Great service report: Imperial Yeast and Casey

I want to take an opportunity to give a shout out to Imperial Yeast (Portland, OR) and in particular to their rep, Casey Helwig.

Casey came and spoke during the education session of our monthly meeting of COHO back in April of this year. One of the owners also came with her but she handled all of the presentation and ~98% of the questions. I took a lot of notes that night but have sadly been unable to find them.

The main thing I remember was how seriously impressed I was by Casey that evening. She did an excellent job, which I tried to let her know before I left but she was engaged with others answering even more questions after the meeting ended so I was unable to do so.

My first beer, Path of Totality SMaSH pale ale used their A01 House yeast and my second, Time and Tide: A Romance of the Moon, used their A10 Darkness. Both seemed to do a great job right out of the can. They both kicked off to a rocking primary fermentation. I have tasted Path of Totality but it is not yet fully carbonated. Clean with some light esters (fermented at 67F). Time and Tide was last tasted on bottling day so questions remain. I have not detected any off flavors from either so far though.

While I was working on recipes for my third batch, another pale ale, and fourth batch, a big barleywine, I was running into trouble getting the yeast I wanted.

I was trying to get some A15 Independence for my pale and also trying to figure out which would possibly be good for the barleywine. My local homebrew shop had ordered my previous two cans but they have a glut of other Imperial yeast on hand right now and are not ordering currently. With the weather so freaking hot here (and elsewhere) it is not the time of year for mail ordering yeast. Or the time of year for much homebrewing in these parts perhaps (Casey’s suggestion).

So on 3 August I asked some questions on Imperial’s contact form about where/how I might source some A15 and about suggestions for the barleywine. Within an hour, I got a phone call from Casey. She spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with me chatting about yeasts for both of the beers.

Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, she couldn’t help me source the A15 but we ended up agreeing that for what I was trying to do with the hopping in the pale that A04 Barbarian and its stone fruit esters would probably work nicely. That one, Annie Jump Cannon pale ale is still in the fermenter but boy did it get off to a rocking start.

She also gave me four suggestions for the barleywine. My thoughts are still open on this one but I am seriously considering using one (or more) of her suggestions.

So, in many ways, I have little empirical evidence for how the Imperial yeasts have worked in these recipes. I accept that. This shout out is more specifically about the great customer service—even to homebrewers—by a young company putting out, as best I can tell, a solid and very useful product.

Their yeast is all-organic—only organic yeastery in the world (for now)—and comes in convenient, keep cold until use, small cans that have double the amount of yeasts cells as the liquid yeast competition. This means that for normal gravity beers you can skip the yeast starter step and still provide plenty of yeast. Yes, a can does cost a bit more than a smack pack or vial but it is nowhere near twice as much, perhaps 30% more.

For now, I am sold. I certainly will try Wyeast and White Labs yeasts at some point, and hopefully others as more yeasteries arrive, but Imperial has allowed me to feel good about giving my wort plenty of healthy yeast in an easy manner. They have also provided me with education and spent good time on the phone chatting with me. That means an awful lot to me.

By the by, I did tell Casey right away once she called that she impressed me at the club meeting. Wasn’t going to blow that chance! [Thank you kindly, Mark’s mind, for remembering.]

Thank you, Imperial Yeast. And thank you, Casey.

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

McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza

On Saturday, January 16, 2016 we attended the McMenamins Old St. Francis School 3rd Annual High Gravity Extravaganza with 22 breweries & 4 cideries present. [updated beers drank 29 January 2016]

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto.

For McMenamins passport fans there is an event stamp.

We got there pretty much at opening at 1 pm and like last year the weather was (or threatened to be) a bit wet so they had moved large portions into the theater. There were still couches and other seating available when we arrived so we joined some of our friends.

Photo of some of my notes, the program and two fest glasses from the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

Disclosure:

Let’s just get this out of the way. I got put on the guest list so got a free entry package of tasting glass, 10 tokens, and a koozie. We did pay the $15 entry and got Sara her own glass and tokens though.

