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Thursday, June 19, 2008

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jolly Pumpkin: Oro De Calabaza

Last night I finished my last Jolly Pumkin. I originally purchased three different 750's and a single mentioned here.

Here's a quick review of their Oro de Calabaza:
color: straw to yellow with big, puffy, billowy head like duvel.
aroma: belgian characteristic, candy sugar, tart, fruit, wood? or was I expecting that...
taste: carbonation, tart/sour belgian goldon strong, pineapple and subtle wood
after: wood (subtle), dry
overall: I like my goldon strongs straight up and drinkable: prankster, duvel, and damnation.
While this is a very well made beer, all of the Jolly Pumpkin beers are well made beers, I don't like the play between wood and the golden strong style. I like the golden strong style straight up, smooth, and drinkable. There is a reason that it is known as a great "hair of the dog" beer. A little tart is interesting but also takes a little away from what I like from the style. I have to say my favorite Jolly so far has been the Noel beer. They avoided the typical holiday jacked up spice route and went with subtle cherries and wood with nice malt (as I recall). I just remember enjoying the hell out of that beer. La Roja is very nice as well. Of the three Jollies i've had, here is my personal ranking:
  1. noel de calabaza
  2. la roja
  3. oro de calabaza add, I like the subtleness of the Jolly Pumpkin beers. It seems like wood beers these days tend to be over the top, too much wood. The tartness is to my liking as well (not too over the top). I would definitely drink these beers more if they were easier to get out here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brew day: American Amber Ale

Decided that I need to start using my stash of magnum and cascade so I took JZ’s recipe, changed out the hops (calculated ~35 IBUs) and then converted to mini-mash. I figured the mini-mash would only add another half-hour to my day since the little amount of water will come to temp quickly and I batch sparged. I used light DME to make up the difference in gravity (….4.25 pounds worth).
I didn’t hit my projected OG of 1.052 and ended up with 1.056 instead. No biggy, but the seemingly wanton nature of my refractometer readings is bothering me. Supposedly the thing has auto temp control….and I cool the wort on top of it. Not sure why my readings seem to be all over the place. In the end, I know my kettle pretty well and with the immersion chiller in the pot, I need to have the water level at about 6.5 gallons. So I got close to the OG I eyeballing it.
Due to water restrictions I am now cutting over to ice water recirculation at 120 degrees (instead of 90 degrees) when chilling the wort. This saved many gallons of water and didn’t really call for too much more ice.
Since we are having warmer weather in Berkeley, I worried about whether I would need to cool the ferment or not. The basement ranges between 66-75 degrees now, so I cooled the wort to 65 degrees, got it in the carboy and let it settle. Since the carboy is sitting on concrete and I put a wet t-shirt around it, it held at 66 degrees for pitching.
Come morning the t-shirt was still moist and the yeast had started up to the tune of about a ¼ inch of kreusen. Temp was still 66 degrees. Figure I’ll check tonight when the yeast is producing the most energy. If I am still 66 degrees, I’ll move to a heat wrap and do a warm temp control when necessary, to get it to, and keep at 67 degrees. If it has moved in temp up to 68 or higher, I’ll leave it on cool temp control, which will trigger a fan that is positioned to blow on the carboy. I can also add a pump to pump water over the carboy if necessary.
UPDATE: temp was holding at 66 with an air temp of I put on the heat temp control with a dry shirt around it. Now happily fermenting at 67 degrees.

double pot for warming mash without scorching

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Gordon Biersch SF and fresh Kölsch out of the tank

I have the highest respect for Dan Gordon. His mission in life is to bring the beers of Germany to the U.S. by brewing them here and serving them fresh. All done in accordance to Reinheitsgebot. 100% the way they are brewed in Germany. This includes a decoction mash for most beers that causes the brew day to be 10 hours. Dan backs up his strict guidelines with the highest level of brew education achievable in the world. His post-graduate work was at Weinstephan in Munich.....a demanding four year course where, " a passing grade is equivalent to A level work at UC Berkeley".
If you want to hear more about Dan, I highly recommend listening to any of the three times he visited the Sunday Session on The Brewing Network.

Dan's west coast man in charge of brew operations, including SF, the Northwest, and Hawaii is John Tucci. No slouch himself as he fleshed out his brewing education at Paulaner in Munich. He’s a perfect fit at GB. And thanks to a co-worker that grew up with John, we had the chance to take a private tour of GB-SF brew operations yesterday.
We started off with a couple of pints to warm us up….I had never tried the GB scharwzbier, so I did. Nice, mellow and obviously to style. I love Köstritzer and I would say the GB Schwarz is a hair mellower than that one. We were readied up to go tour the brewery and we were instructed by John to bring an empty glass with us for a tasting…most of us had one.

