Archive for March, 2012

Michigan Brewery Stops (Saturday Edition)

Sunday, March 25th, 2012
bastone royal ipa

Bastone Royal IPA

My second day in the Detroit area took me to three more American craft beer establishments. This time I was accomplished by the brother-in-law, Jim, and no one else. An afternoon of establishment hopping uninhibited by nothing but our own thresholds.

Bastone Brewery was our first stop. One of several American craft beer establishments located in downtown Royal Oak, it is one that I have never had the privilege to visit in the past. Since this was our first stop, we decided to limit to one and move on. I had their Royal IPA (seems like many of the local breweries use this in their naming convention). A grainy backbone is supported by citrus and floral hops that leaves a bitter grapefruit bite. The bitterness seems a little ramped up compared to the aroma and taste. Body and carbonation are average as is the beer itself. I would have it again but there are tons of IPAs that line up in front.

royal oak brewery black ipa

Royal Oak Black IPA

A short walk of two blocks (back where we parked) brought to the doors of Royal Oak Brewery. A couple of years ago I visited Royal Oak Brewery for lunch and a beer but don’t have much relocation. I was hoping this second visit would be more memorable. We bellied up to the bar and ordered. I ended up with a Cascadian Dark Ale simply named Black IPA. There was limited roasted and/or chocolate flavor that I find is necessary for the style. The hops seemed to be of Amarillo focus with orange and floral notes. I would have the Black IPA again, even in spite of not being 100%, it was tasty and refreshing enough to keep me coming back. I also had a bowl of their clam chowder for lunch. Tons of clams, potatoes, and other goodies that made for a fine and filling lunch.

kuhnhenn bourbon barrel aged 4th dementia

Kuhnhenn BBA 4th Dementia

Into the vehicle we went for our 10 minute ride over to Kuhnhenn Brewing Company. I noticed that Bourbon Barrel Aged 4th Dementia was on tap, bingo. A 10oz pour (see pic) had to be close to double that as you can always get generous pours at Kuhnhenn’s. At 13.5% ABV this beer packs a punch. I sipped slowly so it could warm up, allowing me to appreciate at optimal temperatures, bringing out flavors and aromas as they were meant to be. Jim didn’t want a second, didn’t mind watching the basketball ornament while I had a second: Double Rice IPA. A good helping of citra helps this light bodied beer along and into my taste bud’s appreciation. Prior to leaving, I picked up six bottles of BBA 4th Dementia and a bottle of DRIPA to share with the Thursday night guys (on Tuesday).

My next trip to Michigan will hopefully be as rewarding as this trip from an American craft beer angle. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: The starfish is the only animal capable of turning its stomach inside-out. As it approaches its prey (usually a member of the mollusk family), the starfish reverses its viscera, protrudes them through its mouth, and projects them under the shell of its victim. Then it slowly devours the fleshy underparts of the helpless mollusk by a process of absorption.

Michigan Brewery Stops (Friday Edition)

Saturday, March 24th, 2012
dark horse brewing company patio tap

Dark Horse Patio Taps

It has been a while, but we were off for another trip to the Detroit area of Michigan. My wife’s sister lives in the area and she likes to visit from time-to-time. The wife even asked if I wanted to leave early on Friday so that we could stop off for lunch at a brewery. That was music to my ears.

Of course I settled on Dark Horse Brewing Company. We have stopped at the brewery before and the entire family was happy, why not give it another try? I had a pint of an American IPA that I cannot remember the name of but I do know it had plenty of citra hops. I had two pints with lunch. After the kids played a bit on the outdoor stage it was time to head to our next destination: Ann Arbor.

My wife wanted to do some shopping in Ann Arbor and I wanted to do some American craft brewery stops. In downtown Ann Arbor there are four breweries/brewpubs (Jolly Pumpkin Cafe and Brewery, Arbor Brewing Company, Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery, and Grizzly Peak Brewing Company) within four blocks of each other. There is fifth, Wolverine State Brewing Company, just a mile away. I stopped to pop my head in each of places outside of Jolly Pumpkin, since I had been there before.

I decided to have a pint at Blue Tractor. There were a few people eating outside that had sweet potato fries; the kids said they would like some, so why not have a beer with the fries. For me, not the kids. The fries were really good, the service was average in a stretch, and the beer was average as well.

