Friday, December 16, 2011

American Farmhouse Ale

American- Hoppy, bitter, intense, over the top.
Farmhouse- Funky, spicy, musty, rustic
Ale- Well, you know

This beer was born of two separate goals. I wanted to brew a hoppy, bitter saison. I also wanted to brew a saison using brettanomyces, a wild yeast. Rather than doing the smart thing and brew two different beers I brewed a beer that would have elements of both visions. After formulating a recipe for a Jack D'or inspired Saison, White Labs released a seasonal yeast called "American Farhouse". I couldn't resist adding that blend of classic saison yeast with brettanomyces on my beer that was already heavy on late addition hops. I wasn't sure what to expect but the fruity/citrusy hops ended up complimenting the yeast better that I could ever have imagined.

Appearance: Bright, vibrant golden yellow. An inch of foamy white head forms and sticks around for a long time.

Smell: Tons of brett in the nose. Lots of fruit/citrus. Mostly green apple with some lemon peel. Some of the more standard spicy saison smells mix in but are overpowered in a good way by the funk.

Taste: The flavor follows the smell almost perfectly. Lots of funk from the brett. Similar to the smell though, the funk is on the fruity side rather than the barnyardy musty side. The hops have faded by now but when fresh they added to that fruitiness. With 6 months of age on this one the lack of hop flavor has let the classic peppery saison flavors come through. A grainy/bready maltiness adds complexity and balances the beer out nicely.

Mouthfeel/notes: Carbonation is on the high side by design. Effervescent without being prickly on your tongue. Nice smooth mouthfeel. Flavor lingers for a while after a dry finish. I think next time I brew I'll shoot for a drier finish but this batch is fine.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Esher's Special Bitter

One of my favorite things about home brewing has been the social aspect. It's been fun sharing my creations with friends and family and getting some positive feedback that has really motivated me. When my friend Esher asked me to brew a beer for him to bring down to a VW show he puts on every year I gladly obliged. Obsessed with all things England, naturally a Bitter ale was in order. What Esher didn't tell me was there would be a real live Englishman in attendance to taste my brew. The pressure is on. With the recipe made, the beer brewed, fermented, carbonated, and cold conditioned it was time for my first taste......

Appearance: Hazy amber color with an inch or so of head that fades to a solid skimming. After the beer warmed up the chill haze disappeared and the beer ended up being remarkably clear.

Smell: Some toasted malt, a light caramel, and just a touch of earthy hops.

Taste: The malt flavors really shine in this beer. The overall flavor is not terribly strong but it is surprisingly complex. The initial taste is semi sweet caramel, some toasted malt, with a noticeable hop flavor that takes a back seat to the malt. As the beer warms a fruitiness from the English ale yeast comes in to add another layer of flavor.

Mouthfeel, Overall: Finish is fairly dry. Carbonation is on the low side by design. Flavor lingers for quite a while. This turned out to be a great summertime beer. Average ABV%(4.7), simple but flavorful and maybe even a little refreshing after working in the yard.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bacon Dinner

Every once in a while an idea comes along so amazing that you wonder why no thought of it yet. Something so obvious, just sitting there waiting to be discovered, and fully exploited. When a friend asked if I would be interested in a dinner centered around bacon my answer was an immediate yes, of course. That was followed by the question, why haven't we done this already? Too gluttonous? Too unhealthy? Who cares, we both knew it had to be done so after a few weeks of tossing ideas around we finally made it happen. The goal was too involve bacon every step of the way, but not be overwhelmed and to be honest, we nailed it. It was a group effort with many contributors and even more people helping to eat everything. I tried to document as much as I could so enjoy......

A couple appetizers to get warmed up:

Goat cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon

Deviled eggs, with bacon of course

Onto the main course, a prime rib wrapped in bacon(no, really). The original plan was for duck, but in a stroke of genius Taber decided to wrap yet another piece of meat in bacon that really has no need at all for extra fat and grease but will certainly still benefit from it. This ended up being a delicious combo, albeit very detrimental to everyone's health.

