Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Against the Grain Brewery Visit

Let's go out to the... brewery?
     This week I traveled to Louisville, KY for work and decided to visit historical Louisville Slugger Field. Home of the Minor League Baseball Team the Louisville Bats...  also Against the Grain Brewery and Smoke House.
     Upon entry into the brewery I immediately was overwhelmed by the smokehouse portion of this establishment.  Heavy charcuterie and other smoked meats are forced onto you by an airlock blower above the door.  Eventually the smoked meat aroma faded as I became acclimated to my surroundings.
      I ordered a flight of their current six beers on tap.  Agianst The Grain Brewery has a pretty unique way of deciding what will be on tap at any given time.  The beers are divided into six categories: Session, Hop, Whim, Malt, Dark, and Smoke. Each of these catagories remains the same year round but the beer placed in it changes.  I thought this was a novel scheme since you can always go in and get a certain type of beer you enjoy but it might not always be the exact same beer.  The selection that was currently on tap and in my flight was as follows:
Session - Pacific Rim Career
Hop - Hop Party #2
Whim - Deborahs Deux Helles
Malt - Meconium Falcon
Dark - We Shuck on the First Date
Smoke - Goin' H.A.M.

While eating lunch and enjoying my flight I had a chance to speak with co-owner Sam Cruz about the brewery.  I had not known this but it seems that Belmont Station in Portland caries their beer.  However,  Louisiana has some pretty strict brewing laws that make it difficult to do so.  Even the brew pub has to buy their own beer through a distributor in order to sell it on site.  If you're in the Louisville area I would definitely recommend checking out Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Base Camp Brewing Company S'more Stout Review

Brewery: Base Camp Brewing Company
Location: Portland, OR
Beer: S'more Stout
Style: American Stout
Serving: Snifter Glass (22 oz.) 
ABV: 7.7%
IBUs: 70

I've had this beer at Base Camp before they serve it with a toasted marshmallow as a garnish on the glass.  Unfortunately I didn't have one to complete the s'more ensemble.

A (3/3): About two fingers of dark beige head pours extremely nice but eventually fades to a few patches of bubbles floating on the surface.  Topping the beer off really reinvigorates the foamy bubble blanket but it is recedes almost as quickly as it returns.  The beer is murky black and completely opaque.

S (9/12): The aroma is that of light cocoa notes mixed with some coffee aromatics.  The bottle says there I should be detecting figs, but not without drinking it.

T (16/20): Lots of dark chocolate notes with quite a bit of coffee bitterness.  A couple of sips allow you notice the toasted character as well as the light smokiness of the beer.  No detectable fig character as stated on the bottle but not a detriment to the beer.

M (3/5): Medium to thick body with a creamy, silky texture and a light carbonation.  The beer finishes smooth, but with a slight residual malt bitterness.  The beer hides the 7.7% ABV very well,  almost no detectable alcohol character.

O (7/10): Pretty good beer I remember it being much sweeter the last time I had it.  The malt bitterness hangs on the palate a little longer than I would like but over all I would drink again.


Friday, March 14, 2014

CRAFT movie Director/Producer Craig Noble Interview

     I was fortunate enough to conduct an interview with Craig Noble, director and producer of the upcoming movie CRAFT. In this film Craig Noble travels around the country documenting the craft beer scene.  Below is a trailer for this movie and my interview that is sure to interest any craft beer enthusiast. 

Buffalo Theory Brewing: What inspired you to make this movie?
Craig Noble: I love Craft beer.
2 1/2 years ago I came back from an extensive working vacation in Asia and I landed in SoCal. I was either going to do a photojournalism piece on Boarder cities of the SW or do a San Diego brewery tour, I chose the latter.
After being inspired by the scene there I committed to do another feature documentary. It's been all beer all the time since.

BTB: What did you learn from making this movie about the craft beer industry that you didn't know before?
CN: Well, I got to say that I was happily surprised by the general good will within the industry as a whole and the cooperation between craft brewers is pretty special, considering how much competition there is right now. I am also taken aback by the shear growth in the industry, both in volume and number of breweries. The level of enthusiasm for brewers and consumers is amazing.

BTB: How did you choose the breweries to spotlight?
CN: It was very editorial. I wanted to get a complete spectrum of scale and style within the breweries covered, but mostly I chose these breweries for their outstanding product. I had the privilege of drinking some of the best beer on the planet the last 2 years! And when drinking that level of beer you get turned on to and poured so much more amazing brews that it really was inspiring and delicious.