I like this festival as it brings together a lot of different McMenamins beers and brewers along with a fairly equal balance of beer from other local Bend breweries. The brewers from the 10 or so represented McMenamins breweries were there from 1-4 pm pouring their beers and I chatted with a couple including our local brewer, Mike “Curly” White. I didn’t get names but also a woman from Thompson (Salem) and a guy from Crystal (Portland) that I actually had conversations with and not just chit chat.

I didn’t bother to take any other pictures except of the names of the beers I was getting. Of course, I didn’t get pictures of the ones I tried via my wife and I didn’t get all of those written down. May well have missed one of the ones I got myself, photo-wise.

Definitely caught a good buzz. We stopped and got a pizza and drank a lot of water before heading home at a still reasonable time.

These are the beers that I tried in as close to the order that I had them (highly accurate):

  • McMenamins Old St. Francis School Midnight Scream Double Black IPA
  • McMenamins High Street (Eugene) 565 Strong Ale
  • Silver Moon Train Rye’d Barleywine
  • McMenamins on Munroe (Corvallis) Ballena Russian Imperial Stout
  • Deschutes The Descendant
  • McMenamins Anderson School (Bothell, WA) Into the Badlands IRA
  • McMenamins Thompson (Salem) Magnuson Strong
  • McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor *
  • Three Creeks Ten Pine Porter
  • Worthy Dark Muse 2015 Stout
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine *
  • I am missing (at least) one that I had a taste of Sara’s and I believe that is Crux Snow Cave. [Bend Brewing’s Big Bad Russian is definitely missing from here. 29 January 2016]

My favorites were definitely the McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale) Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine and, very surprisingly, as 2nd oddest beer out, the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor.

For the McMenamins Crystal (Portland) Another Day Malt Liquor I wrote:

“Haha. This shit is like crack. Sara had a sip, her face lit up, & had another before saying anything.”

That is surprising behavior for my wife with any lager-like beer except Samichlaus.

The alcohol wasn’t hidden from you, although it wasn’t exactly prevalent either, but you just wanted one sip after another and we aren’t talking small sips. This was a very dangerously “more-ish” beer and one of the best uses of corn ever in a beer. I was not expecting to like it under the context of the fest but it was exquisite. I got a chance to go back and tell the brewer all this after having it. That’s a feature of this fest, if you can go early.

For the Edgefield Extra One Year Barleywine I wrote:

“2014 barleywine in Hogshead Whiskey. Another (almost) crack beer.

? [unsure]

With palate cleanser cookie is awesomer in the opposite of Helldorado a deep dark chocolate barleywine. Crazy.”

Quite tasty. Not quite a crack beer because easier to tell its 10%+ ABV is present. But amazingly tasty. And far more “appropriate” for the time of the year.

I also enjoyed Deschutes The Descendant but that was the odd beer out for this fest. I don’t believe there were any other sours, and no other fruit beers either, I believe. Quite delicious.

Photo of the description of Deschutes The Descendant at the McMenamins 3rd High Gravity Extravaganza

My friend Jon Abernathy has a much better post and definitely more and better photos at his post, McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, thoughts and photos. If you check out Jon’s post you can see that we had pretty much the same thoughts on best beers of the day even though we did not have exactly the same ones.

My pre-post can be found here at McMenamins OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January.

If you are in Bend or the nearby area mid-January next year, and like high gravity beer, you ought consider this fest. I cannot comment on how it is in the evening as we insure that we are in and out before then, which is how we try to do fests. But we enjoy this one quite a bit.

Barley Wine: Typology Tuesday #1

This is my post for the first Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles, the brainchild of none other than Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin. The first topic is Barley Wine. [I would have hoped to do better than this post but I only learned of Typology Tuesday today. I now have the next couple scheduled in Google Calendar.]

Typology Tuesday logo

Let me begin by stating that barleywine is one of my favorite styles, although I much prefer mine to the English-end of hopping. As Derrick Peterman wrote at Ramblings of a Beer Runner:

“I’ve had some good American Barley Wines, but found a fair share of them to be either unbalanced palate assaulting monstrosities or bloated, muddled concoctions struggling beneath the weight of all their heavy flavors.”

