Archive for the ‘Brewery Hops’ Category

Worst Day of Home Brewing

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

home brewing sour beers

I have been home brewing up tasty (or not) beers for the past eight years. During a period from 2011 through early 2014, I spent a big part of my time researching, formulating, and brewing wild ales. I had the sour itch and I had it bad.

After buying duplicate plastic home brewing items to keep them form contamination, I decided it was time to take a chance on a Brett beer.

Throughout those early attempts, I used the usual suspects that could be obtained from Wyeast and/or White Labs: bruxellensis, claussenii, lambicus (my least favorite), trois (when it was considered Brett and not Sacch). As well as the different flemish blends.

Most of the Brett beers were takes on Belgian saison and pale ales and mashed in the high 140s. I tried using Sacch first, then adding Brett in secondary. I tried building up a Brett starter, pitching 100% Brett in primary. I even did a straight pitch of Brett without a starter, trying to stress the yeast in order to get more character out of the yeast. Most of my experiences were positive.

I was the first one in the home brew club that was even looking at Brett. I was the only customer at the home brew shop asking about the wild stuff. I was radical. I was cool. I didn’t know shit!

What was beyond Brett?

Shortly thereafter, I wanted more. I wanted more microbes. I wanted more sour. I needed more complexity. How to get it. After reading his blog, among other sources, and emailing many times with The Mad Fermentationist, I sought out some East Coast Yeast.

After many attempts to get the Bug Farm, one fine day I landed a vial. I was ready for my first lambic. It was actually the start of multiple purchases of East Coast Yeast, allowing me to try different styles and different techniques. Being on their mailing list had some advantages; for a while. I had now graduated to craft yeast and turbid mashes.

On Top of American Wild Ales?

I was proud of the fact that I had 10 or so carboys in one state or another of aging wild beer. I would go down and look at those carboys. I would boast to people that I had all these carboys making magic elixirs in the basement.

I imagined what these beers would taste like. They would be perfectly balanced. Blended well. Almost perfect.

I had added blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries to a blend of two years of lambic. I had two different Flanders browns, one Flanders red, plus other Brett combinations. It was a small piece of Belgium in my basement.

What Went Wrong with my Home Brewed Sours?

Life. My kids are growing up and all active in one level or another with basketball. We are a basketball family. My wife and I love the sport. We have tried to pass our passion down to our kids while relating basketball (and any sport) to real life. Connecting sport to life is important to me. Having the kids understand hard work, motivation, determination, and pushing through when the chips are down are lessons they will carry throughout life, giving them the tools to succeed.

The basketball affliction has taken it’s toll on the amount of time I have to devote to home brewing. Long weekends at AAU basketball tournaments only allow me to try new craft beers but not brew and not maintain, like I should, the beers faded away.

Via neglect, the sanitized water evaporated, allowing oxygen to permeate into the beers. I knew it was happening. I had lost interest. My focus was on family. The disillusion of Belgium in the basement eroded to the hope that maybe one beer would be okay, maybe.

Pouring out 3+ years of work in the form of 30+ gallons of colored vinegar wasn’t what I set out to do. Unfortunately, it is what I accomplished.

There are so many mixed emotions about the experience. I could ramble on but I will pull back here. Time to move on.

What’s Next?

I have been a fan of hops since I started home brewing. I have stocked up some eight pounds of hops (that is a lot of five gallon batches, even when using 12 – 16 ounces at a time). I will stay the course, for now, with my hoppy beers. The last few have been successful: Baller IPA and The Train Man. The success of these recent home brews is welcomed in order to keep my imagination from roaming to a new past time.

I never cultured yeast from store bought examples of sour beers. I really don’t know why. Probably because thoughts of sanitation never crossed my mind while drinking a Russian River 375. If and when I go back into home brewing sour beers, I would like to try doing some culturing.

Now there are many new, small yeast companies producing yeast and bacteria blends (The Yeast Bay, Imperial Yeast, and Omega to name a few). Setting sail in the direction of sour beers shouldn’t be as difficult as it once was. Staying the course might be. Enjoy!

Useless Fact In eighteenth-century English gambling dens, there was an employee whose only job was to swallow the dice if there was a police raid.

2016 Family Vacation – Beercation

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

It’s that time of year again: family vacation. Destination Florida. As always my wife allows me to plan many American craft beer stops. This year I stacked up, hitting all the two heavy hitters that I had planned: Cigar City and Funky Buddha.

