Jun 122008

This is pretty cool – Adam at Beer Bits 2 (now an official Friend of Lootcorp!) has started up a new, um, “beer blogging community day” – for lack of a better term… You know, where beer bloggers agree on a topic and all post about it on the same day every month.

We have The Session, started by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer back in early 2007, where all the bloggers post about a particular beer style or beer-related topic on the first Friday of every month. However, Adam thought it would be cool to have a beer-blogging day just for homebrewers and homebrew-related topics, and I couldn’t agree more. He has hereby designated the last Friday of every month “Fermentation Friday”, the homebrew blogging day, and I am happy to say that lootcorp.com has already signed up as a host! Many thanks to Adam for the opportunity!

Now, the bad news…this idea was such a success that the host roster filled up pretty quickly, and I’m going to have to wait until January 30, 2009! So, for now, just mark your calendars, and drop me a comment if you have any suggestions for a good early winter homebrewing topic. In the meantime, I’ll be participating in Fermentation Friday every month – this month it is being hosted by Travis at CNYBrew.com, topic TBA (check out the list of scheduled hosts for future months). I can’t wait!

Jun 062008

The Session logoHappy Friday, and welcome to my first Session! The 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 Thomas Vincent, who runs the Geistbear Brewing Blog – 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. This month’s topic was beer festivals.

I have a love/hate relationship with beer festivals. The first real beer festival I attended was Beer on the Pier in NYC. This was about a year before I started brewing, and I think that festival is indirectly responsible for sparking the passion I have for beer today. At the time, I enjoyed beer, but didn’t really know anything about it. I certainly had no clue about the range of beers that were available. I went to Beer on the Pier on a whim, and was floored by the number of breweries represented – where were all these beers in my local stores? (Turns out I was shopping at the wrong stores). At the very least, the festival had opened my eyes to the expansiveness of the craft beer world, and I started to experiment beyond the usual Heineken and Sam Adams.

Since that day, I’ve been to a handful of beer festivals, ranging from brewery parties (Harpoon’s Brewstock) to mass-marketed affairs (Beer on the Pier 2) to events showcasing a particular range of styles (Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest). They all present a great way to expand your beer experience and sample a wide array of styles. However, I’ve also noticed beer festivals have two common flaws:

The Crowd
The more popular beer festivals have become, the more crowded they have become. I generally don’t like crowds, although I’m willing to tolerate them for a good beer payoff. Problem is, beer festivals seem to be attended by fewer beer enthusiasts than “drunk enthusiasts” – people who could care less what beer they are drinking, as long as it contains alcohol. These folks typically get wasted as quickly as possible, wind up making a mess of the place (especially restrooms), and often incite fights or rowdiness… I’ve seen 90 lbs girls turn barleywine samples into shooters, meatheads who only wanted to know which beers had the highest alcohol content, and overheard one disappointed moron ask how he was going to ‘get his buzz on’ with only a 2 oz sample glass at his disposal – he reasoned that he shouldn’t have eaten before he left home. I have nothing against getting drunk or having a good time, I just really wish these people didn’t interpret “beer festival” as “drink-as-much-as-you-can-as-fast-as-you-can-before-passing-out festival”.

The Bathrooms
This is an area where most festivals are sorely lacking. It is more of an issue for the women I’ve gone with, but even I have to admit the bathroom situation is often abysmal. Porta-potties become nasty approximately 7.8 seconds after the festival starts, and thousands of folks + alcoholic beverages + four porta-potties = disaster, and some, umm, creative alternatives to waiting on the line. I think Harpoon had the best outside arrangements I have seen, with separate banks of porta-potties for males and females. However, irresponsible people managed to ruin it for both genders. Best festival restrooms I’ve seen were at the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston, since they were actual indoor restrooms with plumbing and everything. Highly recommended!

