Pulls from the Cask

Pick it, pack it, fire it up. Come along, and take a pull from the cask. Bonus points for calling me out on my strange reference there.

I just love having access to this little cask of Little Bear's Brown Beer available. Not only can I sample beer that isn't really ready yet, but I can sample it in small doses. I pulled like two ounces tonight, and just savored every drop of it. It took me 20 minutes to drink those two ounces of 4.3% session mild/American Brown Ale. Sometimes I can down a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot in 20 minutes.

I guess it's just fascinating to me to witness day by day the subtly changing and improving character of the beer as it conditions. Part of it might be just getting rid of those residual sugars meant to be turned into bubbles. Part of it might just be the act of aging and mellowing with age, though I would think that happens on a longer time scale than day-by-day, but you never know.

I'm getting closer every batch to a kegging system.


Water Dispenser "Cask"

First of all - Merry Christmas!

I brewed a small Brown Ale to be used as a starter for my big Imperial Stout. It was bottled Saturday night. As an experiment, I bottled part of it in a little one-gallon water dispenser. I thought of it as a self-introduction to kegging with only $5 of equipment needed - the dispenser. It would save bottling time by taking a relatively large volume of liquid into one vessel, and it would be a fun way to dispense the beer, enabling me to take just a few ounces if I want. Plus it would be sort of like cask-conditioned - fed by gravity with no CO2 needed at all

The dispenser looks something like the one above - except that one in the picture is two gallons, and mine is more like one gallon.

One of my main concerns about this is whether or not this vessel is capable of holding the pressure that will be in there with the carbonation and all, but I'll never know if I don't try. OK, I just realized I should post photos of the actual thing I have: first, in my temperature controlled fermenting/conditioning fridge, then from the front, and then from the side.

So with this recently bottled batch of Little Bear's Brown Beer, my "barometer" PET plastic bottle is getting firm, and this rubbermaid dispenser is bulging out quite a bit, so I could no longer resist taking a little sample. After all, sampling a small amount is so easy with this dispenser! That's part of the benefit I hope to gain.

Imagine my delight as the beer came out with a bubbly blast from the dispenser! It was pushed out with the fury of a driving snowfall! Wow! Cool!! I am always pleased with the marked improvement in taste that CO2 bubbles give beer. And this proves that the concept works so far. I will keep drawing samples each day, and when it seems right, I'll move it over to the cold fridge to stabilize it. Maybe I'll use it as a serving device on poker night next week. If it lasts that long.


Big Slick and Absinthe Beer

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Big Slick
Brewer: Keith Brainard
Style: Imperial IPA

Recipe Specifications
Estimated OG: 1.095 SG
Estimated Color: 8.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 80.0 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 63.1 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item
10.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
10.00 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.20 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)
1.00 oz Chinook [11.60%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Cascade [7.00%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Centennial [9.90%] (30 min)
0.50 oz Cascade [7.00%] (30 min)
1.00 oz Cascade [5.80%] (0 min)
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 min)
2L Starter California Ale (White Labs #WLP001)

Mash-In with 1 qt/lb at 153F for 60 min.
Mash Out with 0.5 qt/lb at 170F for 10 min.

Added 0.25 oz to about 2 gallons of about 1.035 wort, boiled for about a half hour. Very bitter.


North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

Holy shit, I have just tasted the best Imperial Stout ever! Sure, Smuttynose is good. Brooklyn is good. Haven't had the Dogfish Head World Wide yet (although that is more Double Imperial at 20% ABV). But this is awesome!

As the devout will know, I have been going out of my way to find Barley Wines and other big seasonal beers (that is, high alcohol) to sample, take notes on, think about, and ultimately write about here on my blog life (and on my other blog life at www.brainardbrewing.com/blog/). So I am used to the fruity esters in aroma and flavor and the warming burn that high alcohol beers bring to the table. I like it a lot of times, but sometimes I wish it weren't that way.