Since the last time I was in Florida, many new American craft breweries have opened. I had 12 or so on the list. I hit 7: St. Pete Brewing, Green Bench Brewing, Cycle Brewing, Bury Me Brewing, Point Ybel Brewing, 26 Degree Brewing and Riptide Brewing. We also stopped at Chattahoochee Brewing Company in Phenix City, Alabama.

Instead of telling a long story intermixed with pictures, I have decided to tell the story with pictures with a few words attached to each image.

The time off from work was well needed. Rest, stress release and, most importantly, time to regroup with the family was most appreciated. Enjoy.

Useless Fact: All numbers from one through nine hundred ninety-nine does not have the letter “a” in it.

New Glarus Brewing Company Day Trip

Monday, March 5th, 2012
back side of new glarus brewing company

New Glarus Brewing Company

It wasn’t long ago that I would take a road trip out to New Glarus Brewing Company shortly after each of the Unplugged series releases. Last year they switched the series to Thumb print and I haven’t been out. Not because of that, because of life.

We have been busy. “We” in terms of the kids, wife, and myself. Yep, this is a family event. The wife likes the beer, the kids like to run around in the open brewery as well as the play in the water out front or throw snow balls at me when there is snow on the ground (yesterday). It is a 2.5 hour road trip (perfect length) that everyone appreciates.

A plan to go up to New Glarus has been 3 months in the making; always getting pushed back. The entire family woke up early on Sunday, so I mentioned a potential road trip to the wife. Her ears perked up and we were on our shortly after breakfast and showers.

I am always impressed with the cleanliness of the brewery. Almost all are clean but New Glarus is awesome. Building a brewery with the customer in mind, is top notch. As long as the tasting room/gift shop is open, anyone can take a self guided tour. Fortunately there weren’t many people there as the kids used the circular walkway as a race path. Burn off some energy.

The wife got the usual taster: $3.50 for three taster pours, including the glass to keep. I had had a couple pints of Moon Man: the first pint was $6.00 but included the curved glass ware, while the refill was $3.00. Really reasonable prices.

The staff continues to be knowledgeable, helpful, and super friendly. Two cases of Cherry Stout (re-released as part of the thumbprint series), a case of Spotted Cow, two four packs of Thumbprint Barleywine, and four bottles each Raspberry Tart and Wisconsin Belgian Red loaded up the mini van and it was time for lunch.

One quick note on lunch. We stopped off at a Swedish place in New Glarus that was recommended as the second best place to eat as the first was closed for the season. They had a buffet that was $5.00 for each of the kids. Upon hearing that price we didn’t bother to inquire the adult price. Bad move! We assumed $10.00 for adults, double the kids price. Try almost quadruple, weighing in at $19.50 per adult. The food didn’t sit well in my stomach afterwards. First and last time. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: It would take 27,000 spiders, each spinning a single web, to produce a pound of web.

#FoBAB 2010 Intitial Recap-

Monday, November 8th, 2010

This annual (8th) Chicago/Illinois Brewers Guild brew fest works so well on multiple levels that I am absolutely adding to my annual list, in the category “Absolutly Will Attend Events”. The overall vibe, venue, flow, cost, and oh…brew line-up is flat ass perfect.

First, is the fact that only 500 or so tic’s are sold at each session makes the thing managable on a scale that makes interaction with the brewers and follow attendee’s personal and approachable. In the afternoon session that I attended it seemed as though most of the brewers were actually in attendance. That partly is attributal to the event being organized by a Brwers Guild that’s still small and seminal enough to still  be faternal and supportive. And, the competitive stuff seemed so much more friendly than any ego, sports-dickhead beat me stuff. And I met the insurnace broker for the ewvent, who seemed new to the craft beer scene but was a very vocal advocate and added some interesting factoids that helped me get some insight into the organizational elements of pulling this thing off. Plus Chicago’s brewing community seemed totally respresented. Got to spend a little time with Annette May, Cicerone and beer mentor who always shares her great insight.

Then there’s the Journeymen Plumbers Hall. Aisde from the obvious advantage of holding a beer drinking event in a building that should and did have perfect plumbing facilities. Being a big fan of architecture, the hall is retro and a pleasing place, kind of reminded me of a  upscale 1950’s high school gym and stage. Loved the place and the great West Loop neighborhood.