Next time through I will have to take more time at Arbor or Grizzly Peak by having a taster. I leaning towards Gizzly Peak as I have had some Arbor beers in bottle format in the past. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: A 4-inch abalone can grip a rock with a force of 400 pounds. Two grown men are incapable of prying it up.

2012 Home Grown Hops (Part 1)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012
centennial hop

Cenntenial Hop on Friday (2012-03-23)

Each year since I have started growing hops (this is my third year), I have tried to document the first signs of life in the spring, the clipping back of bines to allow a few strong ones to carry forward, the harvest(s), and what I do with the hops in my home brewing. I am trying to break my consistent streak of never delivering on the promise. This marks my first attempt at a trail for my home grown 2012 hops.

The weather around Chicagoland has been ridiculously warm this winter into early spring. This has caused the growing patterns to be four or more weeks ahead of normal in this region this time of the year. The two hop plants in my yard are no exception. Both (Centennial and Mt. Hood) are having great beginnings.

Centennial is a third year plant and has at least 15 bines fingering up through the ground. Some are over a foot long already. Mt. Hood, a second year plant, has shot up a touch slower, having a half dozen bines creeping up from the depths. The longest is in the eight inch range.

Based on the current growth and steady diet of nice weather, I don’t see any reason why there won’t be two harvests this season. A freezing evening, that can still come, could wreak havoc on a ton of plants around here let alone my hop plants.

I am trying to add one more hop bine to the mix. Fuggle or Chinook are my picks. Chuck has both, I am just waiting on him digging around in his yard to get my frag (a term from my salt water days). I would like Fuggle as that is my go to hop for many recipes but Chuck has had some issues growing. Chinook on the other hand is a great grower but I don’t use it nearly as much. I am sure I can find more uses if it is hanging in the yard.

I will try to document the process more closely this year, especially my bine selection process and the eventual harvest. If you have any questions or comments, fire them my way. Enjoy!

centennail hop on sunday

Centennial Hop on Sunday (2012-03-25)

mt hood on sunday

Mt. Hood on Sunday (2012-30-25)

Useless Fact: Lobsters do feel pain when boiled alive. By soaking them in salt water before cooking, however, you can anesthetize them.

Half Acre Beer Company TweetUp

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

I have heard of a meetup but never a tweetup. When Rich told me a week or so ago to sign up for a tweetup over at Half Acre Beer Company, I googled the term to get an idea of what a tweetup could be. I have to admit that I was skeptical: was this going to be a bunch of twitter nerds that think they know something about beer?

Rich picked me up from work and we headed for Half Acre, arriving shortly after go time: 5:30pm. There were 15 or so people already at the event. I recgonized no one, nor did I expect too. Around 6:00pm, Gabriel, the owner of Half Acre, welcomed everyone to event. He continued that the entire staff was on hand to answer questions, give tours, that the entire brewery was open, and all the beer was on the house. Yep, that’s the Half Acre mantality that I have grown to appreciate in their time on the Chicago scene.

A version of Over Ale that had been aged four months on rye bourbon barrels and never releasesd, was on tap. Others included Chocolate Camaro, The Hammer, The Bullet & The Vise, and Callow Knife. Chocolate Camaro was a very seasonable stout (<5%). Call Knife was a seasonable American Pale Ale that had nice addition of Citra hops.

During the brief opening talk, Gabriel talked about the addition of a brew pub that was in the works. The space joins the brewery on the other side of the current front-end area and is only on the clearing out end stages. They would like to have the space open for customers in July but understand it could be much later this year.

It was nice to see and talking brewing with Bryan Shimkos. He is a great guy and always has time for us beer geeks.

All-in-all my first tweetup was a blast: meeting some local beer geeks, having some quality beers, learning more about Half Acre, and, most importantly, the gracious hosts and staff members of Half Acre. I am looking forward to the next. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Spiders never spin webs in structures made of chestnut wood. That is why so many European Chateux were built with chestnut beams—spider webs on a 50 foot beamed ceiling can be difficult to clean!

Random Thoughts on the Day

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

dark lord day 2012

Just sitting in the garage letting my wort boil as I think about the day and events therein.

