Tag Archives: Beer

75th Street brewery review

Saturday was a birthday celebration and therefore had to have some part of it spent drinking delicious brew. This year it was decided to try out a local microbrew. The 75th street brewery doesn’t have an extensive history but has been around long enough to establish itself as one of the few great local brewpubs. Let me get this out of the way and say that there was no bad beer.

I elected to start with a sampler. No better way to quickly survey the landscape of their beers than to try as many as you can as cheaply as you can. At a $1.50 apiece, a sampler of six beers was ordered. The current seasonal, the wheat, the IPA, the stout, the Irish red, and the raspberry wheat.

The first to be tasted was current seasonal. It may well be the now cliched Pumpkin beer but it is not cliched in taste. Starting light on the pallet, the spices used fully compliment the pumpkin instead of masking it. It was nice, eminently drinkable, and a little filling.

I then dove into the raspberry wheat. This is a beer to write home about. Effervescent with a tart zip that clears away all other tastes it leaves the mouth wanting more. I could easily find myself losing an entire day to drinking this.

I began to mix it up, jumping between the wheat and red while leaving the IPA and the Stout to the very finish. The Irish red was good, drinkable beer but nothing spectacular jumped out at me while it was washing down the appetizers. The same can be said of the wheat. An excellent beer for those who like the style to the exclusion of all others, while the rest of us will find it simply good in terms of taste and refreshment.

My personal feelings are that stouts need to be drank slightly warmer than most other beer and to be paired with food. Which is why I didn’t touch it until my fish and chips came. I moved on to my favorite type of beer, IPA. And it was good, very good. It was so enjoyable that the next time our waitress came by I ordered a pint to help finish off the meal.

A quick aside: Making a good IPA can be harder than some think because of trying to find the right balance between the sweet and bitter. Too bitter and the sweet comes out as sour . Too sweet and the hops disappears into the beer. Too sweet can paradoxically also lead to the brew having a sour aftertaste as well, something you never forget the first time it happens. So when you find a good IPA that gets the balance right, getting the mix between the bitter hops and sweet malt, that is something to celebrate. This, in my opinion, is an IPA to celebrate.

Finally, the stout was the only beer left. There is much to like. The creamy texture. The dark roasted caramel tastes. But there was also one thing to dislike. The smokey bite. It seem to hit at the wrong point in the drink. Just as I am getting to the transition between the cream and the caramel, the smoke would bite down hard which was particularly jarring. Having a drink with food did somewhat blunt the sharp edge of the smoke it did not disappear completely and makes me think that there was more going on with the beer than at first sip. While not for me, I can see where a stout with this sort of bite would find an appreciative audience.

This trip and the wonderful beer will definitely get me to go back a second time. It’s simply a matter of finding the time to do so.

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Stuff I'm up to

Since I’ve not had a chance to get another post this week so I thought I’d go over the things that have been occupying my time.

Warhammer module writing has been a bit part of it. This week The Rats Below was edited and is now ready to run at the KC Game fair. I’m very happy with it, having brought it down to 9 pages from 11 without losing a single inch of plot. It flows better, it reads easier, and hopefully it should be easier to run. Not that I’ve put it out there for anyone else to grab just yet, but that will be happening soon enough.

The other big thing I’ve been working on this week is a fourth WFRP module. The original idea I had been writing just was not working. Then on Monday I had a sudden inspiration. In writing these, I’ve been trying to introduce different themes of the WFRP world I find interesting. Where I had been going for some steampunk and greenskins, I kept hitting a wall.  The plot was just not working, it felt too contrived. I ended up taking the  “What will you do” moment from the first, placed it in the rewrite and away it went. Shoving the pcs out into an isolated forest village is a much better and more natural fit. That rewrite is half way written and I’m going to try to get the major plot points finished this week so that the details and editing is all that’s left to do.

I like this new plot for several reasons. It got me out of the writing funk that had settled in. And has me thinking about the overall plot for this campaign. There are a few stories I want to follow up with that stem from events in The Rats Below that I think are especially fun in Warhammer. Those should be written up quickly since I have a good feel for what I want to do. However, it may mean missing NanoWriMo because of it.

Which leaves editing and fleshing out of the introduction module, The Faire. This is a behemoth of a module and not something I’ve been looking forward to. It currently sits at 15 pages and just under 11k words. Not the biggest one out there but it’s big enough. That also needs to be done and have pregen characters ready, for KC Game Fair.

Hopefully the events submitted will be accepted. I put in three, one session of The Faire and two of The Rats Below. That way people can catch up who haven’t been able to come over and get ready for the next one currently being written.

