Sunday, December 20, 2009

Beer-Bottle Pavement

Finally. A safe way for us all to be able to jump up and down on broken shards of glass. Whew. I was starting to worry. But in all seriousness, who would have thought that empty beer bottles could actually help the environment? Well, they do need to be recycled, of course. Get this: Presto Geosystems is utilizing a particular technological innovation, in regard to the construction of pavement. It's called the FilterPave Porous Pavement System. Now, what we're dealing with here is essentially a surface composed of recycled glass - a colorful one at that. If you're anything like me, though, you're probably wondering how your feet would enjoy walking across a pavement made out of pieces of glass, no? Well, the answer is...just fine. See, the pieces are sanded down into round pebbles of sorts, creating not only a safe as surface as any other traditional surface, but one that is extremely porous as well (the glass is bonded with a natural, flexible agent that is reportedly safe for marine and plant life). What this means is that there is a greater reduction in storm-water runoff, along with pollutants that would otherwise go unabsorbed from automobiles (engine oil, transmission fluid, etc.). The company boasts that this technology is ideal for parking lots, trails/walkways, sidewalks, pedestrian patios, and driveways - so nothing too incredibly fancy, but still. It also boasts its alleged low carbon footprint; it lacks the creation of hydrocarbons in the manufacture of its components (it uses 100% post-consumer recycled glass), the transportation of the materials used to produce it (all supplies are reported to be obtained locally), and in its placement. Any collected hydrocarbons that are absorbed can be introduced to certain biological processes, via the different layers in the pavement, and be mutated into harmless little by-products. Pretty cool, huh?

So where does beer factor into all of this? Aside from those recent trends in canned microbrew, the majority of craft beer is packaged in what? Yeah. Glass. So, feel confident that you're facilitating future technological innovation, and helping your ol' Mother Earth, as you toss that empty bottle into your nearest recycling bin. The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois is already exploring this architectural sphere; at about $9-10 per square foot (roughly the same price as colored concrete or brick pavers), who could blame them?

Peace and Love!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Buncha Licorice?

Well, I'm happy to say that I've enjoyed quite a bit of this new batch. It didn't really start off the way I had envisioned, but I think it just needed to age a little longer. Specifically, it had some flavors (well, one in particular) that just weren't characteristic of an Oatmeal Stout (or Sweet Stout). The *one* to which I am referring is a seemingly present sparkle of black licorice. Don't ask me how it got in there - don't. I have no clue. My guess is it either has something to do with the lactose I used, or my paranoia associated with the scenario surrounding the brew session was apparently not unfounded. In other words, it was an off-flavor, as a result of something going awry, that coincidentally tastes like black licorice. I'm not really sure, though. Not that I'm incapable of making a mistake (but who are we kidding, right?), but there is a rather ester-y aroma in the head too. The more and more I think about it, the more and more I feel like the lactose had something to do with it. We may never know for sure, though. Pity.

At any rate, come, join me now on a marvelous journey, exploring and glorifying the attributes of Buncha Oats. So, couple of things right off the bat (aside from the esters in the aroma and the licorice flavor), I've got a little more sediment in the bottle this time than I would have preferred (*light* sediment, if that makes sense - as in, it doesn't stay at the bottom as easily and has a thing for floating up as I pour). It's also not nearly as heavy as I had envisioned (you'd think 1 lb. of oats and 1/2 lb. of lactose would have given me an opportunity to sprout a bit more hair on my chest, but alas...). The head is bit "bubbly" too (perhaps from my lack of finishing hops?).

Okay, so all of that aside, this is still a damn good beer. The lighter body makes it more drinkable and less prone to replace current trends in hair-growth treatment. The head, although maybe a tad effervescent, retains very nicely, and definitely captures the roasted character of the stout. The carbonation is also right on, as well as the color. The sediment situation is a little bit annoying, but I think maybe it is a sign that I need to start thinking about switching over to kegging; it also might fall-out a little more over time too (that head might thicken up as well). The mouthfeel is nice and creamy, with a silky texture, and the bitterness is perfectly in check.


But as I was saying, it started off with a little bit of a fruity character and a black licorice flavor that shouldn't be in either of these two beer styles. While this wasn't necessarily a problem for me (although, it did make me consider renaming it...again), I believe it was problematic in the Sunshine Challenge; I entered it into both the Oatmeal and Sweet Stout categories, but I wonder if I should have thrown it into the Specialty Beer category instead - under the guise of a stout flavored with licorice. I didn't place in either category, and I believe it was because the batch just wasn't ready quite yet and still had the off-flavors. I think I'll hold on to a few bottles and try again at another competition (assuming the scoresheets, when I receive them, indicate that was the issue).

Speaking of Sunshine Challenge, I also entered the last of Fuzzie Berr and Gizmo Gold, and neither of them placed. No big deal, though. I get more pleasure out of my friends and family enjoying the beer I brew than about maintaining the guidelines for a style and doing well in a competition (but don't get me wrong, winning a medal feels marvelous). But, right before we left for the meeting (and to submit the entries), I had the bottles on the counter in our kitchen. They had been in the fridge, so I had set them on a towel in order for the condensation to collect without a mess (I needed them to be dry so that the ID forms wouldn't get ruined). Well, never underestimate a puppy's persistence in pulling a towel down off of a counter barely in reach. Two of the bottles came crashing down - one Gizmo Gold and one Fuzzie Berr. Gizmo Gold survived...Fuzzie Berr didn't. Let me just say that we spent the next 30 minutes bathing Dylan (our new pup), cleaning the kitchen floor and his crate, and throwing out his glass-infused bed/plush toys that were caught in the maelstrom - instead of getting to the meeting early. Fortunately, I found out later that I was still able to enter Fuzzie Berr, even though I was short a bottle (I just wouldn't be able to progress on to Best of Show if I had placed 1st in the category).