Twice baked potatoes with brie, chive, and bacon

Plated and ready to be devoured

Side salad: Spinach, apple, walnut, blue cheese, and yes, bacon

On to dessert, starting with chocolate stout cupcakes with bourbon chocolate frosting and maple bacon

Now that obviously isn't going to be enough dessert so lets throw in some candied maple bacon(amazing)......

then toss that on some maple ice cream and pair it with a nice barrel aged stout

After having some time to come out of the food coma, rehydrate, and reflect, I'm very happy with how everything came together. We ate a lot of bacon, but worked it into each course quite well. There was never a point that any of us were overwhelmed with bacon. Success.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maine Beer Company: Revisited

I finally got a chance to spend some time at Maine Beer Company again recently. The new brew house is in, and churning out a higher quantity than ever of Maine Beer's usual hits, as well as some experimental/one-off stuff. With MBC now available in Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont there is still plenty of Peeper and Zoe on the shelves in Maine thanks to the increased capacity. Mean Old Tom was a very welcome and much anticipated stout and the perfect way to finish out another brutal Maine winter. Their latest offering, an IPA named "Lunch" will be hitting shelves very soon.

I was lucky enough to be at the brewery on a day when Dan was brewing a special batch of beer with Alan, the man who taught him how to brew. This brew may or not be bottled, and may or not spend some time in a barrel. ;) I've already posted about Maine Beer Company's humble beginnings so it was great to get back into the brewery and shoot some pics of the new setup....

The rest of my pics from the brew day as well as the original 1bbl setup can be found here

Sunday, April 3, 2011

AG Pale Ale

With the cooler converted to a mash tun it was time for my first all grain brew. I decided to start off with a simple pale. With no AG experience there was no point in starting with an overly complex, challenging brew. The base of the beer is 90% American 2 row pale malt, with 10% crystal 40l, for color and a little sweetness to offset any bitterness from the hops. In the interest of making a fairly well balanced beer I decided to add almost all the hops at the end of the boil for a nice clean, fresh hop flavor. Wyeast American ale yeast was chosen for it's proven success and nice clean flavor profile that helps promote hop flavors. Brew day was a complete success on all fronts. The yeast ripped through the wort quickly and after some bottle conditioning I had my first successful all grain beer.

OG: 1.059
FG: 1.010
ABV%: 6.5
IBU: 45

Appearance: Somewhat cloudy bright amber with a foamy white head. Plenty of soapy lacing.

Smell: Tons of hops, with just a little bready malt in the background. Hop profile is mostly grapefruit, with a decent amount of pineapple from the Citra hops. The beer was dry hopped for 7 days and smells amazing because of that.

Taste: Simple flavor profile, malt and hops. Nothing crazy or complex going on here, just a well balanced pale. The malt in the nose is much present on my palate and balances out citrusy, fruity hops perfectly. Bitterness is there, but not overpowering at all.

Mouthfeel/overall: Carbonation is perfect for style, just enough to bring out the hoppy flavors and smells without being fizzy in your mouth. Some hop resin is left behind after every sip. I don't wanna toot my horn, but this beer came out perfect. There isn't one thing I would change about it, besides kegging it next time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Janet's Brown Ale

Typically when I want to brew a new beer I'll spend some time looking around the intrawebs for recipe ideas. What I end up with is usually a mix of classic ingredients, advice from forums, and ideas from proven recipes. Brown ales are what really got me into craft beer, and hops have been the latest obsession, so a hoppy brown was next up in the bucket. I did the usual searching and stumbled on a beer called "Janet's Brown Ale", a beer brewed legendary home brewer Mike "Tasty" McDole. Named after his late wife, this was her favorite beer. Not only published in the book Brewing Classic Styles, this beer was also brewed by Russian River as part of thier pro-am series. Figuring I was safe brewing such a well known and highly regarded recipe, I scaled things down, brewed, and here is the result.......

