Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Bewitched Red Ale: Okay So Far...

Figuring it was time to let the bird fly or risk its premature death in the nest, I popped the top off of one of our bottles of Mr. Beer Bewitched Red Ale last night – not one of the liter bottles but one of the 12 ounce Gatorade bottles that have all but tried to explode these past few weeks. I sampled a second bottle this evening.

To update, I placed four liter bottles and six 12-ounce bottles in the refrigerator last Saturday (a little over four days ago now), leaving two one liter bottles to remain at room temperature for a bit more bottle fermenting. Admittedly, it’s been less than the one week prescribed by Mr. Beer experts, but with the Gatorade bottles looking like they might burst, I figured I might as well begin trying them. I sampled one last night and one this evening.

At this point, the Red Ale is highly carbonated, even having come from the back of the refrigerator. It had a sour/sweet smell both in the bottle and in the glass. The second bottle actually had something of a berry smell to it, which seems a good reason to avoid reusing Gatorade bottles, I think.

It poured a lovely red-amber color with a full thick head. (Yeah, that's a picture of it to the right, there.) I had to back off both times to avoid overflowing the glass and the pour for the second bottle was more active than the first. It has a thin mouth feel and a malty taste that is rather dry with a quick finish.

Though I'm a tad underwhelmed, I can say at this point that the first batch from the Mr. Beer system wasn’t a total loss and I don’t intend to pour the remaining product down the drain; after all, I can always let it sit longer. Tomorrow I’ll deliver half the beer to Johnny Southside and I’ll keep the four liters lagered in the back of the fridge along with a single bottle at room temperature at least until the 30th, then we’ll see where we go from there. At least one Mr. Beer home brewer has made the case for lagering the beer longer to allow its flavor to develop. Additionally, Senor Brewmaster has suggested ditching the Gatorade bottles and I couldn’t agree more, especially after smelling berries in tonight’s bottle of Red Ale. These people know what they’re doing. Why should I try to reinvent the wheel?

Now, what beer recipe to order next? Maybe a pumpkin lager? How about a nice stout for Christmas? The prickly pear cactus have bloomed and their fruit pods are beginning to ripen; hmm, I wonder if a prickly pear wheat beer would be okay this late in the year? I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The (Late) Session

Never one to ride along with a busload of zealots, here I am taking up the rear of the caravan, furiously pedaling my unicycle.

The August installment of “The Session” was focused on anniversaries. I’ll confess that I have no idea in what regard The Session dealt with anniversaries, but since the first Friday of August fell on August 1st, I’ve got an anniversary for you. Colorado Day!

Colorado was admitted to the union on August 1, 1876 and no doubt on August 2nd, some fellow emerged from the Front Range (perhaps where Clear Creek enters what is now Golden, Colorado) and said, “Big deal! Where’s the whorehouse?” Yeah, I’d still live in Colorado if I could, but I don’t and waxing nostalgic about it just makes me pine for it all the more, so let’s get to the beer, shall we?

In honor of Colorado’s birthday and to have something clever to post for The (Late) Session, I popped the top off of a bottle of Left Hand Brewing’s Imperial Stout. This stuff clocks in at a hefty 10.4% abv and touts itself as “Black Ale to brighten your day.” It smells of roasted or burnt coffee in the bottle and roasted nuts in the glass. There is also a slight alcohol scent from the glass that presages the alcohol bite in the taste.

In the glass, this imperial stout is as dark as coffee with a medium to weak head. In the tasting one is immediately hit by the thick mouth feel, then the alcohol bite at the back of the palate and in the nasal cavity. A second pour yielded a more substantial head with nice lacing and the taste was more nutty, which may have been due to the more active head or because the beer had warmed slightly in the bottle – or both.

This is the second beer that I’ve tried from Left Hand brewing. As an example of the style, Left Hand Imperial Stout ranks well, but for me its liquor-like qualities place it at a disadvantage. I’ll be content to fall back to their Milk Stout in the future and I’ll honor them as an example of Colorado’s up-and-coming craft-brewing heritage.

Here’s where you can find more dope on this beer, this brewer and this topic in general:

For starters, The Beverage Tasting Institute has a nifty discussion of stouts and porters. It’s worth a peek.

Next, pay a visit to Left Hand Brewing's website. Browse around, buy a hat, buy a glass.

Beer Advocate gives this stout high marks.

Here’s a link to the governor’s proclamation for Colorado Day 2008.

Happy anniversary, Colorado!

