Tuesday, February 18, 2014

SF Beer Week 2014 - Part Three

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Yes… SF Beer Week has NOW completed! Here’s part three of our EPIC week…
Saturday morning (yes, morning) we headed to the Haight-Ashbury district to the Toronado Bar to partake in their Barleywine Festival. For those who don’t know, Barleywine is basically a very strong, typically malty, aged concoction with a high alcohol content. Typically it involves a LOT of sugar taken from the barley, wheat, etc. and then is typically aged for about 8-12 months, very similar to a grape wine. Because of the aging, a lot of the hoppy notes mellow out (hence the maltier flavor) but there are a variety of recipes with varying levels & aging notes. For example, there were about 60 different Barleywines from well-established breweries at this “festival” (really just a bar with a lot of barleywines). We sampled a few… and made friends with a few people at the bar who were about two dozen samples deep by the time that we showed up… and we shot the sh*t & I was really pleased with the variety of beverages at our disposal… but it was pretty packed… and there was more to see… so after an hour or so, we headed off.

Next stop was  Magnolia Brewery since we’re out that way on Haight… but it was also a Saturday… and about lunch time, so we were told that there’d be “about an hour to an hour and half” wait… so we figured another time would be better to investigate. Coming soon…
After that, I bought my first pair of Doc Marten’s… we headed over to the East Bay… ate some T-Rex Barbecue… stopped by a vivarium (reptile shop) and yeah, just a pretty chill night after that. Of course sampling more of our bourbon barrel porter. I was a little under the weather this weekend so… no burning the midnight oil exactly. Some great movies to review in my other blog though.
Sunday was a Tribute to Grizz (legendary homebrewer who passed away recently) competition & a SF Homebrewer’s Guild Party at Pi Bar in La Mission. This was my first time going to the event, but it was pretty cool. Basically, you paid $15 and got all the pizza you could eat… and dozens of homebrewers bring in their finest brews to sample… so it’s basically all the pizza & beer you can muster. The competition was also for Barleywines as well as English Milds… so there were plenty of those on tap… but also a wide variety of others. I even brought a few samples (Dizzy had to work) to share with the people… and decent reviews for our Porter & Pumpkin Ale… but none of our BJCP judge buddies were available to test (a little too busy pitching their own beers). Basically it was a great group of guys & gals just having a good time, sharing beer, eating pizza & all that jazz on a Sunday early afternoon.

Another thing that came out of this… is that I got a little taste of how the competitions work, and after discussing with Dizzy, I think that we’ll be joining some of these competitions. Do we think we’ll win? Of course we’re optimistic… but worst-case, we’d get some valuable feedback on our own brews and processes. Also, we’ll probably be taking some of our samples to the next Guild Meeting when there’s… you know, only a handful of people offering instead of something like 70 different beverages to choose from. No joke. That’s a low ball estimate. Anyway, we’ll keep you posted.
Monday was President’s Day, so we were both off school & work… so we thought it’d be the perfect time to brew our next batch – Oktoberfest!!! This recipe is a traditional Maerzen recipe and is the traditional Fest Bier of many a German celebrations… and among my favorite kinds of beers. Just a fantastic all-day drinking kind of beer. It’s cold lagered (fermented at a lower temperature) so the process is a little slower than most of our previous batches. Typically fermentation is done around 60 degrees (maybe a little lower) but we drop it about ten degrees for this yeast. When the beer is finished, it won’t have a lot of hoppy bitterness, just rich malty golden kind of flavors that you can drink by the BOOT!!! Oh yes… it will be enjoyed by BOOT!!! It should be just about ready by the time my birthday rolls around in two months… almost perfectly timed. Here are some pictures of the process…

My "Chasing Ice" inspired photos of the wort cooling...

After it has cooled, put it in the primary fermenter...

Get it good & aerated... Shake it up...


We also used some of the spent grains to make loaves of bread & flatbreads for sandwiches. Dizzy is such an amazing cook in my humble opinion…

And she also made me a fantastic burger...
Bacon & cheddar infused burger patty...

Bagel thin, everything style with bacon jam...

...and bleu cheese...

Topped off with a bourbon barrel porter. Boom!

