Sunday, December 30, 2007

Don't like your job? Quit!

I did. Gonna put some hours in at Bob's Homebrew and try to pick up a Beertending gig while I complete my Business Plans. More on that later. Mind is still slightly blown. Does that hard dark knot in the pit of my gut signal the exit to self employment?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"This one time at Judge Camp..."

12/1: Advanced Judge training at Full Sail, Hood River, Oregon hosted by Ted Hausotter, BJCP Master Judge. Loooong way to go. Good information on sour flavors in beer, flavor effects of sugars in brewing and judging mead. Young Orval only misses the point, Sorry Ron. Jammed 50 5-gallon Corny kegs in the back of the truck for the ride home. Nice. Oh, it stormed and poured snow all the way home. Real nice.

Big Wood

11/29: Went down to Brouwer's for their wood aged beer festival. Tons of amazing beer on draft. Dozen or so sour beers and about three times as many big beers. Most of them being stronger styles. Two sour Lost Abbey selections; "Brouwer's Blend" Stong Dark and "Yellow Bus" peach beer. Brouwer's Blend appeared to be a blending of different vintages of Cuvee de Tomme; excellent flavors of resinous herbs, chocolate and balsamic vinegar. We managed to show up right as it was 86'd but did get a short sip from a friend. Yellow Bus on the other hand was a bit of a challenge; very firm acetic/white vinegar with a distinct pedio/diacetyl note long through the finish. Wooof. Maritime Bourbon Bosuns' Black was the best; firm bodied chocolatey/smoky Porter with delicious caramel candy flavors from the Bourbon Barrel. The beers that showed the best were the ones where the addition of wood added real dimension and depth of flavor. Flyers Laphroiag Oaked Bottleworks VIII Imperial Scotch Ale; quite a mouthful and quite a mouthful; full bodied, boozy, rich malt sugar flavors against firm & phenolic oak. Elysian Jack Frost; candyish malt and firm citrusy bitterness out of a Jack Daniels barrel. Hair of the Dog Fred on the Wood; hearty, sprucy and candyish Strong Golden. Port Brewing Older Viscosity; sugary, intense maple and roast-like flavors with a huge Port Wine nose. Amazing beers, every one.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


11/25: Got the word from the BJCP Mothership that I've been awarded the rank of National in the Beer Judge Certification Program. Huzzah! Now, on to Master.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Novembeerfest '07

11/3: Judged at the Impaling Alers' annual Fall event. Sat a flight of 7 American Pale and Amber Ales. All pretty good, firm upper 20's and mid-30's. Good clean beers, good expression of style. Lunch, then a flight of 8 Spice/Herb/Vegetable beers. Standouts were two Sweet Stouts; one flavored with vanilla and another with ginger, orange and cinnamon. Obviously the same beer with differing flavor treatments. The ginger, orange and cinnamon version was real nice; like a black treacly Christmas pudding. Ooh, and a pale beer flavored with oregano. Interesting but not without it's own distinct nauseating charm. These types of beers are a challenge to judge, especially when the base beer style isn't mentioned. Your Spice/Herb/Vegetable, Wood Aged, Smoked and Specialty entries would all score better/more accurately if you'd make sure to include ALL the pertinent info with the entry. Base beer style, special ingredients, types of wood, types of smoke, and whatever else you can fit in would be sooo much help. Sat the Best of Show panel. 15 top notch homebrews. Best of Show was our ginger, orange and cinnamon Sweet Stout, 2nd Best of Show was a Dopplebock (fine malt complexity though a little bit thin bodied and hot) and 3rd Best of Show was a Strong Scotch Ale (firm malt, a bit of booze but lacking a distinct smoky phenolic). Seemed to be a bit of difference of opinion about what constitutes Best of Show judging criteria (first time I've ever used that word in a sentence, I swear). Got down to the last 3 beers of the 1st pass, one of which was a lambic. Judge X starts to spiel about how wonderful it is. I say not so fast; it's far too acetic and very one-dimensional. It simply did not taste very good. Judge X starts to comment about how it represents the style better than the other two beers in our taste-off. I say well at this point the most important thing is quality of flavor. Judge X hisses at me, hisses at me!, "We judge by style!" Not so fast Chieftan, these beers have already been judged for style. That's the whole point of the mornings' previous judging. Best of Show round is the part of the contest where we pick the best tasting beer. Style considerations are important, but mostly when you're making eliminations or ordering the remaining entries and then as a way of edging one beer over another. Sheesh. Judge X also didn't appreciate a comment made about the Strong Scotchs' lack of smoke. "These aren't smoked beers." Duh. Style guidelines state that Scotch Ales may have a phenolic smokiness. Which means that if you expect one and it's not there and that one consideration means it comes up short against the Dopplebock then it's getting a downcheck for not having it. Are there a lot of prick homebrew judges out there?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

2007 Season Opener

10/13: Brewed the first of this years' Christmas beers. 10 gals. of 17P Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale inspired wort.

12# Marris Otter
12# 2-row Pale
1# each 120L & 80L Crystal

Chinook, Centennial & Casdade in the kettle for 80 IBU

1# Golden Bakers' Sugar and 1/2# Corn Sugar into the kettle right before the fire went off and 2 ounces Cascade went in to steep.

Pitched a big 2 quart starter of Wyeast 1056.

Bitter wort was yummy and bitter. Mmm...

This will transfer onto dryhops, same as the kettle hop varieties. I'll put it into a keg with more dryhops still.

Got the goods for 5 gals. of Belgian-Style Dark Strong and 5 gals. of Robust Porter. May not get the Dark Strong put up in time for the Holidays. The Robo-Po shouldn't be a problem. Makes a delicious full bodied chocolatey and strong Porter that's ready to get into pretty quickly. Mmm, indeed!

10/14: Scored 15 gallons of Fox Island Farms' 13.5P apple juice. Bruce managed to get it into town in one piece this year. Huzzah! Straight apple juice + yeast this time. No honey or other sugars. Poured off 2 quarts or so for a starter of the Wyeast 1056. Turned over pretty quick and then into each of the 5 gallon carboys. They kicked off real quick; very frothy and slightly sulfurous fermentations. This stuff should attenuate pretty well and make a nicely drinking dry cider.

The Great X-Brew BBQ Turkey Michael Jackson Memorial Toast

9/29: Judged X-Brew out at the Issaquah Brewhouse. Kinda funny though, 40 entries and about 16 judges. Sat one panel of mixed entries; Standard Lager, Helles, Bohemian Pilsner, Blonde Ales, a Cream Ale and a German-Style Wheatbeer. A bit of allright. Lots of off-flavors and aromas apparent. Hope these dudes are happy with my comments. Sat the Best of Show flight. Lots of good flavor. Best of Show went to a really nice smoked Doppelbock. RIch malt flavors, nicely alcoholic and firm bacon-like smoke. Spot on. Second Best of Show went to a smoked Marzen entry in the X-Brew catagory. Very interesting and complex malt and smoke flavors. In the Dopplebock the malt and smoke flavors were very well integrated. In the Marzen the malt and smoke flavors seemed to hit in two different spots in the palate. No less rich and complex than the Dopple just quite distinct. Turns out both were brewed by my friend Nathan. Cheers, Z! The one flight and the B.O.S. means I have enough points for my National pin. Huzzah! Now all I need is to make up 9 points on the exam and 20 more points and I'm a Master Judge. Whee!

