Blogging a Path Through Homebrew Perdition

The Bookhouse Pub and Other Recent Adventures

The other day we had a chance to have dinner at The Bookhouse Pub in midtown. It was a really cool place. Despite the fact that they have no kid’s menu, there were several families there with small children – which we liked since we drag our 4-year-old and newborn wherever we go.

The place is very cool inside, has a nice ambiance (including a Logan’s Run DVD playing on the television), a solid beer list (though not as impressive as The Porter or The Brick Store Pub), and an awesome food menu (maybe even better than The Porter‘s, though shorter).

Also, they have a sort of happy hour between 5pm and 6:30pm on weekdays where they offer numerous appetizers for only $3 and a few entrées for only $10. We had the smoked trout mac & cheese appetizer (awesome! and only three bucks!) and the hanger steak (even more awesome!! and only ten bucks!!). We had a great time.

Last week (starting 5/11) was my first week back at day-job work after being off for three weeks. Because the office is closer to it Brickworks than my home, a friend of mine and I dropped by during lunchtime last Wednesday. We didn’t eat or drink, but took a quick look at the Five Seasons Brewpub location there (their third). It is open and serving food, but won’t be pouring brewed-on-premise beers until this week or next I think. Our main objective was actually to check out the beer, wine, and homebrew-supply shop next door: Hop City. The folks there were really friendly, and they had some great brews to choose from.

Particularly good picks that I haven’t tried yet but was excited to nab include these:

  • Struise Black Albert (expensive little sucker)
  • Three different versions of Mikkeller Single Hop IPA:
    • Cascade
    • Warrior
    • Simcoe
  • Nøgne Ø Dobbel IPA
  • Smuttynose Maibock
  • Sam Adams Long Shot 2009 (a sixer with two each of three different brews)

I haven’t gotten into any of these great finds – in fact, I still have a fridge full of older selections (some still hanging around from my trip to LA last October). Next time I have beer geek friends over, I’ll have to crack some of these (if they’re not all gone by then…)

Our other recent adventures have been all about homebrews.

The English IPA, Hump’s Punjabi Pale Ale, was the first to make it into a keg. This beer turned out great. It is a little bold, hoppy, and bitter for an English IPA, but the distinctly English hop varieties and yeast keep the flavor profile in style. This is frighteningly drinkable – almost session-beer like for a hop-head like me – for a strong brew (6.5%abv).

Next into a keg was our fine Belgian strong ale: Hump’s “La Brabançonne” Grand Cru. This one is still a little green. It finished quite dry and thus very strong: 9.0%abv. It is still a bit warming with alcohol and the flavor of ethanol is a little too conspicuous. A few more months of aging and it will be nice. A year or two and it will likely be un-freaking-believable.

The final brew, sitting patiently for weeks on the counter-top, was a big American Amber – perhaps India Amber Ale: Hump’s Red Bedlam. This is everything that it promised to be. It’s big hop aroma and flavor from Columbus and Simcoe hops are simply bliss. The malt profile is bready, rich, and slightly sweet – which stands up well to the very bitter finish and warming strength (7.4%abv). This one might be my favorite on tap right now, but it’s a close call between it and the IPA.

My fridge is once again full of crazy, hoppy goodness – a welcome sight after several months of low-hop brews (which were all good – don’t get me wrong – but were unable to tickle my hop-funnybone, if you know what I mean).

I bought ingredients for the next batch a few weeks ago, but haven’t gotten a chance to brew yet. I hope to brew this weekend (perhaps on Memorial Day). I’ll be cooking up Hump’s “Welcome to the World!” Wit. This crazy, refreshing beer – brewed to celebrate the birth of our newest son – will be the offspring of a ménage à trois involving a Belgian Witbier, a Belgian Saison, and a piña colada. If anything, it promises to be wild. With luck, it will also be delicious (a restrained hand when adding the pineapple and coconut will hopefully insure its drinkability).

Irresponsibly-Hopped Imperial Black and Tan

Today is episode #27 of the beer-blogging Friday sessions. This month’s topic is Beer Cocktails, titled more elegantly in the topic announcement as Beyond the Black and Tan.