We also took the time to bottle our Winter Warmer which we sampled… and it’s pretty delicious for the stage that it’s in. It’s a bit of a shame that we only got about 2.5 gallons out of the batch… but we’ll see what a little bottle aging will do for it. Winter is almost over anyway, but we got some invaluable advice from our mistakes on this one… glad that we can still enjoy a little bit.

Tapping from the zwickel before final aging...
So that does it for SF Beer Week 2014!!! Join us next time when I’m sure that we’ll have a few updates on local establishments, our own adventures, future competitions, all that jazz. Have a great day everybody!!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

SF Beer Week 2014 - Part Two

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Yes… SF Beer Week has completed! Officially it completed on Sunday, but I’m pretty sure I’m not alone when I saw that it was celebrated well into the following day in honor of our Founding Fathers on President’s Day! Well, here’s a “quick” recap of how we celebrated the last half of Beer Week… $teve & Dizzy style…
Wednesday – Elevation 66 Brewery Assist
Wednesday morning, we arose at 4:15 AM to go join Super Dave & Big Ben at Elevation 66 Brewing and help them with a batch of their East Bay IPA. Since this was our third time helping out, we got to do a little more than last time… and hopefully by about a dozen more times they’ll probably just put us to work & supervise drinking their breakfast beers… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Once again, they shared little tricks of the trade… and they had a recent issue of Beer Advocate magazine… and there were a few things that peeved Super Dave. See, Super Dave used to work with Pyramid Ales a few years back… and the person that they interviewed/referenced in the article about union workforce wasn’t even there three years ago… and she wasn’t even there when Pyramid ran into a bit of an issue (big recall on large batches of tainted nasty beer) but… okay, apparently it was just a horribly written article because it didn’t really say anything solid, just a lot of conjecture beating around what really happened, kind of blaming the incident on unions, and the cover girl wasn’t even there for it. I assume it was because she was a blonde with tig bitties alone.

Our super-sized boiling pot...

Mmm... smell-o-vision hops...

Hot girl cleaning out hot spent grains...

Super Dave & Big Ben are also “traditionalist” brewers… in that, they aren’t into all the new-fangled recipes like chocolate this & apricot that… they just want to make great beer. Their recipes are magnificent in their simplicity. They’d read something like “Two-row malt, some specialty grains, hops, same yeast for all beers they make, period.” However, with the different recipes, they are able to create some great beers from IPA to Kolsch to Stout… and a few variations involving barrel aging or using rye, etc. So when we were reading another article about breweries that open twitter accounts to come up with recipes… and the “brilliant” ideas that come from it are Blood Orange Green Tea Sours (no joke) or Chocolate & Banana Ice Cream Stout or something like that… they were not impressed. Luckily they feel the same way about beer that we do… it should be beer. There are some things to be said about giving what the customer wants… but they want good beer too. If they’re wanting Blood Orange & Green Tea in their beer… then they’re probably not a discerning pallet… nor will they probably be repeat customers because you’d probably make them a ridiculously horrible beer. Dogfish Head makes some… interesting beers… but that’s part of their appeal & they’re fairly established… but they also have 90 Minute IPA available anywhere that you can try their more unique selections too… and even then, it may not necessarily be your “cup of tea” but it’s a good beer that’s gone through their meticulous preparations & screening processes. Elevation 66 Brewing is VERY small… but they make great solid beer on a consistent basis… and that’s why they’ve been doing pretty well for themselves. I’m truly honored to be learning from them… and hopefully someday we can make them proud with our adventures.
Thursday – Bourbon Barrel Porter Tasting
Thursday night, after struggling to find advertised Dogfish Head Ales at Hops & Hominy and a theatre showing of “The Thin Man” at El Cerrito Theatre being sold out… Dizzy & I decided to just grab some Indo-Nepalese food, rent “The Thin Man” (review on my other blog), grab a few Dogfish Head brews at BevMo & head to my place for a little early Valentine’s Day celebration. However, that’s not why you’re here… to hear about our relationship… you’re here for the beer, not the gang bang. The Dogfish Head that we were “allowed” to try (single bottles only) were Midas Touch (alleged 2,700 year old ancient ale recipe from a drinking vessel near the tomb of King Midas that kinda tastes like a mix of beer, honey & wine ABV 9%) and Palo Santo Marron (unfiltered brown ale aged in 10,000 gallon handmade Paraguayan wood vessels ABV 12%). Both were really good… obviously not the traditional kinds of beers that Super Dave & Big Ben would probably love… but Dogfish Head does usually make fine brews though sometimes just REALLY out-there exotic & semi-pretentious. Still though, I’d try them again for the right price.
We also shared one of our Bourbon Barrel Porter bottles since they were about ready, being almost nine weeks since the original brew day. We were a little skeptical with how it was going to taste for a few reasons. First, due to the holidays, the primary fermentation was four weeks instead of the usual two weeks in the recipe. As mentioned in previous posts, this shouldn’t be a huge issue… but a mild concern. Then it spent about three weeks in secondary fermentation… and luckily there was still some good yeast action (bubbles in the airlock) at first, but then really slow towards the end. Secondly,  we added high alcohol bourbon & yeast tends to die out when the alcohol content reaches a certain point. That was my thought for the slow bubbling towards the end. Thirdly, there’s always a little concern in the bottling process when you mix in the sugars to reactivate the yeast, hoping that it’s all uniform through all the bottles, hoping that all the yeast were already dead from OD’ing on fine Maker’s Mark Bourbon, and just that all the steps along the way were done in a manner that will produce the best beer possible. Yeah, I’m kind of a Nervous Nellie when it comes to MY booze.

