looking for in the beer. He thought the beer was malty up front with a dry finish, almost champagne like. He commented that he preferred the Hennepin, but appreciated what this beer is. Thumbs up!!

Liz: She liked the amber color in the glass. She described the aroma as funky, which was really a good desripter of it. She didn't particulary like the overall dryness of the beer, but thought that it had some nice malt flavor characteristics up front. She also didn't care for the very effervescent and dry body of the brew. Thumbs Horizontal!!

Mark: I thought the beer presented in the glass well. I identified my thought on the aroma being like a blue cheesy kind of hint. Jim agreed with that assessment. The beer was much lighter bodied than I expected given the color and aroma. I thought the beer had a nice malt character up front, but then the beer just completely dried out on my tongue. The aftertaste was thin and very dry. I thought this beer had a character more like a red champagne or a brandy in the finish. It was beer up front and something else on the other end. This would not be my cup of tea on a regular basis, but I do appreciate what it is. It is a beer that would complement certain foods quite well, such as delicate fish dishes. Though I wouldn't drink this on a daily basis, I will give it a Thumbs Up for being quite unique and showcasing what beer can be!!

There you have it. Brewery Ommegang delivered as far as I'm concerned. It makes me want to try the Abbey Ale next, and I would certainly drink the Hennepin anytime it's available to me. I understand that they just released a Witte Bier. I'm in!! Give this brewer a try when you get a chance.....

Week:

This week will lend itself to some cellaring work and the formulation of some future brews. The wheat beer I have on tap has aged well this week and has gotten better with each passing day. Mamma Draft gave it a secondary thumbs up yesterday. Phil's Pholly Ale will hit kegs later this week and will be more than ready for his farewell gig on the 16th. This is going to be a very good beer I believe from my tastings so far. Fitting that the farewell beer be classic as Mr. Phil certainly is a classic guy!! Truely one of a kind and my grist-mill (aka workplace) will miss him.

I didn't get to the Regional Challenge last week but hope to get a challenger cued up this week. I will have to wander the Save On Beer (shameless plug) location that I frequent to find the next challenger. When I know, you'll know......

Have a craft brew or something will Ya!!!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and becoming more and more facinated with the Belgian Brewing styles......
Friday, June 25, 2004
 
Jefe's Revisited.......Mash Temperature.......One More Shamless Plug......

Jefe's:

I must admit that last weekend, I was a bit disappointed with the Jefe's Wheezin' when it was tapped. I also know that I rushed it to the cooler to have it for the Father's Day bash we had at the house. All that said, I tried another tall glass of this brew last night. Well, guess what. It needed the 4 or 5 extra days of aging. The beer was decidedly different than on Sunday and quite a bit better tasting. The bananna esters came out much more pronounced and the flavor has smoothed out dramatically. It is a much better beer now than it was just a few days ago. Beer is funny that way. It can be served too young and if so, it will have a hint of "greeness" about it. That is what this wheat beer had on Sunday. That is all gone now. The second keg will be fantastic I am guessing, and the current keg may just continue to get better. Nice. And as amazing as this may sound, it can be virtually a matter of days for a beer to become smoother, better, more drinkable, and more mellow. That is what makes this hobby so interesting. My beers never taste exactly the same during the drinking of a keg. A keg generally lasts about 6 weeks in the cooler. Trust me when I tell you, the first pint seldom tastes exactly like the last pint, and a large majority of the time, the last pint tastes the best. There is an old saying among homebrewers, you know the batch is ready when the keg pours the last pint. We're an impatient lot by nature, and goodness knows we want to drink our creations as quickly as possible. That is why I like making 10 gallon batches and filling two kegs of each brew. That second keg gets several weeks of additional aging time and is usually the better drinking of the two. If the first keg was good, the second is often "really good". I am really anticipating the second keg of California Common as it will have had a couple of months of additional aging time, and the first keg was "good". And of course, I like it like that.......

Mash:

Time for another homebrewing tip. For anyone wishing to move to all-grain brewing, this is important information. One of the reasons you move to all grain brewing is that you have more control over your wort. If you are an extract brewer, you hear this a lot. You might not know exactly what it means, but you hear it a lot. As usual, there is a lot of science involved here. There are two enzymes at work during the mash and they become dominant in the breakdown of starch to sugar at different temperature. There scientific names are Beta-amylase, and Alpha-amylase. Don't worry about which is which right now. Just remember this. The lower temperature enzyme kicks in at about 145 degrees and is probably most active around 150 degrees. The high temperature enzyme becomes most active at about 158 degrees. What does all this mean? The enzyme that works the starch to sugar in the lower temperature range breaks down the starch to very simple sugars, mostly maltose, that are readily and easily fermented by yeast. The enzyme that works at higher temperatures will break down the starch to sugars called dextrines. These are not readily fermented by the yeast. That is what is meant by "control over your wort". You can rest in a lower temperature range, say 148 degrees, and make a highly fermentable wort that will make a little more alcohol, and give a thinner mouthfeel and drier finish. Think of today's American light beers for example. Doing the mash rest higher ,say 156 degrees, makes the other enzyme more active and creates a wort that is less fermentable and will finish a little sweeter and feel heavier in the mouth. A scottish ale is a great example of this. Working the wort at say 152 degrees will give you characteristics of both. Both enzymes are active in the range of 142 to 165 degrees, they just become dominant one way or another as the temperature level changes. Mash temperature should also fit a style. A light ale should finish a little drier but still have a medium mouthfeel and good maltiness. I like to do these lighter and pale ales at about 152 degrees. If I am brewing a scottish ale, I want to rest at 156 to 158 degrees to make the beer have a sweeter quality. If I am making Miller Light (heaven forbid this ever actually happen), I might want to rest at 149 degrees to make the beer ferment out much drier. The point is, you as the all-grain brewer can control this. What's the least you need to know?

1. Mash rests between 145 and 152 degrees will make a more fementable wort that will make slightly more alcohol, and have a much drier finish and lighter character about them after fermentation.
2. Mash Rests greater than 152 will exhibit more texture and mouthfeel while drinking them, and have more of a malty sweetness in the finish.
3. Mash rests should be appropriate to the style of beer you are trying to create, or the flavor profile you are trying to create (you can't get a real malty tasting beer with a 148 degree rest)
4. Mash in these sacharification temperature ranges (145 to 158) for 60 to 90 minutes to assure full conversion.
5. When mixing the mash be sure to break up all dough balls in the mixture.
6. Have fun!!

There you have it. Now get out there and make some wort will ya!!! I'm thirsty....

Plug:

Here is the last shameless plug for the week and the final one for the Sharp Edge's European Beer Festival. Tomorrow afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon sessions. This is a great event, 100 beers from Europe on site, one glass, 3 hours of time. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to responsibly taste beer during at least one session of this festival. Good luck!! I know that Brewmaster Jim and I are looking forward to sampling some great beer over the course of the evening. This is the type of craft event that all beer lovers should do their best to attend. I'll be there and I hope you are too.......

I wish everyone a great weekend, the first official weekend of summer. Have a beer and grill somethin' will ya!!!! Let's help keep not only the craft, pub, and regional brewers making great beer by lending them your support, but let's help keep American livestock farmers happy with our support too (not to mention your own tastebuds and tummy)!!! Get a fine brew and....aaahwww, you know what to do.....

Mark, The Brewer, and ready to taste some European beers, I mean, they've only been making commercial beer there since about 1215 or so. I'm guessing they might know what they are doing by now.........
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
 
Pennsylvania Brewing Company, Again.......More Beer And Health........I'm Getting The Taste Buds Ready.......

Penn:

As many shameless plugs as I give these guys, I ought to get some free beer at least. Anyway, last night I had the pleasure of enjoying what is one of the last bottles of Penn Maerzen from this years batches. It came from one of the last cases in stock of this beer directly from the brewery. This has got to be one of the best fest beers made anywhere in the world this spring. It is just a fantastic copper colored, full bodied, well balanced, perfectly made brew. I just happen to have about a whole case of it in the fridge too. I will savor these the rest of the summer and they should take me right up to Oktoberfest when Penn's next great fest beer is released.