This past weekend I had the good fortune to judge at a commercial craft beer awards. On the second day, Sunday morning at 9 am, out came the American Barley Wines (BJCP 22C). “Well. Alrighty then. Glad I didn’t get too buzzed during Saturday’s judging and that I had a good breakfast,” said I.

We were told there was another table doing American Barley Wines so we had decided we only wanted to advance three. We had initially been brought four but they were cold still so we asked them to go ahead and decant any others and bring them to us. Not long after we got five more.

Score sheet and small plastic cup of barleywine

After a short break to let the first four warm up some we dove in. We couldn’t find anything particularly wrong in any of the first three, except some oxidation; something all of us preferred but were they within guidelines? “Flavors will smooth out and decline over time, but any oxidized character should be muted (and generally be masked by the hop character). (BJCP 2015)” We also did not find them exceptional.

Thus, beginning with the first one we set them aside until we had a few more under our belt. We did this to the first three. Finally after the fourth one we started narrowing them down. We had one or two that were too heavily oxidized and one with DMS and diacetyl. We, of course, had to retaste the first three. After getting to the ninth one and having weeded it down to a potential three we got brought four more.

OK. We quickly had them verify that we were in fact the only table with barley wine and that there were 13 in total. When we finished we thought we had passed on five to the medal round but it turned out to be only four. We got fresh pours from new bottles of all of them and got to work.

One was easy to remove as it was certainly odd man out and pushing the style guidelines in a couple ways even though we all quite enjoyed it. From there we moved on to ranking the other three and while third came easy, ranking the other two was much harder.

When we were done (thankfully that was the entirety of our morning) I found myself still sipping the odd man out. Realizing this I had one more sip and added it to the dump bucket. There really was no good reason to be putting more barleywine in my body!

Except for a couple of these, they were all quite drinkable. Some were not to my preferred palate in a barleywine but they all made you want another sip. They were mostly all well-executed although some more than others, of course, and the one I preferred the most was not exactly to style. Such is life.

Some were more heavily oxidized than others but that is how I prefer my American barleywines! I am one of those folks who age these beers at least 9-12 months before opening. I also age them no more than about two years as all that staling hop character can get unpleasant quickly. English barleywines need little aging and can last years and years, in my opinion and experience.

I will never judge barleywine (or any other style) at GABF or the World Beer Cup, as Jay Brooks has, but I feel privileged nonetheless and learned a lot from the other two more experienced judges, one a long-time homebrewer and one a long-time homebrewer and professional brewer.

A few barelywines wrap themselves sinuously around my soul while doing their utmost to fire the hell out of my pleasure receptors in a profound and spectacular way. Generally the ones that do are less bitter than those that don’t. But if I must have bitter bombs on occasion I could do far worse than American barleywine.

I am so very glad they exist as a style.

My 5-star checkins of the style per UnTappd are (I have had at least 60 distinct Americans):

  • Firestone Walker 2012 Sucaba
  • Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws 2013
  • Dogfish Head Olde School 2009 (~4 years old when drank)
  • Amnesia 10th Anniversary

I also see Firestone Walker Helldorado 2015 there but that is not an American barleywine, folks.

My favorite English barleywine (per Untappd) and only 5-star (Helldorado belong here too) is Deschutes Mirror Mirror 2009. And, honestly, I’ll take the infected or non-infected version. Have only had the infected version now, twice. Delicious. We really need to try one of our 2014 Mirror Mirrors soon.

McMenamins OSF Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza 16 January

The Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza is coming to McMenamins Old Saint Francis School Saturday January 16th. Keep reading for details.

We went to the Second Annual last year and had a grand time. Doppelbocks, barleywines, Scotch ales, etc. Beers to warm you on the inside. Hope to see you there!

