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.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
 
Fermentation Update....Big Foot Part Tres....Nitro Ranger Stout....

Fermentation:

As we enter into day 5 of fermentation of the most recent creation from the brew room, I must say that it is going very well. The yeast has risen to the top of this ale and the layers of yeast and foam on top of the beer is at least 4 inches thick. This bodes well as it means the yeast are finding the wort quite consumable. The color is beginning to take shape and this beer looks like it will take on a light amber color. I expect quite a bit of hop character as well. The original gravity sample, though unfermented, had a very hop bitter character about it. Isn't that what an IPA is supposed to be about? Yes and no!! The beer also needs to have a very nice malt background to balance out that big hop character. That is what we were shooting for with multiple specialty grain additions to the grist to the tune of about 12% of the total. We are in that section of the process where all we can do is hurry up and wait. Okay, I'll do it (like I have many times before) and I think the prize at the end of the rainbow will be worth the wait......

Big Foot:

Here we are for the third instalment of the Bigfoot tastings. The third beer we tasted was the next vintage from 2001. To refresh your memory, the 1999 vintage was a big malty brew with the hop character becoming muted and in the background. The flavor was highly slanted towards malt character in this beer and the hops had become just along for the ride. This wasn't a bad thing as the beer was imminently drinkable and showcased a wide variety of malt flavors and character. The 2000 vintage was much more balanced with a decisive hop bitterness and a balanced finish. There was still a big level of maltiness in the beer and it was extremely enjoyable. Now for the 2001 vintage.....The 2001 vintage tasted like it was way bigger than the other two. The ABV was listed as about the same, but the beer didn't drink that way. The hop character in this vintage still had control over the beer. The bitterness was extremely sharp and really was borderline harsh. The middle had some malt character but it was mostly overridden by big hop flavor. The finish was drier than the other two and had a lot of hop character in it as well. The finish went short as well in this version. This one still actually tasted quite young even though it is a full 4 years old. It was amazing how the difference of two years in the three beers made that much of a difference in the overall flavor profiles. Though all were excellent examples of barleywine and were very drinkable, my favorite was (drum roll please........) the 2000 vintage. This beer seemed to be the most balanced of the three. I loved the hop character to a point that it complemented the malt and not dominated it. The 1999 was more malty, and though good, was almost a little too sweet in the finish. Yep, it's the 2000 Sierra Nevada Big Foot for me. For the record, the 2004 vintage is available now in specialty shops everywhere. I saw it yesterday for about $38 for a case. Good hunting!!!!!.......

Nitro Ranger Stout:

The Nitro Ranger Stout is officially up on the board now. It has been sampled by several of the "regulars" with extremely positive results, and of course Nitro One blessed this brew earlier in the week. None of the other Nitro Rangers have made the trek to mecca yet, but I expect some of them to be crawling around the door here real soon. They better be because this beautiful black nectar of the gods won't be around for very long. That's a promise unfortunately....I hope both kegs make it to St Patrick's Day for that matter. So if Nitro 2 and Nitro 4 are out there somewhere and you happen to read this, take heed!! The Nitro Ranger Stout is up and running, but it won't run for very long......

Have a great weekend and treat yourself to a great craft or homebrewed beer. You probably deserve it (as far as you know).....

Mark, The Brewer, and enjoying a fine craft brewed beer even as I write this, because I do deserve it (as far as I know....).......
Thursday, February 24, 2005
 
You Won't Believe It....Big Foot Part Duex....American Standard Lager....

You:

Well, I have to tell you all something that you won't believe. I am a card carrying member of the American Homebrewers Association. Yea, I know, you're all totally shocked by that fact. Well, anyway, with that membership you get a subscription to Zymurgy Magazine. Well, Jim Parker, the editor of this publication, is a pretty good guy. Well, I was reading the January Issue and Jim was asking for members to write in their top 20 favorite beers at this time. They could be imports, domestic, craft, whatever. I appear to have been the first person to respond. Jim was pretty impressed with my quick response and the "color" that I provided on each. So he e-mails me and tells me he is in a bind. He has to get the next issue to the publisher, and he's missing one of the regular features known as "you gotta drink this". So he asks me if I want my own 15 minutes of fame. Well, who doesn't right? So I say what do you need. To make a long story a little shorter, he needed 150 words on some great beer that I drink that would make others be interested in seeking it out and drinking it. I provided him with the obligatory 150 word item and voila', it appeared in the March/April Issue. That means that yours truely, is now a published author in a long time periodical that is read literally by tens of hundreds I think (actually the circulation is around 20,000). So this means I'm famous and any of you out there who get this magazine and want it autographed, well, have your people call my people and we'll attempt to work something out........

