Blogging a Path Through Homebrew Perdition

Yes, We Still Brew!

Holy smokes, it has been ages since we posted here.

It’s so sad — I didn’t even post once during the entirety of 2012. You know what else? I didn’t rate a single beer during 2012 either (stats for my profile prove it).

Admittedly, I’ve lost the drive to rate beers. I stil try all kinds of new beers and take mental notes as I drink them (oh so good). But no more rigor in taking notes and putting them on the web. Sometimes I miss it. My wife does not though — she always hated how I would pull out my phone and take notes for a few minutes whenever I ordered a beer when we were out. Apparently she’d rather I talk to her instead, or something like that… ;)

At the moment, we have a shortage on CO2. Once that is rectified, we’ll have our latest creation pouring: Hump’s Bière Bombe Houblon. It’s a Belgian IPA made Nugget bittering hops and a generous amount of Nelson Sauvin hops (from New Zealand) for flavor, aroma, and dry-hopping. I’ll be excited to try the first glass.

On new year’s day, we cooked up a fun experiment — our first single malt + single hop recipe. All Scottish Golden Promise winter barley malt and all Mosaic hops. Mosaic is a new variety that is bred from Simcoe. The beer is nearly done with primary fermentation, and it’s looking promising. The aroma coming from the fermentor was fantastic. These hops smell awesome.

Hopefully, 2013 will see more activity from us than 2012 did. I noticed that I have a backlog of labels to make for the beers we’ve been making — two years worth of recipes to labelify. Should be fun.


The weekend before this last one (March 20th to be precise), I cooked up my 100th original recipe/batch of Hump’s brew.

It finished fermenting in under a week. This past Sunday, I kegged it, and added 2.5 ounces of dry hops into the keg with it. It will still continue to improve as it extracts more and more volatile compounds from the dry hops. But, even after only two days (just long enough to get it adequately carbonated), I’m tasting it.

Wow. Delish. It is quite fine. Purty, too.

Hooch, Resurrected

I also managed to dig up a photo taken a couple of months ago of Hump’s Hooch. This was snapped in a side-by-side, next to Sweetwater IPA (which was sort of inspiration for Hooch – though I think Hooch turned out even better than Sweetwater’s brew).

The one on the left (the hazier one) is Hooch. Sweetwater IPA is on the right.

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!

The other weekend, while we were brewing Hump’s 100, we finally managed to crack open the Big Bastard: a three-liter bottle of Stone Double Bastard.

It was good.

And now I can re-use the bottle for homebrew. I have a big, bad-ass barleywine recipe that I call Hump’s Ballroom Brawl Barleywine. I think it could be worthy of aging in this ludicrously over-sized bottle.


It’s been a long time since a real post was made to this site. So let’s catch up, shall we?

We Love IPAs

In December, we bottled Hump’s Hooch. Holy moly, it was good. Hopped with a blend of Zeus, Simcoe, and Amarillo whole leaf hops, six ounces in total, it really scratched that gotta-have-hops itch.

Sadly, it was shortlived. We didn’t even get a chance to save some for competition before the keg ran dry.

It ran dry while we were brewing a follow-up: Hump’s Last Minute IPA. I had hoped instead to make an India Wheat Ale (like a hefeweizen, but with lots and lots of hop character). But the usual homebrew store was closed that day, and the second string store (Hop City in midtown Atlanta) – though awesome as a bottle shop with an amazing selection of commercial beer – was not an effective substitute. Due to their prices and selection, we had to make numerous last minute adjustments to the recipe. An India Wheat Ale was no longer in the cards, so we ended up just making a regular IPA instead.

And this upcoming Sunday, 3/20, is a Brew Day. We’re making… another IPA! This will be our 100th original recipe. So we’re calling it Hump’s 100!

Peach State Brew Off

The Last Minute IPA we made is tasty, but it didn’t fare that great in the Peach State Brew Off (which wrapped up and awarded medals last Saturday, 3/12). I dig it, so I’m not too concerned that judges did not.

