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, January 26, 2005
 
Trolling Results...Pre-Prohibition Brews...Super Bowl Brew day...





Trolling Results...Pre-Prohibition Brews...Super Bowl Brew day...






Trolling:



Well, I didn't have the success I had hoped for last night.  I went to meet Scooter at the bar and there were some decent craft offerings there, but nothing really that new.  So when I spied an old favorite from my past I had to have one.  I saw the Great Lakes Brewing Company's Dortmunder Gold.  This is a little known beer here in the USA as there aren't many examples of it made or imported here.  The most likely one for you to find is DAB from Germany.  You can do a lot worse than this beer too.  It comes regular and dark as most German lagers do.  I recommend this one if you want to try a Dortmunder.  The Great Lakes version has won numerous awards and medals and is another very fine example to seek out.  It pours very golden in the glass and has a firm thick white head of foam.  There are hops in this beer and it also has some body to it.  It was developed to quench the thirst of industrial workers and coal miners in the Dortmund area of Germany where heavy industry makes the men thirsty.  This beer does the trick too.  Easy to drink with substance and a bit of strength as well.  Unfortunately it is almost a forgotten style in Germany too.  There are only a couple of brewers who even bother to brew it any longer.  DAB of course is one of them.  I recommend trying this beer if you can find it, especially if you can get the Great Lakes example.  Other than that, I tasted a couple of Victory Hop Devils, always a treat!!  I hope you have better luck the next time you troll for beer.....



Pre-Prohibition Beer:



I am going to brew one of these.  The more I read the more intrigued I become.  Yea, I know, this entails brewing with adjuncts like corn.  So what.  I've gotten over that all barley or die thought process at this point in my brewing endeavors.  Why not give this classic American style a chance.  I'm not talking about the current mega-swill made in this country now.  I'm talking about beers brewed with maybe 25% adjunct, yet full bodied beers from additions of dextrin malt.  These beers have hops in them, plenty of them weighing in as high as 40 IBU's.  Beers made to about 4.8% ABV that are clean and crisp tasting while having a satisfying mouth feel and body to them, and a noticeable hop bite.  I'm talking about real beer like your great grandfather and possibly even your grandfathers enjoyed.  These beers can be either lagers or ales.  There are a couple of good ale strains that will make these beers very tasty indeed (like Cali ale).  It's time to give one of these beers a try.  I've read much and wondered aloud, now its time to get the hands dirty.  This one might come up after the very pale ale I'm about to make (see Bell's Pale Ale).  So its time.  Hey, I decided adjuncts can't be all bad when I started drinking Belgians.  There you have it.  I'll let you know when the Pre-prohibition brew is up for grabs......



Super Brew Day:



Super Bowl Sunday is starting to look like a super brew day to me.  I mean, I don't have much else to do on that day since my Steelers are off for the rest of the year.  For Whom The Bell's Tolls!!  After that, I'm guessing I'm going to go with the Pre-Prohibition Ale.  Hey, you have to get better at brewing these more delicate beers sometime if you really want to be a good brewer.  No time better than the present I always say.  Look for brewing information for the next brew day soon!!



Cheers!!



Mark, The Brewer, and getting a little nostalgic in my old age........



Tuesday, January 25, 2005
 
My Kingdom For a Brew Day...Drowning Our Steel Town Sorrows...Trolling For Beer





My Kingdom For a Brew Day...Drowning Our Steel Town Sorrows...Trolling For Beer






Kingdom:



Well, I don't really mean my entire kingdom, not that it's worth anything.  I would like to get some more beer brewed though.  I have all of the ingredients, I have the hardware to get my mill back in fighting trim, but now I have to clean out the darn garage, er ah, I mean, brewery.  It's a total clustered mess.  A few degrees warmer wouldn't hurt anything either.  Oh woe is me, with not a place or the time or the comforts to brew.....Okay, I'll snap out of it now and realize that I just have to make some time for this endeavor.  My knee is really feeling much better too.  So look for a FIRM brew date on here in the next couple of days.  It's time to get something gurgling in the fermentation room again.....



Sorrows:



With the loss to those pesky New England Patriots, the Steelers are calling it a season.  I'm sure there were many people drowning their sorrows in the Rolling Rock swill sold at the stadium, well, at least till 5 minutes into the third quarter when beer sales were shut off.  I have to give props to the Pats.  They are the best, and you can't be the best till you can consistently beat the best.  The Steelers obviously have some work to do.  Also, the Pats come from the town that gives us Sam Adams and Harpoon beer, so it can't be all that bad.  Of course their adversary in the Stupor Bowl comes from a town that gives us Victory, Nodding Head, Yards, and if you count across the bay, Dogfish Head.  In fact, Philly is a hotbed of brewing activity, both in town and in much of the surrounding area.  Who do I like in the game?  Well, the Steelers just got beat by the best, and until somebody proves to me that they can beat the best, I have to got with the Patriots.  Now everyone should be running to Vegas right now to load up on the Eagles, because you have to know that exactly the opposite of what I pick will win just about every time.  One things for sure, there is lots of good beer to drink in both places, so I have to say that everyone who watches in those towns should be a winner, as long as they support their local craft and pub brewers that is.  Congrats to the Pats, but beware, because the Steelers will be looking for you again next year..........