When I was in college, it was Guinness that brought me to the world of flavorful beer. I drank mostly Miller Genuine Draft and Bud Dry because of their middle-of-the-road price points. They were cheaper than the brand standards like Budweiser and Coors Gold but seemed equally palatable. How naive I was (I even enjoyed Zima every now and then)!

A friend and roommate of mine had enjoyed Guinness on draft in the past and brought home a six-pack of their Extra Stout in bottles. I was intrigued by its color and subsequently blown away by its flavor. My roommate didn’t care for it. He preferred the “smoother” draft variety, which wasn’t available in bottles at the time (only on tap or in “widget” cans). I later tried the draft version and thoroughly enjoyed its coffee overtones and sublime drinkability. Around this time I also tried Pete’s brews – initially their Wicked Red – and was similarly impressed. Before too long I was a certified beer snob, unable to revert to flavorless yellow lager unless I was at a keg party where it was available for free (after all, I was still in college and usually broke).

I was even fortunate enough to live in Home Park – a neighborhood of shabby houses filled mostly with students and adjacent to campus (Georgia Tech in Atlanta). This turned out to be fortunate because this was back in Sweetwater’s early days, and they used to sort of (perhaps they still do…) “sponsor” the Home Park Festival by bringing a truckload of Sweetwater kegs of all flavors. Great live music + great local draft beer = tons of fun.

So, what does all this backstory have to do with beer cocktails? Sorry. I can be a bit long-winded sometimes. It wasn’t long after I discovered Guinness that I discovered this bizarre cocktail that was the black and tan. I read (and was probably told) that it is traditionally Bass and Guinness. I read that locals in Ireland preferred Harp and Guinness. I was fascinated (still a little naive, too, eh?).

I used to make my own “big daddy” black and tan using a 24 ounce stein/mug (emblazoned with Buzz the yellow jacket of course), a wickedly bent spoon (for the perfect pour), one 12 ounce bottle of Sierra Nevada Stout, and one 12 ounce bottle of Samuel Adams Bohemian Pilsner (no longer available). I have since outgrown this cocktail, but can still attest to the wonderful beer that it produced: stout with big roasted barley and coffee notes, a touch of grainy pilsner malt sweetness, and a mesmerizing hop complexity from the blend of citrusy American stout and brightly hopped Czech-style lager.

So in memory of this “big daddy” cocktail, I decided to make something even more memorable. Something immense. Something that is hopped to absolutely irresponsible levels. Something with enough alcohol to serve as a pleasing after dinner drink – or to stir crazy college students to perilous uproar (if they could afford it). I mixed up a delicious Imperial Black and Tan – enticing and intoxicating (is that redundant?):

As can be seen in the photo, this beer consists of two big beers: Sweetwater Happy Ending (the current vintage from this past winter) and Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner (from 2007). Despite the fact that the glass looks more dark than light, it is mixed to about 50/50. I think that the ratio of final gravities in the two beers is different enough to prevent the perfect pour (i.e. the stout’s specific gravity is too close to that of the lager to let it easily float atop the other without some blending).

I will now close this novella with tasting notes of this blended beast:

  • Appearance: Surprisingly cloudy. Very dark brown with red and caramel-colored highlights when held to the light (after the two beers completely mixed). Head pours medium-thin and splotched with tan and white from the two beers. It subsides into a crescent of light tan, fine bubbles. A few spots and streaks of lace are left on the glass.
  • Aroma: Resiny and vinous with hops. There are also some notes of dried fruit and chocolate-covered toffees. And some alcohol, too.
  • Flavor: Starts sweet and hoppy with a mix of grainy sweetness, caramel, and crazy spicy nobles hops (thanks, Sammy!). There are some notes of toasted bread and coffee-like roasted grains, too. As the beer finds its way to mid-palate, there is an explosion of hop bitterness that is surprisingly docile compared to its individual constituents. Spicy hops with a touch of evergreen blend with toast, semi-sweet chocolate, and dark strong coffee. There are also notes of dark fruit esters (prunes, raisins) that fit wonderfully well amidst all these flavors. The finish is surprisingly dry and surprisingly familiar from other black and tans: a nice mix of hoppy, roasty stout and grainy, hoppy lager – but elevated by an order of magnitude.
  • Texture: The mouthfeel is surprisingly smooth and slippery – very full-bodied and creamy with a slight zip of carbonation.
  • Overall: Wow. This met my expectations exactly. It tasted exactly like what it is: a great big, irreponsibly-hopped “imperial” black and tan. ‘Nuff said.

