27 February 2009

Wye Valley Dorothy Goodbody's Our Glass (ENG)

Dorothy Goodbody has to be one of most attractive women to grace a beer bottle label. She's no more real than Betty Crocker, but if she were she'd be a lot more fun. Gotta love the punny name: not just "good body" but "(h)our glass." I believe in Britain, however, this is just known as Country Ale. It's either an ESB or an English Strong Ale at 6%. As an import, it cost me over $5 for 500 ml.

Nice clear ruby color--it had a little yeast in the bottom, but I left it there--with a terrific head that imprinted the side of the glass as I emptied it. A little more malt than hops. Rich caramel mostly, but some raisin as well. As it warms, fruity esters appear. As it warms even more, sherry is evident (not so fresh a bottle?). The hops hit the back of the throat in the finish and provide balance. Until the very end when it had warmed a bit too much, I thought this was wonderful. It's not something that grabs you by the throat, though. Well done, Dorothy!

25 February 2009

Wordle of This Blog

Here's some fun: the most commonly used words in this blog (excluding a, the, and, etc.). I have a suspicion that it's only looking at recent posts for me (not including this one). "Conable" looks a bit big, and I know I've used it only in one post. I don't ever remember typing "welch." You can kill a lot of time at the office playing with the layout. 

24 February 2009

Reason for Homebrewing

The libertarian publication Reason has an online piece on the legalization of homebrewing in the US. A few things I didn't know:

  1. In 1872, there were approximately 17 times as many breweries in the US per capita as there are now. And "now, " of course, comes after a long boom in micro brewing.
  2. Pre-1978, illegal homebrewers were never threatened by the Feds as much as by state law enforcement.
  3. It was a supplier of beer-making equipment in Rochester, NY who asked Congressman Barber Conable to sponsor the famous 1978 homebrewing bill that Jimmy Carter signed. Asked about the importance of the bill decades later, Conable couldn't even remmeber it.

22 February 2009

Custom BrewCrafters St. Patrick's Irish Ale (NY)

I'm not actually thinking about St. Patrick's Day yet, but I was looking for an easy drinking beer to share and a growler seemed to fit the bill. Honeoye Falls, NY based Customer BrewCrafters cranks out tons of styles for area bars and restaurants. Growlers are available at the brewery and in several local stores, and two of their beers are bottled (one of which I reviewed here). 

This Irish ale is pretty light in the body, but very smooth and easy drinking. Some caramel malts are balanced by earthy hops which never really reach the level of bitterness. The beer reminds me of their English Pale Ale. I don't know if it's mostly the same malts and yeast (not that this is a beer that shows off its yeast). This is what happens 

To me, St. Patrick's Irish Ale is just okay, but it serves its purpose. St. Patty's Day isn't for beer connoisseurs, it's for everyone, and they could do worse than a drinkable local brew. 

21 February 2009

Lower Beer Taxes? / NYT on Hop Obama

With all this talk about increasing beer taxes in Oregon and New York, it's interesting to see a call for lower beer taxes in Britain. The Conservative Party has launched a campaign to lower beer taxes (and raise taxes on high strength cider and alcopops). The Tories are out of power, so I have no idea if it's going anywhere. It sounds like good politics in a place where you can associate beer with family owned pubs (not the case here in the States). 

Meanwhile, the New York Times has an article on Brooklyn's Sixpoint Craft Ales, formerly brewers of Hop Obama. The beer was already retired a few weeks before the feds told them to stop. Really, you can't just name a beer after a public figure like that. I'm skeptical of this:
What stung about the Hop Obama episode was the suggestion that the brewery had been trying to cash in on the president’s name. In reality, Mr. Welch said, Sixpoint felt an affinity for the former community organizer because the beer business thrives on grass-roots connections like camaraderie over a frothy pint glass and even artistic collaboration.
I don't doubt the sincerity of his feelings toward Obama, but I don't know if Welch (brewmaster of Sixpoint) really has any right to feel "stung" by the suggestion that he was cashing in. It was great marketing while it lasted.

16 February 2009

Mendocino Brewing "Black Eye"

Mendocino also sells a beer called Black Eye, which is a mixture of their Black Hawk Stout and Eye of the Hawk Ale. I didn't buy that beer, but instead just mixed a couple bottles from the variety pack. I don't know whether this is exactly the same as the version that's sold.

The stout gets the better of the pairing, which is a shame given that I liked Eye of the Hawk better. Eye's role seems mostly just to cut the stout a bit, adding a very faint fruity note and boosting the ABV. What works best with the mix is the texture: this is a really smooth, creamy beer. 

I don't know whether I'd but Black Eye if I saw it in the store, but if you have three of each from a variety pack, why not mix a one of each? It's a pretty good "fifth beer."

