Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brown Ale

I cracked open brown ale of ours.  After a week of drinking nothing but brown ales from around the region ( bought a few sixers and split them with my brother) I was starting to wonder if I would tire of the style before I got to ours.  I didn't, and this is good, because I have two and a half cases of it, and it used to be my favorite style of beer.

I say used to, because I know my tastes have changed, but not exactly how.  Am I more used to hops, or do I need a stronger beer than the traditional brown offers?  I don't know.  Most people are familiar with only one or two specific brown ales.  The standard for most is the Newcastle Brown Ale, and was the first brown that I ever came to know.  The other is either Fullers, or something like Theakson's Old Peculiar.  Both are different from the Newcastle, (employing black or darker roasted malts), but are actually considered the same style as Newcastle (considered Northern English Style Brown Ale).  There are Southern English or London Style, American Style, and Texas Style.  There are also mild ales.

Some would say (the English in particular) that Brown Ale is nothing more than a bottled Mild Ale.  I have no particular experience with traditional Mild Ales (served mostly on draft in England), but Mild Ales served by American craft brewers seems to me to be a brown lacking any body or taste or a Brown in color only.

American Browns are browns that are a little more substantial, employing more roasted malts (like chocolate, or to a lesser degree black patent) having more flavor a little more alcohol, and a little more hops than traditional English Browns.  I think I have grown to like these beers more and the traditional Newcastle a little less.  Although, when I do have the occasion to have a Newcastle.....yum.  Another thing I have noticed is that I used to be able to get Newcastle on tap at a number of my favorite bars around town, and it was on par in cost with popular craft beers, but now, it is rare to find it on tap, and being an import, is now priced more in line with the premium craft products.  What a shame.

In my opinion, brown ale (and its darker cousin, Porter) is the least likely thing to be on tap in a regular bar.  Even in bars that specialize in craft beers, you will see a couple of local choices, a couple of import choices, three or four national craft choices, and three or four national light lagers.  If there is a dark, it is a stout (more often Guiness at $5 or more a pint....rip off (and I don't like Guiness)), maybe something like Shiner Bock, an amber or red, always a wheat or Blue Moon, and if they are really really upscale, a local IPA or something from Dogfish Head.....boring.  I don't go out as much anymore.

Brown ales don't get much attention from American tastebuds, and I think it is unfortunate.  A brown ale is a great medium bodied beer that you can have more than one.  It tends towards the sweet malty (and some say nutty, but I don't really get that) with just a touch of earthy hops (English East Kent Golding is my favorite) for bitterness and flavor (no aroma).  If you make it, go light on the chocolate malt, and really light on any black malts (if any).  Or come on by, and share one of mine.  I have a lot, and now that I am fully employed, don't drink nearly as much.

Monday, September 27, 2010


This is from my friend, Kent....he wouldn't, however, like this beer.