9/30: Got up early to BBQ some turkeys for a family dinner later in the afternoon. Fresh natural turkeys brined with brown sugar and citrus, cooked low over a hardwood charcoal fire with applewood. Fantastic. Think I might look into opening the "House of Turkeys". Turkeys were a hit at dinner. Stopped in at the Pike on the way home to raise a glass to Michael Jackson. Glad we did. Cask Pike IPA, cask Bhagwan from the Big Time and cask Wildcat from Snoqualmie on the bar. Probably the three best IPAs in the area. Charles Finkel made a little speech and made the toast. Good room. Lots of good people in it.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Brouwers Hopfest '07

9/7: Brouwers' Hopfest 2007. Beautiful evening, a table on the patio and 56 IPAs on draft. We managed to get through like 30 or so. Quite a broad range of flavors on all accounts; malt, hop bitterness, aroma and flavor, mineral/sulfate, alcohol and yeast flavors. I liked the Dryhopped Pike IPA the best; medium-light body, very fine hop character, great balance of flavor and very drinkable. Way drinkable. Enjoyed the Big Time Scarlet Fire dryhopped with fresh hops out of Bills' yard. Nice herbal/vegetal flavors, like celery tops and lemon thyme. Hair of the Dog Blue Dot like an English IPA on steroids. Flyers Mach II; big Bongwater-Style NW IPA. Very much to my taste with a sweet nose-in-the-hop-bag aroma. Skagit Bourbon Barrel Scullers on cask; firm bitterness, nice oak notes, rich flavors reminiscent of dry cocoa powder and vanilla milkshake. Two vintages of Maharaja Double IPA from Avery. The 2/20 was the best; everything you'd want and expect. Firm body, nice light-toasty caramel malt, firm citrus/resin bitterness/hop flavor all the way through the palate with a slight warmth in the finish. Just enough alcohol rising through the sinus to carry some sweet hop notes, very nice flavor effect. The 5/14 promised all that up front but seemed to be a bit rough with some solventy alcohol. Maybe that extra 3 months in cold storage really did the job for the 2/20. Kitty-corner from Brouwers is the old Redhook keg yard where there are still hops growing up over the walls. I went and pulled some hops off, brought them back to the table and we used them to doctor our own "Fresh Hopped" beers. Not sure of the variety, I think something like Willamette, but really oomphed up some of the "Not So Much" beers. We managed to work in a few rounds of other beers; Rochfort 10, the Lindemans Cuvee Renee, Schlenkerla Mårzen and Einbecker Maibock. Whew. Don't quite recall the walk home. And Saturday was a little rough. Hoo boy, was Saturday rough.

Beer Bottling Blitzkrieg

9/2: Hunkered down and got a couple batches of beer put away. Barley Wine into 2 cases of 12 oz'ers and a short case of 22's. Imperial Stout into 2 cases of 22's. Saison into 2 cases of 22's and a corny keg. Transfered the Biere de Garde from under it's pellicle into a clean carboy. I've had a couple ounces of the Stavin American Oak cubes soaking in some George DIckel for a awhile. I dosed some of the Barley Wine and Imperial Stout with these. Wasn't sure of how far to go with the addition of oak cubes so I did 2 pairs of bottles with 4 cubes and 2 pairs of bottles with 6 apiece. The Imperial Stout got a similar treatment but starting with more cubes, like 8 to 10. I figure I can up the dose as needed. Very excited to see how these turn out. The bottles smelled amazing before the caps went on. The Imperial Stout turned up spot on; bitter black, slightly oily with a lightly ashy finish. The Saison should condition up nice; earthy, toasty malt, lightly drying and spicy. The BdG has got some interesting stuff going on; firm and dry "cellared" character with a touch of tangy pineapple. Something wild going on, perhaps a touch of the Brett. I'll bottle this up shortly and we'll see how we do.

Friday, August 31, 2007

MIchael Jackson 1942-2007

Michael Jackson has been a profound influence on me, where beer flavor is more important than beer style. Beer is not simply defined by OG, TG, IBU, SRM and ABV. Mr. Jackson presented a point of view where the broader flavor profile is the least of it. The simple technical characteristics of a beer fit within style description. The subjective qualities of beer; aroma, appearance, texture, food accompaniment, and the simple satisfaction of a soft pint have a deeper significance. Similar to the way wine is tasted and described, Mr. Jackson brought a lexicon and a sense of literature to the way beer flavor is described. Beer style is a function of beer flavor and the technical, geographic, cultural, and commercial influences on that beer flavor. Mr. Jackson was a sound authority on those influences and their importance. Every beer tells a story and Michael Jackson was a great story teller.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And On To the Beach

8/5-8/12: Spent the week camping at Kalaloch. Very nice. Though it took until Thursday to really unwind. The ten gallons of Red Ale was delicious. Firm malt: chewy, lightly sweet and raisiny, excellent bitterness: that bittering hop combination is a nice balance of "clean" and "dirty" bitternesses, good hop fragrances and flavors, and nice fruity esters: melon and pears. Carbonation was a bit on the low side which was fine. I usually just stick the keg in a bucket of water for cooling, so the beer pours at "cellar" temperature. Mmmm, nice and soft.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Into the Keg

3/14: Kegged the Red Ale. Dryhopped each keg with an ounce of Amarillo. Terminal gravity was just a touch high. Maybe it'll dry out a little further. Tastes nice though. Quite firm bitterness, raisiny malt flavors and light fruity esters.

I think I might toss all my kegs and start over. Couldn't get the liquid tube of the second keg to stay pointed straight down the keg. It kept twisting. Son of a Beeotch. Aw, maybe I'm due for a coupla keg reconditioning kits. Although tossing out all those ungrateful MF's sounds appealing.

