Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beer Here (Nogne O) Morke Pumpernickel Porter

Style: Baltic Porter
ABV: 7.5%
Purchased: About $8? for a 500 mL bottle at Publick House Provisions in Brookline, MA

/ 4.55
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Pretty damn dark and opaque with a dark tan head, fine bubbles which clump on the glass.

Tremendous depth to the aroma, with creamy caramel and toffee melding into fresh rye bread, pastry, and some black pepper at the end. Christmas pudding and and pumpernickel round it out. Spices enhance, but its hard to pick them out. Port-like undertones.

Very creamy, dextrinous, slick mouthfeel makes the caramel, chocolate, and dark bread flavors pop. Spicing is faint but brightens it up further. A touch of roastiness balances moreso than any hops. Dark raisin/plum flavors poke out with warmth. Carbonation is slight, letting the flavors linger on the palate longer. Could use a bit more bite, but makes for a highly drinkable beer. Alcohol warms subtly. Definitely check it out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Great Divide Titan IPA

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.8%
Purchased: $11.49 or so per 6-pack at 7-11.

/ 3.9
look: 5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | drink: 4

I'll start by saying when I bought this last summer, it had a far more intense hop nose and flavor. That said, the 3 or 4 times I've had it since, I haven't gotten the same effect, probably an east coast freshness issue. The appearance is one intangible, with a thick, clumpy froth leaving gorgeous lacing down the glass. Brilliant orange.

The nose on this one lacks the intense pine and citrus I remember from before. It is replaced with the biscuit and nuttiness reminiscent of UK base malt, and a fruity though subdued yeast character.

Citrus and pine hops remain in the flavor over the aforementioned malt. Resiny, but the biscuit flavor seems like more of a UK flavor than American.

Nice body keeps it fairly balanced and drinkable, not cloying in any sense.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Belgian-style Glacier Pale Ale

I decided to brew on Thursday last week for a couple reasons: one, to make sure I got another batch in for the upcoming Blacksburg Brew-do homebrew competition; two, to make sure I didn't flake out on brewing over the weekend and put it off again like last weekend; and three, because I was curious if I could brew an all-grain beer at night after work, and still make it to work the next day.

Indeed, though I didn't start heating my mash water until 5:15 PM, I got in a quick and tidy batch and pitched yeast by 10:30. Will L., Mike A., Chris B., neighbor Chris all stopped by to make sure I got my money's worth proving point 3. No significant hangovers.

The greatest source of anxiety for me over the past 5 or so months and numerous batches of beer has been my mash tun, a problem I recently diagnosed as a combination of warped mash tun floor and flattened out false bottom. After much debate on how to fix the problem (and nearly buying a new Rubbermaid cooler), I settled on drilling 4 holes through the mash tun floor, inserting bolts and pinning down the warped floor with nuts. The remaining 1/2 inch of bolt sticking up provides some reinforcement for the false bottom should it try collapsing under a heavy load of malt.

This mostly did the trick, much to my delight. However, my efficiency wound up extremely low (56% vs. 75% planned), which I am partially attributing to the leaks I created in the tun by not using washers or gaskets of any kind. There really wasn't much liquid coming out, but it may have filled up in the space between the plastic. It also may have been some of the more concentrated sweet wort coming out at the beginning, causing a more rapid efficiency loss. At any rate, I'll fix it for the next batch and keep my fingers crossed.

The lack of efficiency jacked up my IBUs a little and it's going to be seriously dry beer if my alcohol gets where I want it to be. Another bummer which lowered the OG (but not the efficiency) was the fact that I only had 6 ounces of corn sugar around, and I had been planning on using at least 8 ounces. So in the end, the strong Belgian IPA I was going for is going to be a hoppy, yet moderate-strength pale ale, which may be a blessing in disguise. I'd been waffling between brewing something moderate for the Brew-do or something serious for the Brewer's Guild's "Imperial Anything" competition. While I settled on something Brew-do-centric before brewing, I was still concerned my recipe would approach 7% ABV. This one should be in the 5.5% range, and will also finish fermenting quicker so it will have more time to meld and carbonate before the Brew-do, Oct. 24. Works for me.