Trolling For Beer:



That's what I hope to be doing a little of later.  I will be out tonight for a short period of time and I hope to find something good to sip while I am.  And as you already know, if I find it, you'll hear about it.  This is the wee heavy, bock, Maerzen, kind of time of the year.  The maibock comes soon then followed by fresh wheat beer and spring and summer.  I can't wait for spring and summer this year.  The beauty of it is, we're already at the end of January, so at least all of this football fever kept us occupied long enough to escape January.  Winter beers are good.  They are strong and you need to take heed and enjoy them in moderation.  But you have to know that there's nothing better than trolling for beer this time of the year.......



Watch for stupid mega-swill ads, coming soon to the last football game (well, real one anyway) of the season.  I must admit, some of them are at least somewhat amusing.....



Mark, the Brewer, well, I guess I am even if I've taken nearly a month off from brewing, and hoping to land something good and big later tonight while trolling......




Thursday, January 20, 2005
 
Big Game...Waiting For The Maerzen...Few Days Away...

Game:

Pittsburgh's Heinz Field is a great venue for football. It is ultra modern,
not a bad seat in the house, even in the nosebleed area, and the sound
systems and other amenities cannot be beaten anywhere. That said, why does
the official beer of Heinz Field have to be Rolling Rock?? Ouch!! It's bad
enough that what was once a decent regional beer has been dumbed down to
water status, how can Heinz Field make it their official beer?? Oh, yea,
money. Forgot about that one. Anyway, a lot of people will be quaffing
said brew this Sunday. Rolling Rock has become so dumbed down, that it is
now brewed with both rice and corn, and probably at about 50% of the grist
too. Gives me a headache. Oh yea, the game this Sunday. Steelers and
Patriots are going to get it on. Amazing how the two best in the AFC rose
to the top. All of the national pundits and so called experts are picking
the Pats. HHHHMMMMMMM, that means I like the Steelers chances for sure.
Make sure you put in some serious stock of brew for this Sunday!! It's one
of the best double header football game Sundays of the year.......

Maerzen: I've said it before in these pages. Those nutty Germans. They
have a fest beer for just about every season. Late winter is no exception.
For St Patrick's day and Mardi Gras season, the Germans make a fest brew
that they call Maerzen. Is it really that special? No, not really. It's
generally a fest beer similar in nature to the Oktoberfest brews. It tends
to be perhaps a little maltier and heavier, and is often a little darker in
color. But it could easily pass as an Oktoberfest as well. The beer is
supposed to knock the chill out for you, and make you think about the rites
of spring. The "March" beer is just a way to celebrate the upcoming spring
time season (a little early of course). It isn't a beer that is celebrated
in the USA as much as it is in Germany. Two local brewers make great
Maerzen or Fest beers. Pennsylvania Brewing Company (I know you're
surprised to see that one listed here...) and Stoudt's brewing. Try some
Fest beer in February!! You'll think it's spring time already...

Days:

I will be away from the computer for a couple of days, so you may not hear
from me till Tuesday of next week (1/25). Not to fear, there are about 1
1/4 years worth of posts here in the archives. Read away. Do one favor for
me though. Be sure to root for the Steelers on Sunday, and be sure to have
plenty of good craft, pub, or regional brewer beer on hand for the
game....Here We Go Steelers, Here We go!!........

There's craft beer at your local?? Get Some!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and I'll definitely be sporting the black and gold this
weekend......

Wednesday, January 19, 2005
 
Pub News...Berliner Weiss Again...I Hope To Brew Again Someday...

Pub News:

The IMHBC's Pub has had some things tappening the past couple of days. I
know, you're shocked and appalled to hear that. The first keg of Parrot
Pete's has finally blown gas. Empty! Not to worry, waiting in the wings is
a good beer that will quench some thirsts right away. My Uncle's
Dunkelweiss is up an running. This is one of the group brew beers that Jim
and I did a few months back. I'm just now getting around to getting this
one tapped. Hey, it's good!! Nice brown tones with a touch of cloudiness,
wheat malt aroma, slightly phenolic, almost no banana in the aroma to speak
of. This beer is clean and smooth to drink, has that wheat tartness about
it and is very thirst quenching. Be careful, it's in the mid to high 5%
range on the ABV. And that's not all!! The commercial keg also blew out
(it was a small Iron City) so another commercial player had to be brought
in. Since we are taking a hiatus from Penn products for a few months, I
chose to go Canadian. Labatt Blue is now gracing the guest tap as we try to
keep it a little lighter here for a while. Oh, by the way, it was pretty
good!! Maybe just a new outlook on things......

Berliner Weiss:

Jim brought two bottles of commercial Berliner Weiss to me. I was excited
to taste this mysterious beer. I wasn't disappointed. It is very clear,
interesting for a wheat based ale. The beer is light in color and texture
with a billowy high flying head of foam. The brew has little aroma and upon
first sip you can taste the wheat character. Then the puckering sour
flavors caused by the added bacteria in the fermentation takes over. The
beer finishes very clean and very dry. If it had been an 80 degree day and
I just finished mowing the lawn, I would say it would be a preferable quaff.
Warning, this beer is not for everyone. You need to at least like the
tartness of wheat beer before going to this product. Also, I am guessing it
is very expensive to procure in this country given it's very elusive nature
as a commercial style. If you are a beer person, willing to try everything,
try this if you get a chance, but if you don't like sourness in beer at all,
you better pass....One more note, She Who Must Be Obeyed liked it very much.
Good luck......