We entered a few other brews into that contest, too:

  • Hump’s Naughty Monk Ale: Our watermelon-infused Belgian Tripel (the one made with real watermelon puree, not extract) was sent in and scored higher than any of our other entries. Final score: 32.5 out of 50 (better than it sounds as 30-37 is the “very good” range). But certainly no 45 (which is what Hump’s Old Humperdink Barley Wine scored at last year’s Peach State Brew Off).
  • Hump’s 10th Anniversary: This beer was a great big amber ale – with a lot more hops and malt used than in a typical amber ale. Alas, judges did not agree. One said it seemed like a normal American Amber Ale – not an “Indian” Amber Ale. I’ve had a lot of amber ales in my day, and that judge is smoking crack. They must have a serious hop-bomb entry beforehand to make this one seem muted, because – to me – it was way too big (over 7% abv) and had way too much hop aroma and flavor to be a normal amber ale entrant.
  • Hooch: This wasn’t, technically, a Hump’s brew. It was brewed by friend and fellow home-brewer, Scott Stinson. He brews with extract, so I converted the recipe for Hump’s Hooch from all-grain to mini-mash, and he cooked it up. We entered it as a “team” entry, with both our names on it. I’m a bit lost on the judges comments. They indicated that it was watery and not very bitter. Did they have the same beer? It was fairly full-bodied and extremely hoppy. It was also drier than many commerical examples and was quite drinkable, especially given its strength and massive amounts of hops. It’s really disappointing to see comments like this – that don’t even seem to describe the right beer… One suggested it would do well as an American Pale Ale entry – at nearly 8%abv?!?!? (not to mention 6 ounces of high alpha hops…)
  • Hump’s Chocolate Milkshake: The lowest score of all the entries. Admittedly, that was expected. I felt it was definitely the weakest. Surprisingly the judges seemed to like it, but they felt that I may have miscategorized it: I entered it as a spice/herb/vegetable beer due to the cocoa nibs and vanilla bean and put the “base style” as robust porter. They didn’t think the base beer was robust enough. Strangely, they said the chocolate character was strong and the vanilla character was too low. That is the complete opposite of my own impression of the beer. I can barely taste any chocolate other than character from chocolate malt (not real cocoa flavor), but I can taste lots of vanilla. Maybe they don’t know what these ingredients are supposed to taste like???

You can read the judges’ feedback for yourself by checking out the Contests page.

Perhaps we’ll have better luck next year.

Hop Plants

Two of our four hop plants are already growing back this year. The Willamette is the surprise star of the garden right now. Chinook has just started to show some tiny leaves. No sign yet of Horizon (which I’m looking forward to trying if it ever grows and flowers) or Centennial (which, unfortunately, is even worse than the Horizon – I will be mildly surprised if it actually comes back at all this year…).

I’ll have two weeks of time off coming up soon, so the wife and I hope to make some progress on the garden. Perhaps we can get it in better shape than last year, and that the effort will help everything stay alive. Less heat would help, too. Last year’s crazy hot summer burned up everything in the garden. We didn’t even collect 1/2 ounce of hops from four plants last year. Depressing…

Muddy Rye

We’ve recently tapped into Hump’s Smoked Rye Porter – made with two pounds of smoked malt and four pounds of rye malt. The result: a tasty beer with a nice hop aroma, too (decent bit of Amarillo and Simcoe late hops). The downside: the texture is way too thick.

The Roggendoppelbock turned out this way, too: incredibly viscous, especially considering the final SG reading (1.017 for the smoked porter). The Wry Wit we made last year also used a lot of rye, but it did not exhibit this symptom. So we turned to the internet to investigate the what-for.

One fact worth pointing out: we employed a protein rest for the Wry Wit, due to using lots of unmalted grains (flaked barley, flaked rye, and flaked oats). Did the protein rest “fix” the viscosity for that earlier brew?

Most of what I’ve read suggests that a beta glucan rest is what is actually called for when using large amounts of rye, oats, or unmalted grains. But at 122 degrees (the temperature of the protein rest I employed in making Wry Wit), beta-glucanase and cytase are also active. So, at that temperature, protein and beta-glucan rests are combined (at least to some degree).

So I’m going to give rye another go this spring, and use a beta-glucan rest at 110 degrees to see if it fixes this issue. And if not, I’ll try another one later with another protein rest…

Dishearteningly, I can’t find anyone describing exactly the same problem I’m having. Most suggest that these rests just reduce viscosity and gumminess of the mash, making lautering easier and faster. I did have very slow sparges with both the smoked porter and the roggendoppelbock, but the viscosity problem I’m having is in the finished product, not just the mash.

