Koch and Allin – The Brewer’s Apprentice

The Brewer’s Apprentice: an Insider’s Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn
Date read: 26-27 March 2017
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017nfc

Cover image of The Brewer's Apprentice: an Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Beer Brewing, Taught by the Masters by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn

 

Library binding, 192 pages
Published 2011 by Quarry Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [641.873 KOCH GREG]

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Brewing Basics
  • 1 Mashing and Lautering: Eric Harper, Summit Brewing Co.
  • 2 Bittering Hops: Vinnie Cilurzo, Russian River Brewing Co.
  • 3 Aroma Hops: Nick Floyd, Three Floyds Brewing Co.
  • 4 Lager Brewing: Bill Covaleski, Victory Brewing Co.
  • 5 Water Chemistry: Mitch Steele, Stone Brewing Co.
  • 6 Brewing Like a Belgian: Tomme Arthur, The Lost Abbey
  • 7 Wheat Beer: Hans-Peter Drexler, Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn, Germany
  • 8 English Ales: John Keeling, Fuller, Smith & Turner, England
  • 9 Lambic Brewing: Jean Van Roy, Brasserie Cantillon, Belgium
  • 10 Brewing with Fruit and More: Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
  • 11 Brewing Big Beer: James Watt, BrewDog Ltd, Scotland
  • 12 Barrel Aging: Scott Vaccaro, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
  • 13 Organic Brewing: Ted Vivatson, Eel River Brewing Co.
  • 14 Tasting and Evaluating Beer: Ray Daniels, Cicerone Certification Program
  • 15 Making Beautiful Beer: Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • 16 Mead: Bob Liptrot, Tugwell Creek Meadery, Canada
  • 17 Hard Cider: James Kohn, Wandering Aengus Ciderworks
  • 18 Traditional Cider: Jérôme Dupont, Domaine Familial Louis Dupont, France
  • Brewer’s Glossary
  • Contributors
  • Resources
  • Index
  • Photo Credits
  • About the Authors

My notes:

Aroma hops with Mitch Steele contains a chart with seven suggested hop blends for “flavor and aroma” (36). These include hop variety and ratios. For example, Goldings and Target at 4:1 for English ales; earthy and spicy with hints of tangerine. I am interested in trying a couple of these.

Lager brewing with Bill Covaleski contains the clearest, most succinct, explanation of the gross differences between German, Czech, Swiss, and American Lager yeasts (44).

On Soft water [We have extremely soft water!]:

“A bonus of using soft water is that because of a low temporary hardness level, there’s little trouble hitting a desired pH with pale base malt.” 54

The chapter on Brewing with fruit and more contains the second full-on WTF?! Moment I came across in this book. [Sadly, I failed to note the first]. The section titled, Sanitizing Fruit, begins “Fresh or frozen fruit will both need to be sanitized unless you are adding it after your boil” (101). I believe that is incorrect.

On the next page, in Adding fruit to the brew it states there “are three common points in the brewing process at which you can add fruit: at the end of the boil, during primary fermentation, and to the conditioning tank” (102). So, in practice, all the additions are “after your boil” and, thus, no fruit needs sanitizing. And that is simply wrong.

Brewing big beer contains some good information on pitching rates, making a yeast starter, using Champagne yeast and high-test yeast strains.

Following this chapter proper is an interview with James Watt of BrewDog. I was particularly dismayed by this choice because despite their three “world’s strongest” records they used freeze distillation for all of them. Freeze distillation is illegal in the US for homebrewers as it is distilling. This is a book for homebrewers so why focus on something clearly illegal? Better choices would have been Sam Calagione and World Wide Stout, among others (Palo Santo Marron) and Jim Koch and Utopia. No doubt in 2011 there were plenty of other choices too.

All in all, I found the book useful and enjoyable, even if in a middling way [3 of 5 stars]. There is some poor editing throughout but not a substantial amount. For instance, Beyond fruit has an incomplete sentence: “Most culinary elements that have a manageable fat content (yes, chocolate works), and can be sterilized, added, or infused into beer in some way” (103). [Just remove the “and” is one way to fix it.] Plus, it mentions “fat” with no commentary as to what is “manageable” or even why fat is an issue. There are several more minor editing issues between the above and “… , we’ll rack the fermented cider the sediment off yeast” (174). Most of the poor editing is comprehendable but not always and perhaps not to people with limited knowledge.

I do think it could be a useful book, but at this point, with all of my others, I would not pay much for it.

This is the 17th book read and 7th reviewed in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc]

Loftus – Sustainable Homebrewing

Sustainable Homebrewing: An All-Organic Approach to Crafting Great Beer by Amelia Slayton Loftus
Date read: 09 – 17 January 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2017nfc

Cover image of Sustainable Homebrewing by Amelia Slayton Loftus

Paperback, ix, 357 pages
Published 2014 by Storey Publishing
Source: Deschutes Public Library [641.873 LOFTUS AMELIA]

I enjoyed this quite a bit and would find owning a copy useful. My reservation hinges on what might be a marketing issue. There are several extant, amazing books on beginning homebrewing—from extract to full grain—such that I don’t understand why so much space is spent on it in a specialty book like this. But, then, most do. Which is my point regarding marketing. Perhaps the topic would be too niche to sell on its own but I, for one, would appreciate more on the specialty topic/angle and less of the here-it-is-again basics.

The basics are covered well here and, to be honest, it is, for me, a slog to read basic homebrewing instructions over and over. My eyes start glazing over I have read so very many. [Unless one is looking at the evolution of homebrewing instructions in print and then ….] I would prefer more of the space in a specialty homebrewing book be spent on the specialty topic rather than on basic brewing instructions and equipment coverage, unless it is appropriate to the topic. Perhaps that is just me. Perhaps there is less of a market for such specialty books. I don’t know. Anyway, I heartily recommend this book.

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Part 1: The allure and the art of homebrewing
  • 1 Looking at essential equipment and supplies
  • 2 Finding organic brewing ingredients
  • 3 The basics of brewing good beer
  • 4 Kicking it up: Brewing from scratch
  • Part 2: Sustainable brewing in the kitchen and garden
  • 5 The homebrewer’s kitchen
  • 6 The homebrewer’s garden
  • Part 3: Brewing organic beer
  • 7 Easier recipes for beginning brewers
  • 8 Advanced all-grain recipes
  • 9 Creating your own organic beer recipes
  • List of beer recipes
  • Metric conversion chart
  • Resources
  • Index

Basically, these are my extremely succinct notes. They ought, at least, give you an idea as to what is behind the chapter titles.

Introduction – two pages. “Being a good brewer,” for her involves good stewardship; sustainability. Lists two handfuls of early organic breweries and beers. Covers her 3 main reasons for brewing organic.

  • Supports organic agriculture and small-scale farming
  • Beer is food. [If you eat organic when possible …]
  • Is cheaper in the long run

Part 1: The allure and the art of homebrewing – covers equipment, ingredients, basic extract brewing plus steeping to all-grain brewing.

1 Looking at essential equipment and supplies – developing a personal ecosystem, considering the cost of manufacturing, fair wage produced and fairly traded. Covers equipment in some detail. Geared towards 5-gallons of lighter beers or smaller batches. Efficient use of raw materials, choosing eco-friendly materials, and finding equipment and supplies. How to be green and ecologically sound with cleaners and sanitizers; reusing them.

2 Finding organic brewing ingredients – covers ingredients and finding sources for organic ones, along with storage; also water and yeast.

3 The basics of brewing good beer – [skip if not beginner/basic, she writes] : Getting started; lots on yeast and making a starter, steeping grains, adding extract, …, hops additions, chilling, fermentation, bottling.

4 Kicking it up: Brewing from scratch – all-grain process, extra equipment needed, pH testing, mashing, …, water chemistry, mash pH, aeration, control of fermentation temperature.

Does not mention no-sparge or BiaB under sparging. A bit of a let down there, honestly.

Part 2: Sustainable brewing in the kitchen and garden

5 The homebrewer’s kitchen – using leftover yeast: harvesting, feeding to animals, yeast broth and yeast extract, vegetarian gravy. Using spent grain: nutritional content, animal feed (recipes for poultry feed and dog biscuits), cooking with spent grain (recipes for brownies, cookies, energy bars, granola, falafel, veggie burgers, pizza dough, assorted breads, pretzels), turning a bad batch of beer into vinegar.