Big Foot:

The second Big Foot Barleywine that we tried was the 2000 vintage. This beer had the same label and bottle and even the same style cap. The only exception was that is was the 2000 vintage. Well, this beer poured with about the same color and body as the 1999 version. The head had that same tightly beaded tan color. That is about all of the similarities though. The aroma of this beer was still thick with hop character along with malt and some alcohol presence. There were some dark fruit esters in there as well. The first sip yields much more hop bitterness and flavor. In fact the hops dominate the first flavors of this beer that you taste. It was much more hop assertive in the bitterness. Then after that snap to attention bitterness, the malt flavors begin to flourish. The flavors of toffee and caramel with a hint of chocolate and even roasted grain become evident and come at you in layers. In the finish, it was much drier and had a hint of hop flavor in the finish compared to the malty sweet flavor of the 1999. This beer was much more balanced and even though the malt flavors still were dominant, the hop character was very evident and lasted throughout. This beer, like the 1999 is a joy to drink and I thank my lucky stars that I got the opportunity to taste this brew. But that's not all!! If you order today,.....oops, sorry, that's another tirade....It really isn't all as there will be another review of the 2001 vintage and then (drum roll please), I will reveal my favorite of the group.......I know you can't wait and are twitching in anticipation. I know I am.....

American Standard:

You know, the last keg was Da' Beast. I know that is uncharacteristic of me, but it was pretty good. So today I was out getting another keg. Darn if I didn't get another keg of Da' Beast. Now this beer is really good. This keg is clearly very fresh and tasty. It's down right good. It is in the American Standard style and is better than most of the tasteless lagers you get today. I have to say that if I am going to drink this style of beer, its probably going to be Old Style, or Da' Beast (Milwaukee's Best for the great unwashed). It has flavor. The big shame is that American Beer could be in the Munich Helles style and be so good today that it would be a favorite world wide. Even the Pre-prohibition lagers at the turn of the century were outstanding beers. Too bad that Coors Light and Bud Light are the market leaders. At least these Miller products have some flavor. No one has ever argued that the big three make beer that is extremely well made. I just wish they hadn't ruined it from a flavor standpoint. Now don't worry, I'm still a craft beer guy through and through and support my local establishments every chance I get. And I will continue to do that. This month however, its Da' Beast in the cooler and I feel pretty good that I have an open mind to it....

Now go get some great beer and brew some great beer too!!!!!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and exploring all of the beer options out there........
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
 
IPA Update....Already Planning....Big Foot 1999....

IPA:

Today is effectively day two of fermentation of Monday's IPA brew day. Good news for all of my hophead friends that frequent the IMH pub. The IPA is fermenting just like you'd like to draw it up. The beer is going gangbusters tonight and has the milky character with plenty of activity churning inside the fermenters. I like it like that. I must sound like a broken record that keeps skipping to the same spot. Lots of yeast, aka make a starter, and get a fast starting and vigorous fermentation. You are well on your way to a great batch of beer when that happens. But I digress. This is a very hoppy beer at least on the bitterness side. We'll see about he aroma, though I can still dry hop if I so choose. HHHMMMM, now there's an idea. I'll have to see which way the wind moves me on that subject. The Columbus hops rated at 13.8% alpha acid, a very high level of bittering power. Jim suggested 1.5 ozs for bittering, but I had two ounces and figured what the heck.....Bottom line is, the beer is big, and is fermenting like I envisioned it would, so we'll take what we get. By the way, the initial taste of the boiled, hopped wort, indicated that this is a nicely hopped ale. Stay tuned, more to come on this one.......

Planning:

A typical brewer I am. I no more than have a fresh batch of beer fermenting and I'm already thinking about my next batch. What to make?? I'll tell you what I have and why I'm already antsy. I have two vials of Burton Ale left. Now it is getting a little bit of age on it, so I'll have to get at least a two day starter going to get the yeast awake. That's not a big problem really and an easy solution to getting viable yeast. Here is the catch. What do I brew with it?? I just made an IPA which is really what that yeast is all about. I will have to make something decidedly English in nature because of the yeast profile. I am thinking that I need an ESB. Why you ask since I just made a bitter, a pale ale, and am on my second IPA batch in less than 5 months? Well, because the bitter was supposed to be an ESB and was so short on color and malt flavor that it ended up a best bitter, that's why. Besides, ESB is also one of my all time favorite styles. This yeast can make stout and porter as well, but I just tapped the first keg of Nitro Ranger Stout, and I have a full keg of Parrot Pete's left (SSHHHHHHHHH, don't let the relatives find out, they'll be at the door). No, ESB is the style that hasn't been made in a while. Now, planning is always a few more batches ahead as well. I can't stand it. I'll be making the obligatory summer wheat beer, and that's cool as this year we'll be all grain brewing it. But I still have this obsession with a beer from my youth. Last years foray into Cream Ale wasn't as successful as I would have liked so I think I still have to take a shot at that again. I also am looking at Pre-prohibition ale as well. Maybe those are one and the same and I just am not seeing it. I don't know. Anyway, there's at least two batches. I still think I need to make a tripel styled brew for next winter. I also might take a shot at winemaking from kits as well this spring. Hey, why not, a good cabernet and chardonnay are always welcome additions to the holiday table.....Whatever I dream up, I'll be fermenting things here at the brewery this spring and summer. So don't miss a week of information as you will miss a lot......