OG: 1.060
FG: 1.010
ABV: 6.7%

Appearance: Deep dark brown, black when viewed in anything other than bright light. Topped with a couple inches of creamy tan head that drops back to an inch and lingers for a while. Tons of thick lacing.

Smell: Dry cocoa, tobacco, and hops, mostly earthy hops, but some citrus.

Flavor: Lots of hop flavor, with some chocolate, and quite a bit of caramel. Taste is much more malty than the smell would lead you to believe.

Mouthfeel and overal impression. This was the first beer that put into a keg and a fter a few days hooked up to the C02 it is very smooth and creamy with just the right amount of carbonation. The Wyeast American Ale strain ripped through this one and left the beer with a nice dry finish. A little sweeter finish would probably suit the style better but the dryness works great for me. While this ended up not tasting exactly how I imagined it was still very good and got great feedback from the usual tasting panel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Ah, St. Patrick's day, the one day of the year people enjoy something resembling good beer. Guinness has long been the beer of choice for those seeking Irish status on the St. Patricks day. It's also a beer that's taken a ton of abuse from beer geeks like myself. The claims of being a meal in a glass have always made fans of real stout chuckle. The fact is, Guinness is fairly thin and low on flavor compared to most other stouts. I had heard of a Foreign Export version of the legendary beer for many years, but it was never available in the states, until now. I put off trying this for a while(been on the shelves around here for almost a year), thinking it just wouldn't live up to the hype, as well as being priced the same as other "craft" stouts. Finally broke down and picked up a 4 pack and I was not disappointed. The smell is typical Guinness, but with a noticeable hop aroma, something the regular version is sorely lacking. As far as flavor, typical Guinness, but much more full, and again, a nice bitterness from the hops. Overall a very good beer, and much more than just amped up Guinness draught in a can with the silly widget. I won't get into weather or not it tastes better in Ireland, but it might just taste better on St. Patrick's day.......

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Extract Hoppy Hefeweizen

While my first all grain beer (pale ale) bottle conditions I'll use the time to catch up on extract reviews. One of the wife's favorite beers is Hopfen-Weisse, a collaboration brew from Brooklyn and Schneider. The beer combines the classic german wheat flavors with american and german hops for each version perfectly. While my brew isn't a true clone of either version it captures the strong points of both and she enjoys it quite a bit.

Appearance: pours very cloudy, dark yellow, with plenty of thick off white head. Lots of thick lacing as the level drops in my glass.

Smell: The nose is dominated by spicy hops. Banana from the weizen yeast comes through underneath all the hops.

Taste: Banana is the first thing you get, with the hops following shortly behind. Both flavors are quite strong but work together nicely. The hop flavor is very spicy, but also a little earthy. I'd be interested in trying this brew with some classic citrus hops.

Mouthfeel: Body is thick and creamy with tons of carbonation. The high level of carbonation makes for a long pour but gives the beer a perfect feel for the style.

Drinkability/notes: This beer goes down real quick. There is no hint of the somewhat high %ABV(7.5). This is the second batch of the beer I've done and it's been very well recieved both times. I'll brewing an all grain version of it very soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Extract Double IPA tasting

One of the things I love about home brewing is the flexibility and ability to experiment. Be it types of ingredients, amounts, or alcohol content there is room to have fun, learn, and make some good beer in the process. At some point I'll be trying out some funky ingredients, but for this IPA I wanted to push the limits of hops. Going into this, I knew I could make a nice, tasty IPA with only 5-6 ounces. That would have been the safe thing to do and I just wasn't into that. There's plenty of well done, balanced IPA's available locally so why brew another? For this one only a stupid amount of hops would do. With the malt, hops, and yeast purchased from Maine Brewing Supply, I set work brewing and a few weeks later ended up with this hop bomb......

Apperance: Cloudy, yet bright orange. A small amount of white head forms and fades to just a skimming. Plenty of lacing as it goes down.