“If the world is looking a little dreary post-holidays, here’s something to cheer you up: High Gravity Extravaganza brewfest at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF) in Bend! This bold beer event celebrates high gravity brews in one of the country’s top craft beer destinations. Haven’t had a chance to attend yet? The brewfest inspiring you to “go big or go home” is back for a third year in a row.

At High Gravity you can sample over 20 high gravity beers and – new this year! – fresh seasonal ciders from McMenamins and Central Oregon’s top breweries amidst the rugged beauty of snowy high desert mountains, with outdoor fire pits and rich comfort food to keep you warm and happy. Live music from Sophistafunk and Dirty Revival will be grooving in Father Luke’s Room from 3-10 p.m. and brewers will be on hand to answer questions about their brews and discuss technique.”

Details

  • What: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
  • When: Saturday, January 16, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Meet the Brewers 1-4 p.m.; Music 3-10 p.m.
  • Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701
  • Beer: OSF’s head brewer Mike “Curly” White is joined by McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest and local Central Oregon breweries including Bend Brewing Co., Deschutes Brewery, Goodlife Brewing Co., Solstice Brewing Co., Smith Rock Brewing, Three Creeks Brewing Co., and Worthy Brewing Co., Crux Fermentation Project, and more!
  • Cost: Free admission, 10 taster punch cards available for $15 or $1.50/taste (4 o.z.); All ages welcome; 21 and over to drink
  • Learn more: Third Annual High Gravity Extravaganza
    “Go Big or Go Home”
  • Bring your McMenamins Passport for the brewfest stamp, too.

Music Schedule

  • 3 p.m. til 6 p.m. Dirty Revival * Vibrant Neo-soul
  • 7 p.m. til 10 p.m. Sophistafunk * Funk & Hip-hop
  • Info on the bands can be found at the above link also.

Participating Breweries

  • Sunriver Brewing (Sunriver)
  • Ochoco Brewing (Prineville)
  • McMenamins Old St. Francis (Bend)
  • Deschutes Brewery (Bend)
  • McMenamins Thompson Brewery (Salem)
  • McMenamins West Linn (West Linn)
  • McMenamins Edgefield (Troutdale)
  • GoodLife Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Monroe Brewery (Corvallis)
  • Boneyard Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins High Street Brewery (Eugene)
  • RiverBend Brewing (Bend)
  • Wild Ride Brewing (Redmond)
  • McMenamins Concordia Brewery (Portland)
  • McMenamins Roseburg Brewery (Roseburg)
  • Bend Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins on the Columbia (Vancouver, WA)
  • Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters)
  • Worthy Brewing (Bend)
  • Silver Moon Brewing (Bend)
  • McMenamins Crystal Brewery (Portland)
  • Crux Fermentation Project (Bend)

Session #105 Double Feature: Flirting with Coffee

This is the 2nd guest post from my wife, @esquetee  Her first was “Librarians in the Beer Tents” in July 2014.

I’m finally writing a post for a Session! This month’s theme:

“…highlight how the two beers interact with one another during your session (pun intended!) For extra credit, pair your beers with two films to make your own Double Feature.”

Session105SQT01

 The chosen beers:

  • Péché Mortel from Brasserie Dieu du Ciel – aged 2 years at home
  • Big Bad Baptist (release #24) from Epic – aged 1.5 years at home

The common factor here: imperial stouts with coffee.  

Pour and color: the Baptist had very little head but beautiful caramel-colored lacing lingered on the surface for quite some time. The Péché had a bit more for a moment in the same color but it smoothed out very quickly. The Péché also had a touch of mahogany red in the body while the Baptist was consistently dark brown.

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Left: Big Bad Baptist; Right: Péché Mortel

Aroma: Very different! The Péché has a soft fruit note underneath the light espresso scent, whereas the Baptist is a punch in the face of bitter raw coffee bean. Mark described it as “rancid” and I have to admit it was a bit off-putting at first.

Flavor:  The Péché is lovely – almost wine-like in the layers and complexity. The coffee is present without overpowering, which leaves room on the palate for vanilla and chocolate to whisper in. The body is soft as a rose petal, making it very drinkable without even hinting at the 9% ABV underneath. A seductive, dangerous siren of a beer.