I'll have to forego brewing the beers for the wedding party. Not enough time. Plus too hot for brewing. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sketches of Belgium

The grand detailed post reflecting on our recent trip to Belgium is feeling a little over-ambitious. We're deep into extra hours at work and spending any more time in front of a computer keyboard than I absolutely have to is a bit "Not so much" right now. Anyway, here's the Fisher-Price version:

Checked into Brussels June 13th for a two night stay. Our first meal in Belgium was mussels and frites at Chez Leon washed down with Mort Subite Geueze. Hit Delirium (spent two evenings "in residence"), Poechenellekelder (awesome little cafe and great staff) and the Cafe Mort Subite. Dinner at t'Spanakopke, desert was an assortment of sorbet made from beer (Wit, Kriek Lambic and an amazing spot of Maredsous 10 - delicious). Picked up the rental and sped North to Antwerpen (should have followed Dons' advice and went with the GPS option). Stopped at Het Anker for lunch. In Antwerpen, checked into the Hotel Rubens off the Grande Place. Maredsous 10 and Liefmans Kriek on draft at Kulminator. Went for the 20 year old bottle of Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus (musty, mushroomy and heatburny). After dinner beers at Pater's Vaetje. Lunch the next day at the DeKoninck cafe. Then off to Ghent. Beautiful city. Dulle Griet and Het Waterhuis aan de Bierkant housebeers; light, mildly sweet pale Blonde and a dryish, bitter effervescent pale beer. Both very tasty. Off to Brugge for three nights. Checked in to the Hotel Erasmus. First class accomodations, first class kitchen and great location. Found t'Bruges Beertje, Cambrinus, De Halve Maan Brewery and Cafe Vlissinghe. Met a very kind and generous local gentleman at the Beertje who offered to give us a walking tour of Brugge. Two mornings of amazing walks through the town telling the story of Brugge. We spent one day out of town and drove out to the North Sea coast, then off to Trappist Westvleteren for lunch at the De Vrede. Simply amazing; beautiful lunch of the Brothers' cheese, pate and bread along with their profoundly delicious beers. Peak experience for sure. Last Supper in Brugge was at Den Huzzar; recommended by our new friend Paul. I had a delicious Brugge specialty of braised pork cheek with grapes. Rich and intensely flavored. Washed down nicely with the Bruges' Zot. From Brugge to Mons. Our first serious brush with the language barrier. Mons to Rochefort. On the way went west to pay our respects to Brasseries' Dupont and Dubuisson. A few rounds of Saison and samples of the new Moinette fruit beer (flavored with green apple and black currant; tart and pleasantly sweet). Lunch at the Dubuisson cafe. Overcooked food. But the Cuvee de Trolls and the Bush 7% were very nice. Checked in at Rochefort. Dinner at the Hotel Luxembourg Cafe. Nicely prepared Entrecote (a little tight for medium) with frites accompanied by a few rounds of Trappist Rochefort beers. From Rochefort out to Orval for a stroll through the ruins of the old Abbey. Lunch at the Cafe down the road; the 6.5% Orval was quite a bit milder than what we get here (Brett character was light and faintly pineappley) and the Petite Orval was particularly nice (mild Pale Ale, well hopped with elegant Sulfate notes). Off to Luxembourg city for the National Holiday Party. And Luxembourgers know how to party. The whole town is roped off and turned into a beer garden. Beer stalls and sausage vendors on every block. Tons of music; the whole gamut of rock bands and DJs all over (some really good ones too). Very pleasurable experience wandering around with a half liter of Bofferdings (crisp and creamy Pils with faint hints of Kolsch) in one hand and a hot and juicy smoked Mettwurst in the other. Very civilized. Hung out to watch the fireworks, more accurately we hung out and got fireworked on. Luxembourg to Houffalize. Paid our repects at Brasserie LaChouffe. Stayed at the Hotel du Commerce in Houffalize, very nice accomodations and the staff was very forgiving about our lack of French. Back to Brussels. On the way a stop at the Drie Fontainen Cafe for Sunday lunch. Young Lambic and Faro off the handpump, real tart with firm acetic flavors and the same flavored with sugar syrup. Checked in at Brussels. Toured Cantillon. Another couple rounds at Delirium. If I had been paying attention earlier in the trip I would have got onto the La Rulles Estivale a lot sooner; light bodied, pale & hazy, effervescent, intensely bitter and dryhopped. Excellent. Got some shopping out of the way, mostly chocolate to take back with us. Chocolate covered candied orange peel from Planet Chocolate is the best. Though the girls on duty were shocked when we mentioned pairing beer and chocolate. Found the one restaurant in the city that has Pho on the menu. Nice. Adieu to fair Brussels and off to the airport. Delayed flight meant having to spend a couple hours washing down Neuhaus chocolate truffles with half liters of Leffe Blond. Darn. In all our trip to Belgium was amazing.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Something Reddish

6/30: Brewed 10 gals. of beer for our week at Kalaloch in August.

10# 2 Row
5# Marris Otter
5# Munich
2# Honey Malt
1# Biscuit Malt
1/2 #'s each; Special B & Crystal 120

Made an attempt at a Batch Sparge and the efficiency was just 65%. Bummer.

1 oz. 13.3% alpha Simcoe @ 1st wort
1 oz. 11.5% alpha Magnum + 1/2 oz. 13.1% alpha Chinook + 1/2 oz. 17% alpha Columbus at 60 and 30
1 oz. 8.9% alpha Amarillo at 20 and 10

Pitched the Wyeast 1098 British Ale. One of my favorites; good attenuation, malt and hop accenting and a nice flavor profile overall.

I'll dryhop each tank with an ounce of the Amarillo for added dimensions of hoppiness. I'm expecting a firm bitterness from this beer and the dryhop should compliment nicely.

We'll take a tank of Saison with us too.

I'm soo looking forward to hitting the Coast. This has been a yearly trip for ages, we missed it last year and this year will make up for it. Campfires, beach walks, toss some horse shoes, fly a bit of kite, afternoon naps, lotsa hearty home brewed beer and good food. My favorite camping lunch is cold roast chicken, hard white cheddar and Stoned Wheat Thins washed down with lashings of good home brewed beer. Hmmm.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

... The Wonderful Wizard of Ahs

We're back. Amazing. I'll be posting more as I get my notes sorted.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Off To See The Wizard...

We're off to Belgium. Not a moment too soon either. Last couple weeks have been a Perfect Storm of family obligations (folks from out of town, houseguests, a Commencement). I'm starting to feel the "Got To Brew" pinch. All me free time I would have used in April/May for brewing, I was judging. Extra hours at work and the familial plague since then have precluded any time in the Homebrewery. Oh, my truck got hit too and I've had to contend with that. Drivers' side door won't operate. Climbing in and out through the passenger side is a f*cking drag. But we have a couple days out of town to look forward to. I'm taking the kit so I'll be able to post, maybe put up some pictures. I hope to return inspired and hot to fire up the kettles. When we get back I'll be brewing some Double IPA and Strong Wit for a friends' wedding party and beer for our camping trip in August (a 4C Pale and some nice, nutty Mild). And then I'll see where the Belgian Retreat leads me.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Dinner With Tomme

5/21: Tomme Arthur beer dinner at Union hosted by the Rare Beer Club. Six courses of American Bistro-Style cuisine paired with beers by Artisinal Brewer Tomme Arthur. Woo woo! This should be good. Tomme says that he doesn't brew Belgian-Style beer but Belgian-Inspired beer, cool with me, but they're still Belgian-Styled beers.

