Sep 142016

My friends, I have strayed…

Over the last few years, my brewing became more and more sporadic, evidenced by the lack of posts on this site. Increased work responsibilities and other interests were competing for my time and energy and brewing became… a chore. I made a handful of batches to try and stay current, but the brewery gradually fell into disarray. My brewday documentation became non-existent. I stopped reading (and writing) beer articles. The beer, while still drinkable, suffered greatly. I had fallen from grace.

But O! I am nothing if not resilient! The fire was rekindled this weekend when I was convinced by The Hammer to enter my first homebrew competition. The only beer I had available was a Heady Topper clone I brewed a few weeks ago. Everything that could’ve gone wrong with this beer did. First I unknowingly bought an extract kit instead of all grain — oh well, roll with it, it’ll cut a couple hours off the brewday, right? Boil and hops additions went well, until I realized I forgot to use my hop spider — a huge mistake when using a plate chiller. When it came time to chill the beer, my chiller got clogged and I was dead in the water (worter?).

Five gallon Torpedo kegI wound up throwing the wort in the fermentor and leaving it in my basement overnight to cool. Pitched the yeast the following day, then ignored the beer for a month. Did not dry hop it, did not take gravity readings, I couldn’t care less about this brew. Until this competition deadline was looming.

Somewhere on Sunday, as I cleaned my kegs and racked the beer and fought a CO2 leak… as I gazed over the dust-covered, neglected collection of my brewing equipment, I got mad. I was pissed that I had let things go like this. Pissed that I let the world take the fun out of brewing. Pissed as I watched the beer world explode around me, breweries opening every day, homebrewing equipment and ingredients and techniques reaching never before seen heights…pissed at myself that I wasn’t a part of it all.

The next day I went online and ordered the ingredients needed to brew one of my favorite old recipes, Engine 57 Steam Beer. They arrived today, along with a gleaming new keg (pictured above). I’ll be brewing that beer this weekend. Next up is my IPA recipe. Then on to some other styles. I’m not stopping until I have all five of my kegs full of beer. I’m entering these beers into competitions, and I’m going to win medals. I’m getting my brewing mojo back, dammit!!

That Heady clone? Not ready to be competitive yet, and it might never be. It has a harsh hop bitterness in the finish that might mellow with time in cold storage, or might be a result of staying on the trub too long and never fade. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but I don’t expect a high score from it. It doesn’t matter, though — I entered it anyway. It was more of a symbolic act — atoning for my sins, getting back in the scene, and making some amazing beer.

Sep 152009


iPhone - it makes calls, too!

In addition to planning my Fall brews (going to try a pumpkin spiced beer, and make something with that star anise I mentioned last time), I’ve been playing around with developing applications for the iPhone. Naturally, I thought about joining my love of brewing with this new endeavor and making some brewing or beer related apps.

There are already a few brewing apps I’ve seen out there – Joshua Baran created a BJCP Style Guidelines app which is great – searchable, elegant, and free! Also, “nurl” has produced a gem of a brewing app called Brew Pal – this is a steal at $0.99. It is really full-featured, well-supported, and is a lot of fun to use on brewdays. In addition to those two apps (which I own), there are a handful of other offerings out there.

My question to the masses – what kind of brewing/beer apps would YOU like to see? Some brewing calculator or utility app? A beer/bar/brewery related app? Ingredient inventory app? I have a couple of ideas in mind, but I’m curious to see if there is a pressing need out there I could address. Email/comment me with your ideas – if I actually develop it and it hits market, I’ll make sure you get credit for the idea and a free copy of the finished program.

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:
Sep 172008

The Session logoWell, hosting The Session last month was a great experience, and I hope to have the opportunity again someday. For now, though, I must pass the torch.

Next month’s Session will be hosted by Bathtub Brewery. The October topic is Beer and Memories – I quote the announcement post:

For the 20th Session, Bathtub Brewery threw our hats in the ring (our hops in the fermenter?) to host a Session topic you might not expect. I’m sure you were figuring we’d quiz you on the best pumpkin brews to pass your lips, or ideas for wild and crazy ingredients for a harvest ale. Well, that won’t be the case. Instead, I pose this question for you to ponder:

Is there a beer that reminds you of a specific memory?

If you’re thinking, “Huh?” then you might want to craft your response along the lines of “Whenever I drink [insert brew here] it reminds me of that day …” Or perhaps it’s the reverse. Oooooh.