So, good story, huh? Dylan was fine the way ;-)

Alright, so let's get to the nitty gritty before wrapping this up:

Final Gravity: 1.025
ABV: 5.1%
SRM: 33
Calories: 216

I've got a new batch fermenting as I type. I didn't post an entry documenting it because it is going to be a surprise (but don't worry, I'll post something as soon as the the mystery batch is no longer a mystery). It's coming along great - no perceived issues thus far. And let me just say...I'm really looking forward to this one :-)

Peace and Love!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Save The Vermonster!

So here's the scoop: On September 4th of this wonderful year, Hansen Beverage Company (creator of Monster Energy) sent Rock Art Brewery an order to "cease and desist" from using the "Vermonster" name in any way (they even want to be compensated). Apparently, Hansen thinks that there is going to be confusion among their valuable customers...ya know, with the two products bearing similar names. What!? Monster Energy? Monster Moron.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this nice little microbrewery situated in Morrisville, Vermont, "The Vermonster" is the name of one of their Barley Wines. The letter from Hansen can be accessed here. Now, you'd assume that if Hansen was issuing this "cease and desist," they'd have sufficient reason to do so, correct? Well, you're very wrong - incredibly wrong - if you did just that. They don't. Rock Art Brewery has the legal rights to that name - and has had those rights. Matt Nadeau, President of Rock Art, has even offered a generous comprise (on September 28th), gladly forfeiting the rights to use the name for energy drinks. His full response can be accessed here. It doesn't really look like this is going to go well, though.
You see, Hansen is a big, bad corporate harlot. And no, the money they whore on in doesn't reap the typical results one would expect (unless, of course, one considers rotten teeth and an energy facade sensual). Here's how things have a very good chance of, unfortunately, turning out:

Hansen is going to bombard Rock Art, stripping them of their resources via court and lawyer fees, among other things. They can do this simply because they have the resources to get away with it. Rock Art could be forced to settle this dispute in an unreasonable and ridiculous way - by default! This is not only unfair, it should be illegal in its own right; these harbingers of bogus lawsuits should be fined, quite simply. I can't help but be reminded of similar situations going on throughout states with medicinal marijuana laws in effect; the DEA butts in and ruins the lives of 80-year-old dying cancer patients...enforcing policies functioning at the "federal" level. Funny. I'm pretty sure our government is set up so that the federal level isn't able to...ahhh, I better not get into this right here, right now. Angers me, deeply.

You know what's hilarious, though? Brooklyn Brewery has been using the name "Monster Ale" for quite some time. This is almost too amusing. Almost. I guess Hansen doesn't see the resemblance here, or at least not yet. Or, maybe they realize that Brooklyn Brewery (which is much larger than Rock Art) has the resources to beat them back. Who knows? The important thing to note here is that Hansen is essentially a bully, in all aspects: pushing someone smaller around, doing so simply because it can, possessing the intellect of a toddler (or at least someone who has yet to discover semantics and the meaning of syntax), etc.

There is a boycott currently underway. I encourage you to participate as well, regardless of whether or not you enjoy craft beer or drink Monster Energy drinks. The issue here is much deeper, and I don't think I need to spell that out.
By the way...Kokopelli, what in bloody hell is that? Short answer: Southwestern Native American fertility deity. He's usually depicted, as can be seen in Rock Art's logo, hunched over, playing a flute (he's also associated with music...but actually, some scholars think it may be a blowgun of sorts too, but let's not drag this post out too much longer). Matt became particularly fond of this image while embarking upon hikes, mountain biking trips, and river trips while living in Colorado and adapted the image to the future company's logo; the petroglyph can be seen on many rock formations, in many locations throughout the Southwest.

But anyway, more information on this dispute can be found at Rock Art's website here, and is being documented here. Also, quite the following has formed on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Rock Art on Twitter here, and add the #ISupportRockArt hashtag to your tweets. Join the official Facebook group as well: Vermonters and Craft Beer Drinks Against Monster. Spread the word!

Down with the Monster!

Peace and Love!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bunches of Oats (And Congrats, Fuzzie Berr!)

The latest brew session was a pretty interesting whirlwind of unexpected occurrences. First, our AC decided that it would rather warm up the apartment than cool it down. It was a good 83 degrees in here during the night (and even warmer the next day...up to 89 at one point before it was "fixed"). Then, since I still haven't gotten around to building an immersion chiller, I have to put the carboy on an ice bath to drop the temperature. Usually, this takes about 2 or so hours (depending on whether or not I steep something cold - like frozen berries - into the wort before transferring) to get it to pitching temperature. But this isn't anything new. However, since I got it onto the ice around 3:30am, I figured I'd be able to sleep until 6:00am and pitch when my wife got up for work. Wrong. I guess since the air temperature was almost 10 degrees warmer than usual, it wasn't ready in the usual amount of time. Long story short, I missed my alarm to check the temperature again and ended up leaving it on the ice bath for over 5 hours. It got colder than expected (down to 60 degrees), and I encountered an early, really good, "cold break," leaving me with a nice amount of sediment (freaked me out at first, but some rather cool cats over at Home Brew Talk helped me figure out what had actually happened). By the following night, the temperature was back down in the apartment, quelling my nervousness about the yeast being in too warm of conditions.

Okay. Enough complainingly, let's get to the goods. An Oatmeal Stout, and not just any Oatmeal Stout, an Oatmeal Stout that received 1/2 lb. of lactose about 10 minutes until the end of the boil. This will help give it some more body and sweeten it up a bit. Let me make a little note here. Oatmeal Stouts typically receive their body and complexity from the oats, while Sweet (or Milk) Stouts typically receive their body and sweetness from lactose. So, I've combined the two, in hopes of making an all-around rich, full, and mildly sweet stout for the latter part of the fall season. In fact, I think...yeah, I do...have a nice picture that was taken by my official brew-day photographer and assistant as I added the lactose into the boil:

Glorious, is it not? So let's get down to the nitty gritty (pun intended, of course). My mash consisted of 1 lb. Briess Pale 6-Row Malt (1.7 °L), 1 lb. 2 oz. "quick-cook" flaked/rolled oats (this kind is cut smaller than regular oats, so the utilization was more efficient), 1 lb. Briess Crystal 2-Row Malt (60 °L), 1/4 lb. M&F Roasted 2-Row Barley (462 °L), and 1/4 lb. M&F Black Roasted 2-Row Malt/Black Patent (432-525 °L). I mashed at about 150 °F for 60 minutes.