15 February 2009

Mendocino Brewing Black Hawk Stout/Eye of the Hawk (CA)

Other two beers from the 12-pack:

Black Hawk Stout: A reminder that dark doesn't mean heavy. "The the intent was to create a Stout that did not overpower the palate," says the brewer.  It's very dark, has a thick beige head that unfortunately fizzes away before you can fully admire it. Medium-bodied, I'd prefer a little less carbonation as the acidic CO2 element doesn't work for me in a stout. Roasty and very slightly burnt, it finishes dry. Nice stout, about as good as Red Tail Ale.

Eye of the Hawk:  This one caught me by surprise. For whatever reason, I wasn't at all familiar with it, and had no idea what to expect. It's a strong ale at 8% ABV. Clear copper color, nearly headless. It reminds me of a barleywine with its slick, oily mouthfeel and soft carbonation. More malt than hops, it's perhaps a little too sweet. Eye of the Hawk has sort of a fruit brandy thing going on for me. The alcohol is hot, making this one a sipper. It also has some yeast in the bottom, which I didn't pour in.

I like it a lot and was kind of disappointed to see it receiving lesser reviews at the rating sites. What's also interesting is how all-over-the-place the descriptions are. Some say the alcohol is hidden, it's crisp or sessionable, others compare it to an ESB. I didn't get that at all. 

For me, Eye of the Hawk validates the Mendocino 12-pack. It's just not the sort of beer you'd expect to find in one, and with the IPA, it gives it two good bigger beers alongside two nice sessionable ones. 

13 February 2009

Mendocino Brewing Red Tail Ale/IPA (CA)

Mendocino Brewing Company is located in Hopland, CA, but also has a big brewery in Saratoga Springs where they produce the unexceptional Indian lager Kingfisher. In a 12-pack, Mendocino's offerings came out to just under a buck a bottle for me, so it's "bargain" craft beer, like Saranac, Dundee, et. al. 

Red Tail Ale: Their flagship beer, a (surprise) fairly subdued amber ale. It's pretty nice though. The brewery's website says  it has Cluster and Cascade hops, but I don't detect citrus/floral. The Cascades certainly aren't used for dry-hopping here. The site also says that most of their beers are bottle conditioned, but none of these seem to be. Red Tail Ale is slightly more malt than hops to me, but finishes dry. Very faint orange flavor. Clean and crisp.

White Hawk Select IPA: 7% ABV and 60 IBUs. The brewer says it has a "truly authentic English flavor," but is a blend of Fuggles and Cascades, so it's not purely English in style. Here, I do detect the Cascades. Not a blockbuster IPA, but very flavorful, well-balanced, and brings a bit of that IPA tingle. Nice lacing down the glass too.

So a good start to the variety pack. A pretty decent flagship beer and a nice IPA. But the IPA isn't the biggest of the pack as it would be more many other breweries.

09 February 2009

High Falls Buyout

Rochester, NY based High Falls Brewing--makers of Genesee and Dundee--is the target of a buyout by KPS Capital.  KPS is also seeking to buy Labbatt's USA, which is on the trading block due to anti-trust regulations. According to the Wall Street Journal:

KPS likely sees an opportunity to leverage the brewing operation of High Falls in Rochester to win a deal for Labatt. The Justice Department settlement requires the buyer of Labatt USA to eventually brew the beers, rather than merely marketing and selling them.

So KPS needs an actual brewery to get its foot in the door in the US. Would this have any effect on the Dundee line, the closest thing to a craft beer is this story? It doesn't seem like it would. 

08 February 2009

Mudlark Ale

This is my third batch of homebrew, and the first I've given its own name. In Erie Canal lingo, a boat was "mudlarked" when it was grounded in low water. Mudlark has also been used to describe someone who scavenges in river mud for valuable items. This brew looked really muddy for a time. 

I created my own recipe, and again made a smaller batch. Don't know what style this is.

3.5 gallons:
4 pounds of light DME
8 oz. Crystal 60L

4 oz. Crystal 90L
1/2 oz. 6.5% Challenger hops (60)
1 oz. 4.5% Progress hops (1/4 oz. each at 60, 45, 30, 15)
Coopers dry ale yeast (7 gram package)
Irish Moss
2 1/2 oz. corn sugar for priming

I ordered the ingredients at the same time as those from my previous batch, so I went with dried extract and uncrushed grains because they last longer (of course I crudhed the crystal before steeping). I chose English hops because I had Challenger left over. I chose Cooper's yeast for no reason better than that it came in a smaller packet for a small batch. I was planning on making a lighter three gallon batch, but then realized I'd be drinking this in the dead of winter, so I bought an extra pound of DME locally and upped the recipe by a half gallon. This was a dumb adustment because it threw the rest of my calculations off.

The brewing process went very smoothly, and rightly or wrongly, I'll give much of the glory to the DME. It fermented better than my previous batches with LME: from 1.061 to 1.017 still not quite (75%). According to the recipe calculator, IBUs were 28. 

