Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Can You Use Unknown Hops?

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

hopsIt’s been awhile since I’ve done a homebrewing post. This isn’t because I haven’t been brewing, It’s because my area of study has been primarily in brewing history lately, rather then the process. Just today though I realized that with the hop harvest recently that I could’ve been posting on that process.  So I figured I’d post today on an issue that I recently had.

In September I received an email from someone telling me they had some unknown hops they thought were fuggles and were wondering if I wanted to pick some. Considering the price of hops I was happy to go pick free hops. The problem was when I showed up I discovered they neither looked, nor smelled like fuggles. In fact I didn’t recognize the smell from any of the hops I’d used before. Usually in a case like this you identify the hops by leaf characteristics and the cones size shape and smell. Naturaly I brought up some hop databases and started comparing. Comparing leaves and cones proved difficult with this variety though. The next step in hop identification when comparison fails is genetic identification or a gas chromatography. These methods are expensive though and impractical.

After some more digging I found out the owner of the plants had purchased them discount at a nursery to use as cover on a fence. This meant there was a good chance these were a decorative variety. If you ask most brewers, or do some googling you’ll find most people don’t think that it is a good idea to use wild or decorative hops. Many people feel that these hops can’t be used for brewing. The reality is that although their not bread specifically for brewing these hops can be used for making beer.

The most difficult issue to overcome when brewing with mystery hops is alpha acids. Not knowing the bittering properties of hops makes it difficult to properly use them for bittering. The easiest way is to use trial and error. With these I started with 1.75oz. I figured it was safer to risk it being a high alpha hop and aging the bitterness out rather then having a sickly sweet brew from too little. Taste and aroma are much easier to gauge using a tea made from the hops. I just tried the brown ale I brewed with them turned out great.

Future Brewery??

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

So in case you haven’t heard (really not many have) Venti’s is going to be in a movie. Very few people who saw this picture of the following beer on Leslies Facebook though knew of the movie.


JR has a whole post on the movie at Venti’s, although if you read it you may walk away wondering if Venti’s really is a brewery.

Leslie assured me when she first let me in on this that Venti’s doesn’t have a secret brewery, but that it’s a possibility in the future (the brewery, not the secret part). This is why I’ve been asking those questions about what people in Salem are looking for in a brewery.

To Early For Winter?

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


Currently I’m suffering from what I’m thinking is a sinus infection. This means I need meds to clear my head and get through work. Anyway, I was in Albertsons grabbing meds today and noticed Jubelale is already on the shelf. Is it really the time for winter seasonals? Keep in mind I’m looking forward to winter beers. I even did a post on the ones I’m waiting for. My question though is is it to early for Deschutes to release Jubelale?

Jubelale has become the defining winter seasonal in Oregon. When it hits the shelves is when winter beer is “officially” ok to drink. It’s disappearance is also the defining moment of the start of spring beers. So what on earth is it doing on store shelves in September????

The Brew Sitedescribes it as “hot and green” which is to be expected.  After all, this beer needs age to round out it’s flavors. So why isn’t Deschutes holding back the release for a few months to give their product  a more typical winter flavor? Could this actually hurt them as a company? For an iconic beer like Jubelale serving it up early and green could harm it’s reputation with non beer geeks and beer geek wannabe who enjoy it.

Farewell Yarrow

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


This last year was full of discovery in terms of herbal beers. I brewed my first gruit with yarrow in the spring, and instantly fell in love with the herb. I followed that up with adding yarrow to other beers in a random fashion, not caring if it enhanced or detracted from the flavor. Well, I think I have burned out on yarrow because of it.

Yarrow is purportedly a healing herb with it’s use going back past the middle ages. It’s not a beautiful plant like a hop vine, it kinda reminds me of Queen Anne’s Lace in fact. For smell and aroma you can’t beat it. This stuff is amazing…. and strong. It has a sweet, grassy, herbal flavor, with some slight bittering. and the nose is very floral and grassy. This stuff really is a trip in beer because you don’t expect it.

Here I am singing it’s praises though after saying I’m burnt out. The reason I’m burnt out is because of my beer that just finished carbing. Recently I brewed a roggenbier with some modifications. The first mod was I amped the rye malt and barley malt up without increasing the hops. This worked better then I planned, the beer tastes like liquid bread. It’s thick and yummy, but it’s def a beer you only have one of. The second mod I did was I tossed in some left over heather tips and yarrow…. Ya, now I’m not certain what to think of the beer. It’s not bad, but the herbal taste just over runs the beer. I’m hoping my yarrow saison doesn’t have this overpowering quality…. Especially since I used much more yarrow in it then I did the roggenbier.

After this experience though I think I’ll lay off the yarrow for a bit.

Are Styles Relevant?