Smell: Hops, tons of em. With 12oz in the boil, and 2oz of dry hopping, I didn't expect anything less. There's just a touch of sweet malt in there too. Just enough to make this a beer and not just a hop tea.

Taste: Again, hops, tons of em. A light fruity hop flavor is the first thing you taste followed by a blast of grapefruit. The amount of hops is nice but when cold the various flavors fight for attention. As it warms the grapefruit takes a backseat with a nice tropical fruit flavor from the Citra really coming through. The malt is present but barely. This is not a balanced beer at all, but was never intended to be.

Mouthfeel: Fairly thin by design. Just enough carbonation to bring out hop flavor and aroma. Plenty of hop resin on the palate helping flavor to linger for a while after every sip. Definitely a strong point of this beer. The finish is fairly dry.

Overall this beer goes down quite well. It may be a bit too bitter, but hey that was the point. After a couple sips you get used to it, and can really enjoy the hop flavor.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

bye bye extract

For the past year I have been home brewing some nice ales using malt extract. The beers are coming out good and it has been a great learning experience. The malt extract simplifies the process by eliminating the need for a mash. The extract is ready to go, just stir into water and bring to a boil. The simplicity of this has been great, and produced some very good results. Now that I have the process down though, it's time to step up. Moving to all-grain brewing will give me much greater control over the final product. Making recipes and getting the exact flavors I want out of my beer is only going to be possible with all-grain. Malt extract is also fairly expensive, working with raw grain will be much cheaper in the long run after overcoming the initial cost of the mash tun.

The thought of switching over can be daunting for beginners. There is a much greater need for attention to detail. After doing a partial mash oatmeal stout I, like most other brewers starting out realized working with raw grain wasn't all that hard. The only thing I would need to do is build a mash tun. Over the next couple weeks I'll document the building of the mash tun and look back at some recent extract brews. For now a pic of me steeping some grain into my old, small brew kettle. I now have a much bigger pot to do full boils in.

And an obscene amount of hops used in the double IPA, more on that later......

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


With summer quickly coming to an end it's time to cram as many fair weather grilling sessions in as possible. This time around I decided to take my first stab at smoking a beef brisket. I had never done this before so a lot of internet research was conducted. Everything I found online said that briskets are always between 8-10lbs, so at an hour a pound I was going to have a long day ahead of me. A sigh of relief was breathed however when I found 3-4lb flat briskets at the local food hole. With the meat purchased I spent some time looking at dry rub recipes but already had a good idea of what I wanted to use. In a recent visit to Portsmouth Brewery I had the house reuben sandwich featuring beef brisket dry rubbed with a lot of black pepper. I loved it so a simple mixture of salt, brown sugar, and black pepper was applied to the meat the night before. The meat will be cooked in an aluminum pan to hold all the juices in and to prevent the bottom from drying out.

Facing a much more reasonable 3 hours of smoking, I got the coals going. The chimney starter is an absolute must have for any charcoal grilling/smoking. For about 25 bucks you never have to use lighter fluid again, and the coals are ready in as little as ten to fifteen minutes.

After soaking the hickory wood chips for a couple hours everything was ready and the smoking began. Randy really enjoyed the aroma as you can see.

A few hours later we all feasted on the brisket, BBQ baked beans, and some jalapeno cornbread. My beer of choice to pair with this hearty meal was Allagash Black. The maltiness and roasted flavors of the beer paired up perfectly with the beans and brisket and helped turn the jalapeno heat down. Taber n' Jess brought down a homemade apple pie for dessert that was amazing and helped put the finishing touch on another successful Sunday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hop Harvest

While doing the usual search on Craigslist for all things beer related I happened upon someone looking to get rid of some cascade hops. A couple emails and a phone call later I ended up in Pownal, ME getting about 3 lbs worth of hops. After dragging the whole bine(yes bine not vine) home I spent about an hour picking them off. They were slightly passed their prime but I still got plenty of nice cones to brew a wet hop, all cascade IPA immediately after harvest. Used 2lbs in the boil and have another lb drying which I will dry hop with this weekend once fermentation is complete. More on the whole brewing process later, but for now, pure unadulterated hop porn........

