Sunday, February 28, 2010

homebrew beer recipes and recipe calculators

I have been looking to streamline my beer making process. Granted, it is easy to purchase a kit and then brew it, but i am going to compose and brew my own recipes this year. I have a series of two steps already in place but feel they need to be smoothed out further. By smoothed out I mean fine tuned by opinions of fellow home brewers as to where the best places are to get feedback, equipment, grains, etc. Any and all input is appreciated.

Step 1: recipe composition.
A chum of mine, Maggie shared a link to a homebrew recipe calculator site (click here). In it you can compose and save your beer recipes and share them with others (if you choose to).

After looking at the different options for ingredients I became both overwhelmed and excited as all get out at the options available for use in beer recipes (what is carafoam?). The convenience that this service provides makes recipe making a lot less intimidating, and thus more approachable. As a result I have made it a goal to make a new beer every month (i already owe a friend a porter to be named after him).

Step 2: Material sourcing
I keep in touch with the homebrew, beer, and wine appreciation club I was a part of while i lived in MN (should you be in MN, the group is called the Worthogs). They have suggested the following places for equipment, grains, hops, etc.

  • Northern Brewer = Great selection of material for both home brewers & wine makers at all levels of experience. Perhaps the most attractive quality for this company is their optional $7.99 flat rate shipping.
  • Brew & Grow = A business that specializes in horticulture (advice, equipment & material) and home brewing supplies. I do not believe they provide wine making supplies (my Chicago branch does not as of my last visit to them). The benefit to using them is that they are a company with a local branch that is a nice bike-ride away, and when visiting they can provide advice in real-time.

With that, I turn it over to you: Are there other sites or businesses that you frequent for brewing advice, equipment, grains, etc that you have found to be helpful and worth spending money/time at? Let me know.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Port Brewing - Santa's Little Helper 2009

This is an Imperial Stout that is released annually by the Port Brewing company of San Marcos, CA. It was first released in 1997 (according to the bottle), and is the Port Brewing company's 'annual insurance policy against lumps of coal in [their] stockings'.

As far as imperial stouts are concerned I was not greatly impressed. It stuck to the conventional qualities of most imperial stouts: bourbon-esque smoothness, use of numerous malts (specifically two row, wheat, domestic and english crystal, roasted, black and chocolate malts according to the Port Brewing website), and little head retention.

The one thing that stood out about this imperial stout, compared to others, is that when I smelled it I composed a vision of the fermentation room where i think this beer aged. For this stout I imagined a dimly lit room with red brick floors, columns, and walls that are blanketed with shadows. A lone, halving path that runs the length of the fermentation room that is illuminated by what few lights there are. In my mind it seemed like a great place to visit, or stroll through.

Back to the beer: the aroma brought to mind chilled kalua and bourbon. The latter not that surprising, but I did not expect the kahlua to come to mind. A pleasant surprise.

The dark smoke quality of the taste buffered the alcohol and caused me to nearly miss the taste of heated cinnamon that came out near the end of each quaff. The taste itself was layered in that the alcohol seemed to be the wave upon which the aforementioned malt rode over my tongue.

As far as head retention is concerned, a peripheral ring of browned marshmallow foam remained throughout the tasting. The color was surprising in that most imperial stouts I have tried tend to have a darker brown color. Twas not a problem, it was merely a small surprise.

The one negative, that was surprising, was the piece of flem-like material that found it's way into my girlfriend's glass. I figure it was some yeast that did not get filtered out, but I am not sure. Have any of you come across a similar hanger-on?

In the end, I was not greatly impressed with this imperial stout, and I would not recommend this to someone curious about the style. I would be more inclined to suggest Bell's Expedition Stout, Great Divide's Yeti Imperial Stout, or Founders Imperial Stout

Monday, February 15, 2010

Flossmoor Station

For valentines Day Sunshine and i went to Flossmoor Station for lunch and some sight seeing. For those of you who have never heard of Flossmoor Station brewpub I encourage you to go here to get a quick sense of the place.

