I have neglected this blog for the past month. Aye, it is only one day shy of a full month since the last time I posted ’round these parts.

Life has been good over the past month. It has been very busy, but has seen a decent bit of great beer…

I went on vacation to Boston in the earlier part of June. The notable beer-related highlight was our trip to Cambridge Brewing Company, within walking distance of where my brother lives (if I were him, I’d probably be spending way too much time there…). We also visited the Watch City Brewing Company, which had very decent ales (not as adventurous or interesting as Cambridge Brewing, but tasty nevertheless) and delicious fries. Watch City is in Waltham, also home to Brandeis University (a friend and coworker of mine has a son that is a student there). The other beer destination was in our obligatory trip to the Samuel Adams Brewery. This is a brewery operated by Boston Beer Company in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood not far from Boston proper. You might already know that the Sam Adams we all drink is brewed under contract by various brewers around the country. This brewery is their pilot brewery, where they develop recipes that will then be forwarded to their various contractors. The plain ol’ Boston Lager was okay – I think I’ve had better in the bottle as brewed by some of their contractors. Their Summer Ale, however, was fantastic – much better than I remembered it from the bottle… Unfortunately, we were not able to fit in a trip to the Harpoon Brewery (the schedule on which they open for tours did not mesh with ours).

We did more than just beer stuff in Boston. We did some tourist stuff, visited the MIT Museum (among other things), and ate good food. You know – the usual :)

Other beer news since last month: I have tasted some absolutely phenomenal beers. Allagash Hugh Malone and Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse absolutely blew me away. They were both fantastic: sublime, decadent, complex, hoppy, and drinkable all at the same time. And then I tried Allagash Interlude. Whoah! Complex, wine-like, intoxicating, alluring, mysterious, and untouchable. Words to describe it escape me. An amazing blend of fruit and sourness that still retains a distinct grain (i.e. beer) quality but is dangerously refined. Wine, watch out!

We’ve had quite the adventure on the homebrew front around here, too. For one, Hump’s Itsy Bitsy Bitter – my first all-grain batch – is already gone. It wins no awards in this department: it lasted 3 1/2 weeks in the keg, and it is only gone because I dispensed about a gallon of it into bottles tonight (for sharing with friends and family, and a four-pack of label-less 12-ounce bottles, possibly destined for a competition). The record is a scant three weeks from kegging to completion. That honor went to Hump’s American Schwarzbier – my first kegged batch of homebrew (which was quite tasty, by the way). The last glass of bitter (fresh in my mind from earlier this night) was really good – remarkably flavorful for such a light beer (only 3.8%abv): bready and malty but without much sweetness and with a very pleasant, well-balanced hop bitterness that was earthy with a light touch of bitter citrus. I was happy enough with it to save some for a competition…

Other homebrews have been happening, too:

  • Hump’s Brain Bludgeoner has turned out great. It is one of the best-looking beers I’ve made. It is bright with a deep orange/copper color and immense, long-lasting, egg-white-like, light-tan foam. The aroma is intense – not nearly as hoppy as I’d hoped, but intense nevertheless with all kinds of fruity esters and complex malt aromatics. The flavor is also remarkably well-balanced. Not as hoppy as I’d hoped (you’d never guess that there was nearly a half-pound of high-alpha hops in there), but quite pleasing. The malt profile is complex with some caramel and toffee sweetness along with some roasted grain character and a light graininess from the base grain: American 2-row barley. The fermentation-derived esters and hops play nicely together giving the beer a fantastic array of complex yet tasty flavors. It did, luckily, continue to ferment. After two weeks of fermentation it had only attenuated down to a specific gravity of 1.028. Luckily it made it down below 1.020 before kegging. It still isn’t as dry (or hoppy) as I had intended, but – as so often is the case – it turned out delicious despite its variations from my original objective.
  • Hump’s Bosbessenbier (which is Dutch for Blueberry Beer) was cooked up and is now re-fermenting alongside 4.5 pounds of blueberries. I’m hoping that isn’t too much fruit – the beer is quite purple in color, like red wine, and smells strongly of blueberry wine. The beer before adding the fruit was fantastic – a delicious Belgian golden ale (a modest gravity pale ale with low hopping and fermented with a strain that is reputably sourced from Brouwerij Achouffe (a maker of delicious Belgian ales).
  • Hump’s German Hefeweizen hit the keg tonight (it filled the void left by the absence of Itsy Bitsy Bitter – literally). Uncarbonated, the beer tastes great. It has a nice, palpable level of wheat malt with typical fermentation characteristics of Bavarian wheat beers – esters and phenols. Unlike the last Hefeweizen I brewed (a Pumpkin Hefeweizen that I made for my sister’s wedding), this beer has a perfect balance of esters and phenols (the pumpkin brew tasted distinctly of bananas, thanks to the esters produced by the weizen yeast).

Finally, we have some news on the hop front: our Mount Hood hop plant bit the dust this week. It started off quite slowly and then, amazingly, took off in growth, catching up with our other plant, the Chinook. But only a week or two after writing up my last post about them, the Mount Hood seemed to stop growing while the Chinook plant really took off. The Chinook hops are now up to my chest, and if I were to unwind the vine from around the poles it is growing up, it would probably measure about 6 feet in length. So it has grown substantially since my last set of photos, and continues to grow everyday. If I can get six ounces of hops out of the Chinook plant (which I think is highly likely) then it will have proved economical in the long run. I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of brewing a pale ale this fall with fresh, “wet”, homegrown Chinook hops.