I pitched that yeast at 64 degrees and it peaked at just over 70. The Cooper's yeast may have attenuated well, but it didn't flocculate for nuts. I lost a couple bottles worth amidst the sandy dregs. My new toy this time was an autosiphon, which was well worth the price.  While siphoning, the beer looked beautifully golden through the hose. In bottles, it was darker but still clear... until I chilled it. The first few bottles were foggy, but now it's reasonably clear again.

The taste? I think my process didn't hurt it any, but I'm not sure about my recipe. It's sort of an awkward blend of caramel, somewhat raisiny malts and earthy, herbal hops. The levels of each element seems spot on, but the combination isn't exactly right. So enough with my own recipes for a while. Still, it's pretty good, and pleasingly free of any off flavors. Solid execution of a questionable game plan.

What I learned: DME and autosiphons are good. There's so much I would like to try for my next batch. Partial mash, secondary, a yeast starter, or maybe one of those Canadian Brewhouse kits some people are raving about. First, I have to create some empty bottles. 

06 February 2009

The Session: Three Tripels

The topic of Session 24 is "A Tripel for Two." As David at Musings Over a Pint explains:

Beer is best when it's shared, and a strong beer is just right for sharing. Belgian Tripels are big beers with a flavor profile that is enjoyed by both experienced and new beer fans. Be it an intimate evening, or watching a ball game on TV, a Tripel is made for sipping and sharing. For Session #24 the theme is "A Tripel for Two." What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member, or lover?
As is often the case, the topic seems to assume we'll write about a beer we've had before. I've only reviewed one Tripel so far, the unusual dark Tripel from Abbaye d’Aulne, and I've only ever drank one or two others. The Tripel Brune raises a question: must this style be light in color, or is tripel-ness just a question of heft? I kind of lean toward the former, but am not going to get all pissy about it.

I decided to sample three Tripels. I did not drink these all on the same night, and only the Sprecher did I share.

Maredous 10: Love the stubby bottle. The price point suggests that this may be a second tier Belgian, as it clocks in at a couple bucks less per bottle than the really expensive ones. The 10 refers to 10% ABV, and the alcohol indeed makes its presence felt. Cloudy orange-gold with a meringue head that stays after the party is over. Peachy, spicy, slightly tangy, and a bit boozy. Feels like champagne. Maybe the best of the three for both "sipping and sharing."

St. Bernardus Watou Tripel: This is a better beer overall, just too pricey to share unless it's an intimate setting with someone you know will appreciate it. St. Bernardus makes two tripels; how many other breweries do that? Watou is a town in Flanders, by the way. This slender-bottled beer is mellower than Maredsous. It's "only" 7.5%, a little paler in color, more bubblegummy in aroma, and I think a bit lighter in carbonation. As with Maredsous, the foam outlasts the beer itself. Great creamy body. Honey and fruit (oranges?), but ultimately dry. My favorite of the three.

Sprecher Abbey Triple: I wanted to toss in one American take on the style, and chose Sprecher because it seemed so unlikely. This Wisconsin brewery rightly specializes in lagers. Abbey Triple is sold in a bruising 16 ounce bottle that has a twist off cap, for god's sake. 8.4% ABV. Relatively cheap at around $8 a 4-pack, it's good for sharing with any company, but alas, not really for sipping. It's lighter in color than the others, more clear, and with a less impressive head. The ABV notwithstanding, I can see guzzling this in the summer. Fruity and sweet, it only scratches the surface of Belgian yeast complexity. And yet, it's a tasty beer. If you don't hold it to the lofty standards of a Tripel -- maybe pretend it's a fruit beer -- Sprecher's take is pretty good. Non-beer nerd friends were fond as well.

So there you go. I had a lot of fun with this style, and am curious to see what other Tripels people are drinking.

01 February 2009

Super Bowl Prediction

I'm gonna say Pittsburgh 24, Arizona 17. 

The Cardinals are a bit of a question mark. The Steelers pass rush could wreak havoc, and Kurt Warner has been a turnover machine at times. At other times, however, he's like Dan Marino with his quick release, plus I don't think the Steelers can cover Larry Fitzgerald. On the other side of the ball, I think the Cards would do well not to blitz Roethlisberger. They seemed to play more for coverage against the Eagles (the announcers praised the Philly line, but Arizona was often rushing only three guys), and McNabb couldn't deal with it. Big Ben seems to be at his best when scrambling, so don't kill yourself by blitzing, I say, even though Ben is fumble prone. But maybe it all comes down to the running game after all.

I want Arizona to keep it close, but would be happier if the Steelers win. A Super Bowl team just doesn't play the way the Cardinals did versus the Patriots and the Jets in the first half. Oh, and I will be drinking and sharing homebrew.