Before we get to the Baptist, let me just preface by saying there is a blessing and a curse to cellaring these big dark beauties. The blessings come when you open an aged favorite that has gone from delightful to divine. The curses take a fine beer and turn it into something thin and flavorless … if you’re lucky. Fortunately, we’ve had far more blessings than curses in our cellaring experiments.  

The Baptist #24 is about 6 months past its prime, I would say. Not a bad beer at all, but not up to its full potential. Having just had a fresh batch of Baptist on tap the night before, I definitely prefer the beer with some age on it – even a little too much age like this one. The sharp bitterness of a fresh batch has calmed down some – despite the aroma – and the body has balanced out into a wonderful texture. If I didn’t have the Péché to compare it against, I might even enjoy the Baptist far more than I am at the moment. But the Péché takes the idea of coffee imperial stout to another level here, which leaves the Baptist with a consolation prize of “pretty good.” Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoy both of them.

Now … the other half of this Session called for pairing the paired beers with some kind of media — movies, TV shows, music, what have you.

When I thought about what to pair with coffee stouts, the first thing that came to mind was the memory of some old coffee commercial in the 1980s? 1990s? that went on like a soap opera series about two neighbors who kept flirting over their borrowed coffees. Best commercials ever. Why don’t they make ‘em like that anymore? Anyway …

So I went to YouTube in search of these coffee commercials. At first I thought they might have been from Folger’s, but that only brought up Peter’s Christmas homecoming. With a bit more digging I found them! The Taster’s Choice Gold Blend saga. And to make it even better — they starred my favorite screen librarian of all time – Giles from Buffy! Otherwise known as Anthony Head.

What in the world do these dusty old ads have to do with delicious coffee stouts?

Flirting! Oh yes, the flirting. The screen chemistry between those two was enough to rival Moonlighting. And flirting is exactly what a good stout should do with you. So dark, you can’t be certain of its intentions. So complex, you know there are innuendos you must be missing even as some of the innuendos make you blush. As the beer warms up and opens up more flavors, you become even better acquainted until … at last … well, stay tuned for the next episode.

Allen and Cantwell – Barley Wine

Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (Classic Beer Styles series no. 11) by Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell

Date read: 26 February – 04 March 2015

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Image of cover of Barley Wine: History, Brewing Techniques, Recipes (Classic Beer Styles series no. 11) by Fal Allen and Dick Cantwell

Paperback, 198 pages

Published 1998 by Brewers Publications

Source: Own

Fal Allen is currently the head brewer at Anderson Valley Brewing Co. (AVBC). You can see more of his brewing background at that link. Dick Cantwell was one of the co-founders of Elysian Brewing in 1996 and is still their head brewer.

Contents:

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: The History of Barley Wine
  • Chapter 2: The Flavor Profile of Barley Wine
  • Chapter 3: The Five Elements: Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water, and Time
  • Chapter 4: The Brewing Process
  • Chapter 5: Professional Barely Wine Breweries
  • Chapter 6: Recipes
  • Appendix A: Festivals
  • Appendix B; Troubleshooting
  • Appendix C: U.S. and Canadian Barely Wine Breweries
  • Appendix D: Unit Conversion Chart
  • Glossary
  • Further Reading
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Authors

NB: Publication date 1998. At the time perhaps it made sense, but 17 years later App. C is kind of useless. Chap. 5 is better in that we get some data and descriptions, so even if the beer or brewery are long gone it still provides some context, especially compared to the others in the rest of the chapter. [This book is no. 11 in the series and no. 10 Stout (see below) also has an appendix “Commercial Stout Breweries,” which seems of the same limited value and ends with “Note: This is only a partial listing of the numerous brewers of stout.” You think?]

