Archive for March, 2009

The Basics of Beer Tasting

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

professorowlbnw1For those new to the idea of judging beers things can get overwhelming fast. After all, when most people taste a beer they put it into two categories, good, and bad. They have no clue what someone means when they talk about estery scents and hints of caramel flavors. So I decided to write a quick rundown.

Why?

I’m personally a big fan of the good beer bad beer categories myself, so why do we need this fancy system? There are several reasons. First it helps with describing the beer to others. Have you ever recommended an IPA to a friend, but not been able to say what makes it different then other IPAs. Also it helps with pairing your food and beer together. As time goes on you’ll pick up hints of flavors that go well together. Lastly it helps you. Tasting the spread of beers is fun, but it should lead somewhere. If you’ve tried hundreds of stouts, but still can’t describe what you look for in a stout, then you should consider going deeper in your tasting.

The Categories

Most people get caught up in the fancy words that are used to describe beers and don’t pay enough attention to the categories. My rule of thumb is you should be able to describe the beer in layman’s terms on category alone, and save the gobbledygook for when your talking to someone who understands it. That’s why it’s important to know these categories and their break downs

Appearance – describe how the beer looks

      Color 
      Carbonation
      Clarity

Aroma – describe how the beer smells

      Aroma – Good smells
      Bouquet – Hop smells
      Odors – Bad smells

Taste – How does the beer taste?
      
      Mouthfeel – What does the beer feel like in your mouth?
      Flavor – Do you taste something that reminds you of caramel?
      Finish –  Does the beer have an aftertaste? Describe it.

Using these basic categories you can effectively describe a beer to anyone, even a beer judge. Also as you use these categories to break down beers you’ll find yourself discovering subtle flavors you never noticed before.

Top 10 Signs You’re A Beer Snob

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

beer-snob

1  Your wife thought you were too pretentious and left you for a wine snob

2  You spend so much time sniffing the beer that it looks like your trying to drink through your nose

3  You believe that Europe is the only place good beer comes from

4  You actually enjoy drinking beer from Dogfish Head

5  You’ve never bought a six pack for less then $12

6  When the beer at a party costs less then a days wages you sit and pout, then spend the rest of the night lamenting that this kind of thing would never happen in Europe

7  Even official beer judges envy your ability to write a book on your opinion for every single beer you try

8  You don’t drink anything that isn’t thick enough to float a quarter on

9  You mortgaged your home so you can afford beer for the month

10  You go to a resteraunt and order wine because the only thing they have that comes close to your definition of beer is Blue Moon

Happy St. Patty’s

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

istock_irishstoutI wasn’t planning on doing two posts today, but it’s St. Patty’s so what the heck.

Irish Stouts On Tap

As long as we’re on the subject of St Patrick’s I figure I may as well talk about some local joints that have Irish stouts on tap today. In no particular order, the Ram has their seasonal Irish stout out right now as do McMenamins locations. Conrad Venti also let me know today that Venti’s cafe now has an Irish stout from Seven Brides Brewing on tap for the holiday. If you want more info on what it is check out their blog, or head on in for some good bento and a pint….. or two.

Free Beer

Free beer just seems like a good thing to go with St. Patty’s doesn’t it? My Rose Red ale has just finished carbonating, and is ready for consumption. For people interested I’m giving out a free bottle of it on the condition that you fill out a questionnaire about it so I can use the feed back on my blog. If your interested shoot me an email at theweeklybrew@live.com There is a limited number of beers that I can give out so let me know soon.

Share Your Passion

I just joined a group at meetup.com for people in the Salem area that are interested in good beer. If you also think it’d cool to find some local people interested in beer then check it out. Hopefully someone gets around to making a Salem area homebrewers group. Maybe I should make one eh?

Need Bottles

Last but not least I’m running low on empties for bottling. Between my spoiled gruit, my Rose Red, and my new gruit that will have to age for an obscene time all my bottles are tied up. If you have some empty standard size pop tops your willing to part with let me know.

Why I Brew

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

meblogI’m normally not a fan of making deep thoughtful posts about myself so this will probably be neither. For those who don’t know me, or haven’t known me long I figured I’d give a little background about myself and brewing, or as my friend Liz so aptly put it “What is it with you and beer?”

In the Beginning

Basically my fondness of beer, and my aspirations towards brewing good beer started fairly recently. The day I turned 21 beer was the farthest thing from my mind. It wasn’t until like three months later that I even tried my first  beer, and that beer almost put the nail in the coffin in terms of me never wanting a beer again. It was a canned stout that my dad was drinking on our fishing trip in Canada, and that thing tasted so bitter and gross that it’s impossible to describe it in words. After that episode the only “adult” beverage I consumed for awhile was whiskey, and that usually watered down with large amounts of coke. Undaunted though I eventually found myself occasionally sipping beers to see if I could find one I liked. Gradually I got used to the bitterness of the hops, but beer just still wasn’t my thing. The beer that changed that if I remember correctly was Mac’s Blackwatch brewed by McTarnahan’s. As I started to discover what I liked and didn’t like in beers I also began stretching myself in terms of what I’d try. I actually enjoyed bringing sixers home occasionaly to sample a beer I had never had.

The Explosion

About the end of ’07 I’d gotten curious about a little hole in the wall shop in town called Homebrew Heaven. I stopped in on a whim one day, and walked out with a book called Homemade Root Beer, Soda & Pop. Shortly after I started making my own soda I noticed a side note with a recipe for a soda made with tomatoes called tomato beer. Since we had a surplus of tomatoes from our garden that year I decided to make some with one notable exception, I was going to purposely let it ferment and produce some alcohol. It didn’t turn out half bad, and tasted like a really light beer. Well now wheels were turning, and after I got back from my trip to London in January I began buying every beer I could think of to taste.  By the fall of ’08 the part of my brain that switched from soda to beer had another spark and I decided to make a proper pumpkin ale. I got my list of ingredients and headed on down to Homebrew Heaven.

The Carboy

Prior to my pumpkin ale I had done all my soda and beer making in 2 ltr bottles. While I was at the homebrew store I began to do the math on how many 2 ltr bottles it would take for a 5 gal batch and had one of those “We’re gonna need a bigger boat moments.” So while I was there I bought a basic brewing kit from Doug for like $80 (or something like that) that included everything I needed to brew plus a book on brewing and some of his own extract recipes. Later that month my friend Kaylie came over and we brewed my first ever real beer, and it wasn’t too bad. I got alot of compliments about how it wasn’t even horrible like people expected, and I caught the bug.

Chicken Fried Brains

Monday, March 16th, 2009

471317715_b782c35500My brain is completely toast right now. It all started Friday night when I decided to have a couple drinks on an empty stomach. Definitely not a good idea. Anyways, needless to say I was a little tipsy before the night was over, and awoke completely exhausted Saturday. Then combine that with the fact that I was up till after 1:00 am last night bottling my second attempt at a gruit, and the fact that I rode the 10 or so miles out here to Corban in a headwind and you get the idea why my brain and body are going on strike. The gruit turned out barely passable. Next time I will cut back on the roasted barley. Also when I made this batch I just dumped in the herbs rather then measure them out since the bags were almost empty. Needless to say I wont be doing that again. The beer has a medicinal bite that isn’t very appatizing. I’m hoping that with half a year or so of aging it’ll diminish a bit. Another interesting experiment with this batch is that about half the bottles are capped with used caps. About a quarter of the way through capping the bottles my brother informed me that we weren’t going to have enough. Not wanting to waste the other 24 bottles of beer though I decided to grab my container of caps I have set aside for recycling and use root around for some salvageable ones. I’ve never reused caps before, and have heard that they don’t always seal right and can cause infection. To help prevent the infection I soaked them in some corn whiskey. In about three weeks we will find out if the caps worked. Also I know I need to get around to brewing that Reese’s Stout. As soon as I get around to buying the grains and dehydrating the peanut butter. Dehydrating peanut butter is a pain in the butt.

Weekend Events

Friday, March 13th, 2009

pintonbar1As most everyone knows St Patricks Day is coming up on Tuesday, the revelries though will start today for many people. Don’t be sad if you can’t make it to Ireland for the fun though as there’s plenty to do here in Oregon. So as Al Roker always says, “Here’s what’s going on in your neck of the woods.” I’ve always wanted to use that in a post 🙂

Perhaps the biggest event we have here is the Kell’s Irish Festival in Portland. Today at 5:00 pm they will kick off their 19th year of celebrating St Patrick’s in Portland. On Saturday the tent out back opens up, and the real festivities begin. People who swing by will be treated to the sounds of bagpipes, live music, and get to watch the Maher World-Champion Irish dancers.  The tent opens to minors from 11:30 am – 5:00 pm, and there’s no cover charge until 6 when ZOO2 plays. The following day Everclear will be playing, with a $20 cover, and Zoo2 will be giving a free concert on Monday. Tuesday however is when the real festivities start. There will be performances by ZOO2 (notice a theme?), Needfire, The Real Shindig, and others. I have no clue what the cover is for Tuesday, but it certainly sounds like the time to go. If you can’t make it to Portland, or a crowded tent full of drunk concert goers isn’t your thing there will be plenty of other events around Oregon. Eugene’s Sheldon High School is holding it’s 32nd Run for the Shamrock at Alton Baker Park, and all proceeds go to the schools track program. Portland also has it’s own Shamrock Run at Waterfront Park. Also you can always swing by the closest Irish pub and have a pint. If your looking for one here’s a list to choose from. If your in Salem where there are no Irish pubs try McMinnimans or Porters.

Kell’s Irish Pub– Portland
Pady’s Bar and Grill– Portland
4 Daughters Irish Pub– Medford (good beer selection)
Nana’s Irish Pub – Newport
New Old Lompoc – Portland
Paddy Brannan’s Irish Pub – Ashland
O’Donnels Irish Pub – Eugene

Organic Beers

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

sealus1When I first turned 21 I wouldn’t have dreamed of giving organic beer shelf space in the fridge. Don’t get me wrong, I’d tried organic beer shortly after I began drinking, but even if they were green they tasted crappy and cost much more then a normal beer. The reason for this is that organic barleys reacted different to the malting and roasting process. And since you don’t have the chemical concerns with beer like you do fruit they simply weren’t worth even thinking about drinking. It’s 2009 now though and the market for organic beer has grown, and along with it so have the flavorful brews available. The acceptance of some of the more selectively bred crops and the increase in organic material available has helped boost the ability of brewers to produce a high quality organic beer that can compete with non organics.

Deschutes – Deschutes recently released Green Lakes ale. This is the beer that changed my opinion of organics. It’s a very flavorful American Amber, but was brewed with a limited release, so get it while you can.

Fish Ale – Fish Ale are the makers of Fish Tale ale. This is probably the most common organic I see on Oregons beer isles. The flavors aren’t bad, and it’s a very drinkable beer.

Bison Brewing – Bison goes the extra mile and as far as I can tell makes all their beers organic. The varieties available and the flavors of their brews make Bison the top organic brewer in my opinion.

Roots – Roots gets a mention because their fairly local and have heather ale. They are located in Portland Oregon and offer about five or so types of beer.

Otter Creek– Otter Creek is located in Vermont and is known for their organic IPA called Wolaver’s.

Butte Creek – Another California company with a line of organic beers.

Eel River– Eel River gets a mention since they apparently were the first organic brewer to receive the USDA certified label. This doesn’t mean other brewers weren’t organic, it just means they were the first ones to get approval when the USDA passed the label rules.

Laurelwood Brewing – Another Portland, Oregon company that has a few organics available.

Beer News II

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

newspaperIn case you have a hard time staying up on the news from the front lines here’s a rundown of some interesting beer news.

Stimulus for Beer
H.R. 836

A bill has been introduced in the House of Representatives that would repeal the nations beer tax to the pre 1991 level of $9 a barrel instead of $18. Although this is a small decrease it is still a victory for the beer industry considering that almost %40 of what you pay at the store for beer is taxes from various levels. As usual though this bill would treat Micro Brewers differently then it would the big corporate brewers. Micro Brewers would get a cut from $7 to $3.50 a barrel. Some day we need to realize beer is beer, and that when we chip away at the big brewers we are only hurting ourselves.

Utah may legalize homebrew
H.B. 51

Utah is one of only five states where it is illegal to brew your own beer. But that all may be changing soon. H.B. 51 is set to go up for a senate vote. If it passes then there will be only four states left to conquer.