I cannot easily summarize how much I enjoyed the Flossmoor brewpub. It was cozy, tidy, old fashioned (the building it is in was founded in 1906), welcoming, the beer was great, the people were friendly, and we were blessed with some great weather during our trip there.

During our lunch at Flossmoor we gave in and sampled a few of their beers. Sunshine had their Chessie Cherry Wheat, I had their CHAOS!!! IPA and we shared a goblet of their Up All Night Coffee Imperial Stout. The Chessie cherry wheat reminded me of New Glarus Brewing Company's Cherry beer sans the bite, and the CHAOS reminded me of a fresher Punk IPA but with a slightly larger malt presence.

Their coffee stout was sweeter than expected for the style (presumably due to an addition of lactose), but it was enjoyable none the less. We took some picture of our travels (they can be found here). We are planning on returning in late summer 2010, but during that trip we are hoping to bring my sister and some chums along (if they want to go). I cannot wait for my next stop at Flossmoor Station!!

Flossmoor has a listing for what is on tap on their blog page which can be found here.

Again, I cannot recommend this place enough. The few downsides to Flossmoor, the city, that we had are as follows:
- Nothing to do (by admittance of the people that worked at Flossmoor Station and our own opinion).
- Eerily quiet.
- We did not have our bicycles to get around on.

In all fairness the above downsides can probably be chalked up to the season we are in (who wants to go outside for a prolonged period of time in winter?). With that assumption in mind i am sure that Flossmoor is a much more enjoyable town in the warmer months, and I hope it will be livelier when we return. Regardless, for what we saw, and experienced, I would whole heartily recommend Flossmoor Station to people. I would also recommend that you bring your bicycle along on your next trip to Flossmoor. It will aide greatly in further exploration and create fatigue which can conveniently be quenched by one of Flossmoor's great beers!.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dugana IPA from Avery

A description of this beer from the Avery website:
'As fervent  devotees of hops, we found ourselves on a quest to create a transcendental IPA capable of quenching our voracious lupulin desires. Our mantra became "unity of bitterness, hop flavor and aroma." Enlightened, duganA IPA was born: A brutally bitter, dank, piney and resinous ale designed for those seeking a divine hop experience.'

Avery is right on about the 'dank, piney, and resinous' bit. This DIPA is every bit of that, with less of a malt presence than Founders Double IPA (Double Trouble). I am not 100% sure about which of the three hops used in this beer (Chinook, Centennial and Columbus according to the Avery website) are the aromatic, bittering, etc. My guess is that the Chinook are the bittering hops and the Centennial and Columbus hops provide the aromatics.

Now onto the specifics:

Color = An unfiltered, browned marshmallow hue that sits beneath a cloud like head that maintains fantastically throughout the tasting.

Aroma = grapefruit dominates the aroma. Cold tree sap and wet crab grass were also noticed. I have not experienced a DIPA with as big a grapefruit presence as this beer. I do not have much familiarity with DIPAs but the grapefruit quality is immediately evident.

Taste = Before swallowing, the beer has a cellular membrane quality that encapsulates the bitterness and slows the beer's interaction with your taste buds. It tip toes along your tongue until you ingest it. Upon swallowing the beer the bitterness floods your tastebuds and refreshes immediately. The alcohol helps smooth the aftertaste.

Overall = I understand that beers of this style are supposed to be large in the bitterness category but I have come to prefer beers that have sizable hop presence with a malt bill that nearly balances out the aforementioned hop component.
I think this is a big DIPA that would be great at a summer bbq if partnered with pork chops that utilize a citric glaze (such as a pineapple focused glaze).
I am still biased towards the Founders Double Trouble, but this was an enjoyable DIPA that I would recommend to someone looking for a DIPA from the bitter end of the style spectrum.