Saturday, July 30, 2011

a sour taste in my mouth

I just recently got a big bottle of Gavroche French Red Ale at my local bottle shop at a discount price, I did a whole write up on it here and then for some reason my computer decided to screw it up.  I lost the whole thing.  The important things were that I got it from the bargain bin for $5 a bottle (750 ml), there is no such particular style called French Red Ale (so it was more like a Flanders Red, but less sour and less robust flavor in general), and it was like a light sour beer.

I don't really think of sour beers as beers per se, I treat them more like wine, as they are often fruit flavored, and treated more like wine in their production and aging process.  I have been reluctant to make one because it takes 12 or more months of aging, and that would be a bitter (rather than sour) disappointment if I screwed it up and had to wait so long....but at $5 for 12 oz. of Lindemann's, or $12-$20 for 750 ml bottles ($22 for 4 pack of 11 oz bottles) for various widely available Belgians (more for the American Breweries Barrel or sour products), I may be forced to give it a go.

American Craft Brewing is jumping into their barrel programs with gusto these days.  It is not uncommon to see barrels packed into every available corner of the local brewery.  I understand that it is an extension of the crafting of beer, and that the labor and material costs are so much more, but I am getting tired of the premium prices, higher ABV's, and the ever lengthening of descriptive names.  Do we seriously need to be impressed by the big and bold?  I have started wondering about that for myself....but then I get a simple brown ale or bitter that is single hopped and well made, and I come back to my senses.

I still love a good sour is quickly becoming one of my favorite summer treats, but I can't quite name it my dessert island beer, because it isn't quite beer.  I also have loved every braggot (beer/mead type drink) I have ever tasted, and my love of hard cider, tastes like the Michigan Fall Days that I miss from my youth.....but give me a nice brown ale if we are talking beer.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

two new breweries - or not?

Every once in a while I will go to one source or another to see what's new in the Denver brewing scene.  Today I checked out the Beer Mapping Project at  I did this a couple months ago and stumbled onto the opening day for the Copper Kettle nestled between Denver and Aurora.

The two new ones I found today are puzzling business models.

The first is Caution Brewing.  They are located near I-70 and Peoria in Denver.  The twitter feed links to local publications that indicates that they purchased the old Odell's 5 barrel pilot system (if you have ever had Odell's 5 Barrel Pale Ale, an homage to this system).  But, this brewery has no tasting room, and only one account, a family member's restaurant.  The most puzzling thing, while you can follow them on Twitter, they have no website.  The only information I can gather is that they make only the one beer for the one location (Lao Wang's Lager) and are to specialize in beers that will pair well with Asian food.

The second mysterious brewery is Leieritz Brewing Company, brewing under the Three Daughters Label.  A Google Search indicates that they are at 31st and Blake, but the person (assuming Leieritz) also lists a residence in my neighborhood as the company's address (I might not be making the best beer in a six block radius after all).  I have not had (or heard of) Three Daughters, but they have 4 products reviewed on Rate Beer and BeerAdvocate....but the reviews are unkind to say the least.  From the reviews, I gather that they sell bottles locally and they have had at least 1 tap at the Atomic Cowboy on Colfax.  Again, a mystery that they don't have a web site.

At least two other breweries open soon here in Denver.  Renegade (open now, I think) 9th and Santa Fe(, and  Denver Beer Company ( in Lower Highland (Platte Street north of 15th).  At least they have websites.

An explosion of new breweries are about to come on line, and as I have been saying, not all of them will survive.  They never do.  I remember Heavenly Daze on Santa Fe and Alameda, Champion Brewing on Larimer Square, Oasis Brewing in Boulder, HC Berger in Fort Collins, and i have an old keg (my first brew kettle) from a Springs Brewing Company, Denver, CO, that I have never been able to find information about.

Brewing is such a labor and energy intensive industrial process that requires expensive equipment, volume production, and saavy marketing.  It is no longer good enough to open a brewery (build it and they will come business model) have to sell it, market it, get it in front of people, perhaps win awards.

I won't begin to predict who will survive, but it will be the ones who will be able to find a sellable niche, have a decent location, and beer worth returning for....oh, and deep enough pockets.

Sadly, the best beers will not always win the day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

what's on tap

Keeping busy around the family brewery....I thought I would give a run down on what's on tap these days.

The all grain summer blonde keg kicked a few days ago, which along with loaning my Oak Aged Yeti keg to my brother for a while freed up space in the kegerator for our latest creations.  Along with our American Wheat and about 1 gallon of our awesome window well Oktoberfest we have two new beers on tap.

This year we went back to traditions forgoing our usual American Red for an Irish variant using the Guinness yeast and roasted barley.  Being summer, we elected to make it more of a session beer at 4.3% ABV and 23 IBU of the finest English hops.  It is roasty, deep ruby red, with a white tan head.  This sucker was done fermenting in three days and in the keg in 5, and clear in 7.  Needless to say, it is still changing with age.