6 lb. Belgian Pilsner malt
3 lb. Wheat malt
1 lb. Aromatic malt
.5 lb. Carapils Dextrine malt
6.3 oz. Corn sugar

Glacier hops 1 oz. 60 min, 15 min, and 10 min and 2 oz. dryhop.

White Labs WLP 500 Trappist Ale yeast

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Ryezome Label

After a lengthy hiatus, the creative bug bit me again and I made another beer label for my latest homebrew, a hoppy brown rye ale. I settled on Ryezome as the name, a reference to the 3 pounds of rye used in the recipe, and rhizomes, the rootstalks of certain plants such as hops, that grow under ground and act as a liaison of sorts between the roots and shoots of plants. The label is just a representation of an image that popped into my head when daydreaming about the beer. I liked the idea of a root system being torn out of the ground by something as unassuming as a hot air balloon, and I found it fitting for both the style of the beer and the title. 'Nuff said. :)

The beer itself was originally supposed to be a hoppy amber rye ale, but while ProMash claims the color is well within guidelines for an amber, anyone who looks at it would immediately think brown, so I'm going with that. Since its right here in front of me, I might as well throw the recipe out there:

6 lb 2-row Pale Ale malt
3 lb Munich malt
3 lb Rye malt
.5 lb 40L Crystal malt
4 oz. Carafa malt

.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.3% AA (35 min boil)
1.1 oz Nugget pellets 11.6% AA (18 min boil)
1.0 oz Columbus pellets 12.3% AA (18 min boil)
1.0 oz Columbus pellets 12.3% AA (Dryhop)
.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.3% AA (Dryhop)

WLP001 California Ale Yeast - 1L starter made

After having serious issues with stuck mashes, I decided after this one stuck that I'd just siphon the wort out of the top of the tun instead of trying to get it to run out the bottom through the false bottom. It worked admirably, as I reached about 73% efficiency which is about as good as I've gotten (75% and up is ideal). I've since decided that my problems may be due to warped plastic on the bottom of the mash tun. :( A new tun may be in my future.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wachusett Green Monsta Ale

B+ / 3.8
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4.5

Style: American Strong Ale
ABV: 7.30%
Purchased: Birthday present from parents, in Massachusetts. Price unknown.

Thanks to the parents for a birthday 6-pack. Pours a stately orange-amber with a nice healthy swath of creamy head. Pretty hazy.

Slightly husky, biscuit, and caramel aroma mixed with some gentle noble hops for a balanced aroma.

While balanced in flavor as well, the malt is very interesting and almost more pronounced than the hops: sweet with light caramel, butter, and lmilk chocolate notes. The noble hops provide life and crispness to the beer, making for a very poundable beer.

Nice little brew...the head never went anywhere and the haze seemed to lift with warmth. Never guessed it was a strong ale, even with the "Big Pale Ale" note, until I saw the style and ABV on BA. Send more, Dad!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Great Divide Hades

C+ / 3.05
look: 2.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | drink: 4.5

Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 7.80%
Purchased: ~$10 for a six pack at the Good Kroger in Roanoke, VA

Very light and clear golden straw color, with a wispy, kind of sad head atop. Completely filtered, which always bums me out when dealing with a bottle of Belgian-style ale. Bottled on April 3, a little under 2 months ago. Bottle says 7.8%, not 7.3 as listed above.

Almost entirely yeast on the nose, with a bit of butter and honey. The aroma has kind of an off spice note kind of sour smelling. Not very pungent or pleasing.