Well, let me assure you now, that after the first taste test of our BB Porter… that it’s pretty f**king FANTASTIC!!! Comparing it to other professional level barrel aged porters & the like, there’s the smooth malty porter flavor and that smoky essence from the wood chips & the bourbon aromas going through your nasal passages… and a little added bonus is the distinct hoppy notes. See, because this was only “aged” in our setup for about two months, the hops are MUCH stronger (though still fairly low on the IBU scale) than those that are really barrel aged… because those are usually aged in the barrels for 8-12 months, sometimes more. The bitter notes from hops tend to lose their potency fairly rapidly. That’s why many of the IPA’s in their bottling have some notes on them that say stuff like “Keep refrigerated” or “Enjoy as soon as possible for maximum hop flavor”. It’s not JUST because they want you to drink it & then get another six-pack the next day (though it’s definitely a good angle) but it’s because they want you to get the most out of your hoppy beverage… and not think that their product is sh*t because you didn’t enjoy it in a timely manner. Beer isn’t wine… unless it’s barleywine or stuff like this… but those aren’t made for their hoppiness. Now you know… no need to thank me, just pay it forward. I’m merely the messenger.
Bourbon Barrel Porter
All-Grain Kit
5 gallons
Mash Ingredients
9.5 lbs
English Maris Otter
1 lb
Weyermann Pale Wheat
1 lb
English Chocolate Malt
1/2 lb
English Black Malt
1/2 lb
English Dark Crystal
1 oz
Chinook (60 mins)
1/2 oz
US Goldings (15 mins)
1/2 oz
US Goldings (5 mins)
Danstar Windsor Ale Yeast
Secondary Ferm Add
2 oz
Medium-plus toast American Oak cubes
16 oz
Maker's Mark Bourbon
Mash Schedule
Single Infusion
Saach' Rest:
152*F for 60 mins
170*F for 10 mins
Cook Date/Primary Ferm
Secondary Ferm
4 weeks (later than normal 2 wks)
7 weeks (typically 6 wks)
First Taste
9 weeks
Fantastic! Hoppier than most barrel aged on pro level
May get better with age too, still young
Possible new favorite thus far
Real barrel next time? Not just wood chips & Maker's Mark?
Experiment with other liquors?
So yeah, our porter was pretty fantastic… and we’re also pretty excited to see how it might improve with a little age. Also, we were really psyched about sharing our Homebrew with the Guild at an event later in the week, so that they could give us notes on our process & beers that we’ve made… and with this being our first all-grain recipe… ugh, just SO EXCITED!!! I feel like we’re doing so good for how new to the game we are & learning so much from so many great people and published or online resources. YAY US!!!
Well, that should do it for this entry. Next time, we'll talk about our Valentine's / President's / Chinese New Year / SF Beer Week Closeout Weekend with a few festivals, tastings, sharings, parties & whatever we run into. Have a great weekend everybody!!! Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Monday, February 10, 2014