Big Foot:

Okay, we've all seen the video from the 1970's. Whether you believe he exists or not is up to you. If he does, he must be way smarter than we ever were to avoid detection all of this time. It's like the commercial for the camera phone where big foot is making faces at the dude and says why don't take a picture, and he does. I can tell you this, Jim's stash of Sierra Nevada Big Foot Ale could make you see Big Foot after only a couple of bottles. That said, and for the record, we tasted three years vintage and it was three split bottles over a 4 hour period. That is for those that might be worrying about our state of consciousness that night. Yes I remember my tasting notes.....Anyway, the first one of these wonderful ales I want to talk about is the 1999 version. The bottle was covered with dust just a vintage wine dug out of a wine cellar might look. Jim is very meticulous and the beer was kept in the best of storage conditions. The beer pours a very deep amber, almost brown color. This barleywine was surprisingly clear and clean looking and even at over 9% ABV had a very tight tan colored head of foam on top. The foam actually lingered. If you don't think that Sierra Nevada knows how to brew, you must have been living in a cave somewhere for some time. Anyway, the aroma of this beer was quite malty with dark fruit hints of raisin and currant, and perhaps a hint of mint. It is beautiful to behold in the glass. The first sip was actually much smoother than I anticipated. The hop character has obviously faded to the background and the malt is now the key feature of this beer. In fact, the hop character was muted with really only a bittering property that lended some balance to the malt dominance was present. The malt flavors were of raisin and toffee with maybe just a hint of roast. There was very little hop flavor if any and in fact, most of the finish hop character was muted to totally gone. The beer was extremely smooth and even at such a high ABV, the alcohol character took a back seat to the malt flavors. The overall smoothness of this beer was quite impressive and I doubt that right after it's release 6 years ago you would have been able to say that. I was very impressed with this brew and it was a joy to drink. It's now wonder that trade magazines continually rate Sierra Nevada as one of the top two or three brewers of craft beer in terms of quality and taste year after year. A great brew!!!.....

Stay tuned for more barleywine information as the days go by. I'll even divulge which of the three was my overall favorite...

Start fermenting things!!! I can't keep giving you all of the advice for free. I need a couple of beers for my efforts and time.....

Mark, The Brewer, and intent on filling up the fermenters and kegs as soon as possible.......
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
 
Brew Day...Taps Change...Big Weekend With More To Report....

Brew Day:

Monday was my brew day. It was fantastic. I had a visit from the Old Parrot himself as Parrot Pete came up to help me with the brew day (and to get a couple of beers and cigars). Heck, we even made him a sandwich to keep him happy. Seriously, thanks to Parrot Pete for his help. He helped make a long brew day a lot more fun and he even did some of the dirty work helping me clean and get the equipment stowed away. What? Oh, the brewing itself? Well, it went pretty well. The mash went in and I hit the target 152 degrees right on the number. The mash sat for about 75 minutes and got fully converted. The sparge and boil went without a hitch and all was well with the hop additions. We chilled it very quickly and had the beer in fermenters and the yeast pitched by about 2:30 pm. Not bad. I have good working fermentation today and look for this beer to be on target. The opening gravity was also right on the number at 1.064. This is a big IPA with multiple hop additions. Here was the final recipe as it went into the fermenter.

17lbs pale 2 row
4lbs of lager malt
2lbs of special roast
1lb of crystal 40
1lb of Victory malt
2oz of Columbus hops for 65 minutes
2ozs of East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes remaining
1oz of East Kent Goldings at 10 minutes remaining
1oz of East Kent Goldings at knockout
2- 1pt starters of White Labs Burton Ale yeast (one for each fermentor)
75 minute mash at 152 degrees
75 minute total boil
OG = 1.064

Yep, thats an IPA.....

Changes:

Tap change alert. You see not only did Parrot Pete and myself enjoy a fine brewday, we also were the first to taste the Nitro Ranger Oatmeal Stout!!!! We tapped that puppy and had it ready to drink and, Oh My Goodness!!! This beer turned out really great. It is greater than my anticipation which was pretty high. Pete loved it and had a hard time getting himself to leave. What a great beer this is. So the rest of you Nitro Rangers out there take heed. You didn't get in at the beginning, but you can get in somewhere in the middle if you so desire. Nitro Rangers Stout, they are ridin' again. We also moved out the The Bitter End. Then we moved back into The Bitter End. Yea, the second keg is on. That's just the way it goes. With the demise of My Uncles Dunkeweiss, we have moved to March's favorite brew, that black gold we all love. Here's to Nitro Ranger Stout....

Weekend:

Not only did I have a great brew day, I had a great tasting as well. Now I'm going to tell you all ahead of time that you will hate me (us, because Jim from Country Wines is also one of the culprits here). Jim you see has more willpower than anyone else I know. He was able to squirrel away Sierra Nevada Big Foot Barleywine vintages from 1999, 2000, and 2001. Yep, we tasted all three of those bad boys this past weekend. Now don't worry, I will be sharing tasting notes with you as this week progresses and even tell you which one was my favorite of the group. What you will find interesting is that these beers have held up unbelievably well over time and have mellowed and are just outstanding beers. I know you can't wait to get the skinny on these beer, but unfortunately for you, you're going to have to wait. Tasting beer is great fun and we have too much of it when we get vintage brews like this one to taste. I will attempt to get you the lowdown later this week on our sighting of the Big Foot.......

Now get out there and have some fun on your own, you know, drink some craft made beer from you local craft or brew pub. You'll be glad you did and if you don't, you'll miss it when it's gone.....