• Hors d'oeuvres: Nice firm and nutty prosciutto with toasted Spanish almonds and batter fried quail legs served with the Lost Abbey Devotion ale. Dry, drinkable and dry-hopped glass of "6". Firm resinous bitterness and soft conditioning. A nice pair with the prosciutto not so much with the quail (too much batter coating, tough, dry meat).

• Foie Gras Terrine with Pear Mostarda (pear candied with mustard) served with Mahleur Brut Reserve. The Lost Abbey beer "Signature" was not available due to Customs SNAFU so was replaced by the Brute. Amazing glass of beer; elegant aromas of perfumed tropical breezes, deep earthy cellar flavors, luscious velvet-like mouthfeel, warming and heady at the finish. Excellent pair with the liver, both similarly rich on the palate but played with the spicy/sweet pear/mustard and the effervescent Brut. Nicely done.

• Seared Halibut with Braised Morel, English Peas served with Lost Abbey Avant Garde ale. Tomme Arthurs' Blonde Biere de Garde didn't display the dry, earthy richness I associate with this type of beer. A fine, dry cracker malt character, bitter forward (slightly too much so) and a tad too much spritz in the condition. Seemed to close to the Devotion. The dish was similarly a little loose; fish slightly overdone, not enough morel and the peas too firm. Better yet would have been a larger proportion of morel presented as ragout placed over a rich puree of peas and topped with a flash seared piece of fish. The highest quality halibut can stand to be served slightly less than medium. No matter what the Health Department says.

• Braised Veal Cheek with Potato and Ramp Puree, Roasted Artichokes served with Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale. EEK! The servers are swirling the bottles! Yuk, serving the lees should be optional at best. I'm careful to select from the brighter pours from here on. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 45 Saison; a very expressive mix of earthy perfumes, spices, lightly resinous bitterness, tart mineral-like yeast and firm effervescence. Paired with a drop dead amazing dish of intensely rich and flavorful fall-apart-under-the-fork cheek, rich buttery puree and fleshy artichoke. Good pairing where the beers' black peppery notes complimented the dish and forward bitterness and firm conditioning kept the palate bustling.

• Roasted Venison served with Lost Abbey 10 Commandments ale. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 8 Saison; strong, dark and richly flavored, firm bodied and dry chocolatey, light rum and raisin flavors complimented by a light peppery yeast character. Served with a very rich and firm medallion of venison loin with a red wine/dried cherry jus. A good dish but after that veal cheek, it just doesn't show very well. Pairs with the beer OK, nice warm spiciness of the beer compliments the venison. I might have chosen something else, duck, goose or wild boar, to pair game with the 10C. Texturally the venison was just too big and chewy.

• Chocolate Terrine, Coffee Ice Cream, Pistachio Brittle served with Cuvee de Tomme 2005. Aromatic and funky; strong, dark chocolate, bourbon oak, meaty cherry pit and wonderful Brettanamyces tang. A delicious take on the Belgian Sour Red. Served with a challenging chocolate terrine; too starchy tasting with a slightly gritty texture. OK ice cream and just a dusting of the brittle. Better yet would have been a single simple chocolate truffle faintly infused with black pepper. The Cuvee de Tomme is a deeply flavored glass of beer. Almost too much to serve just to wash down a desert. Maybe a sliver of a hard, aged cheese, Manchego or Edam; a slight salty/nutty counterpoint to the fruit and tang of the Cuvee would be nice. I could go on and on. Man, it was tasty.

Does it seem like "earthy" as a flavor descriptor is overused here? What the hey, if the shoe fits... "Beer Style" or the language we use to define and describe beer flavor always reflects where the beer comes from. Tomme Arthur is partial to Farmhouse or Country Style beers, Saison and Blonde/Brune Biere de Garde are just the starting points. These types of beers come from the land and the people who work the land. These beers will share aromas and flavors with the things that come out of that ground and that ground itself. Tomme Arthur considers himself an artist, his palette is beer flavor and he has deep talent for creating a true expression of where beer comes from.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

My Brewers Cup Runneth Over

5/5: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day One. Showed up early out at Redhook Woodinville to help pull entries and whatnot. Sat two flights. Seven Pilsner entries; Germans and Bohemians and one Classic American Pilsner (Advanced to BOS). Seven Stout entries; all the substyles represented except for Russian Imperial Stout. The best was a very nice Foreign Extra.

5/12: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Two. Showed up early out at Redhook Woodinville to help setup, pull entries and yes, whatnot. Sat three flights. Nine American Ale entries; Pales and Ambers. One of the Pales was nice, scored a 37. Seven Belgian and French Ale entries; three Wits, a Belgian Pale, a Saison and a "Specialty Ale" (no French bieres). One flight of 4 Other Smoked Beers and 3 Wood Aged Beers; good entries overall, the Smoked Dunkelweizen advanced to BOS. Excellent beer; sweet roll malt flavors, firm banana, warm spice phenol (clove, cardamom) and firm smoke. Think Bananas' Foster over the campfire. Should have been the big session but only 6 judges showed. Bummer.

5/16: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Three. Pick-up judging session at Mountain Homebrew to make up for getting stiffed last Saturday. Sat one flight of Specialty Beer (Huzzah!). Interesting ingredients, etc.; a very fine Berliner Weisse (firm carbonation, soft lactic character, dry with green apple notes) and a handful of entries that appeared to be Dogfish clones (a Golden Shower-like Strong Bohemian Pilsner, an Indian Brown and a Black & Blue-like beer but with cherries along with the blueberries instead of blackberries).

5/19: Cascade Brewers' Cup Day Four. Lake Washington Rowing Club at 9AM. Sat a flight of Russian Imperial Stout with 8 entries. Solid low to mid 30's and then a 41 for the final entry. Great glass of beer; rich complex malt flavors, tons of chocolate, dried dark fruit and alcohol, low carbonation with a velvety mouthfeel. Sat the Best of Show round. That was a bit of allright, took a bit long to get it knocked out though. Win, Place, Show turned out to be a Weissbier, an American IPA and a British-Style Premium Bitter. The Best to Brew prize went to the 41 point RIMP.

Cheers to the Brewers' Cup Organizer for pulling the Competition along kicking and screaming. For a club that has a national level competition written into the bylaws you'd figure that it wouldn't be so hard to get the clubs' judges to participate. Sheesh. Anyways, I believe that I now have enough experience points fer me National pin. Yes!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Real Corker

5/8: Batch primed, dosed with a bit of fresh yeast and bottled the Golden Strong. Put it into "Belgian-Style" brown glass bottles (750's with the broad shoulders) and corked 'em. Cages took a bit to get a suitable method down. Fingers crossed.