I am now feeling a little bit dreary thanks to this experiment. Many thanks to Beer at Joe’s for coming up with this original (and evidently nostalgic – at least for me) topic.

Sweetwater 420 Fest and Hump’s Latest Creation

No, I did not make it out to the 420 Fest this year, though I am waiting in mad anticipation of tasting their latest Dank Tank offering – a Double IPA that was available at the festival. It should be available soon at a few local pubs – including at least one or two Taco Mac locations and hopefully The Porter and/or Brick Store.

Actually, I only mention it because from now on I have an excuse (albeit perhaps a weak one for a few years) to celebrate the 420 fest: our newest son, Ewan James Strider Humphries, was born on 4/20 (2009).

“Welcome to the world!” Wit

I chatted with a guy I knew from high school the other day. This guy also happens to be a home brewer, so naturally part of our catch-up conversation was about beer and brewing.

When I mentioned to him that we have a newborn coming soon (due April 16th), he said I should brew a beer to mark the occasion and then suggested the title “Welcome to the world!” Wit. I thought it was an absolutely brilliant idea.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to brew it. I can’t cook it up this weekend because we’re too close to delivery date (the last thing I want to happen is to have to stop what I’m doing in the middle of a batch to take Malin to the hospital – and obviously telling Malin to wait for a few hours for me to finish wouldn’t be a realistic option). So I’m hoping the whole family can hang out on the deck in the nice weather while I’m on vacation (I’m taking three weeks off when the new one is born), and maybe I’ll have a chance to cook up the celebratory beer at that point in time.

The biggest thing going for me being able to brew with a newborn around is the fact that my wife loves Belgian Witbiers. I’m still deciding which recipe to cook up – my box o’ uncooked original recipes currently includes two Wits: Hump’s Wry Wit – a witbier made with malted rye instead of malted wheat; and Hump’s Witless Monk Ale – an “imperial” Witbier at >7%abv. I think I’m leaning towards the Rye Wit – since “imperial” isn’t always the best pair with “hot weather in Atlanta” (among other reasons)…

In any event, I still have lots of delicious stuff sitting in the basement, eager go into kegs. That may have to tide me over until the time when I can make the next baby-welcoming batch.

The dark strong Belgian ale I made three weeks ago is probably ready to be kegged. I racked it to a secondary fermentor for a little aging since time will do it good (it finished at nearly 9% abv). It could certainly stand to stay in the secondary for a few more weeks, but I’m getting itchy for something new…

The English IPA I made last week, Hump’s Punjabi Pale Ale, is very nice so far. It’s probably finished fermenting (though yesterday I did see the occasional slow bubble from the fermentation lock). My plan is to rack it over 1.5 ounces of dry hops (Fuggles and Target) and let it sit for another couple of weeks in that state before kegging. I can hardly wait!

And, of course, we have the India Amber Ale I just made this past weekend: Hump’s Red Bedlam. It features some of my favorite hops – Columbus and Simcoe. It smells retardedly awesome, blowing hoppy and estery air out of the fermentation lock as it bubbles along. Once it is done fermenting (I’ll probably give it another week from now), I’ll rack it over 1.5 ounces of dry hops, too (more Columbus and Simcoe).

My current line-up of kegs is nowhere near empty, so I’ll be putting a lot of beer into bottles over the coming weeks. Of course, Malin will actually be able to drink some beer pretty soon here, so maybe we’ll finish some of this stuff off after all…

Also this past weekend we added three more hop plants to the garden: Centennial (my favorite), Horizon (never used but have read lots of good things about it), and Willamette (the most plentiful rhizomes available at my local homebrew store). And the Chinook we planted last year has already started coming out of the ground (though growth is admittedly modest). We had to cover everything Monday night to prepare for the freak cold front that came through. The mercury dipped below freezing Monday night and Tuesday night. And today things returned to their normal Spring self (near 70 degrees – a long way from freezing).