I’ve also been thinking about my follow up to last week’s expansion of the rpg market article. I’m thinking of trying to get an interview with some marketing departments. Right now I’m looking at Steve Jackson Games and White Wolf. The two of these seem to be a good place to start. But first, I need to come up with questions to ask them. Since this is still mostly a vanity site, I’ll have to be much more prepared to show that this isn’t just for my own edification. Once I have them written, we’ll see what happen.

Beer wise, I wish I could say that more was happening, but there isn’t anything at all. I have two bottles left in the fridge from the ‘make your own six pack’ that netted the beers used in other reviews. I will eventually be getting to them in a future review.

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Beer Review II

I am reviewing two beers today, New Belgium’s Hoptober Golden Ale and Schlafy’s Dry Hopped APA.

New Belgium Brewing Co’s Hoptober Golden Ale

Another recent release, New Belgium’s Hoptober Golden Ale provides everything that the name promises. The hops are incredibly floral in nose and in taste while providing a delicious bitterness that first struck the sides of my tongue before traveling back and down my throat. Further drinking produced the expected sweet aftertaste of malt as the hops exited. As for looks the name again tells you everything you want to know. I will note that I detected a bit of a redish hue when first poured into my glass. The carbonation was perfectly balanced proving not too heavy or too light of a mouthfeel. Only the thinnest of heads covered the top giving me quick and ready access to the delicious beer underneath.

My verdict: If you like IPAs and the other beers of New Belgium, then you should try this one out. It’s not too heavy and not too light, happily celebrating a middle ground of wonderfully complex flavors.

Schlafly Dry Hopped APA

A nearly local brew its origins lie across the state in St Louis, home to friends and family. Not as hoppy as the New Belgium there is still a strong presence of the good stuff. However this beer has one thing the HGA did not. A strong malt presence. In fact, if I were to name a single defining characteristic of this beer, that would be the malt. The hop is strong in the aftertaste as the beer is going down my throat but it is not what meets my pallet at the beginning. The beer is slightly cloudy but has a strong golden amber color. It is incredibly effervescent making it very light in taste. The head is thick and it took several minutes to go down before I started drinking. There was not much nose to the brew and I was hoping for something which would announce the amount of hops in there. But again, I found it lacking.

Verdict: Not great, but not bad either. Strong fruity notes from the malt covers up the hops. Overall, I would say that it was not as good as the New Belgium reviewed above but still very drinkable.

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Beer Review of Boulevard American Pilsner.

It is not all that long ago that every major city had a couple of local breweries pumping out tasty and iconic regional beers. In Kansas City, that was Muehlebach’s. This brewery was a city fixture for close to 90 years and became as synonymous with Kansas City as barbecue continues to be. Eventually the company was sold off and closed, leaving Kansas City empty of locally produced beer for many years.

I am happy to report, that this past summer, Boulevard Brewing Company has resurrected a taste of local history in their American Pilsner. According to the beer’s label, it is inspired by and uses a similar recipe from the Muehlebach days. And a fine recipe it is. While tasting it for the first time, I found myself swishing it back and forth to try to capture all of the flavors hidden beneath the hoppy exterior. Boulevard has once again showed that they have no trouble bringing complexity and depth to their beer. The beer is of a consummately clear character and is  nearly perfect amber-gold in color. It is perfectly effervescent giving it a very nice and light feeling on the pallet. If there is anything  missing it is any hint of malt. There is a distinct lack of sweetness to compliment the otherwise excellent hop flavor. This has the effect of a slight overwhelming bitterness at the start of the taste that quickly passes.

This is an excellent summertime brew and I heartily recommend if you can get your hands on some to try it.

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Beer is Ready!

So, The other night, H3llDr0p came over, and we had a little beer tasting.

My Oatmeal Stout was ready, as was his small batch test.

H3llDr0p’s small batch was a very effervescent ale. Indeed, apparently it popped the cap off the bottle at one point.

It had a very fruity flavor, very appley with distinct citrus notes. The Citrus flavor became more pronounced as the beer warmed up. Very nice. It was interesting, because he’d been going for a very hoppy flavor, using five times the hops that would normally go into that much beer, but the hop flavor was no where near as strong as he expected.

My Oatmeal stout had a strong Coffee flavor. VERY strong coffee flavor. This was followed by a distinct almond cream after taste, and just a bit of hops at the tail end. It had no head, but upon review, that’s apparently normal for stouts. Guiness only has a head because of the force mixed nitrogen. I am thinking that next time I do a stout however, I will try one of the things that Guiness does, which is adding soured beer to the new batch before fermenting to add complexity to the flavor.