Got down to 2P for terminal gravity. That dose of sugar at high krausen must've worked well. Out of the carboy the beer is a deep gold, has a fine malt sweetness, a firm phenolic spiciness and a quite forward hop character. Bitterness apparent with a firm spicy/herbal hop flavor. Finishes a bit grassy, sl. chewy with a lingering anise-like note. Should be great after conditioning.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Overall Impression: 3/10

On the way home from Portland, reflecting on that days' judging experience, I decided that unless you're putting your ass in a chair to judge at home brew competitions you have no business entering beer into home brew competitions for judging. Competition organizing and judging take up a huge amount of time and effort. Judging your home brewed beer is a lot of work. There are many entries that absolutely require very thoughtful deliberate consideration. Particularly when a Quality Judge is working at rating the beer accurately for competition and providing meaningful feedback for you, the brewer. The program needs more judges, especially in regions like ours where there are a lot of very active competitive home brewers, great distances seperate our events and the ratio of entries to available judges is high. The goal should be to minimize the number of entries each judge has to evaluate. Fewer entries means less palate blow-out, higher quality feedback on the scoresheet and I don't go home feeling like I spent the day drinking hairspray. Home brew judging should be enjoyable.

Entrants are hopeful that the feedback they receive from the judges will help them brew better beer. Sounds good, but the best way to develop a better understanding of beer flavor profile and process is by judging beer. I repeatedly hear two comments from beer judges; "I got involved with judging because I wasn't satisified with the quality of the comments I received for my entries and I knew I could do better" and "Once I started judging beer the quality of my home brew improved". Cheers to the former as I think the program is strongest when we take responsibility for it by entering beers into home brewing competitions for judging and then supporting home brew competitions by judging in them. In regards to the latter, the quality of your home brewing (beer, mead, cider, sake, experimental, extreme, kitchen sink beers, whatever) will improve to a greater degree with involvement in judging than by simply relying on a judges' feedback. Learning to judge beer, developing the understanding of every aspect of brewing, flavor evaluation and quality assessment necessary for Quality Judging will do better for your brewing in a way that comments on a scoresheet never will. Cheers!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I Heart Portland

3/28: Got a wicked early start and hit the road for Portland to judge the second split of our regions' entries for 1st Round Nationals. Failed a saving throw against getting lost but still made the venue early. My Judging Mentor made an appearance. Hadn't seen him in awhile, so it was cool to get caught up with him. Sat a flight of 7 entries in the American Pale Ale category (with a taste off between the high scorers of 4 flights of APA) and after lunch a flight of 6 entries in the Robust Porter category (with a taste off between the hight scorers of 2 flights of RP). The APA's were mostly high 20's/low 30's and mostly to style with the exception being an overall lack of well balanced hop character; over bitter without much forward aroma and flavor. There were a couple real nice Robust Porters though. The best one was well bittered, had nice raisiny black malt flavors and a stiff alcoholic backbone. Very well made.

My first out of town judging experience was mostly positive. First off, I appreciate and understand the time and effort made by anyone undertaking the task of organizing a homebrew competition especially a first-timer. The Organizer, his staff, the 'Brew Crew and allied judges in attendance were friendly, capable and on mission. A lot of credit goes to the Organizer and his staff for keeping the judges assigned to flights a mix of experienced BJCP and less experienced BJCP/non-BJCP. With the amount of entries and typical judging day madhouse this effort to support the BJCP programs' mission of beer judge education could have easily been set aside to simply plow through the assembled entries. Now, the "wah-mbulance"; I would have preferred that the judges been assigned to their flights and not left standing around like my amigos at the Home Depot, stepping forward willy-nilly as the flights were brought out. Also avoiding the situation where the local bull judges are zipping up the foxiest categories. I would have liked some preference shown to the judges from out of town. Like maybe some locals stepping forward to help pull the first couple flights instead of the judges from Seattle and Redmond. Anyway, maybe I can squeeze a staff point out of it.

Wimped out on sitting a 3rd flight. A long drive home and still had some errands to run. Hit the Roots organic brewpub for a short pour of their IPA. Awesome glass of beer; huge hop aroma (cut grass/lemon pepper, some sweet resin) wicked up front bitterness, huge herbal/resinous hop flavors, firm lightly sweet malt and very well carbonated. Tasted like weed, yummy. Found the Belmont Station at their new location. Went into the cafe and sat down to a glass of Chouffe Houblon Belgian-style IPA. Delicious. Chatted with the beertender, Wade, super nice guy. I made a pass through the bottleshop on the way out to pick up a few things that aren't distributed up here in Seattle. Mostly Jolly Pumpkin stuff. I think I may have pretty well wiped the Blemont out. Some Roja, some Maracaibo, some Blanca, the last of their Oro and most of the Bam 12 ozs'ers they had on hand. They talked me into a bomber of the 2006 Barley Wine from Pelican, in place of a very expensive Arctic Devil. And then back to the house.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

BJCP Style Guide Amendment

Just had a really obnoxious idea. How 'bout adding food pairings to the BJCP Style Guide? Ya know, just slipped in after the list of commercial examples.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Korean-Style Short Ribs + Export-Style lager = TL4E

Came up with a wicked simple marinade that is simply wickedly delicious.

Equal parts soy sauce and brown sugar (1/2 cup or so each)
8-ish garlic cloves, minced (better yet, half a head of garlic, minced)
A wee dribble of Mirin
A not-so-wee dribble of Sesame Oil
Many grinds of white pepper
A handful of sliced green onion

Threw this into a zip-bag with some good looking Natural Beef short ribs cut Kalbi style. Just short of 4 pounds. Zipped up, massaged it a bit and then into the fridge. Let it rest about 2 hours. Got a nice medium-afterburner fire going in the Egg. I've been rocking the Kingsford brand hardwood charcoal lately. Not bad at $6.99 for a 10# bag (should probably have stocked up). Burns clean and hot with some nice campfire notes. Anyway, on with the ribs. Centered over the fire at 2 mins. per side. Just enough for some good color and cooked to medium (maybe 3+ mins. on that 1st side next time). Served with chili/garlic stir-fried Asparagus and steaming hot white rice. Very nice indeed.

The only thing missing were quarts and quarts of cold and crisp home brewed Export-Style Lager to wash it down. Export is one of my dream styles. Medium-full bodied, lightly malt sweet, firm underlying bitterness, tight conditioning and a snappy finish. I love it. Made do with Singha for the ribs. I like the Singha but it's a bit moody and you don't always end up with a brightly flavored glass of beer. If it's off, it's usually stale. BJCP places Singha in the American Premium Lager catagory. I'm thinking "Not so much". An OG of 1.064 and medium-full body with a well distinguished malt complexity should place it well outside the American Premium standard. When I want Export-Style beer I go for Singha (though that 1.064 is still off the BJCP chart). One of my peak beer experiences is on one of our early trips to Frisco when the Gordon Biersch off Harrison was still fresh to us. We dropped in for lunch on an afternoon when they had their "Golden Export" on tap. A sublimely delicious glass of beer. Half order of zesty BBQ'd Baby Backs, salty garlic fries right off the oil and that Export-Style beer. Very, very nice indeed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

1st Round Nationals - Seattle

4/21: Sat three flights for the 1st Round National Homebrew Competition Mountain/Northwest Region. American Premium Lager, Schwarzbier and Vienna Lager. At least one good Premium; spot on balance and clean as a whistle. Schwarzbiers were interesting; seems the approach most of the entrants were going for were lagered Porters. The Viennas' were tough. Cloying malt sweetness is not the same as malt complexity. Oh, and consider shooting for the low end of the OG range on these beers fellas. Top end of the range in the Style Guide is 5.7%abv, kick those 6+ percenters up to 5A/Helles Bock. The last couple entries seemed a bit alcohol-sweet too.