Really, I think brewer’s dinners like what The Ginger Man’s South Norwalk location and RockBottom’s Braintree location (SINCE CLOSED!!) put together are the way to go. Smaller, more intimate affairs which really highlight a small group of beers, presenting them with paired cuisine and giving the attendee a real chance to enjoy the experience. For the same price as a beer festival, you get a full meal, a flight of beers, and the possibility to converse with the brewery representatives. These events definitely attract a more foodie/beer enthusiast type crowd than a beer festival. Maybe I’m just getting old, but this sounds much more appealing to me.

All this being said, I still feel beer festivals calling their siren song to me…I see a list of hundreds of breweries presenting and even though I know I will only taste a handful of beers, I fall under the spell. I figure they must’ve figured out the kinks this time around – maybe they’ll have good food, limit attendance, and keep the restrooms clean! Yup, even though I know the truth, I trick myself into believing there’s nothing better…I guess there’s just something about gathering together with 6,500 drunks to enjoy standing in line for a lukewarm taster glass of Boston Lager that appeals to me.

May 302008

Man, it’s Friday and I can’t wait for the weekend. I’m planning on brewing a clone of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat tomorrow. Instead of using San Francisco lager yeast like the recipe specifies, I’m going to be using my pack of Wyeast Private Collection Kölsch II yeast. This strain comes direct to us from Germany and I plan on making a nice Kölsch with it in a couple of weeks. The Sunset Wheat clone is essentially going to be a five gallon starter for the Kölsch – lagers require tons of yeast, so instead of stepping up a starter several times, why not make a light beer with it and get five gallons of tasty brew for my efforts? I’ve already made a 1.5 L starter from the smackpack and it should be ready to go for tomorrow’s session.

I’m also planning on visiting The Cambridge House brewpub in Granby, CT on Sunday. I’m truly disappointed by the lack of good brewpubs in Fairfield County – it seems any worth visiting are at least a forty-five minute drive away. However, I’m determined to try them all out, and The Cambridge House is on the top of my list. They just won a bunch of awards in the Hartford Advocate’s Best of Hartford Readers’ poll, including Best Brewpub and Best Overall Bar (also, 3rd place for Best Looking Wait Staff – hmmmm!) They also have a fresh batch of their Copper Hill Kölsch (a 2005 GABF Gold Medal winner) on tap, so this should be a good trip. Look for the review next week.

Finally, I’d like to bring your attention to the Friends of Lootcorp link list on the right sidebar. These are beer and brewing related sites that I enjoy and have exchanged links with. They all add something unique to the beer blogosphere and are worth checking out. Go take a look and kill some time.

Enjoy the weekend, and I’ll be back with reports on my brew session and brewpub experience.


May 172008

Well, so far it’s not shaping up to be a great beer weekend. First off, found out just a smidge too late about the 14th Annual CT Craft Brewers’ Beer Festival to attend. Live music, 40 breweries and brewpubs represented, over 135 beers poured…doesn’t sound like fun at all. It was today from 5-8:30PM in Naugatuck, CT – I heard about it around 1PM, but I would’ve had to rearrange the whole weekend and cancel the dog’s vet appointment to go. Muttered “C’est la vie!” and moved on.

I was getting over that disappointment when I learned I had also missed the 25th Annual Springfest at the Beach, held last night in New London, CT! Chili cook-off, live music, 30 microbreweries represented, over 100 beers poured. WTF??? I need a secretary or something… (If anyone went to either event, drop me a line – I’d love to hear how they were).

To top it all off, my brew session planned for tomorrow (a clone of Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat) is being threatened by a forecast of rain all day.  Yes, the stars have aligned to prevent me from achieving beer nirvana this weekend.

On a positive note, I picked up a third keg today, so I can rack my new batch of Engine 97 out of primary – it’s a bit overdue. Also got another 6 gallon carboy, since it’s time to rack the Sangiovese again – can’t wait to taste a sample. Finally, picked up a can of Oregon Blackberry puree to use for a future batch of wheat beer or pale ale.

It still stings, though.