Again, the managable crowd size of 500 each session was really nice. I’m sure it’s partly due to nature of the brews at this fest. Think about the name of the event and the additional effort, time, and ingredants of the brews represented. And these categories tend to includes an inordinate amount of limited, special, and experimental brew batches that are inherantly on the low side of volume. But, I think there’s a design on the part of the organizers to keep this thing more intement. There’s no sense of making this some mega statement, it seems more like a celebration of skill and friends.

On the cost front, I am utterly and a completely statisfied participant. At $35 for 12  3-oz pours, it appears on the surface to be a mediocre deal. But, when you consider available brews like Lost Abbey’s Angel’s Share that $16 for a 350 ml (11.8 oz) bottle (if you can get it), the tic price seems like a cheap date. So, let’s talk about the brew line-up. For the local hometown hero’s, these guys bring out the big guns. Goose Island had a whooping 12 entires and all rare, new, and/or unique executions that I’d never have imagined getting to taste at one place/time. Their Madame Rose and Lotita are anxiously awaited releases and I had both at FoBAB. There were local brewpub stand-outs like Revolution and Piece, that are normally only enjoyed at their locations. The best of  local and regional breweries like Two Brother, Three Floyds, Capital, New Holland, and Founders. And, finally special brews from big dogs from around the country like: Lost Abbey/Port, Firestone Walker, Dogfish Head, Harpoon, New Belgium, and Stone. Almost sensory overload in terms of locking targets, but I mean that in the best way possible.

So with that preamble, what did I have and what did I like? My written records indicate (17) brews, which in full disclosure came not from additional tic purchases, but from friendly volunteers that either forgot or were overloaded. If there’s any disappointment from the day, it’s that is my list of brews that I didn’t get to try. But’s that mainly cause they were os many outstanding brews, the proverbila kind in a candy store. Anyway here’s my list in order of consumption:

1)Goose Island – Bourbon County Brand Coffe Stout with Bosque Lya (El Salvador) coffee. Thick viscosity, signature BCS taste, and awesome coffee taste notes.

2)Goose Island – Madame Rose, Belgian inspired Kriek-style aged in french oak barrels with fresh Michigan cherries. Tart and wine-like, wasn’t what I expected.

3)Central Waters – Bourbon Barrel Stout, American-style Stout. Chocolatey, medium mouthfeel, and shows how wide of a range that great BB Stouts can have.

4)Firestone Walker – Parabola, Russian Imperial Stout. Deep and complex and awesome.

5&6) Two Brothers – Heavier Handed, Imperial IPA aged in French Oak Foudres (big ass oak tanks). Like biting into a orchard fresh cross bred grapefruit/orange malt blast. I think this might have been my fav if pressed to pick one.

7)Lost Abbey – Deliverence, Blend of Brandy aged Barleywine and BBA Imperial Stout. Complex blend of alcohol induced molasses.

8)Flossmoor – Hi-Fi Rye, Ryewine aged in Woodford Reserve barrel. OK, full disclosure is that my Louisville (born&raised) brother-in-law drinks Woodford. Need more word to build case why this is a great brew, but it is.

9)New Holland – Beerhive, Belgian Tripel with honey and ginger aged in BB. Turned me around on Tripels, I very much want to try this again in a more isolated tasting. Maybe number one on trying again, soon.

10) Central Waters – Exodus, Sour Red Ale aged with cherries in BB. Appropriate tartness, fruit was low level. I’m not schooled enoughy in Wild Acidic beers to judge.

11)Metropolitan – Lagered Baltic Porter, brewed with a small portion of cherry wood smoked malt. Another full disclosure, is that I’ll always root for this local and small operation. This husband and wife team make only lagers, staying true to the punk rock principle of fierce independance and style. But, this is no charity case, they make great beers and I’d very much like to be able to have this brew on a more frequant basis.

12)Goose Island – BCS Ancho, BCS Stout with Ancho chillies. Interesting and puzzling about bright context in which it’s best represented.

13)Goose Island – King Henry, Barleywine. Small portion, didn’t get a full appreciation.

14)Firestone Walker – Lil Opal, Belgian Saison aged f/ 17 months in medium toasted American Oak. Most wine like, and lowest alcohol at 4.1%c ABV at event. Not sure it was right for the FoBAB.