And, just in case you’re interested in knowing more about what the August installment of “The Session” was really all about, here are some links to real beer blogs and their take on “anniversary beer.” (These folks do this stuff better than I....or is that "better than me...?)

The Barley Blog was the designated host for the August installment of The Session.
The Brew Site
Lyke 2 Drink
Brewed For Thought

Mr. Beer Update: The six 12-ounce bottles went into the back of the refrigerator this morning, the bulging caps having grown ever more prominent. In order to contain any leakage that may be caused by a premature evacuation of the contents, I've wrapped all the bottles up in a couple of plastic bags. There isn't enough room in the fridge for all the liter bottles, so I'll probably begin lagering just a couple of them, give them a week or so, then transport them to Johnny Southside, who will be splitting the first batch with me.

My thanks and appreciation to those of you who've posted comments here in the past and in particular to those of you who've offered comments and advice regarding the Mr. Beer project. I hope there will be more batches and I hope you'll keep visiting and leaving comments when you can.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick Riffs

I've stacked up such a slush pile of beers in my notebook, it seems a good idea to run though some notables in quick fashion. I'll call this recurring feature "quick riffs" until something more appropriate strikes me. This time around: Redhook ESB, Brou Czech Pils and Bridgport IPA

Redhook ESB Original Ale
Sampled on August 5, 2008

Has a grassy smell in the bottle and a bitter, hoppy aroma in the glass. Pours an orange-bronze color with a nice head that is gone quickly. Bitter taste with hints of sweetness and a mild alcohol bite to both the smell and the taste. This isn’t a bad beer but still a little too bitter for my tastes long-term. A nice intermediate brew for those wanting something on the bitter side but not overpowering.

Brou Czech Pils
Sampled on May 29, 2008

Sports a malty smell in the bottle and bread or malt in the glass. Appears the color of dark brass and presents a weak head that disappears quickly. Tastes like cardboard, otherwise nothing special. Though I won’t try it again, Brou Czech wasn’t too bad paired with grilled sausage and chicken.

Bridgeport India Pale Ale
Sampled on August 11, 2008

This IPA gives off a medium hop smell in the bottle and pours a nice gold-orange color with lots of sediment. There’s a surprising hint of citrus in the taste. I didn’t think IPA’s could be this good; pretty dry though. Bridgeport IPA has sort of a smoky hint at the finish. I’ll track this one down again.

Mr. Beer Update:
The red ale was transferred to bottles this past Sunday morning with maple syrup used as a priming sugar. Six liter bottles were filled along with six 12-ounce Gatorade bottles that seemed to be stout enough to handle the build up of carbonation.
Almost immediately the bottles stiffened up as the gas/carbonation built up inside them. By the second day I notice with some alarm that the orange caps of the Gatorade bottles have developed a pronounced bulge on the top. I’m concerned that they may crack or split open and we’ll be out that beer. I may move them to lagering in the refrigerator a bit sooner than the PET bottles, which seem to be holding up well. All in all, things look hunky-dory and the contents of the clear plastic Gatorade bottles presents a nice brown-red color. I think this might work out!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Where Else But America: The Beer Float

In case you needed proof that we’ve got it easy in this country, I give you the Beer Float.

John Steinbeck wrote about a “beer milkshake” in Cannery Row and that’s the first place I recall ever even seeing mention of this beverage anomaly. Doc, the protagonist in the book, thinks about what it must be like to order a beer milkshake. He decides it best to order such a thing in a town where he isn’t known, and eventually when he does, he tells the waitress he has “bipalychaetersonectomy” and the beer milkshakes are on doctor’s orders. I don’t know what bipalychaetersonectomy is and a search of the web turns up nothing but a couple references to Steinbeck and his beer milkshake. (By the way, John looked like the sort of fellow who'd enjoy a good beer milkshake.)

From a literary standpoint, I suppose the beer milkshake episode from Cannery Row is something of a lesson in how we must behave one way among those we know versus how we feel we can behave when we are with strangers, or people we aren’t likely to ever see again. (Kind of like the way we act in heavy traffic on the freeway, I guess.)

Today there are no such strictures placed upon people – nobody “dresses up” to travel by airplane, tank tops and flip flops are acceptable attire in church and what you drink or eat in public is your business. If this isn’t the case, why are places like Yardhouse serving beer floats and milkshakes? Out in front of everybody for heaven’s sake! (Serving them with an outrageously extravagant price tag no doubt.)

As for me, I whipped up a beer float at home, safe and sedate in the knowledge that I alone would enjoy the pleasure, away from the prying eyes of friend and stranger alike. It was nice. I’m going to do it again, too!