Brew:

Someday, somewhere.....oh, no I don't usually sing show tunes, so don't'
worry about me too much, but that is what I'm thinking about my next
potential brew day. I don't know when it's going to be. I really feel the
need to brew some beer too. I have yeast for three batches waiting
patiently for their dinner, so I guess I better get on the stick. Between
the gimp and some quirks in the overall schedule of things, It just hasn't
happened yet. I hope Gambrinus doesn't get too angry with me....Not to
worry, I'll get brewing here soon.....

Drink Good Beer!! That's an order!!

Mark, The Brewer, and getting real itchy about doing some brewing.......

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
 
Beer Laws...Still Waiting For Brew day...Long Weekend

Laws:

In the most recent issue of Zymurgy magazine, there were some old antiquated
laws that concern beer that are still on the books. A couple of them are
funny.

Nebraska: It is illegal to sell beer unless the establishment is brewing a
pot of soup at the same time. (I don't make this stuff up)
Ohio: It is Illegal in the state of Ohio to get fish drunk. (Ohio eh, I'm
not surprised by this one. I lived there for a few years.....)
Alaska: It is illegal in Alaska to give a moose any alcoholic beverages.
(This one actually makes sense. I wouldn't want a 2500 lb moose staggering
around town from bar to bar either.)
Missouri: It is illegal in the state of Missouri for anyone under the age
of 21 to take out garbage that contains empty beer containers. (They'd have
to "show me" why this should be illegal)
St. Louis, Missouri: In the fine city of St. Louis, a place where beer is
made in great quantities, it is illegal to sit on the curb of the street and
drink beer out of a bucket. (Now I actually know the origins of this law.
Back in the day, most beer was sold as a draft product. That fact plus the
fact that in many cities there were multiple neighborhood brewers. Parents
would send the kids to the brewery or the local with a galvanized bucket and
the brewery or the local would fill that bucket with beer. The kids would
haul the beer back home for the parents to consume. Also back in the day,
there wasn't really a drinking age. If you had cash and didn't throw up on
the bar, you could get served. The purpose of this law was to prohibit
people or kids who were fetching beer in the bucket for the parents or
family, from stopping along the way to quench a thirst. I have heard this
story told anecdotally by many older folks who remember this phenomenon from
a pre-prohibition era.)

So there you have it. Just don't get any fish or moose loaded in your
travels and you should be okay. Be sure to try the soup of the day, and
leave the bucket at home......

Waiting:

Well, I'm still trying to get that first brew of the year under my belt.
I'll get there from here. Maybe on Monday. Here in western Pennsylvania,
it is Steeler mania time and there is a lot going on the next two weeks. My
gimp feels better and I'm thinking that I might be ready to get on with a
brew session. I'll have to play it by ear. If it happens, you will all be
the first to know.

Weekend:

Well, for many people it was the first long weekend of the year. And what a
weekend. Football playoffs finished the second round with great games on
both Saturday and Sunday. Great football games require great beer. Don't
settle for that light stuff, get something good and enjoy your time off.
Remember, relax, and have a homebrew, craft brew, regional brew, pub brew,
or most excellent import. Just do it!!! Steelers vs Patriots for the AFC
title....It doesn't get much better than that.......

Get the glasses clean and be ready for some football next Sunday!!

Mark, the Brewer, and donning the colors on Sunday afternoon........

Saturday, January 15, 2005
 
IPA Musings...Pub News...Here We Go Steelers...

IPA:

I was sitting in the pub last night and I was sipping my 15 Minute Addition
IPA and I realized that it was a pretty good beer! Not trying to pat myself
on the back or anything (well, maybe a little), but this brew has a
beautiful creamy head on top that lasts on the edges to the bottom. It has
a dirty golden color, nice clarity, and is filled with aromas of hops and
fruit. There is a nice hop bitterness, hop flavor and hop in the finish
with a nice malt undertone. At 6.88% I also have some alcohol warming on
the throat at the end and overall, this is a very pleasant IPA to drink. It
is done with all East Kent Goldings hops in the flavor and aroma additions
(every 15 minutes during a 75 minute boil) and the hop flavor is very
smooth. I was trying to emulate Yard's IPA, and though its a little short
on overall bitterness and strength, it does have some similarities to Yards.
I'm happy with the result and hope to tweak and duplicate most of it. I
like IPA's, especially the east coast varieties. They tend to lean a little
more toward the English classic style in my opinion. Don't get me wrong,
I'll drink west coast American IPA's too when I want a little more assertive
in your face hop style. But for sitting and relaxing, you can't beat one
that tends to be more towards the English style. I love 'em. Beers to try
if your not lucky enough to be able to come to IHMBC are Yard's IPA, Harpoon
IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Victory Hop Wallop (if you want just that much extra
bitterness), Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA, and a whole host of others. Happy
IPA-ing......

Pub News:

What's up at the IMHBC pub you ask?? Well, actually a whole lot of nothing
is going on. The beers haven't changed and probably won't for at least
another week. The 15 Minute Addition IPA and Parrot Pete's One Particular
Porter are currently on the home brew taps with Iron City (yea, yea, yea, I
know) on the guest tap. Uncle's Dunkelweiss is up next following the porter
with the ESB To Be Named Later following the IPA. In the cellar aging are
another Parrot Pete's with a different strain of yeast than the first keg
(you mean it can actually get better than the first keg?) more ESB, and the
Nitro Rangers Oatmeal Stout patiently waiting it's turn on the taps. There
will be football watching going on this weekend, I can assure you of that. I
would guess that there will be football watching next weekend as well!! We
are trying to get to a brew date and that could be Monday depending upon how
the old gimp is doing (and it's doing much better the past couple of days)
and what She Who Must Be Obeyed is doing. So other than that, the pub has
been pretty quiet. We'll get it going again here after the super bowl (or
during depending on who's playing) as we rock into spring......