Mark, The Brewer, and looking for something else to taste........
Friday, February 18, 2005
 
Brewing Is A Lock....Parrot Pete In The House....Kegging Of The Bell's.....

Brewing:

Monday Monday, la la, la lala la....la la, la lala la....Oh sorry, just lost in an old Mamma's and Pappa's song. Brewing is what I really want to talk about. It's pretty much a lock for Monday morning. I will be making starters probably Sunday morning and getting all of my gear and stuff ready to go on Saturday. System will be set up and ready to fly. What are we brewing? Why IPA of course. I liked the last batch of IPA so much that I decided to go again with it. I am putting a little more character into this batch as well as hop bitterness. Here is the recipe for Monday:

18 lbs of two row pale malt
4 lbs of Munich Malt
2lbs of Special Roast malt
0.5 lbs of Victory malt
0.5 lbs of Crystal 20 LOV
1.5 ozs of Columbus hops for bittering at 13.8% AA
2oz of East Kent Goldings Hops flavor with 30 minutes remaining
2oz of East Kent Goldings Hops aroma at knockout.
Mash temp is 152 - 154 degrees for 75 minutes
Boil time is 75 minutes with hop schedule as above
Estimated Opening Gravity at 1.065
White Labs Burton Ale yeast in 2- 1pt starters (one for each fermenter)
10 gallon batch fermenter volume.

This should produce a beer with a deep golden or light orange amber color with plenty of clean hop bitterness and hop character throughout on top of a solid malt background. The Munich and Special Roast will add malt depth and character, and if all goes well, I think I'll be drinking a pretty nice beer in about 6 weeks.....

Parrot Pete:

Speaking of brew day, I believe that the exhalted Parrot Pete, also known as Nitro One, will be in the house on Monday to lend a hand, have a couple of fine homebrews, and to pilfer a couple of cigars from my humidors. Not problem on all accounts. If things go as I believe they will this weekend, I might just have a special treat ready for the ole' Parrotted one when he is here. As always I look forward to the company and the words of wisdom. I might even have to tip a pint and have a fine hand rolled cigar with the exhalted one while he's here. Hey, all work and no play on brew day isn't much fun......I look forward to a great brew day!!....

Bell's:

For Whom The Bell's Tolls is going to get primed and put into kegs on Saturday morning. All looks well with this beer and I look forward to getting a "little taste" from the final gravity sample on Saturday. If it tastes as good as it looks, it will be another great beer for the pub. I am curious to see how close it is to the last version of this beer from last year. After this IPA, I am open to another good recipe and might have to look as some of these great clones that we have made in the past. Deceased Dude Ale anyone?? I also have the Anchor Porter clone, a bevy of Bell's clones, and several Rogue clone recipe's out there for my brewing pleasure. HHHMMMM, what to do?? Anyway, I will be getting the most recent fermentation into kegs here in the next 24 hours for sure and then I'll be open to ideas. I will be brewing a couple obligatory wheat beers as the weather begins to get better, one in spring and another probably in mid summer for the warm fall days. But in between these beers, I think I have some poetic license. I might try my hand at a pre-prohibition ale, or perhaps another California Common. Should I brew more porter or perhaps give cream ale another go. So many styles, so little time, only 10 kegs.......

Get the fever and get brewing. You don't know how much fun you're missing. At least support your local brewery, micro, brewpub, or homebrewing neighbor as much as you can.....

Mark, The Brewer, and looking forward to brewing some beer on Monday........
 
Brewing Is A Lock....Parrot Pete In The House....Kegging Of The Bell's.....

Brewing:

Monday Monday, la la, la lala la....la la, la lala la....Oh sorry, just lost in an old Mamma's and Pappa's song. Brewing is what I really want to talk about. It's pretty much a lock for Monday morning. I will be making starters probably Sunday morning and getting all of my gear and stuff ready to go on Saturday. System will be set up and ready to fly. What are we brewing? Why IPA of course. I liked the last batch of IPA so much that I decided to go again with it. I am putting a little more character into this batch as well as hop bitterness. Here is the recipe for Monday:

18 lbs of two row pale malt
4 lbs of Munich Malt
2lbs of Special Roast malt
0.5 lbs of Victory malt
0.5 lbs of Crystal 20 LOV
1.5 ozs of Columbus hops for bittering at 13.8% AA
2oz of East Kent Goldings Hops flavor with 30 minutes remaining
2oz of East Kent Goldings Hops aroma at knockout.
Mash temp is 152 - 154 degrees for 75 minutes
Boil time is 75 minutes with hop schedule as above
Estimated Opening Gravity at 1.065
White Labs Burton Ale yeast in 2- 1pt starters (one for each fermenter)
10 gallon batch fermenter volume.

This should produce a beer with a deep golden or light orange amber color with plenty of clean hop bitterness and hop character throughout on top of a solid malt background. The Munich and Special Roast will add malt depth and character, and if all goes well, I think I'll be drinking a pretty nice beer in about 6 weeks.....