After sparging the grains and removing them from the pot, I added 6.6 lbs. of Briess Dark LME and 1 oz. of Whole Fuggles Hops (4.9% alpha acid); I've decided, since last time went so much more smoothly with whole hops, that unless I can only find it in pellet form, I am only going to be using whole hops from now on. I boiled for 60 minutes and added 1/2 lb. of lactose to the boil with 10 minutes remaining. All said and done, when I pitched, I used Wyeast Irish Ale 1084.

Here's what we're looking at:

10/09 - Bunches of Oats
*Original Gravity: 1.064
*Potential ABV: 8.6%
*Homebrew Bitterness Units (HBU): 4.9
*International Bitterness Units (IBU): 16.82

My potential alcohol content is pretty high (that should drop, though), and my IBUs are below the range for both Oatmeal Stouts and Sweet Stouts - but it's closer to the latter than it is the former. The gravity is right in range for Oatmeal Stouts. I've got good vibes about this one and am going with some form or another of "Bunches of Oats" for the name. We'll see for sure after the initial taste. I should be bottling next week sometime, and will hopefully have some ready in time for my homebrew meeting next month. Speaking of that...

The results from the Commander SAAZ competition have been announced, and I am proud to report that Fuzzie Berr placed second in the Fruit Beer category! My first competition, my first placing - I'm very excited. Both Fuzzie Berr and Gizmo Gold will be accompanied by Bunches of Oats in my own homebrew club's sponsored competition next month: Sunshine Challenge. I'm very excited to see how things go. As far as I know, my entry was received by Seven Bridges Cooperative for the organic competition as well, so I've got my fingers crossed for my little Gizmo Gold in that one too!

Peace and Love!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Gizmo Gold"...The Results Are In!

My apologies for taking so long to get the tasting notes for Gizmo Gold posted; I've been very busy with work. So anyway, let's get to it.

Gizmo Gold...Gizmo Gold. Well, I tasted it a week after it was bottled and everything seemed spectacular - great subtle honey flavor, head retention almost perfect, all around flavor was just right on track with my expectations. I decided a couple more days of conditioning should do the trick and turn this baby into a masterpiece. Well, for some reason "a couple more days" registered in my subconscious as "let's give it another week, shall we?" My mistake.

So let me backtrack a little here. Priming one's bottles with honey is a little bit more complex than just using dextrose; there's a whole process involving bees and hives that I'm just not at a comfortable enough place yet to discuss. But, our favorite microorganisms really like to eat up that honey goodness, much more aggressively than dextrose. As a result, if not properly measured or monitored, glass bottles can have a tendency to get a little over-excited about having the opportunity to be consumed and joyously explode (the carbonation is just too much for it to handle)! I was willing to try this out, though (how can I ever expand on what I do if I don't try new things, right?). For those of you homebrewers out there who are flirting around with this procedure as well, this might be particularly noteworthy:

After doing as much research as I could, I decided to use 1 cup of honey and mix it with 16 ounces of water. I brought this to a boil for 5 minutes (not realizing that I would experience a "hot break" of sorts with the honey, which I wish I would have known about so I could have used a bigger pot). After letting it cool for a few, I transferred it to my bottling bucket, followed by the anxious 5 gallons of mostly fermented wort (about 2 weeks in the secondary was used). A small taste at the end of the usual ritual indicated that things were going well (no off-flavors or too much honey detected).

After corresponding a bit with two of my homebrew buddies, I decided to wait a week, toss one in the fridge, and see how it was going. As I said earlier, things were looking great. "Just a couple more days," I thought. "That should be all it will need." For no apparent reason whatsoever, a couple days turned into a week. I loaded all 47 of the bottles into our cramped fridge and forced the yeast to take a permanent nap.

Well, those little buggers (although, I love them to death), went to town on the honey - big time. The result is a now incredibly over-carbonated Blonde Ale, with little to no remaining honey flavor. There's a slight off-flavor detectable, at least by me, but my wife and I are the only ones who know what this originally tasted like (so I don't know if it would be easily noticed by someone else; although, the over-carbonation and lack of honey flavor has been duly noted by my tasters).

So I'm a bit disappointed, as can be imagined. I mean, it's still a good beer, but I know it was on its way to being even better. I entered it into a homebrew meeting earlier this month (Commander SAAZ down in Cocoa, FL), and I'm pretty sure it won't do well (the yeast was active much longer in those entries, since they weren't being refrigerated). I was also hesitant to send this off to the organic competition that had originally inspired this recipe, but I figured it was the sole reason for brewing it, so I might as well. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens. Luckily, the entry for the Sunshine Challenge competition in November has been chilled with the rest of them, so that one might do better than the others.

Here's what we're looking at:

Final Gravity: 1.027
ABV: 3.5%
SRM: 13
Calories: 185

My gravity is also a bit off (by about 14 points) for the style too. But as you can see, at 3.5% ABV, it's incredibly drinkable, and I'm all-around happy with it, considering the circumstances. I'm definitely going to have to try this one out again sometime. Perhaps I'll use less honey too (just in case my subconscious gets the best of me again).

Keep an eye out for the next post. I should be tossing it up within the next couple weeks. I'm brewing an Oatmeal Stout this weekend, I believe (I need something sweet and hearty for the upcoming colder weather). I'll also be entering this one into the Sunshine Challenge, alongside Fuzzie Berr and Gizmo Gold.

Here's to the next batch!

Peace and Love!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Put Those Shades On, And Don't Forget To Grab A Pint For The Road!

Things just keep getting better and better in the craft beer world, now don't they? New Belgium Brewing has just announced that they will be installing the worlds largest privately owned solar array, and the new E-Fuel MicroFueler converts old beer to ethanol fuel for cars. Just splendid.