SF Beer Week 2014 - Part One

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,
Since Friday, it has officially been SF Beer Week here in the Bay Area… and boy, have we been having some serious fun. It seems at just about every bar and/or microbrewery in Northern California (and let me tell you… there are a LOT) there have been everything from special event tap room takeovers… to “Meet the Brewer” events… to discussions & festivals about IPAs, barleywines, and the craft beer market in general… and a lot of other interesting things in between. Well, being a recently HUGE fan of everything craft beer & market related… Dizzy & I decided to brave the rainy weather (which we love anyway) & check some of the more interesting (and affordable) events out.
First up Saturday was a panel discussion called Beer Talks… which is basically like the TED Talks that you see online and various outlets, but about Beer. How does that work? Well, we had special presenters from some of the major microbreweries on the West Coast talking about subjects like the future of the craft beer market… whether with regards to the availability of barrels for barrel aging techniques… to brewing with brettanomyces (wild yeast & bacteria that produce good & bad effects depending on use)… to the future pairings of beer & food… to things like the correlation between craft beer & pop music… which may have been a bit of a stretch… but the clientele was affluent white men with combinations of glasses, beards & flannel so… the guy was trying to sell his album & you can’t hate on that. The final speaker was none other than a GOD in the microbrew world, Mark F**king Carpenter from Anchor Brewing who has been there from the beginning in the 70’s and was just a great speaker as well.

With each speaker (there were about 7?), there was a beer sampling that they brought along with them to pair with their discussion, along with snacks available throughout like cheeses, fruits & salads. Not too bad, though I wasn’t a fan of some of the samples… I LOVED Fifty Fifty’s bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout & it made me even more excited for our BB Porter which should be ready just in time to finish Beer Week. Overall, we had an amazing time at Beer Talks & I would highly recommend it for anybody interested in this kind of subject matter (beer geeks). It was pretty amazing & very interesting to people like us who are trying to learn as much as we can about not only the processes, but the market & the real world applications of certain elements of beer making… and apparently I need to work on my beard. Perhaps in a few years I’ll look like your standard brewmaster / lumberjack.
Next we headed over to see the new Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room in Berkeley. We’re pretty big fans of Sierra Nevada & their selection of beers. Luckily, the staples are readily available just about anywhere (and Dizzy’s Aunts always have plenty at their events) but here we were able to sample some of their more rare & elusive options like Narwhal (Imperial Stout), Bigfoot (Barleywine) and their Ovila Abbey Ales (Belgian style quad with plums & a saison with mandarin oranges & peppercorns) among some other treats. It was pretty much standing room only at this point, but we stopped for a few samples including their Chocolate Cream Stout (very interesting & surprisingly good), Narwhal, Weizenbock & their Off-Kilter Scotch Ale. All were fantastic. I highly recommend this place if you’re in the Berkeley area… and I’m sure in a future adventure, we’ll probably check out their big brewery in Chico.

