Jan 312009

January has come and gone, and with it another Fermentation Friday. This month we asked readers to send us their “brew year’s resolutions” – those things you were going to start or stop doing to improve your brewing in 2009. We received quite a few answers – here is a brief roundup of everyone’s posts. Thanks to everyone who wrote in this month!

Mel & Ray over at Bathtub Brewery resolve to brew as many styles as possible. Mel resolves to tone down her adventurous recipes and shoot for technically perfect beer, while Ray is heading in the opposite direction, looking to brew with some unusual ingredients. Congrats on the upcoming wedding, guys!

The gang at Just Another Booze Blog sent in two entries. M. Randolph recaps a good 2008 and resolves to spend 2009 learning to brew more efficiently, cut down production costs, and to become a master of all things hops. B. James describes an all-too-familiar tale of brewing the perfect beer and being unable to replicate it. To that end, consistency is the goal for 2009.

Stephanie over at brew.cook.pair.joy also has consistency on the mind. She aims to gain precise control over every aspect of the brewing process, with an automated brew sculpture being the ultimate goal.

Rob over at Pfiff! must’ve done a lot more brewing than I did in 2008, since he had to host a party to make room for some new beers. While examining his inventory, he came to the realization that his beers tend to be a bit high on the ABV chart. He has declared 2009 to be the “Year of the Session” and hopes to create a lower ABV beer without sacrificing flavor and quality. He also is a fan of inane wordplay, so he gets some bonus points there!

I gotta hand it to Ted over at Ted’s Homebrew Journal – by cleverly making contributing to a Fermentation Friday one of his resolutions, he’s already got one he can scratch off the list! Sounds like he’s also working on some homemade wooden pub games and tap handles – Ted, send some pics in when you’re done with that stuff!

The creator of Fermentation Friday, Adam @ Beer Bits 2 sounds like he’s got a good thing going and wants to continue on that road in 2009. He already reuses yeast cakes, buys in bulk, and is working on a kegerator and brew basement. You can tell something about a person’s level of brewing by reading their resolutions, and reading a post like this makes me realize I need to step it up a few notches! Hmmm, what were my resolutions again??

Dave at Muckney Brewing wants to go all-grain, brew more often, and put a little research into running a brewery/brewpub. That last one is definitely a dream I share, so best of luck to you!

I like where Damon from Life With Beer is going with his goals this year – he plans to cook more with beer and barley, start making cheese, and tackle the brewing issues of water chemistry and malt aroma. Let me know when you throw a beer, cheese, and food tasting, Damon – I’ll be there!

Thomas at Geistbear Brewing Blog wants to make the move to all-grain and try a few interesting styles. He makes the best resolution of all, which is to keep the hobby of brewing fun. He also stumped me with the word scuppernong. Points.

Matt from A World of Brews ushers in his second year of homebrewing by resolving to brew more beer in 2009! On the list of to-do-brews is an American barleywine, a stout or porter, and a session ale or light fruit beer. Matt also mentions he will be at the NHC this year, and that is one of my resolutions – maybe I’ll see you there, Matt! Finally, Matt also resolves to try and get into all-grain.

Brew Dude John over at Brew Dudes has one up on all of us – he actually set some resolutions last year and uses this time to look back at his progress. John asks, “Is 2 and a half out of 5 ok?” Well, depends – 50% would be failing if we’re talking about a high school Spanish class, but for brewing resolutions I think you’re doing just fine. Once again, switching to all-grain makes the list!

John from Northern Table set nine resolutions for 2009. They include brewing with some wild ingredients, making a sour beer, getting into wood aging, and starting to make lagers. John also resolves to help someone get into all-grain this year. That should be an easy one – looks like plenty of people want to take the plunge!

Finally, last but not least, Rich left a comment with three succinct goals – make two ales, make a few lagers, and get into all-grain.

Well, there you have it. It would seem that switching to all-grain is the #1 brew resolution of 2009, followed closely by brewing more beer and gaining better consistency over our results. Thanks to everyone who contributed – I had a blast reading your posts! If you didn’t participate but wanted to, drop me a line with your post! It’s never too late for brew year’s resolutions!

Jan 282009

Brewpub tanks

Brewpub tanks

We’ve set our wedding date for mid-January 2010, and the first part of planning a wedding is finding the venue. This past weekend we traveled out to Albany, NY to see a prospective place and decided to grab some dinner on the way home. I’m always looking for cool beer bars or brewpubs, so I typed “brew” into the GPS and a few hits popped up.

The one that immediately caught my eye was Brewery Ommegang, that little slice of Belgium in Cooperstown, NY. Unfortunately, there was no way we’d make it there in time for their tastings and tours, so I wiped a tear from my eye and continued down the list. We settled on a nearby brewpub with good reviews – the C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump House. Whew, try saying that after a few beer samplers!

C.H. Evans did not disappoint. We each had a beer sampler, consisting of six delicious 3 oz tasters. My personal favorite was their Hefeweizen, but they also had a very nice Scottish Light and Pale Ale. I was definitely impressed by the brews – all were to style, crisp and clean tasting, and some featured some interesting hop varieties. For dinner I started with a bowl of the beef ragôut, which was delicious – reminiscent of German goulash and served with a corn muffin on top – a pairing that was as unexpected as it was tasty. The main event was the golabki, described on the menu as “choice ground beef, rice, and imported Romano cheese rolled in cabbage leaves, slow roasted with house marinara and served with pierogies.” Different and delicious.