Steelers:

Okay, the home team has me swelled with pride this year. It could be the
year we add number 5 to the trophy case, but I don't want to get ahead of
myself. As Bill Cowher and the team have been saying all year long, "we
haven't won anything yet, and our most important game is the next one we
have to play". I like it like that. The Jets have a lot going against them
this week. They played in a comedy of errors last week, both on the field
and in the coaching ranks, and escaped with the win. They will be playing
their 3rd road game in 14 days, and the previous two went into almost full
overtimes. They haven't had any time off and they have to limp into
Pittsburgh off of two long business trips and without their best defensive
lineman. Not only that, the Steelers have basically had 3 weeks to get
healthy, the whole roster is ready to play, practice has been awesome all
week, and they are chomping at the bit to get on the field. All accounts
from the stadium (pays to be connected) is that the practice sessions have
been crisp and the players are upbeat and loose, and ready to play. The
Jets also aren't looking at the same team they did 5 short weeks ago. The
defense was beat up and had a shortage of linebackers healthy enough to
play. On offense, Plexico Burris didn't play (didn't even dress) and the
Jets put 8 and 9 guys at the line of scrimmage. Dare ya to do that this
week!! The Steelers still wore them down in the second half and this tired
team coming in here to play the healthy and totally physical Steeler team
may not have much of a chance. Then again that's why they play the games.
I know I'll be watching.......

Get ready for some football, and get some great beer to sip while you
watch!!!

Mark, the Brewer, and will be wearing my lucky Hines Ward jersey on Saturday
afternoon.......

Friday, January 14, 2005
 
Bocks...How Much Water...Winter Brewing

Bocks:

Well, the red suited mayhem has finally gotten behind all of us. The
decorations are down and the kids are back to school. Everything should be
a lot calmer in everyone's household now. That said, it means that it is
time to start getting onto bock. No, not the classical music writer who was
deaf. I'm talking about the strong German beers of the same name (though
different spelling). Bocks are strong lagers that are offshoots of a
regular beer. They are often dark in color, but can be blonde as well.
They are often brewed with extra Vienna or Munich malts in them, brewed to
gravities in excess of 1.065 and are often as high as 9% ABV. They are
generally rich and malty brews that have high hopping rates for bittering,
but little hop flavor and aroma. They are beers that will take that winter
chill off of your mind on a cold February day, and bring thoughts of spring
to your mind as they warm your ears. As the winter wears on, we will get
into Maibock season. These are generally blonde bocks and are almost always
greater than 7% ABV. They are considered the "rights of spring beer" in
many circles and are generally served in late March or early April. Not
only bocks are out there either. Marzen Beer, a fest type brew, will be
available sometime in February to work you through the St Patrick's and
Mardi Gras seasons. So if you are depressed that winter is upon us, rejoice
in the fact that you will have all of the fine malty warming beers to help
get you through the winter season. And we didn't even talk about the
various Wee Heavies that will be out there.......

Water:

"Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink". This line from the Rhyme
of the Ancient Mariner doesn't have anything to do with this topic actually,
I just like it. Anyway, I have seen a lot of hoo-ha lately about mash
profiles. Some of the discussion has been down right nasty. I don't know
why this is such a passionate debate topic among advanced brewers. One of
the things a discussion like this does is scare the you know what out of
novice brewers who are thinking about going to all grain brewing. Does the
mash profile (i.e. thickness) make a difference in your finished beer?
Well, it can depending upon the style and how much of a slave to detail you
are. Mash thickness will affect extraction rates and efficiency. If you
were a professional brewery that was trying to replicate a certain beer time
after time, I can see where this is a priority. For the home brewer, why
worry about it so much?? I make good beer. I have never worried about my
mash thickness. I take a mathematically derived amount of mash water and
add it until I think it "looks right". Why stress over your mash profile
when I doubt that you can "taste" the difference in the finished beer. For
you novices hoping to all grain brew, but got petrified by this thought,
relax. Here's the least you need to know. If you are brewing an ale, use
1.25 Quarts of water per pound of grain in your mash. If you pay attention
to sanitation and hit your strike temperature, you will make the beer you
set out to make. For lagers, you might want to scale back to 1 Quart per
pound. But really, the 1.25 quarts is a great rule of thumb and will work
for you just about every time if you do everything else right. So relax,
all grain brew, and have a home brew while your at it.

Winter Brewing:

Tis the season. No the red suit syndrome has ended. I mean tis the season
for brewing!! Get that store room filled up for summer while the brewing is
good. Hey, what else you going to do when it is 20 degrees out, snow up to
your kiester, and gets dark at 4:15 in the afternoon. You're going to brew,
that's what. So get some ingredients and a good recipe and brew up a batch
on a cold Sunday afternoon. Why not!! When you open that first bottle
around the third week of February, you'll be glad you did!!!!

Happy winter brewing!!

Mark, the Brewer, and not going to let winter get me down this year.....

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
 
Berliner Weiss...Brewing With Bacteria...Relax and Have a Home Br ew...