15)Lost Abbey – Amazing Grace, Blende Ale aged in French Oal wine barrels with Bretts. I had a small sample, seemed a little average for a superior brewer.

16)Two Brothers – Askew, Ale brewed with cpmplex yeast strains and other stuff. Tart and very clean, but I had a small sampleso I’m can’t make a full report.

17)Harpoon – Leviathan, Imperial IPA aged in Jim Beam barrels. I only had a small taste, but three of my co-consiratores liked this brew very much. They taled about a cool citrus blast in a big Imperial.

The brews I most wished I had tried are from Three Floyds, only because of how great their brews can be. But, I’m disappointed in their sparse showing at FoBAV, and they are members of ICBG, and most of the FFFs crew seemed to be in attendance.

So, I’ll wrap up this summary cause it’s late , and it’s Sunday night. But, more to come on FoBAB cause it deserves the3 coverage and I think the event is way under appreciated for what the convergence of super great brews. And, I know Bourbon barrel aged in widely appreciated, but there’s a case to be made for the midwest rightfull claim to being the epic center of the style. However I’m also reluctant to contribute to a greater awareness of FoBAB as some of the coolest happenings get wreaked by their own success. 

Next up is recap of Top/Gold winners in each of the gten judged categories.

Bell’s 25th Tour

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

One of the cool aspects of being a craft brew fan, besides the obvious enjoyment of beer, are the special events. There's a variety of these things from the normal calendar holidays, to multiple brewery tasting festivals, to special brew release parties. And on the rare occasions one gets to celebrate the growth and maturing of the young America Craft Brewery movement. Two Beer Dudes were fortunate to put a monumental anniversary on their must do list for 2010, and then attend it over this past weekend.

Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, MI celebrated the 25th Anniversary over September 10, 11, & 12, 2010. This high quality and brewer of most flavorful beers was started by Larry Bell, who sold first beer way back in 1985. The brewery is reputed to be the oldest operating craft brewery east of the rocky mountain range. Just as he runs his brewery, this festival was focused on and aimed to his enthusiastic customers. There was plenty of great and seldom seen one-off brews at the Eccentric Café, along with great bands, and the ability to check out the progress thus far on the huge additions and renovations of this centerpiece of the Bells operation (the Eccentric Café). But, the biggest thrill was the ability to tour the entire Comstock production facility, which is very rare for the general public…we think mostly due to virtual around the clocks operations.

So in this blog we'll try to re-create a "nickel tour" of Comstock, give a brief overview of some historical facts of Bell's we discovered over the weekend, and provide a brief overview of the festivities…though admittedly since Chicago is 150 miles away, we only stayed at the café for a few hours on Saturday afternoon.

The brewery event was the best we've ever done. We say that for a couple of reasons. First, while guests were on self guided discovery of the facility, there were lot's of display boards describing highlights of that specific section of the brewery process (brew house, yeast production, fermentation, labs, bottling/kegging, packaging, warehouse), plus other smaller signs identifying equipment, and all through the place were regular employees that actually worked in the various sections who were answering questions and providing insights into Bells. And me not being a fan of the man, these folks were NOT company stooges, but real men and women who were obviously proud to be part of the Bells team. The whole brewery was spotless, well laid out (like we now how to lay out a brewery, but it looked very logical and high tech), and it just felt like it was all dialed in. Guests had very open access to all parts of the facility and we couldn't have felt more like a welcomed guest. Ok, now I'm going to get a little lazy, but I'm going to bullet point some of the more interesting stuff that Scot and I found out on the tour:

  • A closed Wolf Gang Puck brewing operation in Calif. was the source of the current brew house equipment, 50 bb capacity.
  • Brew house has been running 24/7 most of this year.
  • Current max capacity is around 150,000 barrels a year.
  • Total Oracle production in 2009 was 1,000 gallons or 440 cases.
  • Total Oracle production in 2010 is 3,000 gallons or 1,300 cases (3 times better chance to get a bottle this year, but still limited. Bells general store still had it in stock when we left on Saturday.)
  • By comparison, Bells Two Hearted Ale production is roughly 2,000 gals or 900 cases a WEEK. Another side note, 220 lbs of Centenial hops are put into a 260 bb fermenter of Two Hearted for 7 days of just dry hopping.
  • Most of Bells brews are in the fermenters for two weeks. Exception is Hopslam and a few other of their brews.
  • Not much use of Armadillo hops.
  • In the fermentation area there were 6 to 10 200 bb fermenters full of Two Hearted Ale being wet hopped, and the aroma was unbelievable and we could have stayed in that room for hours.
  • Bells max capacity to ferment is 20,000 bb at a time.
  • Had a cool conversation with one of the fermentation room guys on Hopslam versus Oracle; in his opinion Hopslam is a much smoother DIPA, addition of honey and longer aging couple of the factors that makes Hopslam AWESOMELY AWESOME.
  • Keg filling line, looked as large and complex as some other brewers bottling lines. Plus, Bells seems to be really gearing up to put lots more beers in the 1.3 gals mini-keg (or big boy cans as 2BDs like to call them; just had one can of beer honey, HONEST, why do you ask sweetheart?)
  • Bells is really dedicated to Green initiatives; roof of the conditioning warehouse is "green" as in a complete patch of plants, steam from brewing used to heat buildings water, and just one little dumpster represents 100% of non-recycled trash is hauled out of the brewery per week.
  • Saw a variety pack cases with 4-different brews in 6-packs. More evidence of the crazy state laws governing beer distribution. In Pennslyvannia, only bars are allowed to sell 6-packs, so to help sales of cases in grocery stores, Bells sells these mixed cases.
  • Bottling capacity; Can bottle the contents of 1-550 gal fermenter, or 180,000 bottles in one day (combined two shifts).
  • Lab guy (chemist) was very knowledgeable about not only his responsibilities but also about the products and the breweries mission ideals and brand character. Very specific intent with each beer brand, it doesn't seem at all to be about making styles. Example; was when I asked about the new beer Oarsman. I've had one bottle so far and I liked it but was trying to figure "what it was" and what was Bell s logic of adding this particular brew to their year round lineup. The chemist dude was very clear on what this beer was intended to be. He said the goal was not to hit some specific style character, but that it was sort of modeled after a Berliner Wiess, but higher abv and slightly lower tartness. Their goal was to have a sessionable, low gravity brew with personality. (You be the judge, I like it…not sure I love it.)
  • Also, asked about some background on the 25th Anniversary Ale. The malts are from Bell's own barley fields in Northern Michigan, the Cascade hops are from a farmer who specializes in higher oil content (0.8 norm vs 2.0+) which adds awesome aroma. Basically this Amber Ale has amped up ingredients across board, for a large but not outrageous personality.
  • My last question was not meant to be too probing. I've been a huge fan of Oberon since the 90's when I first encountered it on tap in Lake Michigan beach towns. And while I very much look forward to the release of Oberon every spring, in my mind it seems to be a slightly different brew than say 10-12 years ago. I asked, "was it my imagination". "No", was the reply. "Old" Oberon had a wider range of metrics and today that range in narrower and thus much more consistent. Not making any point on my part, I still love Oberon, just an inquisitive enthusiasts inquiry.

So, the Two Beer Dudes spent almost two hours at the Comstock location and no beer was being served, that by definition makes us beer geeks. But it was the way I’d like all my future brewery tours to be. It felt like we got some inside info and the self-guided portion felt like someone handed us the keys to the joint and said "just go ahead and look around". An outstanding time, and totally unexpected.

Then we headed to Bell's Kalamazoo complex for the real festivities. It was much closer then we had expected, about 5-6 miles from the Comstock production facility to downtown Kalamazoo. So, Bell's complex downtown consists of the Eccentric Café, the General Store, an outdoor beer garden, a small batch brew house, and under construction in-door music venue. The brew pub's been there awhile, all exposed brick and wood beams. It's definitely got a college townish, laid back vibe, but a very comfortable place to throw back some brews. The on-tap menu is a large chalk blackboard and it can now be viewed on Bell's website via live webcam, so you always know what’s on tap. We hit the General store to purchase some Oracle and 25th Anniversary Ale, it's one place that you can almost be guaranteed to score whatever Bell's been brewing. And, they got the obligatory wearables, but also it's a home brew store with decent assortment of tools and ingredients.

As far as giving you any detailed recap of the party events, we'll disappoint in that regard. It was a blast in and out from Chicago kind of road trip for the Two Beer Dudes, I think we only spent about an hour or so, just hanging out. What we did see looked like fun. I ran into Annette May, the first woman beer cicerone, of Merchant's Fine Wine in Dearborn. Annette is so damn well versed about brews, it was very cool chatting up the latest brew smack, and then Larry Bell himself came over to say hello to Annette.