Not to be outdone this year was the Maibock. I only got a precious few pints of this beer this year, but then again, that's about all anybody got. It is already gone and won't be back til next year. It was as good as I can remember in the last four years. Kudo's again to Penn.

Now I also have to comment on the current keg I have on the guest tap at IMHBC. It is a keg of Penn Gold. This beer is a Munich Helles styled beer and again it is unbelievable. What a great beer with a golden hue and a perfect balance of hops and barley. This beer is what Bud and Miller and Coors could be, no should be, if the accountants would stay out of it. What a shame the American brewers are more interested in dollars than product. Just drink and compare Penn Gold next to a Bud, Miller, or Coors, and you'll see what I mean. The Gold will blow them away. Here locally, the difference in price is just a couple of bucks too. Boy, its an easy choice for me.....

Health:

The hits just keep on coming!!! A long study now shows strong evidence that beer helps to maintain strong bone health. Again this comes as always with the caveat of beer consumed in moderation with moderation defined as 2 to 4 beers (12oz) per day. But isn't this great news!!! It just continues to show the healthy and nutritional value that beer contributes to the diet when consumed in moderation. Some of you may remember a comparison I did here with beer, Sam Adams I believe, against a Cola (you pick) and the numbers were staggering with the cola having more calories, extremely high sugar/carb content (32 grams), and virtually zero nutritional value. Keep pumping that junk into your kids and see what happens to them.....Anyway, this is just another of what has become a large number of clinical studies from all around the world that has examined beer as part of the diet and concluded that beer in fact not only has nutritional value, but helps fight all sorts of diseases and malady's. These studies also generally conclude that darker is better and less adjunct is better, as well as higher hopping rates is better. That means craft beer is better for those of you scoring at home. A nice American Style Amber in the 40 IBU range perhaps. All the more reason to fully support you local craft and home brewers.......

Buds:

That is definately not what I have in my fridge, and I never will either. Headache in a bottle is what that stuff is. I mean my taste buds. Saturday night is the anxiously awaited European Beer Fest at the Sharp Edge. They are touting 100 beers to sample. A fine goal indeed, but I doubt I'll get around to all of them. That said, I believe that there will be an abundance of authentic imported wheats, belgians galore, German lagers of repute, and a host of England's, Scotland's and Ireland's best. I will be looking for Weinhenstephaner wheat, Fanzikaner Wheat, Smithwick's Red Ale, Fullers ESB, Fullers IPA, and a host of others. Belhaven's comes to mind, and whatever Belgian tripel might be pouring. Yea, its going to be a good night. Any obscure German Pilsners would be fine with me too. Pisner Urquell, Okay. To make a long story short, I'm looking forward to good company and great beer. Hey, it doesn't get much better than that.......

Support you local craft, regional, and brewpub brewers by buying and drinking their products. If you are in a better beer bar that doesn't have your locals on tap, ask for them by name. You might be surprised when you see them there the next time you visit. Spread the word and be a beer evangelist. Don't be afraid to try new beers and new beer styles. Heck, that's half the fun. Remember, you make a difference in the craft beer movement as you can influence others and get them to stop their mega-swill madness, one convert at a time......So go to your local better beer pub, raise a pint of fresh local craft beer, sing a funny song or two, smell, sip, smile, enjoy, repeat......

Mark, The Brewer, Self-Proclaimed Beer Geek, and passionate Beer Evangelist..........
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
 
Brew Update......Senator Coors???......Beer Geek.......

Brew:

It's going to be a quick update today. Sorry, its just the way it goes sometimes....This weekend saw the tapping of the Jefe's Wheezin' Bavarian Wheat. The beer is very nice with the nice bananna and clove character followed by the telltale wheat beer tartness in the finish. A good refresher. Beware, we made this one a little bigger than normal with a 5.74% ABV.

Phil's Pholly will be transferred to secondary tonight. If I get a taste, I'll give you the scoop. I can tell you that it is a very deep copper to mahogony color. It has my interest.

Angry Dog is still in the house. It's conditioning in kegs and is more than ready to go!! There is still a nice steam beer keg of Anchor's Away too. Steel City Cream Ale is pouring nicely and is, how shall we say, "unique". So it looks like there is some beer at the pub, and I like it like that.

Coors:

Apparently what I reported last week is true. Pete Coors is planning to run for a vacated senate seat in his district. I doubt that he would have much opposition either. It will remain to be seen what happens with that and how he will lean politically. On matters of beer, I just hope that he doesn't side with the other mega's with any legislation, though, it will be nice for beer to have a voice in government. See, I'm still torn on this one. Let's see what happens when the election takes place I guess. He better hope the "twins" don't jump out of a closet or something......

Geek:

It's official. I have tried to escape this moniker for a long time but I just can't. I am officially a Beer Geek. Yea, I know, it's like a stain on your pants that won't come out. I realized it on Sunday. I am sure others have been saying it behind my back now for quite a while. But self awareness always takes longer than what others around you know. It happened when I was offered a couple of cases of free beer. The beer was Miller Genuine Draft. I turned them down. That's right, I turned down free beer. I have always worked on the assumption that my favorite two beers are 1. Free and 2. Cold. Not any more. It is true. I actually turned down free beer. Knowing that, there is only one other thing that can be true. I am a full fledged Beer Geek. Yea, that's the nice name. Really if means I've become a beer snob. Please don't hate me for that. All it really means is that I love good, real, craft made beer. That I try my hardest to pay attention to detail in my homebrewing habits. It means I appreciate the beauty of a well made beer. Despite my loathing for mega-swill, I have in these pages given their brewing abilities high praise (along with my condolences for having to brew mega-swill their entire careers). But turning down free beer has to be the final blow, the last shot, the end of the line. Yea, I'm a full fledged Beer Geek. But you know what? I'm proud to be a Beer Geek. And I will do my best to spread Beer Geekdom throughout the beer drinking landscape to the end of time. Here's to the Beer Geeks of the world. Without us, it would be monochromatic colored rice/corn water only. Now that would be a shame........

Get a craft beer, open and enjoy. Join the movement. Be a Beer Geek like me!!!

Mark, The Brewer, And getting geekier by the minute.......
Friday, June 18, 2004
 
It's Not Just Me.......Apricot Wheat........Take Me To Your Litre........

Me:

It's nice to know that I do pay attention to things. I was reading the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News yesterday, the new one for July, and low and behold there was an article about the Mega-Swill Advertising campaigns. Duh. You're a little late boys. I've been talking about them since last football season. They called the Miller ads "insightful". Ya Think!!!!! I've been talking about the Miller ads now for 6 months. Where have these folks been?? Maybe I should start submitting this stuff to these rags when I write it. They might even pay me something. At least they would be up to date on what people are thinking "in the now" instead of being 6 months behind the curve. These guys want tough, try writing content for a web page like this one "DAILY" and see how you do. I would be bored if I only had to research and write something once a month. I don't know what I would do the other 29 and a half days. Don't get me wrong here, I like this and it's sister publications. They give some real industry stats, what's available out there to drink, and who is doing what in the craft beer industry. But come on. You need to be a little more up to date on some of this stuff. And reading some of the writers in these "mags" makes me wonder if I couldn't just become a beer writer (don't worry mama draft, I'll keep my day job) and blow the rest of these guys away. Hey, I would probably get press credentials to the good conferences and shows too....... HHHHHMMMMMMMM, boy, the wheels are turning now. Stay tuned because I don't think we've heard the last of this one..........