Berliner Weiss:

Jim from Country Wines got the task of brewing a demo last week. For his
demo, he brewed a little known and little understood style of beer (at least
in the USA). He brewed a style called Berliner Weiss. This is a wheat
based ale that is fermented very dry and soured with certain bacteria during
fermentation. It creates a very light and effervescent beer that has a
crisp tartness about it. It is said to be very refreshing and thirst
quenching. It is often served alone or with various sweet syrups such as
woodruff to help offset some of the tartness. The reason this beer is
little known in the USA is because there are only a couple of commercial
examples that are even brewed, let alone distributed. Jim told me that he
might be able to get his hands on some from a relative that lives in the
Baltimore area. There apparently is an example imported to the US, but not
in a very great quantity and it is apparently difficult to get your hands
on. I admit that I have never tasted one and I would look forward to that
opportunity. Jim is hoping to get the commercial example so he can
benchmark that against his attempt to brew the style. An interesting
experiment indeed. I look forward to possibly helping with the assessment
of both beers........

Brewing With Bacteria:

This creates an interesting point. Brewing a beer that you want bacteria
in?? That kind of goes against what you are taught as a beginning home
brewer. From day one you are told that sanitation and the elimination of as
much bacteria as possible is your goal. Now I'm telling you about a beer
Brewed With Bacteria?? Have I lost my mind. Well, no, not really. There
are several styles of beer brewed and inoculated with bacteria during
fermentation. Berliner Weiss is just one of them. Belgians are notorious
for doing this. Lambic, oud bruin, Flanders reds, and some saisons are
brewed with levels of bacteria on purpose. In the case of lambic, the beer
is spontaneously fermented, i.e., just exposed to the outside air and
whatever pops into it that ferments it is what ferments it!!! How can this
be?? I'm not supposed to get any air into my fermenting stout, not even
when I rack it to secondary!!! Well, some beers are purposely soured in
their fermentation to enhance their flavor profiles. Wow!! Now I will give
everyone a word of advice. If you try to make any of these styles at home,
be careful what the bacteria touches. Any plastic racking hoses, buckets,
plastic racking canes, and even scratched stainless steel equipment can
continue to harbor this bacteria after you ferment with it. It will sour
every beer you make. My best advice is to brew these beers in plastic and
secondary ferment in glass. Separate the plastic brewing equipment from
your regular beer brewing equipment and make this your sour beer equipment
only. Dedicate all of your hoses buckets, etc that you used to ferment the
sour beer to only fermenting sour beer. Your glass fermenter should be
fully sanitizable from the bacteria and can be changed back to regular
beers. Just be careful. In fact, don't even store the equipment together.
The other side of the house is my suggestion. If you have the courage to
try one of these styles, good luck and be sure to follow these simple
equipment rules so you can still brew your regular line ups as well.....

Relax:

It's time to relax. Your day is through and the kids are in bed and you
want to put the day away. Decompress from the day's stress points and get
yourself ready for a nice sleep. Well, there is one way that always works
as far as I'm concerned. Get something to read or put on your favorite TV
show. If you don't do either of those, listen to some music, put on your
most comfortable clothes (some call them pajamas, but I call them house
clothes), and get that little snack your craving. When you have all of that
stuff ready, then get your favorite homebrew out of the inventory, open,
pour into the proper clean glassware, and take in the heady aromas. After
that, sit down in your favorite chair or recline on your favorite couch.
Settle in and take a deep breath. Then take a nice sip of that fine brew
that you have in your hand. Close your eyes and think about all of the
complex flavors you taste in the beer. Think about how cool if feels on the
back of your throat. Swallow and exhale and taste the after taste from the
beer and think about it's finish. Take another deep breath. Exhale. Wow,
don't you feel relaxed now!! It's the only way to put your day to bed.
Take Charlie Papazian's advice from twenty years ago, and relax, and have a
home brew......

Brew something good, will ya!!

Mark, the Brewer, and hoping to get really relaxed here real soon.......

Friday, January 07, 2005
 
Guest Tap Change...Brew Day Still Delayed...Equipment Repair...

Guest Tap:

Well, the old keg of Penn O'fest finally bit the dust. And at the request
of She Who Must Be Obeyed, a lighter point of view for the guest tap is now
in vogue. In fact, given our current aversion to carbohydrates, the guest
tap will be containing lighter fare for some time to come. Now before you
begin telling me that I am committing blasphemy and such, let me just say
two things. One, I will continue to brew and maintain a fine selection of
home brewed beer on the two house taps. The lineup in the bullpen right now
is outstanding so don't think I'm turning on you. Second, these lighter
beers will only be from my local regional brewers. I still refuse to drink
any of the big three flagship beers. All that said, the current selection
on the tap is Iron City. Yes Iron City. Now I have two things to say about
it. One, it is a 1/4 barrel instead of the 1/2 barrel and the brewery has
finally come into the 21st century as they now have the ball taps in the 1/4
barrels. Second, this was a brewery fresh keg and the beer is actually
quite good. It is heavier than the big three, is actually a deep yellow in
color, and it has some nice beer flavors about it. I wouldn't kid you about
something like this. The key here is that it is an extremely fresh keg of
beer. It doesn't taste anything like the bottled or canned version of the
brew at all. It is quite drinkable. We will probably take a hiatus from
the Penn kegs until next fall. So don't judge me for this one. Other beers
that we will probably have are IC Light, Yuengling Premium, Yuengling
Traditional Light, and anything else I can get my grubby paws on. Maybe
we'll have a regional beer challenge with draft beer this time
around........