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Beer writer Lew Bryson picked the topic for this month’s Beer-Blogging Session: Smoked Beers. Luckily, I didn’t even have to go get something special for this one. I have two smoked brews in the cellar at the moment.


The first brew in the basement fridge I’ll share with you is Weyerbacher Fireside. The label is charming and rustic. It promises to be a delightful glass of smokey, malty goodness.

The aroma is malty. There is a subtle hint of smoke, but it is minor next to the waves of tangy malts and caramel. The flavor is similar: rich in malt character with some graininess, some subtle pepper and fruit, and even more subtle smoke.

It’s tasty, but it’s not smokey enough. I recall one of my favorite smoked beers – Aecht Schlenkerla Urbock – and decide that Fireside is too timid. I want more in-your-face campfire from my smoked beers.

It is a good beer. It is slightly warming with alcohol, and has a nice malt profile that is rich and flavorful. But it is a disappointing smoked beer.

Next up… homebrew!

Hump’s Smoked Maple Stout

Now this is more like it! Admittedly, this too is a bit weak in the smoke department. Neither of these beers are the smoke bombs that you’d find from a beer whose label reads “Aecht Schlenkerla.” The Schlenkerla brews are the only commercial German Rauchbiers I’ve had, and the only ones I know are available in these parts (though I’ve recently read about Spezial and wonder if they’re available in Atlanta). I wonder if all authentic Bamberg rauchbrews are as smokey as these prodigal exports…

So the homebrew, which is on draft in the fridge at the moment, pours a deep black with a very thick, light tan head. The aroma is grainy with light notes of chocolate and smoke. The smoke flavor comes from some applewood-smoked British Pale Ale malt (6 ounces in a 5-gallon batch). The smokey quality to the beer was rich and full of life at first. It has smoothed out – almost too much.

The flavor is chocolatey and sweet (the base style is Sweet Stout, made with a fair portion of Grade B maple syrup). It is missing a roastiness and richness that I like in the style – back to the drawing board!

The smoke qualities are stronger than in Weyerbacher’s Fireside. Both beers get a thumbs up. Both beers need more. Fireside needs more smoke. Smoked Maple Stout is about right, but the underlying base beer could use some tweaking.

Brew Day


I had a few friends over the other day to celebrate the inaugural batch for my new brewing sculpture:

It is a three-tiered metal frame with two built-in burners (one high for the hot liquor tank, the other low for the kettle). Currently, I use a step-ladder in order to measure the water in the hot liquor tank and check the temperature. The ladder also makes it a little easier to work with the mash tun as I can reach down instead of up.

We turned the brewing festivities into an impromptu picnic. Unfortunately, much time was spent inside because of the crummy weather. Cleaning up was a huge pain because it began to really rain heavily. I was so soaked that the jacket I was wearing was still wet after hang-drying all night.

The beer we brewed should turn out delicious: Hump’s “La Brabonçonne” Grand Cru. It is a Belgian-style dark strong ale. The first beer we opened, prior to starting the brewing operations, was one of the beers that inspired this recipe: Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer. The beer we brewed won’t be quite as strong (only ~9%abv, not 11%). But it will hopefully be similar in many other respects. The recipe uses sugar and a low mash temperature to make sure the beer is dry and drinkable. There are also a number of specialty grains and spices to keep things interesting. After brewing was completed, I tasted the wort, and it was possibly the best tasting wort I can recall tasting. I’m looking forward to sampling the finished product.

It has been fermenting for close to two weeks now, and it is still going strong. Strong fermentation began within 12 hours, and it only got heavier from there. After just over a day, it got so active that the krausen exceeded the headspace of the fermentor: in other words, it made a big yeasty mess everywhere.