So, this solar array. How large are we actually talking here? As of two days ago, New Belgium began the installation of an 870 panel 200 kW system, which will produce 16% of their peak electrical load and 3% of their total electrical energy used; it is reported that this alone will be able to power their bottling line for 8 hours on a sunny day. Pretty cool, huh? This further step in the brewery's greenery is apparently part of Fort Collins' FortZED initiative; the initiative aims to produce the world's largest active zero energy district through various renewable energy technologies.

In 1998, New Belgium captured the awe of those craft brewers out there who are trying to reduce their footprint during these troubling times. For 10 years, they have been running on 100% wind energy and can produce up to 15% of its electricity by capturing methane from their process water treatment plant, using it to fire a cogeneration engine that produces heat and electricity right under their little green noses.

So this has got to be pretty pricey, right? Well, yes. Of course. Over 1 million dollars, to be exact. Let's write that out. $1,000,000.00. Yep, that's quite a bit. However, another particularly groovy piece to this fabulous picture is that New Belgium is going to be reimbursed for up to 40% of this project through a Department of Energy grant.

Let's all take a moment of silence here, and appreciate the example New Belgium Brewing is setting. Pop open a beer while you're at it too (Their Fat Tire and Mothership Wit are particularly tasty).

Ahh, ethanol fuel. Some people love the idea, others hate it. I'd say...I'm sort of in the middle. I won't pretend that I know all the details surrounding it, its efficiency, or its manufacturing processes, but I never really liked the idea of growing excess food, with the sole purpose of it being converted into fuel. There are plenty of people starving in the world, and a lack of sufficient land as it is...I think we can come up with something a little less...counterproductive?But, using organic waste instead of freshly grown crops...well, I'm definitely sold.

The E-Fuel MicroFueler is a contraption that converts organic waste into ethanol fuel within minutes. AND it can easily be installed at individual homes. Pretty cool, I know. Equally cool is the fact that buyers are entitled to a $5,000 tax credit (perhaps H2 and H3 owners should be directly contributing to this credit?). That does sound nice and all, but let me mention that this bad boy does cost $10,000, so that's still kind of pricey. But hey, an investment is just that - an investment.

So what does this $10,000 get you exactly? A 250-gallon tank that is particular fond of wasted beer and wine (and it really loves "fresh" macro-industrial "beer," by the way...from what I hear), and a still that converts this waste into ethanol fuel (the still even has its own fuel pump built into it); its only byproduct is distilled water. According to its inventor, Tom Quinn, more than 100 billion gallons of organic fuel are thrown out each year. Let's write this one out too. 100,000,000,000. Oh yeah, that's definitely a whopper of a figure. So he figured it'd be much more efficient to use this waste for something productive instead. Who would argue with that?

The MicroFueler actually works more effectively with waste that is high in alcohol (no joke), but can be used with any type of organic material. The conversion into ethanol takes only minutes and uses about 3 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce 1 gallon of fuel. The fuel could also power a home generator, which produces about 23 kilowatt-hours of electricity per gallon. So, if one factors in the reported statistics (annual household fuel consumption of 2,080 gallons and a $2.00 charge per gallon), along with the tax credit, the payback, on average, is about 2 years. Not too bad, I suppose.

Well, so what are we looking at here? Ethanol isn't as fuel efficient as gasoline (fewer miles are travelled on a gallon of ethanol versus a gallon of gasoline), but it does create 38% less carbon dioxide when burned. I'm by no means an authoritative voice on the pros and cons of ethanol fuel, but using waste, instead of fresh crops and land we can no longer spare on this planet, is definitely a sign of progress and further innovation.

There's currently only one MicroFueler up and running, and its owner, GreenHouse International Inc., has multiple contracts with brewers to turn their liquid waste into fuel. I've got a feeling that if this thing really kicks off and becomes what it is hyped up to be, we may be seeing one of these little guys, or something similar, making an appearance over at New Belgium Brewing sometime in the future. Who knows?

Peace and Love!

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Gizmo Gold"

So, I did it. I brewed an all organic batch of beer - a Blonde Ale, to be exact. Yippie!!! Now, what we're dealing with here is no mere run-of-the-mill Blonde, this bad boy has a touch of Wu Wei Brewing all over it. I'm still going to prime the bottles with organic honey (specifically, wildflower), instead of my usual concoction of dissolved dextrose, as originally discussed. I'm hoping that this will add a subtle honey-y residual sweetness to the final product...and not screw up my beloved tasters' palates. Let's cross our fingers, shall we?

As you can see from the picture up there, I did something a little different this time too (aside from finally going all organic). No...I didn't polish my brewpot before using it this time around... Still not sure? Come on... Hey! I used whole hops! Now, some of you may be wondering what that actually means...or be thinking "okay...then what were you using before?" Basically, there are two main paths a brewer can follow when brewing a nice batch of this glorious nectar: 1) using hop pellets (whole hops that have literally been pulverized and packed into pellets) and 2) using whole leaf hops (what you probably think of when you hear that magical word "hops"). I've been using pellets from the get-go - mostly because of the fact that there have been shortages of whole hops, due to crop destruction back in 2007 and supply and demand; my local shop has only been carrying pellets since I started brewing (except for a few particular varietals). Each have their pros and cons, but we won't get into that here. Plus, whole hops make me feel more authentic in my brewing - which I'm sure going all-grain will only add to further, once I make that jump.

As mentioned in my previous post, this batch was specifically geared towards Seven Bridges Cooperative's National Organic Homebrew Challenge. I ordered all of my ingredients from them (except my yeast...well, my second pack of yeast...the first one overheated on its way to me and wouldn't activate), and they have a great supply of organic whole hops. So, I figured, what better time to try using whole hops than now?

