Monday, October 26, 2009

Arlington Heights, Illinois approves a warm beer law

For you cold beer fans who reside in Arlington Heights, Illinois, prepare yourselves for a British invasion (of sorts).
This past Friday, the Chicago tribune reported that come January it will be illegal for liquor stores to sell chilled 'single-can beers larger than 24 ounces and single-bottle beers larger than 12 ounces'. You can still purchase beer, in various container sizes, but you must chill it yourself.
As mentioned in an earlier post on this issue (see that post here), other cities in Illinois have similar laws in effect.

We are big supporters of enjoying beer responsibly, and in a safe environment. We also believe that such laws, as Arlington Heights is instituting, will not curb alcohol related crime as desired. People will still drink, regardless of the temperature of the beverage. Instead, Green Bay, Wisconsin's method of dealing with alcohol related crime seems more effective on a per city bassi. Green Bay utilizes a 'no drink' list that is populated with the names of people who have three or more arrests/citations related to alcohol related disturbances. This is a preferred deterrent to reducing alcohol related crime because it incorporates personal responsibility more so than an outright ban on the availability of liquor. Is it a fail safe solution? No it is not. People can go to neighboring towns to purchase liquor without worry of a 'no drink' list. Regardless of where they go, they will always have a history in the Green Bay PD database, and sooner or later (preferrably sooner) they will get caught and put away.

What are your thoughts on this issue? We look forward to hearing from you.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Home Brewing Adventure!

We (the Chicago branch of Midwest Beer & Brewing) have recently completed our latest batch of home brew, with our last task being waiting for the bottle fermentation to be done so we can try it.

Slideshow of the whole process, from brewing to bottling, is posted on the right. For details on what's going on in each photo, you can see everything with captions on the Facebook page, or here.

This brew is a Scotch ale, to which we added licorice root and primed with molasses. Great fun experimenting with our own additives and such, so much excitement as we formulate plans for our next project, which will be a Christmas ale!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free Beer Tasting Tomorrow (Chicago)

If you happen to live in the Chicago area, join us tomorrow (Saturday Oct 24) for a free tasting of Great Lakes Holiday brews, 3 PM at Vrai Amour.

Some folks from the brewery will be on hand to answer your questions and accept your praise!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

UPDATE: Vermonster vs. Monster Energy Drink

It appears that Rock Art Brewery has claimed victory over Monster Energy Drink. See here

Congrats to Rock Art Brewery!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Surly Darkness Day

For those of you lucky, oh so lucky, souls who will be in Minnesota this Saturday and have nothing to do, please allow me to propose the following as an option:

Surly Brewing Company's Darkness Day!!!

Midwest Beer and Brewing
For those of you who do not know, Darkness is Surly's Imperial Stout that it releases annually, and every year they have a party to celebrate (much like 3 Floyds Dark Lord Day). This year Surly will have 3 bands (Kruddler, God came from Space, and the Rockford Mules), a great lineup of their beers to try, and Darkness available for purchase in 22 oz bottles for the first 600 people who have orange wrist bands.

Do not worry if you cannot get Darkness at the Brewery. According to the Surly website, Brooklyn Center Liquor will be selling Darkness as well. Their address is 5625 Xerxes Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55430.

The event itself runs from noon to 6 (they stop pouring beer at 530p), and parking will be available on a first come first serve basis.

I cannot be there this year, but I have a few chums who have been lucky enough to volunteer at Darkness Day the last few years. Every year they say it was better than the last, and that the Darkness is well worth the wait.

So, if you can make it I hope you have a great time!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Trappist beers and the effect of time

Came across this article from Ray Daniels twitter feed (Cicerone_org).

Some nifty facts from the article:
There are only 7 official trappist breweries in existence today
6 in Belgium:
- Achel
- Chimay
- Orval
- Rochefort
- Westmalle
- Westvleteren

1 from the Netherlands
- La Trappe

Chimay, exports around 45% of its 160,000 hectoliters output, and their beer sales help to support 95 lay workers and abbeys abroad.


It's a great article that is definitely worth a read. At the very least it provides an excuse to go out and purchase a trappist beer to help keep the tradition going (and to enjoy as well).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Great Divide's Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout

Brewery: Great Divide Brewing Co. (Denver Colorado)
Brew: Oak Aged Yeti
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.5%
IBU: 75

Great Divide Brewing Co. Oak Aged Yeti

Enjoyed this one quite a bit, but definitely a sipper! This is one you'll want to enjoy slowly over a good conversation (and perhaps some good vanilla ice cream--we think that would complement it nicely). Opaque in color, its aroma and flavor are distinctly chocolately, with hints of molasses and a nice roasted quality. Like many stouts, Yeti has a very smooth and consistent flavor throughout, unlike some IPAs, which tend to build gradually. Also noticeable is a pleasant lingering hoppiness, which reveals itself most strongly at the end of each sip.

