A week or two ago (maybe three) someone in a local beer e-mail list posted a link to a great article in The New Yorker about Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. It was an interesting read, but I thought some of the random quips from Garrett Olive (brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery) seemed a little oddly weaved in – a little out of place.

Last night, while catching up on my blogs, I came across a link to a discussion on BeerAdvocate.com about the article. The comment threads are a good read and feature several comments/responses from Mr. Oliver himself – who also felt that his comments were oddly weaved into the piece and that the author may have twisted things up a bit when composing the final piece. The author, Burkhard Bilger, even chimes in to defend his article. Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head, also leaves his mark on the discussion.

The article is a great read – do yourself a favor and read it now if you haven’t already. The discussion at BeerAdvocate is also worth your perusal. If you read either one, the title of this post will make a little more sense.

Onto homebrew news:

The second attempt at brewing up a holiday lager went much more smoothly the other week than did the first. There were still some frustrating hiccups – mainly the fact that my digital thermometer has a “hold” button that is too easy to hit. Also my thermometer calibrator broke (luckily not in the beer/wort/mash, which would have completely ruined it with chemicals). But after a difficult brew session on a thoroughly miserable day (disgustingly wet, cold, and rainy the whole day), I emerged victorious. Fermentation has pretty much completed, too. Attenuation is about the expected level, and the spice mix is decent and tastes good. I don’t know if it tastes particularly like a Bock, but it is very bready, toasty, and malty. The malt sweetness is a little lower than anticipated, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The spice mix is good – I got the formula for quantity and proportion of spices from Doug, the operator of Just Brew It! (my local homebrew shop). I think the clove and ginger are a little strong – mask the cinnamon and nutmeg a little – but that overall it is a fine tasting blend that suitably reminds me of the holidays.

Tomorrow I will be brewing up a English Bitter using a special release yeast strain from Wyeast. They call it “West Yorkshire Ale Yeast”, and I’ve read that it comes from the Timothy Taylor brewery. I think it will make a good beer.

My New Year’s Day brew session will be spent whipping up a Smoked Maple Stout – awesome, eh? I’ll be using another special release strain from Wyeast – theirĀ  English Special Bitter. This yeast is a relatively low attenuator which, along with a classic English ester profile, will be perfect for this beer as the base style is Sweet Stout. The recipe calls for some beechwood-smoked malt to provide the smoke flavor. Real maple syrup is also used, but my experience here is that this doesn’t add lots of maple flavor. Since maple syrup is mostly sugar, a lot of the character ferments away and leaves the finished beer drier and stronger. So I’ll be adding a little lactose to give the beer some residual sweetness (if necessary – I’ll taste the fermented beer before adding lactose to make sure it’s needed). I’ll also prime the keg with some maple sugar, instead of force carbonating from my CO2 tank, to give the beer some residual maple flavor.

So good brews are on the horizon.

The fridge is currently stocked with some good stuff, too: Credit Crunch Ale (American Amber) is a very nice ale with a very nice, citrus, floral bouquet and a distinct bready malt backbone with just enough malt sweetness to leave the beer balanced. I also still have some of the Itsy Bitsy Brown left. Yummy…

I better go to bed before I make myself thirsty for a night cap…