Friday, September 4th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


Last night I was reminded again how much we rely on styles to tell us if we will or wont like a beer. The Salem Beer and Wine group had their get together at Venti’s last night. One of the ladies in the group ordered a pils. It fit the style perfectly. By the time she was ready for the second one though the keg was gone and a new pils from a different brewery was in it’s place. The second pils was cloudy and opaque, over hopped, and had an almost banana/fruity yeast flavor to it. This, according to everyone at the table (myself included) was not a pils. We even talked to the bartender who pointed to the label that sure enough said pilsner.

Now was the second pilsner a bad beer? Absolutely not. Was it a bad pilsner? Heck yes. So the question is where should style come into play?

As a homebrewer I can guarantee that most of my beers are off style. My pale ale was out of the alcohol range it was supposed to be in. My Roggenbier is not even close to what a Roggenbier should be. My herbal saison? You guessed it, off style. This is because I happen to like these beers a different way then the guidelines say they should be. When your homebrewing though it’s not a major deal. Alot of commercial brews though seem to be going the same way. Brew what tastes good and slap it into the category it fits best in. The problem with this though is you get a situation like last nights. Someone orders a pilsner and gets something they didn’t expect, or necessarily want.

So where does that leave styles? For competitions styles are important. They set a benchmark for the beers. For many commercial brewers though styles aren’t benchmarks so much as loose guidelines. This makes it so the average Joe doesn’t know what he’s getting at times. Is it time to phase out style guidlines for commercial brewing? Or should brewers make more of a good faith effort to meet style expectations?

Given the fact that styles have only become truly defined in the last 30ish years I’m not sure how I feel on this issue. All I know is that beer wasn’t a true pils.

Around The Corner

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Oktoberfest lagers and fall theamed ales are already on the shelves signaling my favorite season for beer isn’t far away. Already I’m counting down the days till winter seasonals are released. In fact I got so excited the other day I sent out a text to a non-drinking friend that said “stout seasons almost here.” Needless to say they were confused.

Seriously though, winter seasonals always excite me. I always look forward to big stouts, winter warmers, and this years batch of barlywines. Can you tell I like big beers? The funny part is that by the end of winter I will be longing for a variety of sessionable summer ales. Despite this fact though winter is still the only seasonal I get excited about.

I know there are geeks that read this blog and probably have their favorite fall/winter seasonals picked out, but there’s also non-beer geeks that read this. I know this because they give me a hard time on some of my geekier posts. So here’s a list of beers I watch out for.

Pumpkin Ales– Not the biggest fan of these, but I still find an enjoyable one occasionally. Homebrewed pumpkin beers tend to have better flavors then commercial ones. I prefer a full flavored amber or brown ale as a base. Some of the commercial ones use a lighter base to highlight the spices, but a good pumpkin beer needs a strong malt profile to work with the spices in my opinion.

Milk Stouts– Some Imperial Stouts, Chocolate Stouts, Oatmeal Stouts, and Coffee Stouts are available year around now so I don’t group them as winter beers anymore, even if there is a better selection in winter. Sweet stouts a.k.a. Milk Stouts generally tend to be restricted to winter though. My big addiction last year was Oatis from Ninkasi. Yes I’m aware it’s listed as an oatmeal stout, but it is still a fairly sweet, malty stout. Snow Plow also come to mind though as a good winter stout. I know Widhook haters will love I tossed that one out.

Winter Warmers– You can’t really peg this category solidly in my opinion. The only unifying characteristic seems to be higher alcohol. I like this style though because you find alot more experimenting with herbs, spices, and things like raisins in these beers. It can be hit and miss though since there is so much diversity.

Spruce Ales – Spruce tips seem to be more common in winter beers. I’m not sure why, but they are. Personally I like a well constructed spruce ale.

Bold and Beautiful

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Jeff posted a pseudo review of Lip Stinger today, and it got me thinking.

I’ve tried alot of good beers over the last few years, but what does it take for one of those good beers to become a beer I drink regularly? This question is doubly difficult since there are few beers that I turn to as regular beers. For example, when I first started drinking my mainstay was Blackwatch. It was my first stout, and at the time I found it amazingly unique and flavorful. Not that much later though I stopped drinking Blackwatch altogether. It found itself replaced with Several other stouts and porters, primarily the Black Butte and Obsidian from Deschutes. Next came Rogue. Rogue offered a diversity I hadn’t experienced, and their bottles are darn cool. Then came 1554, followed by Anchor Steam. By this time I was making enough homebrew that I’d gone almost totally to unique bombers and only bought six packs to replenish beer I gave away. This meant no regulars in the fridge as there was no room with all the homebrew in it.

