On my birthday this past June, I visited a brewery in Sanford, FL called Wops Hops (read/watch this experience here). One of the beers in the flight I enjoyed was a German Rauchbier, a style which originated in the town of Bamberg in the 1500s. The barley was dried over an open wood fire and an intense smoke aroma and flavor was imparted to the ale made from it.
I was intrigued by this aroma and flavor and decided to brew some form of a smoked beer myself. I decided on a Smoked Porter as that seemed to be a popular choice. I followed a well-regarded recipe and chose a cherry wood smoked malt for 21% of the grain bill.
It came out very nice. A bit lighter than medium body with the smoky aroma and flavor more subtle than in the rauchbier that inspired it, it is extremely drinkable, even in the hot Florida summer. Cheers to my friend, James, a stout and porter lover from whose initials this brew gains its name.
I do love the dry spiciness that a little rye malt adds to an American IPA.
This popular recipe by Denny Conn was fairly straightforward, but I couldn’t resist adding my own twist to it. I did follow the recipe right down to using Wyeast #1450 yeast, also known as Denny’s Favorite (yes, he has his own signature yeast). My twist was in the water profile. Instead of adjusting my water to have a high sulfate to chloride ratio (which you would do to enhance the hop bitterness) I reversed it to have a higher chloride to sulfate ratio. This is what most New England IPA recipes call for to mute the hop bitterness and soften the mouthfeel.
The results are quite nice and I have had very positive comments from those who have tasted it. Here is my review of this brew:
I make mention once again of our glorious time in England and Wales in 2015 – the 40th anniversary of our wedding. Early in the first week we visited Oxford as part of our Road Scholar tour. Kevin Heymann, our awesome guide for the entire 2 weeks, introduced us to Oliver Cox, a professor at Oxford who spent 3 days with us. One of those days was invested absorbing all we could of two of the Oxford colleges. Ollie intoned eloquently, yet quite humorously, of the unlikely juxtaposition of the diverse architectural styles. He also wanted to ensure we ingrained one particular rooftop protrusion to our memories, perhaps to put forth at a cocktail party as a grand assurance of our illustrious education. This architectural adornment is known as a crocketed pinnacle. To be sure, that word pairing has not escaped my memory since. In fact it sprang to mind when I was deciding on a name for this delicious, true-to-style English barleywine. Here’s to you Ollie and Kevin!
It’s always nice to have a go-to sipping ale on tap. This one is a very simple American Pale Ale with some respectable hop bitterness, aroma, and flavor at 5.9% ABV.
Below is my assessment of this brew.
UPDATE – May 27, 2017: This morning I put 2 ounces of Citra hop pellets in a stainless steel mesh tube and suspended it in the keg. Oh my – the intense flavor and aroma from this hop addition takes this already tasty pale ale to a new level. I will be doing this to many future brews!
Brewing beer is a journey, not a destination. I will likely never arrive at the destination. (What IS the destination anyway?) Along the way I apply what I have learned, learn new things to apply, and anxiously await the outcome despite whatever failures may have occurred in the process.
This American Brown Ale (which started as an American Amber Ale) is no exception. This time a human error (and a likely equipment glitch) coupled to steer this brew off course. Not in a negative way, but with a serendipitous result. Watch (if you have the time and interest) the lengthy (11 minutes or so) review of this brew below.
I have liked all of my brews thus far – and certainly there is an element of bias, but who cares? As a friend once replied when told all those vitamins he took only made him THINK he felt better, “What’s the difference?” I do, however, get positive feedback from many who have tasted them and that is the second best thing about brewing beer. The best thing is the very first statement: I have liked all my brews thus far.
To be specific, my favorite beer I have brewed so far and possibly my favorite beer of all time is Brew 009, Take-A-Bongo Red IPA. I knew I had to have another keg of it ready to go on tap by the time the first one kicked, so I brewed this batch.