Introduction

“These days barley wine brewing is alive and well, if somewhat besieged in its native Britain. Its history is not continuous or easy to trace. Studying barley wine is like following footprints which disappear and reappear, forking and veering, stamping for a time in a circle and then dispersing, leaving trails that seem to go cold and then suddenly present a host of destinations. It’s an enterprise requiring a few leaps of courage and fancy simply to consider the widely variant examples and information that is part of the same theoretically coherent style. We will challenge and define the parameters of barley wine, examining every stage of the brewing process to wring the utmost from ingredients, equipment, and procedures. We will explore the contributions of each of brewing’s basic raw materials, including one not ordinarily considered—time. We will also offer practical hints based on our own home and professional brewing experience” (Introduction, 6-7).

Chapter 1: The History of Barley Wine

Seems reasonable. Anyone aware of other histories of barley wine? I like that we’re off to an inclusive start.

Chapter 2: The Flavor Profile of Barley Wine

Covers a lot of ground fairly succinctly.

“There are, in fact, a number of proper versions of the style, each with a historical and geographical precedent, and each matching the original qualities” (31).

Includes: alcohol, color and clarity, hops, age, yeast and other influences, conditioning and carbonation; “families” of barley wines: The Trent, the Thames, and Others: English Barley Wine Brewing; The Northeastern United States—The Great Between; Northwestern Barley Wines; Other Beers Defying Classification.

The “Other Beers Defying Classification” section was interesting in that it told me that Michael Jackson considered Russian Imperial stout to be a dark barley wine. I just checked his The World Guide to Beer and sure enough, pages 170-171 are “Russian stout and barley wines” (1977, First american ed.). I did not remember that. Perhaps partly due to the fact that it was many years later before I had tasted either style. I am not saying I agree with Michael, though. His reasoning was a little loose.

This section also reminded me that “in Stout, Michael Lewis considers imperial stout such a break from traditional stout styles that he devotes to it only a brief discussion (Lewis 1995)” (50). That’s right. I can find almost nothing on Imperials in it. That’s my biggest gripe with Stout. But back to this book.

Chapter 3: The Five Elements: Malt, Hops, Yeast, Water, and Time

I like how they bring out in the section on “Pale Malt” that English pale malt is best (with Maris Otter at the top) because “it has a more complex flavor than American malts, which are generally malted to microbrewery specifications” (55). That is soon to change, although mostly likely remain sparsely dispersed and very small-scale for a long while. Micromalting. Heirloom and landrace barleys. Barleys not even suspected by the macros.

Photo of emblem for the High Desert Museum exhibit Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer

We went to the last panel discussion at the High Desert Museum as part of their exhibit, Brewing Culture: The Craft of Beer. It was Feb. 19th and this was its remit:

“Join us for a dynamic conversation with Seth Klann of Mecca Grade Estate Malt to learn how barley is farmed and malted in the High Desert. Klann will be joined by Scott Fish a barley breeding researcher and resident malster at OSU and Dustin Herb, a graduate research assistant in OSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Science whose work is on barley and malting.”

The researchers actually went first with Seth finishing before questions for everyone. Mecca Grade Estate Malt. We have locally grown barley and a micromalting facility in Central Oregon. I know there are a few around the country. Michigan, for sure. Colorado somewhere? New York? Montana? Barley region states anyway.

For far more information on this panel discussion of malt see “The day I learned about barley.”

Hmm. Ambled away from the topic at hand again.

This chapter covers some ground but does it fairly efficiently: The Malt Bill: Pale Malt, Specialty Malts, Adjuncts; Hops: Boiling Hops, Finishing Hops; Yeast: Yeast Flavor, Alcohol Tolerance, Attenuation, Flocculation, Oxygen; Water; Aging; Packaged Beer; Wood.

Chapter 4: The Brewing Process

Let’s just say that if you want to brew your first barley wine you perhaps had best read this chapter. I’m not saying it is the last word, by any means. But it gives you a good idea of how much you’ll be taxing your knowledge, your system, your ingredients and your processes.

Chapter 5: Professional Barely Wine Breweries

Provides the specifications, and variably some notes or description, on twenty barley wines, beginning with Bass No. 1. The specs provided are slightly variable and/or not available for some pieces of data on each beer. Basically: Name, Brewer, Original Gravity, Terminal Gravity, ABV, IBU, Hop Variety, Malt, Mash, Boil, Fermentation Temperature, Yeast, Fermentation Time and Aging.