Doggone it, I’m going to figure this out! What a fun way to do science experiments, eh?

Miles the Method Actor

The brew dog, Miles, shows his face frequently here. He’s the dog on the labels. Like a chameleon, he changes the color of this fur and skin (nose) to imitate the color of the beer he’s representing.

For his latest photo shoot, the label of a big ol’ Scottish-style beer, he had to put on some weight to play the notorious Fat Bastard – Dr. Evil’s morbidly obese Scottish henchman (originally played by Mike Myers):


His inspiration for bulking up was Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.

HeavyweightOverweight Champion

Another face-off between Hump’s Fat Bastard ale and one of its Wee Heavy rivals.

The Champ

The Challenger

The contrast between this latest opponent and the last one (McRogue) couldn’t be sharper. McRogue was so chocolatey and rich that it made Fat Bastard look fruity by comparison. Old Chub is the opposite. It tastes fruity and caramelly by comparison and makes Fat Bastard taste like the chocolate-cookie part of an Oreo — dark and roasty with distinct coffee and chocolate character.

Just like the last contest: I preferred Fat Bastard, but vote #2 was cast in favor of the challenger. Another draw.

We’ll try to nab some of Great Divide’s Claymore Scotch Ale for a third installment. Stay tuned…

Warp Speed, Mr. Scott!

Tonight’s main event pits our own latest brew, Hump’s Fat Bastard, against a potential competitor: Rogue’s McRogue Scotch Ale.

In this corner, the champion, standing at 8% alcohol by volume, made with seven types of malts and a single hop variety, is the Fat Bastard (with a hefty 1.034 finishing gravity — told you it was fat). And in the other corner, the challenger from the west coast, made with five types of malts and three varieties of hops, standing at 7% alcohol by volume, is McRogue.

Fat Bastard was crafted using British pale (Maris Otter), dark Munich, British crystal (55°L and 150°L), special roast, and peated malts as well as unmalted roasted barley. It was bittered with U.K. Phoenix hops and lightly spiced with crushed coriander seed (intended to be a subtle nod to Traquair Jacobite – a Scotch ale made with generous amounts of coriander).

McRogue was built using amber, pale, and chocolate malts; rolled oats; and Rogue’s own home-grown Dare malts. McRogue features Kent Goldings and Willamette hops as well as Rogue’s own home-grown Revolution hops.

Fat Bastard on the left; McRogue on the right

Appearance: Both beers pour brown, with less than stellar clarity, and medium-sized light tan heads. The Rogue brew is cloudier and not quite as dark. The fat bastard is nearly black except when held to the light, revealing a hazy (but not as opaque as the Rogue) dark brown.

Aroma: The Rogue has a distinct chocolate character to the aroma whereas Fat Bastard has a distinctly fruity character (no fruit in particular – just the vaguely fruity aroma of esters, produced by ale yeast during fermentation). The variance is significant and the contrast is great enough that each beer accentuates the character of the other. In other words, the McRogue brew seems even more chocolatey after sampling the Fat Bastard, and – similarly – the Fat Bastard seems to be more distinctly fruity after a sip of the McRogue. The Fat Bastard also has a touch of drying ethanol in the aroma, divulging the brew’s greater strength. Despite the use of a small portion of peated malt and coriander in Fat Bastard, it is lacking any noticeable contributions from either.

Flavor: The flavors follow the aromas in both beers. The McRogue is thick and malty with a surprisingly strong chocolate character with other hints of sweet and roasty malts. The Fat Bastard, on the other hand, has a more straight-forward malt character that has a slightly rougher edge from alcohol, a subtle chocolate character, and continuing tones of fruity esters. Both finish dry with a hint of ethanol. Fat Bastard is a touch more warming in the finish.

Overall: Though I formulated the recipe for Hump’s Fat Bastard with the intent that it would reach down to a 1.028 finishing gravity (which would translate to just over 9% alcohol), I’m still quite happy with the finished product. I actually prefer it to the Rogue brew. However, my better half (wife), prefers the Rogue. Of course, she’s also quite partial to chocolate.

So, the final verdict? A draw. Perhaps next time we need an odd number of votes cast.

