Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cool night= a beer with some heat

It just felt like a good night for some Stone Old Guardian barleywine. So here is my instant review.

It pours with a nice half inch creamy head on a amber/dark orange beer. (The lacing hangs on the side of the glass, refusing to give up throughout the entire serving.) Smell brings a lot of sweetness (molasses and caramel). Makes me want to get this beer to my mouth. Slight smell of grapefruit hops. This is exactly what I want an 11% beer to smell like. I cannot wait to taste it.

Once the beer is brought to my lips, the hops really kick in. Super hopped. The bitterness cuts the malt in half, almost overpowering it. The alcohol is very prevalent in the mouth, you can tell it is big. As the beer warms, it develops with more flavors coming out. A little more caramel, toffee and dark fruits.

Not as thick as I was expecting, the Old Guardian is smooth going down as the carbonation is just right. Overall, it is a very enjoyable beer. Something that I would like to sip in front of the fire this upcoming winter. I think during time, this beer could firm up and balance out so the hops don't overpower it. Can't wait to try in the future with some age on it.
After (drinking) thoughts:

I didn't put much thought into this beer before I drank it. Now after evaluating it, I realized that this is the first time I can remember having it. Many times, I have had the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Victory Old Horizontal, Lagunitas Olde GnarleyWine and (my new favorite) Troegs Flying Mouflan, but I am surprised I didn't have Old Guardian before. I now look for this to enter my beer box for a bit of age, and for it to be on the rotation of barleywines that I consume.

Wedding Brew Day

Our simple setup.
What does a beer geek do for the beer selection when getting ready for his wedding? I pondered that question for a long time. Then while talking to my brother (an experienced homebrewer), we decided to brew for the wedding. Then, what style do we brew? The answer came in the form of when the wedding was taking place (October) and what can we make (ale)... this turned into our own Oktoberfest style ale (we also brewed a basic Witbier to give another option for the reception).  Because of time and simplicity, we chose to go with a partial malt recipe, we didn't have and entire day to devote to the beer.
The Lighting of the Kettle

My brother lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for a couple of years.  Down the street from where he lived were a group of guys who love beer, and all brewed together.  This helped my brother out trremendously, as their knowledge helped develop his skills.  He, in turn, is helping me learn the art.  (It was great having someone who knows what is going on, and why everything works- as well as his equipment.)

The day turned out to be a nice brewday.  A bit chilly in the morning, high in the mid 70's, with little breeze.

Sometimes you have to wait
My brother and I started the day by both grabbing a variety pack from the distributer.  He showed up with Troeg's Anthology (one of the greatest mixed packs out there- in my opinion).  I decided to give the Magic Hat variety pack a whirl.  

Magic Hat's beer is good, but I always thought it was somewhat basic.  Their #9, very popular with many of my friends, is good, but I can't get into it like others.  I always thought that Blind Faith was very good, and loved buying a pint, but then they stopped making in (yes, I am happy they just brought it back). They just released Vinyl, which is a Amber Lager, something you can drink all night, but not go out of my way for.  What I do appreciate, is their Odd Notion series.  Not always my favorite beers, but sometimes they bring on a great beer- the American Sour was absolutely amazing.

In the two mix packs were:

Troeg's- HopBack, DreamWeaver, Pale Ale, and Java Head.
Magic Hat- #9, Hi.P.A., Hex, Odd Notion (Green Apple Wit)

The Hex (and Oktoberfest) and the Odd Notion made alot of sense on the day, as we were brewing both (although no green apple).  All of the Troeg's were delicious, as usual.  The Odd Notion had a strong Green Apple smell, but was very mellow when drank.  All the beer was very drinkable, and perfect for an early Autumn/late Summer day.

Some of the other guys came around for the brew, one guy (my former roommate and Max's drinking partner) brought his leftover 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA- can't go wrong.

We decided to get spring water, chosing to avoid the hard water found at the house.  After firing up the kettle, we were able to use the first of my brother's toys that he brought along.  The 7lb. Barley Crusher grain mill ripped the malt apart for us.  The chocolate malt and pale malt then went into the pot.
Exact amounts

We were originally going to feature only Hellertau hops in the Oktoberfest, but instead chose to use the Hellertau in the boil and help it out with some Saaz towards the end.

The Witbier used wheat flakes as well as some pale malt flavored with coriander.  We also utilized Hellertau and Saaz hops for the witbier to match the Oktoberfest.