Beer Rant’s Beer Float Recipe
One Can Young’s Double Chocolate Stout
Two scoops of vanilla ice cream

Place the ice cream in the glass first – chill the glass ahead of time if you like.
Slowly add the Young’s into the tilted glass.Pay close attention to the way the dark beer behaves as it swirls up and around the ice cream. It’s a feast for the eyes and a treat for the palate, but probably best enjoyed in moderation, as it’s a rich concoction!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Honey Brown and the Wheat Sisters

Summertime seems to bring with it a raft of fruity, wheat beers and in general I’m not a huge fan, but I’ll admit that they can be refreshing, especially if you live in the land of the perpetual sunburn. So, here I’ve tried an old standby along with a couple of the fruited up wheat beers.

Dundee Honey Brown is common fare in some parts, or so I’m told. I recall having tried it some time back and when I stumbled across a six-pack at the local store recently I figured I’d give it another go. It smells a bit sour in the bottle but gives off a distinct honey scent in the class, pouring a dark bronze color with high carbonation and a thick head that quickly vanishes. There is no knock-you-down honey in the taste of this except in the finish, which is nice and it continues to maintain a nice honey smell even after the head is gone. I used a splash or two of Dundee Honey Brown over a piece of salmon on the grill and it turned out nicely. I’ll be having this one again I believe – it’s a honey.

I spied a bottle of Kennebunkport Apricot Wheat in the singles rack at Trader Joe’s. I snagged it along with five other beer orphans in need of a good home. This apricot wheat beer smells very strongly of apricot both in the bottle and in the glass. It pours slightly thick but with no obvious sediment and has a medicinal taste that hints at cough syrup. This beer is all about the apricot and despite the medicine taste, I like it quite a bit; it’s very good and very refreshing. Perhaps something to be had in moderation.

The Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat is something I’d first heard about during a visit to the Yardhouse down the road. Our waitress explained that this one tastes like Fruity Pebbles cereal. I didn’t try it that day, but made a mental note that cereal-flavored beer has got to be on my to-do list. So, more recently I had the kids grab a six-pack of Sunset Wheat at the Total Wine store in Glendale. (I’ve sung the praises of Total Wine in the past and I still love their selection and their prices but I must state for the record that their face-to-face customer service is completely lacking. Perhaps one day when they push me too far, I’ll post a more detailed explanation but suffice it to say: Total Wine? Love your store. Your staff? Not so much.)

This one has a definite citrus smell in the bottle – it’s almost medicinal, but it becomes more pleasant once poured. Pours yellow-gold and cloudy and certainly does have a Fruity Pebble taste, though I’ll admit I’m probably not perceptive enough to have made that connection without the tip from our friendly Yardhouse waitress friend. There’s a bit more citrus taste when an orange slice is added – of course. Late in the sampling the medicinal hints return but isn’t too off-putting. Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat is a nice enough novelty beer for the summer, but I doubt I’ll seek it out again before the summer season is ended.

What others had to say about Honey Brown and the Wheat sisters...

Honey Brown
If you’re going to New York City and want to find Dundee’s Honey Brown, the folks at Beer Menus can help you. (Personally, I try to do most of my drinking at home, but what the heck.)

Here’s a little post concerning the declining honey bee population and Dundee’s efforts to help: Sustainable is good.

Apricot Wheat
The bloggers at Just Beer recently posted a useful review of Kennebunkport Apricot Wheat. (“Beer info. from normal dudes…” I like that.)

The judging panel at Beer Advocate has not been kind to Kennebunkport Apricot Wheat.

Sunset Wheat
Here’s the dope on Sunset Wheat from Beer Advocate.

The Roughneck at Lagerheads waxes eloquent about his experience with Sunset Wheat back in 2006.

(Mr. Beer brewing update: We convened a meeting of the bathtub brewing council and decided to let the red ale percolate in the Mr. Beer keg for a few more days - perhaps up to the three week mark, which will be next Sunday. I've not checked in on the little project in the last day or two, but a sample taste tonight is probably in order.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I got nothin' to say.....

...but it just got a little less funny off in here.

God bless you, Bernie.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mr. Beer Update At One Week Plus...

I’ve been like a mother hen worrying over a clutch of eggs this past week.

I’ve not seen any noticeable activity in the Mr. Beer fermenting keg. There’s been something of a “bathtub ring” round the inside of the keg almost since day one. We’re now at one week and one day – as of Monday – and I’m concerned that something didn’t pop.