Parrot Pete:

Speaking of brew day, I believe that the exhalted Parrot Pete, also known as Nitro One, will be in the house on Monday to lend a hand, have a couple of fine homebrews, and to pilfer a couple of cigars from my humidors. Not problem on all accounts. If things go as I believe they will this weekend, I might just have a special treat ready for the ole' Parrotted one when he is here. As always I look forward to the company and the words of wisdom. I might even have to tip a pint and have a fine hand rolled cigar with the exhalted one while he's here. Hey, all work and no play on brew day isn't much fun......I look forward to a great brew day!!....

Bell's:

For Whom The Bell's Tolls is going to get primed and put into kegs on Saturday morning. All looks well with this beer and I look forward to getting a "little taste" from the final gravity sample on Saturday. If it tastes as good as it looks, it will be another great beer for the pub. I am curious to see how close it is to the last version of this beer from last year. After this IPA, I am open to another good recipe and might have to look as some of these great clones that we have made in the past. Deceased Dude Ale anyone?? I also have the Anchor Porter clone, a bevy of Bell's clones, and several Rogue clone recipe's out there for my brewing pleasure. HHHMMMM, what to do?? Anyway, I will be getting the most recent fermentation into kegs here in the next 24 hours for sure and then I'll be open to ideas. I will be brewing a couple obligatory wheat beers as the weather begins to get better, one in spring and another probably in mid summer for the warm fall days. But in between these beers, I think I have some poetic license. I might try my hand at a pre-prohibition ale, or perhaps another California Common. Should I brew more porter or perhaps give cream ale another go. So many styles, so little time, only 10 kegs.......

Get the fever and get brewing. You don't know how much fun you're missing. At least support your local brewery, micro, brewpub, or homebrewing neighbor as much as you can.....

Mark, The Brewer, and looking forward to brewing some beer on Monday........
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
 
Monday Brew Day....Barleywine Tasting....Kegging Soon...

Brew Day:

Well, I've got the bug again. It's like the worst kind of thing you can get too. It's brewing season and I want to brew and brew and brew. I'd brew every day if I had the time and the equipment and, well, if it was like my job or something. Sorry, I kind of got carried away there for a minute. I need to get back to reality. There, I was gone there for a moment, but I'm back now. It's kind of like when your brain freezes during February when someone is talking to you because you are thinking about being on the Islands somewhere (with a cold beer of course), and then you return to wherever you are. And you're not real happy about it. But I am beginning to digress.....All that said, I am planning another brew day on Monday. IPA!! That's the ticket. I hope to put up the recipe a little later in the week. I know, I just made and finished off a batch of IPA here recently. All the more reason to make more don't your think. Well, if you get in the position to get the bug to brew, sorry about your luck, but I hope you enjoy the brew days. I know I do.....

Barleywine:

I am looking forward to this weekend. Not just because I get the extra day off from my "real" job, and not because I am planning to brew (though those are really two good reasons). The reason I am looking forward to the weekend is that Jim has a couple of years of barleywines from a very good west coast brewer in his possession and we are going to have a tasting of them to see how they have changed and are different. This will be really a cool thing to do. These strong beers have a lot of character and change over time very well. The beers age very gracefully and it is not uncommon for a barleywine to be great after 10 or 20 years of aging. I am stoked and very grateful to have the opportunity. And the wine-o's of the world think that they have the key to world when it comes to aging product. Not so. Beers can be aged too, and these are world class beers that we will be comparing. Stay tuned for the results of that and the divulgence of brand that we are going to taste....

Kegging:

I will be ready to keg the For Whom The Bell's Tolls here by Saturday or Sunday. The beer is clearing out very nicely and should be ready to keg by the weekend. That works out real well with the plan. One day to cellar and another day brew and start fermentation. Making starters will fit into the mix in there somewhere too. It's a great weekend when the plan comes together. This is really shaping up to be a good batch of beer, and I hope to get them into the kegs and get the priming and conditioning finished so we can drink it!!! What do you think of that. I think that's the reason for making beer in the first place. Cool....

Now get out there and have some fun fermenting something. No, really, the ability to make great beer and wine is only a recipe kit away. Extract brewing and kit wines can and are just as good as brewery made and commercial winery made products. I wouldn't kid you about that. Now get out there and ferment something....

Mark, The Brewer, and telling you not to be surprised if I'm telling you about my wine batches one day soon......
Monday, February 14, 2005
 
Brew Update....Brew Demo Results....American Amber Ale...

Brew:

The For Whom The Bell's Tolls is doing very well. Primary fermentation is completed and the beer looks great. It has a clean orange hue to the color spectrum contributed from the victory malt and was beginning to clear nicely. I racked the beer on day 7 to 5 gallon secondary fermenters (glass carboys) and the entire process went without any issues. Racking is just a fact of life and if you plan to do this hobby for any extended period of time, you will rack literally thousands of times. Cleaning and racking, racking and cleaning. I can start a sanitary siphon in my sleep. Anyway, I am now in watch of a good beer as it is developing right before my eyes. I will leave this beer in secondary at about 65 degrees for at least 7 days to give the beer a chance to mature and clear and then it will go into kegs (yes, cleaning and racking again). Another 10 days and we will be ready to enjoy this beer. This brew is a clone recipe to Bell's Pale Ale. It is an interesting recipe that is very simple from an all grain basis, but it is a pale ale with a twist. This pale ale is brewed using german Hallertau hops and the yeast most often associated with Irish Dry Stout or Irish Red Ale, White Labs Irish Ale yeast. This yeast is hearty with just a hint of fruityness and a touch of diacetyl. This helps give this beer a rounder flavor and bigger mouth feel. When I taste it, you'll know how we did......