BTB: What challenges did you come across in the making of the movie?
CN: I'm a one-man army, so production, logistics, post, that's all on me, so it's an incredible amount of work, and boarder-line insane. There was a lot of travel involved and a lot of ground covered so I was pretty much a gypsy most of last year.

BTB: Do you have any plans for future beer related projects (not necessarily film related)?
CN: Yes. I have taken a recipe development/brewing position with a start-up brewery in Vancouver,(my hometown) and was basically given carte blanche to design beers that I could drink a lot of, that were not available here, which is awesome. And I will be starting a more geeky bottle-conditioning program as well, which has to remain nameless at this point.

BTB: What made you choose Portland, OR as the city to premiere the movie in?
CN: I have been coming to Portland for years now, and have quite a few friends there. There are a lot of beery cities in America but when it comes to Craft beer, Portland I would say it has the most heart. The quality, number of breweries per captia and the level of support is phenomenal. Portlanders have some of the best beer and selection of anywhere in the world. Luckily for me, it's 6 hours down I5.

BTB: Was there anything that you would have liked to get into the movie that you were not able to?
CN: There are so many great brewers, breweries, scenes, cities and farmhouse breweries that it is impossible to fit them all in. There are some regions I would like to have travel to and filmed at but... there's just too much good beer!

BTB: Do you homebrew? If so how often and in what capacity?
CN: I got into homebrewing a few years ago after I produced a video series on how to make your own booze at home. I have expensive wine making experience and even do my own distilling. For my recipe development contract I build a 10 gallon three tiered system to test batch on. 2 batches per week since the beginning of November.

BTB: What was it like brewing a professional batch at Coalition Brewing?
CN: Elan and Brad are great. The brew day was flawless, and we hit all our gravities and volumes and the quality of raw ingredients were top notch. The Farmhouse Ale for Portland will be amazing. It is a little 10 bbl system with limited automation which was fun. Very crafty.

BTB: What is the story behind the first beer that got you into craft beer?
CN: I was shooting my sustainable food documentary TABLELAND and I went to Crannog Ales to shoot their organic farm brewery. I drank a lot of craft beer there, but I really must say that Brian's Backhand of God Stout is an amazing beer, and gained a full appreciation for hand crafted brews.

BTB: What is your favorite style of craft beer? Why?
CN: Depending on the weather, my mood or food... I would have to say Saison if I was only allowed one style.

BTB: What is your favorite commercial beer? Why?
CN: That’s entrapment! If I was to choose one, I will go super-classic, OG and say Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. It’s almost a perfect beer.

You can buy tickets at the Hollywood Theater website for the world premier of CRAFT on April 3rd.  The premier will be preceded by two of Noble's previous short films.  This event will also be a beer release party for the Altered State Farmhouse Ale brewed in collaboration with Coalition Brewing in Portland durring the filming.  There will also be beer on tap from The Commons, another Portland based brewery featured in the film.  I hope to see everyone at the premier.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hipsters Love Beer

I have seen this video floating around the internet, and posted on various Facebook pages for the last few weeks and I wanted to comment on it.
This video shows a bunch of pretentious hipsters ordering beers with ridiculous names like "Baby Dick Belgian White" and "Pompous A**hole" poking fun at how some breweries have got creative with beer names.  Some classic examples are Stone Brewing's "Arrogant Bastard" or Firestone Walker's "Velvet Merkin". 

 I understand the this video was supposed to be funny but it brings up a larger problem I have seen develop in the craft brew scene.  Craft beer has increasingly become associated with hipsters and a certain snootiness around beer knowledge.   This video is more of an indictment of beer snobs than hipsters.  Actually, its an indictment of a subsection of beer-snobs that are also hipsters.  

Hipsters and beers snobs do have some similarities they both proclaim their preference for things before their introduction to "the mainstream".  Also, both have been know to publicly denounce a product simply because of its ownership (i.e. Goose Island being purchased by Anheuser-Busch.)

However, their main characteristics remain very different. Hipsters usually spend their time pining over heirloom tomatoes, irony, and fixed gear bicycles. Whereas a beer snob will go on diatribes about drinking from the wrong glassware, their latest "drain pour" and judging others for enjoying a beer they have deemed unworthy.

So go out, be knowledgeable about your beer, drink what you like and above all else, don't act like a pompous asshole.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pumpkin Ales

Zymurgy had an article on pumpkin ales this issue and it reminded me that "tis the season" and now was the time to start brewing if I wanted my beer to be ready for the holidays.  No clever name this time sorry.