Apricot Wheat:

Brewmaster Jim's Apricot Wheat recipe is soooo good that I had to hide the remaining bottles from She Who Must Be Obey'd. She would have drank them all last night had I not done it. What a wheat beer recipe and what a great beer. This beer is a crisp wheat beer with that nice wheat character plus the added pleasure of a hint of apricot. The bananna is subdued in this yeast strain so there is more clove character. It matches very nicely with the apricot. This was the split off of the batch I helped him brew in his demo class. I say I helped, all I did was heat some water, run the sparge line, and watch the boil. Jim really did all the rest on this one. He then racked half the fermented wheat beer onto some apricot puree for a secondary fermentation. Well, anyway, its a great beer and we hope to make the base recipe later this summer in a mega batch with two systems going at once. It's that good that we want to have a stock of it going into the "dog days". There's nothing like a good crisp wheat beer on a hot day. I also want to experiment with a couple of yeast strains with the base recipe too. Hey, we're gonna get creative with this one. I want to try regular bavarian wheat yeast on this recipe to get more bananna character in this brew. Keep watching here for more details on this brew day.........

Take Me To Your Litre:

No, aliens aren't attacking, at least I don't think so.....Anyway, just a reminder for the Pittsburgh readers, next week is the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium's European Beer Fest. At this writing tickets were still available, but I believe in the past this has been a dead sell out. They are going to have 100 of the top European and Belgian brews up for tasting. Should be a good time and a chance to try some not so easy to find high end imports. See ya there!!!!!

Finally, Happy Father's day out there to all fathers who visit this site. Enjoy some time with family and friends and have a couple of beers. Oh, and don't forget the charred animal flesh!!!!! Bon appetite!!

Open, tilt, pour, smell, sip, taste, smile, repeat often...........

Mark, The Brewer, and looking forward to tasting some beers like Wienhenstephaner.........
Thursday, June 17, 2004
 
Always Time For A Beer.......Regional Beer Challenge.......Get A Bigger Kettle......

Time:

This was sent to me by Jim. Not only does he make great beer, he can read too. I'm just kidding of course. It is a nice item and is really a great outlook on life. Enjoy!!

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a
day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the beer....


A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front
of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and
empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked
the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the
jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas
between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was
full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of
course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar
was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and
poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space
between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided, "I want you to
recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the
important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends,
your favorite passions--things that if everything else was lost and only
they remained, your life would still be full.

"The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house,
your car. The sand is everything else--the small stuff.
If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room
for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all
your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things
that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to
your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups.
Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be
time to clean the house, and fix the disposal. "Take care of the golf balls
first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that
no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of
beers."

Regional Beer Challenge:

After about a 10-day hiatus, it is time to resume the Regional Beer Challenge. This is where we taste beers made by smaller regional breweries (we exclude the big three megaswillers AB, SABMiller, and Coors) to see how they stand up against each other. At the end of the day, we hope to have one beer standing that you wouldn't be too ashamed to have in your fridge. Some of these beers have been really bad (Stoney's, Rolling Rock) and some have been very good, like the current champion Old Style. Well, Old Style still has the top of the rock and we need a new challenger. Let's review who's already been eliminated:

Rolling Rock
Iron City
Gennessee
Old German
Stoney's
Schlitz
Straub

Old Style has only been challenged once so far and that was by Old German. Who can be the next challenger to try and take a bite out of the Old Style mystique?? I don't know, but I'm sure someone out there will try. Some of the possible contestants that haven't challenged yet include Yuengling Premium, Schmidts, Stroh's, Genny Cream Ale, and some others. Will these remaining challengers to Old Style just be bottom of the barrel swill, or will they provide a legitimate test. Only time will tell. Stay tuned here for the challenger and the results next week from the Regional Beer Challenge......

Kettle:

There is one easy way to improve your beer very quickly. Get a bigger kettle!! If you are still boiling concentrated worts, you have to get a kettle big enough for full wort boil. Here are the reasons why this is such a good investment if you plan on brewing a lot. A full wort boil eliminates top up water, and all of the wort has been sanitized in the boil. This further eliminates some of the possibility of infection. A full wort boil gets better hop utilization. Boiling hops in a concentrated wort that is 1.13 or higher lowers the amount of hop goodness the wort can dissolve. Boiling a wort at working strenght of 1.048 or so, means better ability to dissolve the hoppy goodness that you want. Warning, you might have adjust your typical hopping schedule, unless you like bitter beer face. Boiling a full wort leads to less darkening of the wort in the kettle making your light pilsners and light ales nice and light in color, instead of a light amber all of the time. You can make the lighter brews much closer to their SRM standard. Can I full wort boil with extracts?? Absolutely!!! There are two items that go hand in hand with a kettle to full wort boil. You will need an outdoor cooker and a wort chiller. These are just facts of life for a homebrewer that is going to get serious. How big a kettle to you need?? For a 5 gallon batch maker, I recommend a 7.5 gallon pot at a minimum. You must start with about 6 gallons in the kettle knowing that you will boil down to a final volume of 5 gallons. For the 10 gallon batch maker, I recommend at least a 15 gallon pot or modified sankey keg. You must start with 11.5 to 12 gallons of liquid to boil down to a final volume of 10 gallons for the fermenters. You must have some head space in the kettles. Don't buy a 5 gallon pot expecting to yield 5 gallons. Ain't happening!!!

Outdoor cookers come in several designs. One is the jet type. This gets huge BTU's (up to 200,000) but uses massive amounts of fuel. They have no efficiency and they make a really loud amount of noise. Ring burners are much more common now and these can be 45,000 BTU's to 125,000 BTU's depending upon configuration and size. All of these will work. Ring type burners are also very fuel efficient. I have used one tank of fuel for 5 all-grain 10 gallon batches with my Camp Chef Ring Burner cooker. Chillers are another subject for another day. Yes all of this additional equipment is going to cost a couple of bucke. Okay, a couple of hundred. But if you really want to be serious about brewing, and get huge lift in your finished beer, it's worth the money. Good Luck!!!

This humidity makes me thirsty. Have a beer or sumthin' will ya!!!!

Mark, the Brewer, and understanding fuel efficiency, especially when it comes to beer......
Wednesday, June 16, 2004
 
Taps To SPD......Troeg's Hopback Amber......Grillin' And Chillin'.....

Taps:

The SPD Stout finally blew gas on me. The keg went empty last night and I got the last pint or so of it. So it's time to play taps to an old friend. This stout in retrospect was not the best I've ever made, but it was quite a quaffable stout that had a nice color and roasted grain flavor. It was sessionable and was very popular on St. Patrick's Day. That will about do it for the darker brews at least until fall. Parrot Pete's will be the beer of the hour when dark beer brewing resumes.

The demise of one is alway the christening of another at IMHBC. Last night marked the tapping of the Steel City Cream Ale. I don't know how in tune everyone is with how a cream ale should taste. There are still some examples of cream ale produced commercially, but they tend be fermented with lager yeast and lagered for extended periods. This recipe is meant to emulate an old style cream ale that has been made in Cincinnati for a long time called Schoenling Little Kings Cream Ale. A cream ale will be very blonde to pale yellow in color. They have corn in them and mine does too. There is just a hint of DMS in a cream ale from the corn. The beer is lighter in body but still has a light to medium mouth feel. These brews should be clean tasting, should have some light fruit esters and they do tend to have a higher level of alcohol in them usually greater than 5% sometimes approaching 6%. They are a malt liquor's little sister in some cases. They are lightly hopped, but should have some hop character and aroma. Cream ale should be crisp on the finish and nice and dry, making them refreshing in hotter weather (though beware of the ABV's of some of these brews). Schoenling Little Kings is what I have described above. It is also about 5.5% ABV. What this means is that there is a hint of alcohol flavor in these beers. It is not unlike (in better well made examples) the taste one experiences from a tripel that is in the 10% ABV range. The alcohol notes just come through. In a cream ale, there isn't much else there to cover it up. All of that said, I tasted the Steel City Cream Ale last night. It has a sharp resemblence to Schoenling Little Kings:

Steel City Cream Ale: Light pale yellow and nice and clear. A nice tightly beaded and pretty snow white head. There is a hint of DMS from a grist including 13% flaked corn, and Saaz Hop in the nose, along with some fruity esters that come through as the brew warms in the glass. The beer has a light medium mouth feel and the pale malt comes through. The bitterness is balancing from Hallertau hops used to bitter this beer. In the middle is a hint of Saaz hop and a taste of alcohol. The finish is clean and crisp with a drying sensation on the tongue and a hint of hop. There is a bit of residual alcohol flavor resembling the flavor of a tripel. This beer started with a modest 1.047 opening gravity, but was a highly fermentable wort from a mash temperature of 150 degrees. This beer fermented to a 5.23% ABV. With only pale malt and a bit of dextrin malt along with the flaked corn, there isn't much to hold off a little bit of alcohol warming and flavor. This is not unlike a commercial cream ale. I like it, but then I like Schoenling Little Kings too. This is not for everybody, but if you give it a try, I think you have to agree that this beer is very refreshing and easy to drink. The one thing about this beer that I like is it's balance. The hops seem to balance out the malt while still letting the delicate malt flavors come through. There is more to taste and we'll see how the second keg tastes after some additional aging time.....