Delay:

Brew day is delayed for at least another week. Don't get mad at me
Gambrinus!! I have a bum leg at present with a knee that looks more like a
lopsided softball. The doctor and I must consult on this one, and it may be
time to get this thing fixed. More on that later. I really can't lift
anything heavy because I lack some stability in this knee, so, that means
brewing might have to be put off for a little while. It's a good thing I
built up the inventory the past couple of months....

Equipment:

Even an experienced brewer can feel pretty silly sometimes. I made a
special trip to Home Depot to get the hardware to fix my mill. I got the
wrong size bolts. If you can believe that!! I found the exact bolt type,
but got the wrong darn size. Looks like another trip this Saturday to get
the bolts I need. Geez!!! I guess I'm just extremely tool challenged. Oh
well, It's a way to get out of the house for a little while anyway.....I'll
get my mill fixed, don't worry about that....

Have a great weekend, and drink some good beer. Support your local micro
brewer, brew pub, specialty brewer, and of course your Regional brewer (just
like I do).....

Mark, The Brewer, and tired of being a gimp.......maybe if I poured some
beer on it..........

Thursday, January 06, 2005
 
Top Twenty...Carb Your Enthusiasm...Just Keg Baby...

Top Twenty:

The AHA (American Home brewers Association) is on a quest over the next few
months. They want to know what your top twenty beers that you like the best
are today. I know, I know, that list changes monthly if not weekly
depending upon where you are and what beer is available to you. But that's
okay. What do you like today. I have already sent in my top 20. Just go
to the AHA web site and hit the link for the top twenty, or send them an
email from the contact line. It was fun coming up with 20 beers and it was
a challenge. The rules are simple, the beer can be brewed in the USA or be
an import. It just has to be available for sale in this country. My list
was rather eclectic as it contained beers from all regions of this country,
England, and Belgium. It also included Belgian style beers that aren't
brewed in Belgium, and was really heavy with porters (imagine that). I even
listed Solidarity Baltic Porter from the New Albanian Brewing Company and
Rich O's public house (a great beer if you ever get to try it). Go to the
site and give them your list. You won't be surprised at last years top
five. It included Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Big Foot Barley
wine, and Sierra Nevada Celebration ale. It also included Anchor Steam.
But there were some small brewers there as well in last years top twenty.
Dogfish Head Brewing, Stone Brewing, Kalamazoo Brewing, Victory, and Sam
Adams dotted the top twenty along with Rogue, Alaska Brewing Company, and
other well known craft makers. It was a very impressive list. The best
part is that it was dominated by American made beers, in fact, the entire
top 10 were all American craft brews!! Now that's what I call an
endorsement to the fine products being produced in the craft, pub, and
regional specialty brewery's out there in this country. Go to the site and
have some fun with this.....

Carb:

This low carb beer craze is starting to get really annoying. Not only that,
the premise that beer contains maltose being put out there by such
publications as the South Beach Diet, is a little bit discomforting to me.
This is a doctor who should understand basic chemistry. Maltose is actually
the fermentable sugar in wort that is consumed by the yeast and made into
co2 gas and alcohol. There is no Maltose in beer. There are some dextrin's
in some beers that are non-fermentable sugars, but there is no maltose.
Does beer contain some dextrin sugar carbs. Yes. But most full bodied
lagers contain between 8 and 14 grams of these. Not only that, dextrin's
aren't the bad carbs that increase insulin production like the less complex
sugar molecules like maltose and succhrose. I get tired of beer getting
bashed in low carb diets. Quite frankly, I'm a low carb eater. I eat
virtually no potatoes, pasta, or bread, and only a very little bit of rice
occasionally. That means no pizza, no pasta, no anything like that. I do
have a couple of pints of beer now and again. I have been eating this way
now for about 4.5 years. I lost 60lbs originally and my weight has
stabilized about 15 lbs above that for a net loss of 45 lbs. I have not
gained any additional weight back. And I drink mostly ales or "high carb"
beers. Ales have more like 20 grams of dextrin carbohydrate in them. No
problem if you adhere to the rest of your diet. I am on the side that what
you eat when you drink beer is what makes you gain weight, not the beer
itself. That said, I'm sick of all of the low carb beers out there. Most
of them taste like there was real beer in the bottle, it got emptied, rinsed
out, and you accidentally drank the residual drops in the bottle. Funny how
these things work, Coors Light is nearly clear when poured into a pint and
looks lighter than Bud Light, IC Light, or Miller Light, but actually has
more carbs in it than any of those. It's tough being the coldest tasting
beer in America. Between Michelob Ultra, Aspen Edge (Coors), IC Light
(Pittsburgh Brewing) and others, the diatribe against carbs is almost
sickening. That's generally what gives beer body and flavor profiles in the
first place. Here's an example of why this is more marketing hooey than you
might think. IC Light, Michelob Ultra, and Aspen Edge all have about 3
grams of carbs per bottle. Miller Light has just under 4 grams. Michelob
Light, Bud Light, and Coors Light all have 7+ grams of carbs in them per
bottle. Well, you could have been drinking a PINT of Guinness and only
getting 10 grams of carbs. That's right, 3 more than that Bud Light. You
could have had a Sierra Nevada at 14 grams of carbs. Instead of swilling
three Bud Lights and getting 21 grams of carbs, no taste to speak of, and
possibly a Bud headache, you could have sipped and fully enjoyed two Sierra
Nevada Pale Ales, full of flavor, body, hop bite, and crisp refreshing
flavor for an additional scant 7 grams of carbs. You could have enjoyed a
Warsteiner German Pils at 11 grams of carbs instead as well. Boddingtons
would only have given you 10 grams of carbs. Murphy's Irish Dry Stout? 10
grams of carbs. Beamish Irish Dry Stout? 10 grams of carbs. For that
matter, regular Miller High Life at 8 grams of carbs is only 1 more than
that Bud Light and that Coors Light. Are you all getting the picture now??
Why sacrifice (and usually pay more for the ultra light beers which give you
less) when you can drink some of the finest commercial beers available for a
couple of carbs more. Use your heads, and drink the better beer!!!