Speaking as someone who hasn’t even finished his Session post for last month, I don’t want to throw out pie-in-the-sky promises about next month. However, I do have some cool ideas for this topic, so we’ll see what happens. And yes, I am still working on my Deutsches Bier Session post – don’t lose hope!

Sep 082008

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.

This month, The Session is being hosted right here. Keep reading for this month’s roundup post.

It’s Sunday night, and I’ve spent the weekend reading through all the great responses to this month’s Session. It seems like everyone related to the topic and had a good time with it – there were some very creative approaches out there!

Before I get down to business, I just want to thank everyone – thanks for giving me the opportunity to host, and thanks for participating and sharing all these great posts. If you have a late post, I missed your post, or I spelled your name wrong or something, please let me know and I’ll get it fixed.

  • Let’s kick it off with Beckel @ Legal Beer, who explored the history of the Helles style while sampling Surly Brewing’s Surly Hell. He mentions he isn’t really a lager fan, so I give him credit for stepping out of his comfort zone. Oh yea, he traced the first shipment of Spaten Helles from Munich to Hamburg, so we’ll throw in a few Bavaria points.
  • Speaking of Bavaria points, I don’t think anyone is going to top Jay over at Brookston Beer Bulletin. He writes about a press junket trip he took to Bavaria in 2007 where he visited several small and relatively unknown (in America) breweries. He also posted an amazing array of photos from the trip, which have made me realize its been two very long years since I’ve been to Germany. Hmm, wonder how I can get on one of those junket trips?
  • Bryon at Home Brew Beer spins tales of lost beer and victorious yodeling at Epcot’s German Biergarten and an authentic German restaurant right here in CT. Thanks for the tip, I’ll be sure to check it out!
  • Flossmoor Station gives us a collection of German beer photos from the archives.
  • Boak over at Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog went on a virtual tour of Germany through beer at London’s Zeitgeist, a bar for German ex-pats.
  • Dan and Ethan over at Beer-O-Vision have posted a very interesting video comparison of Schneider-Brooklyner and Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen Weiss. These two beers are the result of a collaroration between Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver and Schneider Brauerie’s Hans-Peter Drexler.
  • Shawn over at Beer Philosopher also found the Schneider-Brooklyner Hopfen Weiss worthy of blogging about. Talk about a symbol of German-American beer cultures intertwining! He writes a terrific review of the beer – I am definitely going to have to get my hands on this one.
  • Lew Bryson at Seen Through a Glass does an excellent job of comparing different drinking cultures around the world and putting to paper what makes the German beer culture and experience so unique. Great read.
  • Tom at Yours for Good Fermentables has advice we should all heed when reviewing beers: “Taste first; offer (gentle) criticism later.” His Session post speaks of the misunderstood kellerbier – why can’t lagers and casks go hand-in-hand? This post made me thirsty.
  • Josh over at Hump’s Brewing found reason to get back to The Session after a long absence, and offers a great history lesson on some of the many, many German beer styles out there. He also has a rauchbier in the works, and I’d love to try some when it is done!
  • Rob at Pfiff! exposes the seedy underworld of German brewing and finds comfort in the fact that there’s still room in Germany for a brown-bagger pils… and, it’s not that bad!
  • Let’s head over to Adam at A Good Beer Blog, who reviews one of my favorite styles, the Berliner Weisse. Good review, if you can make it past the disturbing shirtless lederhosen lager pub reference…ahem, moving right along…
  • Jon over at The Brew Site muses about how pervasive das Reinheitsgebot is in brewing culture, and throws in a few German beer reviews for good measure.
  • Virgil at Vbg-log sits on the other side of the fence…he doesn’t much care for the Reinheitsgebot. Luckily, his beloved Weizens, usually being ales, don’t really fall under it’s reaches. Just don’t fruit the man’s beer!