I tried to make a Black & Tan out of them, but they mixed instead of floating. Still very good.

Building a Malt Cider – Part 1 – Malt

As I sit here drinking a bottle of h3lldr0p’s homebrew, I’m reminded of this cider project mulling around the recipe book. Thoughts on what types of ingredients to use keep popping into my mind. Different types of yeast, styles of malt, little extras like fruit, spices, and back-sweetening quickly come to mind. But where to start? Well, before I start let us explore the major components first, and what better place to start than malt.

–Malt–
First things first, if you’re going to make a Malt Cider, you’re going to need some malt. Now I’ve never been a big fan of DME. Granted there is now real reason for my dislike, I would just rather deal with and handle LME. I find that the flavor and over all results just work out better for me.

In the world of malt, I’m leaning more into the area of something light. I want the overall flavor of this brew to come out being cider and not beer, so something light seems the way to go. Now, with that said what exactly to go with?

A simple 2-row light malt might do the trick. It is light enough with a gentle flavor and a good sugar content. The only concern is that it might be to lacking in flavor. Even though, in the end, this product should have a great cider flavor, I would still like it to be unique with a an understandable difference from a straight cider.

Now a wheat malt should be a bit more stout. Granted such a malt is still light, but wheat has a great crisp and doughy flavor that it should blend well with cider. Besides many wheat malts are a blend with 2-row anyway. This will probably give a light yet robust enough flavor to accomplish the “malty” aspect of this project.

I’ve considered the possibility of using a bit of grain in this brew as well. Looking at it, it would definitely impart a wonderful flavor, but I fear it maybe too much. A grainy beer is a great thing in my book, but I’m not sure how it translates in the world of cider. Considering that the original “Snakebite” idea uses Harp, a beer not known for a very heavy grain flavor, this may be pushing it.

As for now, it seems that a good wheat LME is the way to go, at least for this experiment.

–Next time – Yeast–

47 Bottles of Beer on the Wall…

So, Beer update number 3 on the All Grain Oatmeal Stout.

Bottling.

We had a bit of a false start yesterday. See, I’ve got a capper, SOMEWHERE, that I can’t find. So I borrowed a capper from my father-in-law. Turns out that capper is for a different style of bottle, and it shattered the top of the bottle I tried it on.

Today, after a quick trip down to the brew store for a new capper, I bottled my beer.

First step, Priming sugar. Now, there may be special sugar for this purpose, but if there is, I don’t have any. So I boiled 3/4s of a cup of normal white sugar in a couple cups of the beer.
While that was heating up, I siphoned the beer into a clean fermentor to leave dead yeast and other sediment behind. It left over an eighth of an inch of sedement in the bottom of the first bucket.

Then, I stirred the priming sugar solution into the beer in the clean fermentor, and started filling bottles.

I got 47 and a half bottles of beer, not counting the one bottle I broke (already filled), the bottles worth I spilled, and the roughly half a bottle I drank tasting it at various points. Now they have to bottle condition for 3 week. Convieniently, they’ll be ready in time for the local Irish fest and the associated Stout brewing competition… Huzzah!

As a side note, based on my starting Specific Gravity and ending Specific gravity, Roughly 1.031 and 1.003 respectively, My calculations show the been has a 3.78% alcohol content. Though that number is a rough calculation.

EDIT: So, I finally found an important list, that tells me the relative Specific Gravity of pure water at different temperatures. Given what I found, I can now say with 99% certainty that the starting gravity (OG), was 1.41, and the Finishing gravity (FG) was 1.003, for an Alcohol content of 4.90% by volume, or 9.8 Proof. WOO!

The Experiment: 1 Gallon Batch

This is a follow up to my post last week, Doing Math…for Beer, where I did some calculations for how much of what I needed to get a 1 gallon of homebrew going. Those calculations turned out needed some tweaking. Thus far, however, the experiment of doing just a single gallon has been successful. I have a burping (sometimes, very, very loudly) bottle sitting on my kitchen counter. It is filled the kitchen with the wonderful scent of wort on the march to becoming a tasty, tasty homebrew.

The primary gear used in this experiment

The primary gear used in this experiment

Starting out yesterday afternoon, I gathered up my tools and the ingredients, sanitized my starter bottle, the gallon jug, and one of my five gallon fermenters. While the bottles were resting, I got a half-pint of water and a couple of tablespoons of honey on a burner and brought it to a quick boil. I poured the starter into the smaller pint bottle and  then placed it in a bowl filled with salted ice water.