I used 6 lbs. of Briess Pale LME (approximately 3.5-4 °L), 1 lb. of Briess Carapils (1-2 °L), 1 1/4 oz. whole Kent Goldings hops (Belgium 2007, 7.82% alpha acid) for the bittering, 3/4 oz. of the same hop for the finishing, and Wyeast British Ale yeast (instead of my original Wyeast Whitbread yeast). I originally (well, by "originally" I mean about two weeks before I sanitized my carboy and turned on the stove) wanted to add a little bit of heather to the boil as well, to groove things up a bit like usual (heather can have some honey-like properties when used this way), and then prime the bottles with heather honey to compliment it. Although, I wasn't able to locate any organic heather in time, or any organic heather honey. However, our best friend and maid of honor, Heather, came into town on brew day to visit with us for the week. Given the miraculous coincidence, I was left with two options: leave the heather out and use whatever honey I could find when I bottled, or follow my gut instinct and scrape some dead skin off of Heather into the brewpot. I'm kidding. Although, that still would have been "organic," right?

Anyway, without going into too much detail here, things went well and I managed to stay in the BJCP guideline range for the original gravity of Blonde Ales (1.038-1.054) without having to adjust things after the boil. So here's what we're looking at:

8/09 - Gizmo Gold
*Original Gravity: 1.054
*Potential ABV: 6.5%
*Homebrew Bitterness Units (HBU): 15.64
*International Bitterness Units (IBU): 38.81

My IBUs for this one are a little high (by about 10 units, according to the BJCP), but it is roughly calculated, and I don't think it will be a problem (meaning, I hope it isn't).

I'm calling this one "Gizmo Gold" after my beautiful kitten, and favorite little rascal, Gizmo :-) Although, I couldn't help but feel a bit guilty while I was boiling away...with him being locked up in our bedroom while I brewed a batch of beer bearing his name and honor. He'll forgive me.

It's been exactly one week since I transferred this batch to its temporary glass home in my guest shower, so I should be bottling sometime this coming week. Then, as long as everything turns out well, it's off to two competitions (one of which will be alongside "Fuzzie Berr"), and then a third in a couple months (along with the last of the "Fuzzie Berr").

As a side note, I must say, straining, sparging, and transferring the wort from the brewpot to the carboy (I'm still using a pot, but hoping to upgrade to a nice kettle with a spigot and thermometer soon) when using whole hops is significantly easier and faster than using hop pellets; it's a difference between washing over leaves and washing over dissolved pellet muck. It even sounds more aesthetically pleasing, doesn't it? So, I think I'm permanently sold on sticking with whole hops from here on out (assuming I can find what I need, when I need it); plus, they just look and smell so much nicer!

Here's to our very own Mr. Gizmo, and his Gold!

Peace and Love!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Going Au NaturALE!

Okay, so I didn't come up with that incredibly clever phrase, titling this post (I saw it in a magazine, highlighting the "best" homebrew beer labels), but it was too clever to pass up in this context.

Seven Bridges Cooperative is holding its 3rd annual National Organic Brewing Challenge. It's an official BJCP/AHA sanctioned national competition, and entries must conform to BJCP standards. All ingredients must be verified organic (with a few exceptions, such as yeast and a couple types of sugars), and proof is required. Entries are being accepted between September 1st and October 9th. More info can be found here: Competition Rules.

I'm planning on brewing a batch for this competition very soon (I've got the semester starting up on September 1st, so I want to get this one bottled before I start teaching). What I've got in mind is a basic Blonde Ale. However, instead of priming my bottles with dextrose (corn sugar), I'm going to use organic honey (not sure which kind yet). I'm going to be formulating the recipe in the next couple days so I can place my order for the ingredients (my local homebrew shop doesn't really have the selection of organic supplies that Seven Bridges' site does) shortly thereafter.

I'll keep everyone posted on how it's going before I actually kick off the boil, though, via some mind-blowing tweets!

Peace and Love!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Brew Power! And...Cans??

Four brewmasters went out to a bar, one from each of the big three American mega-breweries and a brewmaster from Munich. When they got to the bar, the brewmaster from Anheuser-Busch said, "I'll have a Bud Light," the brewmaster from Coors said, "I'll have a Coors," and the brewmaster from Miller said, "I'll have a Miller Genuine Draft." The German brewmaster ordered a Pepsi. "You're not drinking with us?" the others cried. "Well," said the German, "if you gentlemen aren't drinking beer, then neither will I."

Funny, right? Well, so anyway, what's all this talk about beer power and cans making their appearance in the world of craft beer? How can beer produce alternative energy and help run a facility? And, doesn't beer taste different (as in, not good in comparison to other containers) when it's poured out of a can?

Spent grains from brewing (which are having a more difficult time making their way over to farmers lately, because of stricter regulations now in play) are being used as bio-waste to create steam and bio-gas, which can provide energy for breweries to make more batches of beer. Cool, huh? The grain-to-fuel conversion method of beer power is reported to re-capture 50% of the energy used to make beer!

Personally, I think this is a marvelous step to be looking into taking for the brewing industry. There have already been some trends in alternative energy for various breweries around the world (for example, New Belgium Brewing out in Colorado running on wind energy), but this takes things to a whole new level. Not only is energy consumption reduced, but much of the waste along with it! This is definitely something to keep an eye on.

So, really? Cans? What gives? Well, I've got to say, I never thought I would be drinking great beer out of a can...ever. But, it looks like this is going to start becoming more and more popular in the world of craft beer - and here's why: First and foremost, aluminum cans use much less energy than bottles, and they are also less expensive to recycle; the Can Manufacturers Institute reports that more than half of all aluminum cans are recycled, and this saves 95% of the energy used to manufacture the cans from raw ore. They're also lighter (20 lbs. for a case of cans versus 35 lbs. for a case of glass bottles), smaller, and thus use less fuel to transport. It doesn't take cans nearly as long to get cold as it does bottles, so this cuts energy costs for refridgeration too. Another concern is oxidation and light contamination. A properly sealed can battles the risk of exposure to light and UV very effectively, which could otherwise result in a "skunked" beer from the breakdown of hop compounds. They also protect the beer from oxidation, which can contribute to "skunkiness" as well, much better than bottles and caps (which are more expensive).