The next day, we had an appointment at another venue in Huntington, NY. We got there early and were passing the town of Melville when I remembered a brewpub I had gone to years and years ago when I worked out in those parts. Maybe we had time? Yup, we had an hour to kill and the Black Forest Brew Haus was right down the street! This place only had four beers listed (and they were out of the one I most wanted to try, called “Heavyweizen”), but they exceeded expectations. We did not try the food, but the Chocolate Dopplebock was almost a meal in itself. The pub is decorated with all manners of German knick-knacks, but it would seem the German connection goes deeper than the decor – from the website: “Privatbrauerei Hoepfner of Karlsruhe, Germany has been brewing in this spirit since 1798 and shares its knowledge and tradition with the Black Forest Brew Haus including materials, recipes, equipment, and even the brewmaster!” Anyone have any info on this interesting blurb? I’ll have to go back there and find out what the exact relationship is…

So, great weekend, right? Well, I decided to push my luck…press my bets…roll the dice one more time… and hit another brewpub up for dinner that night! On the way back from the venue, I set course for the only John Harvard’s in New York State, which happens to be in Lake Grove, NY. I was happy with our visit – I tried the Kölsch and the “Winter Splinter”. The Kölsch was nice, although it was a bit off from the real thing – maybe just a touch too many hops? Not complaining, though, it was good beer! The Winter Splinter, on the other hand, was delicious – a nice malty beer with notes of orange, oak, and vanilla that blended together perfectly. I had one of JH’s signature burgers for dinner, and it was pretty darn good (except I had to switch to a knife and fork halfway through, since the bun just couldn’t keep up).

So, there you have it. No wonder I’m posting about beer being fattening – when you roll like that, you’re gonna pick up a couple of pounds!

Jan 132009


My worst enemy

It should come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I love beer. A lot. Ever since I started this blog, my beer consumption has skyrocketed. I find myself trying every new beer I can get my hands on, and it has been a rare day indeed where some amount of beer didn’t pass my lips.

I am now paying the price, in waistline and wallet. The wallet I can deal with – good beer is one of those luxuries I afford myself, and I get a lot of brewing inspiration and education by drinking a wide variety of brews. Plus, it gives me something to write about!

However, the waistline is a different story. Beer has a lot of calories. And it usually brings along some tasty friends like nachos, hot wings, pizza, and potato skins. It has gotten to the point where I’ve had to start using a new hole in my belt, and that is a warning sign I cannot ignore. So, no more weekday beers, and I am making some major changes to my diet and exercise routines. It’s really not so bad not having my customary just-got-home-from-work beer – I missed it for a few days, but dropping this extra weight is well worth the sacrifice.

I’m sure there are readers out there who have struggled with the beer & weight gain issue. Or, maybe you have to regulate your drinking for other medical or dietary reasons…any stories or advice to pass on? I’ve already been told to switch to lite beer, but honestly, I’d rather have no beer at all than watery beer.

I’ll let you know how it goes… For now, I’m just looking forward to the weekend, when I have some brewing and a little beer experiment planned for the blog.

 Posted by at 22:22  Tagged with:
Jan 052009

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).

So, happy 2009! I think I am still hosting Fermentation Friday this month, so it would be a good idea to get a topic out there! In the spirit of the New Year, your assignment is to give us your ‘brew year’s resolutions’ for 2009 (sorry for the horrible wordplay). Was 2008 a good brewing year for you? What can you improve on or change that will make 2009 even better? Any promises to yourself, like brewing a certain style for the first time, going all-grain, or upgrading your system? Put it all out there, and we can all convene over a brew in 2010 and see how we did.

Posts should be submitted by Friday, January 30, 2009 – you can email them to me or leave them as a comment. Just a note – if it is your first time commenting on the blog, it holds the comment until I approve it. I don’t like doing this, but it stops the enormous amount of comment spam that winds up here every day. Anyway, if you comment and it doesn’t immediately show up, fear not – it is probably just queued for approval. If you want to be extra sure I received your link, email it to me and I’ll reply confirming I got it.

Thanks to Adam for letting me host – I am really looking forward to reading everyone’s posts!

Jan 052009

Welcome to 2009! It’s been almost a full month since I posted last, and in that time, I’ve been struggling with the Winter weather here in the Northeast. My last post on winter brewing had a few of you chime in, and it seems like many of you do head indoors and fire up the stove for some extract and partial boil brews. Man, I was really hoping for some off-the-wall Rube Goldberg-esque methods to defeat the cold and brew in complete comfort – go figure, most of you just go inside your houses. Once again, I am overthinking…

With this in mind, I headed out to the brew store last week and picked up my first brew kit in a long time. There was something relazing about not having to worry about measuring grain and hops – everything is all bagged and ready to go. The kit is a clone of Old Speckled Hen, which I chose for its fairly quick grain to glass timeframe. I am brewing this as a belated Christmas gift, and I’d like it to be ready before Spring arrives!

So, brewing is planned for Saturday – weather be damned! I have to scrounge up my old boil kettle and give it a good washing – I think it has been relegated to the basement and stuffed with old towels or something.

I think this will be cathartic – I had a very disappointing brew year in 2008, and now it’s a new year and I’m returning to my roots. Sometimes you have to break things down and get back to the essence to remember why you like to do them. I’m hoping this will be the spark that gets 2009 off to a great start!

Do you guys have anything brewing for the New Year? Drop a line and let me know. Also, if you do have any crazy and creative Winter brew tips, shoot them over – there’s still plenty of cold weather left to put them to the test!