The flavor first hits with light sweetness, honey maybe, then kicks in with yeast spice and clove, then finishes with that slightly off, somewhat astringent spice note again. Mouthfeel is plenty dry and peppery and it makes for one of the more refreshing 7.8% you may have. The goods just don't really do it for me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Stone Cali-Belgie IPA

A / 4.45
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 4

Style: Belgian-style IPA
ABV: 6.90%
Purchased: $8.49 for a 22 ounce bottle at Wine Gourmet in Roanoke, VA

I purchased this bottle skeptical about how well Cali would meld with Belgique, but with a deeply-rooted trust in Stone. The best Belgian ales are powerful and complex yet delicate, a quality American brewers often disregard. Stone, however, can seemingly do it all.

A smell unlike anything I've ever encountered, save a greenhouse, greets me kindheartedly, as if presenting me with a wreath of flowers for my triumph in bringing it home to be released to my senses. It's massively floral, hops blending perfectly with the earthy, fruity, and bubble gum/lemon pound cake sweet yeast aroma. Very suitable for the seasonal warmth and dampness.

The head is modest at first, a finger's worth in a fairly wide snifter. It settles thin and wispy but forms a very fine patch of lacing on the glass. The second (more vigorous) pour produces two fingers, The body is a crystal clear, brilliant golden poppy color, and I was surprised to see it was a filtered beer.

The beer is wet on the palate like morning dew. Earthy, fresh, berry fruit with a touch of lime (think mojitos), blending so well with gentle malt sweetness and again some bubble gum, that it seems the ingredients have aged together for centuries. Alas, being filtered I'm not sure how long you could age it. This is unfortunate as my only real gripe with the flavor is that it's maybe a bit too bitter for that Belgian yeast delicacy. It grows on you though.

Hops and spice coat my mouth, pleasant for me but not for all. Definitely an IPA sharpness to it. Trademark Stone.

Not really a session ale, but not supposed to be. I could see drinking a couple because it's so good, but for most, one will satisfy, if not sit heavy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rodenbach Grand Cru

Style: Flanders Red Ale
ABV: 6.00%
Purchased: 11.2 oz. bottle acquired by a friend for an unknown amount.

/ 4.6
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | drink: 5

Thanks a million to Aaron for this freeby. Dark brown with streaks of auburn, a snap crackle pop head that settles along the edges of the glass. The aroma is light but complex. Oak and fruit with dark chocolate malts and a bit of dubbel-like raisin and yeast character.

Holy crap, there is no shortage of flavor here. Admittedly I'm still new to sours, but this is the best I've had so far. The fresh, clean, sweet wine taste finishes with a mouth-puckering tartness. Glorious.

Perfect carbonation matches the tartness, producing an acidic, crisp all-encompassing mouthfeel devoid of any slick or syrupy sensations.

Incredibly drinkable, I find it hard to savor for very long. At 6% you could drink them as long as you could afford them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Poll

For all you Google Readers or those who didn't notice, I have a new poll. Vote for your favorite Revolution is Brewing Company beer label! Check out the post about "My Beer Labels" to survey the choices.

Stone/Jolly Pumpkin/Nøgne Ø Special Holiday Ale

A / 4.45
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Style: Winter Warmer
ABV: 9.00%
Purchased: By a friend for ~$5.00 for a 12 ounce bottle at Vintage Cellar in Blacksburg, VA

An emerging trend amongst successful breweries is to form partnerships with other breweries in which the brewmasters brainstorm ideas for new recipes with each other, and brew their collaboration beers at each brewery, typically as a one off specialty. This is the first example I've tried of such a beer, this one produced by Stone Brewing Co. of Escondido, CA, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, MI, and Nøgne Ø, of Lillesand, Norway. Keep them coming!

Mahogany/ruby-brown with a lot of bubbles that cascade about from the pour, beneath a tight, tiny-bubble, tan head. In a special Sam Adams glass, I saw plenty of lacing and a resilient head. Visually very pleasing.