There was a nice set-up outside in the beer garden, large tent with chairs and tables in front of the band stage. There were 4 or 5 bands scheduled throughout the day, though we only got to see a 40-person traditional German beer drinking orchestra, but they were great and most songs we heard involved toasting, chugging beers, or celebrated the good times of beer drinking with friends. Best thing was the fact that Larry Bell apparently was dragging out barrels of stashed brews from over a wide range of time. Specials on tap included: 2004 vintage Cherry Stout, 2003 vintage Expedition Stout, Wild One-an unreleased Sour Brown Ale (that was excellent by the way, let's hope this brew is part of a new groups of brews from Bell's), K2000 Stout, some French named unreleased ales, a few I missed. Hopslam seemed to be on tap all three days, and I'm sure there was some other stuff we missed.

In the under construction music venue, which is part of the old red brick complex, there were a series of display boards with lot’s of standout moments in the history of Bell's brewery. Here’s a quick recap of those I found to build a general sense of the evolution of Bell's:

  • 1985-first beer sold, first employee hired
  • 1987-full year production was 250 bb
  • 1988-first month with earnings/profit
  • 1998-now up to five full time employees, and year first entered the Chicago market
  • 1993-Bell's fought for and was designated the first microbrewery by the Michigan Liquor Commission
  • 1994-Michael Jackson visits brewery
  • 1995-now up to twenty employees
  • 1997-Larry Bell helps form the Michigan Brewers Guild and the first meeting is held at the brewery
  • 2003-christened the Comstock facility
  • 2005-Comstock facility expansion
  • 2008-purchased 80 acres in Sheppard, MI for barley growing

What’s the future hold, Bell's used the PR opportunity of their 25th anniversary to hold a press conference to make announcements on continued expansion plans. A $17M project is to be completed in early 2012 that will increase capacity by 50% and includes; a 200bb capacity brew house, 24-400 bb fermenters, and a speciality fermentation area (details to be released in the future). Then another $35M will be spent through 2016 for improvements that will increase the size of the Comstock facility by about 200% and eventually give Bell's the capacity which will be five times of what it is today.

In craft beer on-line enthusiast community there's some level of polarity in the dialogue where the larger brewers are kind of characterized as either being part of the force or on the dark side (did you really think a beer geeks could do 5-pages without a S-Wars reference). Like much in life, things are rarely black and white, so we don't want to sound like the Two Beer Dudes are canonizing Larry Bell. However, there is no doubt that Larry is a founding father of the craft beer movement. And, looking the photo collections at the anniversary event, which documented that journey, it struck me how single minded Larry had to be in his pursuit of brewing great beer. And in those first 5 to 8 years he did this without any real path to follow or any guarantee of what the work and sacrifice would result in. A visionary, no doubt. More than a little luck, yes. But in the opinion of the Two Beer Dudes, what made Larry Bell succeed was a focus on quality, originality, and a passion for brewing really good beer. Yeah, he's a really smart guy who carved out a well organized business enterprise (while still enjoying life). Though it seems like there's more to it. In looking at the upper Midwest, our little corner of the world, the brewers at the top of their game (Bell's, New Glarus, Founders, Three Floyds, and Surley) all have a similar trait. That beyond great brewing production skills, lies the hearts of artists. We enjoyed Bell's for most of their first 25 years, and wait with anxious anticipation on what they will do in the next 25. Best wishes and continued success Bell's!

Written by Rich, posted and edited by Scot.

Lake Bluff Brewing Company Brewery Hop

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Several weeks ago, Rich and I were invited to sit down with Rodd Specketer and Dave Burns of Lake Bluff Brewing Company. The brewery is officially set to open in 2011 but we were fortunate enough to spend a few hours talking, tasting beers, and getting to understand the direction for the soon to be brewery.

Rodd and Dave have a great plan in place and once the license from the state is approved, they will be ready to roll. The beers we tasted were fantastic, while the beers they have in the works and/or are planning on brewing, make my mouth water for more.

Two Beer Dudes plans on being back once they open up to check everything out and take another hop at a soon to be great American craft beer stop. Enjoy!