We’ll have to schedule a re-match, pitting an aged bottle of McRogue against some aged Fat Bastard to see how they smooth out.

Naughty Monk

Wow! Two blog posts inside of a week? I know, crazy…

Title Bout

Hump’s Naughty Monk Ales

On the left, with visibly greater carbonation (though about the same level of head retention), we present the draught version of Hump’s Naughty Monk Ale. And, on the right is the bottle-conditioned version of the same brew.

Let’s conduct a side-by-side tasting, shall we? Or, as Michael Buffer would say, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

But first, some background…

The draft version was made using real watermelon juice. It was served only draft so as not to re-ferment (serving temperature is much cooler than even the low end of the range for the yeast that fermented this brew). The bottled version, on the other hand, was flavored with watermelon extract. Both beers, before their melon incursions, were the same – one five gallon batch split into two.

The base beer is a Belgian Tripel – malty, spicy, and strong. At kegging/bottling time, the bottled version appeared to be much lighter and clearer. The watermelon juice added some color and cloudiness to the draft version that extract could not provide. However, the darker brew in the photo is the bottled version. I suspect it is suffering from chill haze, since the bottle was only in the fridge for a couple of days. The draft version, however, has been in the fridge for a couple of months, so any chill haze has probably precipitated already, leaving behind a brighter beer.

I originally suspected that the draft version would be a much better brew than the bottled version. Immediately after adding extract, tasting the bottled version (before it actually went into bottles) seemed to confirm my suspicion – very, very strong and annoying watermelon character that overpowered the beer. The draft version also had a very strong watermelon character, but seemed more refreshing and appealing. But now that the bottles have conditioned, I felt it was a good time to try them side by side to see how they’ve turned out.

Back to the match…

The draft version looks nice due to its color and brilliance as well as its thick frothy white head. The bottled version, though conditioning for over a month, still needs a little more carbonation. Its darker, cloudier appearance also makes it look a tad lifeless next to the draft version.

Appearance: Draft wins!

The draft version has strong aroma of watermelon with a slightly vegetal character. The bottled version has a much softer watermelon character that has a distinctly candy-like (Jolly Rancher?) tint. Both exhibit bready, cakey malt notes and spicy phenols from fermentation.

Aroma: Bottled wins!

The draft version has a very smooth blend of watermelon juice and abbey-style strong beer. Both are distinct. The slight vegetal character in the nose dissipates and, luckily, doesn’t emerge on the taste buds. It has a dry but malty (with touches of soft fruit) finish with a pleasant watermelon and oatmeal cookie aftertaste. The bottled version has a much more muted watermelon character (what a surprise considering how it tasted before going into the bottle!). It is a very crisp and strong ale with notes of spice and fruit. The malt character seems strangely muted compared to that of the draft version. It has a very dry finish with a touch of alcohol bitterness. It is warming with a short, crackery aftertaste. The bottled version is actually very nice and much better than I expected. The watermelon character blends so seemlessly that it is pleasant and far from overt. The draft version, on the other hand, almost has too much watermelon. However, in the end, the draft version tastes fresher and also has slightly stronger malt and yeast presence that gives it a slight edge.

Flavor: Draft wins!

The draft version has a very smooth mouthfeel that is slippery and creamy around mid-palate. The bubbles provide a soft, pillowy frothiness that pampers the tongue. The bottled version seems a little thin and is very, very crisp. Despite not pouring with a thick head, it feels like it has much higher carbonation. The bottled version is quite drying – obviously a stronger beer (which it really is since the draft version was “watered” down with alcohol-free watermelon juice). Though the level of carbonation is more lively and more appropriate in the bottled version, the draft version just slightly edges out the bottled version for its creamy and full-bodied texture. The watermelon juice probably may have a bit to do with the mouthfeel as well.

Mouthfeel: Draft wins!

Overall, these are much closer than I expected. I expected the draft to be the hands down winner, but they’re really close. Tasting them side by side, it is obvious they aren’t the same beer. The different characters imparted by watermelon juice vs. watermelon extract are immediately apparent. But, despite the contrast, they do share a strong “family resemblance”.