It just smelled so good.
We will be kegging the beer into corny kegs after the fermentation in complete. Overall, we are looking for these beers to be enjoyable by both craft drinkers and macro drinkers. The fact that remains is: it is a wedding, people will drink whatever is available.  Maybe one of these people will say, wow, this has more flavor than Bud Light.  Then the next time they are out, they order something new.  Who know?  It could happen.

Boil, Boil, Toil makes trouble.

Waiting isn't a problem when you have beer.
Detailed conversation.
Fun with Hops

Must Love Burgers (we needed to eat too)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Session #43- Walking into a New Kid's Place

The Beer Babe brings us Session #43- Welcoming the New Kids:
With the astounding growth of the number of craft breweries this year, chances are there’s a new one in development, or has just started out in your area. My challenge to you is to seek out a new brewery and think about ways in which they could be welcomed into the existing beer community. How does their beer compare to the craft beer scene in your area? Are they doing anything in a new/exciting way? What advice, as a beer consumer, would you give to these new breweries?

Take this opportunity to say hello to the new neighbors in your area. Maybe its a nanobrewery that came to a festival for the first time that you vowed to “check out” later. Maybe it’s a new local beer on a shelf on the corner store that you hadn’t seen before. Dig deeper and tell us a story about the “new kids on the block.” I look forward to welcoming them to the neighborhood!

In my life, I have had to make some radical changes in the last 6 months.  Buying a new home, moving, commuting 75 miles each way to work and preparing for a wedding (we are doing 90% of everything for this wedding).  This has taken up much of my time.  But I have been able to notice the brewpubs that keep opening up.  (Sure, we aren’t Portland, but we have grown in Central PA too.)

The last couple of years, my home area has grown with beer, and sadly (not really sadly) I have been absent of it, due to me living in Baltimore.  We always had Selin’s Grove Brewing and Bullfrog Brewing, which are great- but we were missing out on more selection. Now comes word of a new brewpub trying to open in Bloomsburg, as well as Bavarian Barbarian, Breaker and One Guy Berwick Brewing.

I am going to forgo talking about the brewpubs, you should all try your local one out, or go to one mentioned above.  I am going to talk about walking into a brewpub that isn’t your home base- and how you should be treated.

I love to travel.  I don’t do it as much as I would like, but I love to travel.  What brewpubs have to realize is that everyone walking into it matters.  My post takes me to a friend’s bachelor party in Morgantown, WV.  As the others were still on the golf course (I got there later than them), I was able to find Morgantown Brewing, which I posted here.  There are four things that I feel a brewpub needs to establish to be successful to all clients (beer drinkers)- Morgantown Brewing as some examples.

1.  Education- the bartenders/servers at the brewpub have to understand the beer.  At Morgantown, I asked for the beer list.  The bartender wanted to help out while I was browsing the list.  I got to the bar right as it opened, looking for lunch and a beer or two.  The bartender did not know my BeerQ level (Beer IQ), and did a great job explaining some of their beers.

2. Service- the servers/bartenders might be knowledgeable, but shouldn’t talk down to someone who is walking into a brewpub for the first time (or someone who they think is walking into a brewpub for the first time).  They should ask basic questions to understand the customers BeerQ, as to not insult them nor sound like an elitist.  At Morgantown, the bartender was nice.  She was able to go back and forth with me when I asked intelligent questions, or when I asked dumb questions about the beer.  I didn’t need someone to tell me what a Scotch ale was, just someone to tell me if theirs was hop heavy (it wasn’t) or malt heavy (it was).  Also along the lines of service, you cannot have a 40 minute wait between beers.  Sure if you are trying to serve a million people in a small bar, that is one thing.  But if I go to a brewpub, there is 5 servers for 20 people (at the bar and tables), I should be able to get a beer- this was not at Morgantown.

3. Good Beer- this should be obvious.  Good beer will always bring people back.  Go ahead and make the basic IPA, pale ale, stout, brown ale, pilsner (or “lager”), blonde and even throw in an Alt.  Those are base beers that most brewpubs have, but brewpubs that stand out take it to a new level.  Brew some great Belgian dubbels or triples, throw a marzen in the mix or just drop cherries/raspberries/chocolate/etc. in the beer.  Show me you are trying.  If it fails, it fails- but it will bring me back.

4. Regular customers- when you get people coming in once/twice a week, take notice.  These people will get others to come, who will tell others to come.  They can be welcoming to newbies or a deterrent.  They are some of the first people that I notice when I sit at the bar, because they are right next to me.  Granted, it is not up to the brewpub to supply the regulars, but with Education, Service and Good Beer, regulars will form.

Hopefully my thoughts made sense to you, and you can agree with me.  If you feel there are other keys to a great brewpub, let me know.