Keg:

Kegging versus bottling. No contest!! If you love home brewing, you will
eventually keg beer. Once you begin kegging you will kick yourself for not
doing it sooner. Cleaning one bottle versus 50 bottles is the obvious
reason. But there is something about drinking you very own homebrew on tap
that has an allure about it that is too difficult to describe. A keg set up
will need some additional cash outlay. But what upgrade to anything
doesn't. You can get a new regulator, co2 tank, used keg, fittings, and
hoses for about $150 today if you shop around. Let's get serious here, one
keg won't get it done, you will be making batches in between the ones you
are drinking so you will need at least 3 kegs. I have 10 but I run two taps
at all times too. Kegs can be bought used in many conditions. I have had
good luck with reconditioned Sabco kegs. They are spotlessly clean when
they are delivered to your door and all of the gaskets have been changed
out, and the kegs are under pressure so you know that they work. All you
have to do is sanitize and fill. You will pay about $35 apiece for these
kegs. Used kegs bought as is are as low as $10 apiece, but will require
some real cleaning and all new gaskets. The gasket sets are cheap at a
couple of dollars, but if you need posts or poppets, you will spend around
$20. These are 5 gallon kegs with ball or pin lock set ups. Ball locks are
easier to handle, easier to disassemble, and are more plentiful. Pin locks
require special sockets to accommodate the pins for disassembly. That said,
kegging is the way to go. Expect an initial outlay of about $250 to get
started, but once you do, you will never bottle again. As long as you have
a fridge that will accommodate the 25 inch high kegs, you are in business.
Get kegging!!!

Support you locals as much as you can!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and getting ready to get some beer ready to keg.........

Wednesday, January 05, 2005
 
Coors And Molson...Plastic Equipment...GABF Results Thoughts...

C and M:

Wow!! The number three brewer in the USA is working to merge with Molson.
In fact, the deal in principle has been struck, it's up to the share holders
now. Molson got it done by the controlling member of the Molson family
working his way to a 51% ownership of shares. Clearly he wants the deal
(you have to wonder why too). Coors isn't so sure of a thing. Molson is in
trouble and has been for a while. It has been mismanaged, bought a white
elephant brewery in South America that has done nothing but cost them money,
and has been losing market share in Canada for some time. Molson has been
lucky though. Labatt, the closest competitor to them in Canada, has
problems of their own including ownership outside of Canada. The "Jolly
Giants" as Ian Bowering of the Brewing News calls them, have made misstep
after misstep of late. The industry there is a little different with these
so called "Giants" controlling distribution channels, in effect shutting out
the little independents from distribution outside of their little regions.
The part that is even more troubling is how they've been dumbing down the
beers the past ten years. There was a time when Molson Golden Ale was a
great brew. Alas, those days are long gone. Labatt, the better brewer in
my opinion, hasn't done much better with the flagship Labatt Blue also being
a shell of it's former self. They also have been on campaigns to buy
independents that are popular, and either closing them, changing the brewing
lineup, or changing the current beers. Pity. Coors may be in for a rude
awakening if they let this deal happen. I understand that Coors is the
acquirer. Be forewarned, the Molson family likes to do things their way, no
matter how misguided or just plain wrong. I question how much pressure the
Coors management can exert on the Molson management, and a Canadian company
from the good 'ole US of A. What Coors needs to understand is this. This
will not help them with overall market share against Anheuser Busch. AB is
still the beast of not only the USA, but also in many parts of the world
now. AB is the second largest volume brewer in the world, and the
acquisition of Molson may only be an albatross to Coors. It certainly isn't
going to enhance their situation as the USA's number three brewer. But what
do you expect from the maker of the "coldest tasting beer in America". Nuff
said........

Plastic:

A home brewing discussion just for all of you. Are you excited?? What do
you mean it's about time....Anyway, today I want to talk quickly about
plastic brewing equipment. It is the lifeblood of the hobby for many. It
is used for everything from grain storage to fermentation, to bottling, to
transfers, to cleaning, to mashing and lautering. It is inexpensive,
efficient, easy to clean, easy to move, just plain easy to use. Did I say
it was inexpensive??? Here are some tips to keep your plastic brewing
equipment in tip top shape.