6 The homebrewer’s garden – composting spent grain, hops, and yeast; vermiculture; making mushroom substrate from spent grain; recycling cleaning/sanitizing and cooling water; growing hops; growing barley; malting; kilning specialty malts; malting other grains; adding fruit to beer; adding vegetables to beer; and adding herbs to beer.

Part 3: Brewing organic beer

7 Easier recipes for beginning brewers –recipes, in both extract and all-grain versions, for a wide variety of styles.

8 Advanced all-grain recipes – another wide variety of styles and more complex recipes possibly involving fruit, step mashing, etc. that is a bit above beginner.

9 Creating your own organic beer recipes – converting existing recipes to organic, followed by lots of information on organic ingredients, recipe development, malt yields and similar concepts.

The list of beer recipes lists them alphabetically by name and also broken down, alphabetically also, under the headings: ales, lagers, porters and stouts, wheat beers, and miscellaneous.

Resources covers recipes, recipe calculators, brewing apps; testing laboratories; homebrewing resources; organic brewing ingredient sources; recommended reading.

One note on design: There are lots of “breakouts” but they got distracting due to placement; they were often several pages away from what referenced them. E.g., see Adjusting Hop Additions which is in middle of cooling options [67].

Highly recommended and would love to own a copy. I would like to revisit it for some ideas at some point.

This is the 7th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2017 [2017nfc] http://marklindner.info/blog/2017/01/01/2017-reading-challenges-goals/ and the 6th review. [These numbers are (for now) accurate; I had left out a nonfiction book read but not reviewed.]

New post:   #2017nfc #bookreview #organic #homebrewing

Cantwell & Bouckaert – Wood & Beer

Wood & Beer: A Brewer’s Guide by Dick Cantrell and Peter Bouckaert

Date read: 17 July – 19 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Cantwell & Bouckaert's Wood & Beer book

Paperback, xxiv, 228 pages
Published 2016 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an excellent book, particularly for the pro brewer, but also for the homebrewer with the cash and fortitude to undertake fermenting and/or conditioning/aging in barrels. Of course, other ways to get wood into beer—spirals, chips, powder, etc.—are also covered.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword by Frank Book
  • Foreword by Wayne Wambles
  • Introduction
  • 1. The History of the Barrel, or There and Back Again
  • 2. Cooperage
  • 3. Wood & Wooden Vessels
  • 4. Wood Maintenance
  • 5. Flavors from Wood
  • 6. Flavors in Wood
  • 7. Blending and Culture
  • Appendix A: Techniques for Wood- and Barrel-Aging for Homebrewers
  • Appendix B: Wood Primer for Homebrewers
  • Bibliography
  • Index

I utterly recommend this book if you are considering barrel/wood-aging at any level. It can get quite deep at times —but always fascinating—but you only need to absorb small bits as a homebrewer. All in all, a lot of great stuff to be aware of even if you never stick any beer in wood or vice versa. This book will help you gain an even better appreciation of the art of cooperage and that of the barrel-aging of beer.

The bottom line: Every individual barrel [or piece of wood] is its own special snowflake. That is the starting point. Good luck!

This is the 22nd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Strong – Brewing Better Beer

Brewing Better Beer: Master lessons for advanced homebrewers by Gordon Strong

Date read: 09-19 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Strong's Brewing Better Beer book

Paperback, xvii, 316 pages
Published 2011 by Brewers Publications
Source: Own

This was an amazing book and it has vaulted to the very top of the list of homebrewing books (as far as I’m concerned) for anyone beyond ultimate beginners. I intend to get very good use from this. Strong writes that it’s meant for advanced homebrewers but as Michael “Musafa” Ferguson writes in the Foreword:

“Gordon would say that this is for the experienced home brewer already brewing all-grain recipes. I say that this book is a book for anyone who has ever contemplated or attempted homebrewing, from the newbie looking in through the window to the professional brewer who has returned to his or her roots, not unlike what I have done” (xiv).

I think the author of the foreword makes the more accurate assertion, although I disagree with the whole “anyone who has ever contemplated …” claim. I believe it would be a bit overwhelming for them. But it is for anyone else with almost any amount of experience, and especially if any of that is with all-grain.

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing.

[I finished this book a month ago. I would prefer to write the review that this book actually deserves but I am seriously backlogged on book review writing and want to get something out. I guess I am telling myself that I will revisit the review and improve on it, just as I intend (and already am) revisiting the book. Perhaps I can give you enough of an overview to make a decision whether it is for you or not; that is kind of the idea anyway.]

With that in mind, I have provided the outline of each chapter at one step below the chapter heading so that you may gauge the book’s coverage. Keep in mind, there are a couple levels below many of those headings also.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Philosophy
  • Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing
  • Part II: Mastering Your Craft
  • Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques
  • Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment
  • Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients
  • Part III: Applying Your Knowledge
  • Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer
  • Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer
  • Chapter 7. Troubleshooting
  • Chapter 8. Finishing Beer
  • Chapter 9. Competition Brewing
  • Chapter 10. Conclusion
  • List of Recipes
  • Index

Foreword [by Michael “Musafa” Ferguson]

I liked several things Ferguson said. The first is in relation to book forewords and does go on just a bit more for a little more clarity but this excerpt is what you get. The others are more directly about the book in hand.

“There are basically two reasons to read a foreword. You have either already bought the book and are looking to get everything out of it you can, or you are contemplating buying the book and are looking for insight into whether or not you should spend the money.” xiii

“This book, however, is not a how-to book; it’s a “do you want to” book.” xiii

“This book is just like having a mentor.” xv

“This book flows along the lines of analogy, technique, and practice.” xv

Introduction

  • Blown Up, Sir
  • The Journey Is the Reward
  • Structure of This Book
  • Using This Book
  • But Why Nothing on Extract Beers?

The recipe for Old Draft Dodger, an English Barley Wine [p. 3], gave me a solid slap upside the head in full acknowledgment of how large a mash tun I need. And since my mash tun will also be my boil kettle—am going to use Brew in a Bag—that was a good and solid bit of info. I had been working with estimates of 25 lbs but this uses 30.25 lbs of malt + 1 lb muscovado sugar [yields 8 gal to boil down to 6 gal]. Thus, this was a critical equipment and process control point, for me, which I will discuss in a bit.

There is a fair bit in the intro but mostly Strong lets us know what he isn’t about and a touch of what he is attempting to be about. In the process, he gives the authors and texts he turns to in a pinch or otherwise necessary, as he does throughout the book. Pay attention as he tells you exactly who he turns to for a topic.

What the book is not

  • “isn’t a textbook or a purely technical brewing book.”
    •     SEE brewing reference textbooks – “De Clerck, Kunze, Narziss, Briggs, Bamforth, and Lewis.” 5
    •     more towards homebrewers SEE Fix and Noonan 5
    •     “online technical studies by A.J. deLange and Kai Troester that describe practical experiments, ….” 5
  • “isn’t a scholarly study; …” 5
  • “is not a recipe book, but I provide many of my award winning recipes.” 6
    •     illustrate points & add color
    •     “If I’m looking for a new recipe, I often look at books by Zainasheff/Palmer, Noonan, or the Classic Styles Series published by Brewers Publications.” … “If I’m looking for ideas on formulation, I’ll look to Daniels and Mosher.” 6
  • “is not a basic brewing book and it doesn’t discuss extract brewing at all; … … won’t teach you how to get started brewing or give you step-by-step procedures for bsic brewing processes.” SEE Palmer, Korzonas 6

What the book is

“What this book does is fill an unaddressed niche in homebrewing literature. It describes how to think about brewing, how to select and apply proper techniques, and how to continue to learn and develop your own brewing style.” 6

Stories, recipes, and anecdotes are used to illustrate points, analogies (and other influences) will be used liberally, and he states strong opinions based on his experience. [quasi-paraphrase] 6

Part I: Philosophy

Chapter 1. The Philosophy of Brewing

  • Everyone Has a Story
  • Channeling Influences [Write out your own]
  • Mastering Skills [On what it means to be a master]
  • Developing Your Own Style

“Think about your own style being your framework for brewing. You’ll find out the details as you learn and grow in your abilities. Select the tools and methods you want to use and learn. Work towards mastering a core set of skills that let you make the beer styles you enjoy most. …” 23

“Reconsider what you are able to do whenever you make modifications to your system.” 23

Part II: Mastering Your Craft

“In the next three chapters, I will review the stages of brewing, the choices to make, identifying the critical control points, and what your choices will imply later.” 25

Books for all-grain knowledge:

“My favorites are John Palmer’s How to Brew and Greg Noonan’s New Brewing Lager Beer. Noonan’s book is more advanced and is really a great reference text. I also like Al Korzonas’ Homebrewing: Volume I as a source  of useful information, although it doesn’t cover all-grain brewing. For a person first learning to homebrew, I still like Dave Miller’s Homebrewing Guide. All of these books have given me information that I still use today.” 25-6

Some of the things that will come up in the next several sections are control points [e.g., single-infusion mash], decision points [e.g., lautering options], techniques of interest [to me], and critical process/system decisions [e.g., moving liquids]. These are strewn throughout the book and add immense value to Strong’s clear system thinking.