Tap number two is still pouring Deceased Dude Ale. So I got that going for me, which is nice.....

Troeg's:

I liked Troeg's Hopback Amber at the brewfest so much, I went out and bought a case of it. I was looking for Yard's IPA, but they didn't have it, so I went with the THA instead. It's nice to have options this good when you can't get exactly what you want. The beer was just as good as at the fest on draft, fresh and tasty. The best description of this beer is hoplicious!!! Big hop assault up front, then a nice balancing malt character in the middle. More hop flavor and nice long lingering malty finish. I'll have another please. Oh, I'm sorry, I just made myself thirsty. This is a must try brew. I hope you all live in their distribution area which they describe as a one day drive from the brewery.....

Chillin':

It's Wednesday, and that means it's hump day. That's usually the day I start looking at the weekend. Well, it's father's day this Sunday and there's no better way to enjoy that than with some chillin' (of the beer of course), and some grillin'!!! So get to the planning of a great weekend, and spend it with someone special to you!!! Be sure to check the gas tank for the grill to make sure you got gas for Sunday Jefe........

Stock up on some craft beer, Get some animal flesh suitable for charring, and have a great weekend....

Mark, The Brewer, and finding ESB's and amber ales quite satisfying these days.....
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
 
Head Retention......Mr. Senator??.......No Changing Of The Taps..Yet.......

Retention:

It is always a good idea to keep your head about you. During the Spanish Inquisition, head retention was the goal of many as the guilluitine was quite sharp in those days. Today, head retention takes on a whole different meaning, and in terms of homebrewing is a goal that many brewers aspire to. The properties of getting good foam on your beer are actually not fully understood. They are however studied by brewing science religiously and considered an important aspect of recipe formulation. Simply, foam is caused by the escape of co2 from solution when you pour your beer into a glass. The makeup of the actual foam on the top is what can make or break the foams longevity. Several things help with good foam. One is that beers brewed with all barley and no adjuncts tend to make much better foam. Also, beers that are naturally carbonated rather than force carbonated tend to make nicer, thicker, longer lasting foam. Beers that are carbonated with beer gas (nitrogen/co2 mix) make that beautiful cascading creamy head that the Guiness is famous for. Those heads of foam may not last as long though because of the quick escape from solution of nitrogen. So what gives here??? Well, there is a complex scientific equation involved here. What's the least you need to know?? Okay, there are protein and protein compounds that must be present in your beer to facilitate good head retention and pretty foam. The problem is, you don't want a lot of these compounds becaue they can cause other problems with your beer, such a haze. These proteins are found naturally in barley, wheat and oats. I know, your going to say to me, but Mark, why then do you use irish moss or other items to precipitate proteins out of your beer. I told you it was complex.....Okay, i'll admit to you that I really don't fully understand this level of the chemistry. But I can tell you some tricks that will enhance your foam stability, and head retention, and make the foam look pretty.

1. Make all grain, all barley malt beers. No adjuncts. These beers will always make better foam.

2. Place a small amount of malted wheat or flaked barley into your recipe. It doesn't take much, just a few ounces for a 5 gallon batch. These two items have the proteins that help head retention, foam stability, and make that creamy head look. This isn't enough to cause haze in your beer nor add any appreciable flavors.

3. Naturally carbonate. If you bottle this is probably what you do anyway, but if your a kegger, prime and condition the beer in the keg rather than force carbonate. Yea, it takes longer, but I've learned over time, that the beer just seems better.

4. Sanitation, sanitation, sanitation. Sometimes you just have an infection and that can eat up your foam and cause no retention of foam at all.

5. Make wheat beer. Wheat has the stuff in it that makes good foam. If you make a wheat beer that doesn't have big billowing heads of foam on it, you did something wrong.

6. Big alcohol beers don't have good foam. The alcohol eats it up. Don't expect great head retention on beers over 8.5% ABV. I don't know how the Belgians get such good foam on their tripels. If I did, I wouldn't be writing this web site everyday....I'm guessing it is because there is almost always a percentage of wheat malt in the recipes. See what I mean....

7. Make sure your glassware is well rinsed of any soap and soap residue. It will ruin foam almost immediately. So will geasy lips touching the beer, i.e., lipstick, chapstick, those greasy nasty tasty ribs you just ate, etc. You might have great foam and not even know it because you didn't give it a chance in poorly rinsed glasses. Make sure your glassware is well rinsed in hot water. Yea, wash it by hand.

8. Some believe that priming with dry malt extract rather than corn sugar gives you better foam. I have done this both ways and I honestly don't see any difference. It's brewer preference (Malt extract $3.90 per lb, corn sugar $0.90 per lb, and it takes twice as much malt extract, pretty easy choice for me).

These tips alone should give you better foam on your beers the next time out. Good luck and may the foam be with you.....

Senator:

I just got this the other day. It was a very small blurb and I almost missed it. I can't resist. Pete Coors, of Coors Brewing Company fame (and fortune) is rumored to be planning on running for the U.S. Senate. You heard it here first. I guess on the heals of Wynkoop Brewings founder and owner winning the mayoral election in Denver, Pete thinks he has a good shot. He probably does. He is a successful businessman, well known in the region of his potential constituents, has always presented himself as a gentleman (contrary to the T & A marketing scheme that Coors generally employs), and has lots 'O Cash in which to finance a campaign. I am mixed on my feelings on this. One one hand, it would be great to have that kind of representation of the beer community at that level, even if it is a "Big Three" guy. On the other hand, he's a "Big Three" guy and I would fear favoratism toward the mega-swillers in any type of legislation that would be looked at. It would also probably put an end to the possibility of buying beer direct from the brewers across state lines, eliminating the three tiered system. But wouldn't he want to be rid of the three tiered system of distribution. See, I'm not sure how he would lean on any of these issues, let alone the economy, terrorism, and foreign policy. It's the beer stuff that's important. It might be good for craft brewing, or it might not. I guess we'll have to watch what issues he runs on pertaining to his own industry. I just hope he doesn't have any "T..T...T...T...Twins" in the closet (but if he does, I guess I'd have to be envious).......

Taps:

No change on Sunday, maybe be one come Monday......Okay, so I butchered and plaigerized another Jimmy Buffett line, what of it...Anyway, there isn't any change at IMHBC. Stout is still stouting, malebock is still, well, malebocking (whatever that means) and the guys on deck are still standing tall on deck. It's not like it goes bad in a week or something. The Phil's Pholly Ale is working very well pounding out co2 and exhibiting that torrent of activity inside the carboy that you love to see if you are a brewer. Other than that, all's quiet on the top of the bar. We'll have to see what kind of a dent we can put into this stout keg this week so we can get something new up and running. This weekend might see wheat beer pouring at a little father's day bash we're planning. Time will tell on that factor. We might just have to keep it light.......

Mark, The Brewer, and starting to reason with hefeweizen season...........
Monday, June 14, 2004
 
Big Brewery Weekend.......A Classic Beer......Disclaimer.......

