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Preview: Matt's Beer Blog

Matt's Beer Blog

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -- Benjamin Franklin

Published: 2005-01-27T14:59:26-08:00

Last Build Date: 2003-05-14T13:22:52-08:00


Yes, I'm a friggin' slacker!
There's nothing I hate more than bookmarking a page, checking it a few times seeing regular updates, and then watching it go dead. Sorry for the lack of recent updates on this page and cheers to the Grumpy Beer Geek for stoking the fires. Here's what's been going on in the past few months: Toronado Barleywine Festival Met up with friends from the Bay Area Brew Crew at 10am at the Toronado for their annual Barleywine festival. We made it through about 40 of the 50 beers available. My top five were 1. Full Sail Old Boilermaker 1998 2. Bear Republic Old Scoutters 1998 3. Pizza Port Late Harvest 4. Alaskan Big Nugget 2001 5. Lagunitas Gnarlywine 1997 We left the Barleywine festival at around 3pm, stopped by Memphis Minnie's for some much-needed food, headed home for a quick nap and shower, and went to Anchor Brewery for their annual California Homebrew Club of the Year dinner. It was quite a day. Pizza Port 12 Hour Belgian Beer Party Tonya and I drove down to San Diego for the weekend, hung out in the city for a couple days, and headed up to Carlsbad for the Pizza Port 12 Hour Belgian Beer Party. We met up with our friends Shannon and Wendy and met a bunch of great people from RateBeer. Tomme Arthur and crew assembled a fine assortment of Belgian and Belgian-style beers, including all of the commercially available Trappist beers. Standouts for me were Pizza Port Cuvee de Tomme, New Belgium NBB Love, Grottenbier, and Dupont Avec Les Bons Voeux, as well as all the obvious choices such as Westvleteren 12, Rochefort 10, etc. Boonville Beer Festival Not much to say about this festival except that it was a weekend of drunken debauchery. Tonya and I met our friends Jeff and Jenny in Boonville, set up our tents, ventured over to the festival, drank seriously for the four hours of the festival (including some HUGE 15% ABV Oggi's Colossus), returned to our campsite, continued to drink, Tonya passed out, I headed over to the Buckhorn to meet up with Jeff and Jenny, they never showed up, I continued to drink, Tonya and Jenny showed up a few hours later with news that Jeff tossed his cookies and passed out, I continued to drink, we headed back to the campsite, passed out, woke up in the middle of the night to Jenny tossing her cookies, fell back asleep, woke up in the morning with a big hangover, and drove back to San Francisco. Good weekend. Westvleteren Abt 12 Clone Tasting The Westy clone is aging quite nicely. I tasted it last night for the first time in a few months and the sweetness is starting to subside. Very nice and high marks all-around. Recent Brews I brewed an IPA, English Bitter, Barleywine, and Pilsener in the past few months. The IPA and Bitter are bottled and mostly gone. The Barleywine and Pilsener are kegged and cold-conditioning at around 32°F. Upcoming brews include a Stout, Belgian-style Strong Golden Ale, and something funky for the tubes of Pediococcus and Brettanomyces in my fridge to feed on.[...]