Chapter 2. Mastering Techniques

  • Transforming Grain
  • Mash Temperatures, Final Gravity, and Maltsters
  • Step Mashing for Attenuation Technique
    • Tripwire–Belgian Tripel (recipe)
  • Decoction and Tannins
  • Hochkurz Double Decoction Mash Technique
    • Procrastinator Doppelbock (recipe)
  • Step and Decoction Mashing Techniques Combined
    • El Hefe German—Hefeweizen (recipe)
  • Cold-Steeped Roasted Grains Technique
    • Headlights On Sweet—Stout (recipe)
  • Unusual Technique: The Overnight Oven Mash by Joe Formanek
  • Lautering
  • Part-Gyle Technique Producing Two Beers
    • Seven-Year Itch—English Barley Wine (recipe)
    • Session Slammer—Northern English Brown Ale (recipe)
  • No-Sparge Technique
    • Pride of Warwick—Strong Bitter (recipe)
  • Managing the Boil
  • Intentional Caramelization Technique
    • Gunn Clan Scotch Ale (recipe)
  • Using Hops
  • First Wort Hopping and Late Hopping Techniques Combined
    • Avant Garde–American Pale Ale (recipe)

An example of control points [for single-infusion mash] under Transforming Grain:

  •     mash temperature
  •     rest time
  •     mash thickness
  •     mash pH [measured at mash temp; NB: pH is temp dependent; generally regulates itself] 33-34

Lautering Options are a [decision point]

“The method used to get the wort into the kettle is a decision point for the brewer: Will sparging be used, and if so, what technique? We examine the techniques of continuous sparging, parti-gyle sparging, batch sparging, and the no-sparge method.” 50

Some decision points under Using Hops are:

  •           Varieties to use
  •           Form of hops
  •           How much of each
  •           Techniques used during/after boil 65

All-Late Hopping [technique of interest]

“In a nutshell, the techniques involves adding all your hops within the last 20 minutes of the boil, adjusting your amounts to compensate for the reduced utilization.”  … You will want to watch out for excessive vegetal and grassy flavors coming from the increased hop material (as weel as the volume loss due to absorption). The advice to keep your total hop bill to less than 8 ounces (227 grams) per 5-gallon (…) batch still applies.” 66

Chapter 3. Mastering Equipment

  • Matching Equipment to the Task
  • Learning Your System
  • Optimizing Your Brewing

“In order to be a great brewer, you have to learn your brewing system in detail and make it your own. You have to know its strengths and weaknesses and how it responds to different brewing conditions.” 75

“The major topics in this chapter are selecting your equipment, learning your system, and optimizing your brewing.” 75

Matching Equipment to the Task tells us to:

“Start with what you need to accomplish, then find devices to best meet those needs.” 76

“Consider your equipment selections along with your process choices.” 76

“In this section, I’ll walk through the common brewing tasks that require equipment and discuss alternatives and tradeoffs. 76

This section is most valuable for brewery planning. I am really happy that I have read this before I finalized my ideas on what I think I am doing. Nothing changed except I feel better prepared and better educated/validated in my decisions. I appreciate that. [I have read quite a few how-to-brew books. This one works for me.]

To give you some idea of the further breakdown and amount of information covered by Strong, Matching Equipment to the Task covers all of the following: Measuring Ingredients, Crushing Grain, Moving Liquid, Managing Heat, Mashing, Lautering, Boiling Wort, Chilling and Separating Wort, Fermenting and Conditioning, and Packaging.

Moving Liquids under Matching Equipment to the Task brings in the most important decision, per Strong, as to system design:

“Water and wort have to be moved between vessels during brewing. This is generally accomplished manually, with gravity, or with pumps. To me, this decision, along with the number of brewing vessels, is what drives the overall design of your system.” 79 [critical process/system decisions, emphasis mine]

“The phases of this that are important in this step are how water gets into the hot liquor tank, how brewing liquor is added to the mash tun, how sparge water is added to the mash tun, how the outflow of the lauter tun is directed to the kettle, and how the boiled wort is moved to the fermenter.”  79

Learning Your System contains a massive amount of useful advice, again, especially still validating your system design.

“Think of systems in abstract terms, like black boxes with inputs and outputs. … This is the systems approach for managing complexity; it allows you to learn the system a piece at a time.” 89

Some of the key things to understand about your system: The range of anything that can be adjusted, How those changes affect the outcome of each step?, …. 90

Some examples of process control points: How accurate are your thermometers and other instruments?, …, When step mashing, how do I increase temps? Direct fire, how long continue to rise after cut-off? Responsiveness of thermometer?, …, What is my evaporation rate?, How much loss do I have from final boil volume to initial fermenter volume, and from initial fermenter volume to final finished beer volume? Also from mash volume to IFV, …, In general, how many pounds of grain needed to hit different gravity targets?, …, What kinds of techniques are possible on my system? How difficult are they to perform? 90-93

Not all control points are of equal importance; focus on those that make a big difference first. 94

Optimizing your Brewing

“…, since the difference between a competent brewer and an expert brewer is often measured in how efficiently and effectively they perform the same tasks.” 94

“… internalizing the techniques and processes so that thoughts and desires are more directly translated into actions and outcomes.” 94

“Some of this mastery comes through simple repetition and understanding of processes and techniques we’ve previously discussed, while executed on your particular system. However, other parts involve changing the way you think and plan your brewing, and how you approach tasks.” 94

Planning Your Brew Calendar under Optimizing your Brewing

Provides several reasons why to plan out your brew calendar, including the most obvious … have a beer available for a certain date but there are others. 95

Planning Your Brew Day, also under Optimizing your Brewing, provides reassuring ways to think about planning out your brew day, even if you’ve never done it on your own before.

  • Think like a chef; do the prep work before cooking. Mise en place, having all that you need to cook ready and waiting. 96
  • Start with breaking down all of the steps. Think about order, equipment needed, ingredients needed, time required.
  • What consumes the most time? If can start longest task first you may shorten the brew day.
  • “Critical path,” from project management : the sequence of dependent tasks that must be completed to get the job done on time. ID the minimum time needed to complete a complex project involving multiple tasks.”
  • Checklists help to not forget certain tasks 97
  • Have extra consumables on hand in case run out : extra propane, DME or LME, …
  • Pay attention during brewing sessions and take notes of things to improve in future; sticking points, etc.
  • Prioritize tasks also; where do I need to focus my energy and attention? 98
  • Avoid wasted effort by understanding the end-to-end process of brewing, and what decisions drive the quality of my final beer.
  • Now, how can I extend this critical path planning if add a 2nd or 3rd batch?
  • “Finally, remember that brewing is often a series of small course corrections.” 98

Chapter 4. Mastering Ingredients

“I’m going to focus on how you categorize, characterize, differentiate, and select each of these types of ingredients.” 103

“The goal is for you to be able to choose ingredients that allow you to brew what you want, to be able to understand cause and effect and how ingredient choices affect the finished beer, and to be able to evaluate new products …” 103

“For each of the types of ingredients I’m discussing, I provide some background on the key points you need to know to properly work with them. I’ll also share the selections I’ve made, and how I approach using these ingredients.”103 His selections are in the So What Do I Do? sections under all of the individual ingredients.