I have finally found a high alcohol commercial beer without a lot of alcohol burn. In fact, if you didn't tell me the alcohol content (which is in the 9% area) I would guess it could even be a regular stout, or maybe a slightly big 7% stout. But no, it is a full 9%. Big as any beer, but the beauty is that the flavors of the base style come through in a big way. There's no overdose of hops. No alcohol bomb waiting for you. Just an awesome stout that seems to anticipate the flavor of alcohol and be made just to accompany that flavor.

The best part is that you don't even have to be able to get this stuff at your local beer store. You can buy it online from one of the coolest web sites I've found lately: Liquid Solutions. I like the place so much that I am in the process of becoming an affiliate over at Brainard Brewing. Personally, I am going to get at least another case of this stuff. I don't want to ever run out.


BeerAdvocate Server Upgrade!

I might suppose that many visitors to this site are also fans of BeerAdvocate. Great news from Friday that they got their server upgraded! To the layperson, this means that the computer that controls their web site has been changed to a more powerful machine. In practical terms, last week it was hit-or-miss most of the time when you would try to visit any page. Often googling was a more direct and efficient link into the site. But now, it practically brings up the page before you click "Search". Just awesome how a hardware upgrade can make the experience so much more fluid.



If you like this blog, you might also like my main blog at BrainardBrewing.com. It is updated a lot more often - every week day, and some weekend days - and it has really useful content. If you are reading this, then it is very likely that you'll find something interesting over there.

Beer Pr0n

I have put up a bunch of photos on Flickr. There is a photo of each of the beers that I've tasted and photographed there. It is pretty cool.


You should check it out!


Flanders Red

Earlier this year I had a Rodenbach Grand Cru. I was just learning about Belgians and I think I was expecting something a bit more like a Dubbel than a sour beer. I was surprised, and not that enthralled with the Rodenbach.

Since that time, I have stayed pretty far away from sour beers. Though they have been calling to me. More and more I have been reading about how the pros use oak barrells to sour their beers, and thinking about giving oak and Brett a shot in my own brewing. Then earlier in the week, Garrett Oliver inspired me to buy some real Lambic Gueuze, which is wild and probably a bit sour.

While buying Barley Wines, I bought a few bottles of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja. I knew it is aged in oak and blended. I knew it was a Flanders Red style. I expected wild, funk, and a bit of sour. I became very excited to try it.

Tonight is the night. I am drinking it right now. I think this is going to take some getting used to. It drinks more like champagne. Even though it looks like a beer. But it does look like a bit of a sick beer - sort of cloudy, even musty looking. Very interesting new experience.

Unfortunately, due to schedules of children, I ate dinner at like 4 PM today, which was a bit unexpected and sudden. So I am not eating right now. Garrett Oliver says that I should enjoy this with pretty much any fish, or anything to which you might think you should add a spritz of lemon juice. I think that food would buffer the sour dry beer a bit, and I think I might just go look for a snack to accompany this beer.

I bet that by the time I have had those other two bottles of Gueuze, I will feel like beer that is not somewhat sour and bone dry will taste like unfermented wort to me. Hopefully I will be able to incorporate appreciation for this style while not losing the love for Barley Wines I've been working on.



Avery Hog Heaven

Yesterday I got my hands on a few bottles of Avery's Hog Heaven (I almost wrote "instances" instead of bottles - guess I am still not fully detached from my old computer programming job).
I got a chance to taste Avery's Old Jubilation a few weeks ago. Their winter warmer has (to me) an alcohol presence that is stronger than the actual alcohol in the beer. I've written about it somewhere - either here or at Brainard Brewing.com or both. Not that it wasn't good, it was just strongly alcohol flavored at a modest 8.something ABV.
The Barley Wine is 9%, but it is not as highly alcohol flavored. In fact, it is very much IPA flavored, with plenty of Cascade hop citrus aroma and flavor emerging. Of course, it has all the Barley Wine malt character and a subtle, complementary, alcohol presence, but it was more hops than anything else really.
It isn't often that you can find a big beer that tilts towards the hops, but this one does so in a masterful way. I can't wait to try Fourteen in the coming days!