I put on a blow-off tube to prevent further incident. After a couple of days of steady but not excessive fermentation, I decided to remove the blow-off tube, put a fermentation lock back on, and move the carboy off the floor and on to the counter-top. Naturally, the next day fermentation went into overdrive – another yeasty mess to clean up. Luckily, Will was around to help clean up the mess.

It has been in steady and sometimes heavy fermentation since then. Occasionally when I check on it, I can see the krausen getting near the top again. Yesterday it appeared to have finally calmed down: over 24 hours with consistently medium krausen. With luck, I can transfer it to a secondary fermentor – or maybe even a keg – by Sunday afternoon. If I can’t then I’ll have to use a plastic bucket as a fermentor because I have a double-feature lined up this weekend.

Will, after helping to clean the carboy:

Next Brew Day: Double-Feature

That’s right: I’ll be brewing two batches back to back. This should be a good test of the brewing sculpture, which should enable me to cook two batches in only 6-7 hours (two batches would otherwise take about 10 hours).

Sunday will first find me cooking up an English IPA: Hump’s Punjabi Pale Ale. I have high hopes for this recipe. I have lots of whole leaf Fuggles and Target hops for this one. It’s a reformulation of Hump’s Imperial ESB, which was an English IPA recipe that wasn’t designed quite right.

While the English IPA is boiling, I’ll be starting on a big ol’ American Amber: Hump’s Red Bedlam. This amber ale will be a bit bigger than you might usually find – perhaps India Amber Ale is a suitable appellation. It will feature some of my favorite American hops, Columbus and Simcoe.

This week, I’ve fashioned a new CPVC manifold for the mash/lauter tun. This one is built to actually touch the bottom of the tun – the previous one was rigidly parallel to the valve on the bottom of the tun which kept it off the bottom by about one inch. This one also has more linear length of drilled tubing, too, so it should flow faster.



The other week, I didn’t get a chance to use my new copper manifold in the kettle. I don’t have it soldered together yet, so I didn’t want to use it and then it come apart while cooking. So I’ll be testing two new goodies this weekend: the new lauter tun manifold and the copper kettle filter manifold. I expect great things.


It’s been ages since I’ve posted pictures, so this one is overdue.

First up are some photos that I call “Goldilocks and the Three Beers”.

The first one is too small (only one ounce). The last one is too big (an Imperial pint). The middle is just right (6 ounces). Not for Goldilocks, but for my pregnant wife. In all seriousness, she doesn’t actually drink while pregnant except for a sip here and there and maybe an ounce or two of wine every couple of months. And we only let Will drink a few sips, too. In fact, here is the aftermath:

I, of course, went on to finish the rest, being the noble and chivalrous gentleman that I am. By the way, the glasses were filled with Hump’s Itsy Bitsy Brown.

Will prefers to just play with the beer, which is perfectly fine. He likes the idea of drinking beer much more than the act itself (at least for now…).

The next photos are of “the cellar.”

If you’re curious about exactly what’s on tap at the moment, look no further than the draft menu:

And if you looked closely, you’ll see the special stuff in the bottom of the fridge. It’s not actually all special in those drawers, but it’s all aging. The bottles are mostly just 1-2 years old now, but I do have a Chimay Grand Reserve from 2001, too.

Now on to my latest project: a hop-filter manifold for my kettle. This allows me to simply open the valve on the bottom of the pot and drain every last drip into the fermentor without worrying about trub and hop matter. The pipes around the perimeter of the pot are all touching the bottom and have 5/32 inch holes drilled into them. They suck the sweet wort out of the pot and filter out hops. They’re around the edges of the pot because most of the trub piles up in the center (at least it does after you whirlpool the cooled wort really well and wait a few minutes). Also, using whole leaf or plug hops will further remove trub since the hop leaves will act as a filter much like the grain husks act as a filter while lautering the mash.

And finally, I leave you with the latest beer label I’ve drawn. This label is for my favorite homebrew from 2008, my Most Worthy Ale. The beer’s name gave me the idea for what the label should be:

Scotch… Again

I’ve interrupted the flow of beer-related posts to this beer blog once before. I have to do so again.