I can definitely pick up the sage first, followed by juniper berries, with a slight citrus throughout. The smell finishes with subtle, roasted chocolate malt. It's also got a light perfumy floral thing going on, maybe from the caraway seed although I'm not really sure what that smells like to be honest. Very complex nose, which carries over to the flavor in a big way.

In the mouth: piny, musky evergreen sap you could crawl in and get lost in, a gin-like juniper bite, with sage on the periphery that seizes the finish. A very thick and mysterious mouthfeel that does well to balance the bitterness of the spices. Not much out of the malts in terms of flavor other than a solid backbone, enough sweetness to mellow it out and enough roastiness to not be too sweet. The rye and oats really contribute positively to the mouthfeel, creating a slick, spicy wonder that allows you to pull the most out of the spices. The alcohol is well-hidden until you stand up after half a bottle and fall over.

This is indeed a crazy beer...big thanks to Aaron for surprising me with it. It's an acquired tasted, but focused, and personally I enjoy it. As a homebrewer who's been dabbling in herbs and spices this winter, it's inspiring to sample such a masterpiece of extremity and balance. Here's to more collaboration beers from great brewing minds!

Allagash Four

A- / 4.05
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | drink: 4

Style: Belgian-style Quadrupel
ABV: 10.00%
Purchased: ~$9.00 at the "good" Kroger in Roanoke, VA

Murky amber-medium brown, even with a fairly delicate pour. Light just dies in the middle of the Chimay goblet. Modest head winds up a wispy froth, mostly on the edges of the glass. Batch #16, says the bottle.

Quady notes of candi sugar, caramel, milk chocolate, butter-fried hot dogs and brown sugar baked beans are prodded forth by the various Belgian yeasts. Yum.

Clean feel with just the right amount of spicy hops and carbonation makes this not too heavy to enjoy. Herb, earth and mint also comes to mind with the hops, balancing a very dark sugar-forward flavor, with some tobacco notes. Booziness is perceived before tasted - it creeps in with warmth, as butterscotch and candied dates do on the nose. With the second pour, the sugar lets up a little and I notice more chocolate and earthy hop flavors, and it's a bit smoother on the palate.

This could almost be considered a dubbel; it's easier to handle and relatively drier than most quads I've had, certainly too dark for a tripel, but lacks the raisin and sourness most dubbels tend to have. Well-crafted, warming, gets you drunk. A joy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My Beer Labels