  • David from Musings Over a Pint brings the discussion back to the U.S. with a roll call of American craft beers which have been influenced by or brewed in the style of German beers. I am printing this list out and using it as a shopping list next time I hit the beer store!
  • Stephanie at teamed up with Ray and Melissa (from Bathtub Brewery) last September for their very own Oktoberfest party. Nineteen different German beers made it to the party, along with some good-sounding German fare. I guess my invite got lost in the mail… :(
  • Speaking of Ray @ Bathtub Brewery, he weighs in with this Session’s most philosophical post. Does tradition truly handicap the human race? Has clinging to the Reinheitsgebot prevented the Germans from taking their brewing to an even higher level? Agree or disagree, this is a great thought-provoking post.
  • Brad at La Petite Brasserie is a first-time Sessioner who also thinks the Reinheitsgebot is an outdated piece of government interference, but he can’t argue with the results.
  • Matt of Hoosier Beer Geek talks about how he thinks the American craft beer world would not be what it is without the rich brewing history German immigrants brought here. He then eloquently describes the beautiful rauchbier – particularly Aecht Schlenkerla, one of my favorites.
  • The Beer Nut also appreciates a good rauchbier, and he writes about two I have not yet had the chance to sample – Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier and Spezial Lager. The Beer Nut writes to us from Ireland, and his proximity to the promised land of European beer makes me jealous.
  • Another author from Ireland, Thom from the Black Cat Brewery, says German beer might not be his favorite, but the easy-drinking wheats did open his eyes to the world of good beer. Another victim of the seemingly innocent wheat beer!
  • YET another Irishman :) , Adeptus at The Bitten Bullet, found this to be the perfect topic for his very first Session post. Not only was he lucky enough to be introduced to good beer in Germany, but he is now actually residing in Germany within striking distance of both Köln and Düsseldorf!!! This is a great story of one man’s journey through beer and life.
  • Speaking of beer journeys, Matt at A World of Brews tells us how his passion switched from wine to beer during a trip to Europe with his wife. I love it – a beer bar in Berlin opens his eyes to the complexity of beer three years ago, and now he writes a beer blog! Nice story.
  • Jason at is another first-time Session poster, and another lost soul who was shown the good way by Germany and its addictive wheat beer! Nice post about a great social experience he had that seems to be a defining feature of the German beer culture.
  • Ted @ Barley Vine was lucky enough to live in Köln for a few months, and he writes a nice piece on the beer culture surrounding Kölsch. He makes an interesting point about how Americans separate their beer culture from the rest of their lives, where other cultures, like the Germans, integrate the two. He also includes a good review of an American Kölsch style beer.
  • That brings us to E.S. from Relentless Thirst, who gets in touch with his German roots by reviewing three Oktoberfest offerings from American breweries.
  • Mario @ Brewed for Thought teamed up with Peter from Better Beer Blog and conducted a Kölsch tasting. Find out how the authentic Kölsch Reissdorf matched up against some other American Kölsch style offerings.
  • Stephen over at thatstheSPIRIT writes a great piece on the dueling cities of Köln and Düsseldorf. He states that it is impossible to truly appreciate a Kölsch or altbier without trying them in situ – I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both cities, and I have to agree! The cities are the beer, the beers are the cities…it is beer culture to another level, and it is beautiful to behold.
  • How can we leave out the driving force behind The Session? Stan over at Appellation Beer pens an interesting post about the beer found in authentic German towns along the Romantischstraße – they may not all fit style guidelines, but the residents sure enjoy drinking them.
  • Finally, we have our host…who isn’t done writing his post yet! I was so busy working on the roundup that I neglected my own response! I should have it finished real soon now! and will link to it here.