We'll choogle down to Portland next Saturday for the second Mountain/Northwest Region judging session. Closing in on my National pin. Should think about retesting and scoring high enough for Master. Just need to make up 9 points on the exam. Hmm....

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Twist and Stout

4/11: Took some of the Stout to the Club meeting. So much for a Dry Stout, it's showing much, much better as a luscious chocolatey Sweet Stout.

Oh, and mind the difference between "Sterile" and "Sanitary". Harumph!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Golden Strong Ale

Scored some yeast from the Pike. A bit of their Belgian strain (White Labs 530) which is similar to the one from Westmalle.

4/5: Brew

6# Belgian Pils
6# Marris Otter
1/2# Biscuit malt
1# Flaked Barley

Gave me 5 or so gals. of 16P wort

.6 ozs. 13.3% alpha Simcoe @ 60
2 ozs. Czech Saaz plugs @ 20

Pitched the Pike/Westmalle.

This went into one of my brewing vessels lined with a fresh 33 gal. trash bag liner. There was an article in a recent Zymurgy about the effects of fermenter geometry on flavor profile. So I thought I'd try something in that direction. This setup is good for a shallow (8"-9"), open ferment. We'll see what happens.

4/11: Transfer

Into a clean, sanitzed glass carboy. Then added a syrup made up of 1 and 1/2# corn sugar and a quart or so of water.

Not being one to simply change one aspect of the process at a time; the other novel approach I'm trying with this batch is a new way of using sugar. I skipped the sugar addition in the kettle and racked the beer onto a syrup solution just past high krausen instead. Tried this to help ensure a greater degree of attenuation. Yeast will ferment simple sugars preferentialy. In a wort of complex malt sugars and simple sugars, there's a chance that as the simple sugars are completely fermented there might be viability issues that affect the fermentation of the more complex malt sugars. Leaving a relatively high terminal gravity. In this case I'm adding the simple sugars after a fair amount of the complex sugars have been taken up. So, we get attenuation of the complex sugars and nearly complete fermentation of the simple sugars and we hope a nice dryish, "digestable" glass of beer. Jamil can explain it better.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hard Liver v5

3/17: Up at 6:30 to get a fire going in the Egg. Got the brisket on then down to Brouwers at 9AM to judge Barley Wine. Scored 6 entries, the one notable entry ended up being the Old Wookie from Waterstreet. Helped collate and add up the scores. Each entry had 5 score sheets to resolve and add up for a cumulative score (each sheet representing a score between -17 and +17). Half dozen or so needed a "retest" because the scores were so wildly disparate. Well experienced judges should be able to turn in scores within 7 or 8 points of one another. Some of these entries had scores ranging from a -12 to 9. Yike. Anyway, it looked like a solid ten or so advanced to the second round with scores in the upper 40's and into the middle 50's. Went downstairs and sat down with a glass of the Arctic Devil from Midnight Sun. Excellent beer! Firm malt (warm toasted marshmellow, vanilla/maple toffee) with good bitterness underneath, warming with added dimension of flavor from being wood aged. One of the beers we missed out on at Toronado. Shot the shit for a few and went back up to the house. Made a run for groceries and back to the house to make dinner. Pulled the corned beef off the fire (I had taken the supplied pickling spices that you're supposed to use in the boil, ran them through the spice grinder with some more bay leaf and a fair whack of black pepper and used it as a sort of rub. It looked and smelled awesome), stoked the Egg up a bit, laid out some applewood and put the trout on. Went after a pitcher of my Dry Stout to find that it was really iced up. Thawed it a bit in a bucket and it started to pour OK. Finished dinner prep and dug in. Excellent meal of BBQ'd corned beef, smoked trout, cabbage (braised in water with a bit of chicken stock and green apple), carrots glazed with honey and orange, boiled potatoes (broken up on the plate, well buttered and loosened with a bit of the cabbage braising liquid) and fresh from the oven soda bread. All washed down with me Stout. Yummy to say the least. Back down to Brouwers for dessert. Notable examples were the Old Ruffian from Great Divide and the Doggie Claws from Hair of the Dog. Both beers excellent examples of a more West Coast-Styled Barley Wine. Firm heavy dextrin malt flavors, quite firm bitterness long in the palate and very aromatic. Sampled 20 good Barley Wines and one spoiled Barley Wine. The 2004 Stone Old Guardian was bad. Cloudy, vile smelling and tasting of garbage. Lots of good conversation and it looked like the yahoos were mostly well behaved too. I think I may have three offers for a job as a brewer. Stay tuned.

New Cask Festival Boogie

3/10: Washington Cask Beer Festival. Better. (see 10/16/06 post) Showed up in a rather more timely manner than last time and were treated to the last three festival glasses on the table. Lots of tasting note sheets though. Back in the Alki room which I like better than the Fisher Pavilion, not quite so bright and cavernous. Lots of good beers put out for us. Started off with the Bottleworks VIII Oak Aged Strong Scotch Ale brewed by Flyers and released to honor the Anniversary of the Bottleworks store. Very rich, satisfying meld of soft toffee-ish malt flavor and whiskey. Lush and mouthfilling on the palate. I'll have to make run for a few bottles. After putting up with a bit of weirdness from Younts we managed samples of Adambier from Hair of the Dog. This is an amazing beer; firm, full bodied, great depth of flavor, deep dark bittersweet chocolate, dried fruit (black currants and cherries), long firm bitterness and gently warming in the finish. I hadn't been too keen on this seasons' Jolly Roger out of the bottle. Maritime had a tank of Jolly seasoned with rum soaked oak on hand. Very nice, the rum and wood added some nice vanilla/maple flavors and a certain richness, like a boozy rum hardcandy. Skagit River had an excellent wood aged Porter. Medium bodied, mild nutty and toasty malt flavor with dry chocolate cocoa, just the correct amount of hop finishing a bit chewy and inviting. Perfect for a nice, ripe salty sheeps milk cheese and ripe pear. I think Dave Leonard may be on to something. He had his Belgian-Style Dubbel with him; very impressive, medium bodied, nice malt flavors (toast, raisins, dates) but very nicely attenuated. Good dextrin development and a modest terminal gravity combined for drinkability. On top of that he threw in a bit of Brett to add complexity. Not funky by any degree but just enough tart and green apple to add a savory mystery to the finish. Many good beers on hand and good people in attendance. Straight home to bed. No "Afters" this time, I had to work Sunday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dry Stout

My annual Dry Stout for St. Patty's Day.