Brew Demo:

Saturday I helped Jim at Country Wines with an extract brewing demo. It was a very successful event with about 20 participants coming in to learn how to brew. It was a great turnout and was basically a full house as there wasn't any room for anyone else. We brewed an extract California Common and we hit an OG at the end of the day of about 1.046. We used the White Labs California Lager yeast that was trumped up in a quart starter that got a two day head start. One of the highlights of the day is tasting several excellent homebrews. We tasted Jim's latest Beliner Weiss and it has a very strong similarity to the real thing. We also tasted a Dunkelweiss, an Alt, a Porter, a Rye Stout, and of course the 1yr old Imperial Stout that I helped Jim brew last April. The people there had that look on their faces of disbelief when they tasted these beers, that these beers were homebrewed. Everyone had a good time and the day ended with some new homebrewers taking home equipment kits and ingredients to try their hand. Now that's a successful brewday!!!!

American Amber:

Jim recently brewed another demo at a new brewpub that he calls Liberty Amber. This amber was excellent with a big dose of munich malt in the grist and a very generous amount of Liberty hops in multiple additions. The beer poured with a deep amber color from another dose of crystal malt at 60 lov. The beer had just layers of malt flavors all balanced to perfection with the Liberty hops. This a great amber and one that I might have to try to duplicate myself. I can probably get the recipe because I do know the brewer......

If you're not doing it yet, ya gotta ferment something. You don't know what your missing.....

Mark, The Brewer, and just cleaning and racking along..........
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
 
New Brew Update...New Hops...Nothing Going On...

New Brew Update:

We are in day 3 of our fermentation and things are going very nicely. The beer is fermenting very actively and has that milky white hue to it that a brew in strong fermentation with lots of yeast cells going to town gets into. I couldn't be happier myself. The first thing I did this evening after hugging my real kids was to go to the fermentation room and check on my surrogate kids. They were doing just fine too. I like the action so far and a quick starting strong fermentation is always a good sign. I've said this many times before, but it couldn't be further from the truth. Making starters to get strong working active yeast into your wort immediately is the best way to help lessen the chances of infection or a bad fermentation. It only takes about an hour to do and the results on the other end of the brewing experience make that time well spent. So now it's hurry up and wait. I hope to get this brew racked to secondary on Friday or Saturday at the latest and to get it packaged about 7 days after that. Now it's time to just relax and have a couple of homebrews.....

New Hops:

There is a lot of buzz out there about some of the hot new hop varieties. Several new varieties have been getting a lot of play on the microbrewing scene and many are getting very high marks. Hops such at Santiam, Sterling, and Newport are getting use in a lot of American ales these days. Warrior, Simcoe, and Amarillo have also been seeing more and more use in the kettle. Glacier is another new hop that is starting to raise some eyebrows in the professional brewing circles. The newest of the hops to hit the street is a hop called Palisade. It is being tested even as we speak by some large and small brewers alike. Brew Your Own magazine has a nice article that approaches this exact subject. It is a good read and I recommend it. What was already a seemingly endless stream of hop combinations continues to get larger and large by the day. So get out there and look for something a little different to put into your brew. I'm guessing at the end of the day, it will probably taste something like beer when it's done......

Nothing:

Well, there just isn't much going on right now in the brewing world. We are waiting for the spring bocks to hit the shelves, fighting our way through the myriad of the winter warmers that are still pouring, and tasting a wee heavy or two. Some good Marzen beer is out there, and we are waiting for the summer wheat beers to make their obligatory first appearance of the year. It is only a matter of time. So in the meantime, enjoy a porter or a stout. When was the last time you drank a Guiness or a Beamish?? Nitro Rangers need not answer this question. Look for a good pale ale or best bitter for a change of pace. I know you can't get IMHBC's The Bitter End at your local, but there should be a facsimile thereof???? Have fun beer shopping, I know I always do and look for the rites of spring coming to a beer retailer near you very soon. Hey, it's only 21 days till the first of March you know.....

Buy it, Brew it, Drink it (responsibly of course), and Enjoy it.......BEER!!!

Mark, The Brewer, and so happy to see yeast at work again........

Monday, February 07, 2005
 
Greetings From IMHBC...Brew Day News...Brewing Demo...