Well – looks like that’s it! Thanks again to everyone who participated – it was great variety of takes on the topic and made for some really interesting reading (and watching!) I’ll keep an eye out for any stragglers and will update this post as necessary.

Until next time – Prost!

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 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!

Jul 072008

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. This month’s Session is being hosted by Rob DeNunzio of Pfiff! – head over there to see this Session in its entirety! For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

Sorry to be posting late with this month’s Session – my wisdom tooth adventure took more out of me than I anticipated, and throwing a holiday in the mix didn’t help any. However, I am a firm believer in “better late than never”, so here’s my belated contribution.

This month’s topic is “drinking anti-seasonally”. Sure, there are certain beer styles that just go well with different seasons – light, refreshing lagers and citrusy wheat beers for summertime, or imperial stouts and sweet, heavy Belgians as the weather cools. You could say there is often a natural pairing of weather and beverage – an icy winter’s night just begs for the warming sensation of a high-alcohol big beer, sipped slowly by a raging fire, while a day of exhausting yardwork under a hot sun deserves a light, ice-cold gulper that won’t go to your head. Enjoying a seasonally-appropriate beverage can accentuate the best of both the weather and the beer, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with coloring outside the lines from time to time.

After all, the weather is but one variable I use when deciding what the perfect beer for the moment would be. Am I eating a barbecue dinner, or enjoying a rich chocolate cake for dessert? Am I sitting on the couch enjoying a Saturday-afternoon ballgame, or am I having a nightcap before heading up to bed? Am I on a brewery tour with the opportunity to try a rare stout, or am I staring at a cooler full of Corona at the beach? All of these things and more come into play, and if my refrigerator contained every brand of beer available, I can guarantee I would be drinking a wide variety of different styles throughout a given season.

I liken beer’s “proper seasons” to wine’s “proper pairings” – red wine is to be paired with beef, white with fish and poultry. But who is to tell me I can’t enjoy a nice spicy shiraz with some blackened catfish, or a crisp pinot grigio with a steak? Such pairing guidelines are meant to be just that – a suggestion, a basic default option which will work, but not a set-in-stone regulation that cannot be broken.

That being said, when I brew I do like to plan around the seasons. I enjoy looking at the calendar and planning what I (and my guests) will be enjoying in the coming months. Perhaps I will brew a barleywine in July to enjoy next February. Or, I might want that pumpkin ale I’m dreaming of to be in bottles by Thanksgiving.

I guess it all comes down to personal choice, and I’m thrilled to have so many styles and options to choose from. If worrying that our beer is the wrong style for the season is the worst we have to deal with, I think we’re doing just fine.

Jun 242008

Generic beer

Generic beer

I’m not particularly proud of what I’m about to tell you. It’s not something I like to talk about, and I wouldn’t say anything at all, but I’d rather you hear it from me than someone else.

I drink Bud. Miller, too. And an occasional Coors.

There, I said it. Yes, I write a brewing blog, consider myself a beer connoisseur, brew all kinds of strong, flavorful styles, and yet I still sometimes pick up a can of watery, fizzy macroswill and actually drink the contents.

There is a definite stigma that exists in homebrew and craft beer circles when it comes to BMC. It seems many beer aficionados absolutely despise our domestic light American lagers, and I wonder what impact this confession will have on my beer street-cred. To some, it would be like finding out your favorite gourmet chef eats at McDonald’s, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. None of these macrobrews would ever make it into my favorites list, but I think they can be appreciated for what they are, given the right place and time.

Like, right now. I’m sitting on the train fresh out of work, sipping on a Budweiser as I write this post. It’s thin, it’s ice-cold, and it doesn’t have any malt or hops character to speak of. It’s brewed with rice. It’s just about everything I wouldn’t want one of my beers to be, but it’s cheap and it hits the spot for a quick on-the-way-home brew. Forgive me.

Another “right” time for BMC is when you’re trying to beat the heat at a summertime baseball game. BMC and baseball are two great American pastimes, and they go together very nicely. Besides, the beer guy at Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly hawking Dogfish Head or Rochefort, so I’ll take what I can get. If I’m going to sit in the sun watching a bunch of guys make millions of dollars throwing a ball around, I need a beer. Any beer.

Sometimes, it is also necessary to quaff a BudMillerCoors when attending a social event. If I am at a bar and have a choice of fine beers to choose from, you’d better believe I am ordering something a bit more highbrow. However, I occasionally find myself at a hole-in-the-wall dive or a relative’s barbecue where BMC is the only offering. I will accept it with a smile on my face, knowing I can drink four or five Coors Lights and still drive home.

I do have my limits, though. I recall a night spent visiting friends outside of Morgantown, WV. We went to “the bar” – appropriately named, since there was only one to speak of in town. I was thrilled to find $2 Heinekens on offer – they’re usually three times that price at home. Imagine my surprise when I was ridiculed after ordering one for drinking “the expensive stuff” – the rest of the bar was enjoying 25-cent cans of PBR. You would’ve thought I’d ordered a bottle of $500 champagne. I kept ordering my Heinekens, causing more grief for myself, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drink Blue Ribbon when Heineken was effectively at fire-sale prices.

So, there you have it. I don’t think it makes me any less of a beer lover. If BMC is all you ever experience in the world of beer, I think it’s a bit sad. That’s not the case here – I know what good beer tastes like, and I’ll keep brewing and drinking it for as long as I am able. In fact, I think BMC helps me appreciate the good stuff even more – it cleanses the palate, like water or a bland cracker.

Come on, join in. Confess your worst beer secrets here. I promise I won’t make fun of you, and we can all laugh and cry together.