PERUWELZ, Belgium (Reuters) – Full moons are often associated with tides, insanity and creatures like werewolves, but it turns out they're also good for brewing beer.
In Peruwelz, a small, sleepy town in southern Belgium, a family-owned brewery has produced its first batch of specialist beer brewed by the light of a full autumnal moon.
It isn't so much a nod to mythology as a recognition of nature's impact on the science of brewing.
"We made several tests and noticed that the fermentation was more vigorous, more active," explained Roger Caulier, the owner of Brewery Caulier, which began in the 1930s when his grandfather started selling homemade beer from a handcart.
"The end product was completely different, stronger, with a taste lasting longer in the mouth," he said.
The full moon speeds up the fermentation process, shortening it to five days from seven, which adds extra punch to the beer without making it harsh, according to connoisseurs.
The finely balanced, gold-colored beer is 10 percent alcohol by volume, extremely strong by most European or U.S. standards but not uncommon in Belgium, where traditional monk-brewed beers frequently hit 10 or 12 percent.
"It goes down very well, no problem at all," said Joseph Francois, a journalist and beer expert who has tasted the brew.
Brewery Caulier, which uses methods dating from the 1840s and is well-known for its artisanal beers, plans to produce about 12,000 bottles of its full moon beer, called Paix-Dieu (Peace-God), which go on sale on October 31.
The idea came to Caulier after he visited a friend in Alsace, a winemaking region of eastern France, who told him about how he planned his entire production schedule according to the lunar calendar.
Caulier began experimenting and eventually came up with a nine-step process that includes using two types of hops and involves a two-week secondary fermentation process inside the bottle, not unlike the technique used to produce Champagne.
"It gives the product greater fame, a bit like for great vintage wines," he said.
"It could lead to collectors checking the differences between one vintage and another because there could very well be differences between every batch."
Being from a three-generation brewing family, Caulier is fascinated by the science behind the process. But he doesn't discount the mythical aspects of full moon beer either.
"Many farmers are convinced that the moon influences the quality of some of their products," he said.
"You can feel agitated on full moons, you have births, you get many myths around the full moon and I think there is some truth behind them."
Either way, he's hoping that Paix-Dieu proves a hit and is even in talks to distribute it in the U.S. and Japan. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Great American Beer Festival

We attended the Saturday Afternoon Session of the Great American Beer Festival, and I got to say, I left somewhat disappointed.

Let me say this: It is a great event, and if you have never experienced it, it is worth the price of admission.  I was standing in line waiting to get in (for two hours) and I figured that this was my 8th time attending.  I have been to every session over the years, and have had brewers passes and attended all manners of other events around the festival.  The festival is my least favorite part.  And I am finding that my body does not process alcohol as well as I did when I was younger...and I think that the beers have in general gotten bigger and badder so that you have more alcohol to process.  Lastly, I really tasted very few beers that I thought were very good, and fewer still that were something that I would buy more than once as a curiosity.  This year, there were no beers that I wanted to write down and remember to look for them on my travels.

I only tried one IPA and except for the Imperial Reds, Stouts, and Porters, avoided many big beers.  The offerings this year were heavy on the Belgian and Belgian hybrid styles (including american styles made with Belgian yeasts, sour beers, wood aged, and all manners of combinations thereof).  I wished I liked Saisons more, there were a ton of them.  None of them are beers that I could ever consider having more than one of or more than an occasional taster.  I don't particularly think this is good for the industry, and does nothing good to my liver and digestive system.

Perhaps it is that the times have changed, the pendulum swung too far, or I am too old.  I would celebrate a return to the core of the beer spectrum, and am advocating simple beers made astonishingly well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Its Beer Week!!!!

It is beer week here in Denver, and the Great American Beer Festival started today.  I have been so lax at posting lately, that even my brother took matters into his own hands.  I better get writing, huh?

Much has been going on around here, but not as much of was brewing beer.  On a good note, I am no longer planning to launch a professional brewery in 2011.  I know my wife is relieved.  I gave myself until the end of the year to find some means of employment, or I was just going to go for it.  And guess what?  The beer gods have decided to allow me to stay a home brewer for a while more.

Something else that didn't happen this year, is that I didn't receive a call to volunteer for the Rare Beer Tasting.  It bums me out as that was a fun event, but truthfully, I forgot about it, and ended up working anyway.  I guess it is sold out and supposed to be tomorrow.  Next year, I think that in addition to attending the member's only session at the GABF, I would also like to volunteer for one or two of the night shifts.  I need to look into this.

We did get around to brewing and bottling a brown ale (see our Regular Joe Beer Shootout), and that will be ready sometime between now and a couple weeks from now.  Our processes continue to be refined, and always new problems (I burnt myself really bad on the leg), but we will get it.  I also have a backlog of equipment tinkering that I need to do (and whoas me, absolutely no time to do this) before the brewery comes back to my house.

On the plus note, if I keep a job, I can start dreaming of really really good equipment.