Weekend:

Wow. Did I work my @#$#$$ off this weekend or what?? It was a heavy brewery work weekend. I mean, it was all about the brewing and caring for the beer. Saturday started out with a trip to see Jim at Country wines to get some vienna malt and some East Kent Goldings hops. These were two of the key ingredients for Phil's Pholly Ale which I was planning to brew on Sunday. We sampled the wheat beer that I assisted him with during his all-grain brewing demonstration several weeeks prior, and it is just fantastic. Very smooth with a soft texture and leaning toward the clove esters rather than the bananna. A nice beer with that classic tart crispness imparted by the wheat malt and yeast. This is a beer you could drink several of pretty easily.

Well, after that trip, I went back to the house as I had some cellar and prep work to do. First I had to clean some kegs for my wheat beer that was brewed nearly 2 weeks ago. After that they had to be sanitized. I then set up my racking configuration and made my primer. When I kegged this beer, the ending gravity was much higher than anticipated. It came in on the first carboy at 1.019. This is quite high I thought, so I went to my notes and found that our Opening gravity was about 1.064. This is a little high for a standard wheat beer actually and probably has to do with the fact that I used 18 lbs of extract. Well, in the world of brewing we know that yeast have an apparent attenuation, i.e., how much of the fermentable sugar available can the yeast consume in a normal fermentation. Well, bavarian wheat yeast attenuates to about 72%. Well take 64 X .72 and you get 46. That means that the yeast should eat up about 46 points of gravity during the fementation. So, 1.064 - 1.046 = 1.018. That means my beer is done. It tastes just fine, so I'm not going to worry about it. To make sure, I tested the ending gravity on the second fermenter and got the exact same reading. Another factor is the extract. Extract will not ferment out as well as all grain wort and often leaves your beer with a higher ending gravity than you anticipate. This is due to the amount of dextrines in the extract. You have no control over malt extract mash temps, etc, so you get what you get. The bottom line here is that it will taste like something very similar to a wheat beer. Actually, it will still be pretty good.

After kegging, I then proceeded to make a starter for the Sunday brew. The starter was of Irish Ale yeast. That whole process went without a hitch and by later Saturday night, I had fermentation in the starter bottles. After I made the starter, I then cleaned the ball valves on the mash tun and the boil kettle for Sunday's brew, and then I weighed out and crushed all of the grain (about 20lbs) for Sunday. I then was ready for a nap I think.......

Sunday was brew day. I set up the system and the brew went very smoothly. If you look at the recipe on my prior post, you will see that I anticipated an opening gravity of 1.050. Well, I hit that exact number on Sunday. The beer is a deep copper color as expected and the gravity sample had a very nice flavor to it. It is hopped with nothing but East Kent Goldings hops and the aroma from these hops was spectacular during the boil and at the end with the knock out addition. I pitched the starters and cleaned up. Within 3 hours of pitching the starters, I had about 1.5 inches of beautiful snow white foam on the top of the beer and co2 coming out of the airlocks. By 11 PM, or 7 hours after pitching, I had about 5 inches of foam on the top. This morning the beer was in full scale fermentation frenzy, and I like it like that. Take the time to make starters, they make a huge difference in your beer with much shorter lag times and cleaner fermentation. Just Do It!!!! The bottom line here is , this has the makings for a really nice beer. Stay tuned for the outcome of this one.

Classic:

I had a chance recently to taste Fullers ESB on a nitro tap. Fullers is considered the benchmark ESB for the style and emulating that recipe will make you a great ESB. This was the first time I have had the opportunity to drink this classic brew on tap, and on nitro to boot. I was not disappointed. The beer poured with that classic amber color and had a creamy presentation of foam. The beer was rich and balanced with hops exhibiting flavors of toffee and toast and an assertive hop bitterness. I loved it and despite the $6 price tag for an imperial, I had two. Money and time well spent in my estimation. This is a must try if you are a beer or ale lover. I can imagine how good this beer must be on cask pulled up by a beer engine. How much would a beer tour in England be????

Disclaimer:

Okay, here goes. I am the editor of content on the web site. All drivel written here must pass my scrutiny and poetic license. Any mistakes, mis-representations, misspelled words, mistaken Identities, mistled individuals, misshappened heads, missing punctuation, mis-adventures, missed opportunities, and miscellaneous insundry items that perhaps I missed, are purely coincidental and the names should have been changed to protect the innocent (which is me). Otherwise, everything needs the express written consent of the local parole officer in order to be released to the public. In the event something of a legal quandry nature does occur, I have no knowledge of anything (web site??, what web site??). There, I hope that clears everything up......

Have a beer or sumthin' will ya!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and not missing a thing.........
Friday, June 11, 2004
 
Homebrewing Tip: To Boil Or Not To Boil.......Next Brew Recipe.......Take Me To Your Brewer......

Boil:

As I have promised on these pages, there are going to be more homebrewing tips. Here is one that is interesting. Obviously if you are an all-grain brewer you have to boil your extracted wort. It must boil with hops at least 60 minutes and a lot of brewers prefer 75 to 90 minute boils. Boiling the wort sterilizes it, creates flavor compounds, and darkens the color if done for an extended time. Extract brewers on the other hand have some options. Liquid malt extract has already been boiled and condensed in a sanitary environment. The question is do you really have to boil it again?? There are some who say no. The procedure is to use your usual kettle level of water, say 2 gallons. Bring that water to a boil and add your bittering hops. Hop the WATER as you would your boiling wort if you had placed the extract inside. After the boil and all of the hop strikes are finished, add the liquid extracts while the hop tea is above 170 degrees. If you are working with extracts and grains, steep the grains in that same water before starting the boil and adding the hops. Chill the new mixture down and add it to your fermenter with cold top up water to get your fermenter volume. Mix, aerate, and pitch your yeast as usual. I will admit to you that I have never done this process, but I have read of others who have and with good results. You get more hop character into your extract beers, and you lessen the darkening of your finished beer caused by boiling a concentrated wort. Hey it's worth a try especially if you are thinking about making a lighter beer like a pils or other light lager.

What is difference of boiling 60 compared to 90 minutes if you are an all-grain brewer?? A couple of things happen. You concentrate your wort to get to your fermenter volumes. Clearly a 90 minute boil will give you a slightly higher starting gravity in your fermenter. Another reason is hop oil extraction. The longer you boil the hops, the more Alpha Acid extraction and essential oil extraction for flavor you will get. It is really brewer preference, recipe indices, and system limitations that drive this. That is part of what makes homebrewing fun. There is no absolute "right way" to do things.

Have fun and good luck with your next brew!!!!

New Brew:

I have been asked to brew a beer for a going away function as one of the key execs of the company I work for is leaving and he is a neophyte beer lover. I wondered last night what would be appropriate and came up with these thoughts.....He's leaving to get rich, so this ale has to have a certain malty richness about it.....He's never been bitter about anything, so the beer has to have a great balance between bitterness and sweetness.......He's moving to Texas so the beer has to have a good dark tan to copper color about it.......He's a silver tongued devil so the beer has to be very smoooooooth......and he's a winner, so this beer has to have a championship quality about it. Here's what I have come up with:

Phil's Pholly Ale:
14lbs 2-row pale malt
4lbs Vienna Malt
0.5lbs Crystal 40
0.5lbs Crystal 60
0.5lbs Biscuit Malt
0.25lbs Flaked Barley (for rich mouthfeel)
0.25lbs Chocolate Malt
3 ozs East Kent Goldings Bittering Hops
2 ozs East Kent Goldings Flavor Hops
2 ozs East Kent Goldings Aroma Hops
White Labs Irish Ale Yeast
Mash Temp 152 Degrees
Estimated Opening Gravity 1.050 @ 72% Efficiency

The Vienna Malt will give texture and richness to the beer, The crystals will give some residual sweetness and a smoothing character, The Bisquit malt should improve the middle of the flavors as it's bread like quality will pair with the hop flavor nicely, and the flaked barley will help with texture and mouthfeel of the brew plus add to head retention capabilities. The Chocolate Malt will give the beer a nice deep copper color. Irish Ale yeast will lend a hint of diacetyl that in my opinion gives the beer additional richness (I don't consider this an off flavor as some do as in some beers I think it adds great benefit, certain pale, amber, and porter style ales for example). East Kent Goldings gives that classic pale ale aroma and a clean bitterness. This should produce a beer at about 5% ABV that is balanced and finishes with a smooth richness. Does anyone out there have any other suggestions??? Please, email the brewer if there are any other ideas......