The draft version edges out the bottled version, but just slightly. If the draft version only smelled like the bottled version then it would be perfect! But the slight vegetal character in the nose isn’t a big enough distraction to keep it from winning this challenge. It simply looks better, tastes better, and is smoother. Admittedly, it has a slight advantage in the smoothness department since it is about 8.6%abv compared to 9.2% for the bottled version.

Overall: Draft, for the win!

What a fun experiment! Just one reason out of so many that this hobby rules.

Gotta Eat Your Wheaties

Wheat Beers

It has been quite some time since we wrote an actual blog post. And even longer since we last participated in The Session. This month’s session is all about Wheat Beers. This should be a good subject since I’ve just put a homebrewed wheat beer on tap recently and have been reading about wheat beers, too.

The latest homebrew — Hump’s Five Grain Ale — is vaguely in the style of an “American Wheat” which is a rather broad style. It features the use of not just Barley and Wheat but also Rye, Oats, and Corn (hence the name). It is cloudy like so many wheat beers, but is a little deeper in color, grainier but rich in flavor, full-bodied, and surprisingly citrusy (from a decent-sized punch of Tettnanger hops). Despite the exotic sound of all that, it isn’t particularly adventurous. I think a lot of fizzy-yellow-beer drinkers get their feet wet in the craft beer world with wheat beers. That would certainly explain why Blue Moon is so popular, wouldn’t it?

The Obligatory Anecdote

On a recent team-building outing with my co-workers, I was tasked with refreshments. In addition to water, sodas, pretzels, and chips, I also brought along beer. I nabbed a fairly random selection of singles from the basement and then also got a few six-packs at the store. I had a request for something approachable (so I ended up taking along Miller Lite). But I also grabbed some Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Several of us drank the interesting brew (Oskar Blues Gordon and the random assortment of picks from the cellar). Those not so keen on bold craft beer knocked out the fizzy yellow stuff. When no more Miller Lite remained, I suggested the Kellerweis, and both of my co-workers that ventured into craft beer with it said they really liked it.

So its approachability and ability to refresh (particularly on hot days) combined with all malt flavor and a wide range of interesting and bold flavors (whether it be a punch of hops like in some American versions, the phenol notes of clove and banana in traditional southern German brews, or the fragrant bitter orange and coriander of Witbier) make it a wonderful niche in the world of beer.

No, I wasn’t asked to promote this book…

Coincidentally, I just finished reading a book on the subject: Brewing With Wheat by Stan Hieronymus. The topic didn’t seem particularly interesting at first glance (at least not enough so to warrant an entire book on the subject), but I really liked one of his other books, Brew Like a Monk. So I bought this one, expecting it would be a good read solely on the author’s reputation. I was not disappointed.

The histories of wheat beer in Belgium and Germany make for very interesting chapters as do the discussions of newer takes on wheat beer, like wheat wine and a few uniquely American wheat beers. There isn’t really any discussion of Lambic — one of the most unique (and perhaps most famous?) styles from Belgium that happens to be made with generous portions of wheat — but there is a lot of great info on Belgian Wits (particularly their history and how and why they’ve changed since a century ago) and German Weizen, and a lot of facts on now-extinct and nearly-extinct styles of wheat beer from Germany, like Berliner Weisse, Gose, and Grätzer. I have yet to try authentic (i.e. from Germany) examples of any of these. In fact, aside from Berliner Weisse, I have yet to try anything even resembling these ales of yore. Gose — sour and salty? Grätzer — sour and smokey? They sound intriguing. I’m not sure if they’d be to my liking, but I would most certainly be willing to try.

Like in Brew Like a Monk, the blend of history, stories, technical brewing details, and interviews with brewers keeps it a quick pace and fascinating all the while. I consider both books valuable tools for recipe formulation, too – lots of eye-opening details behind how the famous commercial brews are made.

A Departure

Brother Joshua, the monastic brewer, toting a glass of RoggendoppelbockI find myself brewing wheat beers frequently. I know the topic for this session is wheat, but I often use rye instead of wheat in classic wheat beer styles and have found this angle much to my liking. My current batch, Five Grain Ale, to which rye imparts its distinct character, is a fine brew, but it still contains a good bit of wheat. But I’m now thinking more about beers that use rye instead of wheat – not unlike German Roggenbier: basically a Weizenbier but made with rye instead of wheat.