Oh, and I harvested and dried my hops.  I don't have the scale to weigh them, but I estimate that I yielded about 2 ounces from my 2 bines of Cascade.  It was its first year, so I shouldn't be alarmed by this low yield. A mature plant can yield a pound or more.  I am looking forward to dry hopping my red or making a traditional bitter from them homegrown hops.

Anyway, more on the GABF next week.

The Ultimate Regular Joe Beer Shootout

And the winner is…  Miller Genuine Draft (MGD)… What?  MGD won a blind taste test on a beer blog aimed at the  craft beer with topics about “good” beer and home brewing?  Who is this chump? 
Well, first introduce the chump.  I am Dave, Gary’s brother and brewing side kick.  I’m the Larry to his Moe, as Moe is typically running the show, and Larry typically is around to get things done, but without getting bossed around like Curley does.  Plus I have better hair… AKA Larry (and in this case, Moe has Curley’s hairdo, but I digress).  (Editor’s Note: The duo is more like Bob and Doug Mackenzie, with the regular author Bob.)    He mentions me once in a while on here.  What I am not?  A writer (Ed. Note: For Sure).  I’m sure you already gathered that this story is not up to his typical standard of prose. I tend to be less pointed, less direct, less polished, I try to be witty, and I am more rambling. I don’t do fancy big words or proper English. Deal with it. 
But this is a craft brew story isn’t it?  I started out with MGD as the “Winner”.  How does MGD win in a story about craft beer?  Well, it all started with our typical brew day banter, we were making our latest, an American Style Brown.  That’s it for craft beer talk so if you were holding your breath waiting you can turn the channel now, Happy Days reruns on Channel 50.  Well, our banter turned to beer, as it tends to do with Gary around, imagine that.  Somehow, I came to the realization that I have never in my life knowingly ordered, bought, or consumed a King of Beers, I have never had a Budweiser.  Ever!!  I loved the frog commercials, but it never prodded me to buying the product – take that, genius advertisers.  Gary has talked about and got me onto a PBR kick lately, so I’ve had that recently, and I went fishing with my friend and he brought MGD.   But other than that I really can’t recall differences or preferences between the popular “big brand” beers that are out there.  So, something to do during an hour of mashing and additional hour of boiling.   Off to the local liquor store I went. 
It started small, I grabbed a 6 pack of Bud.  Realizing, and kind of shocked, that bottles were actually cheaper than cans for the “Bigs”.   I proceeded down the aisle.  Of course, I needed a PBR to compare, grabbed some Michelob Original (is that like Classic Coke?), MGD, and rounded it out with our much adorned local “Big” Coors.  No light beers, and maybe I missed some other “Bigs”, but my arms were full and my wallet empty.   Then for grins I grabbed a Miller High Life, just because I like the commercial where the guy takes the beer back from Hoity Toity places (that commercial makes me think of my mom for some reason), the genius advertisers strike back.  That and it is Miller, but a lot cheaper, I wanted to taste the difference.
Back home, it did start small again (as most things around the brew kettle do).  I labeled the beer glasses with tape and wrote numbers on each.  I poured out a sample of each jotted down the numbers so I can keep track.    I spun around 6 times so I got dizzy and forgot which was which and let the blind taste test begin. 
First off: Observation, 6 glasses side by side.  One had no head, the rest had a light head, one had a great deal of foam but it disappeared quickly. I poured them all the same to see the head difference, not careful to produce no foam, but not sloppy to make a foam-over.    The 2 in the smaller ½ pint glasses looked slightly lighter but we attributed it to the different glass, next time, same sized pint glasses.   Other than that, they all had the EXACT same look and color, you could not tell one from the other by appearance alone.  Exactly the same visually, for the most part all 6 looked like they came out of the same bottle.   Then on to the taste tests.  One by one we tasted, and talked and took notes.  Since it was blind we did not know which was which until we were completely done. 
 We were having so much fun I walked around and grabbed a few neighbors to see what they thought as well.  Tom, the self proclaimed “Bud and Busch” drinker, Stuart who drinks beer and likes the stuff we brew, but really is not much of a beer drinker, and Brian, the ex-home brewer who only drinks micro’s now, along with Gary and myself (a beer snob, and a beer snob wannabe).  