Cross-Country Beer Haul
Over the holidays, I helped my mom move from Michigan to San Francisco and in doing so, brought back nine cases of the Midwest's finest beer. Not all of it was mine, mind you. Most of the beer was for friends and members of the Bay Area Brew Crew. It was a grueling drive from Michigan to San Francisco that included two calls to AAA, a mile-long hike down the highway carrying a new car battery and tools, a car heater that broke the first day into the five-day winter drive, a passenger-side door that wouldn't open, and a driver-side door that wouldn't lock. The important thing is that all the beer arrived safely and in good condition. Here's the bill of lading: Arcadia Whitsun (4 bottles) Bell's Batch 5000 (12 bottles) Bell's Consecrator Dopplebock (1 bottle) Bell's Double Cream Stout (6 bottles) Bell's Eccentric Ale (30 bottles) Bell's Expedition Stout (48 bottles) Bell's Porter (12 bottles) Bell's Sparkling Ale (12 bottles) Bell's Third Coast Old Ale (24 bottles) Bell's Two Hearted Ale (12 bottles) Boyne River Hefeweizen (1 bottle) Boyne River Pale Ale (1 bottle) Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (1 bottle) Dark Horse Belgian Amber Ale (1 bottle) Dogfish Head Immort Ale (1 bottle) Dogfish Head Old School Barleywine (1 bottle) Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (23%) (1 bottle) Founders Centennial IPA (1 bottle) Founders Imperial Stout (1 bottle) Goose Island Summertime (1 bottle) Left Hand Imperial Stout (1 bottle) New Glarus Hop Hearty Ale (1 bottle) New Holland Cherry Ale (1 bottle) New Holland Green Hornet (1 bottle) New Holland Ichabod (2 bottle) New Holland Kourage (1 bottle) New Holland Mad Hatter (1 bottle) New Holland Olde Poet (1 bottle) New Holland Paleooza (1 bottle) New Holland Zoomer Wit (1 bottle) St. Ambroise Vintage Ale 2000 (1 bottle) Stoudts Abbey Double (1 bottle) Stoudts IPA (1 bottle) Sweetwater IPA (1 bottle) Three Floyds Alpha King (1 bottle) Three Floyds Alpha Klaus (1 bottle) Three Floyds Dreadnaught IPA (1 bottle) Unibroue Eau Bénite (1 bottle) Good haul, eh?[...]

Belgian Shop Order Arrived

(image) A few guys from the Bay Area Brew Crew and I recently put together an order from Belgian Shop. The beers arrived a couple days ago and I'm drooling just thinking about them. Belgian Shop ships beer anywhere in the world direct from Belgium and if you can get a few people together for an order, it is a really economical way to get rare Belgian beers for reasonable prices. For example, I paid $4.80 (plus $1.86 shipping) for a bottle of Westvleteren Abt 12°. When you can find it domestically--which isn't very often--the same beer sells for $9.00 in the store and $15.50 in the bar. The key to getting a good deal is putting together a large order and maximizing shipping value. Shipping is prohibitively expensive on a small order but for a larger order--our order was for just about three cases--the per-bottle shipping rate drops dramatically. Here's my portion of the order:

And a couple pictures (click the thumbnails for a larger version):

(image) (image)

Minor Westy Update

(image) I tasted the Westy clone last night as I was bottling my holiday ale. It's getting better! The alcohol aroma and flavor is becoming more subdued and I'm not getting the cidery flavors any more. It's surprising what two weeks of conditioning will do. I'm not sure if my clone is going to end up close to the real thing but I think it's gonna be good! It tastes a bit more attenuated than last time, although there's still a fair amount of sweetness. I didn't take a gravity reading. The most striking difference from Westy so far is that the clone is the color of a single-malt scotch and crystal clear (see picture to the right) rather than dark brown and hazy.

Westvleteren Abt 12° Clone Update

A few people have asked about how the Westvleteren Clone has been going so here's the scoop. I tasted it a week or so ago and it's... um... interesting. The large percentage of candi sugar has given it a slightly cidery flavor with a strong alcohol aroma and flavor and possibly some acetaldehyde. It's also a little on the sweet side. It has attenuated down to 1.040 so far (63%). I'd like to see it get down to around 1.030. I roused the yeast to wake it up a little. I think that the finished beer will probably be pretty good but will need a lot of time to age. It's still extremely young. As to how close to Westvleteren Abt 12° this beer will come, that's yet to be determined. Based on how the beer tasted going into the fermenter and how it tasted last week, if I were to brew it again, I'd probably eliminate the light candi sugar altogether, use 1/2 lb of amber and 1-1/2 lbs of dark sugar and up the grain bill to account for the difference. More updates in the weeks and months to come...