It started with my daughter’s last 10 year-old basketball. It was the championship game. Not that should matter in that level of basketball. Originally the game was to be at ll:00am which would put getting Dark Lord tickets in jepordy. Eventually it was changed to 10:00am but the other team didn’t know, so there was a stall until there was enough kids at 10:30. I could make ticket sales, yes! The game was low scoring and close, my daughter’s team loss. She was much better at the game by season’s end; the only thing that should matter. Unfortunately two asshole father’s decided to get up and shout at each other in the fourth quarter. Completely and utterly fucking stupid asses. This is about the kids not two rock heads.

I made it in time of ticket sales, no problem. I had the wife on one computer and myself on another. Amazingly I was in right off the bat, had my two tickets, filled out billing and mailing info, boom, system fucked up and no tickets. I spent the next hour trying to get tickets: my wife got through for one. Rich got shut out. I already checked out ebay and there are tickets for sale: $100+ for a single and $500+ for two. I hate that shit, but it is causing me a dilema: keep it and go by myself, give it to Rich to let him go so I can attend a family reunion, or sell them on ebay, making money to buy brewing equipment.

I don’t know which way I am goinng to go on this one but the brewing equipment is calling my name. Going by myself is lame and I don’t see my family all that often. Hmmmmmm.

With the events of DLD and KBS last week, I am starting to lose interst in American craft beer. Yeah, I said it. Back in the day I might be stoned to death for those type of words. It has become so ridiculously pathetic that I am tired of fighting the “Johny come latelies” and the “pricks for profits”. I like brewing and I am getting better, exploring, and I am starting to enjoy my own beer. Time to move on. Save a ton of money and invest in my own abilities. I will probably write more on this topic when my head clears and my thouhts are more clear.

Oh shit, one last quick note on DLD ticket sales: bind a ticket to the buyer of the ticket. Fuck, yeah. If you purchase a ticket, your name goes on it and/or if you are purchasing for someone else, there name has to go on it when purchasing. The idea here is if you are buying for someone, you know that someone up front, it shouldn’t be a mystery, so give that information up front. The name is on the ticket(s) and an ID is necessary to purchase the beer. Wow! Amazing that someone drinking all day can come up with a simple solution. Until something is figured out by these breweries, I am out and quite possibly out permanently. I have had my full of the shit. I am moving on.

My next challenge to myself: purchasing limited quantities of American craft beer.

Now onto the brew day. It was all going well until the wort was almost boiling. I was racing against the clock to finish cleaning the mash tun and rush out to the garage to help a boil over from the hot break. I made it but my wort was cooling down. How does that happen: no propane. Simple enough, get the propane off the grill in back. Glad I have a back up. Fuck!!!!!!!!! No dice, it was out of propane as well. Shit. An hour later and two full propane tanks, I was back brewing. The brewing day is long enough, do I really need something to push me back an hour.

I hope the worst part of the day is over. It has been intersting, a bit upsetting, but hopefully I am better for it. I need to see if Rich wants to come over for some home brew. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: In medieval England, beer was often served with breakfast.

Hill Farmstead Brewery Art

Thursday, March 15th, 2012
hill farmstead brewery art

Hill Farmstead Art

I heard of Hill Farmstead Brewery while reading an article in a magazine our scouring posts on one of the American craft beer mega-sites. I noticed that they hadn’t been around all that long nor had they produced a ton of beers, but, what was easy to see: their beers have been garnering great reviews. It was time to pull the trigger to get a few bottles to taste for myself.

It wasn’t that hard to find a beer transaction partner. Soon four bottles of Hill Farmstead beer was in my position. I had Jim immediately since it was a Cascadian Dark Ale. Delicious. I really had my eye on the Saison beers. Time in the cellar wouldn’t hurt. It was just a matter of time before I couldn’t resist.

Art is a wine barrel aged version of Arthur. Saison and a barrel, sounds like a match made in perfection. Art didn’t come up short either. The aroma and taste are quite complex. In spite of not being a dry as many Saison’s, it holds up, having sips that dried here and there to only refresh the juices with a nice citrus profile.

Hill Farmstead delivers again, raising my expectations for the next beer. If the trend continues, which I am sure it will, the only issue I will have is landing more of these bottled beauties. Enjoy!

Aroma: 9 (25%), Taste: 10 (25%), Look: 10 (15%), Drinkability: 9 (35%), Overall: 9.4

Useless Fact: The bombardier beetle, when disturbed, defends itself by emitting a series of explosions, sometimes setting off four or five reports in succession. The noises sound like miniature popgun blasts and are accompanied by a cloud of reddish-colored, vile-smelling fluid.