Carrie gave me props about a month ago in her blog post about making beer labels, and I just got around to reading it. So in honor of that, here are the labels I've put together to date for my Revolution is Brewing Company homebrews. I use a program called, which is a free download that lets you import and manipulate picture files, draw, and add text to create really nice-looking images. I then print and tape the labels onto my bottles so I can easily remove them to reuse the bottles for future batches.Marsupium was my first attempt at making a label with I brewed this one in late fall 2007 for my first annual Holiday Homebrew Party. It was an extract-brewed stout with 8 oz. of organic cocoa powder added to the end of the batch. The idea behind the label was that I treated it like a baby, keeping it close as a marsupial would it's young. The kangaroo is holding a basket of hop cones and cocoa beans. It was actually brewed after Chrysalis, the next label I attempted (below). Chrysalis was a very bitter (97 IBU) dry-hopped IPA, also from extract. The grassy, spring-like flavor and aroma from all that hops (Columbus mostly, some Cascade, and Nugget for bittering) inspired the theme for the label: a butterfly emerging from a hop cone-chrysalis. This one was also served at the homebrew party in December '07. Following these, I brewed a beer called Lady Fitzgerald Irish Red, in honor of my grandmother, whose maiden name was Fitzgerald. I skipped the label on this one - although I had some ideas, the beer didn't last long enough to do one, thanks in part to St. Patrick's Day. Following Lady was Hippity Hoppity, another ultra hoppy IPA much like Chrysalis, brewed around Easter, again with no label.
Then followed a long and arduous period of being too broke or busy to brew, two words I refuse to ever let sway my brewing tendencies henceforth. The reward at the end of the tunnel was Lazarus, brewed in August 2008, a big-ass strong Belgian Golden Ale brewed with extract and a shitload of sugar. Lazarus got its name from a primary fermentation that looked like it was ready to peter out after a week, then kicked in for another week, presumably when it started eating the cane and corn sugar. Raised from the dead you could say. I also liked the religious theme that it and so many other Belgians imply, though when I made this label I was teetering more towards heresy. Yes, that's Jesus being abducted by aliens in a bottle-shaped laser beam. All in good fun.
Bellona is my first real concept beer. I envisioned a full-bodied, syrupy beer with minimal bitterness or dryness, kind of a smooth yet complex elixir. I'd wanted to experiment with agave nectar, but didn't want the yeast to eat it all, so I added it to the secondary. I used a Scottish ale yeast to keep it malt-forward, some wheat malt extract as a base, malto-dextrin to keep the body up, and kept the carbonation light. Then I used a few hop varieties that were supposed to make it qualify for the September Star City Brewers Guild Competition (Glacier, Palisade and Galena). Unfortunately, I didn't realize adjuncts weren't allowable for this competition, so obviously I couldn't enter it. The label is inspired by the city "Bellona" in Samuel R. Delaney's book Dhalgren, a city where all kinds of oddballs gather and live together. Read the book and you'll get it!Next I took a couple of months off while upgrading my equipment to all-grain. In November 2008 I brewed my first all-grain batch for the December competition, a Robust Porter with a variety of malts. By all accounts it was a solid first batch that really only suffered from low carbonation at competition time. Time took care of that though. Having brewed this shortly after the Presidential Election, and itself brewed for a competition, the political theme was in my head, so I dubbed it Proletariat, a working class style (see History of Robust Porter) for the working class. Instead of a hammer and sickle, thats a crossed mash paddle and auto-siphon. The Voice of the People Series is a gimmick that will cover all of the beers I brew for competions through this year (American Brown, Saison, Oatmeal Stout and Imperial whatever).
Dreamer was my second all-grain beer, one that started out with every intention of being a strongish English export ale or special ale, but whose original gravity wound up low enough to fit comfortably in the Extra Special Bitter (ESB) category. There's a movie I won't mention that kind of inspired this, in addition to my constant daydreaming at work of someday opening a brewery. The peacock is a reference to the book Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver that I read and liked in high school...seemed relevant. This one was a little rushed (trying to get it finished for Christmas which didn't happen) so it's not my favorite.
Lastly, for now, is Flora. With the homebrew shop closed the day after Thanksgiving and myself itching to brew, I turned to Patrick from the Brewers Guild to supply me with some grains. I wound up with a recipe much different from what I was intending, so I personalized it by adding some rose hips, the dried berries of rose plants often used in teas, to the end of the brew. It's very citrusy and a bit too bitter from hips and hops, but certainly its own animal, and packs a nice punch. The label theme is kind of obvious, "flora" meaning plant material, this shows a picture of some roses taken by Bailie out in our yard from last summer, a picture of hop vine leaves, and a picture of a rye plant.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment. I'll post new labels as they are conceived!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

B / 3.75
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | drink: 5

Style: Kolsch
ABV: 4.60%
Purchased: $2.29/bottle at Wine Gourmet in Roanoke, VA

First off, I was misled by the label into thinking this was a Pale Ale. Indeed it is pale and it is an ale, but it's actually a Kolsch-style ale. Fine with me, nothing wrong with a good Kolsch (it may even be next on the brewing agenda).

Poured into a stange, this beer exhibits a very light straw color with a touch of haze. The white foamy head has a respectable layer of retention with some clumping. Lemon and a bit of cake on the nose.

The mouthfeel strikes me as starchier than expected. Its rough, hop-forward flavor exhibits lemon tartness and pale German malt. The hops give character where the grains merely balance. Very spicy bitterness. This would be a very nice summer pounder but the lemon flavor is a little too one-dimensional.