Thursday, June 21, 2012

Homebrew in the Neighborhood

I have always felt that my brother was as fortunate as he could be when he was in Ann Arbor. He has a group of 4 other guys that would schedule brewdays. Sometimes it would only be one of them brewing, other days it would be all. This same group of families would organize the community picnics and other fun activities as well.

When I bought a house, and finally got settled, I purchased my homebrew kit. After a bunch of my personal batches, and sharing whenever I could with the neighbors, I finally finished up bottling the batch brewed for a neighbor. He was interested in the hobby as a way to save a little cash on beer, and it turned into a great way for him to drink good beer (his wife is a Miller 64 person).

Tonight, we bottled his amber/oktoberfest ale. It was a very simple recipe, putting more emphasis being a bit malty at (6%), than having a strong bitterness to it.  Bottling has been delayed multiple times since we brewed, but not having a huge hop load to it, plus having the airlock on the entire time with a pretty constant temperature, I have no fear that when this beer is fully conditioned, it will be fantastic. 

We enjoy going over to his house to use his pool, and I cannot wait to enjoy this beer in the near future.  Now we just need to get a couple more people involved, get a pig roaster and an inflatable bounce house for the kids, and we will be in business.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Pale Ale- Session #64

For this issue of The Session #64, The Beer Babe decided it was time to focus on a over-utilized, yet under-appreciated style, the Pale Ale:
What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

While this style serves as the foundation to its big-hoppy-brother the India Pale Ale, lately “Pale Ale” has become a throwaway term. I hear bartenders and servers using it to describe everything from Pilsners to unfiltered wheat beers (I wish I was kidding). 

While I am not taking her advice to sample and do a comparison review of two pale ales, I will chip in my feelings.

First, a brewpub needs to have a pale ale. It is a simple base beer, that can be embraced by almost any drinker. I love to promote my idea of Base Beers. These are beers that set that baseline on whether or not another beer is bad, ok, good, or great. For me, when I walk into a brewpub/brewery/bar and order a pale ale, I like to put it up against Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Is it the best? No, but I don't think there is one person on earth that can say that is it bad.

For our Memorial Day cabin weekend, we always make sure to bring some selection of pale ales. This year, a friend picked up some Sierra Nevada cans (yes, we were in the woods, so cans were very appropriate) to go along with all the other good stuff (including another friend's beer of the month club selections, my Founder's variety case, and multiple homebrews). What is amazing about a quality pale ale is that it can cross the boundaries.  One friend who was at the cabin drinks whatever is basically the cheapest. Another enjoys the Shocktop variety, while two more, would rather an enamel stripping IPA. But the common theme was that everyone was enjoying the pale ale.

Finally, what I think I enjoy the most about the basic pale ale is the drinkability. Many are in the 4-6% abv range. And that is where I like to be. My homebrews are (for the most part) 5.5-6%.  I know that in that range, I can have a few and still be fully coherent.  Most people would be ok. Sure it is no "pure session" beer (under 4%), but for a group of people not leaving the cabin for the day it is perfect.

So if I walk into a place that has their own pale ale, I look for them to make a good one. It might not be the absolutely best beer I ever had, but it should be a beer that many people can enjoy.