Recipe Specifications:
  • Batch Size: 10.00 gal
  • Boil Size: 13  gal
  • Predicted OG: 1.070 SG
  • Boil Time: 90 Minutes
  • 19.0 lb Pale Malt (6 Row) US
  • 1.00 lb Pilsner Malt
  • 1.00 lb Victory Malt
  • 1.00 lb Crystal-60 Malt 
  • 1.25 lb Melanoidin Malt
Total Grain Weight: 23.25 lb
  • 2.00 oz Cascade, US 9.5% Whole Leaf Hops 
  • 6.00 lb Canned Pumpkin
  • 2.0 lb Maple Syrup
  • 2.0 lb Wildflower Honey
  • 1.0 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • WLP565 Saison Ale
  • WLP008 East Coast Ale
Starter Procedure:
Thursday August 22, 2013 I went to Brew Brothers and bought my ingredients.  I was splitting this batch of beer so I needed to do two starters.  In order to do this I bought another 2000ml Erlenmeyer flask. I only have one stir plate so I did put the saison yeast on the stir-plate and the east coast ale I just left stationary since it is a more active yeast than the saison.  This way the saison will be a little more active when its time to pitch.

Brew Procedure:
      On Saturday August 25th, 2013 I got up early to brew. First I calculated how much mash water I needed. total grain weight was 19.4 lbs. So to calculate mash water I used the following calculation:

23.25 lbs grain x 1.75 qt/lb = 40.6875 qt. x 1/4 gallon/qt = 10.17 gal
Mash out

6 lbs of pure pumpkin
I used 1.75 since because the mash was going to be extremely thick with all of that pumpkin in it and I didn't want it getting stuck.
The recipe called for the pumpkin to be dissolved in about a gallon of water heated and then poured in the mash-tun.  It called for 6 lbs
which is really inconvenient since the cans of pumpkin came in 15 oz. cans, so I had to buy 7 and only use about 6.5 cans.  I
placed my old extract brew kettle on a burner and heated it up while I dumped the cans of pumpkin in.  After the pumpkin was all dissolved, I filled the mashtun with 10 gallons of water and began heating it to 169 °F.  After the water reached 169 °F I added the grain and began vigorously stirring. After the mash was thoroughly stirred I added the pumpkin on top and let the mash temperature stabilize. After a few minutes the temperature had dropped down to a 185°F and then stabilized at 154°F .  I placed the insulation jacket around the mashtun and let it sit for a full hour.
Pumpkin Mash
     After mashing I transferred to the kettle and completed the brew
Nice Orange Boil
 using the following schedule:

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

QuantityIngredientBoiled For
1.0 oz.NuggetEntire 90 Min. boil
2.0 lb.Maple Syrup Last 5 min of boil 
2.0 lb.Wildflower HoneyLast 5 min of boil
1.0 tbs.Pumpkin Pie SpiceFlameout

Standard and Saison
I cooled the wort and pitched the yeast into two 6.5 gallon fermentation buckets and oxygenated for 30 seconds each bucket.  I also added a vial and a half of clarityferm to each fermenter  I had 3 vials left from my last brew but and there was no real reason for me to just have one laying around.
The final aroma was awesome you could definitely smell the pumpkin and the pie spice but it was not overwhelming just a pleasant note.


UPDATE: 8/26/13 Fermentation has really taken off and it has almost completed.  It was bubbling about ever second withing 4 hours of pitching the yeast.

UPDATE: 8/31/13 Fermentation has basically stopped and I am transferring to secondary before I leave for my honeymoon.  This will give it a couple weeks to clarify since I forgot to add the whirlfloc during the boil.  The standard pumpkin ale had a gravity reading of 1.016 and the saison came in at 1.010.

Saison: 131.25*(1.072-1.010)=8.1375% ABV
Standard: 131.25*(1.072-1.016)=7.35% ABV
Good Lord these are much stronger than I was anticipating I guess adding 4 lbs of extra fermentable sugars will do that.  They still taste kind of young so I am not going to pass judgement on them.  There was a HUGE yeast cake in the bottom of both of them and its still pretty yeasty flavored.  Hopefully a couple weeks in secondary will mellow that out and refine the taste a little more.

UPDATE: 9/19/13 Got back from my honeymoon and bottled the standard pumpkin with yellow caps unfortunately I didn't have enough bottles to do the Saison so I will have to wait until later.  I took a gravity reading and added 4.0 os. of priming sugar.
Standard: 131.25*(1.072-1.014)=7.6125% ABV
The taste was not what I was expecting but hopefully it will mellow out a little the spice flavor is a little intense.