Greetings:

Well, I'm back again after being off line for a couple of days. Sorry about that again. That darn real job got in the way again. It's one of those things that you have to do. My second job as an amateur brewer and faux pub owner is much more fun. I can drink beer while I do those jobs. The real one, unfortunately, sometimes takes my utmost attention. That said, greetings from IMHBC. As you can see I'm posting later in the day these past few times and doing it from the pub. On line and dangerous. Hey, that's what the internet is for right? The pub hasn't changed in the past few days and the beer lineup is the same too. The main man Parrot Pete was in the pub on Saturday. We did a malt millectimy and got ourselves motorized. Once we completed surgery on the mill and got the thing back in fighting trim, we motorized it with a new drill and we crushed 18lbs of grain in about 10 minutes. It would have been even quicker but I had to weigh it out as we went. Thanks to Parrot Pete, also known as Nitro One, for his help. I don't know if my brain with it's lack of mechanical know how would have ever figured that one out. Other than that, the only thing that has happened in the pub is another guest tap change over. The Labatt Blue keg was very tasty and is now very empty. To replace that keg I decided to go with a very special beer. In fact this beer was a silver medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival this past fall. No easy feat. The beer you ask. Why, its Da Beast, Milwaukee's Best. I know, what's a beer aficianado like me doing with this beer on the guest tap? Well, the neighbors have been up a couple of times and they just aren't craft beer drinkers. I felt bad the last two times as they have had to bring their own beer. I thought a little treat for them would be nice. I'm a brewer with a heart......

Brew Day:

Well, I finally got off the Schneid and got my brew day in. After Parrot Pete and I got the grain ready, I got the system set up and ready to brew. It was a super bowl sunday brew to boot. The weather was really nice with temps in the upper 50's and it was just a great day to brew. For Whom The Bell's Tolls Pale Ale was the brew of choice this brew day. It is a lighter bodied pale ale with a nice hop character from Hallertau hops and is brewed a little unconventionally using Irish ale yeast. The grist is simply 18 lbs of pale two row and 1 lb of victory malt. 2.5 oz of Hallertau at boil, .75 oz at 30 minutes, and .5 oz at knockout. I pitched a one pint starter of Irish ale yeast into each of the carboy fermenters at 2:30 pm and had visible fermentation by 6:00 pm. I had big time action by this morning. Looks like we're off to a good start. I got good efficiency in the brewhouse with a starting gravity of 1.054. The brewday went without a hitch and the total time was pretty quick. I mashed in at 9:19 am and pitched yeast at 2:30 pm. Gambrinus will be pleased that I made such a fine ale in his honor and I should be back on his good side the rest of the way. This brew tasted great from the gravity sample and without any major setbacks I expect a good brew. The ultra quick start is always a very good sign. It was very nice to brew with the garage door open and the nice fresh air about. The warmth also helped facilitate the overall clean up as well. Oveall, a successful brew day and the promise of a very good tasting beer for future consumption. Is this a great hobby or what??

Brewing Demo:

If you live in the Pittsburgh area and you are interested in learning how to brew, Jim from Country Wines will be doing a brewing demo this Saturday, 2/12/2005 (shameless plug number 469). The beer being brewed will be a California Common Lager and he will be assisted by yours truely!! The demo starts around 11:00 if your interested. Click on the link provided on this page for the phone number and call Jim for more information if you are interested in the demo. There will be detailed illustrated instruction and about 6 homebrews to sample during the demonstration. Jim makes some of the best beer I've ever tasted and if you are new to the hobby, or thinking about starting it, come on out for the demo. Everything you need to get started is right there in the store and Jim will be more than happy to hook you up....

Get brewing, I forgot how much I missed it the past month.....

Mark, the Brewer, and so happy to get that first brew of the year under my belt..........

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
 
Brew Day Set...Brew Your Irish Stout...The Spring Beers Are Soon Upon Us...

Brew Day:

Okay, we've been here before. Yea, brew day is scheduled only to crash and burn and be missed. This time, it's gonna happen. I have cleaned the brewing room and organized all as needed. There will be starter making taking place on Friday night in hopes of an early Sunday afternoon pitching. Saturday will get all of the equipment set up and ready to play, and get the grain crushed and ready for some mashing fun. Gambrinus needs to get on my good side (or vice versa), and I need to get something fermenting in the fermentation room. The weather is supposed to cooperate too with highs expected in the 50 degree range. Unseasonably warm and a great day to brew some beer. Could there be a surprise visit from some of the nitro ranger boys???? Only time will tell on that. Speaking of the Nitro Ranger boys, the Nitro Ranger Oatmeal Stout is ready to drink and ready to be loved by the masses. So finally I'm going to get off of the schnied, and get to some brewing. Wish me luck and I'll be asking Gambrinus for some forgiveness and a good beer. I hope to post the recipe here all grain later in the week for those who are interested. Speaking of recipes, the recipe page hasn't been updated in some time by, well, me. I got into a bad habit of posting recipe's here as part of the daily post and forgetting to add them to the recipe pages. My bad. I hope to rectify that situation this spring too....

Irish Stout:

I know this is hard to believe because it seems like just yesterday that we were sipping my Irish Dry Stout on St. Patrick's Day, but in just 5 short weeks it will be upon us again. If you want to brew a Dry Stout, now is the time to ensure that it is well carbonated in time for the 2nd best Holiday of the year (behind Halloween of course). Brewing this beer from extracts or kits is a snap and you will get great results by doing so. Don't be afraid to add some sugar to the kettle to help get the dryness that is the hallmark of this beer. You can make a great IDS by simply using 5 lbs of light dry extract, 3/4 lb of roasted barley, 1/4 lb of black malt, 1/4 lb of flaked barley, 1/2 lb of cane sugar, and 1oz of columbus hops. That's it! That's all you need. Just follow the simple steeping and extract instructions you've read a thousand times and brew it. Allow 8 to 10 days to ferment and it's ready to prime and bottle. You don't even need to put this beer in secondary to get good results. What you will have is a beer similar in character to Murphy's or Beamish or Guiness. So get out there and get your stout for St Paddy's brewed. You'll be glad you did. What am I doing for St Pat's you ask?? Well, I have 2 kegs of Oatmeal Stout already ready to go of course.....