Brew Day: Little Bear's Brown Beer

Today I brew, tomorrow I bake, the next day the young queen's child I'll take.
Soon far and wide shall spread the fame that Rumplestiltskin is my name!

Today I brew, but I probably won't bake tomorrow. But this is a cool line to have in a childrens' book.

I am making a full-size starter for next week's Imperial Stout. Not done yet, but everything is smooth so far.

Here's the recipe:
BeerSmith Recipe Printout - www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Little Bear's Brown Beer
Brewer: Keith Brainard
Style: American Brown Ale
TYPE: All Grain

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.042 SG
Estimated Color: 23.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 31.0 IBU
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

Amount Item
7.00 lb Pale Malt, Maris Otter (3.0 SRM)
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L (60.0 SRM)
0.50 lb Chocolate Malt (450.0 SRM)
0.30 oz Cascade [6.00%] (First Wort Hop)
0.35 oz Magnum [13.00%] (60 min)
0.30 oz Liberty [4.10%] (30 min)
0.25 oz Styrian Goldings [5.40%] (0 min)
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 min)
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 15.0 min)
1 Pkgs Safale US-05

Total Grain Weight: 8.00 lb
Grain ratio 1.25 qts/lb
Name Description Step Temp Step Time
Mash In Add 10.00 qt of water at 163.7 F 152.0 F 60 min


Christmas Presence Recipe

BeerSmith Recipe Printout - www.beersmith.com
Recipe: Christmas Presence Holiday Ale
Brewer: Keith Brainard
Style: Christmas/Winter Specialty Spice Beer

Recipe Specifications
OG: 1.080
FG: 1.013
ABV: 8.8%
363 Calories/pint
Color: 17.7 SRM
IBU: 35.1 IBU

2.00 lb Amber Dry Extract
10.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US
1.00 lb Caravienne Malt
1.00 lb Munich Malt
0.50 lb Caramunich Malt
0.50 lb Special B Malt
0.50 oz Pearle [6.70%] (First Wort Hop)
1.50 oz Pearle [6.70%] (30 min)
3.00 oz Liberty [4.10%] (0 min)
1 Pkgs Safale US-05

Mash at 150 for 60 minutes at 1 qt./lb.
Ferment at 70F for 14 days


SABMiller Taps Australian Craft Beer Market

Or so they say.

Upon further investigation, this so-called craft brewer "in American parlance" doesn't seem to be making compelling beers. As if you couldn't tell by the names of the beers that Miller found them to be making - "Premium Lager", "Premium Light", "Traditional Pilsner", and "Blonde". All the types of beers that Bud Miller Coors (I guess this is just MillerCoors) can relate to. Now to be fair, the Traditional Pilsner gets a bit of love from the BeerAdvocates, but the rest are as highly rated as a B-movie being reviewed by a dozen stodgy grandmothers.

It is just funny what Miller considers to be a premium brand. I guess they must be referring to "premium" in the sense of an elevated cost or profit margin, not "premium" meaning of a higher than average quality.

One more note on the concept of premium: they note at the end of the story that this Pacific Beverages (are they a distributor or what?) has a bunch of "premium" spirits brands such as: Jim Beam, Canadian Club, Remy Martin, Cointreau, The Famous Grouse, and Absolut. I don't know about The Famous Grouse, and I don't know much about Cointreau or Remy Martin, but I can say for certain that Canadian Club, Absolut, and Jim Beam are not exactly premium brands. To me, they are the Bud Miller Coors of the spirits world. Especially CC - that stuff is really bad. Absolut isn't much better (although they have much better marketing). Jim Beam at least has a few premium lines, I think, like aged or special reserve blends or something like that.