UPDATE: 9/23/13 I sanitized enough bottles this time to bottle the saison with the red caps. I took a gravity reading and then added 4.0 oz. of priming sugar to the bucket.
Saison: 131.25*(1.072-1.006) =8.6625% ABV
This has a bit of a hot alcohol flavor but overall its pretty good It may taste better carbonated.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Beer Sensory Appreciation Class

     This Wednesday June 12, 2013 I went with a group of friends to an event hosted by Jamie Floyd, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Ninkasi Brewing Company, and Peter Bouckaert, Head Brewer at New Belgium Brewing Company, located at the Bad Habit Room attached to Saraveza In Portland.  This originally was sold as a off flavors in beer class:

Sensory Training at Bad Habit - “Off Flavors” with Jamie Floyd, Founder & Owner of Ninkasi Brewing
Wednesday, June 12th 5:30-9:30pm
Do you think that “Diacetyl” is a dinosaur?  It is not!  It is a flavor that most beer drinkers consider undesirable.  Want to learn about this and other potential “off flavors” in your beer?  Join Jamie Floyd of Ninkasi Brewing for a sensory journey that will educate your palate like the pros!  
This just in:  Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium Brewing will be joining Jamie for the Sensory Panel and will be leading a discussion on Beer Styles as well!  Stay tuned for more details…
Temptation Incartate

     This turned out not to be a true representation of what the class actually was.  The class being taught that day was on sensory perception and how to experience the beer to its fullest. 
     The event started late and we were given strict instructions not to drink any of the beer.  So for 25-30 minutes I stared at this:
     Once the class started Jamie covered some basic brain physiology and biology explaining that your Gustation (taste) and Olfaction (smell) are located in your frontal lobe.  Your tongue can pick up 5 distinct flavors: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.  You probably have a pretty good grasp on those with the exception of umami.  Umami is kind of hard to explain but its basically the savory taste that you get from some foods. Beer is not one of these foods so I am not going to go into depth on it.
     Explaining that there is a proper way to properly experience a new beer or a beer you have not had in a while there are specific steps that should be taken.

  1. Drive By Whiffing: A small whiff of the beer just as you run it under your nose, just to say "Hey, how you doin? I really like your broach."
  2. Visual Inspection: Look at the beer, recognizing its color, clarity, and head.
  3. Two Deep Smells:  Take some time to fully engulf your olfactory senses in all that is this beer.
  4. The Sip:  Take a small sip of the beer letting it fully cover your tongue and let it linger for a few seconds while you appreciate all it has to offer.
  5. Retro-Nasal:  This was a new one for me.  While either plugging your nose or ensuring that you do not breathe in take a sip of your beer swallow and then breathe out your nose.  This allows you to eliminate any other aroma that you are picking up in the air and just concentrate on that of the beer.
Jamie Floyd (Ninkasi Brewing Company)
     We were given a small glass of Total Domination IPA and then 4 small snifters with spiked samples of the Total Domination.  The glass was used so that we would have a base to compare the other samples to.  It was immediately apparent that the 4 glasses were the 4 flavors we had talked about, minus the umami. The glasses were spiked in order from left to right with sweet, salty, bitter and sour.  We did several tasting exercises that demonstrated how some flavors react with others in that they can either amplify of deaden them. Sweet and salty have an amplifying effect we had sweet-> salty -> sweet and each time the sample tasted more intense than the last time it was drank.  Bitter and sour had an similar effect.  We discovered that sweet and salty amplify everything.  Bitter amplified salt.  One functional thing that was brought out of all this taste testing was for beer tasting.  If you drink a lot of bitter beer your taste receptors become desensitized and it all becomes kind of the same.  However this can be counteracted by drinking something sour.  So at a beer fest one should drink some IPA's and then transfer to the sour beers and your experience will not be tainted by over stimulation of the flavor receptors.  He said this has something to do with hop bitterness comes from the oils in the hops and the acids in the sour beers cut through them.  I didn't pay close enough attention here so I can't really speak to it.