Anchor Tour

(image) I toured Anchor Brewing Company today with the Bay Area Brew Crew. The free tour is entertaining and informative and well worth the price of admission. It's a fairly standard tour with time spent talking about the history of the brewery and the brewing process and then a walk through the brewery viewing their brewing room, open fermentation chambers, yeast lab, cold conditioning room, bottling and kegging lines, and ending up back at the tap room for a tasting. They had Anchor Summer Beer, Anchor Steam, Liberty Ale, Anchor Porter, and Old Foghorn on tap today.

Some interesting things I learned on the tour:

  • Anchor brews five 110-barrel batches a day with only one mash tun, one lauter tun, and one brew kettle.
  • Primary fermentation lasts only three days.
  • All of the Anchor beers are cold-conditioned for three weeks at 34°F and Old Foghorn is cold conditioned at 34°F for six months.
  • Anchor beer is krausened and naturally carbonated in the cold-conditioning tanks using standard ale yeast (lager yeast for Anchor Steam).
  • All Anchor beer is filtered and flash-pasteurized.
  • Anchor dries their yeast for storage between uses.
  • Professional brewers still have boilovers.
  • When the Anchor brewers run the bar in the taproom, the tasting samples flow freely.

This is an excellent tour and is highly recommended. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling the brewery at 415-863-8350.

Westvleteren Abt 12° Clone

(image) I took my first pass at making a Westvleteren Abt 12° clone today. If you're going to try to clone a beer, why not go for the best, right? If nothing else, it's a challenge. I started out looking at the recipe printed in Beer Captured but decided not to go that route based on what Michael Jackson writes about Westy in Great Beers of Belgium:

"Only pale malt is used, with white and dark sugar. The first runnings from the mash tun go to one kettle, to make a strong beer, the second runnings to the other for a lower-gravity brew. It is a very traditional method. Northern Brewer hops are used, and Westmalle yeast."

"At no stage is the beer centrifuged or filtered. Protein and yeast are left to precipitate during maturation, the duration of which matches in weeks the Belgian degrees of density. The 6° gets six weeks, and so forth. This makes for firm, long, big, fresh flavours."

Here's the recipe I came up with and brewed:

Westvleteren Abt 12° clone (batch #1) (for 3.5 gallons)

18.5 lbs Belgian Pale Malt
1 lb Clear Candi Sugar (1°L)
1 lb Amber Candi Sugar (75°L)
0.5 lb Dark Candi Sugar (275°L)

0.7 oz Northern Brewer Hop Pellets (7.8% AA) (60 min)
0.3 oz Northern Brewer Hop Pellets (15 min)
0.3 oz Northern Brewer Hop Pellets (5 min)

Wyeast 3787 Trappist High Gravity Yeast (1/2 gallon starter)

Single infusion mash at 152°F.

OG: 1.104 (at 40% no sparge efficiency)
IBU: ~30
SRM: ~30

This was the first no sparge batch I had calculated using just the first runnings and I overshot my gravity fairly significantly. I ended up with 3.5 gallons of great-tasting 1.114 wort! As per Michael Jackson's writing, I just dumped the entire contents of the kettle into the fermenter after cooling with no whirlpool and no hop straining. It's currently busy fermenting away with a massive head of krausen.

Northern California Homebrewers Festival

The fifth annual Northern California Homebrewers Festival was held September 20-21 at Skyline Park in Napa, CA and it was an absolute blast. There were around 20 homebrew clubs and over 150 different homebrewed beers and meads at the festival. I think I'm still recovering from my hangover! On Friday night, there was a five course brewer's dinner with each course prepared and paired with a different beer. Highlights of the dinner include IPA-cured Oregon sturgeon appetizers, a mixed-green salad with stout-candied pecans, pale ale-marinated salmon, chocolate swartz cake garnished with barley malt-sweetened cream, and a keg of Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA. On Saturday, the first kegs of homebrew were tapped around noon and the beer didn't stop flowing until well past midnight. Fred Eckhardt, Fal Allen, and Charlie Gow each held one-hour seminars, although Fred's ended up lasting around three hours. If you're around Northern California next year in September, I highly recommend checking out this excellent event.