Take Me To Your Brewer:

Here is another example of why craft brewers are such fine people. It's because they are such fine people mostly. But other than that, it is because they care about the beer, and they like to talk to others who appreciate and care about the beer. In a final note about the Penn Brewfest, I sent a congratulatory e-mail to Penn Brewing through their web site (new, nice, easy to navigate, go take a look). I didn't expect any response, it was just a thanks for the great event and the great beer kind of thing. Well, Tom Pastorious, the owner sent me a response thanking me for the kind words. Not necessary and totally unexpected, but a nice gesture that he would take the time out of his busy day to do this. Very cool. That, and at the actual festival, the brewers of the beers were accessible and willing to talk about their beers and just beer in general. It was a wonderful event. Okay, enough of that, I'm off the box....

Drink up some good craft beer, even if you made it yourself!!!! Everyone, please have a great weekend, and I'll be back to punish your brains next week. Open, lift, tilt, pour, smell, sip, taste, drink, smile broadly, repeat as needed!!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and workin' this pale ale recipe........
Thursday, June 10, 2004
 
Got Ale?.......Give Yeast A Chance.......Be "Sharp"....

Ale:

Got Ale? Yea, it's a take off on the Got Milk ads, but so what. Well, I got ale, and lager too. IMHBC taps continue to flow currently with fine ales. SPD Stout however is getting very light and is going to be empty very soon. We are moving into the hot summer months so stout really isn't as appetizing now as it is on a blustery November afternoon. That said, this stout didn't disappoint. I don't think it was my best effort on a stout, but it was very drinkable and enjoyable. The next one will hit on all cylinders. Next up and already in the cold box awaiting the open tap is Steel City Cream Ale. This beer has been conditioning for nearly 8 weeks so it should be quite ready to drink. The gravity samples of this beer were very good when it was kegged so I am looking forward to drinking this beer with gas on it. The beer was brewed with adjunct in the mash with 13% flaked corn included. The rest of the grist was 2-row pale malt with some light crystal malt and the beer will feature 100% hopping with Czech saaz hops, both bittering and aroma. It is built to be a lighter and refreshing ale made for the warmer weather. Look for the review to be here I would guess by early next week.

Deceased Dude Ale continues to pour and continues to satisfy all who taste it. The beer has aged nicely these past few months and seems to be better with every glass. This beer might just become a spring time tradition. Angry Dog Amber continues to condition in kegs and should be ready to drink later in the month. A keg of Anchor's Away California Common remains and will most likely follow the "Dude" in the rotation. Jefe's Wheezin' is going into kegs tonight and I expect it to sit side by side the "Dog" sometime in early July. That is a good time to reason with Hefewiezen season. After that depends upon the next brew that I decide to make. I expect that I will be experimenting with a more multidimensional pale ale than I have made in the past (and a lot hoppier version too) and I hope to scale Jefe's to an all-grain version and brew that for late summer (Jimmy Buffett Season) drinking. Beyond that is still on the drawing board. I hope to experiment a little bit in the fall with some recipe design and try to make some beers that might be a little off of the beaten path. Don't be surprised if there is a Belgian style beer in the mix somewhere heading into the holidays, probably a tripel. I also plan to make another winter warmer type ale as The Fargin' Bastige was such a big hit during the holidays last year. So as you can see, there is still a lot of brewing to be done in the IMH brewhouse this year. Fire up the kettles boys, there's beer to be made......

Yeast:

As homebrewers, we already know the importance of yeast in the brewing process. It converts the sugars to alcohol and provides important and sometimes dominant flavor compounds to the finished beer. We have waxed poetic on these pages about the importance of making a yeast starter either all the time, or at least in certain situations. Another key factor in yeast selection and care, is picking a yeast that will be tolerant of your recipe. What do I mean by that??? Well, you have to use a yeast that will tolerate the alcohol level you are trying to make. Now that homebrewers are moving toward making some of the bigger beer styles like barleywine and winter warmers, there is more to consider with your ingredients other than the difficulties that you have hitting very high gravities with your mashing techniques. You must select a liquid yeast strain or strains for your fermentation, that will tolerate 7, 8, or 9+% ABV levels in the beer as you attempt to get to terminal gravity. Not all yeast strains are tolerant of higher alcohol beers. Some will simply give up on fermentation when the alcohol levels get above 7%. Others are much more alcohol tolerant, and if enough cells are pitched will finish beers up to 10% ABV without any problem. One of the most versatile yeast strains, and of course one of the most widely used and available yeast strains, is California Ale yeast. Everyone knows that this yeast is a clean fermenter that is resilient and almost always fresh when you buy it, but not as many know that this yeast can tolerate alcohol levels up to 12% ABV in a fermentation of higher gravity ale. It will and it does a great job. I have used it on several beers above 7% without making a starter (shame on my lazy butt) and had great success (or luck). Here are some easy rules of thumb:

1. If your wort has an opening gravity above 1.060, at least make a 1 qt starter.
2. Research your yeast options for high gravity beers. You may find that you not only selected a yeast that is not alcohol friendly, but that you need a very high alcohol tolerant yeast that might not have been what you had in mind from a flavor perspective. In this situation, you might want to combine multiple yeast strains to get your desired yeast flavor compound results during fermentation.
3. Select a yeast that will tolerate the level of alcohol that your recipe will generate with a good fermentation. Make a big starter for big beers, as much as a gallon starter for beers approaching 1.10 OG's.
4. Calculate your apparent attenuations to a finishing gravity. A big beer starting at 1.10 or higher is probably done fermenting at 1.028 or so in most cases, sometimes higher depending upon he apparent attenuation of the yeast.
5. Remember that you might have to add more yeast at packaging time, often a champagne type dry yeast in order to get these big beers to condition. The original yeast will be very stressed to complete the fermentation and asking it to regenerate in a sea of alcohol to condition the beer in the bottle might be asking a bit much.
6. Ask your home brew shop folks for advice if you have any questions/doubts.

Good Luck in brewing that barleywine or imperial stout for Christmas.....

"Sharp":

Another great fest is coming to Pittsburgh in a couple of weeks. It is the Sharp Edge European Beer Festival. This outstanding Belgian pub has this festival each year with tastings of some of the finest European and Belgian beers available in this country. On any given day this pub has 25 Belgians on tap alone, so this festival is always anticipated by the pubs followers. More info is available on their web page (just search for Sharp Edge Beer Emporium). The dates are July 26 and 27. I hope to see some of you there!!!!!

I love summer!!! Grab a brew, char up a couple of burgers, and watch the ballgame with a friend!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and having indecision on the next beer that will be in the kettle........
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
 
Craft Beer Growth.......Coors Q & A........Brew Day.......