Lake Bluff Brewing Company

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Tonight Rich and I will be meeting with Rodd Specketer and David Burns the owners of Lake Bluff Brewing Company, located in Lake Bluff, IL. We will be tasting Hardtail Imperial IPA and Softtail IPA, possibly a third beer that is a Blonde Ale.

The most important aspect of the evening is the fact that we will be able to check out another local American craft brewery. This one still in the early stages of development. Full brewery hop/discussion to follow in the next few days. Enjoy!

Surly Brewery Hop

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

It has been over a week already since I had the pleasure of a brewery hop at Surly Brewing Company, I finally put it all down in words: Surly brewery hop.

Two Bros 2nd “For the Love of Hops” Fest

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Two Brothers Love of Hops Fest 2010

I did a drive-by of Two Brother Brewing’s Second Annual “For the Love of Hops” Fest (Sat, 6/12) on their brewery property in Warrenville, IL. While the official rationale was for the release of their Double IPA “Hop Juice”, like many craft brewers it was a loyal follower’s party with food, bands, and of course their brews…and some cool guest taps. My reason for just a quick stop was to get a couple of bombers of Hop Juice, and I was still in the dog house with the wifey from the previous day’s excursion to Chicago for the Hawks Stanley Cup celebration and an afternoon at Wrigley watching the Sox – Cubs…but I digress.

So my report on the event is admittedly based on a short stay, but I think I caught enough to provide a broad overview. First off, the Two Brothers Brewery/Pub is tucked at the back of a non-descript business park, so you need to pay attention driving in to the joint. For the Fest, there were directional signs which definately helped. The overall setup was somewhat reminiscent of Three Floyds Dark Lord Days, although on a smaller scale. Food tents, draft beer stations, portapottys all setup in the brewery’s parking lots. Although nice area of tables/chairs and a tented band stage built on top of kegs was a nice touch. Food selection was good with the standard homemade brats and burgers, but also freshly made fish tacos and pulled pork on tortillia.

Two Brothers beer station

The guest beer list looked very awesome, a different keg was tapped the top of each hour. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait for some selections I’d really would have liked to try. Standouts on the list included Jolly Pumpkin, The Bruery, Lost Abbey, and Pizza Port…all which are tough to find on tap around Chicago.

Oh yeah, the guest of honor Hop Juice 2010 was great. Without doing a full blown review, it’s a great version of a Double IPA. This is a style that gets beer geeks going, and there are some legendary brews in this category like Pliny, 90 Minute, Hopslam, Ruination…to name a few. Hop Juice is a very respectable execution, is no copycat of the West Coast brews, in that it has it’s own personality. At 9.9% abv and 100 ibus it is very well balanced.

Love of Hops Fest guest tap list

Overall, a very laid back brew event with a more subdued and adult vibe than some brew fests. Focus is on tasing great brews, both from Two Brothers and other high quality brewers. Plus the Two Brothers pub is known for great executions of pub grub, and that seemed to be the other focus. Plus four bands for live music for the entire event. I had a couple of knocks. First is the event had a spartan look, please Bros get some signage. They’ve got some great graphics on T-Shirts, just add a little color/decor to the space. And, I was a little surprised at the price a drafts. I think each brew was $6, and I think the cup sizes were 9 or 10-oz for the Hop Juice and 12 or 14-oz for the other brews. A little price break would’ve been nice…$4 or 5 brews for a twenty spot would’ve seemed more customer appreciative. But, I’d definately hit this fest again.

Band stage on kegs

Another New Glarus Hop

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The last time I made a trip up to New Glarus Brewing Company was the day before the official release of Cherry Stout. Fortunately, the staff at New Glarus was kind enough to head down to the old brewery and bring me back a case. So, I like to proudly believe I might have been one of the first to have Cherry Stout. 🙂

This trip was solo and it also saw the end of the life of the air conditioning in my car. A 90 degree humid day with all four windows open, chugging down the highway at 75 miles per hour isn’t the families idea of a fun road trip.

In spite of the air, I was able to score a large load of New Glarus that survived the hot back seat. Of source I set up a couple of trades, so not all the beer was for me. Also, my wife wanted a case of Spotted Cow to pay off a neighbor who takes our five year old back and forth to school. The beer I was really excited about this time around was the new Unplugged that was released: Enigma. From what I understand it is a sour brown. One is in the fridge right now and I look forward to tasting/reviewing this evening. Enjoy!

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