Archive for July, 2010

Fairway Cut Hefeweizen Home Brew

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Three months seems like a long time up front, but time has flown by and that is how long it has been since I had the chance to brew at home. I guess I might have been a little burnt out too. I had brewed a crazy amount in a short period, having something to do with beer most weekends in spite of having other obligations to attend to.

I had my mind on several different styles of beer: wheat (the one my wife likes as it is getting low), ipa (brewed before but was going to add some Citra hop to the dry hop), or a hefeweizen. You can tell by the title which one of these styles won out.

Why a Hefe? Glad you asked. It is probably my favorite style of beer when down well. I have done a lot of research on them and came to the conclusion that I should ferment this at 62 degrees. Also, since my past beers have been a bit thin, I decided to make a smaller batch of beer but do a full boil.

A Hefe recipe is rather simple, especially when using extract. The trick is in the temperature of the fermentation as all the real flavor and aroma comes from the yeast. Wheat malt extract and Hallertau hops are the ingredients: no steeped grains at all.

The beer has already been fermenting for a week as I brewed this last Saturday. I am considering bottling after two weeks but I think I will let it go my customary four weeks. I can’t wait to taste and see if I hit a winner. Enjoy!

Home Grown Hop Plant

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I thought growing my hop plant would be this wild and exciting adventure that I could fill up my blog with, at least, weekly updates. My world came crashing down on my quickly.

My first year Centennial hop plant was slow to get started. First year hop plants are busy growing roots and getting established, so being patient is the name of the game. Still, it is my first plant; I wanted to grow and be bountiful, all in a week. 🙂

The first few months saw nothing fantastic happening. I read forums to make sure my little hop plant had a chance, asked advice of others, and did my diligence to help the plant along as much as possible. In spite of that, the beginning of June didn’t leave me with a 20 foot bine on the side of the house. I had a two foot bine that was still growing slowly.

By the time July came around, some message boards were full of guys already harvesting from their 2nd, 3rd, etc year hop plants. Mine: a measly 4 foot tall on it’s tip toes.

Early July saw the family make a trip to the Minneapolis area. We were only gone a few days but I asked the neighbor to water the hop plant while we were gone. It was in the 90s and humid each day so I didn’t want the plant to suffer. Oh, it did suffer! I have no idea what happened but the main bine, that was about five feet tall, had been broken at the bottom and withering, badly. At least the next bine was only 1.5 feet behind.

The next day I decided to clean away the quickly drying out hop plant material. In my haste, I broke my tip off the longest bine!!!! Yeah, shitsville. In the back of my head any chance of getting my one wet hopped beer out of this plant were going down the toilet.

At that point, I just left it. The next bine was about six inches shorter, so it wasn’t far behind. July turned out to be a good month as up until this week, it had been growing a good two feed each week. For those lacking math skills that is a little better than three inches of growth per day.

This week the growth has slowed as the flowers have come out in force. The total height is in the eight foot range. I guess you could say it is a dwarf. But, I still may get enough hops out of this sucker to have a wet hop IPA come this early fall. Fingers crossed.

What have I learned? Don’t let your neighbor watch your hop plants, be patient, and wait for the second year for the hop plant to really go nuts. 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!

Matacabras by Dave’s BrewFarm

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

On my recent visit to Minneapolis I stopped off at a beer store to pick up some beers. The store had been recommended via an online forum. The staff was helpful and one of the many beers they pointed out was Matacabras by Dave’s BrewFarm.

The store sold all their beer in singles, if you so desired, and that’s what I picked up of this beer: one. I figured it might be alright, at best, afterall I had never heard of the upstart brewery from Wilson, Wisconsin. I figured if the beer wasn’t all that tasty I was only out $1.99.

I put the beer in my fridge the other day, really just for the fact that I wanted to get rid of beers that I thought wouldn’t satisfy. Last night after staring into the abyss of my open fridge, out came Matacabras. To be honest I didn’t even remember the style (Belgian Strong Dark Ale). I poured it, immediately my nose picked up apple and light banana on top of a bed of spice: corriander and cinnamon. Of course some sweetness. Mentally I said to myself this is some type of Belgian Ale.

Surprise. I wasn’t expecting that. Next I tasted and, again, was pleasantly surprised by the flavor, ease of drink, and how well the alcohol was hidding in an 8% ABV beer.

I would have this over and over again and wish I would have picked up more than one. Enjoy!

Merry Monks’ by Weyerbacher

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

I have been busy so these daily beer write ups have gone to the way side. Don’t feel sorry for me because the beer reviewing has been going forward, I just haven’t had the time for the write ups to the blog.

Yesterday I fired up Merry Monks’ by Weyerbacher Brewing Company. It has been sitting in the cellar for a good four months and I had been drinking a lot of American styled beers, so I thought it would be a good change for the evening.

The Monks poured a bit cloudy with a ton of little floaties while being topped with some merangue, white foam. Nice on the eyes. Aroma and taste are very similar, following the style very closely. As the beer warmed up closer to room temperature, it seemed to take on an even sweeter fruity taste and aroma. Almost cloying in nature. I thought the beer was above average but once it warmed up, that sweetness was too much, taking it down a couple of notches. Drinking this at right around serving temperature seems to be the best bet. I would have it again but since my knowledge of the style is slim, I would rather have others to compare and get a better understanding of the style.

I am not going to promise ot get an American craft beer review up here every day for a while, it is too nice outside to be stuck inside writing blogs. I will try to get them out more regularly. Enjoy!