1. Clean it carefully. The one thing you don't want in your plastic
buckets are scratches. Scratches can harbor bacteria and give it a place to
hide from cleaner and sanitizer. I learned this one first hand when my pale
ale became more like an oud bruin, a really badly brewed one too.....
2. Replace hoses often. Racking is a fact of life for the home brewer. If
you do this hobby for any extended period of time and you are poor like most
of us, you will manually rack beer with siphons. Even with the best of
care, constant rinsing, and sanitizing, your racking hoses will get
discolored and old looking. When they get that way, fork over the $5 for a
new one. You will eliminate danger of contamination that way. You always
get yeast and partially finished beer in these hoses and one slip in
sanitation on an older hose and the aforementioned metamorphosis of your
pale ale is inevitable.
3. Disassemble. Take your bottling bucket spigot apart to clean and
sanitize between batches. This is a great place for bacteria to hide and
just running solution through the spigot won't get it done. These also have
threads that may be exposed to your wort or finished beer and this is a
great place for bacteria to hide from your sanitizing efforts. Again be
careful not to scratch.
4. Don't discard old buckets. Use them for cleaning and storage. You
never have too many of these guys and with nice lids they make great grain
bins when you don't want to use them to brew an longer.
5. Watch for discoloration. When your plastic equipment gets discolored,
it is time to change it out. The one exception to this is if you use
iodophor as your sanitizer of choice. Prolonged contact with this solution
will turn your plastic equipment amber or brown. This will make it harder
to tell when your equipment is discolored. If you use iodophor, change out
your equipment periodically just to be sure.
6. Brew and brew a lot, and don't be afraid to use plastic. You can make
great beer in plastic if you keep it clean, and pay attention to your
equipment and make changes when needed........

Great American Beer Festival:

Here are a couple of GABF results that many of you might find interesting.
The specific results I'm talking about are in the American Standard Lager
categories. Mega swill you say?? Why should I care? Well, you should
because the winners might make you go, huh?? In the American Light Lager
category, Rainier Light was the winner. That's right, Rainer Light, the
same Rainer Light that's brewed by Pabst brewing company. I don't make this
up. There were 45 entries in this category, so you know the big three were
in there. But since Bud Light is nearly devoid of any flavor and Coors
Light is basically carbonated water ("the coldest tasting beer in America"),
I wasn't surprised that they didn't even hit the board. In the American
Lager category, Old Milwaukee was the big winner. They were followed by
Milwaukee's Best in second place. That's right Milwaukee's Best. Now I
know that the "Beast" is a Miller product, but apparently it's a pretty good
one. My neighbor George swears by it. The only two spots garnered by any
of the big three out of nine possible medals were Miller High Life finishing
second in the American Premium Lager category (which incidentally, Pabst
Blue Ribbon finished third), and Michelob Light finished third in the
American Light Lager category. So here's to regional American beers as they
seem to hold up well against the mega swill producers in these types of
competitions. It's not really that surprising as some of these brews
actually do taste like beer. Also at the GABF, congratulations to
Pennsylvania Brewing company for their third place medal in the Munich
Dunkel category with their perennial contender, Penn Dark. This is a fine
beer and it has many medals from the GABF and from around the world, as do
several of the Penn offerings. A complete list of winners is available at
the American Home brewers Association web site.....

Buy Craft, pub, and regional!! You'll get better beer if you do!!

Mark, The Brewer, and in light of the GABF results, I'll probably have to
bring back the regional brewery challenge........

Tuesday, January 04, 2005
 
Happy New Year...Brew Day Cancelled...Oatmeal Update...

New Year:

First and foremost, I want to wish all of the readers of this site a happy
and prosperous new year. I hope that your 2004 was great and that 2005
brings you even more joy and happiness (and beer of course). I look forward
to an aggressive and innovative brewing year in 2005. I hope to try some
new things including brewing a couple of Belgian styles. I also look
forward to another forward moving year in the craft beer industry, and even
more and better ingredients and equipment for the home brewing enthusiast.
I think 2005 may be a real breakthrough year for the craft industry. Being
the only segment with growth in 2003 and probably the same in 2004, Craft
brewers are leading the way with style and with just plain great beer. It's
a great time to be a beer lover and a home brewer. Good luck to everyone
who brews at home, and to everyone who is associated with the craft brewing
industry. Be safe, have fun, and be prosperous!!....

Brew Day:

Like a broken record, brew day was cancelled on Monday. Too many other
peripheral items to deal with and it just didn't happen. Not to worry, all
ingredients have been procured and all I need is a time and place to make it
happen. Well, I have the place, I really just need the time. There is
always next weekend!! I will be brewing the For Whom The Bell's Tolls for
sure and look forward to getting this tasty brew in fermenters. After
running multiple errands and everything else, it was going to be a very late
start, and just not in the cards. Maybe better luck next weekend......

Oatmeal Update:

The oatmeal stout is in kegs. Kegging went with no major hiccups and all
appears to be well. They are conditioning under pressure in the storage
area even as we speak. The inventory is looking better all the time. There
is Uncle Dunkleweiss, The English ESB, Parrot Pete's, and the Nitro Ranger
Stout all in storage. That complements The 15 Minute Addition IPA and
another Parrot Pete's that are currently on tap. What? How'd it taste?
Well, that was impressive. It tends to be on the sweeter side as expected
with layers of crystal and chocolate malt flavors as well as a biscuit hint
followed by a touch of roasted grain. There is a clean hop bitterness in
the middle and a nice malty finish. Can't wait to get gas on this one. The
finishing gravity was a little lower than I expected so it went from 1.054
to 1.014 for an ABV of 5.1%. All in all, it appears to be a good little
beer and I'll probably have the Nitro Rangers up for the tapping of the
first keg of this stuff.....

Get brewing, make Gambrinus happy, oh, and get some great craft beer in
2005.....

Mark, The Brewer, and I'll get that first brew day in real soon.....


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