The other beer on tap is a historical recipe.  It is a Mild Ale from the late 19th/early 20th century.  Back then, Mild referred to a young beer (not aged like an old ale) and not necessarily to a light brown or black session ale you would find today.  This one clocks in at 4.5% ABV and 68 IBUs, using the Wyeast London Ale III (Boddington's) yeast.  This one is murky orangy brown, smoky/tobacco flavored (from the hops), it hasn't cleared yet, but my higher hopped beers usually take a month or more to finally clear.  I love this beer, but I don't think it would be popular with most beer fans.  Even the hop rate isn't very bitter for 68 IBUs.  Again, it is very malt forward, but so very different from the Irish.  If it clears nicely, I would be proud to serve it.

Although the kegerator is full up, my Oktoberfest (and wheat) will kick soon, and I have two existing empty kegs.  What is next?  It being still summer, trying a re-brew of the blonde would be quick, or perhaps our well received Belgian Wit or another departure with a Steam Beer(TM) (ahem, I mean, California Common) might be in order.  I wish I liked Saison/Farmhouse Ales...but alas, I have not yet acquired the taste for them.  I would love to hear what you all think we should brew....

Also, although I think we have dialed in our brew day/process/set up, I think it is time to pack it up after this one and transfer the brewery back to Colorado Springs.  It will be nice to have the space back in the beer cellar...for beer instead of equipment.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sour Beer

I have been toying with the idea of creating a sour beer.  Now that I have carboys I am not using, I could dedicate them to the 1 year process of making sour beer.....using all that bacteria like  Brettanomyces Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus....kinda gives me the creeps...

just keep repeating the mantra:

" Nothing in beer can kill you,
 nothing in beer can kill you, 
nothing in beer can kill you....except beer".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Trappist Ale

I have a 750 ml Chimay Red Label in my fridge....this may not mean much to you, but it is killing me not to open it....The beer itself isn't rare (now, at least), the problem is that I can't drink 750 ml (well, I could, but shouldn't if I know what is good for me) of Belgian dubbel.  I guess I am waiting for someone to pop by that would enjoy it as an excuse for myself.

Chimay is one of the seven brewing Trappist Monasteries in Europe (six in Belgium, one in the Netherlands), and standing there in the bottle shop, I realized I had never had Chimay (although I have become a dubbel fan).  Chimay only brews three beers (I respect that, too) characterized by their label color.  Red is their dubbel, yellow is their Trippel, and Blue is their Grand Reserve (Grand Cru or stronger dubbel).  I think they used to put the Trippel in a white label....not sure.

The monks brew to raise money for their's that for a fundraiser?  What if Girl Scouts did the same?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coming Together

After another double brew day (2 consecutive batches), I sat with my brother in my biergarten/brewery sipping a West coastish red ale from Rock Bottom and asked him this question:

What went right? His answer: Everything.

He was right, most everything went according to plan, and a double brewday was completed in just about 7 hours (including lunch and more than a few tastings).  Notably, we had no extra "help", we had pretty easy recipes, and we were unrushed.  It certainly was a pleasure to brew.

That isn't to say we didn't have problems.  We undershot on our gravities by a few points one by exceeding our volume, the other for no apparent reason.  I formulate our recipes on an 80% efficiency, as our efficiency runs about  80%-85%...we agree, that we need better control of our kettle volumes and our evaporation shouldn't be difficult to accomplish....just another data point to focus on controlling.

When we started all grain brewing, we were just feeling lucky to get beer, as we got better, we started hitting gravities (in general), and then we made equipment upgrades to better track and control mash temperatures, added a mill to control our own milling (and save money by buying in bulk), and focused on getting our pitching temps lower quicker, and added a bunch of tools (pumps, mash paddle, etc.) that speed our brew day or make it safer (avoid lifting, retiring our carboys)....I think we are dialing our new equipment in, and can focus on our brewday processes again and making better beer.

A couple of items for us to ponder are how we can increase the efficiency of our pump (we had some trouble getting it going....maybe adding a bleeder valve on the pump out side), measuring our kettle volumes better (just by devising a system and paying attention), and standardizing our equipment so that we don't have to figure out how we have to change our hoses for each successive step.

We had talked about expanding our systems tri-clamp fittings (thus standardizing all of our fittings).  Expensive, but might speed/make less confusing the processes between mash/sparging.  We also talked about adding a second pump....which still feels excessive/expensive....but again, might improve processes.

Anyway, we brewed some different stuff.  Our first batch was a Mild Ale, but it was a historical recipe (from 1909) when Mild Ale was the opposite of Old Ale, instead of low gravity.  I call it a Throwback Mild (got the recipe from the Brewer's Publication Style Series on Mild Ale by David Sutula (1999)).  We were looking for something different and this beer at about 5.7% ABV and 67 something a little different for us....

Our second beer was supposed to be our Red Ale....but I decided to re-Irish it (it had been an American Red and recently a west coast style red)....and change what we used to redden it, and lightened it a the time I got done with it.....a totally different beer we have never brewed.....

Last night before bed, I went downstairs smelling beer.....not a great sign.  I can usually smell the fermentation when entering the store room, not on the stairs.....our throwback mild ale (with London III yeast) was billowing clouds of yeast all over the floor....after damage control, I placed the billowing keg in a large plastic bin and finished cleaning it up this morning when the billowing was a combination 1.060 beer with too much volume and using an English (top cropper type) strain.

Looking forward, I still need to fix a keg, and I am a keg shy for these two batches....and I am itching to brew again.  Where are my friends when I need them?