Monday, January 26, 2009

Observations on the Old Ways

Why do brewers spend so much money? I must have met dozens of homebrewers in my lifetime who would spend their inheritance at the drop of a dime for the latest gimmick. Some brewers obsess over their equipment so much that in the passionate pursuit of gadgetry they lose sight of the reason they began their brewing journey: beautiful beer.
Some of the sexiest beers that ever crossed my lips came from a stovetop kettle. I remember some of the very first extract batches I threw together with my buddy Steve, we surely didn't know how to do it "right" but in the end we were laughing while blowing the foam off the most quaffable nut brown ale that we ever drank (up to that time, of course). Papazian was right to encourage relaxation, less worry and so and so.
The funniest moments in my homebrew world are when brewers try to talk like they really know what the hell they're saying. A few of them just poop from the mouth so badly you want to insist they wash it down with a nice IPA, keep quiet and just let the damn kettle boil. "What? No, I really don't want you to tell me about your trip to Seibel and why I'm not able to convert every single living starch in my mash to the fermentable sugar of the Gods!"
The truth is that most good brewers realize that they have to keep to the basics, clean equipment, high quality and fresh ingredients, lots and lots of yeast, stable temperature and most important of all, passion! I always encouraged up and comers to keep copious notes but not be anal about every single damn thing, you tend to lose the trees altogether while searching for a twig, if you know what I mean. In the homebrew world there are such things as Star Trek brew geeks and I'm sure they flood Denver every year looking for Charlie and all his pals (he probably doesn't mind, he's so damn cool it kills me).
I am taking my brewing "science" acquired over years of overpursuit and challenging my whole outlook on beer. From now on I wish to become a purist, a traditionalist, hells bells even a slightly Orthodox brewer! I don't want to hear about the Japanese developing pure yeast strains in magnetically charged food grade balls that can guarantee a lifetime of repitching without laboratory support, no! I want to search ebay for the manuscript written by Joe Brewer Smucatelli in the 1800's before Prohibition destroyed our industry, I wish to rediscover wood barrels in my home system, nurture the ingredients from the soil by hand and make a truly local beer. I want to be the old man in the backyard in Bermuda shorts and long black socks mixing a mash with a mostly smoked cigar in my mouth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ballinderry Sword Windsor Red Ale Bin 2 #30

Force carbonated and served in a chilled pilsener glass. Good head retention which will improve even more over the next few weeks. Blood red color. Light metallic hop nose with malt background, hint of caramel. Cascade presence is predominant throughout the beer from start to finish and a hint of malt sweetness, just a kiss at the back end as it wisps away leaving a clean, hop kissed mouth. Pleasant surprise with the Windsor Ale yeast strain, it ferments rather clean and imports a sexy head retention early in the age of the beer. Sticky to the sides of the glass just the way I like it. The yeast does not attenuate nearly as well as the Nottingham strain but settles good enough for a homemade taster like myself. There is more sweetness to this red ale than the others I made in the past with wyeast 1065 and Nottingham. Overall I am pleasantly surprised and although this is not my best red ale ever I would rank it a 6.5 out of 10, above average with the highest marks in head retention, mouthfeel, finish and balance.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Propagator Porter Ale Tasting Notes

Great head retention, belgian lace to the bottom of glass, with a pleasant brown head. The Propagator is amply carbonated for the style and the color is quite dark, almost a stout. Chocolate roasty aroma, minimal hops are present, coupled with caramel/toffee notes around a light crispy toast edge. Flavor has a raisin and chocolate middle tongue with a roasted back of the tongue. Finish is dry, slightly roasted and not lingering. The aftertaste consists of roasted chocolate and raisins but it does not linger too long in the mouth. One of my better brews to date, 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It's About Time our Boys had a few Beers!

Thought y'all might be interested in this article from WaPo. It's about time they let our boys sit down and have a few beers. Most Arabs I knew when I was over there loved to drink, they just drank on the penthouse of fancy hotels and not in public. They also loved American girls, especially strippers. Isn't it ironic?
If we truly are to reform the Middle East, we should start with beer. After all, isn't ancient Sumeria where beer was invented? I bet if we flooded the Middle East with some great beer we could do our part in achieving World Peas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