I was at the store today shopping for a get-together we’re having tomorrow. I had rough ideas on a cocktail, so I was picking up ingredients. I also snagged some beer and some wine (Smuttynote Robust Porter [new to Georgia!], Magic Hat Hi.P.A, and Sweetwater Hummer). We have a habit of having too much of everything at these things (food, soft drinks, adult beverages… all in plentiful – perhaps sometimes ridiculous – quantities).

While there, I spent some time drooling in the Scotch aisle. The drool was brought on by a single bottle. And not a cheap one. At least not cheap to me (I’m sort of a Scotch newbie – but a very enthusiastic newbie). The store was asking $86 for a bottle of 16-year-old Lagavulin. That is about mid-range for good single malts – at least at the Georgia World of Beverage (priciest bottle of Scotch there was a 21-year-old Macallan for ~$130).

I very seriously considered throwing it in the cart. My wife would not have been happy. “You have an expensive bottle of Scotch already. You were supposed to get stuff for tomorrow – not for yourself.” She doesn’t actually complain much. She’s wonderful and understanding. But my spending $86 for one bottle of Scotch would not please her.

Come to think of it, I drooled over another bottle of Scotch that was similar in price (a hair less expensive): 10-year-old Ardbeg.

I think I am, at this moment, doubting my decision to forego. I think lustily of those Scotches. My current expensive bottle of Scotch is a cask-strength Laphroaig. From what I’ve read, many place the standard 10-year-old Laphroaig in similar rankings as the Ardbeg and Lagavulin. So maybe I would have been disappointed by them after thoroughly enjoying this cask-strength whiskey. But probably not. If I were to base it just on price I would think that both these whiskeys were nicer since they are both a little pricier. No matter, I lust for them. Perhaps next time I’m at a bar, I’ll try one or both of them. They may be very pricey at a bar ($15 for one drink), but it’s still cheaper than forking over 160+ bucks to try them from my own bar.

By the way, today is also The Session. I’m afraid I’m just not that interested in participating. I have no fizzy, yellow lager in the house (except for Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Probably not what was in mind when the topic was decided). You can read all about the topic here.


I’ve just hit my 600th rating on I’m sure you don’t care, but I felt like telling someone…

New Rig

I’ve been neglecting to take pictures for this blog for quite some time. I look back at the past few posts and see no images. How boring. I apologize. Unfortunately, this post is no different.

But I promise to get pictures soon. I have to show everyone my new rig. I just bought this week a three-tier metal frame for all-grain brewing – professionally built by the operator of my local homebrew store. He was very generous in price since this piece was a “pilot” rig. It was one of his earlier ones that doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of more recent systems that he’s built.

Along with a rig that will make brewing much, much easier, I also upgraded my propane setup. I bought a new regulator, new fittings, and some longer hoses to get (supposedly) four or five times the heating capacity out of it. Apparently, turkey fryer systems come with gas lines, fittings, and regulators that limit output to 30,000-50,000 BTUs. But with the upgraded equipment, It’s been suggested that I’ll see 175,000 BTUs. If that turns out to be the case, I’ll be able to heat up water way faster than before, which should make brew day go faster.

The three tiers alone would make brew day go faster, too. No more lifting heavy, full pots or mash tuns to gravity feed to the next step. Everything is at the right height to naturally feed down to the next tier. The only lifting I’d have to do is during an uncommon decoction mash: I’d have to feed mash out of the tun and into the kettle and then lift it up to the top tier to boil it and then feed back into the mash tun. Since a decoction is usually only a gallon or two (at least when I’ve done it in the past), it’s not hard to lift…

I still have a little more to put into my rig, but I have time. It’s just right for now. My next step will be to convert a 1/2-barrel keg into a hot liquor tank. I fear that may warrant a special occasion like a birthday or something before I spend the money on that upgrade. It can be done very cheaply, but I have my eye on a few things that would make it much easier to use but at a potentially hefty price (like building in a thermometer probe and a sight glass).

Village Idiot

My friend and co-worker, Rob Homer, has begun brewing this year. I took the whole family over to his house last weekend to brew a batch with him and to taste his first creation – an English Brown Ale that was based on a modified recipe of my own: Hump’s Holiday Ale 2007. And Malin and Will got to hang out with Tracy and their three kids (all of them are older than Will but played well with him).