Interesting.  We all tasted them on our own, and kind of sorted through them the same way.  Right off the bat it seemed we all split them into groups.  We all seemed to like the 2 on the right better, and not like the 2 on the left.  Every one of us had different ways of explaining what we liked.  This one is bitter, this one is similar to that one, this is better than that, these 2 I don’t like, etc.  Also noting in our non-professional judging style, some of the comments/justifications were vague and not all that descriptive.  I will list some specific comments on each below. 
And the judging; Tom’s first comment right off the bat was about the Bud “I can drink this” so he did pick his brand right off the bat.  But he had MGD and Michelob tied for the best.  Gary pretty much thought that the Michelob and the MGD were very similar and liked them equal.  When pressed, the MGD got his vote.  Interesting, as my thoughts and comments, I came out the exactly same way, “I like these 2 (but with PBR and MGD) but favored the MGD slightly.  Brian (the micro drinker) thought Bud was really bitter, and the Coors was bitter, but not as much.  He liked also picked MGD and Michelob as tied for the best.  Stuart the not much of a beer drinker did not have a lot of comments, but also liked the MGD the best.  We all agreed 100% on one thing, the High Life tasted really, really watered down.  Like you put ice in it and left it out in the sun.  No one remotely picked that as even as ok (total last place).   Also funny:  All us from Colorado, and poor Coors, did not fare so well, falling soundly on the disliked side.   As for Budweiser which started this all, came in a solid 5th place, something about it just did not sit well with most of us, except for Tom the Bud Drinker. (Ed. Note: Most likely because we really prefer all malt beers firstly, wheat and corn adjuncts secondly, and rice adjucncts less).
So, overall, we had fun, and the overall winner was MDG with Michelob a very close (2 first place ties) second.  So, if Miller wants to send us some (MGD) SWAG email the blog owner (Gary) and get our address, but leave out the High Life hats.    So, Michelob gets honorable mention, and PBR a solid 3rd. The Bud guy still likes Bud, and probably won’t be buying MDG even though he picked it tops.     As for me, I probably will drink MDG next time I am slumming with the “Bigs”, and probably will never buy another Bud, but now I know why.  Bud-Wyse-Er (still Love the frogs). 
Oh, and the beer snob comment was just to get a rise out of Gary, because he takes offense to being called a beer snob because he likes PBR (and now MGD).  ;-)  
Bud – “I can drink this” “Looks red”, “Fruity” “Different and I don’t like”
High Life – “Flat”, “watered down” “Really Watered down” ”Bitter” “Flat”
PBR -  “Did not like”  “Aftertaste”  “Cant tell difference” “A little fuller”
Coors – “No Head at all” “Less full than 3 (PBR)”, “Tastes more watered down than 4 (MGD)”  2 No comments.
MGD – “Good Head” “liked the best” “I liked (Thought it was the PBR)”  “Top 2” “Nice no after taste” “Identical to 6 (Michelob)”
Michelob – “Good Head” “Fuller Bodied” “More Lager yeast taste” “Like” “No after taste that Hangs with you”  “Not Bad”
Editor’s Note: I have been thinking of our taste test, and while haven’t done any research, the MGD and Michelob are premium products.  I don’t know if they are all malt, (as opposed to malt and corn or rice), but it would actually make sense.  They are priced more than the “regulars” Bud, Coors, and PBR, and way more than the discount “Miller High Life”.  From reading the can, Budweiser is made with rice (and Beechwood Aging) and besides High Life, had the most distinctive taste, although we didn’t like it so much.  Coors and PBR were also almost indistinguishable, and I attribute that to them being corn adjucnt beers.  Many thanks to my brother for his blog entry….

Monday, September 13, 2010

I am a Craft Brewer....but Here is to You Craft Beer Drinker

Found this on someone else's blog....but it is for you CBD (and reader).