  • Assessing Ingredients
  • Malt
  • Adjuncts
  • Hops
  • Yeast
  • Water

Part III: Applying Your Knowledge

Chapter 5. Evaluating Your Own Beer

  • Understanding Beer Styles
  • Developing Your Palate
  • Critically Assessing Your Own Beer

Chapter 6. Envisioning Your Beer

  • Basic Beer Math
  • Recipe Formulation
  • Adjusting Balance
  • Avoid Clashing Flavors
  • Recipe Formulation Examples
  • Conceptualizing New Styles

Chapter 7. Troubleshooting

  • Detecting Beer Faults
  • Technical Brewing Faults
  • Style-Related Faults

Chapter 8. Finishing Beer

  • Factors Affecting Beer Stability
  • Conditioning
  • Lagering
  • Clarifying
  • Carbonation and Packaging
  • Final Adjustments
  • Blending

Chapter 9. Competition Brewing

  • Brewing for Quality
  • Brewing for Quantity
    • Three Beers From One Base Beer by Steeping Specialty Grains
    • Two Beers From One Mash, Using Different Yeast
    • Making a Fruit Beer Using Mead
  • Winning BJCP Competitions

Chapter 10. Conclusion

  • Expanding Your Knowledge
  • Staying Current
  • Final Advice
  • Staying Alive

My conclusion

Highly recommended for everyone except those who have only contemplated trying brewing, and somewhat reluctantly for those who have only done extract brewing. I have already gained immense benefit from this book and intend to get even more from it. It has been a blessing in planning out my brewing system and processes.

You know? This may be all you’re getting review-wise for this book. I would much rather spend time making this book useful to me than telling you about it. As you can probably tell, my notes aren’t even fully typed up as I decided to invest in the reading first.

You ought have enough to go on to decide if it is of use to you. You can also attempt to look at it at a bookstore–new or used–or see if your library can get it for you, which I deem as highly likely. Then buy a copy! Or buy your library a copy, if you can.

This was actually the 11th finished nonfiction book I finished this year but it is the 14th review written and posted.

This is the 14th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Foster – Brewing Porters & Stouts

Brewing Porters & Stouts: Origins, History, and 60 Recipes for Brewing Them at Home Today by Terry Foster

Date read: 31 January – 04 February 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016nfc

Cover image of Foster's Brewing Porters & Stouts

Paperback, 211 pages
Published 2014 by Skyhorse
Source: Own

I loved this book! It was everything I was hoping it would be as an update to the author’s 1992 entry in the Brewers Association Classic Beer Styles Series, 5, Porter, which I reviewed here.

There is more history, a great update on the proliferation of ingredients available to the homebrewer, far more recipes, and I love the inclusion of the stouts. There are also more opinions and they are awesome. Dr. Foster is full of opinions and he tells you why and then it is up to you to choose where you stand. Most are well-reasoned and I generally agree with him.

Highly recommended!

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended
  • Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions
  • Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials
  • Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients
  • Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes
  • Selected Bibliography

Introduction

“I started brewing my own beer in Britain, just as the craft of homebrewing was beginning to be revived, then moved to the United States just as homebrewing was legalized here. I have therefore lived through two homebrewing revolutions, and of course through the great craft brewing revolution here. The quality of beer I can now produce at home, and that of those craft beers I can buy, has improved dramatically. Proudly numbered among all these new beers are many porters, stouts, and their sub-styles, and new variations on these are appearing almost daily. Therefore, it seemed that this was a good time to review those styles, their histories, and their brewing methodologies” (2).

Chapter 1: How It All Began…And Nearly Ended

“Since this book is essentially about brewing porters and stouts, I needed to condense this history, and have chosen to do so in a fairly loose chronological manner. That means there may be some omissions of material that other brewing historians consider to be significant enough to be included. I have limited the number of references in the text for reasons of brevity, and have instead appended a list of some of my sources. Note that some of the points I make are purely of my opinion, although I have endeavored to base them on as much fact and general brewing knowledge as possible. I make no apology for this; rather, I hope I might stimulate some intriguing debates on them!” (7-8).

The history of porter and stout is broken into sections by century, from the eighteenth to the twenty-first.

There are a couple times here and elsewhere, and I have seen it in other books, where he writes something like, “And in 1875, Whitbread, for the first time, brewed more ale than porter or stout” (33). What?! They are ales. Were they not thought of that way earlier? And I do believe this sort of thing crops up historically or when writing about beer history so perhaps so. Or is this simply an ‘ales other than stouts and porters’ thing? I believe I got the point in this case and often do when this kind of reference crops up but it seems disconcerting. If it is the case that they were definitely not considered ales in, say, the eighteenth century I think making that explicit would go a long way towards educating the reader. Very small point, I concede.

Chapter 2: Porter and Stout Definitions

This section discusses the style parameters, from the perspective of the Brewers Association, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), and his own. He discusses where they overlap and where they disagree. For instance, he does not consider smoked porter to be its own substyle but merely a variant (53). From this he narrows down the styles/substyles he will be discussing in the rest of the book and providing recipes for.

“I am therefore going to stick to considering the nine designations of brown, robust, and Baltic porters, along with dry, sweet, oatmeal, foreign extra, American, and Imperial stouts. Since most of them have demonstrable historical pedigrees (even the American stout), these categories are useful as a way of looking at these beers. However, they do not include every variety of porter available commercially (let alone those brewed at home)” (53).

From this he goes on to provide sections on each of these nine, plus a couple page discussion of flavored porters and stouts.

Chapter 3: Porter and Stout Raw Materials

This chapter covers malt (and other grist products) primarily, with a small diversion into a few flavorings (lactose, licorice, vanilla, coffee, chocolate, and ‘barrels’). Hops, water and yeast are covered in the next chapter.

The ‘malts’ covered go from the general to the very specific, while he covers how much of what to use in all of the assorted styles he is discussing. They include: base malts (including Vienna and Munich), malt extract, specialty malts (caramel/crystal, Special B, two particular biscuit malts, Special roast malt, Melanoidin, amber, brown, chocolate, black, roasted barley, flaked barley, oat malt/flakes, rye malt, and smoked malts. Foster also includes a section on making your own amber and brown malt.

Chapter 4: The Other Ingredients

Hops, yeast, water, and finings get the Foster treatment here.

Chapter 5: Brewing Porters and Stouts—Recipes

For many this will be the gist of the book and I do look forward to making use of it but, so far, I believe I have and will get the most value from his thoughts in chapter 3 on malts and other grist ingredients.

For each style/substyle he discusses he has included several recipes. These include a couple of all-grain ones and a couple extract and extract plus partial mash recipes per style. After that is a section he entitles, “My Ten Most Interesting Recipes.” Five of these are historical recreations (as best as possible) and the other five he says “are based on modern craft-brewed beers” (189).

At the end of this chapter is his addendum to recipes where he discusses carbonation, kegging, bottling, and stout dispense and nitrogen gas.

One thing not included, unlike in his previous work, are recipes for one-barrel batches. Craft brewers (and homebrewers wanting more than 5-gallon batches) would be on their own to scale up the recipes. Personally, I find that a fair tradeoff for all of the new and updated information, the additional recipes, and the inclusions of the stouts. Recipe scaling information can be found elsewhere.    

Selected Bibliography

This bibliography is much more extensive than the one in the Classic Beer Styles Series from 1992 but he also cites a fair few works in the text that are not listed in the back. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor does he intend it to be. Nonetheless, it is several times longer than the one in the 1992 work.

Final comments

Again, I loved this book and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the brewing of stouts and porters. I will be visiting and revisiting it, no doubt.

This is my favorite book of 2015 so far. It may seem a tad early to make this claim but I did write “so far.” I have also completed 25 books so far this year so not a completely absurd statement.

This is the 6th book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

Foster – Pale Ale

Pale Ale: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes 2nd ed. (Classic Beer Styles series no. 16) by Terry Foster

Date read: 9 – 16 November 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Foster Pale Ale, 2nd ed.

