It’s been a whole month since I last posted. I’ve been on a long vacation from work (four weeks). This weekend concludes the vacation: I return to work on Monday.

Many things beer have been happening over the past four weeks though.

Special Delivery

A week of my vacation was spent in LA, visiting my sister and brother-in-law. I shipped a case of my homebrew to them also, and was there when it arrived. We shared most of them, and I must say that I was impressed with my own brews.

The Humble Monk Ale, a Belgian Pale Ale fermented using New Belgium’s Fat Tire ale yeast, was way more delicious and perfectly appropriate to style than I remembered. The Imperial ESB was also more pleasant and less harsh than I remember. There were also some older numbers in there that were very enjoyable to have once again: Peachy Ale, Dunkles Hefeweissbier, and Berry Weizen to name a few.

There was but one that did not age well: Holiday Ale 2007. The cinnamon flavors had died down a little, but a new flavor came into replace them: cloves. I think cloves and allspice must simply get stronger and stronger with age. The Holiday Ale 2006 turned out to be a cloven monster because of this phenomenon. The 2007 batch had significantly less clove and tasted strongly of cinnamon as far as I can recall (my tasting notes confirm this). But no longer…

California Beers

While in California, I did shake down the nearby beverage store to pick up some slick picks that are not available in Georgia. Included were Port Brewing 2nd Anniversary and a few Lost Abbey beers. I picked up a bunch of Stone brews that are not available in Georgia yet, too: like this year’s Vertical Epic, this year’s anniversary beer (#12), and this summer’s batch of Imperial Stout. I also nabbed a bottle of Alesmith’s Speedway Stout. Half of the beers acquired there are on their way via FedEx. The rest will be in transit soon (my brother-in-law was nice enough to agree to package them out and send them this way).

I also made it to an interesting beer bar in Santa Monica during the visit: Library Alehouse. The place wasn’t bad and had a really nice selection of beers. My sister and I split a couple of draft beer samplers for an interesting cross section of brews. The stand-outs from our samplers were Alaskan Amber, Green Flash West Coast IPA, and Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.


Another week of this vacation was spent on the road. We drove from Atlanta to Durham, NC – stopping in Greenville, SC and Charlotte, NC along the way there and back.

In Durham, I found myself in a great little package store named Sam’s Quick Shop. They had a fantastic selection of beers, many unavailable in Georgia – like Bell’s, Southampton, and Founder’s. A friend of mine and I raided it twice. Since I didn’t have to ship these beers (unlike flying, there is no rule against packing the car with liquids), I’ve already been able to enjoy a few these since we’ve returned. I also shared some with friends while in Durham (just like I shared some of the California stash with family and friends before flying out of LA).

I also took my wife and son to a great restaurant/bar in Chapel Hill named Milltown. It is a Belgian place – casual Belgian cuisine combined with a great tap list that includes some great Belgian beers. Their bottled selection is extensive, also, but quite pricey… They had a deal I couldn’t pass up on pints of Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse. We also had Spanish-style mussels (steamed and served with roasted tomatoes and garlic and chorizo sausage) and some steak-frites (delicious).

Homebrew Updates

During these past four weeks, I got a new 11-gallon stainless steel brewpot and a second copper wort chiller.

The pot will allow me to do bigger batches. I’ve been doing a lot of 4 gallon batches because my old 7 gallon pots weren’t enough for a 5-gallon batch considering the volume lost during the boil and the headspace in the pot needed during the hot break. I need even more room in the pot now that I’m doing all-grain. This is because beers that use a lot of continental pilsner malt need to boil for 90 minutes, not just 60, to prevent DMS precursors. This means more liquid lost during boiling, which means I have to start off with more in the pot.

The secondary chiller will be used along with a bucket of ice water to help me cool the wort down more quickly. This should aid in retaining aromas and flavors from late hop additions as well as further reducing DMS.

The IPA I brewed up a few weeks ago, Hump’s Most Worthy Ale, is living up to its name for the most part. It’s been on tap for nearly two weeks now, and turned out very nicely. It has a nice hop aroma, a big hop flavor, a balanced level of sweet malt and bitterness (not nearly as bitter tasting as I expected based on how bitter the wort tasted), and a dry finish. It attenuated ridiculously well. I used Wyeast 1187 which is not a high attenuator. But it went crazy and turned out really dry (FG = 1.009 – apparent attenuation of 87%!!!). It has a fuller mouthfeel and stronger malt backbone and residual sweetness than I would expect based on that low final gravity. Very pleasing. Most worthy…

This Sunday I will be cooking up an ode to the current financial crisis: Hump’s Credit Crunch Ale. This will be a hoppy American Amber brewed with Summit and Palisade hops.

And tomorrow, I’ll be going to the pumpkin farm. We’ll take our son on the hay ride and to the petting zoo and get pumpkins for jack-o-lanterns. But my secondary objective is to get pie pumpkins for use in this year’s holiday brew. Holiday Ale 2008 will be a Pumpkin Pie Bock. Doesn’t that sound great? A rich, strong, malty Bock with pumpkin and some pumpkin spices thrown in.

And I think my next batch after that will be Smoked Maple Stout. Although I’m also considering cooking up a new recipe I crafted just this past week for a Smoked Rye Porter. But, to get through the backlog of recipes (I get exciting ideas and craft recipes faster than I can actually make them), I’ll stick with the stout. They both sound delicious to me…