Rob’s brew turned out pretty tasty. And it is remarkably different than the homebrew of mine on which it was based. The spices are almost imperceptible (whereas I think they were too strong in my brew). The finish is fuller and sweeter (which I kind of like). It has a very English character to it from the yeast, decent depth and complexity, and is smooth and without any real flaws. It may have a bit of extract “twang”, but it’s hard for me to tell. I could never pinpoint the twang in my extract homebrews, but I did feel that was something was slightly “off” about it – and it was something I detected in Rob’s brew too. Once I started using more specialty grains, the off flavors seemed to fade from my beers – as far as I could tell anyway. Quality took another jump when I went to doing a 5-6 pound mini-mash in every batch. Going to all-grain hasn’t seen a similar jump in quality, but it is more rewarding on days where everything goes right. And it also gives you more control over the finished product, so I think it’s worth it overall (despite the amount of cussing I do on brew day).

Rob has told me that he is not a fan of really bitter beers, but he did express an appreciation for the smell of hops (one good whiff of your hop ingredients while you’r brewing and you’re hooked). He remarked about how he wanted to change up a kit IPA recipe he has, moving some of the bittering hops towards the end or just using them as dry hops instead. So I took some commerical brews for him to try – two beers that, based on what he’s told me about beers he likes, I was pretty certain he was going to like (Clipper City Heavy Seas Hang Ten Weizenbock and Sweetwater Happy Ending Imperial Stout), one total unknown (Allagash Grand Cru), and one that he’d likely have trouble with (Sierra Nevada Bigfoot). He loved the immense, fresh hop aroma and balanced, malty finish of the Sweetwater Happy Ending (who doesn’t!!??). I left the rest with him. He has since called to tell me that he really loved the Allagash Grand Cru and that he did not care for the Bigfoot. C’est la vie!

So while I was there, we cooked up a Belgian Wit. It began life as a Hefeweizen kit that he received for Christmas. But it included a plain dry yeast (not even a Weizen yeast – just normal ale yeast). So we jazzed it up. We added some flaked wheat, flaked oats, and 2-row malt (the lattermost having sufficient enzyme content to convert the proteins and starches in the unmalted grain into sugars) and then some Curaçao orange peel and some ground coriander. Finally, we pitched liquid Witbier yeast to make sure the finished product had the right qualities.

It will probably be ready for him to keg this weekend, so maybe I’ll get to try the fruits of our labor this upcoming week.

And next time I brew, Rob has asked to tag along to see the all-grain process. It will likely be a little bit like the last time I had company: my friend Jason helped me cook up an Imperial IPA that turned out awesome, but he got to see me stumble through the steps (it was only my second batch on my all-grain rig at the time). This time it will be my first batch on the brand new rig, so I’m sure there will be some more stumbling. But if the beer turns out anywhere near as good as that last time then it will be more than worth it.

BTW, he calls his brews Village Idiot (hence the title of this section).

‘Tis the Season

It’s that time of year again: hop rhizomes are coming to stores soon. I placed my order today. I’ve got seven rhizomes coming: three for me and four for Rob (he’s really diving head first into home brewing). In addition to my current Chinook plant, I’ll be adding Centennial, Willamette, and Horizon plants. I ordered Cascade, Mount Hood, and two Willamettes for Rob (though we may go back and forth before the final split is really nailed down).

Despite last year’s disappointment (no hop cones popped up, so no fresh hop homebrew), I’m hopeful about this year’s prospects. We moved the Chinook plant to a garden we recently built up (freshly cultivated with high quality soil). It should fare much better there than its previous home. We’ll also be wiring it up differently so hopefully it will run and run and grow and grow (along with the three new plants, of course). I’ve heard that Centennial can be a little fragile, especially if there’s too much moisture where it is planted (susceptible to mold), but if it thrives, that will be awesome. It and Columbus are probably my favorite two hops right now (and Columbus is apparently far too fragile to reliably grow here in the south).

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