3/3: Brew

7# Crisp Marris Otter
1# Roasted Barley
1# Flaked Barley
4 ozs. Chocolate malt

Gave me 5 gals. 11.5P wort.

2 ozs. 4.8% alpha Domestic Goldings in one addition.

Pitched the Wyeast 1084.

3/13: Rack to keg.

Terminal is 3.75P (or 1.015). Higher residual sweetness; a little too firm and chewy for a proper Dry Stout, quite nutty (Choc. Malt), long coffee-ish finish. Needs a bit of conditioning to sweeten up a bit, still a fair bit of yeasty sulfur hanging in. But tasty nonetheless.

3/15: QC

Tapped the keg to check the gas level. Turned out fine. And the sulfur has cleared. Deep brown/black, moussy tan head, mild aromatics (coffee and dark bittersweet chocolate), a light-medium body, not so chewy with the gas in it, slightly oily on the palate, firm roast flavors ending on a quite smoky note in the finish. Tasty and drinkable. Cheers.

Sweet Home Toronado

Choogled down to Frisco for a long weekend and the Toronado Barley Wine Festival. Flew out the Thurs. night and man I was pissed. Air travel in Post-9/11 Soviet America sucks. And motherfuck the TSA. That's all I got to say about that. Missed out on an early start time on Saturday for the BW Fest (too much carrying on the night before). Wink, wink. Strolled in later in the evening to a relatively light crowd. The 2004 "Big Nugget" from Alaskan Brewing was already up on the 86'd sheet, came to find out that it took a first in judging. Figures. Also missed out on the Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine from Drakes. Must've gone while we were getting our accomodations squared away. That left only 52 Barley Wines to hunker down to. We sat down to the first half of the list. 2005 Hair of the Dog "Doggie Claws" stood out; a hazy pale orange-amber, very aromatic (fruit, toast, some alcohol, flowers and resin), medium-full body, very firm on the palate, very firm/forward bitterness and a deep resinous finish. The Best. Had the "Angel's Share" from the new Port Brewing Trappist-Style outfit, Lost Abbey; an intense and deeply flavorful interpretation of a Trappist 12, think St. Bernardus with rum flamed Bananas Foster. Very slightly too full bodied yet otherwise heavenly. Enjoyed J.W. Lees Harvest Ale; brilliant, ruby red, very leggy, intense aromatics (rum, raisins, chocolate, dried black currants) and great depth of flavor. I imagine an all pale grain bill with a real long boil to develop the intense color and flavors. Enough for the evening. Back to the apartment and sweet dreams. Early afternoon on Sunday, back up to the Toronado for the second half. Now at this point the 86'd sheet had quite a few more dead soldiers posted. Missed out on a couple that I was curious about (but weren't being served the previous evening); 2005 Southampton "Old Herb", Midnight Sun oak aged "Sun Devil" and Dogfish Head "Old School Ale". Not too put off by missing the Midnight Sun, should be able to pick that up later at the Hard Liver. Would have liked to check out the Dogfish Head. Not a fan of Dogfish Head but I will sample their beers just to keep up. 2007 "Big Woody" from Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage was worthy; big, flavorful West Coast-Style aged in French oak. Firm, chewy yet elegant and pleasantly warming. I'll put off a complete posting of tasting notes for another time. These were all the 2-plus beers off my notes. Overall the quality of flavor and condition was a bit rough. Most of the younger beers were a bit green or had some defect; thin bodied and solventy being a common theme. Most of the older beers seemed to have lost a little somethin'-somethin'; stale. Good times.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

St. Valentines' Day Massacre

Met my sweetie at the Pike after her run through of the Flower and Garden Show for their Valentines' Day Beer Lovers' Dinner. Four courses accompanied by Pike beer. Appetizer was some local organic radish with truffle salt and Beechers Butter with an assortment of charcruterie served with the Pike IPA; Peppery radishes (with the salt and butter washed down with the IPA, the best!) nice Salami and Coppa from Salume (a bit mild to my taste) and some amazing Prosciutto (salty, melt in your mouth buttery) along with the Pikes' toast-ish, firmly bitter IPA. A simple salad course of local greens, beets, wee yellow tomatoes and Estrella Blue Cheese dressed with a Framboise vinaigrette accompanied by the Pike Scotch ale; fresh and toothsome greens, lovely beets, (not enough) excellent local cheese, a relatively mild dressing. Not too sure the beer worked very well though. Perhaps too malty and alcohol forward for such a delicate preparation. My entree was Prime Rib sauced with Pike Tandem jus and served with horseradish mashed potatoes along with the Pike "Old Bawdy" Barleywine. Pffft... Good beef but from too near the middle of the roast for my taste, a bit pink and that's the bit that cools the fastest. Mashers were fine, mildly horseradished. The jus missed the plate. And, eek, grated horseradish as a garnish. Serving grated horseradish is simply uncivilized and a dirty trick. Old Bawdy helped; deep red/mahogany, toffee malt flavors, firm bitterness and warming. A nice counterpoint to the more appetizing bites of the roast. My sweetie had the King Crab legs, nice but similarly "not so much". We chose one of each of the deserts; a house made chocolate tart with vanilla gelato and the cheese plate along with one each of the accompanying drinks, Pike Chocolate Stout from the cask and Siegerrehe (a sweet muscat-ish wine from Bainbridge Island Winery). The chocolate tart was OK; crust was a bit too firm, the filling a very firm bittersweet chocolate but the gelato was delicious. The cheese plate was amazing (really); Brewleggio a firm Tallegio-style with a Pike Tandem Double ale washed rind from Estrella Farm Creamery, "Vache de Vashon" a soft-ish, buttery/nutty cheese and "Cirrus" a Camembert styled cheese from Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend. Holy shit! An amazing cheese, soft buttery, earthy with hints of grass and wildflowers. All the cheeses were fantastic.

Once and a while I have a difficult time with eating out. I hate sitting through a meal knowing I could have done better. Though I enjoyed our dinner at the Pike here's what I'd do; Appetizer; same charcruterie but fewer more generously portioned slices of the cured sausages with a taste of Parmasan Reggiano or well aged Edam and bit of cracker served with the Pike Pale, mild bitterness and firm nutty maltiness to go along with the rich meats and the salty cheese. Salad served a bit more rustic and deconstructed; beets roasted in the oven with garlic and fresh thyme, a fair chunk of the Blue, perhaps a compote of the tomatoes served with a stack of the Framboise vinaigrette dressed greens with the Pike Scotch ale, here we'd want to start with a salad emphasizing the hearty/earthy quality of the ingredients and counterpoint the vinegar and blue cheese with the relatively malty sweet character of the Scotch ale. Entree; same roast of beef perhaps a cut from a smaller, very slightly more well done roast, better browning, seasoned better (salt and pepper!). Put the jus in its own ramekin on the plate. Mashers = OK. Serve a horseradish sauce! A simple preparation of fresh, finely grated (or ground) horseradish, sour cream, salt and white pepper is more than sufficient (as well as suitably civilized). Old Bawdy is still served. Desert; chocolate tart, bittersweet genache in a flaky crust served with lemon cream and Stoli Raspberry couli. Cheese plate; same cheeses but with a second 1 1/2 ounce portion to make sharing better. Both accompanied by the world class Pike 5X Stout.

