Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baltimore, Books and Beer

If you have lived in Baltimore for any period of time, whether it be one week or 30 years, I am sure you have a unique story to tell. That is the basic principle behind Smile Hon, You're in Baltimore:
"From the harbor to the hills, SMILE, HON, YOU'RE IN BALTIMORE!
collects the tales of those for whom Mobtown has left her indelible mark:
polished, professional essays; barroom sermons delivered from the sanctity of a
favorite stool, the poet's fleeting sentiment captured in both word and snapshot -
a slice of Baltimore as told by Baltimore, all presented with the time-honored,
DIY accessibility of a limited-run, handcrafted zine.
So, come on, Baltimore - what's your story?"
So what does this have to do with a beer blog?  On Friday, September 23, the release party for the 14th edition of Smile Hon will take place from 6-8pm under the CityLit tent at the Baltimore Book Festival. This free event will feature readings from the book, some live music and free beer- courtesy of The Brewer's Art- some of Baltimore's best beer.

The latest issue is a 68 page zine (which costs $4 and can be picked up at Atomic books, Red Emma's, Cyclops Books and Ukazoo- around Baltimore) is packed to the gills with stories, poems and pictures that give a true, yet humorous look into the city. Former issues have had themes of tattoos, transportation, crime, waste and more.

I suggest you check it out. Great stories, live music and free beer combine to make a nice little evening.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fall Time Brews

Summer brews get a lot of hype.  Those thirst quenching, fruity wheat beers are easy and fun to drink while at picnics, parties and around the fire pit.  I love a good Bell's Oberon or Dogfish Head Festina Peche.  Christmas beers, with their spices, and winter warmers, with their high abv, get the attention of those looking to sip next to the chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Packed in between those two beer seasons, are Oktoberfest beers.

I like a good malty Oktoberfest Lager.  I did my best to brew an oktoberfest ale for my wedding, it wasn't the same, but it was good. For the pure German in you, you can drink some Spaten or Paulander- easier to find German Oktoberfest beers. For the domestic side, I enjoy Flying Dog Dogtoberfest and Sam Adam's Oktoberfest.

But what else do people drink in the Fall?  I have a couple ideas of what I like.

Bring on the IPAs. Many people think that they summer is too hot to drink the hop bombs. The high IBU beers get drowned out by the Christmas beers, so drink them while you can.  It isn't quite cold enough to need the high abv beers, but the 6-7% beer might cut through the fall chill.  A perfect beer to grab would be the Sierra Nevada Estate- the freshest of the fresh, all locally grown ingredients. Grab a jacket and head outside.

The darker beers also work well when it starts to get dark earlier.  The porters, stouts and brown ales all work well.  The beers with a little extra body can carry you through the tail gate.  Picking up some Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald would impress a newcomer to craft beer or the seasoned mustached CAMBRA member.

Fall has unique beers too.  Pumpkin beers are in season.  I am not the biggest fan of them, but there are enough people that cannot wait.  Dogfish Head Punkin, Southern Tier PumpKing, Heavy Seas Great Pumpkin and (if you need some warming) Weyerbacher's Imperial Pumpkin are all great beers that give a fresh dose of pumpkin.  Goes great with corn field mazes.

Finally, find some of the unique seasonals.  First one that should come to mind is The Bruery's Autumn Maple.  This perfect for Thanksgiving beer is brewed with yams, maple syrup and other spices that would accompany a Turkey dinner. Check with the local brewpubs to see what unique ingredients they are throwing in their beers, and take home a growler.

Hopefully, you can embrace Fall beers.  They are versatile and easy to drink.  What are your favorites?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Some call it the End of Summer

Labor Day weekend is a celebration of those who work hard to put food on the table. It also marks the unofficial end of summer. The beaches are packed for the last time. People have picnics, family reunions, and get one last swim in.

For me growing up, it meant that we had to start getting the farm equipment ready to harvest- usually no day off. With the harvest season, I also got the start of soccer season. Now that my playing days have mostly passed, I have found a different hobby to take up my time. It is no longer too hot to sit next to the boiling pot of hops and sugars. I now look forward to the cooler months.

So to celebrate this change of seasons, I thought I would brew a nice cooler weather beer. So what is it? Hopefully, it will be the perfect Maple Porter for Halloween and Thanksgiving. This weekend, I created a base porter, and I will add maple to it in secondary.

My Recipe:
8 lbs. Light LME
8 oz. Chocolate Malt
4 oz. Roasted Malt
4 oz. Caramel 60 L.

1.5 oz Willamette (60 minutes)
.5 oz Willamette (10 minutes)

WL013 London yeast
OG- 1.062

I went light on the finishing hops in hope to keep the aroma from the maple to be added.

Also, Labor Day weekend has now been dubbed my homebrew weekend. Last year, we brewed a double batch (American Wheat and Oktoberfest Ale) for my wedding. I look forward to brewing next year as well.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Session #55- Label, Coaster and Cap art

This month's issue of The Session was hosted by HopHeadSaid. He asked the group of bloggers participating to:
"1. Choose your favorite label, coaster or cap art.

2. Write a paragraph that explains your affinity to your entry. Your explanation can be as shallow as or as deep as you want."
I don't know if I have a favorite label, coaster or cap.  What I do know is that I like some more than others. As much as people don't want to admit it (and some are proud to admit it), the label art plays a big part of which beers are bought and which stay on the shelf.  I think that the art can form your mind on what the beer should taste like. I'll give a few examples of labels that can predetermine (for the good), what the beer's experience is going to be like.

1. Flying Dog Raging Bitch- this beer is a Belgian IPA.  With its 8.3% abv, the beer's strength can get you through the colder days and nights and the bitterness can break through the warm summer days.  Neither is hidden well, and can smack you on the face like a B****.  The label gives the same idea.  Crazy, ravaging dog is as wild as the beer.  Expect to get the huge hops followed by the Belgian yeast characteristics.  It is as Raging as it gets. (Artwork on all Flying Dog beers are done by Ralph Steadman-who was the illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson.)

2. Goose Island Matilda- One inspection of either the Matilda labels, and the first thought that comes to your head is elegance.  You expect a nice delicate beer.  A beer to pour into a tulip or stemmed glass.  Something that is to be sipped, savored and examined.  You may just want to start with it cold, and let it warm to let out all the flavors.  The script text on the bottle screams upper class.  Makes me think of Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence. Enjoy this one like a bottle of wine.

3. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a classic, basic beer.  It begs to be drank with friends on the deck, in the backyard or any other time.  The label has the same classic characteristics. It gives the vital information, shows a laid back river landscape, the perfect place to drink one (especially now that they can it).  If you look at the label, you are not expecting the beer to blast you with hops or be infused with any unique ingredients.  You are just looking a good beer.

4. The Bruery Autumn Maple- This beer is seasonal in more than just the name.  It screams fall time.  From the sweetness to the yams, it is a perfect beer to have with Thanksgiving.  One look at the label is all that it takes to see fall time.  The colors of brown and orange, the leaves in the background and the simple text give the drinker a predetermined idea of what they are getting, and they are rewarded.

Overall, I feel those are great labels. I love seeing them at a bar or beer store, as I have no hesitation to drink any of them.  The label sets the tone on the beer, and the drinker get make an easier decision on a purchase.