Down the stairs we went to the basement where all the fermentation and lagering takes place. BTW, GB-SF has a 25 barrel brew system….kind of unusual in that they have two kettles that do some back and forth. The mashtun also serves as the boil kettle. They mash, pump 80% of it to the lauter tun, then deconcoct the remaining 20% in the mash tun. When this is done, they bring the remaining, deconcocted mash over to the lauter and sparge. Then, the runnings get pumped back to the mash tun where they boil and hop. Back and forth. In the basement, we went through a VERY short door that led us to the bottom of the fermentation tanks (60 barrel tanks, they brew twice to fill it and have 10 barrels of headroom….and no kreusen blowing all over the place). I have to say, this is probably the most cramped setup I have seen. They fit this system in the spaces the best they could but there is a lot of bending down during the processes of brewing beer here. A tall guys nightmare.

From here, we went into the lagering space, in the basement right under the bar/eating area of the restaurant. Tanks were horizontal and tucked neatly into a space very short on headroom. Here is where the treat of the evening started.

John had the next seasonal in the lager tanks, their Kölsch. This is where he took our empty glasses and topped them up with some feisty young beer. Wow, it was great. Tangy and yeasty. Grainy and thick but most of all, damn good. I could have spent the rest my time there but the room was around 40 degrees and I was wearing a t-shirt. This Kölsch will be put on around the 24th of June and I can’t wait to go back and try it to compare.
After this, it was back upstairs for more beer. I pretty much stuck with the Marzen for the rest of the night as GB Marzen is one of my all time favorites.

Thank you Michael and John for the tour. It was a great time, very educational, and very satisfying on the palette. Shout out to Rich, also a brewer at GB. Met him at the Commonwealth beer event last winter and was impressed he still remembered me.

beer blogger and beer brewer

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wet Hop Ales in the Spring

Wet hop beers are great style of beer that are usually only available in the fall during hop harvest time. They are called “wet hop” or “fresh hop” because they hops are cut off the vine and put in the beer within 24 hours or so. This gives the beer a very fresh and smooth hop character that you do not get from ordinary dry hops. Imagine the smell of a spice, like basil, that is dried. Now imagine basil when you pick some fresh and smell it. This will give you an idea of the difference in aroma.
Many production breweries and brewpubs will do a fresh hop ale. It is a tough brew mainly because they are only given about 24 hours notice from the hop farm that there hops are being sent out to them (at a shipping cost of hundreds of dollars), the brewers have to be ready to brew at a moment’s notice. It is a beer that is made purely out of the love of brewing.
Once a year is long time to wait for these special beers, so leave it to Sierra Nevada to source hops in the southern hemisphere, where it is now fall, so we can experience wet hops beers in the spring! Their Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale is a great beer and a wonderful example of this style of beer. It seems to be widely available in the bay area. I have seen it not only at Safeway but 7-11 as well. Here is a pull from Sierra Nevada’s website about their trilogy of fresh hop beers:

“Our latest hop experience is a trilogy of fresh hop ales representing our journey following the hop harvest around the globe. Simply said, we were in search of a way to expand our offering of fresh hop ales throughout the year rather than limiting it to just the fall season. So we scouted the planet exploring new regions to source fresh hops and also explored ways to maximize the oily, resinous qualities of the hops from each harvest as we transported them to our brewery in Chico, California.
To make this project happen, we selected hops from regions where the hop harvest occurred at different times of the year. Southern Hemisphere Harvest uses hops from New Zealand that are harvested in our spring. Our Chico Estate Harvest uses hops grown at our brewery in Chico, California that are harvested in late summer. And our original Harvest Ale uses hops from Yakima, Washington harvested in early fall. The result is three fresh hop ales that will be released at different times of the year, each providing a unique experience with hops from different parts of the world. We aptly call this trilogy of fresh hop ales our Harvest Series.”

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brew Notes: American Wheat Beer

Ingredients don't get much simpler than this: Wheat dry malt extract and Cascade hops.

Last Sunday I brewed a batch of American Wheat ala JZ’s recipe. In this, Jamil mentions a couple points that I stuck with:

  • Resist the temptation to add specialty grains…go with just base barley and wheat.

  • Use a Kölsch yeast strain for a crisper, more stand out beer.
It was a pretty standard brew day. I propagated up a 1 liter starter of the Kölsch yeast the night before and boiled up the ingredients the next day. I pretty much hit my numbers all the way through….I was targeting a post-boil gravity of 1.052 and according to my refractometer I was spot on. When I took the final hydrometer reading later in the day, it was showing 1.058. I swear the wort was cool enough when I did the refracto reading but I guess this is something I need to note and adjust for in future brews.

The boil (above) and the almost extinct Cascade hops (below), the bigger dose for bittering at the beginning of the boil and the smaller dose for aroma at end of boil. I calculated the bittering units to about 22 IBU for this batch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

DUI enforcement stepped this Memorial Day weekend

Memorial weekend or not, obviously you should never drink and drive. To help reinforce this, many Bay Area counties will have DUI checkpoints setup along with more patrols on the streets and highway looking for intoxicated drivers this weekend.
I had the experience of going through a DUI checkpoint this last holiday season. While I did have a couple drinks prior in the evening and definitely felt OK to drive, it was a nerve racking experience nonetheless. I was quickly interviewed by an officer and was allowed to proceed. In the end, I was glad they were out there doing their job.
Please be safe this weekend and every other day too.