Growth:

Here it is, another example of how the craft beer movement is just here to stay. Imports had been the biggest threat to the "Big Three" brewers in this country of late. Import growth has been at double digit growth over the past couple of years putting a dent into the beer market. American craft beer has been increasing in each of these years as well, so the impact had to be on "you know who". That said, the 2003 results were just released by the Association of Brewers. It appears that import growth has slowed dramatically with a 2003 increase of only 1.9%. That's way down from the 10+% growth they had been experiencing. Craft Beer however had a nice 3.5% growth rate of production in 2003. That equates to nearly 7 million barrels (1 barrel ~ 32 gallons) of production. That seems like a lot of beer, but compared to the number one selling beer in the USA, Bud Light (ouch), which had 39 million barrels brewed by AB, then you see that craft beer is a long way from being the market leader. That said, the continued year over year increases in craft beer production remain a very positive thing. When you couple that with over 1400 operating craft breweries (includes micro's and pubs) in the USA, this is more than just a niche market. It means that more and more people are making a choice to try and drink American made craft beer. The decline in imports also tells me that given the choice between imports and American Craft Beer, more people are choosing the American Craft products. The appearance of so many Begian Style beers made by American Craft Brewers at the Brew Fest is a good indicator. Our brewers are making these examples as good as the ones from Belgium. It is so important for a real beer drinker to support the local regional, craft, micro, and brewpub brewer that makes good beer. And by making that choice, each individual beer drinker makes a difference. The mega-swill brewers are here to stay, it is a fact of life. They are big corporations, or are subs of even bigger corporations (SABMiller for example) and you won't break them. But you can make them take notice of the Craft Beer Movement!!! Get involved!!! Try your local craft beers and support those brewers efforts. Try a cask ale.....Go to the craft beer bars and drink craft beer. Learn how to brew your own beer!!! Tell your friends!!! It's a grass roots campaign, but it's working!!! Keep up the good work and support your "local" as much as you can!!!!! I'm off the box....

Q & A:

Not to outdone by their brethern in the business of production of tasteless bland beer, Adolph Coors Company has a new seies of ads out. Amazingly, there are no pouty lips, cleavage, or short shorts involved in these ads. There are no guys describing their mindless triumphs over women that they, "have no idea what her name is", or about dating women with "brains" (wink, wink, say no more). These are the Q & A ads where "dudes" ask Pete Coors questions. Apparently the "dudes" asking the questions have minds as empty as the flavor of Coors Light. One even invites Pete to a party and asks him to bring the twins with him. Pete actually does decline the offer. The master brewer ad where the "dude" wants to know how to get a tasting job at the brewery is pretty lame too. If it takes a PHD (according to Pete) to make a product that tastes like beer was at one time in the can, some time ago perhaps, then I want no part of the brewing science involved with that one. We do have questions, but we'll pass on the beer that you have. Isn't Tabernash Brewing just down the road???? Sorry Coors, you are a couple of steps below the competition in the marketing of your products. I will say that you have a leg up on the blandness quotient of your light beer though. Coors Light is beginning to resemble water, and if it gets much lighter, you'll have to market it as a malt beverage. Maybe we could call it Coors Nothing!!! Hey, it gets boring bashing AB all of the time.....I do know one thing that is for sure. I must be watching way too much TV.......

Brew Day:

No, I haven't set a brew day this weekend yet. I'll probably think about that today. I don't know what the weekend schedule is just yet (c'mon, it's only Wednesday for goodness sake). She Who Must Be Obeyed will have to be consulted as she keeps our social calendar. I am hoping for perhaps a Saturday brew but it could be Sunday. We go rain or shine, the beauty of my system and garage/brewhouse set up. Heck, I still have to fashion a recipe and make starters too. I better get on the stick eh?? I'll probably make starters tomorrow night if it's a Saturday brew day, or Friday night if it's a Sunday brewday. I might even brew Friday night??? Hey, there's a radical thought. That might put me pretty late though. We'll see what's going on I guess. Anyway, I hope to fashion a recipe tonight and think about hops and such in the process. I might just make a grog with all of the leftover specialty grains. I still need to keg Jefe's Wheezin' to open up the big fermenters!! Who know's what I'll do. You all probably will know tomorrow morning. I don't know. Indecision may or may not be my problem, I can't decide.....I guess the only thing that I can definitively say is that I'll be brewing something soon, and that there won't be any MEETINGS to make that decision.....

It's Hot, so grab a beer and sit down and relax will ya.....


Mark, The Brewer, and really enjoying bashing the "big three" whenever possible...........
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
 
Meetings........Jefe's Has Stopped Wheezin'.......The Queen Of Beers........

Meetings:

I've had a revelation today. And I fear that if I am seeing it, then it must be going on all over the world. And if it is going on all over the world, then I am starting to wonder how anything gets done. I mean meetings of course. I have spent the past couple of days in meetings. I have meetings on my calendar for the rest of the week. I have recently been in multiple meetings that the topic of discussion was simply to schedule more meetings. And then when I attended those meetings, even more meetings were scheduled. In fact I typically have to meet with people to set up a time when I can meet with the same people. Then I have to decline meetings because I have other meetings scheduled, and often the people I declined to meet with are in the same conflicting meeting that I am attending, making me wonder, how were they planning on meeting with me when they had to meet....with me.....Now I'm starting to get confused. Is it just me or is corporate America meeting crazy???? Or am I just meeting crazy. Maybe I should just delete the word meeting and say I am just crazy???? What am I talking about???? Maybe I should meet with somebody who can tell me....or will they just tell me that they need to meet with me again in the future....or will they cancel that meeting to be in another meeting that I too must also attend.....I wonder if the big corporate beer companies have this problem...."No Jim, I can't attend the barley selection meeting because the hop folks are going to be meeting with us. What? You're going to the hop meeting??? Then who is going to attend the barley meeting?? No, I'm not going to the barley meeting, I'm going to the hop meeting...you can't go to the hop meeting as then no one will be at the barley meeting. Okay, let's just cancel both meetings and go to lunch!!".......A little scary don't you think......

Jefe's Wheezin':

Jefe's done Wheezin' out the airlock. A quick check indicates that the beer is done and is ready to be transferred to kegs. Oh, happy days!! There are a bunch of Draft family members that have been on me like a cheap suit to get some #@$#%$#$ wheat beer brewed and ready to drink. Okay, here you go. It will be ready to drink on the weekend of the 20th. Ya happy!!! GGeeezzzzz!!! What's a poor brewer with only one brewing system and two fermenters available supposed to do for goodness sake. Okay, brew as much as I can, got it. That said, tonight is clean out the brewing closet night and take some inventory of the specialty grains. Let's see what we can make next. It really depends on what is in the grain bins. At worst it would be a bitter, at best an all inclusive porter. I'm guessing it might end up being a rich pale ale. Anyway, only time will tell what direction we go in. Maybe I'll use two different yeast strains. HHHMMMMMMMM. The wheels are turning now......

The Queen:

Those wonderful folks at AB, The new Queen of Beers since AmBevIterbrew is bigger and nastier than they are on the distribution and production side, have finally answered the SABMiller ads on TV. Wow!! We actually have some good natured "beer wars" going on on TV reminicent of the "Burger Wars" of the seventies as the old hamburger chains duked it out over who would be the leading cause of heart disease in this country. The new ad with the donkey is nothing short of hillarious. I love the line where he is going to meet the clydesdale and has to put on his "hair extensions". The shot at Miller about not being a US company any more is insightful and well thought out. The end where the donkey "approves this message" is also a shot at our own country's misguided political ads. The ingenuity of these marketing firms never ceases to amaze me and I have to admit, for the first time in a long time, these commercials are making me laugh. They won't ever coerce me to buy the products any more, but they are making me laugh. I just don't understand why AB just doesn't put this type of energy into product development, brewing new beers with all barley recipe's and beating the competition on product....yeah, right, and monkey's are flying out of my butt. This is all about money and market share baby and AB doesn't like not being the biggest baddest kid on the block. Get used to it AB. When NASCAR hits a downturn, then what you going to do. Craft beer is here to stay, just get over it and move on. And your competition is getting bigger, richer, and stronger every day from both a product perspective and a distribution perspective. You NASCAR guys better sell those AB shares soon as I foresee market share erosion in their future.....And with the lame, bland, tasteless products that they bring to market anyway, it's inevitable.....(yeah, this can be a real tough room)......

Get a cold craft beer, open, pour, smell, taste, smile, repeat....It's summer for goodness sake....

Mark, the Brewer, and still wondering how 20 million beer drinkers who drink Bud can be so wrong........
Monday, June 07, 2004
 
What A Day......The Week Ahead.....