This is my first time of using this sort of chilling process. It took longer than I was expecting because in part I started out with just ice in the bowl and not ice water. After a half hour chill, the starter liquid was ready and I put the Muntons yeast in, placing a balloon over the top to catch the CO2. I then stepped away for two and a half hours to let the starter get going.

The starter is ready to be used

The starter is ready to be used

Coming back to the kitchen, I poured half of the gallon of water in the pot and turned the heat on. I then took the DME and put it in a large pitcher. Adding the other half gallon to that, I stirred it around until I got it mostly mixed, resulting in a dark brown fluid with a few chunks of DME still waiting to absorb the water around it. Once the pot was up to a rolling boil, I poured my home-made LME into the pot and watched as it came back up to a boil. It didn’t take too long and once there, I backed the heat down to enough to keep it going at a simmer.

Home made LME

Home made LME

I gave it thirty minutes before adding the first half of the hops. I let this go for ten minutes before adding the other half. Then I removed the wort from the heat and let it stand for ten minutes. At which point I put it in one of my primary fermenters and with a hose filled up the gallon bottle that is sitting below in an ice bath. That did not heave nearly enough ice in it. Leave it to my luck, I found that the icemaker decided to pile the ice all on one side, giving it a false reading of being nearly full when the opposite is true.

LME added and brought back up to a boil

LME added and brought back up to a boil

The setup for the icebath

The setup for the icebath

Being careful as I filled it up, I found out that there was more wort than expected. There were several more ounces still in the bucket when I closed the spout and screwed on the lid. The lid was there to keep the beer “clean” as it cooled down. A process that took over an hour and a half despite the ice bath. I ended up scorching my finger tips a few times checking on the bottle to see if it had cooled off enough to add the yeast to it. But before I did that, I took a moment and shook the bottle with the lid on. I wanted to make sure that the wort got plenty of oxygen dissolved in it for the yeast.

Chilling the wort

Chilling the wort

This left a head on the wort that subsequently came up the neck of the bottle as I poured in the half-pint of starter. Again, I found that there was not nearly enough room to allow for all of it. I think I got about half of the half-pint in before I stopped. This brought the bubbles all the way to the lip of the lid. Not sure how long to wait, I set the first airlock in the bung and waited to watch for signs of burping. The wait was not a long one. I estimate that it was about twenty minutes before I saw the first burp occur. It was not a good sign.

Finished in spirit but not actually done

Finished in spirit but not actually done

There were some of the head that came up the plastic tube as the CO2 but I ignored these. At the time, I thought the foam would go down, dissolve back into the beer before it would be a problem. I was wrong. Within a half hour of the picture taken above, the beer was coming up the stem of the airlock and getting into the vodka I was using in it. After another half hour, the vodka was getting close to being pushed out of the airlock completely. Seeing this, I opened up the bottle and poured out some, replacing S-shaped airlock with one of the hat-types. This seemed to resolve the issue as the burping continued without pause but no foam was coming up the neck.

But this morning, I found the lid to the airlock popped off and the hat on the kitchen floor. The airlock was filled with beer and very foamy. It looked very much like a miniature mug of beer. I have yet to find the lid but it still is burping away, over a day later, much against my initial guesses as to what it would be doing at this point. A week from now, I will be giving it a bit more sugar and slapping the lid on.

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Why I brew

This is an important question for the homebrewer. Why do you brew? There are any number of reasons to do so. For me it has a lot to do with recapturing a part of my culture which was lost in the last century. With the National Prohibition Act and the subsequent shutting down of the neighborhood brewpub in the 1920s there was a good deal of the culture of beer that was destroyed. The recipes, the secrets, and so many traditions that were lost in a mere thirteen years that it has taken nearly a century come close to recapturing them.

The story of Prohibition is a bit of an odd one. In looking at the roots, you find a diverse entangling of people and groups which came together to form it. A few of the movement’s roots can be traced to the American west and the saloons that served as a center of a town’s political life. Believe it or not there was a group which called itself the “Anti-Saloon League” rooted in the 1850s which sought to eradicate these places. Then there are those groups whose reason for wanting to ban alcohol is rooted in anti-immigrant sentiment. Much like the “Reefer Madness” campaigns from the 1930s, there was more than one propaganda campaign which attempted to get a rise from the patriotic by linking the ownership and management of breweries to nebulous “foreign interests”.

And then there were the religious groups, largely Protestant and pietistic, who saw (and continue to do so today) imbibing alcohol as a personal sin.