Potent in all areas (flavor, aroma, and strength), it's practically a meal in itself, but a light snack would not be out of order--Great Divide suggests fudge brownies (we agree), grilled NY strip steak (we disagree), and strong/salty blue cheese (Erin thinks yes, Ethan thinks no). When it comes down to it, it's a matter of personal taste preference, but whatever you choose, small portions are advised, so that you have room to enjoy both to their fullest!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vermonster vs. Monster Energy Drink

Matt and Renee Nadeau are the co-owners of Rock Art Brewery (a business of 9 total employees) in Morrisville, Vermont who in 2007 celebrated their 10th anniversary. As most breweries do for such an occasion, Matt brewed an anniversary ale. It is an American style barleywine that is based on the brewery's Ridge Runner beer (which is a 'mild barley wine' according to the brewery's website). Matt opted to name this anniversary beer Vermonster (presumably named as such to celebrate Vermont and the high alcohol content of 10% ABV).

On September 14th of this year he was given a cease-and-desist order from Monster Energy Drink (med) to stop brewing Vermonster, and to cease all advertising marketing (Monster Energy Drink is claiming infringement). He has been told by trademark lawyers that there is no infringement for him to worry about. Instead, this is an example of Monster Energy Drink flexing its financial/corporate muscle against someone they are confident they can snuff out.

As is the case with most cases involving the court system, Matt has two options: give into the court order issued by Monster or fight. Matt has opted for the latter. How can you not side with Matt and Rock Art Brewery on this?

He and Renee started the brewery 12+ years ago in their basement. It has grown out of their basement and taken up shop in a small town of 2,040 people (per the 2008 census). Before September 14, they were perfectly content making their beer for a grateful local populace.

The beer was made to celebrate an accomplishment in their business's history, and a corporation wants to snuff that out. Thank goodness for people like Matt who, despite unfavorable odds, opt to not let bullies tell him what to do. I hope that people will get behind Rock Art Brewery and help them persevere through this, and fend off Monster Energy Drink.

A video put out by Rock Art Brewery on this topic follows below. Please watch and listen to it. Visit the Rock Art Brewery website, help if you can, and absolutely BOYCOTT MONSTER ENERGY DRINK.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wisconsin Hearing Update

Wisconsin's public hearing to consider raising the beer tax was today, with lots of folks showing up both for and against. I must say I agree with Alvin Ott, R- 3rd District "We cannot do it alone ladies and gentlemen.. laws aren't going to solve this problem. and neither is money... It's about the people in the state of Wisconsin and how we want to continue to tolerate irresponsibility.. and the cost."

I enjoy a tasty beer quite a bit, but I would NEVER drive after drinking. Some people are responsible, and some are not. Without question, those who behave irresponsibly should be restricted--something like Green Bay's "no sell" list (mentioned in the Tribune article) is a good idea. Driving under the influence is inexcusable, and should be met with steep fines for every incident. To raise money, punish drunk driving offendors, not small breweries and responsible beer consumers.

For more info: http://www.wkowtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=11306649

Monday, October 12, 2009

Legislative Lame-Off

Much consternation at some recent beer news affecting Midwesterners in multiple states...

First off, the village board of Arlington Heights, IL is voting this week on whether to ban certain sizes of alcohol, which includes wine and liquor, but primarily targets beer (note that almost all headlines in print and television include some variation on "beer ban," which isn't merely for alliterative purposes). The primary rationale is that this will cut down on alcohol-fueled "disorderly conduct."

Specifics, from the Chicago Tribune: "The proposed ban in Arlington Heights includes sales of single containers of beer unless they are 40 fluid ounces or more, single containers of wine unless greater than 12 ounces or 375 milliliters, and other containers of alcohol except in containers greater than 16 ounces."

So....forties of cheap malt liquor are allowed, but 22 oz bottles of more expensive (and least likely to be consumed by those simply looking to get smashed) craft brew are not?

Similar bans have been in place in the Chicago suburbs of Evanston and Mount Prospect, to predictable results. According to Evanston police Commander Tom Guenther, "People can still get liquor." Although Mount Prospect Officer Bill Roscop says "Since the ordinance was passed, we haven't had any violations or any complaints," note that the suburb has a median household income of $57,165 (as of the 2000 census), and median family income of $67,262, hardly the unruly population of homeless people cited as a primary target of Arlington Heights' proposed ban.

Past experience suggests that this puritanical proposal would be ridiculously ineffective, and have far more detriment than gain, both economically (local alcohol vendors) and in of quality of life (availability of a good craft brew close to home!). Let's hope the village board reconsiders!