For example, another brew I have on tap right now is Hump’s Roggendoppelbock. The intent behind this was not a regular Doppelbock lager made with rye, but an über-strong Weizenbock made with rye instead of wheat. A doppelbock-strength Roggenbier, if you will. It turned out very tasty. Another similar experiment this year was a Belgian Witbier, but made with rye (including generous amounts of unmalted flaked rye) instead of wheat. I called it Wry Wit because I have a lame sense of humor. I was rather generous with both coriander and orange peel, and the result was very pleasant: the citrus and strong spice character melded well with the almost-spicy grainy rye character.

If I try this experiment again, it may be with a sour brew – like Berliner Weisse. Sour + rye sound to me like they would work quite nicely together. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Entering the Final Round

NHC 2010, Here We Come!

Two of our beers are entering the final round of judging in the National Homebrew Competition.

Hump’s Back-Breaking Brown scored 41 points in the first round and netted us a gold certificate. It also got 2nd place in the Specialty category – which means we got a red ribbon. I’m totally stoked about this beer and hoping it continues to do well in the next round.

Hump’s Irish Dry Stout scored 36 points – good for a silver certificate and a 3rd place (yellow) ribbon. I like this beer, but I’m not quite as excited about it because I just don’t think it stands out as well as Back-Breaking Brown. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed though. After all, a medal in the Stout category would make me just as happy as a medal in the Specialty category.

The other beers entered (Hump’s Old Humperdink Barley Wine and Hump’s Yankee Doodle Brown) didn’t place, but scored well enough to get silver certificates.

April 20th

Almost exactly one month ago, our younger son turned one year old. His mother and I celebrated by cracking open the last bottle of a beer that was brewed in his honor: Hump’s “Welcome to the World!” Wit.

Recently Brewed

Over the past month I’ve made two batches of beer.

Hump’s Cascade Pale Ale is a fine and delicious single-hop (Cascade) American Pale Ale. It has a wonderfully balanced bready malt character with just a hint of residual sweetness. It has a strong sweet orange citrus aroma and distinctly citrusy hop flavor. It finishes dry with a firm but balanced citrusy bitterness. A blend of hops would have certainly added some complexity to the very-orange hop character, but I was really going for the kind of citrus character that only a single-hop beer could provide. Ahtanum, Amarillo, or Centennial may have been good substitutes, but Cascade – being the stereotypical American hop variety – seemed just right for this recipe.

Hump’s Jeroboam is a mind-bending Double IPA. It is made with all Magnum hops — Jeroboam is a wine term that means “Double Magnum” (aka 3 liter bottle; a Magnum is a 1.5 liter bottle). This brew is amazingly balanced and almost (dare I say) delicate from the unbelievably neutral and clean hop character that is Magnum. But it weighs in at nearly 10% (so maybe “delicate” is a poor choice of words). It has a pleasant, green hop aroma (from generous dry-hopping) followed by a rather complex and mesmerizing flavor. It is very strong and warming from the alcohol, but it also has various notes of spice (noble hop sort of spiciniess), fruit (touches of tropical fruit), and honey. It finishes very dry and firmly bitter – but a very clean and sublime bitterness.

On The Horizon

We are anxiously looking forward to hop-harvesting time this year. Two of our four hop plants (the Willamette and the Chinook) are really growing and are already producing wonderful-looking hop cones. The Horizon looks like it could provide a half-way decent yield this year. The Centennial, however, is looking pathetic. It had a strong start but has already stalled.

We will also be brewing again soon. I was really hoping to cook up a batch this weekend, but it looks like it will be delayed to next weekend. The next batch will be Hump’s Saison – a no-nonsense Belgian-style farmhouse ale.

Fellow Brewer

A friend of mine from work (the day job, not brewing) has shared with me an interesting story of a guy he knows who recently made the switch from day job to professional brewing. His beers have just begun production (contract brewed at Thomas Creek for now).

I’m quite interested to pick some up once it comes to Georgia. Apparently, the guy has won awards for his homebrews (not unlike Hump’s). It makes a nice story and is certainly inspiration for us to follow suit (though probably not anytime really soon…).

His brewery is named Bottle Tree Brewing. Check them out!

And Once Again…

Your moment of Zen.

