Aug 302008

The Session logoJust wanted to remind everyone, this coming Friday (September 5) is the date of the next Session. For more details on how to participate, read my announcement post.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy Labor Day holiday – fire up the grill, pour a cold one, and enjoy the long weekend!

Aug 292008

Fermentation Friday was started by Adam over at Beer Bits 2, and it’s a chance for all homebrew bloggers to sound off on a singular theme at a set date – the last Friday of each month (check out Adam’s post explaining the origins).

This month Fermentation Friday is being hosted by Bunz at The Panhandle Beer Snob and Redneck Brewery, and he has asked us to answer the following question: What, in the opinion of others, is the best beer you have ever made and why?

Thanks to Bunz for hosting, and make sure to check out his roundup post to see everyone’s responses!

This is an interesting question for me, because there are not a lot of people out there who have sampled my beers. None of my friends are huge beer drinkers, and those that have tried my brews did so very early in my brewing career – I fear I may have scared them off. So, the only consistent audience I have had is my girlfriend and her parents.

Girls like beer

My girlfriend likes my beer!

I’ve come a long way from those first brews, and every brewday finds me tweaking the process just a little bit more, shooting for that perfect batch. I’ve absorbed a huge amount of knowledge from books, online forums, and my (get ready for some crazy alliteration) beer and brewing blogger bretheren (whew!), which has helped me hone my skills. As I have developed as a brewer, the beers have gotten much better. Because of this progression, an easy answer to the question is: Whatever beer I brewed last was the best, according to girlfriend et al.

Now, I think my skills are starting to plateau. My equipment is pretty much where I want it, and I’ve gotten much better at dialing in my system and hitting my numbers. I have the procedures down, and am much more comfortable with all aspects of the brewing process. This means my beers are reaching a consistent level of quality. In other words, I’ve got all the big stuff down – now it’s time to start working on refining the small details of brewing and try to reach the next level.

How does all this relate to the question at hand? Well, if I had to pick the one beer that had the best reception, both in my own opinion and the opinion of others, it would have to be the beer I recently made where everything “clicked” and turned out exactly as I had planned. That beer was my Sunset Wheat Clone recipe that I brewed back in June of this year.

This beer turned out wonderfully – the finished product had all the great characteristics of a refreshing summer wheat. The mouthfeel was smooth with a touch of wheat creaminess (which I attribute to the protein rest I did during the mash). The flavor held a slight hint of lactic sourness, but it was balanced perfectly by the light hop bitterness and hint of boysenberry sweetness. The alcohol content was low enough to enjoy a few in the summer heat, but high enough to not taste like a light beer. The Kölsch yeast I used provided a nice, clean, crisp flavor.

The summer wheat got rave reviews from all who tasted it, and I have already been forced to promise several repeats. While I am proud of the brewing execution and how all my planning and hard work paid off, the style itself probably had a lot to do with the good reviews. The beer was the perfect bridge brew, light enough to be inviting to non-beer drinkers, but with enough complexity to appeal to us beer snobs as well.

It thrills me that I feel in control of my brewing now, and that other people can enjoy the results. Hopefully, their favorite of my beers will be whichever one is in their glass at the moment!

Aug 272008

The Belgian Box

The Belgian Box

So I found this interesting-looking box-set of Belgian beers in the liquor store last week. It was pricey ($17.99), but I decided to take the plunge in the name of journalism. Don’t say I never did anything for you.

I was originally going to review them in a live-blog format, one after another, but that would probably be dangerous. It would also delay the post for a few weeks until I have a free Saturday night with no responsibilities except drinking and playing Rockband. I’ve already been absent long enough (yea, really sorry about that!), but fear not – there will be plenty of opportunities for me to drunkenly blog my way into your hearts. In the meantime, I’ll attack these bad boys one at a time.

The first on the list is Piraat – Dutch (eh, I mean Flemish) for pirate. The label clocks the ABV at an impressive 10.5%, and features a picture of a remarkably clean-shaven pirate. It also depicts what looks like an old Viking ship… I suppose Vikings were pirates, if you want to get technical, but… well, whatever. The ship is flying some non-descript colored banners. Where’s the Jolly Roger? Hell, I would’ve been satisfied with a Norwegian/Icelandic/Miscellaneous Scandanavian Country flag…at least it would explain the Viking ship.

But I digress. As often happens when you are drinking 10.5% ABV beverages.


Anyway, I’m not terribly impressed with Piraat. Here’s the tale of the tape:


The confused Piraat...

The aroma is somewhat complex. There are sweet esters characteristic of Belgian yeast, along with some definite alcohol notes and sourness. The sour notes are actually pretty strong, and I expected a very tart beer at first taste. The aroma mellowed a bit as the beer warmed up, losing a touch of the sourness. Overall, I was a bit confused by the aroma, and felt the impression it gave me didn’t quite match up with the taste of the beer.

You can’t fault Piraat on the appearance – it looks good. It pours with a nice head – recedes fairly quickly, leaving moderate lacing on the glass. Clarity is good, and the beer is a light copper color – slightly darker in color than a pilsner.

Here’s where I feel disappointed. As mentioned above, I was expecting a tart beer, maybe like a very light gueuze. I did find sour notes in the flavor, but they were sloppily masked by a saccharine sweetness which left a very bitter aftertaste. The whole thing smacked of artificial sweetner, and I was reminded of some posts I have read that spoke of Belgian breweries adding just that to their beers. I don’t know if that is the case with Piraat, but either way, I wasn’t a huge fan of the flavor. Note: Flavor does get better towards the bottom of the glass…what was that ABV again??

Medium carbonation helps to cut the sweetness a bit. The beer is not as thick as some Belgians I have tasted, but it does leave a bit of a coating on the roof of your mouth and tongue. Should I mention the very bitter aftertaste again?

I wasn’t thrilled with this beer. I would try it again to give it a fair shot, but there are much better Belgians out there. It did get better towards the end, but for an expensive import, I want quality from the first sip. If the brewers indeed added artificial sweetner to the beer, they should go to jail…rock sugar and other sweetners are fine, but artificial?? Come on, Belgium, you’re supposed to be setting standards over there!

Anyway, I’m going to bed…look for part 2 of The Belgian Box – coming soon!

Aug 042008

The Session logoThe Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was started by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page. is pleased and proud to announce that Session #19 will be hosted right here! In honor of the start of Oktoberfest, I’ve decided to make September’s topic Deutsches Bier – German beer. I want you all to focus on the wonderful contributions our German neighbors have made to the beer world. You can write about a particular German style you really enjoy, a facet of German beer culture which tickles your fancy, or any other way in which Germany and beer have become intertwined in your life. Bonus points for Bavarian-themed posts.

I’m going to ask that no one submit an actual Oktoberfest trip report unless it really had some profound impact on you – the goal is to dig a little deeper and write about how German beers and beer culture have worked their way into your life (and hearts). Oh, and if you absolutely hate all beers German, that’s fair game, too – tell us why!

So, crack open that Märzen, Kölsch, or Weizen and put some polkas on the iPod – get to writing, and I’ll see you back here in a month!

To participate, simply write up your post on Friday, September 5th, 2008. You can leave it as a comment here, or drop me a line!

German flag

Deutsches Bier!