Man from reading this Brew Blog, it just seems like the kind folks over at Miller are just living in a totally different reality than I am.

So which reality are you living in? Give me a comment and let me know - do you think a "Premium Light" sounds like a craft brand?

Repeal Day - A Reason To Celebrate

I guess I should have known this was coming, but I have to admit I was clueless. Sure, I know that at one dark period in the US history, beer and other alcohol were illegal, and then one day it wasn't any more. I appreciate the huge effect this had on the beer industry in this country, effectively destroying most small brewers and ultimately causing Bud Miller Coors to rule the country to this very day. Even still there remain new-prohibitionists who believe that beer is evil.

I never really knew exactly when this all started or stopped. I think it was in the late teens, early twenties, but I am not positive about that. Honestly, I was never much of a date-memorizing history student.

Nonetheless, thanks to just about every other beer blogger in the land, I have come to realize via RSS that today is the day that prohibition was repealed. Apparently there's some beer-related technicality, but hey repeal day it is!

So in the spirit of the repeal of prohibition (would you call this allowance? that would make this toast the Art of Allowing) crack a special bottle from your beer cellar and enjoy. I am going to have something fresh from this year - Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout.


Wheat Wine vs. Barley Wine...FIGHT!

First of all, I better explain the image. If you never played Street Fighter (and I'm talking about a really old one, like for Super Nintendo) then you won't get it, and just skip to the next paragraph. At the start of a match, it would say the names of the guys and then fight. Like in this example "Ryu vs. Ken...FIGHT!" So that was the inspiration for the name of this post. Add on to that, we used to make up stupid names for the guys. Since you could have a guy fight himself, they were just in different colors, we decided it made no sense for them both to have the same name. Hey, we were in like eigth grade. Especially remembered for me is "Balrog vs. Sog...FIGHT!" (BTW Balrog was the real guy. Sog was the joke name.)

I have been sampling and reviewing a lot of Barley Wines lately. To me they are great winter ales, so I went ahead and skipped the rest of the winters in favor of seeking out barley wines. I even wrote a style profile article on the old BW. Along the way, I came across a Wheat Wine from Smuttynose. Good stuff.

It just made me think about the differences between the two. They aren't as pronounced as you might expect. The Barley Wine is generally darker and a bit more nutty and pruney, but the Wheat Wine is surprisingly dark and also quite robust in flavor. Both are somewhat dominated by alcohol flavor (who can help themselves at over 10%?), and both are awesome. If you can, get any barley wine or wheat wine you can find. If you find a Wheat Wine that's not the Smuttynose, then let me know - I want to try it!


WTF Chill Haze

My CornucopIPA and Christmas Presence Winter Ale both seem to have a bad case of chill haze. I can clearly see that they are quite clear when I look at them warm. Then after they are cooled in the fridge, they are hazy.

The CornucopIPA has some wheat and oats in it, but is mainly extracts. The Christmas Presence is mainly malts with just a small amount of DME. From what I can tell, everyone says the only way that you get chill haze is from inadequate cooling, and the recommendation is always "get an immersion chiller".

Well I have an immersion chiller. I haven't noticed this problem before, and in fact I've noticed lately that my non-opaque beers are clear until I pour the inevitable small amount of yeast into the glass. I would have thought that with colder weather would come colder water and thus more quickly cooled wort, which would facilitate cold break and eschew chill haze.

Any ideas on fighting the chill haze?

Starter for Imperial Stout

I am going to be making for my next beer an Imperial Stout. I am shooting for 1.100 OG, and although I have been pretty happy with the performance of US-05 in my last two beers, the most recent of which was OG 1.080, I think I would be better off making a starter for this Stout.

I just can't decide if I want to make a normal one-gallon starter, or go for a full-blown five-gallon "starter". I did a bunch of two and three-quart starters this summer, but I think it would be fun to have a whole extra beer made. Especially a small beer to sort of compensate for the hugeness of the Stout.

Any thoughts?