Peter Bouckaert (New Belgium Brewing Company)
     Next on the docket was Peter Bouckaert from New Belgium to talk about styles.  This was more of a philosophical chat about why we have styles and if we should have styles.  We were given a one of New Belgium's saisons, Saison du Poivre I believe, and asked what style of beer this was.  Then he asked us why it was a saison and a lot of philosophical questions about it.  After that we were given a Firestone Walker CDA and asked what kind of beer it was.  He spoke to the that since Firestone is in the Sierra Nevadas it should be called a SNDA instead.  It was a good conversation to have I guess philosophically but not really what I came for.  He then told us a story about a trip he took to Europe to bring back a beer to brew and how he saw some old architecture and it was very spiritual and then he translated that into Birre De Guarde.  I didn't quite follow the logical path he took from a trip where he just toured Europe and got really drunk into picking the hops, malt and yeast for his beer, but I wasn't there.  He talked about how style wasn't important only if people want to drink it.  Which to a certain extent is true, but then went on to talk about how it was necessary to let people know what to expect from it.  It was very reminiscent of conversations I have at work about what the definition of Indy Rock is or what bands constitute Butt Rock.

     After the official event was over I got to talk to the two brewers together about how perception plays a large role in how you enjoy your beer.  Also, preconceived notions of the beer will affect how you enjoy it.  For example if you know a beer is from a brewery that you like you will be more likely to like the beer just based on unconscious biases you have towards it.  Jamie said he saw a video presented by a woman at GABF from Pepsi that showed a study they did involving how big a role visual perception plays in the sensory experience of what you are consuming.

     Overall it was a good presentation even though it was not what I was expecting.  Jamie said that he will be returning to Portland soon with the actual off flavor presentation but he needs to figure out how to bring the flavor spiking lab with him on the road.  Another tidbit I got out of him is that they are going to be expanding into sour beers in the near future but they need to find a separate space for it since pedio or lacto infection could ruin one of their standard beers should they get infected.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013


     I'm brewing this beer for my wedding and wanted something that all of the Bud drinking part of the family could drink and not offend their sensitive palates.  When buying this it was kind of a relief that I only had to buy one package of hops for a 10 gallon batch.  Since Whitney and I have been living in sin for over 5 years and now we are finally making it official, I decided to call our wedding beer Pre-Nuptu-Ale.

Recipe Specifications:
  • Batch Size: 10.00 gal
  • Boil Size: 12.5  gal
  • Predicted OG: 1.057 SG
  • Boil Time: 60 Minutes
  • 7.70 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US
  • 7.70 lb Pilsner Malt
  • 2.00 lb Flaked Corn
  • 2.00 lb Corn Sugar (Dextrose)
Total Grain Weight: 19.4 lb
  • 2.00 oz Cascade, US 9.5% Whole Leaf Hops 
  • WLP001 California Ale Yeast
Starter Procedure:
Friday May 17, 2013 I made my standard starter and placed it on the stir plate overnight.

Brew Procedure:
      On May 18th 2013, I decided to brew. First I calculated how much mash water I needed. total grain weight was 19.4 lbs. So to calculate mash water I used the following calculation:

19.4 lbs grain x 1.75 qt/lb = 33.95 qt. x 1/4 gallon/qt = 8.49 gal

I used 1.75 since because my hot liquor tank is too small to give the required sparge volume if I only used 1.5 or 1.33.  There isn't really a downside that I have found,  and a couple sites said  a wetter mash can increase your efficiency.  I filled the mashtun with 8.5 gallons of water and began heating it to 165 °F.  After the water reached 165 °F I added the grain and began vigorously stirring. After a few minutes the temperature had dropped down to a perfect 152 °F.  I checked the pH to be about 5.4, and placed the insulation jacket around the mashtun.
     After mashing I transferred to the kettle and completed the brew using the following schedule:

Hops/Ingredients Schedule:

QuantityIngredientBoiled For
1.0 oz.CascadeEntire 60 Min. boil
1.0 oz.Cascade Last 30 min of boil 
2 tabsWhirlflocLast 15 min of boil 
1 tsp.Yeast Nutrient Last 15 min of boil

I cooled the wort and pitched the yeast into two 6.5 gallon fermentation buckets and oxygenated for 15 seconds each bucket.  I also added a vial of clarityferm to each fermenter since this will be for my wedding, I wanted there to be something for my friend Pat to drink. I ordered a plate chiller but it hasn't got here yet so this is the last time I will have to use my immersion chiller to get my beer down to pitching temp.

Additional Comments:
    This may have been my most successful brew I have done to date.  All temperatures were hit pretty consistently and I essentially nailed my gravity reading.  Also I produced exactly 10 gallons of beer after it was in the fermenters.  Would have liked to have like 11 but not a big deal. I may dry hop with an oz. of cascade pellets I have left over from my last IPA but I'll decide when I transfer.


UPDATE 5/26/13:
Gravity at Transfer: 1.022
Still needs to finish, the beer is cloudy but needs have be fined some more.