The reason it is version 2.0 is that I made a few tweaks to the recipe. I reduced the darker malts and bumped up the Munich malts in addition to a couple other adjustments. The goal was to make it a bit lighter in color, a bit lower in ABV, and a bit maltier. That was a noble intent, but I did have an equipment malfunction. My brewing controller was supposed to maintain 152 degrees for the duration of the mash, but it apparently decided to jump to 100% power and I didn’t catch it till it had reached 170 degrees. This can have a detrimental effect on the outcome, but I proceeded nonetheless.
In spite of the debacle, this brew is very tasty. It turned out darker, browner, and hazier than the original, yet it is very citrusy in aroma and flavor. I still like version 1.0 much better, but I will seriously enjoy this one.
Here is my review of Brew 013 – Take-A-Bongo Red IPA version 2.0.
May 11,2017 UPDATE: OK, the very hazy example in the review above was premature. Here we are a few days later and look at what pulls from the tap now 🙂 Clear as a bell and still quite tasty!
June 11, 2017 – UPDATE: I have created the third iteration of this brew (Brew 017) and tagged it version 1.1 since I went back closer to the original recipe. I went a little lighter on the Crystal malts and it did make a difference – the color was less brown and more dark amber. The aroma and flavor is quite nice…closer to he original.
Even when events don’t evolve as planned, there can be serendipitous results. I have experienced that to some degree with every single brew to date. I hold fast to important principles such as fastidious sanitation, controlled fermentation temp, and large, happy yeast families – so when an unexpected hiccup or glitch occurs it doesn’t need to spell the end of a good brew.
Such was the case with Brew 012 – another attempt at a New England IPA. A less than optimal yeast strain coupled with a hardware/software error blew the shot at hitting the style, yet still resulted in an awesome ale. Who cares what the label says as long as it is enjoyable – and this one certainly is!
There are only 10 Trappist monasteries in the world – and the term Trappist is easier to remember than the full name of the monastic order: Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. Nine of the ten monasteries are in Europe with most of them in Belgium. That leaves one – and that one, St. Joseph’s Abbey, is in Spencer, Massachusetts.
While all the monks in the European Trappist monasteries were brewing unique, sought after ales, St. Joseph’s brotherhood was making jellies. A few years ago they decided to join their brethren across the pond in their zymergistic tradition. Their very first ale was a Belgian Single and they have shared the recipe so we home brewers can experience the labors of their fruit. Plus, I already have the requisite haircut.
I loved our 40th wedding anniversary celebration in England and Wales in June of 2015. We were on a Road Scholar tour the first two weeks – we saw and learned so much and shared the experience with a fun group of folks (some with an appreciation for fine beer as myself). Barb and I were up all night flying from Orlando to Gatwick Airport and being driven to Windsor. The moment we finished our initial group meeting at our hotel, Ye Hart and Garter, one of my new friends, John and I walked to the Windsor and Eton Brewery less than a mile away. You can see that experience here:
My personal quest over the 2 weeks on our tour of England and Wales, then the final week in London on our own, was to experience as many pubs and real ales as I could. Well, we averaged 2 pubs a day with gusts up to 4 and still saw everything else on our list. Magnificent.
This brew of mine, Burton Bitter, is an Ordinary Bitter and a great representation of many of the ales I enjoyed in the UK. I love that every whiff and every sip transports me back there. Here is my review:
I first visited the taproom at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa back in 2011. I was familiar with a couple of their brews and knew they were really growing, plus I was in the area that day and purposed to stop by. I ordered a flight of 4 offerings, Tocobaga Red Ale being one of them. You can watch that review of the 4 brews here. My attention was certainly engaged by Tocobaga and I sought out the head brewer, Tim Ogden, in the brewery shortly after. You can see that brief interview here. I discovered that he was the creator of Tocobaga as a home brewer.
Fast forward to today when Tocobaga remains one of my favorite beers. As a home brewer I wanted to recreate this brew and after much investigating found a recipe that a home brewer passed by Tim Ogden for his input. Tim told him he was surprised how close he was. Plus the guy went on to win two silver medals with his recipe.
I then contacted Tim to see what he was willing and able to tell me. He gave me 4 tips that were either not in the above-mentioned silver-winning recipe or were under-represented. The resultant recipe turned out to be a gold-winning recipe in my book. It is my favorite of my brews to date and I will be brewing this one again soon!