A check of the Mr. Beer Fans Forum yielded some useful advice along with frequent admonitions to be patient and leave the thing alone. Several of the local experts suggested actually pouring a bit of the product into a glass for inspection and taste testing. Per their input, if the wort still has any sort of sweet taste to it, then it’s not done fermenting. Ideally, according to the brewing guru’s, the product should taste something like flat beer.

Well, I screwed up some courage and drained a tiny bit into the bottom of a pub glass a couple nights ago. Hmmm. Looks a bit like unpasteurized apple juice, or that funky water that comes out of rusted pipes. I tasted it and at first it didn’t taste sweet, but as I let the liquid work around a bit I found it to have a slight sweet taste – perhaps that was psychosomatic.

Okay, so we’ll let it go until next Sunday and see were we stand. Some on the Mr. Beer Fans forum have stated that an additional (third) week in the keg isn’t out of the question. Damn! I can’t wait that long!

In the meantime, perhaps Johnny Southside and I need to mull over some names for this Red Ale we’re brewing. I’m thinking if it’s a failure, we call it “Flaming Red Failure,” or “Dismal Red Ale.” If that’s the case, I’ll probably take my half of the product and give it to relatives for Christmas – hey, if they love me, they’ll have to love my beer, too! Can’t be any worse than the fruitcake we trade year after year after year!

Stay tuned for more news on the brewfront.

Wait, there’s more!

Even if the actual brewing process isn’t (currently) living up to my expectations, I have to acknowledge that you meet the nicest folks as you hitchhike along the information/fermentation superhighway. Case in point, the kind fellow at Man Made Beer who not only has a nifty Mr. Beer brewing blog but who also acknowledged Beer Rant’s existence by paying us a visit and leaving a nice comment under an earlier post. Fear not, you’ll see Man Made Beer added to the list of beer blogs at left.

I'm falling behind in my beer posts. Recently I've sampled a summer wheat, a triple stout and an ESB. Hopefully I'll get 'round to posting on them in the next few days before I lose track of things!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Skull Splitter - 1 George Washington - 0

I’ll tackle a couple quick topics with this post. I tried a beer that’s listed in Michael Jackson’s beer book and I attempted something of an internet parlor trick. One worked out well, the other, eh, not so much.

I have a personal rule to never bet against someone who claims to be able to do something outrageous. (“How much you wanna bet I can swallow this watermelon?”) Odds are, they’ve already proven to themselves that they can either accomplish the trick or somehow turn the tables such that they’ll take your money without actually doing what they claimed they could do. A couple of beer hall tricks or gimmicks that come to mind are: “Betcha’ can’t find the hitchhiker on the back of this dime,” and the “What would you do if you were stranded in the desert with nothing but this camel?” using a pack of Camel cigarettes. I’m just not enough of a bon vivant that I pull these sorts of tricks off very well, perhaps because I don’t hang out in bars enough to become practiced in the art of the clever beer-drinking parlor trick.

Nevertheless, these sorts of things intrigue me when I see them or hear about them and recently I stumbled on a method that purports to uncap a beer bottle using a regular dollar bill. Following the video instructions – seemingly to the letter – I must confess that all I managed to do was release a bit of the pressure from this bottle of Skull Splitter Scottish Ale. In the end, after two or three tries with the dollar bill, I resorted to using the old tried-and-true method of simply breaking off the neck of the bottle on the bumper of my truck.

As for the beer, it’s a dandy…well not in the dandy sort of sissy way that the term “dandy” conjures up an image of a fellow whose tastes lean more toward the sartorial than the pugilistic. You follow? I mean this is a great beer.

At a tad over 8% abv, this isn’t a session brew, but it’s alcohol bite isn’t off-putting like some of the current slate of hopped up IPAs on the market. It produced a pronounced warming effect and will probably be something I’ll seek out come wintertime.So, while I’ve managed to check off another beer from the late Mr. Jackson’s great book, I’m still struggling with how to uncap a beer bottle using a dollar bill. I think the trick is to take the dollar bill, go to the store and purchase a cheap church key.

(Mr. Beer Brewing Update: We're at week one with the Mr. Beer Red Ale experiment. The keg has been kept at a fairly constant 76 to 78 degree temperature but shows little sign of brewing activity that I can detect. A thin layer of foam about 1/8 inch thick did form on the top and has now begun to float to the bottom. I'll admit to being a bit disappointed, but with another week in the keg, perhaps things will begin to look up.)

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts