Last Build Date: 2003-05-14T13:22:52-08:00
(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) 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.
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...
(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:
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.
(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)
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.
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.
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:
(*note: I usually enter more detailed ratings of beers at RateBeer.com. Follow the links above for my more detailed reviews.)
(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!
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.
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.
There's a great thread of Brewing Haiku on the HBD Forums.
Some of my favorites:
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!
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
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.
My latest brew, a Wee Heavy, is in the can...er, 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.