Drink Michigan Beer

While in Michigan visiting family and attending a high school class reunion, I tasted a ton of great Michigan beers. Here are some of the highlights:

I also brought home a mixed-sixer of Bell's and New Holland beers which I'm looking forward to tasting.

(*note: I usually enter more detailed ratings of beers at Follow the links above for my more detailed reviews.)

Jimmy's Insulated Mash System (JIMS)

(image) Jimmy's Insulated Mash System (JIMS) is possibly the coolest homebrewing system that I've ever seen. The 26 gallon mash/lauter tun and kettle are both created from large stainless steel cylinders with electric heating elements embedded in their sides, wrapped in insulation, and surrounded by wooden slats that give them a "hot tub" feel. They each have hinged lids with built-in motor-driven stirrers and exhaust ports that allow steam from the mash and boil to be vented outdoors. I particularly enjoyed reading the step-by-step description--complete with pictures and diagrams--of how this system was built. It sure puts my beverage cooler and stock pot setup to shame!

Drinks at Marin Brewing Company

Jeremy, Rachel, Tonya, and I finished up a hike on Mt. Tamalpais with drinks at the Marin Brewing Company. We sat out back in the beer garden and enjoyed a few beers under the late afternoon sun. I tasted their Star Brew Triple Wheat Ale (a tasty wheat wine), San Quentin's Breakout Stout (a great name, considering that the brewery is a stone's throw from the infamous San Quentin Prison), and Albion Amber (an average west coast amber). This was my first time visiting the Marin Brewing Company and I would definitely return.

Q&A's with George Fix, Chris White, Garrett Oliver, and Randy Thiel

The Virtual Village Homebrew Society has posted a series of online Q&A transcripts with such brewing luminaries as George Fix, Chris White, Garrett Oliver, and Randy Thiel. The transcripts, from Q&A sessions that took place in 2000, contain a ton of good brewing information. Poor formatting makes them a little difficult to read but worthwhile nonetheless.

Brewing Haiku

There's a great thread of Brewing Haiku on the HBD Forums.

Some of my favorites:

Mash temperature?
One-forty or so, I think.
Still made yummy beer.

My foolish in-laws
Say "Why bother making beer?"
No lager for them

Why make a starter?
Wyeast makes pitchable tubes!
Newbie frustration.

Been drinking since noon
Time to step up the mash temp
The skin should grow back

Do a full-wort boil
Oxygenate the wort well
Pitch a lot of yeast

Drinking barley wine
Wow, this tastes quite heavenly
Woke up on the floor

Visited Hi-Time Wine Cellars

While staying in Huntington Beach for work, I stopped by an incredible beer store, Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa. They have an absolutely unbelievable beer selection. Great beers from Belgium, Germany, England, Scotland, and especially the US West Coast pack a large walk-in refrigerator in the back of the store. While it's slightly cramped in the walk-in fridge, the amazing selection more than makes up for the inconvenience of trying to navigate the beers. They also have a supposedly nice wine selection, although I don't really know wine so I can't attest to this. I picked up a couple dozen beers that I've been having trouble finding in the Bay Area. I also picked up a few that are available in the Bay Area but were a lot cheaper at Hi-Time. Here's what I came home with:

If you're ever near Costa Mesa, I highly recommend checking out this shop. They're incredible.

Brewed Wee Heavy

My latest brew, a Wee Heavy, is in the, I mean fermenter. I used a fairly simple recipe based somewhat on Skotrat's Traquair House clone. To get a nice slightly-smoky carmel flavor, I carmelized three quarts of my first runnings in a sauce pan and added it back for the last 15 minutes of the main boil. By the time I added it to the main boil, the carmelized wort was the consistency of maple syrup and probably would have tasted great on pancakes. I missed my gravity by 10 points (D'oh!), ending up at 1.075 when I should have ended up at 1.085. I'm still getting used to batch sparging and I think that it's a little less efficient at high gravities than at low gravities. There were also probably some errors in my gravity calculations with regards to the carmelized wort. Regardless, it tasted good going into the fermenter and will probably turn out to be a nice beer.