But what about taste? Canned beers aren't what they used to be. Today, they are made with a food-grade lining, so the metal never actually touches the beer. There is a slight taste difference, least in one particular case: New Belgium Brewing kicked things off with canning its flagship beer, Fat Tire (which is a remarkable beer, by the way), and has reported that it tastes a little different than it does in the bottle. The reason is that a little extra yeast slurry is added to the cans before they're sealed. The thought behind this procedure is that the cells will consume any residual oxygen left in the head of the can, so it doesn't react unpleasantly with the beer; however, a panel of expert tasters couldn't detect a "discernible difference" between the two versions, but a minority stated that the canned version had a "slightly richer mouthfeel."

Breweries such as the aforementioned New Belgium Brewing and Brooklyn Brewing have already started experimenting with canning. The only main issue, however, is that setting up one's microbrewery to start canning is an expensive venture, so we may not see this taking off as quickly as it probably should - but you never know!

Peace and Love!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Fuzzie Berr" (Wocka, Wocka, Wocka!!)

Okay, so...yeah, this isn't a video clip, nor is it a podcast. That will have to wait for another time. I'm doing this the old fashioned way instead (I wonder, are we far enough into the 21st century yet for me to be able to refer to "typing" as "the old fashioned way"...). Frankly, I just never got a chance to set things up, and I want to get this posted before the next batch starts boiling (which, by the way, is no longer going to be a stab at a maple beer, but more on that later).

My better half and I gave this a go on Monday, and, I must say (well, so must she - but not forcefully, of course), this is indeed splendid. I didn't swirl in all of the yeasty goodness the first time around, and it lacked a lot of the mouth-feel I had hoped it would have. Luckily, with the next one, a swirl and tidy kerplunk of the sediment into the glass made all the difference.

On the nose, the beer gave off a pleasant blackberry sweetness, with a little bit of raspberry (which was surprising, given the fact that my initial research indicated that blackberries aren't as aromatic as raspberries, in this context). There were also some slight floral notes present, but definitely dwarfed by the fruit. Upon drinking, it is actually incredibly smooth and not overly sweet. It has a very full-bodied mouth-feel, and yet, it isn't "heavy" at all - it is very refreshing. The malty sweetness is balanced extremely well with the blackberry and raspberry esters (which are also both well-balanced). The carbonation is perfect; the experience leaves a subtle, bubbly sensation all over the tongue. I did notice a faint tartness on the palate...maybe even a tad sour (but by no means the type of "sour" you'd gather from a Flemish or Flanders ale). The finish leaves the entire mouth coated with residual raspberry sweetness.

My only real complaint is the head retention. Granted, this particular batch didn't really require much aroma to be captured in the head (I was shooting for mostly a berry "taste"), but's aesthetically displeasing (I'm a perfectionist, what can I say?). Maybe I'll add a bit more Crystal malt, or swap it out for some Cara-Pils, next time and see if that helps. I'm hesitant to mess with the hops, though - there don't appear to be any flavor clashes, so I think I'll stick with Willamette.

Now, in case you didn't catch the title of this post (this would be the time to scroll back up), I've decided to go with "Fuzzie Berr" (pronounce that like you would "bear"). I know, I know, incredibly clever. And what better way to pay homage to one of the wackiest, yet most down-to-earth of Mr. Henson's creations (I should probably also mention that "fuzzy" is a play on the fact that the beer is very hazy and opaque...the name might make more sense now...)? I started with "Minglin' Berries," trying to capture the fact that two particular berries were, in fact, minglin' in the beer (that's what berries do too, by the way...they mingle), as well as try another attempt at a poor joke (I'm not explaining it, figure it out), and I received quite a few great suggestions as well (I particularly enjoyed "Berr Goggles," hehe), but I think this will do.

I'm very excited to hear what my fellow beer geeks will think of this one at my next homebrew club meeting. I'm also going to make sure I hold on to a few of these to enter into the
Sunshine Challenge in November (along with anything else I brew between now and then). I guess that means I'm going to have to be a bit more frugal with this batch too then - but there's still plenty to go around!

I already disclosed the Final Gravity and Alcohol By Volume, but for those of you who are interested further, I've got a few more details to throw your way:

Calories per 12-ounce bottle: 173
Color/Standard Reference Method (SRM): 19.5
Homebrew Bittering Units (HBU): 10
International Bitterness Units (IBU): 32-33
Ability to bring a smile to your face: priceless

(The SRM and IBU was roughly homebrewers rarely find ourselves with spectrophotometers and other professional pieces of equipment)

Here's to the next batch!

Peace and Love!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beer Is Better!

Many of you know, or have heard, that the moderate consumption of alcohol (in particular, wine) has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, what many of you probably do not know is that beer is actually reported to be better and more beneficial than wine and spirits in this respect, containing many more nutrients. Below is a list of these wonderful little goodies that can be found in the average beer (and I'm talking beer...not "beer," i.e., the carbonated fluid siphoned out of the bladder that is the macro-industrial "beer" scene).

- 11 ounces of pure water
- 14 percent of dietary calories
- 11 percent of dietary protein
- 12 percent of dietary carbohydrates
- 9 percent of dietary phosphorus
- 7 percent of dietary riboflavin
- 5 percent of dietary niacin
- 150 calories
- no fat
- no cholesterol
- no caffeine
- no nitrate
- 1 gram of protein
- significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, potassium, and biotin
- B vitamins including impressive amounts of B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxin), and B9 (folate), with smaller amounts of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B12 (inotisol and choline)
- beer is also considered inherently kosher, conforming to Jewish standards of food purity

In addition, the health benefits of moderately drinking beer on a daily basis include:

- 20 percent to 30 percent reduction in death from all causes (wow!)
- 13 percent reduction in the incidence of all disease in general
- significantly reduced risk of ulcers
- significant (40 percent to 50 percent) reduction in the risk of developing gallstones and kidney stones
- 45 percent reduced incidence of stroke, including among Type II diabetics
- 56 percent lower risk of angina
- 47 percent lower risk of myocardial infarction
- substantially lower risk of carotid arteriosclerosis

Don't believe me? Skeptic. Look up a Dr. Denke and her clinical study from 2001. This quick list of nutritional information and health benefits can also be found, and discussed in greater depth, in a very illuminating book by Christopher Mark O'Brien titled Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World. Check out his site too, via the "Beer Activist" link on the right column of this page.