Some of the other beers are Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Fuller’s Golden Pride, Anchor Old Foghorn (1996), Thomas Hardy (1989), and Hair of the Dog Adambier.

Chapter 6: Recipes

Eleven recipes “from a wide-range of brewers and brewing backgrounds” (131) are presented and each is sized for both 5 gallons and 1 barrel. Some of the brewers are Ray Daniels, Charlie Papazian, George & Laurie Fix, Fred Eckhardt, and Randy Mosher.

Appendix A: Festivals

Clearly several more by now and The Brickskeller is closed.

Appendix B: Troubleshooting

From stuck fermentation to stuck mash and other issues in-between.

Appendix C: U.S. and Canadian Barely Wine Breweries

No doubt it was partial then; now not so much interesting even as an historical document since we have no idea of the scope of its limitations to begin with.

Appendix D: Unit Conversion Chart

Glossary

Not even sure half of those terms are in the book. And they’re mostly not indexed soit  makes it hard to verify.

For now I am recommending this book. The issues I have pointed out above are inherent in any text like this that becomes dated. My single caveat for otherwise not wholeheartedly recommending it is that I have yet to brew from it. Based on other things I have read their recommendations seem sound but I have not tested any of them in practice. Take that as you will.

This is the 15th book in my Traditional Chesterfield armchair

Citations

Lewis, Michael. Stout. First American ed. Boulder, Colo.: Brewers Publications, 1995. Print. Classic Beer Style Series, 10.

Cross-posted at habitually probing generalist for purposes of the above reading challenge.

McMenamins 2nd annual High Gravity Extravaganza

“Go Big or Go Home” is the motto of the McMenamins High Gravity Extravaganza, now in its 2nd Annual instantiation, 17 January 2015 in Bend. [We missed the 1st last year due to attending the Big Woody in Portland that same weekend. No true regrets but wondering what happened to the Big Woody.]

Since I haven’t attended I can only pass along the details and promise you that we plan on being there for certain. High-alcohol beers, music, fire pits, and more.

In the spirit of Central Oregon and the uniqueness of the High Desert in January, step out and celebrate big, bold beers while basking in the crisp winter air at the High Gravity Extravaganza at McMenamins Old St. Francis School (OSF). This second annual “Go Big or Go Home” event brings together high gravity ales from some of Central Oregon’s top breweries (list below) and McMenamins around the Northwest with a backdrop of snow-covered mountains while huddling around blazing firepits. With live music by Mark Ransom & The Mostest and Down North,  you can also stop by the brewer’s corner to meet the makers, discuss technique or just share a couple pints with friends.

When: Saturday, January 17, 2015 from 1-10 p.m.; Music begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Old St. Francis School, 700 Bond St., Bend, Ore., 97701

Beer: Joining 10 McMenamins brewers from around the Northwest are 12 local Central Oregon breweries [see below].

Cost: Free to attend, special taster pricing.

We welcome these Central Oregon Guest Breweries, pouring their bold beer samples:

  • GoodLife Brewing
  • Three Creeks Brewing
  • Bend Brewing Company
  • Solstice Brewing Company
  • Worthy Brewing Company
  • Sunriver Brewing Company
  • Wild Ride Brewing
  • Crux Fermentation Project
  • Riverbend Brewing
  • Deschutes Brewing Company
  • Boneyard Beer Company
  • Silver Moon Brewing

Participating McMenamins Breweries pouring their big and bold beer samples:

  • McMenamins on Monroe
  • High Street Brewery
  • Thompson Brewery
  • McMenamins on the Columbia Brewery
  • West Linn Brewery
  • Edgefield Brewery
  • Concordia – Kennedy School Brewery
  • Crystal Brewery
  • Old St. Francis Brewery
  • Roseburg Brewery

We are looking forward to it, as are many of our friends. We hope to see you there.