Maine Beer Company MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
maine beer company madeline & oliver pale ale

Maine MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale

I received a few American Craft Beers this past weekend from my buddy Matt. To my pleasure a bottle of MO (Madeline & Oliver) Pale Ale by Maine Beer Company. This is an American Pale Ale and a newer release.

Whenever I receive a box from Matt, I am hoping for at least one bottle of Maine American craft beer goodness. Maine Beer Company has quickly become one of my favorite breweries. I had to see if MO stood up to my high expectations.

Upon removing the cap, my nose quickly picked up on the heaping helpings of citrus, floral, and fruity hop scents emitting from the opening. The pour continued to tease my nose, making it almost impossible to hold back from a quick taste. There is a light but sweet malt presence that fends off the bitterness of the hops. The hop profile on the nose and palate make this beer a complete winner for me. Easy to drink and very inviting.

Maine did not disappoint. Thank you! I think there is a bit of Spring Peeper in this beer but the hop profile is more pleasing. Enjoy!

Aroma: 10 (25%), Taste: 10 (25%), Look: 9 (15%), Drinkability: 8 (35%), Overall: 9.2

Useless Fact: In September, 1951, seventeen-month-old Mark Bennet of Vancouver, B.C., was stung 447 times by wasps and lived. He was released from the hospital after twenty days of treatment.

American Craft Beer Transaction

Monday, March 12th, 2012

beer trade with matt

American craft beer transactions deliver plenty of happiness around the globe each and every day. Since I don’t like to be on the outside looking in, I have a few regular trading partners. We have such a good relationship that we just drop off a box here and there, nothing is expected in return nor was the drop off planned.

This time my friend, Matt, from the East coast landed me with an awesome box:

Until the next box lands. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Ants stretch when they wake up. They also appear to yawn in a very human manner before taking up the tasks of the day.

Thursday Night American Craft Beer Tastings

Friday, March 9th, 2012
pretty things beer and ale project babayaga

Pretty Things Babayaga

Our Thursday night get together was light one participant, Chuck, but the rest of us picked up his slack. We plowed our way through five beers with a focus on stouts. It wasn’t planned that way, it is just the way that it came together.

The list (in the order the beers participated):

A mighty fine lineup of beers. Hopslam is starting to use the luster of the hops while the malt backbone is coming forward. Babayaga is interesting to say the least. Complex aromas and flavors that aren’t typically together in one beer. Ursa Minor is damn easy to drink and my first try at a weizen stout. B.O.R.I.S. was probably a bit young (date: 2011-12-29), making it a touch hot. I think aging would make this beer round out nicer. Founders was served way to cold. Letting it warm a bit brought the level of the drink up a bit but it wasn’t that beer that I remembered in the past.

Hopefully next week we can have the full group on hand. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: A queen bee may lay as many as 3,000 eggs in a single day.

Caddy Tan American Brown Ale Tasting

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

caddy tan american brown ale

It doesn’t seem like six weeks have passed since I brewed my first batch of Caddy Tan an American brown ale. This is my third tasting of the beer with my first coming only a week after it was brewed. It is much better now.

Look: Deep brown with an inch of creamy, tan foam. Retention is quite good with a somewhat sticky lacing throughout.

Aroma: Orange citrus hits the nose first while roast and chocolate malt along with touches of fruity hops add some complexity. A touch of sweeteness can be found but that could be part of the hops actually.

Taste: Light chocolate and roast flavors take a backseat to a sweet orange end. This is joined by a light bitterness that the fades quickly, while being joined by a touch of chocolate and roast.

Drinkability: The light bitterness of the overall beer, as well as the sweet orange and fruity hops, make it quite easy to drink. Medium carbonation with the same mouthfeel, there is a dry mouth feel that sets in.

Overall: Since my original tasting the beer has rounded out nicely. The beer is much more bitter when cold and definitely needs a chance to warm. The aroma is probably the hightlight. The taste seems faint, from the malt end, but the hops add a very juicy finish. In spite of my complaints that I left a lot of aroma in the hop bag on bottling day, I think there is a nice amount of hop aroma.

I would definitely make the beer again. Going to have the TNBC guys give it a taste tonight to get some more feedback. Enjoy!

Useless Fact: Bees have five eyes. There are three small eyes on the top of a bee’s head and two larger ones in front.