Paperback, xi, 340 pages

Published 1999 by Brewers Publications

Source: Own

Contents:

Acknowledgments

Introduction

  • 1 The Evolution of Pale Ale
  • 2 Style Definitions and Profiles of Pale Ales
  • 3 Brewing Pale Ales
  • 4 Packaging and Dispensing Methods
  • 5 Pale Ale Recipes
  • Appendix A Recommended Commercial Pale Ales
  • Appendix B Suggested Reading
  • Chapter Notes
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • About the Author

Review

I found this quite interesting and I believe it will be very useful when I start picking/modifying recipes and brewing on my own. I do enjoy pale ales and bitters but I believe I like something a bit more “English” and far less West Coast. Seems a good reason to perfect a recipe or four across the spectrum of pale ales, as considered by Foster.

It is a tad out of date in ways but mostly in a (probably) non-critical way. The prime example is the many beers referenced as either comparisons or as commercial examples that are no longer in production. Some of the references to individuals and companies are also a bit dated, as are some of the developments in, say, hops and other areas. The book could stand a bit of an update but it is not significantly less useful either due to its being dated.

Introduction

“This book is an attempt to foster interest in one of the world’s great beer styles and to encourage you to brew it and drink it” (4.) Sounds like a plan to me.

Much expanded along with new material. “I determined that I would not simply revise the earlier book but would write a new book from the ground up” (4).

  • References, more.
  • More discussion of bitter as “largest class of pale ale derivatives in England” (4).
  • Dispense/Real ale section is “considerably more comprehensive” (4).
  • “… more emphasis on extract recipes, since I feel I downplayed that important aspect of homebrewing in the first edition …” (4-5).
  • Historical section “much expanded” (5).

1 The Evolution of Pale Ale

In a bit about the use of adjuncts in English brewing after the Free Mash Tun Act of 1880,

“Further, sugar and cereals are not adjuncts. The term adjunct implies that something was added. Sugar and cereals add nothing; they are merely cheap malt substitutes (62).”

That seems like an unsustainable claim. Lots of sugars add flavors along with doing specific things to, say, the body as do all of the other cereals used. Sugar and cereals are frequently serving in the role of “merely malt substitutes,” whether cheap or not, but many of them contribute to aspects of the beer that are not addressed via standard malts, either, and certainly add something. They are also frequently not cheaper than malt. Small point, indeed, but I felt it needed noting.

2 Style Definitions and Profiles of Pale Ales

“For further interesting discussions on the need for style definitions, read “The Last Wort” by Alan Moen and “Beer Styles: An International Analysis” by Keith Thomas8” (104).

Full citations from Chapter Notes [but good luck finding these; not sure I am going to be able to get my hands on them even].

  • Moen, Alan. “The Last Wort: A Question of Style — The Search for Ales beyond the Pale.” Brewing Techniques (September 1997): 98, 86, 87. [I have no idea what this page numbering means.][Verification of the citation but not available here.]
  • Thomas, Keith. “Beer Styles: An International Analysis.” Brewery History Journal (Summer 1975):35-40. (302) [Not sure if this is complete but is not verification; doesn’t disprove anything either.]

Foster decided the style was a bit more complex than he thought in the the 1st ed.; particularly when one adds dispense type in (104). He includes the English bitters, English pale ale and English IPA. As American subtypes he includes American pale ale, American amber and American IPA.

3 Brewing Pale Ales

He recommends a two-step mash for two-row pale malts as Fix and Fix (see below) demonstrated that a 30-minutes rest at 104 °F (40 °C) before going up to saccharification temperature improved yields as much as 15%. He omits the protein rest that they also recommend as he thinks most two-row malts are highly modified enough and to include it would negatively effect “both foam and malt flavor” (147.) I believe that is a fairly common understanding of most modern fully modified malts.

Thus, he mashes pale ale styles in two steps: 104/155 °F (40/68 °C) (147).

  • Fix and Fix. An Analysis of Brewing Techniques. Boulder, CO.: Brewers Publications, 1997, 24-30.

A lot of good information is covered in this chapter and includes useful tidbits about all ingredients and processes prior to packaging.

4 Packaging and Dispensing Methods

He calls for a pale ale specific glass to be designed as “Pale ale is one of the most important beer styles in the world…” (246).

The Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada and Spiegelau-designed IPA glass works well with pale ales, especially pale ale and IPA. It truly enhances the aroma, especially hop aroma. But they are fragile, even if that is mostly perception, and a real pain in the ass to wash. [I hand wash my beer glasses with LFD soap]. As to the maybe fragile, I had one for a good two years or so and it got some good use as that is the glass I wanted if I had a pale or IPA to drink. Not my most prominent styles by consumption but one of the few that clamored for one specific glass. Less than two weeks ago it came apart in my hand while I was washing it. I was very lucky in that the deep slice into the pad of my left right thumb [I am left-handed] was at a shallow oblique angle.

I kind of want two to replace it but they are a pain.

[I am not getting into the why of the whole line now from Spiegelau of style-specific glasses that are variations on the shape of this one; there is definitely a kind of marketing or schtick angle to them. The IPA glass does truly enhances hop aroma in a way that I much prefer; it does not—for me anyway—affect the flavor though. I would love to try the stout glass as they may be my favorite styles; no declarations. The barrel-aged one looks quite useful but in a general way already covered by our glassware. The stout potentials, glass-wise, are where we shine already so justifying a spendy “weird” one is tough. I won the IPA glass at a Sierra Nevada tasting. The stout glass was done with Lefthand and Rogue. Not sure where I am going to win of one them.]

5 Pale Ale Recipes

Recipes are provided for all of the substyles, English and American, that Foster identified and all include three recipes: 5-gallons malt extract, 5-gallons all grain, and one-barrel all grain.

The ones that I am particularly interested in are the special bitter and the English pale ale. American pale at some point, of course. Then a fine-tuning of and to my taste to find a mix of English and American pale. Perhaps with southern hemisphere hops. Who knows?  I certainly do not as I have yet to have a pale ale I can’t live without. I have had tasty ones, and there are some I prefer at this point, but they are not “perfect” pales to me. Looking forward to exploring.

Appendix A Recommended Commercial Pale Ales

This is a prime example of content in dire need of updating. I cannot begin to know about the English examples but I guarantee some of those are no longer in production or have radically altered in brewery consolidations/closures. The list for the US certainly is problematic: Ballantine’s IPA, Bert Grant’s IPA. Some others are questionable and most are of very limited distribution even if extant.

Appendix B Suggested Reading

Includes the following topics of suggested resources:

  • Malt Extract Selection
  • Malt Analysis
  • Methods for Preparation of Crystal Malt
  • Barley-Based Syrups
  • Hop Varieties
  • Traditional Fermenters
  • Yeast Strain Selection
  • Yeast Cultures
  • Brewing Water Chemistry
  • Counterpressure Bottling
  • Handling and Selection of Kegs
  • Brewing Real Ale
  • Where to Find Real Ale
  • Source of Suppliers

Chapter Notes

Lots of good sources in both the suggested readings and the chapter notes.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in brewing pale ales and/or the styles Foster places within their kin: English bitters, English pale ale, English IPA, American pale ale, American amber and American IPA.

Holiday Beers (The Session #106)

This is my entry for The Session #106 with the topic of holiday beers; hosted at by Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin, which is the home of The Session.

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The Session, or Beer Blogging Friday

The prompt

So for this Session, write about whatever makes you happy, so long as it involves holiday beers.

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

Review one or more holiday beers.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

Those are just a few suggestions, celebrate the holiday beers in your own way. Happy Holidays!

General thoughts

I seem to have a somewhat fraught relationship with “holiday beers.” I’m going to talk about some generalities, some specific beers, and then answer Jay’s questions in the prompt.

This is what I recently wrote in a post about McMenamins’ 2015 Kris Kringle:

“Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest a couple years ago I looked forward to trying different winter warmer beers. I have gotten over them as quickly as I have pumpkin beers. Actually, I like some pumpkin (and yam) beers. What I pretty much despise are pie beers. Use the freaking pumpkin to flavor your beer. Keep the f’ing spices out of pumpkin beers though. I guess if you like Creme Brulee Stout and its ilk then have at it. But I think pie beer sucks.

Many, if not most (I’m betting), winter warmers are the equivalent of pie beers. Full of spices that are good for a sip or two but become gagging if I have to contemplate more than a couple ounces of said beer. Can’t stand beer like that.”

So my basic stance is “Um, no.”

But I followed those paragraphs up with “This is NOT one of those winter warmers.”