For more info, check out the full Tribune article here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-alcohol-ban-north-zone-07-oct07,0,211809.story

Our next news story of concern is Wisconsin's public hearing (tomorrow) on a proposal to increase the beer tax, raising price per bottle by 2.4 cents a bottle. This may not seem like a great deal at first, but to the numerous craft brewers who have made a home in Wisconsin, this can add up to a significant increase in operating costs. The good news--Governor Jim Boyle is against it, and a coalition of brewers and the Tavern League of Wisconsin have had a public say. Given brewers' significant contribution to Wisconsin's economy, we can hope that most legislators will realize this is a bad idea when the proposal comes to a vote.

More info on CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/33278603

Tried and True Home Brewing Sanitation Regimen

INVENTORY

The first thing you need to do is gather up all the equipment you plan to use for your brewing: glass (or plastic...but we recommend glass for better flavor) carboy (5 or 6 1/2 gal), 7 to 10 six packs of empty bottles (depends on the batch size, but most 5 gallon batches make about 8 six packs), a large (at least 3 gallon capacity) stainless steel or enamel pot to hold the wort, large funnel, and transfer tubes. The last thing you want to happen is to find yourself in the middle of brewing, only to discover you're missing crucial equipment!

BREWING

When it comes to cleaning the brew pot, I use dish soap and a sponge. Since you'll be boiling your brew in this pot, it isn't necessary to sanitize--just make sure it's clean (make sure there isn't any burnt patches or food residue, as this could affect the flavor of your brew). Add about a cup of bleach to your carboy, fill a fourth of it with water, shake it so that the liquid touches all the surfaces( shake for about 30-45 seconds), pour out, fill again (this time leave out the bleach), shake for another 30- 45 seconds, then repeat this one more time and you should be fine. At this stage, you don't need to sanitize your transfer tubes--those won't be needed until your secondary fermentation (which is transferring your brew to a second sanitized carboy for further fermentation, and also reducing the potential for sediment in your final product) and/or bottling. When you're ready for this, you can clean the tubes in the same way as the carboy.

Another option is to simply add the bleach, fill to the lip with water, and let sit for about 30 minutes (during this time, it's also not a bad idea to soak your carboy stopper in a bleach water solution). Pour out, fill about a quarter way with hot water, shake to cover all surfaces, then repeat 2 or 3 more times (until you can't smell any bleach). Rinse your stopper the same way, then cap your carboy to prevent airborne contamination while brewing. (Note: also for tubes, a similar soak and thorough rinse will work--if not using the tubes right away, you can wrap them in plastic wrap to minimize exposure to air and possible contamination)

After this you should be ready to brew!

BOTTLING

Whenever I clean out my bottles, I try to find some sort of tub (a bathtub will do, although you may want to scrub it out first), add a cup of bleach, and fill with water two thirds to three fourths of the way up mix up the solution. Next, add your bottles, making sure that each one is filled up with the solution (to protect your skin from the bleach, household rubber gloves will do). I tend to leave them in the tub for about two to three hours. After that I inspect each bottle for scum on the bottom of the bottle--if I find any, I put some of the solution in the bottle, shake it, and pour it out. If the scum is still there, I recycle the bottle--not worth ruining a good bottle of brew for a few cents of glass. After all the bottles have been inspected, I proceed to load them into the dishwasher and put them through a cycle (do NOT use dish detergent, as this could negatively flavor your brew--hot water is fine). While running the dishwater, you can sanitize your bottling equipment (transfer tubing, bottling bucket, spigot and autosiphon if you have them) in a bleach/water tub soak--when the cycle is about done, give all equipment a thorough rinse, then fill your brew bucket (adding priming sugar solution if desired for additional bottle fermentation) and start filling your bottles.

ENJOYING

Allow your bottled beer to ferment at least a week longer (for many styles, the longer the better, but read up on your specific style to make sure), UN-cap, and enjoy!

Cheers from Wisconsin,

Collin

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chicago Beer HIstory; Peter Hand Brewery Co.

Went for a walk around the North Side (Chicago) today, and happened to come across a vintage/junk shop on Lincoln (near Addison--can't recall the store name though) that astonishingly I'd never noticed before. Wandered inside and came across a basket of vintage bottle openers for $0.75 each, mostly from Budweiser, Miller, and Schlitz, but with three from Hamm's (snapped up by Ethan--Minnesota pride), and one from Peter Hand Brewery Co. (reserved by me), which we didn't recollect.

A quick Google search later this evening revealed it to be a significant part of Chicago beer history. Founded by a Prussian immigrant (Peter Hand) in 1891 on North Ave, its popular Meister Brau brand grew the company into one of top 30 US breweries by the late sixties, before selling its brands to Miller in 1972 and closing in 1978. Of particular note--Peter Hand was the last Chicago brewery running (from what used to be dozens), and its closure marked the end of brewing in Chicago for a number of years.