George Washington had a porter recipe. His brewery, located just a few miles from Mount Vernon, was at one time the largest brewery in North America. I find it quite ironic that our first President was so gung-ho about beer and brewing but so quick to put down the whiskey rebellion, it makes me think that he would probably be a centrist today.
Washington's brewery is now being lovingly restored to its original condition by archaeologists, I wonder if they're gonna make his "small beer" (
Our future brewpub's porter ale will be quite different from George's small beer. Bruce, Mike and I sampled it extensively last night and let me tell you, this is a beer for the ages. The color borders on the dark side of the style, you cannot see it through the glass, almost like a stout. There is a creamy head with a hint of roasted chocolate and a raisiny mouthfeel with a kiss of roasted malt, finishing clean and dry and wanting more.
I originally named this beer Bluegrass Porter due to the fact that I was in the mood to listen to some bluegrass music while brewing. Upon further discussion we all agreed to rename the beer Propagator Porter. This brew was just shy of two weeks so it was still a little young, the head didn't stay to the side of the glass like a three weeker. There was a pleasant drinkability about this beer, as we all nodded to eachother and tipped off a couple of gallons into the wee hours.
This development and critique of my beers is becoming a joy in my life. Nothing gives my ego greater satisfaction than to hear the words "This is by far the best porter I have ever tasted" from an expert, knowledgeable consumer like Bruce. To be sure, I do not agree with him that it is the best, I do agree that it would rate a 7 out of 10, even in its young age. In my opinion we should continue to sample the rest of the five gallons over the next couple of weeks to get a more comprehensive profile of the propagator. Bumping up a subtle hint of East Kent Golding might also be in order to give it a more balanced floral and counterbalance the raisin/chocolate/roasty flavor. I will brew the propagator again in the backyard soon.
Upcoming to the backyard brew system will be a Brown Ale for Bruce, another one of his favorite styles. I think I will blow his mind with a blended brown not unlike Newky but with a little more character and mouthfeel. Plans are underway.
I would like to think that George would be proud, sipping my porter and staining his wooden teeth...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ballinderry Sword Red Lager

Saturday, January 3, 2009:

In a cold and dark Celtic place an archaeologist recently discovered the ultimate sword, naming it after the place it was found. The Ballinderry Sword is the ultimate dark ages weapon, honed steel lovingly folded many times over and hilted with the skin of slain enemies. I have seen images of this sword and I hearken back to my first "R" rated adventure movie I was allowed to see as a kid.

Conan knew the meaning of life. We must crush our enemies and see them driven before us, hearing the lamentations of the women. We must also have a buddy like the dude in the movie with a hammer bigger than Mount Everest. And most of all, if we are to be incredible Pict warriors, we must slay the Auroch and make a drinking horn for our mead.

I like things that are made with a lot of care and love. It seems to me that those who don't possess a lot but possess good quality seem to live happier, more fulfilled lives than us "WalMart Bagabonds". Someone long ago must have spent many days over a hot kiln and anvil hammering out the sword that would be the pride of a clan chieftain. That person is no doubt somewhere in my ancestral line, whether he was a blacksmith, warrior or brewer it does not matter.

The Ballinderry Sword Red Lager is a fulfillment of my overblown, drawn out and unrealistic dream of my forefathers. If I'm gonna make a great beer, it better have a great name, too. Ballinderry is a brew that has many unique characteristics, the main among them is its balance. It also has a pleasant raisiny tongue that is well married to a cedar background and slightly dry finish. Oh, and don't forget the "cascading" rainfall at the end.

It was an incredible brew day today, not a cloud in the sky in the early morning hours as Mike and I struck our mash. The brew itself went without a hitch except for a quick boilover at the beginning and a little less yield than anticipated, which will ultimately make for a stronger beer (the Druids are crying, I am sure). Days like today make me happy to be Irish Catholic.

Inaugural Posting of our Brewpub Endeavor

Friday, January 2, 2009:

My Great-Great Grandfather owned a pub in Milwaukee many years ago. People say he was on a first name basis with Al Capone but I cannot verify that. All I can tell you for sure is that he had a set of eyes that could pierce you to your essence, some people called them "Dead Eyes". I saw a picture of him in a white apron standing in front of his pub and yes, indeed, he had those eyes, and they cold cocked me many years after his death.
Some people have that look, you know, the look of total confidence and power. I don't have that look, I have more of a smarmy, "oh, I guess dis is where we go" look. I saw his glare at the camera lens and I knew while alive this man meant business and he would tell you for sure. Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying I'm a pansy boy, ready to call for my Mommy when I didn't get my time on the swingset. I was blessed to be ignorant enough in my shielded middle class world that I wanted to go out there like Daddy did and earn those hard knocks that made a man walk and talk like the Duke (Angels singing...). Yeah, I've been to the other side of the latrine and let me tell you, the smell is actually the same.
This is the year I turn forty. I want my family to look back on my picture and although I don't want them to think I have dead eyes, I want them to think I've done something with this American life, this life that has been blessed by all good things and some not so dandy. I want to do something worthwhile instead of mowing the lawn every week and laughing at a mass email joke.
The thing that needs to be done is to open a brewpub, plain and simple. Along with my fellow partners in brewing, Mike and Bruce, we have set a course to open a brewpub somewhere within the Greater Tampa Bay area sometime in 2009. We will attain this goal!
Mike and Bruce couldn't be better suited to be my brewing pals. Mike is one of the smartest guys I've ever met, business savvy and confident. Bruce is the ultimate beer aficionado and knows more about computers than the dude who invented pacman. They bring a wealth of knowledge to the table that simply must be put to the test. We will spend many a day and night brooding over this process and thus, the reason for this blog.
I am currently in the process of upgrading my homebrew system in order to perfect my beer menu for the brewpub. I will be following with further posts regarding beer styles and I will also be asking the blogosphere for opinions and guidance throughout this deal. This input will be critical in the formation of our brewpub and we welcome all beer drinkers who want a fresh brewed, local beer in our area.
I have already finished a prelimary list of beer varieties for the pub. One of those beers will be a fine Rye Lager (RoggenLager), an excellent choice to honor a man from the Midwest who knew how to pour a real beer and lived among the fields of rye. It will be called Deadeye Rye Lager.