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mexican Night

Buenos Noches Amigos! For the next round of Sunday dinners we shift things to lovely Bath, ME. While trying to figure out what to do for our next epic fest of gluttony, Taber 'n Jess offered to host the group for some home made mexican food. Taber warned us that this wouldn't be your average taco night. Apparently Jess likes to make everything from scratch which is perfectly fine with everyone involved. Little did we know the quality of food we were in for.

After getting a tour of the house and meeting "Zipper" the family dog we started things off with some guacamole, salsa, and chips.

Randy and Catherine show us two very different yet equally effective methods for eating a chip and guac.

Randy prefers the "Sticky Fingaz Chompdown". A nice firm bite and plenty of guac residue on his fingers shows us that he's not afraid to dig in.

Catherine shows us a very enthusiastic technique. Mouth wide open ready to consume as much avocado in one bite as possible.

While the rest of us spent the day with various other chores Jess was in the kitchen making everything from scratch. Facebook updates kept Catherine's mouth watering all day. We didn't arrive in time for any process pics but the amount of hardware involved in the meal was plenty impressive. Stainless steel and copper abound.....

After blowing through half a bowl of guac faster than zipper can inhale a package of pepperoni it was time for the main course. Jess made enchiladas, one batch with chicken, one with beef. The flour tortillas were made from scratch and so much better than any store bought versions I've had. The enchiladas were perfectly executed with pumpkin seeds being a very nice addition. A pumpkin seed and cilantro sauce was used on them as well as a tomato-chili salsa. All of that was topped off with, that's right, more pumpkin seeds.

The finished product ready to be consumed.....

At this point Taber really stepped up and finished this meal off. If it wasn't for his expert garnishing technique the whole meal would have failed. The pumpkin seeds on top put the finishing touch on things.

Black beans and some white rice with carrots cilantro, and peppers made for excellent sides....

Another successful dinner in the books. Jess 'n Taber really outdid themselves on this meal, and were wonderful hosts. Zipper even warmed up to us after a couple pounds of pepperoni. Next week it's time to fire up the smoker once again for a beef brisket, bbq baked beans, and cornbread.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What do we do on Sunday?

Quite simply, we eat good food, drink good beer, and enjoy good company. Every week we try to cook something new and exciting or an old favorite. Summertime means dinner on the deck at my house. Usually there's something good on the grill or the smoker, but after grilling almost every week it was time to utilize the turkey fryer for something besides brewing beer(more on that in a future post). Turkey is the obvious choice, and we'll be doing one later in the year, but this time around we tried out fish and chips. I never thought I'd be doing any deep frying after a 2 year stint at Burger King in high school. After 10 years though, I think I finally had the taste of fast food out of my mouth and all the memories had faded so it was time to get greasy one more time......

Ok, so I grossly underestimated the cost of enough oil to fry our F+C, 3 jugs of oil later, we were in business......

Beth models the first batch of fried potato deliciousness

Catherine gets a reeeeeal good whiff of the fish, fresh out the fryer

The finished meal, complete with a soda pairing by Randy. For beer drinkers, the choice was Brooklyn Lager

Ok, pretty standard fish and chips at this point. We were all full of fried food and pretty happy, but something was missing. Maybe I've watched too much food reality TV but something else had to go in the oil. Something for dessert. Luckily across town, while I was picking up fish and oil, Beth was making some cupcakes.....

Little did she know her baked goods would be defiled in a such manner. Smothered in a beer batter made with Beamish.....

And the finished product ready to clog some arteries.....

All in all a successful first crack at deep frying. I'm not sure if our stomachs and hearts can handle doing this again anytime soon, but watch this spot for more grease at some point. Next up though, Mexican night.

Words-Jake, Pics-Randy