Peter Hand Co. Meister Brau

For more on this and many other interesting Chicago facts, check out the Encyclopedia of Chicago, an excellent resource for history buffs:

http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2692.html

With the Peter Hand opener as a reminder of the end of one age of brewing, I'm happy to be around for the beginning of a new age of Chicago brewing, with breweries such as Half Acre and Metropolitan, as well as established (Piece) and new (Revolution Brewing) brewpubs.

Cheers to the new age!

Independence on the road fueled by love of beer

Earlier this week I was reading Revolution Brewing's (a brewery in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood that is getting off the ground) blog and came upon a link to a blog maintained by a woman named Teri Fahrendorf. Teri is a Midwesterner (now living in Oregon) who after 19 years as a professional brewer and 17 years as Brewmaster at Steelhead Brewing Company, quit her job and set out on a '5-month epic quest of beer adventure.'

By the end of her trip, Teri had traveled for 20 weeks, and 12,656 miles from Oregon to Maine and back. During that time she brewed at 38 breweries and visited an additional 33. She did all this with her trailer, "Big Buddy", and the desire to live her dream.

She has tags on her blog for numerous breweries she stopped at during her x-country trip, but I wanted to make note that she stopped at Illinois' beloved Flossmoor station as well as Goose Island Clybourn, Rock Bottom on Grand and the world renowned Siebel institute.

She also took the time to visit a few Wisconsin sites as well. Such as Capital Brewing and New Glarus.

I mention all of this because it is very rare for someone, at any stage of their life, to quit a steady job to follow a dream. I pray we all attain the courage to do so while we have the time.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beer Review: Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale

Brewery: Dogfish Head
Name: Punkin Ale
Style: Brown Ale
ABV: 7%

First Impressions:

Ethan: "Tastes like a crisp Fall day."
Erin: "Fermented liquid pie."

Discussion:

Dogfish Head is one of our favorite breweries for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most obvious is its creativity with ingredients and additives. While pumpkin ale is not unusual, Dogfish Head's Punkin Ale is unusually bold in flavor, more so than other pumpkin offerings we've had in the past. The aroma, like the taste, is extremely smooth, with the brown sugar instantly detectable. There isn't much of a hop presence to speak of, but the spices (allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg) do add a nice bite to temper the sweetness.

Heartily recommended!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Beer Review: Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Extra Ale

Before we begin, a quick introduction to the Midwest Beer Blog gang--in this review, it's Ethan & Erin hailing from Illinois, and in future postings you'll meet Collin representing the great state of Wisconsin. Collectively we have roots in Minnesota and Indiana as well, so in summary... MIDWEST REPRESENT!

And now, our very first (online) beer review...here goes!

Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Extra! Ale
Brewery: The Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, CA***
Name: Little Sumpin' Extra! Ale (Limited Release)
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
ABV: 8.74%
IBU: 72.51
OG: 061.082

***Although this is the Midwest Beer Blog, we're open to trying anything available in the Midwest market!

First Impressions:

Ethan: "A hoppier version of Brew Dog's Punk IPA"
Erin: "Smooth--the maltiness balances nicely with the hoppiness"

Discussion:

We both agreed it has the pine-y flavor and aroma of most IPAs, though not as strong as heavier ones. With a light amber color, and brown sugary scent, it didn't have much head, but retention was good for what was there. The hops definitely impart a nice bite, but a good dose of maltiness sweetens and smooths the overall taste, and both characteristics linger pleasantly on the tongue and back of the mouth. If you tend to prefer maltier brews to hoppy or vice versa, this is an excellent compromise which should please both camps--the hop flavor is strong, but the maltiness sweetens and smooths it out for a well balanced ale that goes down easy (be careful though, at 8.74%, maybe too easy!). This would be an excellent introduction to Imperial IPAs for hops and malt lovers alike, and very suitable to savor with a friend over a good conversation.

Overall, we found Little Sumpin' Extra another tasty addition to the fine track record of Lagunitas Brewing Co., always a reliable choice. We have yet to try something from them we didn't like, and look forward to tasting more from them in the future. This particular is a limited edition though, so get it while you can!

Welcome to Midwest Beer & Brewing

Thanks for visiting Midwest Beer & Brewing! Our goal with this blog is to share our love of making and enjoying beer with like-minded beer enthusiasts in the Midwest and beyond. We'll be posting about anything and everything beer related, from beer news and reviews to our own home brewing experiences. As extra flavor additives, we'll throw in some beer facts, thoughts, and festival news, and hope to get your input too.

Cheers!