Now though I’m temporarily out of homebrew (my saison still has a few months min for aging, and my roggenbier isn’t even done fermenting) and I’m finding that some of my old mainstays just aren’t cutting it. Instead I’m finding myself drawn to a few specific beers only available in bombers. Looking at these beers I’m buying now though I’ve noticed one thing. They are all beers that have something that makes them stand out, makes them memorable. Many are off style, but their flavor has something that causes me to buy it repeatedly. Take Bison’s ’07 Saison. The almost fruity tartness keeps drawing back to this beer, while Dupont (the standard for saisons it seems) remains a $10 a bottle oddity that performs average in my opinion. The other thing I’ve noticed is that the beer has to connect emotionally on some level. I know it sounds strange, but what I mean is there has to be something about the beer that appeals to whatever mood I’m in. I may like a beer one night while I’m at the bar having fun with friends on a Friday night, but all of the sudden it just doesn’t perform when I’m enjoying it over a nice quiet lunch on my own. Make sense?

Scary Thought

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


I’m posting late today because I spent my whole morning preparing stuff for my summer harvest wine. 18 lbs of squash, 10 oranges, 4 lemons, 1 ginger root, some tid bits, and 15 lbs of sugar later I was finished. I also was using super glue to reatach some skin to my thumb. That was all over an hour ago though. More then enough time to blog right? Well I got distracted catching up on blog reading. In particular here’s what distracted me.

Jared had commented in the last posting, making it clear that he “gets it.” It’s not about good beer vs bad beer. It’s about personal interest in what’s being served and the glut of Beer Fests that are available.

full post

That’s from Dr Worts blog. Apparently I get something, what an interesting feeling.

This is all part of the continuing saga about yet another beer fest in Oregon. It started with Jeff at Beervana getting somewhat excited. Then Dr Wort tried to crash the party. A backlash the ensued. After all this the crew at Dr Wort did a couple posts on it over at their blog, here and here. I left the following comment on the second one, and apparently hit the nail on the head.

There’s good breweries on the list, but even looking at it I can get an idea of some of the beers they’ll be serving up. There will probably be Chili Beer, We know Fred will be there, and I’d put money on Lil’s Pills and that blonde Three Creeks serves up. For people who are knew to craft beer or haven’t tried these breweries before it’ll be enjoyable. For the rest of us…. Meh
Maybe I’m just reading your blog to much. For some reason my urge to attend alot of these festivals dried up after the Oregon Gardens Beer Fest.
Dont get me wrong, I enjoy these beers. I just see no reason to go out of my way to attend more then a couple of these festivals a year.

For Lack Of A Mind

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

from theweeklybrew


Last night turned into a six hour brew night that ended at 3am, so my brain is dead. That means what I planned to write today is out the window since I can’t even remember. Instead I will explain how it took me 6 hours to brew a beer. That should be entertaining eh? Well, at least it will be somethin.

So how does a brew day turn into a 6 hour affair? Well first off today is one of my brothers birthday, and last night was the party. Secondly I prefer brewing in the evenings finishing up around 11-12 pm. So, I mashed in around 9 pm. Nine is a nice pleasant hour to brew. No one bugs you, and there’s nothing in terms of your daily life to interrupt. At 9:45 I discovered I had made porridge. This was my first beer using flaked rye. Normally I prefer malted rye. Porridge takes alot more time to sparge properly. The kettle didn’t even get the first hop edition till 10:15 pm. Interestingly this is my lowest hop beer…. Well at least in terms of a beer with hops. I used 0.25 oz of Chinook at 1 hour, and 0.75 oz of fuggles at 20 min. My boil finished at 11:15 and I started cooling my wort. Just after I started though I got a phone call.

You see, today is also my friend Rachels birthday, and yesterday was her party also. I’d missed out on it since I’d been at my brothers party, but at 11:20 I got my chance at redemption. Rachel had to drop Andy off just outside Portland and the girls were wondering if I wanted to go. So I got my kettle washed, everything cleaned, and added the still hot wort to the primary. and just capped it with an airlock to let it cool down while I was gone, with the plan of adding yeast when I got home. Problem is we stopped at a restaurant to play cards and didn’t get home till 3am. This meant my yeast was added to the wort six hours after I started. Even now I think the ph may be off from waiting so long. My beer is fermenting, but barely. I’ve never had such a bad lag….. Ok, I take that back. My Steam style beer had a long lag time with the lager yeast.

Once More Unto The Breach

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Life may get busy again soon and the blog may suffer. I hope it doesn’t, but I’m just tossing it out. Not that long ago I was scrambling to get posts up with my training schedule for what was to be my new job and picking up hours at my current one. Sadly after all the training the job ended up not paning out. It wasn’t nearly as huge of an issue for me as it was for the others involved, I had my current job still and the one I was supposed to move into paid less. Today I have an interview though at 10 am. If everything pans out with this job I will be going through much of the same training that I’ve already gone through. Exciting huh? Truth is though if everything pans out it’ll be worth it. In the meantime though I apologize if the posting starts getting sporadic.