I know, I know — this is a beer blog, not a Scotch blog! Forgive me once more for this distraction into the craft of distilling.

The most recent malt I’ve tried, Caol Ila 12, is a fantastic Islay malt. It is crazy smokey (like my other favorites from Islay), but it is also quite malty with just the right touches of sweetness. I’d place it somewhere between the Ardbeg 10 and the Lagavulin 16 (and a little less expensive than both).

Makin’ Mo’ Beer

It’s been a long time since I posted, so here’s a novella for your Friday morning. (Okay, okay – I posted a couple of entries just a month ago. But it feels like longer since I have so much to share!)

Burton Baton

I just drank a new bottle of Dogfish Head Burton Baton and am now opening an old bottle (3 years old). My are they different. No offense to the old guy, but this beer is better fresh.

Admittedly, my three-year old bottle tasted “old” even when I bought it. My review of the beer from 2007 indicated a beer that was very malty and not particularly hoppy – definite barleywine territory (despite being labeled as an Imperial IPA). Three years have done nothing, obviously, for its hop presence.

The fresh stuff – still more like an American Barleywine than an Imperial IPA – is a wonderfully balanced, big, delicious beer. The old stuff has lost all pretense of hop aroma and is cloying in the nose.

The flavor of the old stuff is quite smooth and actually very good. But, man, is it sweet. It tastes like candy… malted barley candy. It has just enough hints of hops in various areas (subtle bitter fruit, subtle evergreen, subtle citrus orange) to balance the big-ass wave of candy-sweet malts. So it is actually drinkable – not too cloyingly sweet in flavor. But not drinkable enough to have a pint. It sits quite heavy in the gut (even the fresher stuff). That and the fact that it’s a strong beer, make me reconsider the idea of opening two of them. Oh, well — I’ll call it a nightcap and hope it help me sleeps…

Running On Empty

We had a brew day a few weeks ago, and it was very successful: our overgrown stock of fine beer was vastly diminished. We still have an absolutely silly amount of fantastic beers sitting around, but two homebrew kegs (out of three) now sit empty.

We will be filling one of them on Monday with Hump’s Union Jack Bitter — the beer that we made on the brew day. It is currently sitting on a half ounce of U.K. First Gold hops and isn’t due to come off until Monday.

The one remaining keg stores the remainder of Hump’s Irish Dry Stout. I totally dig this beer, but I sort of miss not having a hoppy one around. And that’s why the next two beers we’re cooking up will be such a perfect fit.

This weekend we’ll brew Hump’s Cascade Pale Ale. If there ever were a stereotypical beer (other than the sea of stereotypical bland pale lagers), this is it: an American Pale Ale… made with Cascade hops. It seems that every brewpub has a beer like this — it is required fare for almost any craft/small brewer in the country. Is this kind of beer overdone? Nah…

I enjoy Cascade hops, and I love hoppy pale ales. We’ll see if we can make something truly exceptional out of what amounts to the “apple pie and baseball” of American craft beer.

And after that we’ll be making a truly special brew – another Imperial IPA. We may end up making it next week. (Is brewing back to back weeks insane? Didn’t think so…) This will be no ordinary Impy though. It will be our first attempt at a single-hop Imperial IPA (our last single-hop brew, Old Humperdink, was a wonderful success). What hop variety you ask? Magnum. Were it a normal-strength IPA, we might call it “Magnum IPA”, but this is a Double IPA. So what do you call a “double magnum”? A Jeroboam. So we’ll call this one Hump’s Jeroboam.

Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to empty our Jeroboam of Stone’s Double Bastard and fill it with our own Jeroboam brew. Is it just me, or does that seem poetic?

Hot Liquor

We’ve now made a couple of batches using the latest gadgets added to our hot liquor tank. Back in December, I had a 15.5-gallon Sankey keg converted into a hot liquor tank. We chopped the top off (losing about 1 gallon of volume), added a thermometer, and added a spigot.

The latest gadgets: we put a down-tube on the inside of the keg, attached to the spigot. This means that we can extract almost 100% of the hot water since the tube pokes down close to the bottom of the pot. We also added a sight glass.

Having a nice hot liquor tank setup definitely takes some of the “chore” away from all-grain brewing. It makes it much easier to hit my dough-in temperatures and is easier-to-use to boot.