Their success in 1919 meant more than just the banning of alcohol. It meant the loss of a culture. The closing of breweries, both local and national, did more than just send it underground. It killed a large part of that culture. Those employed as a brewmaster was now out of a job. Those who worked the pub and knew the regulars had to find different work. It is of little surprise that it was the small, neighborhood breweries that was the hardest hit and only recently have they begun to recover

At one time what we call the brewpub was the most common of places to find beer. As they do now, they brewed their because it was easiest way to get good, fresh beer. There was little choice in the matter. While there were national brands of beer and a factory for those brands in every major city, distribution of that beer was still somewhat troublesome. Troublesome in getting it to its destination without it being spoiled in some way or another.

So it was just simpler to make your own. Easier to make, easier to control, and much, much easier to transport since it didn’t have to go anywhere but upstairs.

Each one had their own recipes and their own methods for manufacture. These were passed down from generation to generation until one day there wasn’t a pub to brew for. Much of these were first done in their home, given to family and close friends to taste-test before being brought down to the pub. While Prohibition lasted all of 13 years the effects of this are still being felt today. The world was at the bottom of the Great Depression, meaning there was little, if any, chance that many of these pubs were able to secure the capital needed to reopen. The same goes for most of the regional breweries.

So it was that we lost a large part of our brewing history and culture. Who knows what wonderful brews you might have found around the corner from where you work or live?

I intend to find out.

That is why I brew.

Doing some math…for Beer

A new and hopefully on going project I am pursuing is producing “micro-batches” of beer. I am defining a micro-batch as any brew that is in the one to two gallon range. This is a way I can test out recipes. To see if a certain combination of grains tastes as good as I think or if the combination of hops is good for IPA use. This is to check out these ideas before scaling them up to full 5-gallon (and beyond) batches.

Amongst the first things to figure out is the amount of ingredients needed. Calculations are needed to figure out how much grains and malt are needed to include in such small batch amounts. There are recipes calculators on the web, but most of these are calibrated for 5 gallon or greater amounts. For good reason. This is temperature sensitive stuff I am dealing with here. Get it too hot and I can ruin it. If I fail to get it to hot enough I run the chance of having the batch spoiled by bacterial invaders.

The reason larger batches is easier to work with is because of physics. Water takes a lot of energy to heat up. 4.1855 J/(g·K) to be precise. That’s Joules per gram-degree Kelvin. What that says is that for every cubic centimeter of water you want to raise 1 degree Kelvin (or Celsius), 4.1855 Joules of energy need to be added to that cubic centimeter.

Let’s scale that up and apply it to the situation here. 1 litre of water is 1000 cubic centimeters. To get the entire litre of water to come up 1 degree C you need to give it 4.1855 x 1000 Joules of energy, or 4185.5 Joules. If you start off at around room temperature, say 25 deg C, and want to get to to 100 deg C, the boiling point of water, multiply that by 75 for a total of 313912.5 Joules. To do an amount of water for a normal hobby batch of beer, you’d have about 19 liters of water for a grand total of 5964337.5 Joules.

It helps to know how much heat your cook-top puts out. Thankfully, most cook-tops are rated in Watts and a Watt is Joules per second meaning we don’t have to worry about unit conversions. For instance if your cook-top outputs 100 Watts at its max setting, you’ll need 59643 seconds to get that water up to boiling. Which is just over sixteen and a half hours. Obviously most cook-tops have a better output than that, so check your owner’s manual to see what yours is rated at.

Back to the beer.

How much of the ingredients do I need?

It depends on what I choose to use. In this case I am going with DME or dry malt extract. Being able to get it in small quantities helps but if I could not get the small quantity, I know that it has an excellent shelf life and only needs a dry cool area to be stored in, making easier to store than it’s close brother, liquid malt extract.

If I were going with a normal five gallon batch, I could use a few calculations to figure out how much I need to get. To figure that out, I need to know how many points that DME gives when dissolved in water. You can go here to see where I got some of the information. The DME I got from the store, Bacchus and Barleycorn, is rated at 42 points. That also gives me some idea how much alcohol is going to be in the final. Of course I should be getting a hydrometer one of these days so I can tell exactly how potent my beers are.

Hops is the final consideration. How much?

Considering that I normally hop with 2 to 4 ounces, a quick calculation shows that I only need a few buds. However, I bought a full ounce of Mount Hood pellets. They have an AA of 3.9 which is low but given that the whole amount is going into only a gallon of beer, they’re still going to be fairly potent. Hopefully those who try this with me like IPA as much as I do. Current play is to boil half and then dry hop the other half at the end. It should be very good.

I’ll make an update after I get this going and will have some pictures documenting the process.

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