Next was a stop at Elevation 66 Brewing down the street in El Cerrito to sample the first batch of beer that Dizzy helped out with two weeks earlier, their collaboration with Pacific Coast Brewing called Coast 66 Double Rye IPA, which came in at about 10.5% ABV. Pretty strong for a beer that only takes about two weeks to make. Typically the higher alcohol content takes a long time for the yeast to do their thing, but apparently this one didn’t take that long. Despite being a higher alcohol content than most are used to, it was actually surprisingly (almost dangerously) delicious & very easy to drink. The bitterness was less than expected (maybe 60-70 IBU) but as Dizzy put it “This is a $teve Beer!” She was right.
As for a “Dizzy Beer”, she tried their new Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, which is basically tailor made for her tastes… and just under 10% ABV itself. However, this one was so high because they took their standard Scotch Ale (about 6-7%) and put it in the Bourbon Barrel to age for a few months, thus taking some of the bourbon sugars out of the wood, and allowing more time for the yeast to break them down into alcohol, raising the content another 2-3% and also allowing some of the bitter notes to smooth out and gain a little complexity. Very well done.
Sunday, we went to Steep Brew in Portrero Hill for an event where Anchor Brewing was doing a release of their new IPA simply called… Anchor IPA. They like to keep their beers simple in name, yet incredible in execution… and the IPA is no exception. We sampled that along with a few other brews on tap… and we also got to meet one of the brewers & one of the sales team (though the brewer surprisingly did most of the talking) sitting at the bar next to us. He went into some of the stories behind the beer, and even gave us some great tips as homebrewers to make some exceptional beers since we had nothing but fabulous things to say about Anchor’s selections… and we mentioned that we were part of the SF Homebrewers Guild so we frequented his establishment monthly at least. Good dudes… and fantastic beer. So after some samples, some chatting, and a jalapeno & cheddar pretzel, we were off to our next stop…
The VP of the SF Homebrewer’s Guild (great guy named Kevin) was holding a Crowfunding Campaign for his & his wife’s dream of a nanobrewery called Ferment.Drink.Repeat or FDR. You can read more about the nanobrewery / incubator HERE but basically, it’s a very small scale establishment (a 3 barrel system) that will give homebrewers access to facilities to share their magnificent brews on a slightly larger scale. He’ll provide the equipment & environment to not only share their award-winning recipes in a Taproom setup… but it’s also a great location to teach homebrewing to others interested, sell equipment & supplies, and just create a good sense of community in the area. His fundraiser on Sunday was at Danzhaus (it’s a dance studio during the week) in Portrero Hill, and we got there a little early to help with set up… but they seemed to have it all under control. Below are some pictures of the event…

Random art at the dance studio...

Poutine tater tots...

Personally, I think it’s a great idea… and is basically what we’re looking to start out with regarding our brewery… so I’m VERY excited how it will turn out… and yes, I’m already a backer on his crowdfunding campaign for $400. What do I get with that? Well, along with some sweet swag like T-shirts, etc. we’ll also be able to collaborate with him to design our own signature brew which will go on tap… and we’ll also get to name it. That’s right… Terrible Lizard Brewing… will be OFFICIAL!!! Of course, this is as long as the financial backing goes through… and it’ll be a few months down the road… then the place has to open… and then I’m sure there’ll be a waiting list… and blah blah blah… but yeah, by then… we’ll basically be f**king EXPERTS and have our own recipes ready to go with samples to make sure the Guild can give us notes… and by then, we’ll probably already be entering local contests & stuff like that… so yeah, VERY excited about the possibilities of this place when they get it off the ground & kind of excited to be part of it… even in a small capacity. It also give me a lot of hope for when/if Dizzy & I decide to start our own little place. We’ll definitely keep you posted on this.
Unfortunately due to time constraints & day jobs getting in the way, our Oktoberfest Brewing has been pushed back to next weekend… but that’s quite alright because… here is what else we have planned for the remainder of SF Beer Week… and this is just planned. We’ll probably stumble on a few other things along the way:
·         Wednesday – Early Morning Brewing with Elevation 66
·         Thursday – Dogfish Head is at Hops & Hominy (may stop by quick)
·         Saturday – Barleywine Festival at Toronado Bar in Haight-Ashbury
·         Saturday -  Magnolia Brewery since we’re out that way
·         Sunday – SF Homebrewer’s Guild Party at Pi Bar
·         President’s Day – Brew batch of Oktoberfest…
·         Bottle our Winter Warmer and…
·         Taste our Bourbon Barrel Porter and Quick Mead
Yes, it’s certainly a busy schedule… but the important thing is that we learn so much from each event… whether it’s brewing in the real world (Elevation 66), testing out some great beers for research (most), mastering our own brewing process, and then at the SFHG Party… we’ll not only have fun & network & meet some great people to just party with… but we’ll also be able to share our homebrews, get some constructive feedback from certified beer judges (Yes, they’re a real thing) and help us hone our craft to use in the future. I’m EXTREMELY excited about things right now!!! And I hope that you are too!!! VIVA LA CERVEZA!!! Happy Beer Week everybody!!! Go forth & enjoy responsibly!!!