Drink up!

Peace and Love!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Batch = Bottled, And Other Ruminations...

"To cultures that have felt the life force of plants or of brewing, who have felt themselves make a deep connection with that life force, brewing is not a science - it is an art filled with the actions of the sacred."

- Stephen Harrod Buhner, Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers

So, the latest batch of beer has been successfully bottled (creatively code-named "Batch #6" for the time being). I managed to get 47 bottles out of the 5 gallons. Everything went as usual; although, even though I'm certain that I measured appropriately, I have a feeling that my Star San/water sanitizing solution was heavy on the Star San. It's no-rinse (and very environmentally friendly - yay!), so I'm incredibly worried, even though I know I shouldn't be, that there may be an off-flavor present in the final product. I hope not...I really hope not; an $80 batch of beer isn't something that I can easily retry right away again.

The Mrs. and I both feel that it came out pretty well, though. The berries are actually very well-balanced, and are certainly not too overpowering (a previous concern, feeding my neurosis). It smells much sweeter than it tastes (to put just how sweet this aroma is into perspective, according to my lovely wife, it smelled like cotton candy in our apartment all day). I feel like it is going to be just what I wanted - a light (but definitely "bodied"), refreshing way to watch these hot Florida summer months fade away in their own steamy haze (poetic, isn't it?).

Final Gravity: 1.009
ABV: 5.78%

On another note, I saved the last 3 bottles of my Serrapale Ale and brought them to my homebrew club meeting this past weekend. It was incredibly well-received by everyone there (which includes veteran homebrewers and individuals currently training to become certified beer judges). I was told that it was "the best pepper beer" that they have had, that I "shouldn't change a thing," and that I really should have entered it into a competition that is coming up (2009 First Coast Cup Homebrew Competition). I came up with the recipe from scratch, so it's very rewarding to have fellow beer enthusiasts and experienced beer tasters tell me how much they enjoy it. I'm going to re-brew it in time for another competition this fall and hope for the best!

I've also thought more about this here second carboy I have laying around. I now, of course, have the option to brew batches that require secondary fermentations, but I think that'll be its secondary function too (clever, right?). I'm going to use it to brew smaller, experimental batches (either concurrently or in between my regular brew sessions). These "experimental batches" will be based on variations of old recipes found in a great book I've started reading (quoted at the top, and alluded to a few posts ago) along with some attempts at gluten-free beer (my goal is to make a phenomenal gluten-free beer someday...I've heard that there just aren't any real contenders to put up against beers brewed with the traditional bunch of ingredients, and that just doesn't sit well with me). I've actually already got my eye on some recipes for brewing beers with dandelion and sage (as well as a few others...but let me get my feet a little damp first, if not entirely wet). Particularly, I think I'm going to try brewing a "maple beer" sometime soon and see how it goes; I envision it being a nice beverage to sip on by a fire on a cold winter night (it's literally fermented maple syrup...think "mead," but maple syrup instead of honey). So if I'm actually going to try to live out that fantasy, I guess I'll need to make sure I take it with me for a little vacation out of this (*cough*) wonderful state near the end of the year.

But anyway, this next batch should be ready in about another week and a half. I'm going to try something different this time too, when I officially sample it. I'm thinking either a podcast of sorts, or a brief video clip, documenting the initial taste. So keep an eye out for that - especially those of you who love hearing my beautiful voice, and seeing my pretty face.

Peace and Love!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Batch #6 - American Wheat with Raspberries and Blackberries

Late last night/early this morning, I finished brewing up another batch. Everything went pretty well too. I was aiming for something “light” (and by “light,” I mean “lighter” than what I usually brew) and refreshing for the summer (which actually just started a few days ago). I decided to make an American Wheat and add raspberries and blackberries during the brewing process, much like I did for the banana dunkelweizen a few months ago (I just got my hands on another carboy, so next time I do a similar type of batch, I’ll probably go with a secondary fermentation for the fruit instead).

I still haven’t migrated over into the territory of all-grain brewing (frankly, I don’t think my poor little kitchen could really handle that - so that will definitely be a selling point when we’re in the market for a new place to live, hah), so this was another partial-mash. I used 6.6 lbs. of Light LME, 1/2 lb. of British Crystal malt (60-80 °L), Willamette hop pellets (the current shortage is still preventing me from buying whole hops) for the bittering and finishing, and a basic American Ale yeast strain. I really wanted to use organic, fresh fruit for this batch, but I wasn’t quite ready to sell one of my kidneys yet to pay for it, so I went with frozen (I was going to freeze them beforehand anyway, to rupture the cell walls, so it seemed like the most logical choice). And for those of you who didn’t realize this – myself included – raspberries and blackberries aren’t cheap. Let me just say that this seemingly $40 batch of beer turned into an $80 batch of beer, in a matter of seconds. That said, I expect everyone to at least pretend they like it, if for some reason they do not ;-)

I had read up on using these particular types of berries, and found out that blackberries don’t really add a strong aromatic contribution to the beer when used in small quantities. The advice I had received instructed me to use 1-4 lbs. per gallon brewed; I do 5-gallon batches, so that would have been 5-20 lbs. of blackberries...yeah, not happening in my 5-gallon brewpot. The raspberries required much less (less than half of that suggested for the blackberries). I ended up going with 5 lbs. each (10 lbs. of fruit); this was the first time I used either of these fruits, so I didn’t want to overdo anything (plus, General Mills beat me to “Frankenberry”).