I also keep trying pumpkin, squash and yam beers and hoping they aren’t pie beers because I appreciate the subtle influence of those ingredients used well. Fort George has the wonderful Squashed Stout at the Festival of the Dark Arts, or has the last 3 years. There are others.

Perhaps more to the overall point, as Jay pointed out in his announcement post:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? Different breweries, thankfully, do this in many, many different ways. Some use unusual spices or fruits, some use special malts or hops, some use other uncommon ingredients like spruce or rye, and some make a style that itself is unusual. So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

Thus, no stylistic rules to go by and while winter warmers do not fall into a coherent style many holiday beers are within its purview. But then anything “made to impress” can also be a holiday beer.

So I keep trying them.

Impress me. Please.

Specific beers

I have written positively about Kris Kringle twice now. But it is extremely lightly spiced and an otherwise well-executed amber perhaps. [McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013)]

We recently shared a bottle of pFriem Winter Ale which turned out to be a very lightly spiced PNW IPA. It was a well-executed beer and I found it tasty although not what was expected. The wife spit and called them heathens. I told her that was a bit much but tilted her way a tad bit. Thankfully there are plenty of other pFriem beers we both adore.

Deschutes Jubelale is an annual ritual at the Deschutes Bend Public House. It gets some particular love for the free poster-sized artwork (which the labels are based on) with a signing by the artist each year. We have them all since we moved here in 2012 (um, 4 then). And the signing starts at a good time if you aren’t worried about dinner. Go to the bar at the Deschutes Pub and order a very fresh Jubelale and get in line to get your poster signed. We may have been first this year for posters. It is an easy in and out and you get to drink tasty beer, meet a talented artist and get a free, signed poster. Be sure to tour the brewery to get a view of the real artwork from most of the years as you finish your tour. Much of it is breathtaking. Thanks, Deschutes!

I actually need to pick up a six-pack of Jubelale as this is now the time of year for me to drink it. Was kind of craving it Tuesday night when we finally got home from work and the store. It is quite delicious this year. I don’t drink lots of it but a sixer or two each winter seems proper.

Wednesday night we had a Fermentum OG 1111 (2012?) [brewed at the Santa Maria al Carrabiolo convent per RateBeer] which I picked up a couple months ago at Corvallis Brewing Supply.

Carrobiolo

“birra stagionale invernale” = winter seasonal beer

This was an odd one. Smoked which I guess all of the flames on the label ought have tipped us off to. The aroma was of light smoke as was the taste. As it warmed that smoke became somewhat peat-infused. It was medium-bodied with the light peatiness lingering in the finish. Neither of us are smoked beer fans, nor especially of peat, but this was oddly drinkable. It wasn’t an awesome beer to us but I’m glad I tried it.

Deschutes Red Chair NWPA – fresh, in early to mid-Winter, it is one of the best beers in the world.

Maybe this is not actually a holiday beer I guess but I think of it as such seeing as it is a winter seasonal (available January – April). This beer has been named The Best Beer in the World a couple times, which is honestly ridiculous. But for about four to six weeks each year in early winter this is one of the world’s best beers. I don’t believe it would be if it was available year-round although it would still be an excellent beer. Just give me my several Red Chair between January and my birthday in February. Just please keep the nitro away from mine! Yes, I am a winter baby. Has something to do with my attitude towards holiday and winter beers, methinks.

Jay’s suggested questions answered

Discuss your favorite holiday beer.

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Review one or more holiday beers.

See McMenamins Kris Kringle (2015 | 2013) posts.

Do you like the idea of seasonal beers, or loathe them?

The idea is perfectly fine. It is the execution. And differences of opinion and literal taste and all that.

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday beer?

Nonsensical question to me. In a special context or situation—like I take it we assume “the holidays” to be—then I want a special beer. For me, and the wife, that is probably a massive imperial stout or a similar barleywine; quite probably barrel-aged. For me it could also be an excellent lambic or gueuze or Berliner Weisse on the rare occasion I get a chance to enjoy such lovelies. It could also be an aged Samichlaus. Considering so many other people who are routinely under the misguided impression that many of those are not year-round beers are now thinking the weather is right ….

There just are no holiday beers (as more commonly thought, but see below) that I have found yet that reach the pinnacle of my palate. Some are quite tasty and are indeed worth drinking by the numbers one can do on two or three  or maybe even four hands over the course of a couple months [see Jubelale and Red Chair, above]. But none have reached the level of preference for special occasions, or even if I just want a beer I will love [well, OK, extremely fresh Red Chair is a beer I will love BUT ONLY for a 1-2 month window].

For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period. And some are quite exceptional beers in their own right but they impress me in ways I consider differently, I guess.

Do have a holiday tradition with beer?

Deschutes The Abyss release day is a tradition for us. It is also a holiday for us. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most important days of the year! The wife would also add Deschutes’ birthday which is (usually) release day for their Black Butte Reserve anniversary beer, which might be my second favorite Deschutes beer. Tis her first by a head.

The release the last couple of years [2013] has been between the second and third week of November so a great pre-Thanksgiving start. Last year (our 3rd) we got our first snow of the year the night before and it was a big one. The next day we faced the tough decision of whether to trudge the one mile each way to the pub in snow boots or to use our snowshoes. We opted for boots and was there for opening through a foot of snow, drifts were deeper.

I failed to write this up last year, which is one of my great ones along with nothing about Fort George’s Festival of the Dark Arts our 2nd and 3rd years.

It was an epic day but in a mostly fun and enjoyable way. We were able to spend several hours drinking our vertical flights and still leave while it was light out.

We will be there at opening (11 AM) this year on 17 December [got pushed back a bit this year but even more “holiday” now]. Cannot wait to compare 2011-2015 vintages and “Please, please, please!” have a truffle, Deschutes!

Based on this recent tweet I suspect they are. Not sure what that silvery gunk is but I imagine it is good or I can ignore it.

Official 2015 The Abyss release day info (10th release this year):

Sounds awesome but even I find that a tad insane. I’ll take my flight at 11 AM and settle in for the next couple of hours of tasty bliss.

If you want to read my sort of love letter (let’s be honest) to The Abyss then here it is. If all goes well I will get to have this experience again next month with even more vintages, all 10. Please, life. I am begging you.

Are holiday beers released too early, or when should they be released?

Ones that get wide distribution are released too early, in my opinion. Smaller, more local ones seem to be better timed.

Do you like holiday beer festivals?

I have not been to many. The only one that comes to mind was the 1st Annual Winter Beer Fest, sponsored by Growler Guys and hosted at GoodLife on 14 December 2013. The beers and the event were alright but we also had another beer event that evening, the inaugural event of a friend. We did not make last years event. This year’s event is the 3rd, now called the Central Oregon Winter Beer Festival.

Seems like it could be a festive mood in which to try various offerings and in smaller quantities. That’s one of those fraught questions which arises considering other beers in different styles, or various processes or ingredients: if it is only tasty for, say, 2 to 6 ounces can I call it a good beer? Let any superlative you choose that fits the context stand in for good? Is it then? I haven’t answered this one for myself yet. I can’t  answer it for anyone else.

Other holiday beers on hand to drink

HolidayBeers

I kept a couple Anchor 2014 Christmas Ales and picked up the pFriem and Stone yesterday.

Anchor Christmas Ale [Our Special Ale] 2015 release is here. This is its 41st year. See all of the labels here and see which trees have been used by artist Jim Stitt over the years.

We did drink one of the 2014s we held on Thanksgiving as our noon beer and it was OK. I don’t think the year did it any favors though.

pFriem Belgian-style Christmas Ale. Ah yes. Belgian (or Belgian-style) Christmas beers could almost be a class in itself. Not revisiting the others from over the years here. For instance, Delerium Noël or Fantôme Noël, which we had along with others at a Deschutes Brewery University class on Winter beer and cheese back in January 2013. Bring these DBU classes back please, Deschutes.

Stone Xocoveza Mocha Stout has just been rereleased (due to popular demand, by the way) and this time, now in 12 oz bottles versus first-run 22 oz bottles (bombers), it claims to be “For the holidays and the new year.” OK. It’s a holiday beer posing as a Mexican hot chocolate. It was damned tasty last time. Here’s hopin’.