TNBC Highlighted By Wooden Hell

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Tuesday Night Beer Club (TNBC) met for the first time in almost three months last night at my house. Yes, I know it was Thursday but Shawn found his way to captain a softball team that plays on Tuesday nights. There were five of us, with the fifth being Rich filling in for two others that couldn’t make it.

I always anticipate TNBC and last night a little more than usual. Since I was the host I get to call the theme for the evening. Nothing struck me so I opened it up wide for any and everything.

Mark and Rich arrived first. Opening his box full of liquid goodies I quickly noticed the bottle of Flossmoor Wooden Hell that was center stage. He had been talking about sharing this beast lately but I couldn’t believe that he was serious. He said that he wanted to share and that he wanted to drink it before it was past its prime. Of course I was able and willing to help but in the back of my mind I just wondered if this was going to be another over hyped rare beer that is only popular for its rarity.

Shawn quickly followed while, as usually, Ed was about 15 minutes or so later than everyone else. His car has a hard time adapting to the roads out in the “country.”

We ate dinner: backed Rigatoni that my wife made for us with salad and bread. The perfect dinner to coat and prepare for the onslaught of fine beverages to come next.

Towards the end of dinner we had Shawn’s home brew that was a Furious clone. Really good, especially for a guy who has only brewed a few times.

Since I hosted, I was first up. Below is the order in which the beers were chosen, by whom, and how I rated them. The rating is compared to each other with one being the best beer.

More to come…

Town Hall, Summit, and Flat Earth Stops

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

town hall brewery

A great day in American craft beer for me: visits to four breweries and one beer store. Town Hall Brewery, Summit Brewing Company, Flat Earth Brewing Company, Surly Brewing Company, and Heritage Liquor. Surly I already discussed in another blog entry, so I will bypass it here.

The first stop was Town Hall. I have heard good things about their beer and especially their food. Before the trip, the only beer I had tasted from Town Hall was Masala Mama, a really hyped up beer that definitely didn’t fill the bill. While there I tried the Mango Mama which, once again, was a beer everyone told me I had to try. It was okay at best and I eat a couple of Mangos every week. I love them. I also had the Grand Cru while the wife tried the West Bank Pub Ale. I have to say it, but we weren’t impressed with any of the offerings.

I don’t like to be harsh on breweries and I always try to find good in beers as I am a home brewer and understand the work involved, I just don’t feel the beers were much better than average.

On the other hand the food was really good as was the weather since we ate outside. Prices are good and the staff was very nice. A definite place to go to for lunch.

summit brewery

Next on the list was Summit. I had called the brewery, like I do every place before I go there to get hours and see if there is a chance for a personal tour and I knew they were officially closed for their normal tours. I just wanted to get a peek at the brewery, see what they had in the gift shop, and if there was anyone that would give me a nugget or two about the brewery.

I didn’t hit the jackpot but I was able to go into the brewery, check out the gift shop, and get a bit of a tour. Without going into the gory details, the tour netted me the following information: they are currently at the limitations of the brewery (100,000 barrels, which can be pushed to 109,000) and plan to expand, their entire process is run by a special computer system that was built just for the brewery, and they have six brewers on staff, each of which will be allowed to brew their own beer this year, without interference from the owner or other brewers.

flat earth brewery

Flat Earth was the last stop on the brewery extravaganza before I was to go over to Surly for a 6:00pm tour. Flat Earth is no more than five minutes from Summit but unfortunately was closed. I took a quick picture and we were on our way.

Heritage Liquor popped up in my head as a good place to stop and get that “out” of our way. Who am I kidding, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some Surly (still mad I didn’t buy more Furious) and other goodies I knew awaited me per my conversation with the owner, Ed.

The store doesn’t look like much from the outside but the quality of the selection, including singles, and the knowledge of the people within make this one of the best beer stores I have been in. Ed asked if I was interested in Surly Four, of course I was, so he pulled one out of the cellar. What a nice gift for my ride up from Illinois. Plenty of local fair as well as some west coast and mid-west beers were all to be had and I didn’t stop myself.

All-in-all probably the wildest American craft beer day that I have had in a while. Well worth the long hours of driving the night before. I am now in the planning stages of the next great craft beer escape. 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.

Minneapolis Visit Overview

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The one constant in my life is that plans always seem to change. The original plan was to leave on Friday, July 02, for a weekend stay in Minneapolis, stopping back in Madison, WI on the July 04 and then blueberry picking on the fifth in Rockford, IL. Yeah, yeah, family fun. Like I said plans change: we ended up leaving Thursday night after work, making to our hotel by 2:30am. Not bad.

The new overall trip plans: none. Outside of the second being beer bouncing day, there was nothing else was in concrete anymore.

Friday: late start due to the early morning arrival. Visited Town Hall Brewery for lunch and had a few beers. After lunch, the kids were so happy to hear we were heading to another brewery and I didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the day. 🙂 Next we were off to Summit and Flat Earth as they are about one or two miles apart. I knew that Summit didn’t have any tours but I still wanted to stop. I did end up getting a generic tour from one of the office people and directions to a nice area to stomp around in the mighty Mississippi River. Before the river we stopped at Flat Earth. Nothing doing, completely closed. The last stop of the evening, before dinner, was Surly for a six o’clock tour. More to come on this tour as it was an awesome time.

We also found time to make it to Heritage Liquors, which is an awesome beer store. Zipps was on Sunday but it didn’t seem as cozy as Heratige.

More updates on this trip to come, including the to Surly and Town Hall Brewery. Enjoy!