Day:

What a day it was. It started out raining, OK, it ended up raining too. But that didn't deter a determined Draft Family of beer seekers in their quest of the fest. Yes, we made it to the Penn Brewing Microbrewers Brewfest on Saturday. As they have in the last 10 years, Penn Brewing put on a great show that was enjoyed by several thousand people over the course of the three sessions. The weather did not deter the beer drinkers of Pittsburgh as we decended upon the old brewery with a purpose in mind and thirst in our throats. And the brewers in attendance did not disappoint!!! There were several first timers there along with a lot of old friends. And the beer, oh my, the beer, was nothing short of fantastic!!!! Here are my top ten highlights of the show:

10. The Food was excellent as always...thumbs up to the Penn Brewing kitchen squad. That's a lot of people to feed in a short period of time.

9. The Band....The Carribean sounds flowed through the crowd with ease and the crowd was very receptive. The band was great and the beer even better...

8. Belgians.....The most Belgian style beers I've seen in the 4 of these events that I have been too. It seemed like everyone had at least one Belgian style beer in their tasting groups

7. Short Lines.....The lines for beer were never very long and the pours by and large were good ones.

6. Beer Goddesses....They were everywhere, and that was quite alright with me....

5. She Who Must Be Obeyed....I found her at one point drinking Scotch Ale. Yea, I was kind of floored too. Then she said how good it was. And I thought it was the beer making my head hurt. Most of the rest of the time I found her with FULL tasting glasses of a blend of Milk Stout and Strawberry Wheat beer from Lancaster Brewing. I didn't want to know how she was getting full pours......and since when does she drink stout. I've created a monster I think.....

4. Beers you can't get...Thank you Nodding Head Brewing, Heavyweight Brewing, and others too numerous to mention....You guys need to distribute here because your beer is real gooooood.....

3. Pappa Draft transforming into Parrot Pete....worth the price of admission....

2. The Best overall group if IPA's you'll ever see under one roof....

and the number one highlight of the Penn Brewfest for me......

1. Meeting the man, the myth, the legend, Larry Bell from Kalamazoo Brewing company and the Bell's beers. The guy and his wife were working the booth, pouring beers for the great unwashed. What nice folks they are too. For you readers who aren't from the Midwest, Larry Bell was a homebrewer, just like me and many of you. He was a good one too. Well, Larry decided that he wanted to be a pro and with almost no equipment and even less money, opened Kalamazoo Brewing. It was all about the beer and goes to prove that with hard work and good brewing skills you can make it. Larry has no business still being in business based upon his original business plan, other than the fact that the beer was sooooo good that it couldn't help but sell!!! Thanks Larry, for your beer and for being at our festival!!!!! and now distributing here in Pennsylvania.

Now for some notes on the beers themselves. As I always do at one of these events, I taste a lot of beers, but I also try to taste as many as I can in one or two categories. After I have exhausted those, I taste things that I can't get, and that interest me. The two categories that I worked through this year were IPA, and Pilsner. As I mentioned above, I have never seen so many high quality IPA's under one roof before. And the beer was just fantastic. I tried 8 IPA's during the fest and all were very good and well within the style guidelines. Here were the top three:

3. Bell's Two Hearted Ale -- This beer is legendary in the midwest as well it should be. The beer is well balanced with great hop character. It is very light in color and I thought a little thinner than some of the other examples of the beer I have tasted over time. It is still a world class beer in my estimation. The Brits better get on the ball because American Brewers are stealing their thunder!!!!

2. Victory Hop Devil -- Fantastic as always!!! Big hop assault, big malt backbone, big beer, big fun to drink. These guys from Downingtown, Pa know how to brew and this beer is great. Hey Fullers and Young's, and the other IPA makers in England, you better start taking some notes here......

1. Yard's IPA -- Surprised???? I'm not. This beer was as good as any in this style that I have ever tasted. It was so well balanced and loaded with EKG hops. It had that wonderful aroma and flavor that I crave in an IPA. I went back for a couple more tastes just to be sure I was tasting it correctly against the others. There was no doubt. What a beer!!! Yard's, send some kegs to our locals please!!! I can get the bottles, but I want fresh draft pints of this stuff, or maybe some on cask......Outstanding beer, I highly recommend it.....and looking at the list of IPA's it bested, I'd put this beer up there with any IPA in the world.....

The Pilsner category was the best at this show that I have seen too. Note: I did not include Penn Pilsner or the Kaiser Pils from Penn Brewing in this group. That wouldn't have been fair and I will say today, that these two would have been one and two in this tasting if I included them. But since they were the hosts, I thought I'd give the other brewers a shot:

3. Southern Tier Pils -- A very clean and refreshing pilsner with nice balance and hop character. Pretty middle of the road but very enjoyable...

2. Stoudt's Pilsner -- Another nice beer. Light and refreshing in character with a good balance. Enjoyable. I would have liked more hop character...

1. Troeg's Sunshine Pils -- Much more to my liking with a nice hop aroma and character and clean crisp finish. Well Done. This is a great little brewery!!!!

And now, here are some other beers of note that I tried on this fine Saturday in June. These are beers that were special and in some cases we can't get them here. I hope we can some day soon though. In my humble opinion, these were the best of the rest in the fest. Here we go in no particular order:

Bullfrog Brewery Friar Frog -- a Belgian style dubbel that was rich and malty with good balance. Excellent beer!!!

Kalamazoo Brewing Bell's Porter -- Yea, what you want a porter to be. Some might even consider this a stout. It's good for sure. Thank's Larry!!!

Lancaster Brewing Stawberry Wheat -- She Who Must Be Obeyed's favorite of the show.

Nodding Head Brewing's Grog, and Cali -- Grog is just a great brew. I don't what style if any it fits, brown ale is probably about the closest thing. Cali was a California Common and it had the obligatory Northern Brewer hop character and a big malt base. These guys really know how to brew and were really nice guys too. I hope they bottle someday and distribute in our neck of the woods. They make good beer.

Old Dominion Brewing Tupper's Hop Pocket Ale -- This was a great hoppy light ale. I have had it in the bottle and liked it, and on draft it is even better. I wanted to get some of the oak barrel stout, but they only kept it on line for an hour, wanting to be sure there was some to taste at the last session I'm sure. I missed out.

Heaveyweight Brewing's Stickenjab Alt and Perkuno's Hammer -- Wow!!! Both of these were big beers and were very good. The Alt is a Sticke Alt and had a big malt and hop expression in a smooth copper brew. Perkuno's is a Baltic Porter with tons of flavor and richness. Very well done beers!!!!

Troeg's Hopback Amber -- This is a great beer. I absolutely love it!!!! Big hop bite with a nice malty base. Good balance. Hey Troeg's, do you put this stuff in casks??? If so send one to Pittsburgh and tell me where it's going to be!!!!!

Yard's Saison -- She Who Must Be Obeyed's second favorite of the show. I had a taste and even though this isn't really my thing, it was very good. This is a really good brewery. Give some of their stuff a try.....

Well, that about raps up the Brewfest 2004. If you didn't get there, shame on you, but if you did, I hope you tried some of the beers I listed above, because if you did, you were drinking some of the best beer made in the world today....

Week:

This week unfolds well at IMHBC. The Jefe's Wheezin' Bavarian Wheat beer should be in kegs by Wednesday. Fermentation appears complete and the beer worked very well. The SPD Stout and the Deceased Dude Ale continue to pour. The Steel City Cream Ale is waiting in the wings along with the infamous Angry Dog Amber, Anchor's Away California Common (which has a very strong resemblance to Nodding Head's Cali) and later this week, Jefe's Wheezin'. The biggest question is what is getting brewed next. I will be inventorying the specialty grains this week and will make that announcement soon. We could brew as early as this weekend. We'll have to see.

The Regional Beer Challenge continues this weekend as well. Old German put up quite a fight against Old Style, but Old Style was able to pull out a victory. Who's next??? That's a good question. I'll let you know later this week.

Homebrewing tips have been lacking in these pages of late. I hope to get back to the homebrewing roots. Stay tuned because if you miss a day, you miss a lot.....

Now get some beers will ya!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and thinking about what a great time I had at the brewfest, and already dreaming of next years event..........

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