Dinner was nice. But the best is our traditional Valentines' treat of chocolate and Orval. 'Cept this year we ended up with some shitty truffles. That's the last time I pass on the Diletantes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What A Long Strange Brewfest It's Been

We did the Strange Brewfest up at the Waterstreet in Port Townsend. Those kids throw a killer party. Many good beers on hand. Made the most of the Big Time Lift Ticket and Rogue Charlie that was available. Great stuff. Sierra Nevada had their Tripel; pale gold with a tint of deeper orange-red, light medium body, aromatic (apricot bars and hops), well conditioned (for keg beer), very good. Elliot Bay had a Belgian-style IPA; think Chouffe Houblon and you're pretty close, cloudy pale straw, light bodied, very firm bitterness, very lively on the palate, very good. This is the one to chase down the Brouwers rib-eye with. Diamond Knot had a tank of wood aged Industrial Ho! Ho!; well appointed Strong Winter ale aged on oak, not so much a bourboned beer but very well wooded, probably the best local beer from the wood I've had since wood aging has become fashionable. Walkingman had a Sour Brown; interesting attempt, lacked the depth of acid and residual sweetness that I would expect (pretty heavily lactic and drying), missing a solid fruity/balsamic middle palate. Leonard from the Ram had his Bretted Saison on hand; much more character than at the previous Cask Fest, not so much funk but nice lemon juicy notes. Baron Jeff brought their Jim Beam barreled Dopplebock; to my recollection the Baron Dopple is close to the Optimator, maybe very sl. paler and drier/nuttier, out of the whiskey barrel it seemed thinned a bit and very boozy (though the vanilla complimented veeery nicely). The perfect accompaniment to a sweet creme brullee. Turns out that Jeff is the WBG president this term, passed on some of my ideas about the festival trip (check out the previous Cask Fest rant). Pike 5X Stout with raspberry was very nearly perfect; their already amazing stout with deep, deep, deep raspberry flavor, like an intense bitter chocolate/rasp truffle. Put down a fair amount of the Waterstreet Frosty; a winter seasonal, deep brown, medium full body, chocolate graham crackers and citrus/resin hops. Almost a house character at Waterstreet is that sharp herbal resin hop flavor that Skip seems to favor (Simcoe?), most notably in the IPA and Red Imperials. Other selections of note; Snoqualmie dry hopped Avalanche and the Lazy Boy winter seasonal, Mistletoe Bliss. Both very firmly in the style of West Coast Strong Winter ales; very firm bitterness, citrusy hop character (juicy lemon rind, orange marmalade and grapefruit jellies), very firm malt character (tea biscuits and sweet rolls) with a fair kick. Also put down a fair amount of oysters off the half shell. One indicator of an undoubtedly civilized affair is the presence of a well stocked oyster bar. Indeed. Good time, got to catch up with a lot of familiar festival cronies. Cut out for dinner over at Sirens and back to the Waterstreet for music. The hands down best local funk band I ever seen, La Push from Bellingham, solidly rocked the place. Great Bootsy era JBs inspired dance music, horns and a water tight rhythm section. Awesome.

Off to SF for our annual Toronado-ing this weekend. Belgium's been pushed back to June. Irish Dry Stout soon.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Beer as Cuisine

Not alot of posting in this direction so far. I know. [Insert Day Job Whining] Anyway...

I think the "Beer as Cuisine" concept has two basic angles; using beer as an ingredient in food preparation and beer as an accompaniment to prepared food. The former meaning beer having a greater role in overall flavor development than simply using it as a liquid component. The later meaning the use of beer to enhance/support/contrast/etc. the enjoyment of mowing through your delectations (much in same way that wine is used). One evening over the holidaze we enjoyed a bit of store brand Asiago with cashews and a bottle of North Coast Brother Thelonius. Slightly sharp, firm, and nutty cheese with that salty cashew (earthy? slightly sweet?) followed by the softly warming, mildly sweet and spicy Strong Dark Belgian-Style ale. Very nice. Speaking of cheeses; New Years Eve, we had an aged Edam that we were washing down with Sandemans Ruby Port. Mmm, fantastic!

I brew an Irish Stout every year and prepare a good meal of corned beef, boiled potatoes, steamed cabbage, carrots and house made soda bread. This year won't be any different but with one exception, I'm going to cure my own corned beef! Ha, ha!!! I'll get some good natural brisket and brine away. Lotsa cracked pepper, Indian coriander, allspice, some mustard seed and a fair dose of bay leaf. Should be good. I'll use the Egg to cook the brisket "low and slow". The Stout is based on Guinness (of course). Medium-light bodied, silky from using too much flaked barley, tart from a bit of acid malt and intensely roasty/coffeeish from a generous dose of roasted barley. Good with the corned beef, helps to clean the palate off a bit after a bite of rich and fatty brisket. Hmm, I'll have to get that going soon.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Happy New Year?

Wooof. Zero action in the home brewery these days. Frakkin' Day Job. Holidays were great though. The Holiday beer turned out very nicely. Firm brown, softly malty (chocolate biscuits and toffee), slight phenol spiciness (warming spices; clove, cinnamon, etc.), quite firm bitterness and a citrus zesty hop flavor. Very nice indeed. Pretty much killed that keg. Took out most of the 2nd keg of Pac Man Pale. Started in on the tank of O-fest lager. Now this one is real good. More Pale Bock than a strict strong Marzen. Firm Munich malt finishing clean with a whiff of alcohol. Otherwise, mostly settled for Celebration Ale and Brown Shugga. Half-racks of the former was a capital idea, thank you Sierra Nevada. A case of 22's of the latter held up pretty well. Didn't care too much for the Jolly Roger this time. Just not doing it for me; candyish, phenolic, and dirty tasting. Scored a bottle of Glenmorangie 15yr from Santa, dee-licious! New Years Eve was sweet. Woke up on the 2nd and went to work. We got an XL Big Green Egg from Santa. Very killer! Looking forward to getting that going. Just have to get it put together. Woulda had it cleared today but ran out of light.

Looking forward to StrangeBrewfest up at the Water Street in Port Townsend next weekend. We've got our travel arrangements squared for the Toronado in February for the Barley Wine Festival. We've decided to hit Belgium in May. Then I'll come back and give notice (yuk, yuk, yuk).