What the Future Holds

Last beer news post I made I talked about Oregon’s attempts to increase the beer tax. After doing some forum crawling I was surprised at the support this tax is getting. Many people apparently blame beer over wine or spirits for encouraging alcohol addiction. I’ve never understood why people seem to get more fired up about increases on wine and liquor then about an increase on beer and malt drinks, the beverages with a much lower alcohol content. Anyways, if you think that beer taxes won’t really hurt anyone, and that the tax money raised can be a good thing check this article out.

Links

I get alot of my information about what’s going on from these sites. If your interested give them a look. Of course you could always just type beer news into google also.

http://beernews.org/
http://www.topix.com/drink/beer
http://www.beerinfo.com/

International Spotlight Ireland

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

guinesstoucanWith St Patrick’s day coming up I felt now would be a good time to pay homage to the unique beers of Ireland. When most people think Irish beer It conjures up images of Guinness and the green Budweiser that we serve in the states. The reality though is that Ireland’s beer culture is far richer then that. Ireland is known for the maltiness of their beers and the roasty flavors they have, rather then the hop flavors of American craft beers. The reason for this is that hops are not native to Ireland and the change to them was slow. Because hops weren’t traditionally used many of their beers get their bitterness from the roasted grains. Ironically Ireland owes much of it’s history in beer to England. The stouts that we attribute to the Irish are actually English in origin. Another misconception is that everyone in Ireland drinks stout. Although stout once was the more common a long time ago it’s been overtaken by lagers. Generally Ireland’s traditional beers are broken down in three groups, Irish reds, stouts, and lagers.

Irish Reds –Usually these will have malty flavors and a bit of roastiness. Murphy’s and Smithwick’s are good examples

Stouts –These are gonna have that bitterness from the grain with coffee and chocolate malt flavors. If you can, try Murphy’s or O’Hara’s. If those aren’t available you can go with the classic roastier Guinness, or thicker maltier Beamish.

Lagers – For most people in the states there is only one Irish lager, and that’s Harp. These lagers should have a bitterness up front, followed by a smooth finish.

If you want to get creative with your beer many Irish pubs in the states will serve some interesting beer mixers.

Black and Tan –Half stout and half ale. The beer stays separate giving it a cool look

Shandy – This is simply beer and lemonade. The combination isn’t as weird as it sounds

Black Velvet –If you really want to celebrate this one might be your choice. It’s Guinness and Champagne.

Newport Part Deux

Monday, March 9th, 2009

newport-007  After an amazing lunch at Nana’s, and some tasting at Beir One we crossed the bridge, and landed ourselves at the Rogue Brewery. This was the stop I had been looking forward to all week since this was to be my first time visiting it since my 18th birthday. First thing I noticed when we pulled up was the new paint job that gave everything a fresh look that contrasts with Newport’s other famous buildings which have that rundown feel to them.

  newport-0006

As one would expect the inside of the brewery smells like beer. The shining kettles and the smell of malts are enough to make any brewer or beer lover grin like a giddy school kid.

newport-0009

There was no brewery tour going on when we arrived, so we headed on up to the bar and tasting room. We sat down and straight off ordered two tasting trays, and shortly after the first two we ordered a third, and a shot of their pink gin for sampling.

newport-0011

Here’s the rundown of the beers we sampled, with hearts next to our favorites.

• Paul’s Black Lager ♥
• Frog Stout
• Smoke Ale ♥
• Oak Aged Quad Frog
• Mogul Madness
• Charlie 1981
• Sesquicentinial  ♥
• October Fest  ♥
• Hazelnut Brown  ♥
• Manage a Frog
• Oregon Golden  ♥
• Shakespeare Stout  ♥

newport-0012

After we put away three pints worth of beer between the two of us we sat around talking, and decided to visit their new distillery while we were there. We arrived at the distillery in time for a tour this time. We were guided through their distilling process, and treated to samples of both their gins, their Dead Guy Whiskey, and also got to taste their hazelnut infused rum. Over all their spirits were pretty good, but not as smooth as I’d have thought. The most interesting bits of information from this tour though were that they were aging a batch of their Dead Guy Ale in their Dead Guy Whiskey barrels, and that about once a month they do a sort of beer yard sale with mismatched bottles from their previous production line. I am definitely gonna do some research on this yard sale as it would be awesome to get some cheap Rogue. Also I really want to get my hands on a bottle of the Dead Guy experiment when it’s released.