Spring Beers:

As I told you all yesterday, the Penn Marzen is already in release and I expect many of the other spring beers to be following closely behind. Watch at your local, as they should be released very soon. It seems that the brewery's have all gotten into a race to get their specialty beers on the market faster than their brother brewers. I noticed some octoberfest beers released as early as July this past summer, and wee heavy's were on the shelves as early as August. The spring brings maibocks, wheat beers, Belgian offerings, and the summer pilsners. Oh yea, you'll see those start to hit the shelves sometime in April. When Bell's Oberon hits the shelves, let the spring time beer ract begin!! That said, the big winner is you the consumer. The lists of specialty beers available in all parts of the country today is staggering to say the least. It is a great time to be a beer drinker and a beer lover. Trust me when I tell you, the big boys have been taking notice as their market shares contine to shrink while the craft business continues is nice calculated growth. It even outpaced the once double digit growth import business in 2003 and I'm guessing you'll see a similar pattern when the final 2004 numbers are tallied. At the end of the day, it means more regular rotation brews from craft outlets, and more specialty beers for you to try as the seasons pass. Don't get left behind, get down to the beer store and check out something different. Craft beer is contagious. Don't take my word for it. Go see for yourself!!!

Get Some Beer, Good Beer!!

Mark, The Brewer, and finally getting all of the dust off of the soapbox (not to mention the brewing equipment)

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
 
Pardon The Interruption...It's Here...IMHBC Beer...

Sorry:

Once again my posting interface was on the fritz. I think I have that fixed for now. I'm back on line myself and I can circumvent when I have to. This should get posted upon closing because I'm direct to the site tonight. I apologize to all of you who might have been going to the site looking for some brewing insight, wit, wisdom, tom foolery, or just about anything else you can think of. I hope to have eliminated this problem. I don't know what is going on with the technical side of this. Hopefully it will get squared away soon. Anyway, I'm back and should be posting regulary again.....

It's Here:

And it's early! What is it? I'll tell you. It, is this years version of Penn Brewings Maerzen beer. Not only is it back, but to use a well worn cliche', it's better than ever. And I really mean that. This years version of the beer appears to be superior to the past couple of years versions. It pours amber to copper in the glass with thick white foam. The aroma is unmistakably malt, probably strongly laced with Vienna malt, and just a hint of hallertau hop. The past couple of years, the hop aroma was very strong and probably too strong for the style. This version lets the malt come through more which is a good thing. The beer is full bodied and very malty with a snap to attention bitterness. The finish is all about the malt with minimal hop flavors peaking through at the end. Wow!! Why this is better than the last two years versions is simple enough. The beer doesn't have that dominant hop character that it had in the past in the aroma and the flavor. This time the malt clearly comes through. I'm so very happy!!! It is a great beer this round and I look forward to some more "samples" of the years batches, you know, to insure that the quality followed through on all of the brewdays (not that they care what I think...). So if you get a chance to try this beer, be sure that you do.....

IMHBC:

Speaking of new releases, the IMHBC tapped another original beer this past week. We put our Special or Best Bitter on line last weekend. How did it turn out? Excellent!! The beer is clean and has a very dirty golden color about it. The aroma has the yeast character of fruityness and a hint of EKG hops. The taste leans toward malt up front after working your way through a thick, creamy white head of foam. The maltyness gives way to a nice sharp bitterness thanks to the fuggles bittering hops. The finish is malt with a hint if EKG hop flavor. The beer is well attenuated so it finishes nice and dry with hints of malt and hops. It is a session beer if I have ever drank one. It got good reviews from a couple of the pub regulars and they asked for another in every case. I like it. Not bad for a mistake on brew day. You see, this beer was supposed to be an ESB. But I didn't have the amount of crystal malt on hand that I thought I had. So, I ended up with a best bitter. Now this beer is on the high end of that style category weighing in at about 5% ABV, though the flavor and color characteristics look to be spot on. This beer is for consumption in the pub anyway, so I'm not so awfully worried about how close to the style it is. It is a very drinkable, seviceable beer somewhere in the bitter family. And I guarantee that it will all get drank. Also, I appears that there will be brewing this coming Sunday. As of right now, all systems are go for that activity. I hope to make starters on Friday evening for an early afternoon pitching on Sunday. The beer up for brewing is a very pale ale that is a clone of the Bell's Pale Ale from the Kalamazoo Brewing Company in Michigan. This will be the second time I have made this brew and I look forward to duplicating my first effort. The first round of this beer disappeared very quickly with on keg evaporating here in the pub and the other keg being erased at the pre and post Kentucky Oaks/Derby parties in Kentucky (another story for another time). Wish me luck and I'll give all an update on the success or otherwise from this endeaver....

Go get some craft brew and look for a Marzen beer if you do. You can thank me later....

Mark, The Brewer, and finally going to get back on Gambrinus' good side.......


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