We used our 5 Seasons Westside gift certificate (part of the prize for placing 5th in the BEERmuda Triangle Competition) the other day, sampling their Plan B IPA poured through the world’s largest Randall: a conical fermentor packed with Willamette hops. Apparently, since the conical is so big, they just dumped a keg of Plan B into it after filling it with hops (it must have been either not completely full or very loosely filled with hops – because that seems like a waste of so much hops otherwise since most of them would have such little contact time with the beer…). They then opened the transfer valve on the bottom of the conical to pour each pint. It was a damn tasty pint. I was amazed by the fact that the flavor was not that radically transformed. I tried another sampler (just two ounces) of the normal Plan B that night, and the two tasted almost the same. The Randallized one was a little hoppier in aroma, but the biggest difference was actually the mouthfeel. The Randall must impart loads and loads of hop oils or other mouth-filling compounds, because it was very full-bodied. Chewy… but not in a bad way. Delicious in fact. Another big difference between the two versions of this IPA: the Randallized one was way cloudier.

Speaking of the BEERmuda Triangle Homebrew Competition, we entered brews into Georgia’s Peach State Brew Off this year. The PSBO is an AHA-sanctioned event, so we got BJCP-certified feedback on the beers we entered.

How did we do? Old Humperdink received 45 points (!!!) and got honorable mention. I know, I know – I ask myself the same question. “How the hell did three other beers score better than 45?!?!?! Were the judges wasted?” Maybe… It was a record number of entrants, and I’d heard they were frantic to get a sufficient number of judges lined up for it…

We also got high marks for La Brabançonne. The scoresheet indicated that it also moved on to the Best of Show round. Back-Breaking Brown (my personal favorite) received good marks but not as high as I had hoped.

You can see the feedback I received on the latest page that I’ve added to this site: Contests (click Brews, and you’ll see the link there).

We currently have four entries in the NHC. I believe the first round judging is supposed to take place tomorrow. To be honest, I almost hope that some of our beers do not make it to the second round because that means I get to keep the other bottles (which I set aside just in case they advance) and drink them myself (or with suitable company of course).

Hop Plants

Our hop plants are coming back this year and all looking fantastic. The worst looking plant is the Horizon plant, but even it looks to be doing fine. The Centennial, which did horribly last year and didn’t produce a single flower, is looking great. The Willamette and the Chinook are off the hook.

We’ll be getting hog-fencing and rebar this week to make a new, taller trellis for the vines to crawl up.

We were hoping to add another bed of hop plants to the garden, but – alas – no dice. Doug at Just Brew It only received orders for 7 rhizomes. Four of those seven orders were from me. Unfortunately, it costs him about $100 to ship the rhizomes as they must be sent very quickly and in temperature/humidity controlled transit so as to maximize their viability when they go into the ground. Doug’s prices were already set much lower than the pro-rata shipping costs alone, so he couldn’t afford to deliver. Doug was super-nice about it. He regretfully informed us of the situation, gave us store credit for what he’d already collected, and offered to give us a free potted hop plant from his personal garden. I politely declined the plant (though he may still bring it in to his store and try to give it me) because I didn’t feel it was necessary – I completely understand and empathize with the situation. And it’s not like anyone lost any money. Were I that set on having more hop plants, I could mail order them myself. But four is a fine number, so we’ll stick with that… for now.

Scotch Whisky

The morning of brew day, I had a couple of birthday gifts to snag. So I headed to the liquor store. (Where else?!) I nabbed a nice bottle of beer and a nice bottle of wine for the two friends whose birthdays I had missed and while there nabbed a bottle of Scotch for myself.

I was hoping to find the Uigeadail expression of Ardbeg – a distiller from Islay. It was not to be found (and I’ve called a few other places around — it’s just plain hard to find in this part of Georgia). But I did grab their flagship: Ardbeg 10 year.

This one packs a punch. It isn’t as intense, medicinal, or crazy strong as the cask-strength 10-year-old Laphroaig I have, but it is much more intense than the Lagavulin and Talisker (all but the last being also from Islay; Talisker hails from Skye). It is smoky and crazy phenolic. But in a good way — at least if your palate is like mine – which, luckily, mine happens to be! ;)

And Now…

Your moment of Zen:

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