It’s brewed with cocoa, coffee, chile peppers, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. This semisweet milk stout was excellent last time. This is what I said about it in my Untapped checkin:

A full-on trigeminal attack. Oily mouthfeel; var. astringencies; spice & aroma of peppers w/hint of heat. 4.75

Oh yeah. I remember this. If you ever need a beer to engage every possible sense perception in your mouth, throat and nose this is a number one contender.

So. Much. Going. On.

In there all at once and in weirds successions and … It was mind-blowing actually. An experience, as they say.

Boy. I hope this can stand up to my hopes and memory now. But if this is a holiday beer then bring them on.

Final thoughts

So my holiday beer thoughts and experiences are fraught and complicated. I truly appreciate some beers that have spices and other flavorings; see Kris Kringle, Jubelale, and Xocoveza above as examples. Just as I do quite appreciate some pumpkin, squash and yam beers.

But these do not circumscribe holiday beers as Jay Brooks has described them for years in the annual holiday beer tasting for the Celebrator Beer News. Also above [with the clipped bit]:

“So a holiday beer should be made to impress, to wow its audience, to stand out. That’s the only criteria that should be met by one of these beers. Will it impress? … So there’s nothing to tie these beers together apart from their celebration of the season.”

As I said above,

“For me then, holiday beers are those I drink across the holidays and winter but not particularly on special occasions. They are seasonally appropriate as (some of the) every day beer for the extended “holiday” period.”

These are not the same things to one of a philosophical bent but I’m not defining “holiday beer” for anyone else either. Certainly not for myself for all time. This isn’t even a view I held 5 years ago.

But I see some overlap.

As I prefer a beer that impresses me–and those above that I want to drink several of do–I think they fit Jay’s description perfectly. [I am not claiming that he sees it as a definition.] The fact that they would only greatly impress me if they kept their seasonal, whatever the “season,” release and thus remain somewhat restricted is irrelevant.

Speaking of beers that impress me, I want to leave room in my description of holiday beers for the narrower one of “my favorite holiday beer:”

In those special moments, that beer that makes, and marks, its own moments in time.

Much overlap but these may also be beers that would make any occasion special, raise it from the ordinary, force you to pay attention. To it and to what is going on around it. They bring you back to yourself.

Cheers!

Thoughts from a real beer writer

Just in time, a new article by K. Florian Kemp from the Stylistically Speaking column in All About Beer v. 36(6) dated 2 December on the history of some kinds of holiday beers.

My previous posts for the session (one is by me wife)

McMenamins Kris Kringle 2015

With perfect timing for release day, a bottle of McMenamins 2015 version of their Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle, showed up on my doorstep last Friday, the 13th of November.

Image of McMenamins Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale label

I also received and reviewed the 2013 release here.

Here is McMenamins description of this beer:

Just in time for the holidays, November 13th marks the release of this year’s McMenamins Traditional Yuletide Ale, Kris Kringle.  The busy-as-elves McMenamins brewers have created another wonderful gift for your taste buds this holiday season.  The 2015 version of Kris Kringle is a hearty and robust ale with a big and bold malt complexity as well as an intense and flavorful hop profile.  This “winter warmer” highlights the rich, toasty, aromatic and chocolaty malt flavors as its very sturdy foundation.  Generous amounts of two different hop varieties were added in five different additions, which delivers a magnificent and massive hop assault.  There’s still some ginger and cinnamon added into the batch but the spices are a little more subdued than in years’ past.  McMenamins brewers hope you enjoy this years’ version of our old Holiday favorite, Kris Kringle.  Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year!

Malts: Pale Ale, Munich, Wheat, 15L & 120L Crystal, Chocolate

Hops: Centennial (Bittering, Flavor &Aroma), Cascade (Flavor & Aroma)

OG: 1.068  TG: 1.015  ABV: 6.84%  IBU: 76  SRM: 15

Buzz Words: Robust, Hoppy, Festive

I popped open this very fresh “winter warmer” on Monday and quite enjoyed it. More on that in a moment.

Photo of bottle, glass of beer, and postcard for 2015 release of McMenamins Kris Kringle

Shortly after moving to the Pacific Northwest a couple years ago I looked forward to trying different winter warmer beers. I have gotten over them as quickly as I have pumpkin beers. Actually, I like some pumpkin (and yam) beers. What I pretty much despise are pie beers. Use the freaking pumpkin to flavor your beer. Keep the f’ing spices out of pumpkin beers though. I guess if you like Creme Brulee Stout and its ilk then have at it. But I think pie beer sucks.

Many, if not most (I’m betting), winter warmers are the equivalent of pie beers. Full of spices that are good for a sip or two but become gagging if I have to contemplate more than a couple ounces of said beer. Can’t stand beer like that.

This is NOT one of those winter warmers. McMenamins is claiming that there is still some ginger and cinnamon in this and I believe them. But the level of spicing is perfect! I had to keep asking myself whether it was spiced or not. Subtlety is the operant word. Never once did I think of this as a spice beer but only as a tasty beer that might have a small amount of almost undetectable spicing. As it should be.

In the aroma I got a medium caramel, very light cocoa and light herbal earthiness when cold. As it warmed, a very light woodiness, light nuttiness and very light vanilla notes came through.

While I did not have a strong light source at hand and the sun had set, I’d say the color was a dark copper-orange with a creamy off-white head.

The beer was creamy and medium bodied, with medium-light caramel notes, and a very light sweetness until the finish when a mild bitterness came along and cleaned up any lingering sweetness.

If this is what a winter warmer can be then I may have to reconsider my stance. But then most pumpkin beers are pie beers and I fear most winter warmers are, in my opinion, spice bombs also. No thanks.

I’ll be picking a couple bottles of this up and you should to. Only available until Christmas Day.

I also tasted our local McMenamins (Old St. Francis School) version on the previous Saturday while there for their birthday. The primary difference I noted was less carbonation and a thinner body but still tasty.

FYI: FTC. And all that: This bottle was provided to me by McMenamins.

Mallett – Malt

Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse (Brewing Elements Series) by John Mallett

Date read: 07-23 March 2015

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cover of Malt by John Mallett

Paperback, xxvi, 297 pages

Published 2014 by Brewers Publications

Source: Own

An excellent book that leads one in a natural progression of knowledge of malt. The bottom line, malt matters.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • 1 Harry Harlan—The ‘Indiana Jones’ of Barley
  • 2 Malt: The Soul of Beer
  • 3 History of Malting
  • Malthouse Tour—Floor Malting in Great Britain
  • 4 From Barley to Malt
  • 5 Specialty Malts
  • Malthouse Tour—Full Scale Modern Malting
  • 6 Malt Chemistry
  • 7 Malt Family Descriptions
  • 8 Barley Anatomy and Agriculture
  • Malthouse Tour—Craft Micro-Maltsters
  • 9 Barley Varieties
  • 10 Malt Quality and Analysis
  • 11 Malt Handling and Preparation
  • 12 Milling
  • Appendix A: Commercially Available Malts
  • App. B: Worldwide and North american Malthouse Capacities
  • App. C: Craft Maltster Listing
  • App. D: Introduction to Home Malting (by George de Piro, reprinted with permission from Zymurgy)
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Commentary

The Brewers Publications Brewing Elements series also contains Yeast, Hops and Water. I do not own, nor have I read, Yeast. I own and have read Hops. I own but have not yet read Water. Turns out the three I own were all pre-ordered from Amazon, varying from exactly 6 months in advance to 3 days.

Another new book on malt is Dave Thomas’ The Craft Maltsters’ Handbook.  Thomas wrote the Foreword for this book (and a blurb on the back). He writes:

“Recently, our paths crossed again when we realized we were both writing books about malt. Mine, The Craft Maltsters’ Handbook, recently published by White Mule Press (Hayward, California), and John’s book published by the Brewers Association (Boulder, Colorado). When we bumped into each other at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, I asked John about possible redundancies between our two projects. He heartily replied’ “don’t worry; yours is written from the maltster’s point of view and mine is the brewer’s perspective. They will complement each other!” He was right. They do nicely.

John talks about the “heavy-lifting” that malt does for brewers. In this book, John has done the heavy lifting for us by presenting (in a very readable fashion) the chemistry of malt carbohydrates, sugars, amino acids, proteins, and lipids. …” (xiii-xiv).

John Mallett is Director of Operations at Bell’s Brewery. His qualifications for writing this book are first-rate. Here’s an interview with Mallett and others.