I almost didn’t add any specialty grains to the recipe, because I really didn’t want this one getting too heavy. However, residual sweetness and “body” help compliment the addition of fruit, so it was a toss up between adding a little bit of Crystal malt or Cara-Pils (both of which add some sweeter characteristics, as well as help in “head” retention); I went ahead and gave it a nice little dose of Crystal.

My choice of hops was based on the fact that higher levels of alpha acids, and thus, bitterness, clash with the fruit in these types of beers (something I also had to consider with the banana dunkelweizen). I wanted something aromatic and citrusy, but not too aromatic and citrusy. I also wanted to make sure that the alpha acids were fairly low. So, I took a shot with Willamette hops (4-6% alpha acids), a hybrid of Fuggle, for both the bittering and finishing. We’ll see how it turns out, and I’ll make any necessary adjustments for next time, if need be.

After the boil, I steeped the now, somewhat thawed berries for about twenty minutes, and then strained, sparged (as best I could, given the amount of fruit), and transferred to the carboy. Although, I've got to say, when it came time to add the fruit to the brewpot, I was pretty worried that even 10 lbs. was going to have a hard time fitting. Luckily, it was pretty much a perfect fit. I’ve also been meaning to build an immersion chiller, but still haven’t gotten a chance. Thus, I’ve been forced to put the carboy on an ice bath to cool down the wort. This time, however, the near-frozen fruit did the job for me: immediately after the transfer, the wort reached the proper temperature range for me to pitch the yeast.

I’ve got a good feeling about this batch. My only concern is that the fruit didn’t properly pasteurize in the wort before the transfer. But, I’m far from being neurotic, so I’m sure it’ll actually be okay. Before pitching the yeast, I took a small sip to see how much of the berry flavor had been absorbed. It’s pretty “berry-y,” but I don’t think I overdid it; it’d be a lie to say that I’m not slightly worried that there may be a flavor clash between the two berries, but as usual, Mr. Marley is always right – “time will tell.” I’ll be popping the airlock on in a few days and bottling a week or so thereafter (along with another quick sip). I’m looking forward to seeing how this is going to turn out. If there isn’t much to report until it’s done, keep an eye out for some brief updates via Twitter.

Peace and Love!

So far:

6/09 - Minglin’ Berries (Yeah, I don’t know, someone help me with a name)
*Original Gravity: 1.053
*Potential Alcohol: 6.5%

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Welcome to Wu Wei Brewing!

I brew my own beer. I do this, mind you, in a ten-foot by two-foot kitchen, and subsequently ferment it in a guest bathroom's walk-in shower roughly twenty feet away. I began doing so because of my love for craft beer, fascination with the process, and inclination towards creativity. The process is cathartic for me; the formulation of the recipe, the preparation and sanitization, the brewing process, the monitoring of yeast populations miraculously turning my unfermented wort into consumable beer. It'd be wrong of me to fail to mention, however, that one of the most rewarding parts of the process is sharing this final product with those closest to me. Brewing beer has become much more than about brewing beer.

As a result of what was fermenting deep down inside (pun intended), a few months ago, I came up with the idea of labeling my little homebrew operation - hoping to capture its essence. I envisioned a particular descriptive name and logo, reflecting the manner in which I brew. After deciding how I wanted to represent this conception, one of my best friends dedicated much of his free time to its design. Thus, Wu Wei Brewing was officially born. I like to refer to it as "a philosophy to brew by." The circular formation (two beer bottles) represents an ancient Chinese symbol depicting the principles of "yin" and "yang." The Chinese characters stand for "wu" and "wei," respectively.

In brief, allow me to explain:

Certain trends in Philosophical Taoism regard the Chinese concept of "wu-wei" (simplified, in a manner of speaking, to mean "effortless action," which is itself a reduction of "wei-wu-wei," or "the action of nonaction") as being seemingly paradoxical; actions presuppose an effort to act on part of the actor. However, a particular interpretation that I find enlightening relates this concept to the deeper, more general understanding of Philosophical Taoism: when one becomes one with the Tao, the dichotomization between the two ceases to be. In the context of "wu-wei," this indicates that there is no longer a distinction between the actor and the action; when one completely becomes an action, the sense that it is an action is lost. Thus, an "effortless action" is truly no action at all - there is no longer a duality dividing the two. In the context of brewing, the distinction between brewer and brewing ceases to exist; the ritual becomes an inner and outer expression of one's being as well. But perhaps we should delve more into this another time...

After much deliberation, I'm getting ready to brew another batch to kick off the summer; if everything pans out correctly, it will be an American Wheat with organic raspberries and blackberries. I have also started researching some ancient ("sacred") and indigenous recipes and ingredients from the "pre-hop" days in brewing; a multitude of various herbs and spices have been used throughout history to make remarkable beers and herbal remedies (the use of hops, as a standard in brewing, is really a much more modern regulation).

Organic ingredients for brewing are still pretty marginal, and hard for me to come by, but I plan on only brewing with 100% organic, and as local as possible, ingredients in the near future.

But anyway, I'm now going to keep a running tab on all things Wu Wei Brewing. So, if you're interested in keeping up with what I've got going on, go ahead and subscribe to this feed (either RSS or email, via the form near the top, right-hand corner of this page), or bookmark it and check back often.

Here's to the next batch!

Peace and Love!

A brief run-down of what I've done so far:

6/08 - American Wheat

*American Wheat

*Specific Gravity: 1.008

*ABV: 4.73%

8/08 - Dry Stout

*Dry Stout

*Specific Gravity: 1.024

*ABV: 3.15%

10/08 - A Holer-in' Brown Ale

*Brown Ale, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger

*Specific Gravity: 1.015

*ABV: 4.73%

1/09 - Dirty Banana

*Dunkelweizen, brewed with five pounds of ripe banana

*Specific Gravity: 1.013

*ABV: 4.99%

4/09 - Serrapale Ale

*American Pale Ale, brewed with twelve serrano peppers

*Specific Gravity: 1.012

*ABV: 6.43%