1 Harry Harlan—The ‘Indiana Jones’ of Barley

Wow! We really do owe Harry Harlan—and Mary Martini—a massive debt of gratitude.

“… she would become a life-long collaborator and great friend to Harlan during his adventures in the world of barley. Together they bred, grew, and assessed new varieties in the US for many years, helping to create the scientific basis for modern barley variety development” (5).

And what adventures he had traveling the world and collecting over 5000 varieties of barley (7)! Seriously, Harry Harlan and Mary Martini’s work needs much greater exposure.

I don’t intend to say a lot about this book, other than it is excellent, nor am I going to do a detailed layout of its Table of Contents, which is a good bit more detailed than above. The chapter titles are quite honest in their description and coverage, though.

The two books in the Brewing Elements Series, from Brewers Association, that I have read contain a wealth of quality information. I suspect the other two do also and am looking forward to reading Water.

This is cross-posted at my other bog, habitually probing generalist, for purposes of the below reading challenge.

This is the 18th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

Yaeger – Oregon Breweries

Oregon Breweries by Brian Yaeger

Date read: 08 February – 19 March 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cover of Yaeger's Oregon Breweries book

Paperback, xx, 396 pages

Published 1 December 2014 by Stackpole Books

Source: Own (Amazon 3 December 2014) [According to WorldCat neither Deschutes Public Library or COCC’s Barber Library have it.]

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Portland
    • Northwest Portland
    • Southwest Portland
    • Southeast Portland
    • Northeast Portland
    • Portland Metro
  • Coastal
  • The Gorge-Eastern
  • Willamette Valley
  • Bend and Central
  • Southern
  • Beer Festivals
  • Bottle shops and Taprooms
  • Breweries to Come
  • Cheesemakers
  • Cideries
  • Portland Coffee Roasters

Commentary:

Let me state right up front that I enjoyed this book. More importantly, I find it valuable. For me, the factual data—the listing of so many of Oregon’s breweries in one place along with information on them—is what matters. The individual “story” of every brewery, or at least as told by the author, is not my main focus by any stretch, even though some are quite interesting.

I also appreciate how amazingly difficult it would be to write so many entries of basically the same information for all these breweries all the while trying to make them sound different. I would not relish that task. That said, the strain shows on occasion. And sometimes I imagine others might appreciate the author’s humor more than me.

Some “factual” and other issues first:

Full Sail is included in the Coastal group when it should be in The Gorge-Eastern, while Oregon Trail is included in Southern instead of Willamette Valley.

There are two listings of the breweries. The first is in the table of contents where they are separated into areas/regions (such as, Northwest Portland or Bend and Central) and then listed alphabetically. The second is the Brewery Locations map which lists them all alphabetically and then gives each a number that corresponds to, basically, the county it is in. That means all of the Portland breweries have one number (2) on the map.

A separate map of Portland, divided by quadrants, would be most useful!

I also realize that alpha order is easy but that doesn’t make it the right organizational tool, especially if you have multiple tools available. Some of the areas/regions would be harder than others but Coastal could go north to south or vice versa and The Gorge-Eastern could also easily go east to west, etc. That would make “small,” regional visit planning easier. This is not everybody’s use case though so not sure this is an entirely fair critique.

Each section has an intro that gives a quick overview of the region, along with a nice listing of non-beer-related places to visit. Each brewery entry generally consists of the following sections of info: Name and address, contact info, logo; textual entry; Beers brewed; The Pick; and a listing of other info like hours. Each full entry is from one to three plus pages and a few do not have The Pick and a few also do not have Beers brewed.

In the textual entry we get Yaeger’s impressions, perhaps an origin story or some other hook, and other facts or interesting tidbits. Beers brewed is what it purports to be, while The Pick is Yaeger’s pick from his visit. May not be available when you visit, of course.

The textual entry makes up most of the space in a brewery’s entry once past one page, so it is kind if interesting to see who gets more pages and who doesn’t (see, e.g., Ale Apothecary and Barley Brown’s). The final bit of info contains: Opened (year), Owner(s), Brewer(s), System, Annual production, Distribution, Hours, Tours, Takeout beer, Gift shop, Food, Extras. Some have less info at the end but most contain the same bits of data.

As I said up top, the strain of writing so many similar, yet hopefully different, entries took its toll once in a while. I certainly am not going to point out all of the minor distractions but I do want to point out a few.

Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

“In the mid-eighties, Logsdon cofounded neighboring Full Sail Brewery, then colaunched yeast industry giant Wyeast Labs, so naturally the beers he and partner Chuck Porter make are yeast-forward saisons” (207).

Um, no, that doesn’t follow. “Yeast-forward” follows, perhaps. But “saison” most certainly does not. Full Sail is not particularly known for saisons and Wyeast has quite a few strains of yeast.

BricktownE Brewing Co.

“BricktownE’s location was built in the 1890s, according to owner and craft beer crusader Craig McPheeters, and a brothel used to operate upstairs. You could call their Workin’ Gal BrownE Ale, which busts a nutty flavor and mouthfeel, an homage.” (344).

Um. OK. He really did go there.

Caldera Brewing Co.

“Another amazing treat from my last visit was intended to be a replica of Red Sea, just like Mills brewed in Kona, but they accidentally left Mogli’s bourbon, chocolaty oak spirals in the fermentation tank. The resulting warming vanilla …” (347).

Wait. I’m supposed to drink beer from a brewery that can’t even begin to clean a fermentation vessel properly? If they leave physical items in their tanks accidentally, deity only knows what else is “left.” I think the story is probably something else and worded poorly. At least I hope so.

Draper Brewing

“He has experience at some small-by-most standards breweries including Lost Coast and Mad River, both in Humboldt County, which makes sense since he’s originally from Northern California. Mad River happens to be one of my favorite breweries from that area, so it stands to reason that he has folded some of the tricks he picked up there into his own operation” (350).

Not the way causation, or grammar, works. The last clause follows from the first clause of the first sentence but not from the clause it follows. The author’s liking of Mad River has nothing to do with any of the other clauses. Stackpole’s editors seem to be nodding off once in a while.

Walkabout Brewing Co.

“Nearly as popular is Jabberwocky, perhaps with the implication that each 22-ounce bottle implores you, in its best Lewis Carroll voice, to “drink me” (374).

Wrong character in a completely different work. Easy cultural references and allusions aren’t always good ones. And,, yes, I know that most people won’t get the difference, or care. But literature matters. Literary allusion matters.

Again, this had to be a very tough job and the author has done a fine job with a limited amount of space for each entry on the many, many breweries we have in Oregon. I’m not trying to nitpick by pointing out the above but show that there are some small issues; reasons for which I only rated it 4-stars.

Breweries to Come

[Keep in mind this book was released 1 December 2014; that is, is quite new]

This is a two-page listing of the breweries in the process of becoming operational; that is, in planning and/or outfitting.

Of the two mentioned for Bend, one (North Rim) has been open a while now and at least one other not listed (Monkless Belgian Ales) is also already open.

Also not listed, Craft Kitchen and Brewery is replacing Old Mill Brew Wërks, which is out of business.

Immersion Brewing has been announced.

Redmond’s scene is definitely growing. See the bottom of Jon’s post here for some new ones.

The problem with these sorts of books is that they are out-of-date as soon as they are published. For a place like Oregon even before publication. Remember, release date was not even four months ago.

I would really love to see this sort of thing as a wiki, with accompanying map(s), and various ways to slice and dice the data. Perhaps the Oregon Brewers Guild should do such a thing (just do it well!) and you could get access with SNOB membership. Wouldn’t help out-of-state visitors or the simply inquisitive and not-yet-converted.

Honestly, I just want it open and available. But who will maintain it? A definite early-21st century issue. This is not a dig on Yaeger’s book but on the entire class of book like this. His has superseded, at least partly, two other books. Neither of which is that old. His will be too. Soon.

Anyway, for the most up-to-date listing of Central Oregon breweries (and their order of operation) just look in Jon’s sidebar at the Brew Site.

Again, I think this is a darn fine book of its type. For me it will serve as a reference book (I did purchase a copy after all). I have already used it extensively in making plans for our trip this week to Portland.

This post is cross-posted at my other blog, habitually probing generalist, for purposes of the below reading challenge.

This is the 17th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair